In our heart of hearts we all want to know how to be a great man. When we’re young we feel as though the future is limitless.
We have dreams and anyone who tells us that they’re unrealistic becomes our arch enemy – for the moment at least.
And then life curbs what we attempt. It tells us that there are limits to what we can do and what we can achieve.
We begin to think that greatness and these unlimited ideas about what the future holds aren’t for us. That we just weren’t destined for them, that we’re average, mediocre at best.
We can improve, but only in a limited fashion. The greatness we see and read about isn’t for us.
We feel this because we’ve failed to do anything great, but are these feelings true, and what kind of man actually achieves real greatness?
When you study history you realize a few things:
There are those who are born into the position to achieve greatness that most aren’t, but at the same time, there are a lot of them born into this position who never become great.
So even with birthright there’s a select few who actually achieve greatness.
In most cases, greatness is won not through one’s birth, but through their effort, persistence, and what they’re willing to give to their quest.
The examples of the latter far outweigh the former.
And we all have access to the latter. However, are we born with these characteristics that greatness demands or do we develop them?
I’m sure some are born with more discipline than others, but for the most part things like effort and persistence are decisions, and ones that we can all make.
The Anatomy of Greatness
When you get into the mind of great men, usually by how they act in failure, you see differences from average men, but these differences aren’t innate abilities, rather, they’re decisions that they choose to make.
Men like Theodore Roosevelt, Captain James Cook, and Frederick Russell Burnham repeatedly dealt with failure that would lead most to question whether or not they’d achieve anything.
All great men are faced with failure, even boredom and monotony and prolonged stretches where it seems like their fortunes will never turn.
What doesn’t change – at least not for long periods – is their habits, and their constant belief in their quest or at least in the fact that it’s better to improve incrementally every day than to not (ie through hard work, discipline, and persistence).
What you find is that it’s not talent or an anointed greatness, but decisions.
Don’t let failure knock you off course for too long, instead, learn from it.
Work hard every day, don’t let emotions stop the work.
Commit to certain habits that make you better every day.
Fight imposter syndrome with logic, instead of asking ‘who am I do to X’, say, ‘who am I NOT to do X’.
Example: who am I to give advice about manliness?
Well, I have unique perspectives and experiences that, when shared, have made a difference. I have imposter syndrome from time to time but that prick gets removed as soon as the voice begins to make noise.
Don’t let limiting beliefs stand in the way. You can change your beliefs.
Now, can you achieve greatness?
Yes, but it’s not just an ambition, it’s a duty.
It’s a waste to be anything less than what we can potentially become.
Too many men think they’re relegated to where they currently are, they think that who they are is who they always will be.
That doesn’t have to be the case…
You are your virtues. Your virtues dictate how you act, how you think of yourself, what you can achieve, and what you’re here to do, and what you actually do.
Every great man has developed certain virtues that have helped him rise from the deepest depths to the greatest heights.
“Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” John Eldredge
I’m a good mood fella. I usually see the brighter side (by choice), I like a laugh, and I do my best to be in the moment, not in a hippie way, but in a more stoic sense, knowing that all I can control is what I do with what I have today.
There is, however, a recipe, a concoction of events that can get ol’ Chad in a bit of a mood.
It usually goes as follows…
I don’t get the work done that I set out to do, which keeps me inside for a prolonged time (we’re talking weeks), which means I don’t get to do the things that put wind in my sails, that make me feel alive.
This might sound selfish, but doing those things, the hiking, shooting, hunting, fishing, and archery and mountain biking, even kayaking and anything else I can do outdoors, makes me better for those around me, and it always leads to me doing better work – which is also good for those around me.
That wee list of outlets deserve importance, even reverence.
They feed the soul like church can, like quality time with the sweetheart can, like some beers and laughs with the fellas can.
They make everything else better. They make me better.
Most of the activities involve struggle.
They all involve nature.
They each require me to be present, in the moment, in the only time relevant and important, while also being able to reflect, think, and put everything else that’s going on in life into perspective.
I’m seeing that these, just like the writing session in the morning, and the workout in the morning, and time with the sweetheart, and reading, research, and filming, need to be scheduled.
If they’re not scheduled, they’re lost, and before I know it ol’ grumpy Chad isn’t performing as well at work, he’s not being a good enough man for his lady and his thinking gets a tad limited.
If you’re busy, and most of us are, you probably don’t find enough time to do the things that put wind in your sails.
But you need to.
These things, maybe it’s fishing or hiking, smoking a stogie on the porch or hopping on the Harley for a ride in the country, make you better everywhere else.
This isn’t a matter of ‘deserving it’.
If you’re ambitious, you likely feel like you never deserve a break, and that there’s always work that needs to be done.
This is how you add fuel to that ambitious fire.
It’s not even about burning out.
We can go a lifetime working every day and not burn out. I think ‘burn out’ is a myth if we’re working well and achieving things.
This is about the work…
It’s about the lady…
It’s about the kids, the family, the legacy you’re building.
