An African proverb says, “Initiate the boys, or they’ll burn the village down.”

In the midst of an era where the national media spotlight has been pointed directly at the bad behavior of some men, there are others who wish to focus less on burning the village down, but rather challenging men to be better. Two local men are drawing a line in the sand, in an effort to challenge men to be initiated, to rise up into a noble purpose.

Starting May 1, Josh Hatcher and Louis Costa are working together on a 12-week campaign called “Rise X Up,”

to inspire men to find their strength, both externally, and internally.  The campaign will feature blogs, videos, podcasts, and live events created by the pair, in an effort to motivate men to strive for more.

“The ‘Rise X Up’ campaign is about strength, brotherhood, and resurrection,” Costa said. “So many of us need something we aren’t finding in this life. We’ve resigned ourselves to an existence without purpose, of loneliness, depression, and substance abuse.”

Hatcher also shared some thoughts.

“We wanted to speak to what the needs were all around us. I know I’ve spent too long in my own life trapped in habits that I couldn’t get out of,” he said. “When you look at the statistics as they relate to men and suicide, depression, substance abuse, obesity, violence, and other social ills, what we see is that men are in need of something more.”

What is it that men need?

Costa said, “They need to reclaim a sense of purpose. Pride. They need to be challenged mentally. They need to be battled physically. They need to know someone cares about them and have a strong connection with other men going through the same things.”

Each week of the campaign will feature a challenge, encouraging men to put their pasts behind them, to connect and engage with their community, to build physical strength, and to reframe their thought patterns.

“We’re living in a time when we’re more connected to people than ever before with instant communication, and yet, we’re seeing our problems increase, because those connections aren’t authentic. They show us the best snapshots of people’s lives, and they don’t show the pain and the hurt and the struggle,” Hatcher said.

“Rise X Up” will show the struggle,

as the men will share stories of overcoming the hardships and obstacles in their own life, the trials of growing up in rural McKean and Potter counties, and even revealing some of the darker parts of their own battles, including some they are still fighting.

“Since June of last year, I’ve lost 85 pounds. I’m on track to hit my goal of 100 pounds lost by this June,” Hatcher said. “This has been a struggle my whole life. I’m still working through it. I know men whose struggles with alcohol, violence, drugs, or even just a negative attitude, who want to experience freedom, who need to see how strong they really are.”

“And what they are capable of,” Costa said. “We want men to be able to identify their limitations, and then smash past them screaming ‘To Valhalla!’ I want men to feel the difference in their lives when they embrace the pain they avoid.”

Many motivational speakers have used the adage,

“Change happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change.”

Costa and Hatcher said that pain of staying the same isn’t worth it.

“As a strength athlete and sports enthusiast for three decades, I’ve injured myself so many times. I know what it’s like to push my body to the edge of its capability and live in the suck of sacrifice afterward. I’ve really learned to embrace the tenacity it takes to push through broken bones, torn muscles and tendons,” Costa said. “But physical pain and emotional pain are very different. Often the barriers that keep people from rising up into what they could be are the hardest to deal with or understand. That is the message that needs to be heard. You hold the power within you. Unlock it, and live better!”

Both men, through Ironmill and Manlihood have had a national audience, but they plan to include some local Bradford events to bring connection.

“We’re looking at some physical-strength training events, some family connection events, and some community-service events. We really want to help men build engagement with their community and with each other,” Hatcher said.

The 12-week “Rise X Up” event starts May 1. More information is available at