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  • Writer's pictureCory McGowan

Starting Again, on Purpose

My Thursday evenings are free these days, when they actually weren’t supposed to be.

The next cohort of the Keyaki men’s group that I co-lead and which would be held on Thursday evenings was scheduled to start a month ago, and it didn’t. The reason why it didn’t start isn’t complicated: we simply didn’t successfully enroll any men to sign up for it.

My intention in sharing a bit more about this failure (man, it took me close to a minute to actually type that word!) is connected to my stand for sharing my experience in my work in all of it’s messiness. There are already plenty of people on social media who are eager to tell you about their polished solutions for the hard stuff they have figured out, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s not the space I want to play in.

What has made the lack of enrollment for Keyaki particularly confusing (and painful) was just how well the last cohort went. It was the first time that my co-leader, Skip, and I had led together, and it truly exceeded our expectations.

The retreat we ran with the men in Minakami really stands out for me as the part of the program that showed me that we not only have immense capacity to create a gathering that deeply impacts participants in the program, but also that Skip and I were so open to being impacted by it (and the program in general) right alongside the men.

Put more succinctly, it clarified for me beyond a doubt that part of my purpose is to do this work with men in Japan.

Where my mind went after that great experience when looking ahead to the next cohort was that clearly the program would fill easily if the one that had just completed was so successful (based as much on the feedback we got from the men as our own experience). I could already imagine the referrals pouring in, the larger group size, the increased income.

And then we managed to create the perfect conditions for no men to enroll in the program. A month into this reality, I can write that statement without blame or resentment, it’s just what happened.

The details of what we did to create those conditions are not necessarily that interesting or even fully knowable. What I can access and take action on is what is available right now. This morning, after doing a bit of clearing in my journal, what came up for me was to think about this from one of my essential qualities: Purpose.

Fortunately, I’ve got a great reference source that supports me in this kind of investigation,

Who Do You Think You Are, by one of my teachers, Adam Quiney. If creating more powerful leadership through the lens of our essential qualities interests you, I highly recommend this book.

When I looked up Purpose, one paragraph jumped out at me:

“When Purpose becomes a need rather than a choice, things like connection, intimacy, and play be come superfluous and pointless. You find it harder and harder to sit in conversations that are simply about connecting with another person. In relationships, you may get frustrated when your partner just wants to be heard or connect. You’re always looking for a problem to solve - even when your partner tells you that problem solving is the last thing they want. You hear yourself thinking, “Okay, but what’s the point? And here’s what you need to do.”

This sounded very familiar to the experience I was having (creating) with Skip the closer we were getting to when the new cohort of Keyaki was supposed to start. I can see now that due to the success of the recent cohort, not only was I feeling a renewed sense of purpose around it, I was also driving to it ‘needing’ to start again as planned, be filled, be a source of income. This very much impacted how I was in conversation with Skip (and with myself, if I’m honest) about enrollment: rigid energy, hard edges, judgment about how it was and wasn’t going. Not much connection, intimacy, or play at all.

One of my favorite things about being in relationship with Skip is that in our partnership and friendship, we are continually exploring the edges of what is possible in how men can show up with and for each other. We are creating what we want other men to be able to create by participating in our group.

When the date of what was supposed to be the first session of Keyaki came up, we held a small ceremony in recognition of the thing that didn’t happen, and then set up a time to answer some core questions about the program together - visions of success, new agreements for us as co-leaders, how we will support each other, etc. Fail and recommit. Start again, on purpose.

Again, through the lens of Purpose as one of my essential qualities of being, this is how I want to show up in continuing to develop this program:

“Your gift to the world lies in your innate understanding that Purpose is something to be chosen freely, moment by moment. You probably learned growing up that lack of Purpose was something bad to the point of being intolerable, dismissing people who lacked purpose as useless and uninteresting. Direction and forward movement became as necessary to you as breathing. Your gift opens up for the world when you do the work to release the compulsion. When you allow yourself the freedom - and a little bit of leisure - to choose a Purpose that serves you and those around you.”

I get to choose and choose into supporting men in Japan as one of my purposes again and again. I also have choice around how firmly I hold onto the structure of how it is ‘supposed’ to happen, and whether I judge if it is happening that way or not. And to be clear, that sounds a lot cleaner than I often experience it - there is a part of me that wants to say it is all woo woo bullshit, and that it is no way to run something that is also a business venture. I’m slowly learning to breathe some softness and compassion into that familiar response, as well as continued to get supported on it by Skip, my coach, and others who are in this work alongside me.


If you have read all the way to the end, thank you and I am honored. I also have two invitations:

If what you read here about Purpose in particular sounds familiar and resonates, I’d love to talk. The leaders I get to do the best work with in coaching partnerships inevitably share one or more of my essence qualities. I partner with leaders in and outside of Japan, and of all gender identities.

Also, if you know a man in Japan who would benefit from being in community with other men committed to living fuller and more fulfilling lives, we’d love it if you referred them to the Keyaki site.

In loving adventure,


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