There’s a crisis among men today, and the art of "being a man" is getting lost. So many people aren't sure how to be a man anymore.
Men are dropping out of the workforce at alarming rates. They refuse to grow up and move out of their parents basement. They throw their lives away with video games and porn.
We’ve forgotten how to be men.
Also read: How to overcome shyness
It’s become fashionable among social commentators to talk about “toxic masculinity.” They blame the concept of the real man for violence against women and just about every problem they can find.
But masculinity isn’t the problem. It’s the answer.
Men are wild at heart. It’s built into our DNA. When our savage souls are left unchecked by manly discipline and honor, you get toxic results.
Because there is very little honor left in American life, there is a certain built-in tendency to destroy masculinity in American men. ―Norman Mailer
When you focus our savage impulses to protect and provide for our loved ones, you get the best of masculinity.
That’s why you’re here, reading this article. You’ve seen the path that leads to being a boy in a man’s body, and you want something more. You want to be a man.
Well, you came to the right place.
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The superior man is he who develops, in harmonious proportions, his moral, intellectual, and physical nature. This should be the end at which men of all classes should aim, and it is this only which constitutes greatness. ―Douglas Jerrold
Popular culture shows manly heroes broadly in two different ways. The first kind are the exceptional men. They are suave, impressive heroes who save the day through ingenuity, power, and charisma.
Batman, for example, is a lone hero. He terrifies his enemies with a mixture of charisma and stealth to undermine their confidence.
He uses his incredible physical strength and skill to fight dozens of men. He uses his wealth and ingenuity to create impressive gadgets beyond what anyone else can devise.
The other, rarely seen in contemporary television or movies, are average men who rise to an occasion. They do what they can to accomplish something beyond themselves through sacrifice and discipline.
In Gran Turino, Walt Kowalski (played by Clint Eastwood) begins the story as a disgruntled, racist war veteran. Over time, he befriends a Hmong family, and stands up to a local gang. At the end of the movie, he sacrifices his own life to send the gang to prison, freeing his small neighborhood from their terror.
Which hero represents true manliness? It’d be amazing to be like Batman, but even the most talented among us can never match a superhero. If the world needs a Batman, all the rest of us have to wait, passively for him to save us.
Walt Kowalski, however, is a regular guy. He knows that he can’t overcome all the evil in his neighborhood, but he knows that he can make a difference. He uses what he can to end one menace, not by destroying his enemies but through sacrifice.
That’s the kind of man I want to be, the kind of man any man could aspire to be. You can see this kind of manliness in everyday heroes:
If you want to learn how to be a man, this is the right place to start. This mega guide will lead you to the virtues that make a boy into a man such as these:
Of course, there are many more virtues to being a man.
Some think about masculinity as if it's a genetic condition. You’re either born manly or you're not.
Sure, the raw material of a man, our genetics, is set, but we can choose what we do with it. Just like any skill, you can learn to be a man, and you can always grow in your masculinity.
When someone tells a man to be a man, they mean that there is a way to be a man, a path to follow and a way to walk.
Kobe Bryant is famous for his work ethic. He’s the first guy on the team in the gym, and he works hard at every aspect of his game. There are a lot of guys in basketball with great potential, but it’s the work ethic that makes Bryant great.
If you want to be a man, you have to act like one. You practice, every day. You work on one skill and then the next, one quality and then the next, and you grow into manhood.
Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. ― John Eldredge
The first step doesn’t have to be a big one.
In a commencement address for the University of Texas Austin in 2014, Admiral William H. McRaven talked about the first step to getting stuff done: make your bed.
“Here are the 10 lessons I learned from basic SEAL training that hopefully will be of value to you as you move forward in life.
Every morning in basic SEAL training, my instructors, who at the time were all Vietnam veterans, would show up in my barracks room and the first thing they would inspect was your bed. If you did it right, the corners would be square, the covers pulled tight, the pillow centered just under the headboard and the extra blanket folded neatly at the foot of the rack — that's Navy talk for bed.
It was a simple task — mundane at best. But every morning we were required to make our bed to perfection. It seemed a little ridiculous at the time, particularly in light of the fact that were aspiring to be real warriors, tough battle-hardened SEALs, but the wisdom of this simple act has been proven to me many times over.
If you make your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.
By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that little things in life matter. If you can't do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.
And, if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made — that you made — and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.
If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
Masculinity is not something given to you, but something you gain. And you gain it by winning small battles with honor. ―Norman Mailer
Do hard things. If anything summarizes manliness, this is it. The many battles to become a man are only won when you make the hard choice instead of the easy one.
Every man needs a challenge. Without obstacles to overcome, or enemies to defeat, our edge becomes dull. We need adversity to keep ourselves sharp.
