“The lesson taught at this point by human experience is simply this, that the man who will get up will be helped up; and the man who will not get up will be allowed to stay down. Personal independence is a virtue and it is the soul out of which comes the sturdiest manhood …this virtue cannot be bestowed. It must be developed from within.”
Frederick Douglass (Author & Diplomat; My Bondage and My Freedom)
“Nobody appreciates daddy. Nobody ever says, ‘Hey, Daddy, thanks for knocking out this rent!’ ‘Hey, Daddy, I sure love this hot water!’ ‘Hey, Daddy, it’s easy to read with all this light!”
Chris Rock (Actor & Comedian; Bring The Pain)
“We cultivate the mind without loss of manliness.”
Thucydides (Ancient Historian; History of the Peloponnesian War)
A man is willing and able to understand a situation, take charge of it, and improve it.
I thought I heard one of my friends coming out of the library behind me so I looked back. Right then someone walking by rammed their shoulder into me on purpose. It was this kid who was always picking fights with people on campus.
He’d been suspended twice and had his teeth knocked out at least once but, somehow, he was still enrolled. I asked him what his problem was and—SHOCK—I was his problem. He got in my face and stared at me with glazed over eyes that screamed I was beat as a child and now I’m going to take it out on the world. To be honest, I was pissed off and wanted to punch him in the face more than anything. But all of these other thoughts kept racing through my mind. I pictured losing my scholarship, getting suspended from the wrestling team, on and on. So I told him he was an idiot and kept walking. I felt like a wimp afterwards, though, and beat myself up over it for months.
My last year of graduate school, I was diagnosed with a kidney condition brought about by stress-induced inflammation. This happened during the same time that I was trying to get my academic advisor to let me graduate. My advisor wanted to keep me for another year even though I had fulfilled all my requirements and had a job lined up. The diagnosis threw me for a loop but the one silver lining, I thought, was that my advisor would feel sorry for me. I figured that telling my advisor about my diagnosis, while acting weak and pathetic in the process, would make him take it easy on me. After all, being vulnerable was virtuous. Vulnerability always opens doors and repairs relationships, right? Wrong. He bullied me more than ever before. Why?
Men Are Wired To Take Action
As a man, you’re wired to act. Brain imaging studies show that male brains are biologically structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action. In other words, men’s brains are built to move from intellectual grasp to physical action very quickly. These same studies show that men are wired to have strong motor and spatial abilities. So not only are men’s brains built to trigger action, they’re built to trigger effective action. This means that at its core, manhood is simply the willingness (and the ability) to act effectively—to understand a situation, take charge of it, and improve it. Of course, this doesn’t mean that taking action is all that being a man amounts to. And it doesn’t mean that women don’t or can’t take effective action. It means that if you’re a man, you’re biologically wired to perceive challenges and opportunities, and to do something about them. To do anything else would be to go against your biology.
15 Keys To Keeping Your Manhood
It’s still okay to be a man. I just wanted to throw that out there. It’s okay to talk about manhood too. But, if you’re a guy who watches a lot of TV or reads through a lot of blogs or magazines today, you might not think it’s okay. You might think that manhood doesn’t exist or shouldn’t exist anymore. Maybe you think that being a man, in today’s world, means complaining about how little you get paid at work, letting your wife or girlfriend decide what you do every night, or building a man cave that you can play video games in. Or maybe you think that being a man means being tough and lashing out every time someone challenges you.
The truth is, being a man is simple. It’s instinctual. As a man, your instinct is to understand the world you live in and shape it in the image of your highest values. The problem is that most men have killed this instinct. Instead of seeking to understand, these men tune out. Instead of shaping the world, these men sit on their hands and do nothing. As a result, they become helpless and useless. The only way to keep (or regain) your manhood is to consistently acquire knowledge and to use it to take effective action. Here are 15 strategies to help you do this:
1. Take control of the situation.
I went to a conference during my last year of graduate school where the MC introducing the speakers feinted. Everyone standing next to her just watched her fall over in slow motion. Then they stood there for what seemed like forever before some guy near the front of the audience jumped on stage, picked her up, and whistled for a medic.
This reaction—to stand around and wait for others to do something—is called the Bystander Effect. This Effect is used to describe the lack of action that occurs in large groups of people when something goes wrong. By default, everyone waits for someone else to take action. If you’re a man, this goes against everything you’re biologically wired to do. You’re not wired to stand there. You’re wired to take control.
When someone goes down next to you, don’t stand there like a deer in headlights. Take control of the situation (like this). When someone’s car dies in the middle of the road, or they get stuck in snow or mud, don’t just drive by. Pull off to the side of the road and help them push their car somewhere safe. If a stranger drops a bag of groceries in the parking lot, get over there and help them pick it up. Sitting back is not the intellectual, cultured, or the politically correct thing to do. It’s the weak thing to do. Instead of running away from problems, run towards them. Take control of them. Always be looking for a way to improve the situation you’re in.
