All of us want greatness. That doesn’t mean that we want recognition, but it does mean that we want happiness, we want contentment, and we want to accomplish meaningful things. But how do we get there? What are the actual steps? They aren’t what you might think.
One of the first things you learn at boot camp in almost any branch of the military is how to make your bed, fold your clothes, and dress appropriately. There’s probably not a man alive who went to the military for that purpose. No one ever thinks, “You know, I want to get really good at making my bed and folding my clothes . . . I think I’ll join the Marines.” No, people join the military for a variety of reasons, but it’s never to get good at those things.
Likewise, you don’t find many kids looking for a first job that will help them get really good at sweeping the floor, cooking a burger, and balancing a cash drawer. No, they’re looking to conquer the world and get paid as much as possible.
No man gets married so that he can adjust his life to the personal habits and preferences of a woman. He doesn’t do it so that he can forego sleep to deal with raging hormones and emotions. And he doesn’t do it so that he be told repeatedly to lift the toilet seat. He does it because he wants the companionship of a woman, because he’s attracted to femininity, and because he wants a family to share life with and to pass on his legacy.
You don’t find many parents who have children because they want to get up in the middle of the night, to change diapers, to buy and pack loads of additional gear for every car ride, and to spend years cleaning up after another person. No, parents dream of the relationship with a child they created and the potential to guide that child to greatness.
No one starts a business so that they can work 100 hours a week, count inventory, negotiate loans, leases, and purchases, and deal with disgruntled customers and vendors. Instead, they’re looking for financial freedom and personal accomplishment.
Theoretically, all of us understand the need to pay our dues and put in the work if we’re going to accomplish great things. But there’s something, with each passing decade, that has eroded this understanding. We begin to think that, with all the technological innovation and progress, the truths of the past are no longer true.
We might not acknowledge it, but we start to think that we can have the fruits of labor without the labor. We start to think that we can have the benefits of character without the character. We think our devices can give us the benefits of relationships without the hard work of having relationships. We don’t need to be strong. We don’t need to work hard. We don’t need to do the things that men have always done. We’re entitled to more money with less effort. We’re entitled to sex and porn and pleasure. We’re progressive. We don’t have to do all those things our fathers and grandfathers did. Society has evolved.
We begin to think that life will be good if we can just:
- find the right “life hack”
- find the right diet that lets us eat whatever we want and still gets us lean
- find the right woman who will look like a fitness model while earning good money, keeping the house in order, and taking care of the kids
- find the right job that pays a ton of money with a great boss and low stress
- get all the new electronics
- get our e-mail funnels right
- learn how to market ourselves on social media
- find some fun guys who aren’t so (uptight, difficult, unfocused, . . .)
- find the right church
- find the right therapist
- get our kids on that travel sports team
- get our kids the right friends
- find a little more time to relax
It won’t work. Not because there’s anything wrong with any of these things; in fact, one or more of these things might make our lives significantly better. But, these things will only help if they are supplements to a life that is already in order. If your life is out of order, adding these things is like putting a band-aid on a deep wound: it’s simply not capable of solving the problem.
To Go Big, Go Small
Fortunately, many voices are calling us back to the fundamentals. The military demands that new recruits become experts at folding their underwear because they understand that one has to be responsible with small things because he can be trusted to be responsible with more important things. They know that any of those new recruits might one day be entrusted with removing the bullets from the .50 caliber machine gun before loading it onto the helicopter. They know that if that recruit fails to unload the .50 caliber gun, the heat of the environment might cause it to fire, and the whole crew will be at risk. If you can be responsible for the small things, you can be trusted with the big things. And if you’re responsible with small things day after day after day, you develop the discipline to be responsible with big things.
Admiral William McRaven, a Navy SEAL who was in charge of all US Special Operations, has become famous for his book and speeches in which his advice for changing the world starts with this: make your bed. That’s right, make your bed every day. It’s a win, a completed task, at the beginning of every day. And it shows that you have the discipline to take care of something that’s yours.
Canadian psychologist Jordan B. Peterson has become a YouTube sensation for his speeches on how young people can change their lives, even in the most hectic of situations. He recently released a book called 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. One of his primary pieces of advice to young people trying to get their lives in order: clean your room. Don’t try to change the world, change that space that you control: your room. Once it’s in order, then you can move outward to other things.
That’s advice that we should all consider. We want to be great. We want lives that are fulfilling. But chasing greatness and fulfillment through quick fixes will, in almost every case, result in frustration and wasted years. Fulfillment for men comes through doing those things that men have always done and are wired to do: Be strong, be tough, be courageous, provide, protect, and lead your family, and walk with other men on a mission to achieve something that you value. This doesn’t happen because you discover a life hack, because your wife keeps her figure, or because you stop eating gluten. It happens because day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year, you build your body, you build your skills, you build your relationships, you plot a course and lead your family, you manage your finances, you help your friends, and you pursue something larger than your immediate desires.
That’s the life that men want. That’s the life that fulfills. If you’re looking for that life, don’t chase a hack and don’t try to change the world. Start with yourself and start small. Make actual changes right now.
- Start with your next meal. Eat real food. Nothing all processed or boxed. No sugary drinks. Drink water or coffee and eat real food.
- Make your bed.
- Read with your kids.
- Talk to your wife. Better yet, make love to your wife, then talk to her.
- Do some pushups (or buy The Man Strong Blueprint and start there). Do some squats. Go for a long walk outside.
- Read a book that has withstood the test of time as a classic.
- Call a friend and have coffee, go hunting together, or do something together that develops your skills as men.
- Go to bed at least eight hours before you have to get up.
Then, get up and do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day. It ain’t sexy and it ain’t cool – but it will absolutely change your life. And when that Hero’s Journey comes calling, you’ll be ready to go. And that’s when you can change the world. This is the man’s life.