What makes a man… a man?
How do you exemplify the qualities of masculinity?
What do you think of when you hear the word “manly”?
Maybe you think of one of your big-bearded friends…
Maybe you think of the muscle-man at the gym who always make you feel inadequate…
Or maybe you think of the people that my Facebook friends think of…
Even Google wants us to believe that, to be manly, you have to be big, strong, possibly on steroids, and dashingly handsome…
But… is that really what makes a man… a man?
No. I don’t think so.
In fact, I refuse to believe that mature masculinity means nothing more than having hot sex, big biceps, and an even bigger ego.
I believe being manly is more meaningful than that. I believe that real manliness is available to all men and will resonate deeply with all men, regardless of their height, width, facial structure, sexual preferences, or handicaps.
I believe that the people who’ve popularized masculinity as a shallow, egotistical quality bestowed only on the tall and beautiful have done the vast majority of men — YOU and ME — a great disservice.
Fortunately, I don’t need to tell you what I believe…
Because history says it all…
But first, this is a big resource, so here’s a handy outline to navigate this article easier.
- How To Be a Man, Part 2: 3 Very Different Case Studies (And What They Teach Us About How To Be a Man)
- How To Be a Man, Part 4: How To Be a Man: 11 Rituals That Create, Preserve, and Enhance The Qualities of Manliness
How To Be a Man, Part 1
A Quick Glance At The History Of Manliness
It’s obvious, isn’t it?
If you have a boy, you paint the bedroom blue.
If you have a girl, you paint the bedroom pink.
Simple. Easy. Done deal.
In the 21st century, at least.
In 1918, a magazine called the Infant’s Department wrote, “Pink, a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy; while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”
That was one of the first recorded decisions on the matter and it’s exactly why I wear a pink shirt err’ day.
How about this…
Did you know that men used to be really affectionate with each-other?
(Did I see a thigh stroke??)
Not so long ago, cuddling, snuggling, hugging, even light groping were a not-so-uncommon way to show your pals affection. Here’s some evidence collected by the geniuses over at Art Of Manliness.
Go even further back and you stumble across Samuel bestowing a glorified smooch upon the first king of Israel, Saint Paul instructing Christian brothers to greet one another with a “holy kiss”, and this…
“Throughout the Middle Ages, kisses served as a demonstration of one’s social standing. A king’s subjects would kiss his ring and robe, his hands, or even the ground before him. Similarly, people pressed their lips to the pope’s ring and slipper. The kiss also served as a sign of trust between feudal lords and vassals. Knights kissed at jousting tournaments and would receive one from the person they protected as thanks for a year of service. During this period, many men did not know how to read and write, so a kiss was used as a legal way to seal contracts. They drew an ‘X’ on the line and kissed it to make it legal, which has carried over into the way we now write ‘X’ to symbolize a kiss today.”
Did you know that King Louis XIV (a true man’s man back in the day) made high-heels all the rage?
Or how about that 14th century battle-hardened Scots paved the way for your girlfriend’s 50 pairs of leggings in 50 different colors and patterns to be culturally acceptable today?
Or how about that long hair on men used to be an indication of bravery and toughness (until ancient Rome ruined all the fun)?
Or did you know that, and I swear to end with this, Australian Mardudjara Aborigine’s rite of passage for a boy to become a man includes being circumcised without painkillers, eating your own foreskin, and then getting sliced from frenulum to scrotum so that you have to pee like a woman for the rest of your life (not kidding, but thank the gods this tradition is dying out)?
That is to say… the culturally acceptable qualities of manliness change with time and distance.
In Roman times, you could-a kissed your bro to say, “You meh pal!”
Now you can’t.
Culturally-influenced behaviors do not influence whether a man is manly or not (do you kiss your pals in greeting? Or shake their hand?).
And while it’s easy to mistake culturally acceptable behaviors as manly or decidedly un-manly (Do you even lift, bro?), those behaviors are damn-near irrelevant to our discussion. It’s the fundamental qualities of manliness that matter most.
- Fighting for the people you love…
- Doing what’s right when no one else is…
- Showing compassion…
- Challenging yourself…
These are some of the fundamental qualities of manliness that we’ll examine later. For right now, suffice it to say that the cultural behaviors of manliness (pink vs. blue, kiss vs. don’t kiss, mutilate vs. don’t mutilate) have changed drastically from culture to culture and century to century.
