Becoming a Man used to be simple. All it took was some hairs on your chest, a few quick conquests behind the bleachers, and wage substantial enough to support a modest mortgage while your wife prepared your love nest for the arrival of the first new member of your family.
Ohhh, how times have changed.
Our modern world presents continually shifting and conflicting images of the modern man that range from skinny-jeaned, roll-your-own smoking, craft beer drinking, hipster artists who debate philosophy and politics over macchiato’s to broad-shouldered, leathery-skinned, pickup-driving, construction workers with a degree in pig hunting and bourbon drinking.
And people wonder why aspiring men are suffering through an identity crisis???
The core of this crisis is born out of their struggle to answer two simple questions:
- What is a modern man?
- How do you become one?
The truth that’s taken society a long time to wrap our heads around is that there’s more than one path to walk. We’ve come to realize that masculinity isn’t defined by what you do. It’s not defined by the size of your truck, the tightness of your black jeans, or the number of zeros in your weekly pay cheque. Your masculinity is defined by the subtle mental processes operating behind the decisions and actions. It’s defined by the why and
And it’s these why’s and how’s that are listed below.
NOTE: When I’m talking about a Man, I’m not referring to an adult male. Being a Man has nothing to do with age. Whether or not you’re a Man is determined by your mindset, regardless of age.
Trait 1. Boys claim. Men do.
Boys are the ones telling you about how many chicks they’ve hooked up with or how much money they earn or how many trophies they won or how cool they are. They brag and claim and yell as loud as they can so that everyone knows how important / successful / good they are can validate them accordingly.
Men, on the other hand, are just doing what they want and don’t care what anyone thinks about it. They’re not talking about all the beautiful women they hook up with; they’re out meeting beautiful women. They’re not talking about how many trophies they’ve won; they’re out winning trophies.
Men know how transient, empty, and unfulfilling other peoples praise is and so work to find the only long lasting source of happiness – creation through action.
Trait 2. Boys find reasons why they can’t. Men find ways they can.
Boys are the ones who’re focussing any potential barriers that could get in the way and finding ways to use them as an excuse not to push themselves outside their comfort zone:
- “Hot women get approached all the time…”
- “I don’t have enough information…”
- “I’m not ready yet…”
And if there’s nothing to blame, they create barriers:
- “It’s too early / close to lunch / dark / late / sunny…”
- “I don’t have enough time…”
- “There’s too many people…”
Men are the ones that are finding ways to take action, despite the barriers in their way. They’re the ones finding ways to lean over their edge and push their boundaries, despite the obstacles that they encounter:
- “I’ll wake up half an hour earlier.”
- “I’ll save for a week.”
- “I’ll just ask her to take her earphones out.”
Men know that if they’re ever going to create the life they want, they have to make it happen and so get off their arse and do it.
Trait 3. Boys do what’s easy. Men do what’s right.
Boys always look for the easy way out. Boys are so terrified of hard work that they look for the effort-free solution that means they can get out of work with the least amount of pain and exertion. Boys want the 5 minute, magic bullet, quick fix solution that will give them instant results without breaking a sweat.
Men look for the ‘right’ solution, regardless of how hard it is. They’re not looking to get away with doing as little as possible. They want to do what’s right, irrespective of the amount of effort they have to put in. Men want the morally sound, honest, authentic solution that gives them real, long-term results, equivalent to the amount of work they put in.
Men know that every action they take contributes to the kind of world they live in and as they want to live in a world where people do what’s right, they set the example.
Trait 4. Boys blame other people for what they contributed. Men take responsibility for what they contributed.
Boys focus externally on what other people contributed to their problems and how they should have acted differently. Instead of looking at how they created the situation and what they contributed, they try to avoid all responsibility and turn their focus outwards to find someone or something to blame.
- “She shouldn’t have been rude to me. What a bitch!”
- “You shouldn’t have given me so much work to do.”
- “It failed because no-one would give me a chance.”
Men focus internally on what they contributed and what they could have done different next time. They acknowledge that there are many different elements that contribute to any outcome and any situation, but are also consciously aware that blaming anyone or anything else is never going to help them build the life they want,.