A man does what he must– in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures– and that is the basis of all human morality. ―Winston Churchill
Of course, to know what difficult choices a man must make, he needs to know what is right. A man needs to have values and principles.
A man needs a worldview that comes from outside himself. For millennia, men gained their values from a religious tradition. In the West, we garnered them primarily from Christianity. If you uphold the values of freedom, rule of law, and the like, they come from our common Judeo-Christian past.
Others garner their values from a shared history. Americans tell stories of our founders such as George Washington and the cherry tree, the midnight ride of Paul Revere, or Patrick Henry’s great exclamation, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” Whatever value system you adopt, use it as the anchor for your life.
To be a man is, precisely, to be responsible. ―Antoine de Saint-Exupery
When men refuse to grow up, psychologists call it “Peter Pan Syndrome.”
Humbelina Robles Ortega, a professor at University of Granada describes it this way, “[Peter Pans] see the adult world as very problematic and glorify adolescence, which is why they want to stay in that state of privilege.”
Peter Pan looks at the world, decides it’s too hard, and he opts out. The traditional marks of adulthood are hard: career, marriage, family, and leadership in a community. But they are also the most meaningful things a man can do.
But if that doesn’t convince you, this should. When Peter Pan meets a girl, he never gets a partner, he gets a Wendy.
Again, Ortega writes that a Wendy “makes every decision and takes on the responsibilities of her partner, thus justifying his unreliability. We can find Wendy people even within the immediate family: the overprotecting mothers.”
Wendy acts more like a mom than a girlfriend. Is that what you want? I didn’t think so.
It is very sad for a man to make himself a servant to a single thing; his manhood all taken out of him by the hydraulic pressure of excessive business. I should not like to be merely a doctor, a great lawyer, a great minister, a great politician. I should like to be, also, something of a man. ―Theodore Parker
Work is always a part of becoming a man. Your job is one way to wrestle the chaos into order to build a better world.
It’s easy to make what you do the center of your identity. We do it all the time when people ask us what we do. “I’m a lawyer.” “I’m a carpenter.” Our job becomes central to our identity.
Jobs come and go. If your work defines you, you’ll fall apart when it’s gone. If you want to be a strong, reliable man, you gotta find your identity elsewhere. You gotta live for something greater.
Manly virtues are at the heart of becoming a man. They are the blood that flows through his veins. Here are a few that are the most important.
In Rocky 4, Rocky Balboa fights a monster of a man, Ivan Drago. Rocky is totally outmatched. Drago is bigger, stronger, and tougher. But, Rocky wins in the end (of course). How? Resilience. When Rocky gets knocked down, he gets back up. Every time.
Life punches everyone in the face. When men get knocked down, no matter how many times, they get back up again.
Without effort, your talent is nothing more than unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn't. ―Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: Passion, Perseverance, and the Science of Success.
A man is resilient when he refuses to let life break him. A man is tenacious when he refuses to let obstacles get in the way of a goal. It’s the grit to stick to something for the long term. Tenacity takes potential and makes it actual.
Personally, I hold that a man, who deliberately and intelligently takes a pledge and then breaks it, forfeits his manhood. ―Mahatma Gandhi
Everyone has a friend who’s a flake. He makes a promise but doesn’t keep it. He texts an apology right before he’s supposed to show up. He offers help, but is never there.
If you want to be a man, you have to be reliable. Do what you say you’ll do. When you start a job, finish it. Do it to the best of your ability. Yeah. It can suck. It can be hard. But men do hard things.
When I started playing basketball, my coach gave me some great advice. When you make a great shot, don’t celebrate. Act like it happens all the time.
I learned that he that will be a hero will barely be a man; that he that will be nothing but a doer of his work is sure of his manhood. ―George MacDonald
Actions speak louder than words. Cliche, but true. A humble man doesn’t need to call attention to himself and his accomplishments. He lets his actions speak for themselves.
A man must stand erect, not be kept erect by others. ―Marcus Aurelius
No one is truly independent. We all rely on a vast economic network to put food on our tables and clothes on our backs. Even in the most savage, warrior days, men relied on each other to protect their tribe.
Independence means working within this system as an equal, not as a dependent. Dependents wait for others to take action on their behalf. Independent men do the job themselves. They struggle, conquer, and win.
This comes from the story of Cain and Abel. Cain is jealous of his brother, and God compares his jealousy to a predator crouching at his door, ready to pounce.
Cain lost the battle with his jealousy, and he killed his brother.
Being a man means having stoic self-control over your emotions. It’s almost impossible to control how we feel, but we can control how we act. When emotion crouches at your door to take over your actions, a man rules over it.
And a man, a man 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
When you do the hard thing, the necessary thing, people aren’t going to like it. Sometimes people will do everything they can to undermine you. So, a man needs to be ready to deal with abuse.
