Who I am
Hey there, I’m Sven Masterson. I am a master coach with Goodguys2Greatmen. My mission is to repair and restore the hearts of men, help them improve their relationships, and show them the path to intimate, deeply satisfying, emotionally and physically connected relationships.
I’m happily married to Zelda, who I married 28 years ago and with whom I’ve been in a continuous romantic relationship for over 30 years.
What I will share with you and why
I spent about half of our marriage in pain, misery, and frustration before encountering a handful of life-altering perspectives that helped me turn everything around. Today, I have a great relationship: one I often laugh about in sheer surprise, amazement, and gratitude.
Over the last three weeks, I’ve been sharing these life-altering perspectives as four “keys” that I had discovered that put an end to my suffering and unlocked a thriving and connected marriage.
Today, I will tell you more about the third key I discovered, self-reliance – the limbo-killing key I use to unlock endless momentum, progress, and discovery. It’s a story I’m eager to share with you!
What do I mean by self-reliance?
This article isn’t one where I tell you that women won’t find you attractive if you don’t start changing your own oil, growing your own food, and becoming the world’s best handyman.
Those things are a skills-based form of self-reliance based on doing more. While they’re valuable skills, I will share with you a more gratifying form of identity-based self-reliance based on being more.
“Being truly self-reliant often means doing less.”
Being-based self-reliance is a way of living where we shift from looking for what we need, want, and desire in external sources and begin instead to look within.
A perspective of looking within is possible as our belief that we are complete and lack nothing continues to grow. This is why unconditional high regard for self is necessary, as I previously mentioned. It frees us to see being as our origin, not our destination, and thus, where self-reliance is a result of being, not a means to it.
What is the difference between ownership and self-reliance?
Last week I explained ownership is about recognizing areas of our life where we’ve delegated the power and responsibility for what we need, want, and desire to someone else. Then, realizing we are qualified to possess these, we take them back.
Ownership is the understanding that I have the authority, worthiness, and responsibility for what I need, want, and desire.
Self-reliance is the action of going and finding those things within me because I own them instead of looking outside. Many call this shift moving from an “external locus of control” to an “internal locus of control.” I call this process “becoming self-reliant.”
What self-reliance has unlocked in my marriage
As I embrace my right, privilege, and qualification of owning myself, self-reliance is the consistently reliable means of obtaining what I want, need, and desire. It’s the catalyst guiding me to look within myself instead of outside for these things, remembering I’m already a complete, whole being. I’ve always been and always will be.
As I’ve learned to look inward based on being, I discovered that I could reliably find everything I want, need, and desire without requiring someone or something else to provide.
Not only has this constantly left me feeling full and content, but it provides me self-confidence and frees me to boldly venture into new expressions and experiences of my person, relationships, career, mission, and purpose.
A self-reliant view of sexual intimacy led me to see myself already having what I need and being able to show up differently. Not some desperate, strung-out sex addict looking for a get-laid fix, but a generous gift-giver eager to penetrate with fullness, love, and acceptance.
I used to suffer from a terribly low sense of value, worth, and significance and live a life of self-loathing. Unconditional high regard for myself helped bring about self-reliant views of things like respect, appreciation, and acceptance and radically changed how I experienced those too!
First, ownership allowed me to see that no one else owned those things. Following that, I realized that with self-reliance, I could have self-respect, self-appreciation, and self-acceptance, and the more I did, the less I found I wanted from others.
Then a crazy thing started to happen.
As ownership led me to deed things back to myself and I started to seek self-reliant sources for what I wanted, needed, and desired, I noticed that others started heaping on extra amounts. I began to experience wild abundance with more of everything.
As I’ve learned to shift from external needs sources, those sources become free. I get more respect, more appreciation, and more love. And because I don’t technically need it from them, I don’t hold on to whatever they give with the needy, anxious death grip I used to.
But this didn’t happen overnight. It was a downright painful journey at times, as I’m sure yours has been.
“If you have a problem if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire…The A-Team.”
My formative years occurred during the late ’70s and early ’80s. I spent my days going to school, playing football and Wiffle ball in the yard after school, trading baseball and Star Wars cards, watching TV, and worrying we might get nuked by the Russians.
It was a fun era to be a kid mixed in with a healthy dose of anxiety and dread. I believe the TV Shows and movies I enjoyed s a kid reflected this curious mix of adventure and fear.