That doesn’t mean the fundamental qualities of what makes a man a man have changed.
It also doesn’t mean that men who love the color pink (ahem), have a ponytail, and/or get Brazilian waxed on a regular basis are un-manly. Those behaviors are irrelevant to the person’s manliness.
Note: There are, of course, many behaviors which can nullify or enhance a guy’s manliness. Beating your wife, for instance, makes you a sad lil’ douche bag who needs therapy and prison (un-manly), regardless of culture or century. Fighting for the people you love is a manly quality, again, regardless of your timezone. It’s the culturally-influenced behaviors we need to ignore when determining what is manly. If you’re unsure about whether a certain behavior or quality is masculine or not, question its ethics, not its cultural acceptance.
So… what is manliness?
Let’s look at some case studies.
How To Be a Man, Part 2
3 Very Different Case Studies (And What They Teach Us About How To Be a Man)
It’s important to keep in mind that the men we’ll look at below did lots of manly things… annndd probably some things that put the proper concept of manliness to shame.
As with every person, they did some good and some bad.
My goal here, then, isn’t to examine the person’s integrity, but to examine and dissect the stories in which the men below showed remarkable qualities of manliness — the stories which inspire us to be better men, the ones the make us want to fight harder, stay in the ring longer, or pursue our ambitions with newfound fervor…
The stories which make us think, “Fuck yeah. I can do this.”
In other words, we’re going to examine specific instances when each of the 3 men below displayed qualities of manliness and ignore the times when they were less than dignified (for our purposes, their shortcomings are irrelevant).
Case Study #1: Marcus Luttrell & His Fellow Navy Seals
Launching a mission called Operation Red Wings, Marcus Luttrell and 3 other Navy SEAL’s boots slapped the ground in northeastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border in the dead of night.
To hunt down Ahmad Shah, a local militia leader in cohorts with the Taliban.
After hours of hiking through night-blackened, mud-caked mountain ranges, the four-man squad positioned themselves behind rocks, trees, and other vegetation, in an outcropping which overlooked Shaw’s suspected location.
The sun rose on June 28th, 2005.
But for everyone huddled behind those trees and rocks, except for Marcus Lattrell, that would be their last sunrise.
Burrowing further behind the rocks and trees, Marcus Luttrell, team sniper and medic, suddenly looked up to see a turbaned man carrying an axe.
It wasn’t their enemy, though, but a local goat herder who’d stumbled across their location. Shortly after, they heard hundreds of bells ringing as goats crowded the hillside. Another goat herder and a teenage boy emerged.
The situation left them with an impossible choice: let the innocents go free and risk them alerting the Taliban’s militia to the SEAL’s arrival, or kill the unarmed goat herders and face a court martial once back in the U.S.
Plus, there was the problem of the loud goat herd attracting attention to their position — a decision needed to be made quickly.
Trying and failing to connect to headquarters to ask for instructions, the squad was left to make their own call.
In the end, the only possible course of action, as they saw it, was to let the goat herders go free — they weren’t about to execute innocent people.
Sadly, that decision signed 3 of the SEAL’s death warrants.
Less than an hour later, after the SEALs had scrambled to find a defensive position (knowing that their mission was compromised), between 60 and 80 of Shaw’s armed militia emerged over a ridgeline. Within seconds, the hillside was littered with AK47 fire, RPGs, and mortars.
The SEALs ran as quickly down the hill as they could, the terrain — tree stumps, roots, and brambles — fighting them every step of the way. As they tumbled hundreds of feet down the hillside, each SEAL endured serious injuries. One fall broke three of Marcus Lattrell’s vertebrae.
At the end of the hillside, Luttrell scrambled to pull Dietz — a badly injured SEAL who had been shot multiple times and continued shooting even after having his right thumb blown off — to safety. As he did, Dietz was shot in the head and killed.
Murphy — another badly injured SEAL — knew their only hope was to call in reinforcements. But lacking a working radio connection, Murphy looked at Luttrell knowingly and moved to an exposed position, the only place with a radio signal. A bullet ripped through his back as he asked for reinforcements. Murphy finished his call, took several more bullet wounds, and died shortly after.
