Allow me to introduce myself. I am John Cripps, a man of ordinary birth and circumstances who has accomplished many great things in life. Before you think this is the page where I toot my own horn, bang my own gong, and attempt to draw praise and awe...let me say that I really wasn't all that remarkable and I didn't have the advantages of the rich or famous. In high school I was shy and not the most popular kid around. I did play sports, but my grades were average. I wasn't a sissy, but I wasn't exactly courageous either. I managed to graduate at 16 and that is when my life suddenly changed.
The Cripps Factor is simply this: no matter what your age, health, size, appearance, IQ, financial status, etc...you can achieve great heights in your life. It is NEVER too late to begin.
Are you have to do is rise to the challenge!
These are certainly not normal lab results for a modern 61 year old man, nor a common fitness level. I constantly have to produce my driver's license to prove I am 61, not 41. So, what makes me different?
Some people suggest I have excellent genetics, but scientists believe genetics only play about a 1/4, or at most a 1/3, part in longevity. The remainder consists in epigenetics, or lifestyle. There are actually five major factors which have the largest effect on your health as you age:
Again, it is NEVER to late to begin improving your health and quality of life, your cognitive and emotional intelligence, and the strengthening of your soul. Of course, these all relate to manhood. The body has an amazing ability to heal itself, as well as great ability to gain strength, increase endurance, and expand the mind. It was designed that way. But it must have help. You have to provide the tools your body needs to do "its thing." If a carpenter is going to frame a house, he does not bring a ratchet wrench, pipe cutter, or lineman's pliers, along with a roll of roofing felt. Those tools are for something altogether different. Rather he brings a hammer, saw, level and square, along with the lumber he needs. You must provide your body the tools and materials to do the job it was designed to do.
If you are interested in my story and what brought me to this point with Man Up Mississippi...read on. If not, please skip down to the closing remarks!
The year was 1973. I was finishing up high school and found out I was going to be a dad. I was 16 years old. Fortunately I was working a night job full-time during the week. As soon as school was out, I headed to work. Finishing up around 1:00 am, I went back home to sleep, woke up and went to school to do it all over again. My job was accounts payable and general ledger posting, but I got to work with something relatively new: the IBM System 3 mainframe computer. High-tech stuff - it took up an entire room and utilized punchcards.
I became good at accounting while working for Bechtel, which was the world’s largest construction company. I ended up being transferred to various locations: From Illinois back home to Mississippi, then Indonesia, San Francisco, and Colorado. In-between I also worked with a couple of other large construction firms in Houston and Iran. While in Bechtel’s San Francisco home office I was asked to join a team who were writing accounting procedures to be used worldwide. The management became impressed and I was offered a long-term proposition: they would pay to send me to college and groom me for a future vice-president position. I was only 21. I turned down an “opportunity of a lifetime” because this country boy could not stand to live in San Francisco.
Fast forward to 1981 where I was working in Houston, Texas as the Corporate Administrative Manager for a large firm. I was the president’s right-hand man and was in charge of numerous corporate departments. I had arrived at the top of my possibilities at age 24. I could go no further up. As I spent months watching all the executives stress over everything imaginable, including their marriages...I decided the life wasn’t for me. I quit the corporate world and moved on a sailboat. Wow! No one seen that coming, including me. Why a boat, you ask? Because I had a painting of a sailboat on my office wall that I would stare at everyday. I guess it was secretly calling my name.
For the next three years I completely remodeled my boat from the hull out and cruised all the way down to Key West with the idea of sailing the Caribbean, just my son and I. But let me pause there. In 1981 something else happened that changed my life. My son’s elementary school teacher phoned and informed me I needed to take my boy to a doctor. She said he was hyperactive and had been disrupting class. Keep in mind this was long before the modern problem of ADHD and the tidal wave of Ritalin/Adderall prescriptions. Well, the doctor wanted to put him on phenobarbital, which is a barbiturate. I refused. Back at my office I happened to meet the president’s son in the hallway and discussed the nonsense with him. He mentioned he had read something about BHA/BHT causing hyperactivity in children. He admitted it was probably BS but thought I should know about it.
I got off work, went to the local health-food store and bought several books. As I read about the chemical additives, food colorings and preservatives I was alarmed. Tartrazine (Yellow No 5) linked to hyperactivity, Red 3 to cancer, MSG to harming brain cells, the list went on and on. Of course, there were also studies to prove the levels were safe for human consumption. As I read about rat poison as food coloring I thought, “I don’t want rat poison at ANY level.” I began going through the fridge and cupboards reading labels. Even though I was still quite skeptical, I ended up chunking just about everything in the kitchen. I went back to the health food store and began the process of experimenting with a whole new array of healthy food choices, some of which tasted disgusting to me. The short of the story, my son was completely different within a few weeks and his teacher thought he was doing fantastic “on his medication.” We had new eating habits and his "hyperactivity" never returned.