2. Command a room.
Learning to command a room is at the heart of being a man. Some men, like Steve Jobs, command a room by slowly connecting the dots of a large and powerful picture, others, like Winston Churchill, command it with force and verve—overwhelming the audience with words that hit like waves crashing onto a beach. This kind of verbal influence has always been respected (and expected) in powerful men.
Some men have risen to power simply through their ability to command a room. In the book The Obstacle Is the Way, author Ryan Holiday tells how Demosthenes was born in Ancient Greece frail, fatherless, and effeminate. Yet, he devised a plan to rise to power anyway. His plan was to become the greatest orator of Athens. And he did. In fact, he became what many consider to be the greatest orator of all time. To do this, Demosthenes did unthinkable things like filling his mouth with rocks before speaking, rehearsing full speeches into the wind while running up steep inclines, and learning to give entire speeches in a single breath. Soon, his voice became strong, clear, and unparalleled. By his death, Demosthenes was known as one of the most powerful men in Athens.
Most men think that speaking is beneath them. At least that’s what they tell themselves. Really, they’re scared to death that they’ll stand up and not be taken seriously. Their egos are weak and fragile so they never take a chance speaking publicly. As a result, they never garner any power. No matter how successful you are in the other parts of your life, if you can’t stand up and share it effectively, you’ll always be seen as second class. Don’t be one of these guys. Spend time improving your communication skills. Put yourself out there. It will get easier. You’ll learn how to navigate the crowd and you’ll have a bigger impact because of it.
3. Double down on your position.
You know that moment when you finally speak your mind, take a side, and feel strong about it, and then someone comes at you hard in disagreement? If you’re like most people, your first reaction will be to flinch and back down, or to get defensive and lash out, or to compromise a little and keep the peace. But this is a mistake. As a man, you’re wired to be decisive. Your aim should be to weigh the options carefully, make a decision, and never look back.
Once you make a decision, keep the opposition on their heels by taking action right away. After making a big decision, it’s completely natural to feel like the position you’ve taken is too firm. Don’t worry. It’s not. In fact, it’s probably too weak. That’s why you’re getting rattled. The best action to take after making a big decision is to double down. Instead of letting others challenge your decision, challenge their decision to test you. Passivity is your enemy. Not action. Not even mistakes. Any mistakes you make through decisive action can easily be corrected by more decisive action.
4. Provide for your own.
Providing for others generates strength. There’s a gene in every man that gets turned on some time in your 20’s or 30’s that says “provide.” This gene–this voice–demands that you find something or someone to provide for. Whether it’s a business, a hobby, your family, or a group of friends, you’ll be driven to produce and to reinvest what you produce into something greater than yourself. You’ll be driven to do this no matter how much you’re appreciated for it. The problem is that too many men try to silence this voice. They dull it with alcohol, entertainment, and other types of distraction, or they drown it out with toddler-like excuses and “what about me!?” complaints.
Listen, you’re a man. You don’t need respect or appreciation from other people. You respect yourself. You appreciate yourself. Find something to build, to invest in, and to provide for and do it because you want to do it, not because you want attention for it. Don’t let people walk all over you, especially if you’re providing for them. But don’t provide for appreciation. Provide because you enjoy the act of providing.
“What does a man do Walter? A man provides …he provides. And he does it even when he’s not appreciated, or respected, or even loved. He simply bears up and he does it. Because he’s a man.” –Gus Fring (Breaking Bad)
5. Lead the conversation.
Conversations are like cars, they’re meant to be driven. And, if you’re a man, it’s your job to drive the conversation forward. Of course, anyone can drive a conversation. But less and less men are doing so. Too many men are becoming passive passengers. They’re sitting on the sidelines because that’s what they’re being told to do. As a man, you’re not meant to be told what to do. You’re meant to command, take control, and drive.
Stop tuning out and start engaging. When you go out on a date, arrive at a job interview, or meet a friend in the street—show up. Don’t sit there timidly or apathetically. Don’t wait for them to ask you questions and don’t blab on about nonsense. Instead, be a leader. Ask good questions. Give something to the interaction and get something out of it. It’s never anyone else’s job to make you interesting. Only you can make yourself interesting.
6. Lead with chivalry and class.
It’s funny how in today’s world you can blow someone’s mind just by holding the door open for them. They can’t believe it—their knight in shining armor. Chivalry is dead, people say. But it’s only dead to them. As a man, you were meant to be a leader—you were meant to set an example for others. This means you should strive to make others feel special when you can. You should also strive to set a good example.
