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Excerpt from "Tha Alpha Wolf"

Success and Failure

by Nick Clements

'It's not as if I was pursuing happiness, I wasn't that conscious. I was just pursuing… pursuing everything and anything, I was addicted to the chase.' This is a quote from a 56 year old male client of mine which has stayed with me. We were discussing what had motivated him, a successful businessman and entrepreneur, to recently change his lifestyle and perception of the world. He had quit his job, was down-sizing his house, spending time growing vegetables, volunteering in a local hospice, and for the first time in his life he felt happy. This dramatic change had come about when he became seriously ill and whilst in hospital realised how dissatisfied and unhappy he was. He'd spent fourty years accumulated money and material goods, he had seen that as his function in life. He'd not considered happiness very deeply, and when for the first time he did, he realised he wasn't happy. He realised 'materialism is toxic to happiness' as Psychologist Ed Diener said. My client had been taught from an early age to compete, to live in conflict, to continually work his way up the ladder. Having reached the top of the ladder, he was now aware of how selfish and shallow his life had become, and how unhappy he was. His is an ever-increasingly typical story.

Britain is a lot unhappier place than in the 1950s - despite being three times richer. The proportion of "very happy" people has fallen from 52% in 1957 to just 36%. This poll by GfK NOP for The Happiness Formula series on BBC Two provides the first evidence that Britain's happiness levels are declining - a trend already well documented in the United States.

My new novel, 'The Alpha Wolf', documents the typical journey of one such man, Roger. We first meet him as an Alpha Boy. He has all the trappings of success - the looks, car, flat, and a high-powered job. He doesn't do relationships. He is a collector of conquests without consequence. By unexpectedly becoming a father and receiving redundancy he discovers there is more to life. He is forced to start his personal development journey. He seeks to learn more about himself as well as entering a meaningful relationship. By doing so, he moves towards becoming an Alpha Wolf.

Roger's story reflects many of my clients' journeys - being a success and then encountering difficult times. Many men have to face up to disappointment, failure and vulnerability, and, for me, these are essential in all our lives. By facing them we all grow, and paradoxically, become happier. Surely, the measure of a man is not in his search for acclaim, success and power, it is in his reaction to disappointment, failure and vulnerability. How he deals with adversity makes him someone more than just a job. He perceives himself differently, and this is almost invariably tied to a change from self-satisfaction to community benefit. If the man is willing to face up to these changes, prepared to learn from them, he shifts his perception from being selfish to selfless. People tend to be happier when they feel they are contributing in a positive way to other's lives and the wider community. People who focus on shared experiences and relationships are generally happier than those who spend their time and effort on possessions. 'We want to understand the meaning of life, and create meaning in our lives and money can't do that for us,' says Clinical psychologist, Amanda Gordon.

In the book Roger is very reluctant to make any such changes, he perceives his transformation as a failure, not a success. This for me highlights our need to carefully examine what we as a society call 'success'. Is it celebrity, the accumulation of material goods, money? The tangible rewards of our present materialistic life. Or is it friendships, family, sharing, happiness? The intangible benefits of an authentic lifestyle.

We may well bemoan the present immaturity and emotional unintelligence of our men-folk, but we are still perpetuating the myth that to mindlessly pursue 'success' is the be-all and end-all. It isn't, it is just the start, and there is so much more to living a 'successful' life. As with Roger in the book, and my gardening client, increasing numbers of men are now developing emotional intelligence, compassion and vulnerability, and this will enable them to co-create a happier, more sustainable and fulfilling future. All of us, men and women, need to ensure that we build a new culture in which mature and collaborative behaviour is seen as essential, where success and failure are equally important, and where men don't have to break-down to break through.

Nick Clements is an author, consultant and workshop leader using creativity to address social and environmental problems. He is employed to teach and give lectures on masculinity all over the world. His unique techniques enable thousands of people to move through personal development to recognise their benefit for the wider community. His work remains a benchmark in his field, in recognition of his outstanding contribution he was made a Visiting Lecturer at Staffordshire University in 2009.

Alpha Wolf, The - A tale about the modern male by Nick Clements will be published by Roundfire Books, September 2013.

Paperback 978-1-78099-504-5 | $18.95 | £10.99 | 8.5x5.5 inches | 216x140 mm | 275PP
eBook 978-1-78099-505-2 | $9.99 | £6.99

For more information about his work and books on masculinity, visit


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