This was life-changing for me and I have spent the 36 years since studying diet and nutrition. I believe it is the single most important factor in healthy aging. Indeed I credit it more than anything else to the textbook-perfect lab results I receive each year.
While still in Key West, in late 1984, I received a call from my dad who really needed my assistance with a disastrous accounting project he had taken on. He talked me into sailing back to Mississippi for “a short time.” 33 years later I’m still here. It was on my sail home that I became a Christian. This was my third major life-changing event. When I got home to Mississippi my son bought me a Bible and I began to study it...intensely.
Fast forward now to 1988. I became a pastor and founded a church in Biloxi, Mississippi. I wasn’t a natural speaker, being shy as a young man. However, my passion for truth made the difference and I managed over the next 18 years to give over 1000 public speeches and sermons. In most of those 18 years, I was able to devote over 2000 hours/year to study. Besides theology, I studied economics, law, history, agrarianism and philosophy, among other things. During this time I was still mostly bi-vocational, sometimes tri-vocational because I had my accounting firm and, later a web design company.
In 1998 I moved to the countryside where I still reside today. I reduced my client workload and took up farming and raising livestock. I had a lot to learn and it took me 2-3 years to really get proficient. I learned to have a healthy respect for the organic farmers who do things the right (i.e. hard) way. I had to learn patience dealing with weather – it was always either too wet or too dry, never just right. The big thing was...I got to get dirt under my fingernails and experience the cycle of life from seed to sprout to stalk to fruit to seed. It was a spiritual experience as well as mind and body. Americans today are detached from food. Some have no clue where their food comes from, nor do they care. Sad.
During the 90’s I also began to get involved with political activism. In 2000, I formed my own political activism organization. We were thrown right into the middle of the hottest political hot-potato in decades. The fight lasted an entire year. We used a form of activism that had become quite rare: street activism. It was during this time that I began to really see problems with manhood. Not only were men apathetic but they were fearful and timid. Their diffidence would have made us look incredibly weak so we had to “overuse” the brave and confident men to give the appearance of strength. The lack of manhood demonstrated by some grown, husky men made our stomach turn. We won, but the victory was bittersweet. It was exponentially worse when I was asked again, in 2015, to lead the charge. I have no interest in doing it again.
Skipping through many eventful years we arrive here at the current time. In 2016, I began to ponder my retirement. In 2018, I’ll be 62 and have no intentions of sitting at home and watching Oprah. I began to think on what I wanted to do to top off my life. I’ve had plenty of cake, so what about the icing? As I thought and thought, I kept thinking back to the manhood issues. I could see the effects of an emasculated society everyday, from work to people’s relationships to business to church, and all points in-between. A spark within me started to fan into a flame.
I thought about starting another organization to address this declining manhood, and I began to put material together. I also began studying in earnest once more. My initial studies were in brain health and healthy aging. This lead me into a study of physical fitness. I’ve always been very active but have never been an exercise person. As I began to study the importance of resistance training, as you age, I made the decision to dive into the study of the various aspects of physical fitness. There was a lot of confusion and conflicting advice. So I went back to school as they say, and got certified as a Personal Trainer. I didn’t stop there. I went on to get certified as a Weight Loss Management Specialist and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. In addition to those I got some minor certifications in brain health, postural assessment, functional movement, and more. Currently, my focus is on endocrinology.
Angela Duckworth, a leading authority on the subject of grit, suggests that a man who doesn’t keep to one profession lacks grit. When I first read that I was a bit disturbed. But as I pondered further I thought, “What if my profession is the pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and understanding which has led me through many different disciplines?” Maybe there is some truth to both. Looking back, I can identify certain periods of my life when grit was not as high as it should have been, but c’mon I’ve got a lot of piss and vinegar left in me.
The truth is, I believe my life’s pursuits have led me right here to this one thing which I’m calling my retirement gig: to help fathers and sons realize their God-given calling to be real men.
When you consider the combined effect of all I've been through, you will see that I have a unique circumspect point of view.
1. The Diet Perspective
We talked about the life-changing diet and nutrition event with my son. Diet is such a controversial topic. There have been numerous conflicting stories over the years: eggs are good ~ eggs are bad, butter is good ~ butter is bad, bacon is good ~ bacon is bad, low-fat is good ~ low-fat is bad, milk is good ~ milk is bad. We’ve heard it all. For every study that shows something is good there are an equal number to show it's bad. It takes years of study and research, diving into both sides of the debates, as well as following the money trails. Some things go full circle. For instance, I never stopped eating butter and eggs (farm eggs) during the time they were considered bad. Now they are good again, so I didn’t waste any time. I never bought into the low-fat craze, the result of which has made Americans predominantly an overweight/obese society, as we traded fat for sugar.