Men who lead with chivalry and class are fascinating. They’re fascinating because they’re rare. Too many men lead by being jerks, by throwing tantrums, or by trying to make everyone else just like them. A real leader, however, does not mistreat or ignore other people for no reason. Likewise, a real leader does not lose his cool just because he’s not getting his way.
Should you ignore complainers and ruthlessly cut out haters from your life? Yes. Should you get fired up when someone attacks you and excited when a new opportunity presents itself. Absolutely. But, you should always maintain your composure. Even when dealing with difficult people. And you should always work to shrewdly differentiate the people who you can really help from those who just want to use you as a crutch or a punching bag.
7. Never get defensive or baited into conflict
I used to get in epic arguments with one of my college girlfriends. The same thing would happen every time. She would get upset about something, talk about how angry she was at me, and bring up old stuff she was still mad about. I’d stay calm, which just seemed to make her angrier. So, she’d start calling me names and making more and more personal attacks until I finally engaged in the argument. I used to have a guy friend who did this exact same thing to me. In both cases, they’d keep pushing until I got defensive and lashed out. I used to think this was my only way to resolve these types of conflict. It turns out there’s another way.
I used to go fishing a lot as a kid in the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes I’d use hooks with worms, other times I’d use hooks with colored marshmallows. In special cases, I’d use fancy, custom made lures that had several hooks attached to them. If one type of bait wasn’t working, I change things up until I found something that got the fish biting. This is exactly what most people will do to you during an argument. They’ll keep casting different types of lures out, hoping that–sooner or later–you’ll take the bait. The only real solution is to swim away. Don’t test the bait, nibble on it, or even stay near it. Get as far away as possible and stay away until the fishermen either start casting their bait somewhere else or stop fishing altogether.
8. Ignore people who tell you to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is not a position you should strive for. Should you be open? Yes. Should you be transparent, authentic, and not full of crap? Of course. But you shouldn’t value vulnerability. By definition, being vulnerable means being susceptible to physical or emotional harm. Why would you want to be susceptible to this?
Here are some synonyms of vulnerability: helpless, defenseless, powerless, weak, and impotent. This is what many people want you to think it means to be a man. They’ll tell you that a real man does not need to do anything to improve his situation because he’s okay with who he is—he’s okay with being at a disadvantage. A real man, they’ll say, has nothing to prove. This is a complete lie. The truth is a man who has nothing to prove might as well be dead. As a man, your biology thrives on proving itself. It thrives on taking action to strengthen your position in life. Don’t ever feel guilty for wanting to be stronger. Don’t let other people tell you to be weak. Be open, be authentic, but never stop taking new ground.
9. Refuse to be needy.
Let’s be clear, need is always bad. On a long enough timeline, anything based on need is going to fail. And it will make you miserable until it fails. Dependence on anything, whether it’s a relationship, a job, or a drug is never satisfying for very long. Dependence prevents growth. For this reason, real men strive to make themselves as independent as possible. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you never want or care about anything. It means you should never use anyone or anything as a crutch. It also means that you should never let anyone else use you as a crutch. Only weak and selfish men make other people rely totally on them. If you like it when other people are helpless and can’t survive without you–you’re a sicko.
10. Never whine.
Dudes cry. I’ve seen it. I may have even cried once or twice myself. If you need a private moment to squeeze out a few tears, by all means, take it. There’s nothing to be ashamed about. But, if you cry, whine, or complain about your problems in public and on a regular basis–you should feel ashamed. Complaining is one of the most emasculating things you can do.
One study found that people who complain to each other about their problems for long periods of time were more likely to develop depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. A second study showed that being exposed to complaining for 30 minutes or more peels away neurons in your hippocampus, the part of your brain responsible for problems solving. Your problems in life are proportional to the amount of time you spend complaining about your problems in life. The less you complain, the less problems you will have.
11. Domesticate the animal inside of you, but don’t neuter it.
Like wild animals, men are territorial. They also crave freedom and autonomy. They have a strong desire to chase, hunt, seek, and to protect their own. These primal urges are in every man and, despite conventional thinking, they are healthy.
In today’s world, most people want you to think that being a man means being docile—it means doing what you’re told and staying in line. These people will tell you to never stand up for yourself, to never be aggressive or controlling, and to never upset the herd. Instead, they’ll tell you to sit down all day in front of a computer and type until your prostate is the size of a grapefruit and your gut is the size of a watermelon.
It’s almost as if society wants your testosterone levels to plummet until you develop breasts and can’t get an erection. If you’re being nagged, take it. If you’re beign walked all over by your boss, take it. Do what other people want and never do what you want. Be indecisive, cautious, and impotent. That’s a real man, they’ll say. Nothing could be further from the truth. Killing the animal inside of you in not self-discipline, it’s self-destruction. As a man, your success and happiness depends on your ability to stay connected to your primal urges. You should seek, chase, protect, provide, and break free. And you should do it over and over again. The key is to rule over these urges—to channel them—so that you can continually use them to your advantage.
