I tend to think that if I were 20 years younger, I’d try to be a Navy SEAL or an Army Ranger. I’d want to test my mettle to see if I have what it takes to be the best of the best. I’d want to train hard with a group of brothers and go out on missions that make the world better. I’d want to hunt down bad guys. I’d want to know if I could run to the sound of gunfire. Could I keep going in the face of the most significant of all fears? Would I rise up or shrink back? Would I be there for my brothers?
Hell, I still want answers to these questions. But that time has come and gone. I’m not going to be a SEAL or a Ranger. I’m not going to find out if I could endure BUD/S. I’m not going to know if I could survive Hell Week. I’m not going to know if I would get out of the water, stop the run, or refuse to do the obstacle course, ring the bell, and go home. Absent some crazy worldwide catastrophe, I’m not going to hunt down terrorists in foreign locations.
That’s the case for most of us. Most of us are not going to be special operators. We’re not going to go on top-secret missions that require us to utilize an array of primal skills to hunt and kill bad guys so that the world becomes a better and safer place. Most of us are not going to face bullets. Most will not be faced with the decision of whether to jump on a grenade. We won’t have to enter a room where there may be five bad guys waiting to shoot us in the face. And it’s a bit of a pity.
It’s a pity because, though we are born males, we must become men. Manhood is not a given. It is not obtained by the mere passage of time and change in physical characteristics. Completion of puberty does not a produce a man. Instead, manhood is achieved and displayed through hard work, responsibility, discipline, strength, courage, toughness, resilience, and skill development. It requires action. It requires achievement. Unfortunately, how to become a man is not really clear these days. In his book Tribe: Homecoming and Belonging, author Sebastian Junger poses the question “How does one become a man in a world that doesn’t value courage?”.
That’s a question with which every thoughtful man wrestles. We all long to be tested. We long for adventure. We long to do great things. But our world doesn’t offer the same opportunities for that as it did hundreds of years ago. We can’t all be SEALs or Rangers. We can’t go settle a new land. There are few areas of world where we’re forced to battle wild beasts. So how do we become men at this point in history?
The answer is that we have do the work. Here’s an analogy: In most churches, everyone looks to the minister to do the work of helping people. He preaches the sermons, visits the sick, cares for the poor, spreads the Gospel, etc. But that’s not really how things are supposed to operate. Churches aren’t meant to rely on professional clergy to do the work. Instead, the role of the professionals is train the regular members to do the work. Likewise, most men have come to rely on professionals to do their jobs. We count on the military to protect our country and on the police to protect our family. We count on nannies and babysitters to raise our little ones, and on teachers and coaches to raise our older ones. We count on professional builders to build our homes, professional farmers and hunters to provide our food, and professionals to fix everything we own. We develop our own small niche to produce income, then rely on other specialists to take care of everything else. We then sit on the couch on watch others do adventurous things on television, YouTube, or social media.
In short, we’ve handed the work of being a man over to other people. The result is that we’re highly unsatisfied, largely because we feel our lives are too small. And when you look at many of us, our lives are small. We are specialists in one small area that requires basically no physical effort. It may involve significant intellectual skill, but little physical exertion. We raise our families in safe, sterile environments where everything is structured to ensure they succeed at every turn. We’re weak, fat, and safe. But not very manly, and highly unsatisfied.
As a result, most of us need to reclaim what we’ve delegated. Here are four ways most of us need to change:
1. Become skillful with weapons and in combat. We need to reclaim the responsibility for protecting our communities and our families. Men have always needed to be skillful with the prevalent weapons of the day in order to protect their family and their clan, village, or tribe. Today, that means you need to own a gun and be skillful with it. Buying it and leaving it in a safe in your bedroom closet does very little to protect your family and, in fact, probably makes your family less safe than if you didn’t have it around. Become skillful with your gun. Learn some tactics. Familiarize yourself with what bad guys do and how to counter it. Take an active shooter class. Get your concealed-carry license and learn to shoot off the draw. Train, train, train. Hopefully, you’ll never encounter a situation where the shit hits the fan and you need to actively defend yourself or others. But, it is our duty as men to be ready for it. Want some adventure in your life? Want to test your courage and feel alive? Then reclaim this responsibility and start training to protect. For further reading, check out my post on how Men Need a Dark Side.
2. Get outside. Live your life there. If you want to watch a TV show or two, that’s fine. If you want to spend 30 minutes watching something cool on YouTube or browsing social media, go for it. The problem comes in when you are doing all of these things regularly. That’s when they take over your life and make it small. TV is full of fantasy, and fantasy never satisfies. It stimulates, but doesn’t satisfy. Adventure satisfies. Get outside, move your body, and find something new. Find a patch of woods and explore. You’ll likely be amazed at what you find. Then do it again and again. Embrace the elements. Taste the heat and humidity. Feel the bitter cold. Ignore the rain. Get familiar with the dark. Become immune to discomfort as you live your life outside. For further reading, check out this post.
3. Push yourself physically. Get strong. Stop eating crap. Eat real food. Exert yourself physically almost every day. Lift heavy stuff. Pack on some muscle. Push yourself to get better and better. Walk regularly. Stop looking for the closest parking spot. Take the stairs almost exclusively. Too many of have decided that since we’re past our primes physically that we can just let our bodies go and always take the easy road. That’s not how a man thinks. Make your body an asset instead of a liability. For help, check out The Man Strong Blueprint.
4. Hunt. There’s something seriously primal about stalking an animal, approaching it without it knowing you’re present, cleanly killing it, then butchering, preparing, and eating the meat. The ability to do it takes intellect, strength, tenacity, and skill with a weapon and a blade. The act of doing it connects you with both the animal and the earth, and with legions of men throughout history who have done it. When you’re hunting, you enter a state of hyper-vigilance, a state of heightened sensory awareness that is almost non-existent in everyday life. You become aware of every leaf fluttering to the ground – was that a buck moving across the tree line? It’s at those times that you know you’re alive, and it’s those moments that give life to your years. Having too few of those moments is what makes us feel dead and empty inside. Seek them out. Here’s a two-part account of my first hunt (Part I and Part II).
We don’t need to become SEALs to be men whose lives are full of satisfying adventures. But we must do the work of a man. There are too many of us who have delegated that work and that role to someone else. Doing so has left us without a purpose and with lives that are too small and insignificant to satisfy us. Here are four ways you can change that. But keep in mind that there is no change without action. All change involves both changing how we think and what we do. It’s a both/and, not an either/or. For many of us, however, we need to take action in order to change our minds. So, your challenge today is to take some identifiable step in one of these areas. Sign up for a firearms class. Go buy some weights. Do some pushups. Go for a long walk in the rain. Take your kids for hike in the woods. Next week, take another step. Then keep building. Life will get much better in no time. But you must act. This is the man’s life.
*If you enjoyed this post, do two things: (1) enter your information below to subscribe to my mailing list and get my free report, Why Men Need a Mid-life Crisis, and (2) use the share buttons below to share this article on social media. Also, if you’re looking for a jump-start in achieving your health and fitness goals, check out my new eBook, The Man Strong Blueprint: A Beginner’s Guide to the Body You Need. Thanks.