- “I shouldn’t have approached her because she clearly didn’t want to talk to people.”
- “I should have managed my time better.”
- “I needed to make my offer more appealing.”
Men know that they only way to create the life they want is to focus on what they create and so maintain their focus there.
Trait 5. Boys run away from pain. Men move towards pleasure.
Boys spend their time scanning their world for potential problems or sources of pain and fear and run away from them.
- “She could reject me so I won’t talk to her.”
- “I might fail so I won’t try.”
- “They might judge me so I won’t express myself.”
Men spend their time looking for ways they can experience what they want and move towards them.
- “I could connect with her so I’m going to approach.”
- “I could learn something new so I’m going to try.”
- “I love feeling free so I’m going to express myself.”
Men know the best life you can ever hope to achieve by running away from pain is neutrality and so consciously focus on fulfilling their deep desires.
Trait 6. Boys complain that the world isn’t fair. Men just go after what they want.
Boys sit around claiming that they’re had it tougher / harder than everyone else and that the world has treated the differently through no fault of their own. Boys take the victim mentality and assign responsibility for their life situation to people, outcomes, and events outside their control.
- “I didn’t have a father to teach me…”
- “I’m not tall enough…”
- “I didn’t get success when I was younger…”
Men just focus on what they want and keep moving forward, regardless of how fair or unfair the world might appear.
- “I didn’t have a father to teach me so I’m going to work it out for myself.”
- “I might not be tall enough but I’m definitely going to be loud enough.”
- “I didn’t have success when I was younger so I’m going to make sure I do now.”
Men know that fairness is an illusion and the world will continue to throw you curve balls and the only way you can ever have what you want is to get out and create it.
Trait 7. Boys seek permission from others. Men give permission to themselves.
Boys wait for their friends to laugh at their jokes, or women to give them ‘the look’, or their boss to invite them to share their ideas before stepping up to the plate and doing what they want.
Men stand up and do what they want, regardless of what other people think, because of the permission they give themselves. They’re not waiting for a polite smile or an encouraging gesture, they take responsibility for their life and do what they need to do.
Men know that even if they were able to get permission from everyone around them, they would still have to give themselves permission to act on other peoples permission so they may as well just give it to themselves first.
Trait 8. Boys need more time to be ready. Men need more challenges to overcome.
Boys use their lack of… anything… as a reason for not taking action. It could be information, time, practice, money, status, hats or Siberian climbing bears. Most of the time, it doesn’t matter what it is because what they’re lacking isn’t the reason they’re not taking action. They’re hunting for a reason to not take action and will use anything they can even partially justify as an excuse to avoid facing their fears.
Men are out in the field, taking action, pushing through barriers, challenging their limiting beliefs, and proving they can take on whatever the world throws at them. This not only leaves them with a sense of control over their life and a feeling of freedom but also a hunger to find more challenges to overcome.
Trait 9. Boys repress. Men express.
Boys hide their thoughts/emotions/experiences and/or desires. They repress them and follow the safe path of agreeing with the social norm so they don’t get outcast. Boys project a socially acceptable façade that they use to blend into the homogeneous mass of humanity they struggle through every day.
Men express their thoughts / emotions / experiences and/or desires. They share them openly and freely with all those they deem worthy of hearing them because they know that it’s the only way to ever create the life they want.
Trait 10. Boys blame others for their life situation. Men take responsibility for their life situation.
Boys sit around blaming other people / events / their genes, or anything else outside their control for their situation in life. They blame their parents / their upbringing / their height / their ethnicity for their lack of success for where they are.
Men acknowledge the decisions they made and what they contributed that’s led them to where they are now. They acknowledge that external elements have contributed but focus solely on what they could have done differently.
Men know that they only way to be in control of their future is to take responsibility for their past and so set themselves a solid foundation.
Trait 11. Boys hide from fear. Men embrace their fear.
When a boy experiences fear, he turns and run. He knows that his fear is a sign that he could experience pain, anxiety, rejection, judgement and failure and avoids it at all costs.
When a Man experiences fear, he steps towards it. He knows that his fear is a sign that he’s about to expand his perceived limitations and learn something new about himself and so he embraces it with open arms.