A thick skin keeps that abuse from turning you away from your goals. It keeps the bullies from cowing you into submission.
Men aren’t passive. They don’t let life wash over them and the tides pull them this way and that. Men are active. To become a man, you’ll need to practice being active even when it might be easier just to let life happen. Here are some ways to get started.
Difficulties are meant to rouse, not discourage. The human spirit is to grow strong by conflict. ―William Ellery Channing
When you’re acting like a man, conflict is inevitable. You’ll make a bold choice, and someone will get upset. When that happens, there are two ways to deal with it. You avoid it, or you face it head on.
Something dies in us when we avoid conflict, because men do the hard thing. Even worse, we lose the opportunity to grow in conflict to further mastery and opportunity. Conflict can help us grow by forcing us to deal with someone different from us.
No one likes facing their own faults. It’s awful to think about where you are inadequate or where you’ve failed. It’s easier just to move on and forget it ever happened.
When you blame yourself, you learn from it. If you blame someone else, you don't learn nothing, cause hey, it's not your fault, it's his fault, over there. ―Joe Strummer
But to grow as a man, you need to face your faults and learn from them. It can be painful at first, but it is also the fastest way to make yourself a better man.
When a man makes a mistake, he owns it. He takes responsibility for his actions and accepts the consequences.
You might feel awkward when you have to apologize to the bride for getting too drunk at the reception, but you gotta do it. It might be easier to lie to get out of a missed deadline, but a man takes responsibility.
That’s what Donovan Campbell, a marine lieutenant who received a bronze star with valor, says that leadership isn’t about personal glory. It’s about doing what’s right for other people and taking responsibility for everything that happens to them.
He’s right. Being a leader helps you take action, to be strong, and extend your influence beyond yourself. It's selfless.
Men have always been involved with the most difficult and dangerous work. Before this civilized age, a man’s life meant facing danger and even death every day. Even now, men are still the ones who risk their lives in the most difficult and dangerous workplaces.
These dangerous jobs often involve an element of fear, but fear is good - it means we're getting out of our comfort zones, it keeps us alert and focused.
If your job doesn't give you that edge, get out and learn some manly skills - something useful like changing a tire (less adrenaline filled) or something fear-inducing like bouldering or diving a race car.
The more successful we become, the more likely we’ll hire someone to build or fix something for us. Under some circumstances, that’s a great idea. Amateurs shouldn’t mess with electricity.
But men should have some basic skill at making or repairing things. Every man should have a set of tools and know how to use them. Few things are as powerful as fixing something that was broken or taking parts and making something new.
Most of us live in luxury unimaginable to the majority of history. We have more and better food, clothes, and homes than any society in the past. Wilderness survival skills might seem like a total waste of time.
But they’re not. You never know when you’ll need to survive. A natural disaster, a crash in the wilderness, and suddenly you can’t pop over to Mariano’s for an avocado toast. You will need these skills to help you and your loved ones survive.
Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor are the alpha virtues of men all over the world. ―Jack Donovan
Mastery is part of any man’s development, because men are always striving to be better. While we should all have a set of general skills, every man should find a subject or skill to develop fully.
Find a skill, something useful, and work on it. Keep working so you know it backwards and forwards. Mastery
The internet has made us sloppy, because it seems like there’s great information at our fingertips. We just type into a search engine, and we’re good.
But there’s a lot of junk online. Books are still the way the most skilled people pass on their knowledge. To master a subject, you need to read more books.
If that’s not your thing, try audio books.
No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable. ―Socrates
Young boys don’t do well in classrooms, forced to sit still for hours. That’s because men are designed for action. We need to do hard things with our bodies.
A lot of guys use video games as a substitute. Our characters fight and strive, while our bodies grow weak. If you want to be a man, you need to train your body.
Civilization comes at a cost of manliness. It comes at a cost of wildness, of risk, of strife. It comes at a cost of strength, of courage, of mastery. It comes at a cost of honor. Increased civilization exacts a toll of virility, forcing manliness into further redoubts of vicariousness and abstraction. ―Jack Donovan
Civilization has tried to tame the wild heart of a man. It looks down on violence, even the capacity for it. But mastery over our bodies means that we need to know how to act in an emergency. Learning how to fight can be the difference between life and death.
The only way to learn how to fight is to train in a martial art. In an emergency, you need your body to respond without thinking about it. If you think, it’s too late.
That takes hours of practice to build muscle muscle memory. Try disciplining your body with regular training in boxing or Jiu Jitsu. The practice, discipline, and training will get you ready if you need it.
If you’re going to learn to fight, you need to do it. Otherwise you’re just like those girls down at the gym doing cardio-kickboxing. If you’re going to defend yourself and your loved ones, you’ll need to know what it feels like to deliver a punch and take one, too.
