How to Be a Man - The Definitive Guide to Self Improvement

How to Be a Man

Every guy in his lifetime is going to ask himself this question.

Am I a man?

How do I know if I’m a man?

What does it mean to be a man?

A crisis of masculine identity seems to be gripping the young males of today’s generation.  Why is this happening?  What factors can we attribute this to?

Looking back through history and at the state of today’s society and culture in general, you can attribute this crisis to many reasons but two stand out like sore thumbs.

1.  A Lack of Interaction Between Fathers and Sons.

There is a lack of interaction between fathers and sons now and as a result, that “bond” that’s essential toward masculine development never really forms.

Due to the industrial revolution, fathers were separated from their sons during most of the day as they went to go work in the factories and by the time they came back, they had very little time to interact with their sons.  Fast forward to today and it’s still the same.  Fathers are absent during most of a child’s life due to work.

And thanks to the sky rocketing rates of divorce and abandonment, some sons don’t even have fathers to interact with, while some decide to join a gang to find their “manhood”.

It wasn’t like this before.

During the pre industrial revolution, fathers spent a lot of their time with their sons while teaching them their trade.  During this time, a bond was formed and all the knowledge, experience, mindset of being a man was passed through this bond even if neither party really realized it.

It was natural.  The sacred ritual of fathers initiating sons, teaching them the ways of being a man – hard work, responsibility, honor, etc., the way nature intended it.

Nowadays, boys grow up without any real male figures to look up to and they join gangs to find their manhood which doesn’t really amount to anything as it’s really the blind leading the blind (boys leading boys).

Then there are single moms who try to teach their sons to be a man and try as hard as she may, she cannot because it is not in her nature as she is predominantly feminine.

As a result, we have a lot of “soft” males today.  Boys who never really became men.

2.  Lack of a Rite of Passage From Boy to Man.

Adding to that, there is no clear rite of passage of boy to man, at least in American society.

Other societies had a set rite of passage.

You go live by yourself in the wilderness for a week.
You go on a vision quest.
You go out alone and hunt a buffalo and come back dragging the carcass.

In other words, you did “x” mission and if you were successful in “x” mission, you became a man.  You saw yourself as a man and everyone in the community you lived in saw you as a man and treated you as such and you grew from there.

There is no such rite of passage today for boys.  Sure we may have turning 18, drinking, getting a driver’s license, going to college, but these aren’t real rites of passage.

They are superficial ones because we know that even though a boy turns 18, and that he can drink, drive and is going to college, that does not necessarily make him a man.

Boys these days are growing up with MTV as their role models, thinking being a man means dating and having sex with as many women as possible, getting drunk, making a lot of money, and driving expensive cars.

With the lack of male influence at home and with the lack of no clear, real rite of passage for boys, it’s no wonder why there is a crisis in masculine identity today.

All of this then brings us to the million dollar question.

What exactly does it mean to be a man?

If you stop anyone on the street and ask them this question, here are the typical answers you will get.

“A man is confident.”
“A man is strong physically and mentally.”
“A man defends the weak.”
“A man stands up for injustice.”
“A man protects his family.”
“A man provides for his family.”
“A man is true to his word.”
“A man is tenacious.”
“A man is a hard worker.”
“A man is honorable.”
“A man is loyal.”
“A man is dedicated.”
“A man is noble.”
“A man is brave.”
“A man is courageous”
“A man is a leader.”
“A man is decisive.”
“A man is persistent.”
“A man is action oriented.”
“A man is true to himself.”

These are the usual answers that people give to the question of what it means to be a man and while it’s a nice attempt at providing the right answer, it’s not really an answer.

I think they are great qualities, idealistic of the nature of man, but when people do this, when people just spew off a list of qualities, it’s usually a sign they are skirting around the issue because they cannot truly define it.

Nobody wants to tackle the question dead on.  They like to dance around it rather than take their fist and plow through to the essence of it in order to bring up a definitive answer.

I think we all have an “idea” deep down inside of what a man really is and we attempt to bring that picture into clarity and articulate it through these qualities, but again, that’s a superficial attempt at best.

We need to dig deeper.  We need to dig to the root of the issue.

What is the essence of masculinity? 

What is the essence that brings about all the qualities that everybody in the world lists when it comes to defining what a man is?

To answer that question, we can divide a man into two realms – the physical and the mental.

How do we define a man, strictly speaking from the physical/biological point of view?  By the fact that he has a penis and a pair of testicles?  A boy has that too.

That’s the definition of what a male is, not a man.

There’s a big difference between a male and a man.  Ask any woman and you will undoubtedly see them nodding their head in agreement.

Biologically speaking, solely in the eyes of mother nature, you are a man if you’ve successfully gone through puberty.