“As a bee seeks nectar from all kinds of flowers, seek teachings everywhere. Like a deer that finds a quiet place to graze, seek seclusion to digest all that you have gathered. Like a mad one beyond all limits, go where you please and live like a lion completely free of all fear.” ―HH Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
12. Dominate your environment.
Men control their environments. Every house, building, sidewalk, street, fence, and carefully planned row of trees is the result of people exerting their will over the environment. The same is true for every medicine, medical treatment, appliance, or piece of furniture in the world. All inventions, down to the cup off coffee next to you, is the result of someone forcing an idea into existence. Of course, women are meant to control their environments too and have done so by creating countless inventions.
The notion that men shouldn’t be controlling is fairly new. Today, men are told to oblige, to submit, and to let nature and other people rule over them. This is a recipe for disaster. Men are not meant to submit. They are meant to dominate. As a man, your goal should be to control, to create, and to influence everything around you for the better. What’s the meaning of a man’s life? To take what you’re given and do what you can to improve it. The end.
It’s not about winning or losing—this is what people who want you to be okay with losing will say. These people want you to be okay with losing because they’re afraid that one day they’ll be up against you. They’re planting a seed—a back up plan—so that if what you want is ever on the opposite side of what they want, they can take the moral high ground against you to get their way.
Everything is about winning. You wake up and work to make something happen, other people wake up and work to make something else happen. The only way to reconcile these two forces is through competition. Sure, we have friendlier words for competition now, like cooperation or collaboration, but everything still revolves around either rallying allies and beating back enemies to get what you want. Why deny this?
As a man, you’re competitive by nature. Stop seeing this as some kind of fault or sin. When it comes to competition, the only real mistake you can make is not engaging in it. The truth is you need an outlet for your competitive desires. You need to start a business, work for a promotion, negotiate a deal, play sports, or go to the gym. In one form or another—you need to compete. The only other option is to let your competitive desires build up inside of you and rot into something much nastier. Don’t let lazy people tell you that competing will leave you sad, empty, and alone.
Competing wholeheartedly for a cause you truly believe in is the key to happiness. When the cause is just, winning is never lonely.
14. Hone your craft to perfection.
Men are meant to grow, to move forward, and to act. They are meant to choose a craft, or many crafts, and work towards mastery. As soon as a man stops honing his craft, he dies. A 2009 study of over 73,000 Japanese men found that those who had a strong connection to their craft lived longer than those who did not. Many of those who continued to perfect a craft, versus those who retired or simply stopped, lived past the age of 100.
Growth is a prime human need. Without a sense of growth, people shut down. In a Harvard University study, participants were asked to build Lego characters. All participants were paid decreasing amounts of money for each subsequent character they built. One group’s creations were stored in plain sight so they could see their progress while the other group’s characters were disassembled as soon as they were built. The group who could see their progress made an average of 11 Lego characters while the group who couldn’t see their progress only made an average of 7 characters.
Never stop developing your craft. Always be expanding your skill set. Always be improving on something tangible—something measurable. The only thing that should stop your rise to absolute mastery is death itself.
15. Rule over your kingdom even from death.
I read a story in a newspaper’s obituary section about this man who had lived a long and fruitful life. He created a successful business and raised a large family until one day he became ill and couldn’t work anymore. Eventually he became so sick that he had to stay in bed. During his last few days of his life, he called his family members into his bedroom one by one to tell them that he had given each of them a percentage of his estate, which was worth over a hundred million dollars. This meant—in effect—that each member of the man’s family would be a millionaire once he passed away.
The man’s will, however, had two provisions. The first provision was that the family would have to keep the tradition of meeting for a large family dinner once a week. The second provision was that the family members would have to continue to live by the values that they were all raised on. The man and his wife had created a list of family values to run their household under and he wanted to ensure that these value would be carried on from the grave. The legal guardians of the estate were instructed (and empowered) to take back the portion of the estate given to any family member who stopped living by these family’s values.
Was this man’s will and legacy enforced? I don’t know. But what I do know is that this man was a real man. He built a successful kingdom on a set of values and did everything he could to reign over this kingdom from beyond the grave. Of course, this kingdom and his reign over it was never about him. It was about the kingdom itself. It was about the people in the kingdom.
Which of the above points do you agree with the most? Which do you agree with the least?
We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below to let us know.
Be specific in your comment because thousands of people visit this blog each week and what you say could be the one thing that helps someone else put their dent in the Universe.
If you want to learn more about changing your focus and increasing your personal hapiness, order my new book: Black Hole Focus