Get in the ring. Spar with a training partner.
When a lot of guys think about strength training, they think about the guys down at the gym with massive arms and bulging pecs. Is that what it takes?
Nah. Being a man isn’t about hitting some sort of made-up ideal. Strength training is about doing what you can with what you have. It’s about building strength and mastery over your body.
Communications technology has done some great things for us, but it has destroyed dating. It used to be that a man and a woman had to go through a process to date each other.
Dating apps don't help make strong connections between men and women. They present human beings as if they were teddy bears on Amazon. Just order up the guy you like and see if he works out.
I don’t want to be just another screenshot or a swipe right or left, and I bet you don’t either. That means you need to find ways to meet women naturally, the old fashioned way. Here’s a great way to meet someone new: join a club.
What do I mean? Find an activity that you really enjoy, and then join a group that likes to do it, too. It could be a class or a community band or a training group. Whatever you like to do, try it out.
It gives you a natural place to meet new people, and, most importantly, there’s a ready-made way to start a conversation.
I used to run with a pretty big marathon training group. We’d run for hours and talk the whole time. I know a lot of couples who met by running side-by-side on a training day.
Better yet, learn how to approach women so that you can start conversations everywhere you go.
You gotta pull the trigger. It’s great if you meet someone you like, but that doesn’t matter if you don’t have the stones to actually ask her out.
Nervous? That’s ok. Everyone is nervous when you start doing something new. You just gotta do it. Men do hard things.
Before you go ask her out, think about what you want to do. Do you want to go out for coffee? A drink? Lunch? If you approach her without a plan, you’ll just seem weak and bland.
If you want to follow The Way of Men, if you want to advance a return to honor and manly virtue, if you want to steel yourself against an uncertain future—start a gang. ―Jack Donovan
Men need to have relationships with other men. It’s how we build manly honor and develop our skills in cooperation and competition with each other.
Back in the manly, savage days. A man developed a tribe naturally when they risked their lives to provide for their families or defend against aggressors.
The tribe trained together, hunted together, and fought together.
That doesn’t happen anymore. We’ve outsourced hunting and protection, so only some men band together into that kind of disciplined unit. We need to make our own.
Guys have a tendency to opt out when bad things happen. We don’t visit people when they’re in the hospital. We don’t comfort our tribe when someone dies.
Why? Because it’s awkward. We don’t know what to do or what to say. So, we opt out.
But men do hard things, even when it’s awkward. When people are hurting, they need your help.
What do you do? Just be there.
When I started working as a pastor, I was terrified of hospital visits. I had no idea what to do or what to say. So, I just sat there.
And it worked. They didn’t need me to say the right thing. When people are hurting, they just need to know that they’re not alone. Any man can do that.
Life is pain and tragedy, both by our own doing and from others. We hurt other people, and they hurt us, too. We’re all just as broken as everyone else.
You have a choice to make when someone hurts you. You can hold onto your anger and get revenge, or you can forgive.
But anger is just wasted emotional energy. It focuses your mind and heart on past slights rather than future mastery. Forgiveness clears the slate so you can focus on what needs doing now.
But that doesn’t mean you forget what happened. If someone borrows money from you and doesn’t pay you back, you should remember not to lend it again. Forgiveness should be freely given, but trust needs to be earned.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. ―Proverbs 12:15
Tribal culture used to have a natural hierarchy. Stronger, more experienced men naturally became mentors for the weaker, less skilled, and they passed along their wisdom and skill to the next generation.
We don’t have that anymore. Our superficial relationships don’t get real about life, especially when men talk to men.
A man understands his faults, and knows that he needs guidance. It can be hard, because you have to acknowledge your failings and be ready for correction. But, it’s the only way to grow.
Find someone who can give you good advice, someone who is older and wiser, someone you respect. You need it if you want to be the best man you can be.
This one comes last, because military life is the last bastion of masculinity. It promotes nearly all the manly qualities we mentioned above.
Military training promotes:
If you want a crash course in being a man, as well as the honor of defending your country, the military is the way to go.
[Isao] had never wished for anything else but to be a man, live in a manly way, die a manly death. To be thus a man was to give constant proof of one’s manliness–to be more a man today than yesterday, more a man tomorrow than today. To be a man was to forge ever upward toward the peak of manhood, there to die amid the white snows of that peak. ―Yukio Mishima
So, that’s it: How to be a man. Follow these manly tips, and you’ll prove yourself to be a man.
As you do it, though, don’t compare yourself and your progress to others. The walk toward manliness takes time, dedication, and effort. Each of us walks that path differently.
The only one you should compare yourself to is the you of yesterday. If each day, you prove to be more of a man than you were before, you can consider that day a success. Keep it up, and you’ll be the man you want to be.
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