But what happens to a boy during puberty that makes him a man in the eyes of mother nature?

The boy is flooded with testosterone.

The essence of masculinity, strictly speaking in terms of biology and the physical aspect of man, is testosterone.

Testosterone floods the boy when he undergoes puberty in order to complete the biological process of turning a boy into a man.

But we know obviously that just because a boy has gone through puberty, that it does not make him a “man”, in the sense of the ideal of a man that every person on this planet has.

But going back to the biological aspect of masculinity, what can we find about testosterone that helps make a man?

Nature has endowed man with a great asset, the chemical essence of masculinity and that is testosterone.  Testosterone is nature’s elixir that helps aid, nurture, and produce the qualities we see when we think of “men” – courage, strength, force, decisiveness, action, in other words “force”.

However, if this force is not properly channeled, then “man” becomes like an animal (so to speak), full of “raw” energy that is neither channeled nor directed, and as a result, he becomes a slave to that force.

I’m sure you’ve seen guys like this who let their testosterone control them into doing dangerous, reckless things without any form of self control, such as sleeping with women left and right, getting into fights, and committing various crimes.

This is where the mental aspect of becoming a “man” comes into play.

Just as a boy grows physically into a man, a boy must also grow “mentally” into a man.

He must adopt the mindset of a true man, the mindset of the essence of masculinity.

What is that mindset?  What is that mental essence of masculinity?

The mental essence of masculinity is to channel that physical force nature has given him in a noble direction and in order to do that, he must determine exactly what that direction is and have the courage to pursue it.

Depending upon the culture, the country, the society a male has grown up in, that environment will influence the direction he has chosen for his life, ultimately making that direction different for each individual.

Each one will have his own idea of what constitutes noble direction.

That noble direction might be fighting for your country.
It might be always providing for your family.
It might be learning how to rid the world of disease.

And I use the word noble here because I believe it’s essential.  If the word noble is left out, then man is free to choose any direction in life and pursue that with courage, and if that direction happens to be of evil nature, history has shown the devastating consequences of such actions.

Another important element worth mentioning is to make sure that the man chooses his direction in life on his own volition.  Otherwise, he is but a mere boy acting out the wishes of those around him.

The Line

When determining direction, he must decide what “The Line” is going to be. That line is the extent of his direction or how far he is willing to go to pursue it.

And once he determines what that line is, he must respect that line, and have the integrity to stick to it.

That line will represent many things to many individuals as they will be different for each, but a majority of men might represent that line as nothing less than the achievement of his goal/purpose within his direction in life.

And what you’ll find is that this line usually deals with the degree of sacrifice he is willing to make in order to pursue his direction in life. 

Sacrifice

He will have to sacrifice, time, energy, money, other opportunities, etc., to pursue his direction in life, but he is willing to do that because he has drawn the line.

Sacrifice is an element synonymous with the ideal man, with the ultimate form of sacrifice being self sacrifice, meaning the sacrifice of one’s own life for the lives of those around him or for a higher ideal.

Seemingly intertwined with this concept of sacrifice is courage because once he has decided the direction he wants to go in and has drawn the line, he’s going to need courage to pursue it and to weather the sacrifices he will have to make on the way.

Courage

The ultimate sacrifice, self sacrifice, calls for the ultimate form of courage – the courage to sacrifice your own life for the lives of those around you and/or for a higher ideal.

It is this defining trait that seemingly permeates the definition of what it means to be a man across all cultures, across all nations, across all religions around the world.  

Confidence to Overcome and Persevere

Along with direction, drawn lines, sacrifices, and courage, comes the confidence and persistence necessary to overcome the obstacles he will meet along the way of pursuing his direction in life.

This is another seemingly universal trait to be found among all definitions of man throughout the world.

Contrary to what most people think, the ultimate male fantasy is not a night of passionate love making with the most beautiful woman on the planet.

It is having the will, confidence, and strength to overcome any obstacle set forth before him.

And this is precisely why men are so obsessed with sports.

If women have ever wondered why men are so fascinated by sports, it is because sports is the simplified epitome of masculinity.

Sports provide a safe haven to showcase masculinity in the absence of other dangerous mediums that require it, such as warfare.

Direction, drawn lines, sacrifice, courage, goals, hard work, leadership, teamwork, planning, putting it all on the line, physical exercise, endurance – all of this mirrors the foundational essence of masculinity.

All of this leads up to precisely what the universal archetype of man always seems to be:

The Hero.

Think of the natural archetypes that are universally defined as “men” in any society.  Knights, warriors, soldiers.  What can we see here?