You might remember the above heading from TV if you’re around my age. I’m fortunate to have grown up with some of the best TV shows ever – The A-Team and McGyver, and I’ll throw in some Airwolf for good measure because what 80’s boy didn’t get saucer-eyed when they heard the Airwolf theme song?
The first at-home movie my father ever rented was Red Dawn – the first ever PG-13 movie, and I’m fond of it still. It was a movie about a bunch of high school kids who found themselves in the middle of World War III. They quickly wiped out the local outfitter, taking their gear to the mountains where they took care of themselves and began training themselves to sabotage the enemy invaders.
How my fascination with self-reliance was born
I couldn’t get enough of these shows and movies. They inspired me with adventure, resourcefulness, and a bordering-on-unhealthy lifelong love of pocket knives, duct tape, batteries, zip ties, lighters, and gadgets I could use to fix broken things, save lives, or thwart WWIII.
I daydreamed of being like the men I witnessed on TV and desired to live as a bold, handsome, independent, intelligent, resourceful, problem-solving badass that could build a hang glider out of bamboo and trashbags, then pilot it to rescue a beautiful woman.
I didn’t know it then, but seeds were being sown for a future life of self-reliance.
Unfortunately, seeds germinate and grow best in manure, which I would spend the next thirty years discovering.
My clumsy start down the path to self-reliance
I grew up in a lower-middle-class family of six. My mother was a homemaker, and my dad owned a small business that occupied most of his waking hours.
My parents spent a lot of time anxious about the future. Adverse events seemed frequent in my family, and there was a pervasive sense of “sooner or later, the other shoe will drop.” whenever peace was present. Life was about just getting by and survival.
Despite a cynical view of life that expected trouble, my family never seemed prepared for it.
This manifested in a scarcity of things like first aid kits with no bandages, cheap flashlights, cars, lawnmowers with dead batteries, drawers full of dull knives and a few old and broken bargain-outlet tools, and scrambling for lunch money.
To an endlessly hungry McGyver wannabe cutting himself a lot with dull knives and trying to build stuff with cheap broken tools, this scarcity was a difficult way to grow up!
My father was not a very handy or patient man in those days. Place a tool in his hand, and you’d soon see his anger and frustration. Not knowing better then, I took his emotions very personally as irritation and disapproval of me.
I’ve grown to understand I was just witnessing him encounter feelings of shame and frustration with himself and not knowing what to do or feeling worthy and qualified for the life he wanted. Of course, it may have also been because his tools were cheap and broken, no bandaids existed if he cut himself, and no duct tape and zip ties were around to lend a hand.
“Well… see what you can do, son!”
Things broke often, and because my dad was busy, not handy, and avoided his emotional triggers, he didn’t fix or maintain stuff.
One day, at the age of twelve, I called my dad at work to report that I couldn’t mow the lawn because the riding mower wouldn’t work.
“Dad: Well… see what you can do, son!”.
“Me: But Dad… I’m twelve years old. What do I know about riding lawnmowers?”
“Dad: I’ll see you when I get home.”
And so, armed with cheap broken tools and short on supplies, I called upon the spirit of Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver) and Mr. T to guide my mind and hands.
I started fiddling around with the lawnmower, taking things apart, and asking, “what’s this thing do?” and “how’s this work?”. I got it running and mowed the lawn with tremendous pride and amazement.
I continued to grow and excel in troubleshooting, debugging, and fixing things, and it became a cornerstone skill for my career, purpose, and mission.
I didn’t learn self-reliance from instruction but from need.
I’ve sat with many men lamenting their fathers’ lack of instruction and their shame for not knowing how to do some things. I understand that frustration, not getting a lot of teaching I would have preferred also.
However, the instructions my dad couldn’t give me fertilized the seeds of self-reliance planted long before. All those non-existent bandaids, batteries, zip ties, duct tape, and dull knives played a fertilizing role too.
Self-reliance was born from an essential, unpleasant need to be self-reliant.
Feelings of scarcity and insecurity that created an internal belief also fueled my journey; “I might not have what I need when I need it, and no one is going to give it to me. Never let that happen!”
I had to either become self-reliant or continue endlessly lamenting my lack and blaming others in resentment and anguish.