Trait 12. Boys want to be right. Men want to be good.
Boys are so afraid of being proven wrong that they search for information that proves how right they are. They collect everything that ‘proves’ that what they’re saying is right and discard anything that could contradict their beliefs and opinions.
Men are so driven to becoming great at whatever they do that they constantly search for information that proves them wrong. They read books, join forums, conduct tests, and invite criticism in the hope they can find a hole or flaw in their theory.
Men know that when they find evidence that contradicts their beliefs, they’ll learn something profound and new and so seek it out.
Trait 13. Boys are intimidated by the success of others. Men are inspired by the success of others.
When a boy hears about someone else succeeding, he gets nervous, intimidated, and scared. He thinks that now his chance is gone and he’ll never get what he wants. He looks at himself and asks “Why not me? What’s wrong with me?”
When a Man hears about the success of others, he gets excited, inspired, and driven. He sees that his dreams are possible and celebrates that someone has already laid down the roadmap. He looks at himself and asks “Why not me? If he can do it, so can I!”
Men know that their potential isn’t stifled by the success of others, in fact, it’s expanded by the success of others, and so celebrate it at every chance.
Trait 14. Boys run from insecurities. Men step through insecurities.
When a boy feels his insecurities rising, he turns and runs. He represses them, hides from them, covers them up, or tries to ignore them. He’s so worried about being judged on them that he conceals them from the light of day.
When Men feel their insecurities rising, they step towards them. They seek them out and step through whatever their insecure about so they can see whatever is on the other side.
Men know that their insecurities highlight the areas of their life where they have the most potential to grow and so seek them out.
Trait 15. Boys live the life they’re told is right. Men live the life they believe is right.
Boys look outside themselves for guidance on how to live their life and where to take it. They ask their parents, their friends, watch the TV, and listen to the radio. They take their instructions from movies and imitate celebrity idols.
Men look inside themselves to work out how to life their life. They acknowledge that other people have their own visions and desires but they also have their own. They may look at what other people are doing but filter it all through the lens of “Does this feel right to me?” rather than just following it blindly.
This doesn’t mean a Man doesn’t seek advice. He still seeks information and ideas from around him, but that information is about how he can do what he wants, not what he should want.
Men know that the only way to experience the happiness and fulfilment they want is to live their life on their terms and so they’re constantly checking in with themselves to make sure they’re doing the right thing.
Trait 16. Boys are scared of failure. Men actively push to failure.
Boys run from the possibility of failure. If they find a situation where things could go pear shaped and they could be left with egg on their face, they run in the other direction so they don’t have to face the possibility that they’re not as great as they tell other people they are
Men run towards the possibility of failure. If they find a situation where things could go pear shaped and they could be left with egg on their face, they step towards it. Men are always trying to be as powerful and strong as possible and they know that they will never know their true potential till they push beyond their limits and explore exactly what they can and can’t currently do..
After all, you don’t know where the line is until you’ve crossed it.
Trait 17. Boys seek validation. Men give validation.
Boys look outwards to find validation and a sense of self worth. They look to their friends to acknowledge their successes, they look to women to acknowledge their manliness, they look to their father to acknowledge their achievements.
Men don’t rely on positive feedback from the outside world to feel strong and powerful, because they validate themselves through the way they live their life. Men have all the validation they need from inside and so are free to give it to those around them.
Trait 18. Boys try to work out who’s responsible for the problem. Men try to work out how they can be responsible for the solution.
Boys are always looking to assign blame – to other people, the media, some minority group who’re the flavour of the month. They’re so insecure about their own sense of self worth that they need to find someone else to pin their problems on so they don’t damage their fragile self-confidence.
Men accept that the situation exists and search for solutions. Instead of wasting their time trying to pin the outcome of a situation that had many different elements contributing to it, they simply look for a way to resolve it and move towards the life they want.
Trait 19. Boys feel good when they put other people below them. Men feel good when they lift other people up.
A boy’s sense of self-worth is defined by how many people he perceives himself as being better than. He believes that if he can get above enough people, then that will mean he’s valuable, important, and powerful and he’ll start to get respected.