With all the confusion how can I, or anyone else for that matter, be sure we are giving good advice, or disseminating good information? There is no way for anyone to be 100% sure because human trials are so difficult, and affected by so many other factors. This is one of the reasons websites have to post medical disclaimers. It is very frustrating for most people who simply want to eat right, exercise more, and stay healthy. For me the choice was always a no-brainer. I chose the path of nature thereby choosing foods that are either raw or minimally-processed. I am not a vegetarian, but I try to eat grass-fed meat without growth hormones and antibiotics. I eat organic fruits and vegetables that are not genetically-modified and loaded with chemical fertilizers, weed-killers and pesticides.
In short, I side with nature. My choices may not be perfect but, as I tell my children, going the nature route gives me the assurance that even if I am wrong in this or that particular thing, I'll be right in most of them, and it should more than make up for the bad choices I could have made going with industrial food.
The old saying tells us the proof is in the pudding. Yes I have textbook-perfect lab results but many folks prefer to believe it is genetic, rather than something I had to work to achieve. Well, there are two periods in my life where I went off of my healthy eating habit for short periods of time. I was constantly sick and in and out of the doctor’s office. Once was in 2011-2012 when I moved briefly to Foxworth, Mississippi where my conditions completely changed. I was sick six times during those two years with colds and the flu, and they were bad episodes. Since returning to my homestead and getting back with the system, I have gone five years without a single cold or flu. This is the pudding I prefer.
2. The Nature Perspective
Most of my time growing up was spent in cities. However, my best times were spent with my grandfather in nature. We would hunt, fish, target practice, or just spend time together outdoors. As an adult, I never wanted to live in cities. I was always drawn back to the countryside, and to nature. In 1981, leaving the corporate world and moving on a sailboat was about as big of a change as a man could ever make. You almost have the feeling of living outdoors. I really learned a lot about getting supper from the sea, living in a mostly stress-free environment, as well as a minimalist-lifestyle. While you can no longer call me a minimalist, I did learn the beauty of it. One things for sure, I had three years with NO rat race.
In 1998, moving to my present homestead gave me an even greater closeness with nature as I spent most of my time gardening and raising animals for food. I began to study the writings of the agrarians which had a big influence on me. While I know most people will never leave the city, I believe it is VERY important we never lose touch with nature. I'm not asking anyone to go out and hug a tree, but scientific studies have shown the positive effect of nature on our body and mind.
3. The Business Perspective
My main business expertise is in finance and accounting. When I came home to Mississippi in 1984, I opened an accounting firm and began doing the work of CPA’s. Even though I'm qualified to do the work, I could not get licensed due to my lack of college credentials. However, this did not bother my clients and I had a booming business. Working with a multitude of companies, I encountered just about every problem or difficulty imaginable as I moved more and more into the role of a business consultant. This was great experience. In the mid-80s I also opened the second computer store to appear on the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast. I sold the original 8088 and 80286 PCs. Even after selling my computer store I still built computers, installed networks and handled all software for my clients.
There is something very liberating about being self-employed. It's not for everyone these days, but there was a time when most men did not punch a clock. Having a professional understanding of accounting, and working with so many clients with diverse financial difficulties, gave me an opportunity to help them move their companies toward being debt-free. I also helped some of them with personal money matters. I have been debt-free for most of my adult life. There is the greatest feeling of freedom by owing no man anything. It's the whole "debtor is slave to the lender" scenario.
4. The Technology Perspective
I have always been on the cutting edge of technology, though I am not a blind follower. In fact, my oftentimes unique perspective has even made me an enemy of some technologies. Many ask why I do not have a Facebook account. Well, it does not stem from computer illiteracy.
In 1995, I started a web design business when most of America still had no idea what the Internet was. Later I added graphic design to the repertoire. I finally quit accepting new clients in 2016 as I began to wind that business down as part of the move toward my retirement gig.
Being so involved with computer technology, information technology and more recently smartphone/tablet technology has alerted me to many potential dangers. Besides the troubling dopamine-driven addiction of Internet/smartphone technology (mindless surfing, shopping, social media and apps), our minds are being re-wired. Brain imaging studies point to disturbing trends. While we are not calling for everyone to abandon their computers, phones or tablets, we do believe everyone should be able to make informed choices. Man Up Mississippi believes we men should be masters of our technology, and not the technology master of us.
5. The Spiritual Perspective
In the movie, Braveheart, William Wallace states “God makes men what they are.” When I became a Christian at age 29, I was not seeking it. I did not wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll go out and find Christ today.” In short, I wasn't looking to change, yet here I am agreeing with Wallace. One of the most important things to note which relates to Man Up Mississippi is that the scripture gave me a foundation rather than an opinion regarding the things I believe. As with morality, there must be standards or else we leave everything up to the whim of man - Vox Populi Vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God). I believe the Bible gives us such standards as they apply to male/female roles, virtue, honor, courage, truth, child discipline...in short, manhood.