To be at your best you have to do things that give you energy, that feed your soul, that add fuel to the fire you have within.
And we all have that fire.
It won’t be fueled sitting on our butt working or watching TV or living a sedated suburban life.
We need to get out there and get after it in more ways that one.
What’s your outlet?
Schedule a day this week to get out there and do it. You’ll come back a rejuvenated, energetic, happy fella and your family, friends, coworkers, everyone, will be happier and better off for it.
P.S. Is stress a problem for you?
I’ve been taking the double-dose of ashwagandha that’s in VIKING earlier in the day lately.
It’s been shown to lower cortisol by between 27% and 33%, which is insanely incredible
We’ve always needed to know what it means to be a man. Teaching this is nothing new. The problem with our current society is that we don’t have teaching manhood programmed into how we teach everything else.
In Roman times, boys ran the streets wearing dirty clothes and had to fend for themselves. They would engage in battles, the classroom, too, was combative, they had to defend their point against a crowd, not merely in their own head or onto a piece of paper.
We’ve always taught young men what it means to be a man, but today, with fathers not sticking around, with a school system that increasingly looks down upon masculine qualities and virtues, our young men, our boys, even our middle-aged men, are now left to figure things out for themselves. Sad! (read: A Man’s Guide to Finding Freedom)
Who suffers? Everyone! The economy, women, kids, everyone. So, within this article we’ll discuss with it means to be a man, but also how to be a man. You won’t leave here with mere theory, but with steps by which you can take action.
Where We’ve Gone Wrong
Moral virtue doesn’t exist in you being harmless. The modern ideal being pushed for men is to be softer, to call yourself a feminist. You are not morally superior because you are more harmless, you are useless.
You are not perfect. You can be better than you are. This is an issue, telling kids and humans that they’re perfect just the way they are. We all have potential, but that potential is realized by improving and working hard.
What comes naturally isn’t what’s best. Easy things ‘come naturally’, the good things in life require effort.
Being a man is the ideal, it’s a pursuit. It’s not a bad thing, but a call that every male must heed. This idea of a patriarchy doesn’t exist. Men and women have worked together throughout history, never in opposition. Good men who do great things benefit everyone. Weak men who are soft, hurt those around them.
What It Means to Be a Man
Fundamentally, you cannot be useless. A useless man is weak, doesn’t earn and provide, is soft, complains, sees himself as a victim. How can you not be useless? Follow the following steps as if it were a checklist.
1. Be Dangerous.
That is, learn how to protect, to defend, to conquer. At our base, men are protectors. We’re defenders. Good men need to be more dangerous than bad men, or else we’re in trouble. You’re also responsible for others, and therefore useless if you cannot defend them. Learn to fight. Get good with guns. It’s not a choice, it’s a duty.
2. Earn, succeed, win.
Get good at something. That’s how you win. Winning isn’t a matter of getting something for nothing, but achievement. Achievement takes effort, persistence, and purposeful practice. To add to our fundamental need to be protectors, men must also be providers. If you want to know what it means to be a man, look no further than the head of a household.
Get good at something. Earn as much as you can for those who depend on you. (read: the Best a Man Can Be)
3. Improve, evolve.
Practice daily improvement. Have an actual routine set up to help you do this. Don’t leave it to chance. Every morning I’m up between 5am and 530am. I read for 45 minutes, head to the gym for 45 minutes, then sit down to work. At the end of the day I’m back reading/studying.
Without these habits in place, I don’t do what I set out to do. It’s a duty to end your life in a better position than where you started it. Be ambitious, be daring. Your ambitions are insights into why you’re here, listen to them, add fuel to them, and hunt them down. (read: 15 Signs You’re an Alpha Male)
4. Aim high.
Again, be ambitious. One aspect of manhood is competition. We need it. We actually see increases in our testosterone levels when we compete, and again when we win. It acts like a reward system, rewarding our participation in life.
Life is a competition. Too many men degrade what they aim at because they believe they are what they’ve done to this point. If you want to know what it means to be a man, it means pursuing something, moving forward in a focused direction.
Men cannot wander.
5. Finally, accept MORE responsibility, not less.
Bring more onto your shoulders, don’t avoid the work, the responsibility, the difficult aspects of life. That’s why you’re here, to bear burdens that others can’t bear. That’s your ‘cross’, and one that should be carried with pride and honor, not with complaint.
Men cannot complain, it’s not our nature, it’s not something we should have in our minds or within us. Define your job, and do it well.
What it Means to Be a Man
Women are born women. Men must become men. We need to be useful, and usefulness comes from developing skills.
You need skills like strength, being able to fight or developing a martial art, to be able to protect. You need to develop skills to be able to earn. Thus, if you want to know what it means to be a man, you can confine it to something so simple as being as useful as you possibly can be. The more dangerous, successful, ambitious, driven, disciplined you are, the more useful you are, and you will know what it means to be a man.
Life sucks. For no identifiable reason that we can come up with, life sometimes just absolutely sucks.
Maybe we’re working hard but not getting the results that we want, and maybe have never gotten the results we want.
