One of the primary characteristics of manhood is responsibility, and it starts with being responsible for our own lives. There’s a sign at the Chow Hall at the Navy SEAL headquarters that reads “If every SEAL were like me, how strong would the team be?” While the hope for every team is to be greater than the sum of its individual members, that sign is a reminder that, in order for the teams to thrive, each member must push himself to excellence. As we’ve seen, much of SEAL training is about survival. But the great ones always push the envelope. They are not content to merely survive, they want to be the best. But there are always some who are content to merely get by, to meet the minimum standards. When we adopt that attitude, when we count on someone else to make the team great, we cheat ourselves and the team.
There are some very easy applications that we can make from that sign at the Chow Hall:
If every father were like me, how strong would our families be? Would our families be full of strong men who lead, take initiative and responsibility, get things done, and provide a safe, secure, and fascinating journey through life? Or would they be full of guys who take it easy and build life around their own comfort?
If every husband were like me, how strong would our marriages be? Would the divorce rate still be 50% or higher? Would wives feel neglected, distant, and unloved? Or would she feel safe, secure, protected, and fulfilled?
If my WIFE were like me, how strong would our family be? (ouch!) Does your indecisiveness, passivity, irresponsibility, or laziness require to her to carry burdens that overwhelm her or cause unreasonable stress? What would happen in your family if your wife had your level of focus, discipline, and work ethic? Would your family thrive or fall apart?
If my kids grow up to be like me, how strong will our future be? Would it be full of strong, courageous, tough, resilient people who solve problems and live connected lives? Or would it be full of people seeking the easiest path through life?
If every man were like me, how strong would our communities be? Would our communities be places were younger men were inspired to become strong, courageous, skillful, and connected to other men? Would they be places where violent crime was deterred because the men were strong, courageous, and skillful protectors? Would they be places where men connected, had strong relationships, and raised the level of success of the community? Or would they be places where the people were isolated, discontent, depressed, and always seeking greater levels of ease and comfort?
If every employee were like me, how strong would our company be? Would it be full of people who are effective, efficient, responsible, and team-oriented? Or would it be full of people punching the clock, blaming others for failures, complaining regularly, and taking the path of least resistance?
The Easy Road Leads to Nowhere
It’s very easy to just fade into the background of life. It’s easy to create a comfortable existence and just ride it out. It’s easy to let other people do the heavy lifting. It’s easy to let someone do the important things. It’s easy to just punch the clock, enjoy our food and drink, hang out with our friends from time to time, and just pass through life. While the ease and comfort of such a life brings satisfaction in the moment, it does not provide contentment for the soul. It’s a significant reason why we’re the most depressed and medicated generation in history. We don’t push ourselves towards the person we want to be or know we should be. Deep down, when take a moment to reflect, that bothers us. It nags at us. So we try to bury that nagging discontentment with more comfort, entertainment, and stuff. But that never works over the long term.
The Solution: Push the Envelope
The only thing that works is to push ourselves to reach our potential, day after day, and to join with others to accomplish important things. That’s what will leave us with a smile on our face when our heads hit the pillow at night.
Embrace the responsibility to be powerful. Embrace the responsibility to be great. Not at the expense of others, but in connection with others. Don’t be content to let other people do the important things. You were not put here to check e-mail, watch movies, play video games, and win Fantasy Football leagues. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but how strong can we be, and how strong can our family be, when those things occupy the bulk of our attention?
Of course, we’re not perfect. Of course, we have weaknesses. Of course, we need other people in our lives. But none of those facts removes our responsibility to ourselves, our families, our friends, and our communities to reach our potential. One of the defining characteristics of manhood is taking responsibility. Not just in theory, but in reality. Taking responsibility requires us to take action. There are very few articles written today praising men, and that’s partly our fault. Here’s a question to consider: If every man were like me, what would the world think of men?
And if none of this helps you, remember this: your daughter will probably marry a man like you. So let’s be better. This is the man’s life.
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