I was developing an imperfect form of self-reliance because some of it was a fear-based attempt to control outcomes by doing more. A more mature why would emerge later.
Junk in the trunk and how my ego discolored my self-reliance
I didn’t know it then, but the confidence in troubleshooting, fixing, and being prepared was also deeply discolored and warped by the fear, anxiety, and insecurity I also picked up along the way.
My first car was filled with about 200 pounds of stuff I might “need.” I always had working flashlights, extra batteries, a ridiculous amount of first aid supplies, rope, zip ties, tools, and every resource I might need to rescue myself, my vehicle, or a woman in distress.
I knew I had to be the source of self-rescue, which was good! Unfortunately, I was still missing the self-trust I needed to know I’d figure things out.
Without self-trust – a solid sense of being enough, I was always looking for more resources to carry in my trunk, fearing I wasn’t doing enough.
Preparing for the Apocalypse
I carried this odd mix of self-reliance and subconscious lack of self-confidence into adulthood. It led me to new levels of freedom and expansion, all based on doing.
I took responsibility for more of my health, work, food, energy, and our children’s education. Self-reliance is invigorating in this way.
However, the unbelief and distrust in myself were growing too, and the more lack I experienced, the more I ratcheted up my doing.
As the world kept getting more weird and alarming, my fear-filled anxious childhood intersected with a failing marriage, and I couldn’t seem to find the right amount of doing or having to make me feel better.
I wished the Apocalypse at hand was because I secretly hoped it would be the penultimate chance to demonstrate my ego-dominated self-reliance. I hoped maybe it would win Zelda’s respect, attention, appreciation, admiration, and affection.
If that didn’t work, maybe the Apocalypse would wipe Zelda out, and some female apocalypse survivor would lust after a self-reliant man like me!
So with my continued mix of self-reliance, fear, anxiety, scarcity, and a healthy income fueled by my shame-based overachieving and being good at troubleshooting, I marched onward, readying for the Apocalypse.
I purchased a homestead in the mountains of Pennsylvania. I began growing my own food, making my own power and heat, waiting for my chance to shine, and looking forward to some apocalyptic day when I might have a sense of happiness and well-being because of being exemplary at doing.
The Apocalypse would be the ultimate skills test for this, right?
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you know think it means!”
I’d always thought the word “Apocalypse” meant “the end of the world,” when all the scary sh*t happened before we all blew each other up. However, it is derived from the Greek word, apokálypsis, which means “uncovering” or “to take the cover off.”
I’ve come to see this as ironic because I had thought hunkering down and waiting to break out all my doing-based self-reliance would be my salvation, but something more faithful to the meaning was going on.
Thanks to seven long and torturous years of marital strife and a few mentors who helped me see what was truly going on, an incredible kind of uncovering occurred.
The adversity of life and an unhappy marriage was taking the cover off of me. These were uncovering my need for wholeness and the empty ego-fueled doing-based system I’d been relying upon to try to get there.
As more men and mentors came into my life, they helped me uncover more fear, anxiety, insecurity, and shame – the true sources of my pain.
Hardship and suffering were “taking the cover off” of the true self that I’d stopped accepting and trusting and hid as a kid when the pain of my shame, fear, and anxiety led me to look for safety in more doing and having and less being.
The fertilizing adversity of a challenging life had done its work. It all needed to happen. It led me back to where I began life – as enough and a reliable and unshakeable source of self-reliance.
Abundance-based Self-Reliance is a whole other ball game.
Thanks to this Apocalypse, the man I aspired to be since childhood is becoming uncovered daily, without the anxiety, fear, and insecurity from those years.
I still have a thing for pocket knives, flashlights, first aid kits, and, yes – even duct tape. However, now I appreciate resourcefulness, fixing, and self-reliance from an abundant source of being instead of a scarcity-based search to achieve it. And that has made all manure necessary to grow it worthwhile.
Coming up next week
Next week, I’ll tell you how I went from decades of few, if any, close male friendships to meeting men who’d travel thousands of miles to be together. I’ll tell you what life was like before I discovered the fourth key – brotherhood, and the staggering changes it’s brought about in life since then.
Can’t wait til next week to discover more about the Four Keys?
Click here for my free introductory class on the Four Keys to Masculine Mastery & Thriving Connected Relationships (no email or credit card required)