Or, we just lack clarity. We don’t know what to do, and not knowing what to focus on is as bad as not getting the desired results.
Maybe we’re just down, we don’t know why, or we just can’t seem to create the life we want no matter how hard we try, and we’ve come to the realization that life sucks and all we can do is deal with it or end it.
While life does suck, as it’s filled with failure, disappointment, loss, tragedy, and evil, the ‘suckiness’, however, even of these horrible things, the failure, disappointment, loss, tragedy, and evil, is subjective nonetheless.
There is good, there is nice, and there is good for you.
Bad things often do you more good in the form of acquiring knowledge and toughness, resilience and grit, than those things we’d deem as good. (read: 15 Steps to Become a Better Man)
Life Sucks. How to Make it Suck Much, Much Less
When everything is going wrong. When you feel like a failure, like you’re doomed to fail for eternity, and you’re lost and discouraged and depressed, detach.
The other day I saw a video of an extremely large lady fist fighting with her ex-boyfriend. The video’s hilarious. I sent it to a buddy of mine, we laughed our asses off, and broke down the video’s contents, the hilarity of an extremely fat lady chasing a guy she was mad at for not wanting to be with her.
I made the comment, “Imagine how important these idiots think this moment is.”
Yes, they’re idiots. We’re all idiots in some ways, myself as much as anyone.
One of the worst things we do when everything is going wrong is we view the situation as vital, important, even the most important moment in our lives. It doesn’t matter if it truly is a moment, or if the ‘moment’ has gone on for a couple years now. At some point, if we continue to make incremental improvements, we’ll forget this feeling of despair running through us right now.
It will soon be insignificant. It will be forgotten by space and time because life goes on, because it doesn’t care about our feelings.
The best thing to do right when depression kicks in or if you just feel like crap, is to detach both from space and time.
View your problems from 100 feet above, then 1,000 feet above. You’re a speck. You’re one of 8 billion people, and you’re one of the most fortunate of those 8 billion people. At the least you’re not one of the most unfortunate. And, there are people going through worse than you are right now, that are happier than you are right now. Man up. Take your emotions out of the equation and situation and deal with it.
View your problems from 10 years in the future, then 20, then 30. This is the most helpful to me. I view myself as the man I want to become, will become, in the future. With everything I’ve achieved and accomplished and I am him looking back on the moment, barely remembering it, but attributing it to my eventual success because it, like all ‘bad things’, made me better.
About these bad times…
They are not actually bad, when you think about them. Within every moment there’s opportunity. In that light, the struggle is good. Within struggle is where you build character, where you’re forced to adopt better principles, become more disciplined, and even artificially stay positive.
Ray Dalio, in his book, Principles, wrote this:
“Most of life’s greatest opportunities come out of moments of struggle; it’s up to you to make the most of these tests of creativity and character.”
Dalio is a self-made billionaire, one of the world’s most financially successful humans. He’s worth listening to.
2. Act as that thing you want to become.
Winners act like winners before they become winners.
Just because life sucks in this moment, doesn’t mean that you too have to suck. In fact, you shouldn’t. You should act above your situation. Dress successful. Look successful. Act successful. Act happy. Act strong. Act calm and stoic. Act as if you are what you want to become.
Develop the habits that the winner would have. Develop the discipline. Develop the mood. Read, learn, study.
Most of all, don’t be lazy. If you think that you deserve a day off, time to sulk, you’re wrong. That will just dig a bigger hole that’ll be tougher to climb out of.
3. Win your morning.
When you win your morning you set yourself up for a great day.
You create a feeling of achievement when you have a successful morning that helps you succeed throughout the day.
For me, this requires a routine.
My routine is as follows:
Rise between 5 and 530 am.
Read for 1 hour.
Workout (5-6 days a week, sometimes 7. I need to sweat daily or I just feel useless).
Work for 2-3 hours straight without break, without answering emails or checking anything that doesn’t have to do with the one thing I’m working on.
That is a morning won. That happens every day. It’s habitual. It isn’t a decision that needs to be made, it’s just a normal morning. (Read: How to Be Successful in Life)
4. Train your body every day.
Do something physical every day. It doesn’t have to be a workout in the weight room. It can be a hike, a run, time on the bike, whatever. But you should be lifting weights at least 4 days a week. You’re a man, you need to be stronger.
Every man needs time in the day to think about the day, to reflect on what has happened and what will happen.
I don’t smoke every day, but a few times a week I sit and work or read or just think with a cigar and the rhythmic, meditative motion that’s involved in cigar smoking.
Always seen as an escape, a chance to unwind and put things into perspective, I never fully understood the power of smoking a cigar until the last couple of years. Of course, it’s powerful if you allow it to be.
Smoking a cigar, to me, is meditating. I’m not one to sit in my pajamas and hum with my legs crossed chanting some meaningless phrase. Cigars, however, provide the opportunity to think, as a man must, without feeling like a complete goof.
Ray Lewis talks about a life lesson he received from his grandfather about this very thing. Give it a watch.