The modern church sets forth Jesus as some weak, almost feminine figure begging people to come to him and “give him a try.” I believe Christianity sets forth masculine warrior men...with virtue (what I like to refer to as the Warrior Poet). My faith is the most central thing that has made me who I am. Further, 18 years of pastoring also gave me speaking skills with the ability to organize and present materials easy to understand. I learned counseling skills which gave me a keen insight into human nature. This has given me the skill to put together the Cohesive Lifestyle Training program: Mind - Body - Spirit. There are many exercise boot camps, there are numerous Christian conventions, there are motivational speaker events happening all the time...each of these addressing specific aspects that may be lacking in a person's life. We want to take a whole-shebang approach with the specific goal of defining and refining manhood.
6. The Fitness Perspective
My most recent life-changing endeavor was into the world of fitness. As you can probably tell, I have always been a very active person. However, I have never been an exercise person. I always felt I got enough "exercise" through my activities of daily life. While it was true to an extent, I later found out the importance of resistance and flexibility training as you age. In 2016 I went back to school to become a certified personal trainer. After obtaining my certification, I began a steady, continuing education program. In 2017 I became a Weight Loss Management Specialist, a Fitness Nutrition Specialist, and a Mind/Body Specialist. I also became a certified TRX Suspension Trainer. I am currently spending a great deal of time learning functional training.
7. The Challenge Perspective.
Most of what I have learned, or accomplished, has come from self-challenge. It goes like this: if I find I don't know how to do something, don't feel I have time to do something, or possibly I am just fearful...I challenge myself.
Over the years I have totally remodeled/rebuilt four homes and numerous smaller projects. I did all the carpentry (framing and finishing), plumbing, electrical work, drywall, insulation, roofing, painting, heating and air (except charging the system with freon), and so forth. I learned each of these disciplines by challenging myself, in the beginning, to spend the money on tools rather than hiring someone to do the work. At times it was frustrating, and it would have been so easy to call someone in and knock it out. However, it was important to me to fulfill my challenge.
I am not recommending everyone go out and buy tools, so you can do your own work. It has its benefits, but its not for everyone. What I do believe important is to learn to challenge yourself. I learned willpower through challenging myself to fast. I learned courage by daring myself to overcome fear. I learned perseverance by challenging myself to always finish and not give up. That was probably the toughest of them all. I learned how to play guitar by challenging myself to write songs rather than play other people's songs. The list goes on. Once you've reached one summit, set your sights on the next one.
8. The Blender Perspective.
Take all of these things and put them together and you come up with one thing: Man Up Mississippi. Unknowing to me, my whole life has been directed toward this one purpose. I had to have the business experience to be able to make a retirement gig out of this endeavor. I had to go through the diet dilemma with my son to be awakened to the problems of industrialized food. It was necessary for me to experience nature while growing up with my grandfather, living on a sailboat and farming in the country. My conversion to Christianity is at the core of what I am doing. I learned what it means to possess old school manhood...honor, integrity, courage and work ethic. The time being a pastor was necessary in becoming a professional public speaker. It also was a time of intense study and learning research skills. The time spent in political activism allowed me to witness, up close, the declining manhood among our men. Even becoming a web designer, graphic designer and photographer was necessary to bring you this website. Lastly, getting my fitness certifications rounded it all off. Put all these things in a blender and you have Man Up Mississippi!
But enough about me...
If you were patient enough to read through my story, you may be tempted to think, "I don't need to do all that." And, you are right...you don't! The reason for writing these things is simply to give some assurance I am qualified to speak on such diversity of subject matter.
You have within you the ability to visualize where you want to go as a man. You have available to you the resources you need to start, or continue, your journey. Life is about choices. We come to many forks in the road and we have to choose which path we take. As fate would have it, the road less taken - the difficult path - is usually the one we need to go down. It takes courage and fortitude.
The point I've attempted to get across on this page - the so-called Cripps Factor - is this: any man can improve his lot in life. I am not a unique case, just one example out of many. I do not claim to be a perfect man. I do not claim to have all the answers and to have arrived at some high and lofty state of being. But I do have a commitment to myself to constanly strive each day to improve my body, mind and soul. I simply invite you to do the same...for yourself, your family, your business, your church, your country, and your God. Quit thinking about it...just do it!
All text by John Cripps
Top photo - John Cripps at Hatcher Pass, Alaska. Photo by Jennifer Cripps
Middle photo - John Cripps at Seward, Alaska. Photo by unidentified tourist.
Bottom photo - Todd Parker and John Cripps diving near the James Bond Thunderball movie set remains. Photo by Rusty Bang
Bottom logo by John Cripps from a VectorStock.com licensed graphic