We can see the elements of noble direction, drawn lines, sacrifice, perseverance, and courage, and not just any type of courage, the ultimate form of courage – the courage to sacrifice one’s life for the lives of those around him and/or for a higher ideal.

The firefighters of 9/11 who climbed up countless flights of stairs in order to rescue people trapped on the top floors, knowing full well that the towers could collapse on them at anytime – these are who we regard as heroes.

The soldiers who died serving their country and protecting the world from Hitler’s agendas – these are who we regard as heroes.

The 300 Spartans who defended Greece against the invading Persians, knowing full well they would die doing so – these are who we regard as heroes.

These are who we regard as men.

Even if you look at religion and the heroes of each respective religion, you will see all the elements discussed come into play – the elements of noble direction, drawn lines, sacrifice, perseverance, and courage, and not just any type of courage, the ultimate form of courage – the courage to sacrifice one’s life for the lives of those around him and/or for a higher ideal.
It is this archetype, the archetype of a hero, who has noble direction, who has drawn the line, who has sacrificed, who has persevered and confidently overcome obstacles, who possesses the ultimate form of courage, the courage to sacrifice oneself for the lives of those around him and/or for a higher ideal, it is this definition of man that seem to permeate and transcend ALL cultures, societies, and religions around the globe, making it the universal definition of man.

So with this all this being said, how does one become a man?

1.  Embrace Nature’s Elixir of Masculinity

Embrace what nature has given you in terms of the elixir for man.  Start working out to build muscle, eat right, and rest in order to get your body to produce more testosterone.

The difference between a male with low testosterone and a male with high testosterone is as different as night and day.

One is lethargic, easily depressed, and passive while the other is energetic, happy, and action oriented.

Testosterone will give you all the elements that man needs in order to pursue whatever noble direction he chooses to go for.

Some might argue:  Do you have to do this in order to be a man?

Of course not.

But can it help?

Of course it can. 

It would be like turning down free money that’s offered to you to help achieve your goals  Would you turn down free money?  You could, you have that choice, but why not take it and use it to your advantage?  It’s the same thing with what nature has given you.  Nature has given you the gift of testosterone to aid your quest as a man.

Use it.

2.  Seek Out Older Men You Look Up To And Have Them Mentor You

In our modern society, we lack a coherent masculine culture, where men can get together with other men and “initiate” one another.  Men need this or they become weak.  No man is his own island.

Being mentored by older men you look up to can help you shape your own direction in life, help you determine what the lines you draw will be, help you have the courage and confidence to go in your chosen direction, and help you have the strength to persist and overcome obstacles along the way.

3.  Establish Noble Direction in All Areas Of Your Life That Are of Your OWN Volition

The worst thing any male can do is drift and wander aimlessly in life.  It is the greatest way to dissipate all the potential within him.

If you find yourself drifting and wandering aimlessly in life, get help from older men to help make you decide what your direction is and make it your direction to find direction.

Establish noble direction in all areas of your life – spiritually, mentally, physically, socially, financially, etc.

But remember that direction must ultimately be chosen by you and you alone. 

4.  For Each Direction, Draw “The Line”

Will you sacrifice family time for your career?
Or will you put family above work?

You have to ask yourself how far you’re willing to pursue each direction in life, in other words, where you’ll draw the line in relation to the other directions in your life.

5.  Have the Courage to Pursue Your Directions In Life

Some say that courage itself is the essence of masculinity and while I agree that it’s a big part of it, it’s nothing without direction.  Courage is the essence that powers direction in men and it is absolutely required for them in order to move forward in their chosen direction.

6.  Honor Your Respective Lines

This is synonymous with staying true to your beliefs, to staying true to your word, to showing integrity with respect to the lines you’ve drawn.  Honor the lines you have drawn for yourself in each of your directions in life.

7.  Overcome The Obstacles and Persist

Along the way, you will encounter obstacles, but have the confidence to overcome them and to persist.  Work hard, use different approaches, use your creativity, but know that you can handle anything that’s thrown at you along the way.

As close of a definition as to what a man is that this essay has touched upon, I don’t think there’s any language sufficient enough to really articulate it.

There is no 100% accurate definition, but what we find is that we know a man when we see one.

We can just feel it. There is something about him that oozes masculinity, a sense of confidence in the direction he has undertaken in his life and the courage to do so tempered with self discipline and the persistence to overcome any obstacles that arise along the way.

Each culture, each society, each religion will probably have their own specific definition of masculinity, but the basic “frame” of it remains.

Determining one’s noble direction in life.
Drawing the lines.
Making the sacrifices.
Having the courage to continue to press forward in one’s chosen direction.
And having the confidence to overcome any and all obstacles along the way.

This is the true essence of man.

This is the true essence of mankind.

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