A Male’s Search for Meaning

Back in November, I made a decision to transition roles at my company (I work in bitcoin mining). I was working as a Chief of Staff to the CEO. I decided I wanted to get more involved in “building stuff”, so I joined the Site Development team. I left a relatively cozy setting in Chicago to live with other guys in Buffalo and work at our mining facility. My first week I spent plugging in machines, managing temp workers, and learning what it’s like to operate a mining facility on the ground. 

In retrospection, my decision was influenced by two urges:

  1. I wanted to get my hands dirty
  2. I wanted to feel part of a team

I’ve concluded that both of these factors come from somewhere inherently masculine. I don’t mean that in a patriarchal, macho, or “manly man” sense. I mean that in a biological sense, after thousands of years of evolution and hard-wiring. In 2020, just under 89 percent of the 10.7 million people employed in the US construction industry were male (Statista). Construction is a get-your-hands-dirty industry. That doesn’t mean there aren’t women that are willing to get their hands dirty. There’s just a lot more men. 

One of my colleagues came from Private Equity. He grew up a farm boy in the Midwest. He made a similar transition when he decided to leave his high rise office in Chicago to work at the same mining facility. When we talked about it, he mentioned a similar desire to get his hands dirty. I don’t have any scientific evidence to back this up, but it seems deeply ingrained in men that we want to work with our hands. 

Wanting to be part of a team seems to be a deeply ingrained masculine yearning as well. I read a WSJ article recently that talked about whether entrepreneurs are happier than most people. The bottom line was yes, but of course, it’s more complicated than that. Entrepreneurs are more happy but more stressed. What I found really interesting though was that male entrepreneurs differed from women in terms of what made them happy. Women valued creativity above everything else. Men, on the other hand, valued teamwork. They agreed with statements like “I like being part of a team”, or “I like feeling as if I’m giving myself up for the greater good of the group”. Again, I don’t have any scientific evidence to back this up, but there seems to be something deeply ingrained in men about being “one of many”. Even pro athletes—all studs and alphas in their own right—are part of a collective team. 

As men, how should this inform how we live our lives? If you’ve been feeling a similar sense of yearning to work with your hands, especially if you’ve been working an office job for a number of years, don’t ignore that. Take up a DIY project around the house. Or see where you can volunteer your time to get your hands dirty. Secondly, join a team. An all men’s team. Most of us are likely part of at least one co-ed group already. So join an all male group. Whether that be for a recreational sport, a support group, or hobby. Join an all men’s group with males that have similar, deeply ingrained yearnings. It may contribute more to your day to day happiness than you think.

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