A Man’s sense of self-worth is defined by how he lives his life, regardless of how many people are above of below him. He knows that if he can look himself in the mirror at the end of the day and honestly say that he did what was true to him and he lived his life with integrity, he will feel good about himself. Because of this, he lifts other people up so they can feel their own greatness.
Trait 20. Boys read lists to work out whether they’re a Man. Men do what they want, when they want to, and read shitty ‘Man lists’ for a laugh.
Boys are always looking for tools to prove how good/accomplished/successful/powerful they are. They’re looking for external sources of validation to prove that they’re valuable human beings who should be treated with respect and admiration. This includes reading poorly thought out lists on low-quality personal development websites 🙂
Men get their sense of self-worth and personal value from the way they live their life and so don’t need lists to confirm that they’re doing things the ‘right’ way. They might read these lists and have a laugh at all the poor decisions they’ve made in their past (or are even makingtoday in moments of weakness), but they don’t need these lists to validate their life choices. They sense of personal satisfaction and fulfilment they feel when they go to bed every night lets them know they’re on the right track.
NOTE: One important thing to remember is that these are not stand alone elements. If you want to take one item out of context and debate it by coming up with ridiculous hypothetical situations which no-one reading this list will ever face in their entire life, then please do so. I probably won’t respond but it will make for interesting read. If, on the other hand, you have a genuine question or think I’ve left something off the list, please let it below.
“Are you a boy or a Man?” is not the right question
The separation between a Man and a boy isn’t defined by the number of women you’ve slept with or the amount of money you earn. You can’t separate a Man from a boy by the type of clothes you wear or how many trophies you have stacked on your mantlepiece.
What separates a boy from a Man is how you choose to live your life. It’s the moment by moment decisions you make as you’re standing in the tough, challenging, and often scary situations that every person goes through on your life journey. And it’s the fact that your boy-ness or man-ness is defined by these ever-changing, moment-by-moment decisions that mean you can never finally and completely attain the title boy or man. Your mindset and the decision-making framework are constantly shifting and so, therefore, so is your boy-ness or man-ness.
“Are you a boy or a man?” is not the right question because you can never be a boy or a man, you are only ever being a boy or a man.
In any moment, you are either choosing the boy mentality of blaming others for your life situation and demanding they give you everything they’ve ever told you that you desired or you’re choosing the man mentality of taking responsibility for your current life situation and actively creating an intrinsically rewarding reality.
It’s a choice, and your making that choice, moment by moment.
So, the question you need to answer is: In this moment, are you choosing boy mentality or man mentality?
And what about this moment?
And this moment?
And this moment?
How are you going to live your life? It’s your life and your choice.
EDIT: As I think of any more, I’ll add them down here.
Trait 21: Boys are controlled by their emotions. Men are driven by their desires.
If a boy feels anger/frustration/lust/anxiety, he lets it take control. It becomes his sole focus as he allows it to dictate his actions, thoughts, and words. He becomes a slave to the emotion until he can purge it from his body.
Men are different. Instead of allowing their emotions to rule their life, they look beyond their emotions to the desires underneath. Instead of reacting to their anger, they look beyond that anger to the desire to be strong, powerful, and in-control and take action from that place.
Instead of reacting to their anxiety, they look beyond their anxiety to their desire to be free and open and take action from that place.
Trait 22: Boys justify their inadequacies. Men challenge their inadequacies.
If a boy feels like he’s lacking or inadequate in any area of his life, he looks for ways to justify that inadequacy. He cites theories or evolution, psychological constructs and past experiences as reasons why that inadequacy exists and how it’s completely justified for him to be inadequate.
If a Man feels like he’s lacking or inadequate in any area of his like, he looks for ways to challenge and overcome his perceived inadequacy. He looks for tools and ideas he can use to become stronger, more confident, more like the kind of Man he wants to be, regardless of the justifications that make it ok for him to be inadequate in that area of his life.
Men know the pain and frustration they cause themselves by allowing their inadequacies to exist and take full responsibility for that pain. This drives them to eliminate that pain from its source and create a happier, more fulfilling life in the process.