Joe Horan: Playbooks, Planners, Let’s Go!

author interview building men program joe horan lexi smith Feb 03, 2023
Joe Horan of the Building Men Program

Joe Horan is an advocate for healthy masculinity and the importance of mentorship. His publications—Building Men Playbook and Goals, Habits, Let’s Go!: Student Planning Guide for Success—are important tools to understand the work of the Building Men Program. Joe is currently the Executive Director of the Building Men Program in Syracuse, New York. Let’s go through a play-by-play of these transformative resources that Joe provides, and learn more about Joe’s experiences finding his way to his own definition of what it means to be “a” man instead of “the” man.


The Planner

This one goes out to all of the kids that need a little bit of structure. Goals, Habits, Let’s Go!: Student Planning Guide for Success is a great resource for students who are ready to take the next step towards collective success. 

Joe walked me through everything that this planner has to offer, and it’s impressive (to say the least). This planner contains sections for “I am” statements, academic goals, fitness, activities, and even more depending on the weekly theme. This planner is meant to be used in a group mentoring setting, and has 30 days worth of in-depth planning for excellence.

The Playbook

Joe’s Building Men Playbook is all about mentoring young men through the process of personal development. This is the next best thing to having Joe with you through the development of a group mentoring program. Did I mention that Joe is the Executive Director of the Building Men Program in Syracuse, New York? 

Joe: This playbook is the result of fifteen years of the Building Men Program—this is everything that we learned, put into a curriculum guide. 

Although this playbook might not help you flesh out your Super Bowl predictions, it is a great tool for teachers and advocates to use to counsel young men. It’s clear that Joe is passionate about his work and that he took the time to make his knowledge and experience accessible to anyone who is ready to begin learning and debunking the myths of masculinity to their students, children, or mentoring groups.

The Myths of Masculinity

Joe was kind enough to share his personal story with me to emphasize the importance of this work (thanks, Joe—you’re the best). 

Joe: After my first marriage ended, I began questioning everything on what becoming a man was about. Then, I was introduced to a book—authored by Jeffrey Marx—about Joe Erhmann, and he talked about the myths of masculinity. Our young boys always want to be the best athletes, and if you’re not the best athlete, you feel like you don’t measure up. You have to be able to attract very pretty women, or multiple women, and if the women don’t affirm your masculinity then you don’t measure up. As we get older, people always look at the people with the most money, the most fame, the most prestige, the most followers on social media as “the man.” So, I read that book and I realized that I fell into that type of masculinity.

Finally, Joe leaves us with some of Marx’s inspirational words, and connects us back to the Building Men Program.

Joe: Marx says that a real man is someone that can love and be loved. I resonated with all of that. At the time, I was teaching Physical Education at a middle school in Syracuse. So, I look amongst the gym at twenty or thirty boys, and I’m like…holy cow. If someone doesn’t teach them that there’s a different way, they may end up experiencing the same pain I experienced. That’s what birthed Building Men.

If you’re interested in learning more about Joe’s literary inspiration, I’d encourage you to check out Marx’s book: Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood. It has great reviews on Goodreads, and Goodreads never lies. Seriously.


Looking for the Building Men Playbook? Click here.

Looking for Goals, Habits, Let’s Go!: Student Planning Guide for Success? Click here.

Check out the Building Men Program here.

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This article was written by Lexi Smith. Lexi is a student at the University of Mount Union studying Literature and Communication Arts. Her favorite Animal Spirit is the bear.