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Good is Good: 10 Things I’d Like to Change About Myself

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Tom Matlack is the former CFO of the Providence Journal and is the founder of The Good Men Project, a non-profit charitable corporation based in Rhode Island and dedicated to helping organizations that provide educational, social, financial, and legal support to men and boys at risk.

Here are Tom Matlack’s notes to himself. What are yours?

1. There’s no need to be an asshole. I like to fashion myself a lover, not a fighter, but that is crap. On a very regular basis a switch goes off in my brain which causes me to go for the jugular. I am not proud of how often I am an asshole. But I still do it nevertheless.

2. Play is good. The older I get the more I forget how to just have simple, stupid fun.

3. Being afraid of the opposite sex. Some guys have game and some have none. Despite having some material to work with in terms of the outside stuff, I had less than no game. It took a bad marriage and years of being alone to finally realize that intimacy is about revealing yourself despite the risk. And the payback is a thousand times what you might lose in the process.

4. Go with the flow. I’ve had these moments when I am able to feel that everything is the way it was intended and I am being carried along by a benevolent force who can make even my worst mistakes into blessings.  But those periods are sporadic at best.  A lot of the time, I am squeezing my life like it is some kind of final jeopardy quiz that I can’t quite get right.

5. Laugh more. As a kid, and even into early adulthood, people would stop me on the street or in restaurants and tell me that I had a great laugh. Then it stopped. My attitude became too serious to laugh. These days my kids can make me laugh and increasingly my friends too, but I still don’t laugh like I used to. I want that back.

6. Language. Here’s the thing: I suck at foreign languages. I barely made it through high school Spanish. I love Italy, but don’t ask me to speak to anyone. On the flip side, I am very conversant in the f-bomb laden spew. My friends and family kid that I talk like a truck driver, and they are right. There are times when it works to my advantage, but there are plenty of other times when it’s just rude. I do it anyhow and I wish I didn’t.

7. Wasting my 20s. I know that sounds cliché, but I was really a dumbass during the bulk of the decade between 1984 and 1994. I was so afraid of my own shadow I did all kinds of crazy, destructive things to try to run from the reality of being a human being.

8. Quiet intensity is way more powerful than loud. Earlier this summer, I was having an email exchange with a dear old friend of mine who knows me better than I know myself. I was bemoaning yet another existential crisis; having to figure out what to do with my life, something I do frequently. I was telling him that my experience of myself is that I have a kind of fury that has served me well in tight spots, whether sports or my professional life or personal life. He reminded me that the fury is not a sign of power but weakness. “What’s allowed you to succeed is that look in your eye when you have total clarity and get very quiet,” he told me. Upon reflection he is right. There is a kind of Zen focus that I probably learned from a whacked out-coach I had in college, where optimum performance comes from somewhere deep inside, in the center of my being, that allows me to relax completely, block out all extraneous stimulus, and do the thing I was meant to do. Become the arrow, my coach used to tell us.

9. My feet. I have really ugly toes. Big, fat ones. I wish they were prettier.

10. Nothing. Come to think of it, what I most need to remember day to day is that I don’t need to change a thing about myself or my world. I am okay just the way I am. And the world I inhabit is pretty okay too if I just take the time to open my eyes and see what’s right before me.

For more of Tom's works, as well as other pieces on related topics, go to The Good Men Project Magazine online, here.


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