Giving Mo

My grandfather and my son Matthew in 2009.

On the first of November I made a commitment to a fundraising campaign with some coworkers. It wasn’t your typical bake sale, cookie-peddling, or car wash sort of fundraising. It was much more personal than that. We donned moustaches to change the face of men’s health.

The Movember Foundation is working to prevent men from dying too early. They do that by raising awareness and funding research to combat prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health issues. What started in 2003 with some friends over beers is now the largest non-government investor in prostate cancer research in the world. In Healthier men, one moustache at a time Movember founder Adam Garone talks about the org’s humble beginnings and its incredible impact.

While there are several dimensions to the foundation’s work, my personal motivation for getting involved was prostate cancer research and education. My grandfathers were very special to me and both died of prostate cancer. I understand that our bodies will ultimately wear out and fail us, but absent this disease, we would’ve had more time with them and considerable suffering would have been avoided. A cure is long overdue and the dollars raised by the foundation could get us there.

Apart from some occasional vacation time attempts at bearding and a brief goatee run, I’m a clean-shaven kind of guy. I’m more Cledus than Bandit, more Rick than Magnum, more Buddy than Burgandy, more Carl than Abraham. I had never attempted a stand-alone moustache. Some guys have a face for it and it looks perfectly natural. I’m not one of those guys.

Lessons of the mo

Beyond the hairs grown and dollars raised for an incredibly important cause, I walked away from the experience with some lessons learned.Moustachery is a head game. Early on I was surprised by how concerned I was with other people’s reactions to my ‘stache. I’m not typically concerned with what people think of my appearance, but I was frequently hyper-aware of my face. It’s quite strange to be preoccupied with your own face, or more specifically, with what others think about your face. It felt like there was a hairy barrier between me and the world. The lip beaver. And, as if there were actually a small furry critter standing between me and the person to whom I was speaking, I felt obligated to acknowledge that critter with something like “You might be wondering what’s wrong with my face.”

Most people really don’t care. My bout with mo-induced psycho-trauma lasted about two weeks. At that point I stopped caring. I realized that I had inflated the size of my audience and overestimated how much that audience cares. With the exception of your circle of family, friends, and colleagues, most people don’t care about you (or the horrible thing growing on your face). Only those with a vested interest in you, or a meaningful connection to your life, are truly paying attention.

Change draws attention and fosters new connections. Introverted folks like me are often chameleons. In many settings, we adapt to our surroundings to avoid unwanted attention. Sporting a ‘stache on my historically hair-free mug prevented me from doing that. It sparked conversations with people that wouldn’t have ordinarily happened and gave me an opportunity to talk about the Movember cause. That’s the way this Movember thing is supposed to work.

People can change the world through unconventional means. When it comes to doing good for others, the method doesn’t matter nearly as much as the result. (Obviously as long as your methods don’t hurt anyone or break any laws. Threatening to club a baby seal wouldn’t be an appropriate fundraising strategy.) When rallied around a cause, no matter how silly, people can accomplish great things.

The results

I managed to hit my $1k fundraising goal and our team contributed over $8,500 to the the $46M raised globally. Yes, that’s forty-six million dollars because people grew some lip-fuzz.

I look forward to next Movember and encourage you to get involved. If this doesn’t sound like your thing, find a thing. If cancer isn’t your cause, find a cause. Do something for the greater good, regardless of how silly it might seem or how horrible you might look doing it.