F3 is a solution to a problem, THE Problem (we believe). We didn’t invent F3 to solve the Problem. We couldn’t have done that because when F3 was born, we didn’t yet know how to define or even to describe the Problem. What we knew, what we felt, was that something was wrong in our lives as men. Something was off. Despite all we had — our families, our houses, our careers — despite all these great things we had, we were still missing something. This feeling we had was the effect of the Problem on a man’s life.
This feeling is very difficult to describe. It was as if we had packed very carefully for a business trip but knew as we drove to the airport that the one thing necessary for its success had been left out of the suitcase. We didn’t know what that left-behind thing was or why its omission would cause the trip to fail. We just knew we didn’t have it, and we were getting on the plane without it anyway because life gave us no choice. Eventually the plane would land, we would open up that suitcase, and we would finally discover what that needful thing was. Only then it would be too late.
It was a frustrating and helpless feeling. Even without being able to describe this missing thing, we discovered that F3 somehow provided it. It helped dissipate that helpless feeling by filling a hole in our lives, even though we couldn’t put our finger on exactly where the hole was.
If it sounds like the prescription preceded the diagnosis, that is because it was the way it worked for us. And because it did work, we didn’t (initially) spend a lot of time worrying about or defining the Problem that F3 was solving for us. Once it helped us, we wanted to see it help other men who seemed to be suffering from the same amorphous ailment. That’s how this all started. A couple of lucky beggars trying to show the other starving men where and how they had found a crumb.
To do that, to share the solution we had stumbled upon, we had to do a lot of explaining. Men had questions they wanted answered before they would try something this radical. At first, we were not very good at explaining. There was no real context for what we were saying. We sounded like Eskimos trying to describe the qualities of an igloo to men who have lived their lives in a rain forest.
But (like anything else) the more we gave the Explanation, the better we got at it. We learned from our mistakes. The questions men asked us started to fall into a recognizable pattern that we could anticipate. That gave us confidence. We convinced a few men to join us. Before long, some of those men we convinced wanted to share it too. So, we started teaching them how to give the Explanation so they wouldn’t repeat our earlier mistakes.
At first, there were several problems with our teaching approach. We were inconsistent. We didn’t define our terms very well. We hadn’t even come up with the name “F3,” so men were trying to learn how to explain something without a name.
But we trudged on, despite our initial ineptitude. We learned from our mistakes and persisted in our efforts to improve, as the men who accepted our Explanation persisted in their desire to know how to give it themselves. Eventually, we started doing it well enough that the men we were teaching began asking us to write the Explanation down so they could refer to it later and give it to the men they were trying to help.
That was a reasonable request. But we resisted it, for three reasons. First, the Explanation was dynamic. As F3 grew and changed, the Explanation grew and changed.
Second, we didn’t want to write something down that was incomplete. And writing the Explanation would be difficult. We’re not authors. It was one thing to talk and another to write. Maybe it would be so hard that we would fail, after wasting a lot of time trying. We didn’t want to fail, and we didn’t want to waste time. Finally, whether we succeeded or failed at writing the Explanation, we didn’t think we had the time to do it. We had jobs, families, planes to catch, and bills to pay. We were already spending huge amounts of time growing F3 and giving/teaching the Explanation. Where were we going to find the additional time it would take to record what we were doing as we did it? Bottom Line: we didn’t translate (or commit) the Explanation to written form, not for a long time.
We kept giving/teaching the Explanation face to face, to one man (or small groups of men) at a time. It was inefficient, but it seemed to work, and we liked doing it that way. It was a mission. When men asked us when we were going to write the Explanation we would say, “Someday, we’re working on it.” But we weren’t. We were procrastinating.
That might have been where the story ended, if F3 had not begun to spread to other cities. Those men needed the Explanation as well, but it was too far to drive to teach them face-to-face. We tried the telephone. We tried e-mail. There are pieces of the Explanation on the F3Nation website, but it was disjointed and didn’t hang together. None of these half-measures succeeded in providing the Explanation in an integrated form to men whom we could not physically reach.
Finally, we admitted to ourselves that distance so degraded the quality of the Explanation that it wasn’t serving these men at all. We were failing in our mission. We accepted that we would have to either invest the time required to write the Explanation (and take the risk that we would fail in the effort), or tell the men in distant cities that we weren’t willing to do what it would take to help them. Once we had admitted that truth to ourselves, the decision wasn’t difficult. We chose to write.
Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.
For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Dr. Henry Cloud
Leaders Leading Leaders