Here’s Marcus Luttrell’s account of that memory…
“We had been pinned down. We had actually been pinned down multiple times, but we had managed to get out of each one of them. And then after Danny had been killed – Ax had been shot multiple times, one time in the face; I was hit; Mikey was hit. And we were — it was towards the tail end of the engagement, and we were — they had us dead to rights; they had us pinned in a hole pretty good. And Mikey, just with total disregard for his own life — I mean, he knew what he was doing, he knew it was the end – that he pulled out our satellite phone, crawled to an open area in the ravine, and stayed out there until he got in contact with our QRF. And he crawled out and was hit a couple of times during the phone call, but kept the lines of communication up until he was killed.” — Marcus Luttrell
Meanwhile, an RPG blast hit right where Axelson and Luttrell — the last two remaining SEALs — were ducking for cover. Luttrell survived miraculously, but never saw Axelson again.
Despite multiple bullet wounds, a broken back, and shrapnel jutting from his legs, Luttrell killed chasing Taliban with grenades and one with his knife, crawled seven miles through the mountains, and eventually eluded the Taliban militia.
Hot, thirsty, and low on blood supply, Luttrell licked sweat from his arms until he stumbled upon a waterfall, where he drank deep until, again, he found himself surrounded by locals. Fortunately, these locals weren’t his enemy. They took him to their small village where they fed him and clothed him, they took a letter to the Marine Outpost informing the U.S. military that Luttrell was alive, and eventually, Luttrell was saved, taken back home, and awarded the Navy Cross.
Still, being the lone-survivor didn’t leave Luttrell fully alive. In an interview with NBC, he said, “I died on that mountain, too. I left a part of myself up there.”
What does this teach us about how to be a man?
Courage, selflessness, doing what’s right when it might get you killed…
These are the qualities that Luttrell’s story carries, regardless of your personal opinion on warfare, gun rights, or military funding.
When the SEALs let innocent, potentially-hostile goat herders walk free, when Murphy knowingly sacrificed himself to call for reinforcements, and when — being the lone survivor — Luttrell refused to lay down and die after everything had become hopeless, they exemplified many fundamental qualities of manliness.
How do I know?
For the same reason that you know.
A fire burns in you when you hear stories of willing sacrifice, when you hear stories of people fighting back against all odds, when you hear stories of brotherhood.
That fire burns (your gusto, as it were) because you’re wired to fight back. Thousands of years of evolution have prepared you to be manly, to endure, to be resilient, compassionate, and to not throw in the towel when the going gets hard.
That is, ultimately, what we learn about manliness from Luttrell’s story…
Fighting is better than giving in.
Self-sacrifice is better than living a long and selfish life.
And hard work now is the key to building future resilience.
Case Study #2: Steve Irwin
When you hear the word “Manly”, Steve Irwin — better known as “The Crocodile Hunter” — probably isn’t the first person that comes to mind.
Raised to be a wildlife enthusiast, Irwin grew up around reptiles in his parent’s Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park, received a 12-foot python for his 6th birthday, wrestled his first crocodile at the age of 9, and went on to become a national television star and one of the most well-respected conservationists to ever live.
During his life, Irwin supported countless animal charities and non-profits.
For fun, here’s a video of him getting bit by a snake on live television — bro doesn’t even flinch.
Sadly, in 2006, Irwin was stabbed in the heart by a stingray and killed while filming a documentary titled, Ocean’s Deadliest. After his death, the then-Prime Ministry said, “Australia has lost a wonderful and colourful son.”
To give you a better idea of who we was and what he was like (in case you never had the pleasure of watching The Crocodile Hunter), here’s a video with him capturing some salt-water crocs.
What does this teach us about how to be a man?
Say the word “manly” and images of men with big beards, big muscles, and big egos usually come to mind. But Steve Irwin lacks all three of those stereotypical (and culturally influenced) qualities.
While wrestling deadly animals into submission is certainly manly (or at least brave AF), sparing with beasts isn’t what we learn most about manliness from Steve Irwin’s iconic life.
Irwin was a facially-hairless, not-so-attractive, boyish television star with a passion for helping animals — an undying passion that couldn’t be stopped by naysayers or obstacles or even life-threatening danger.
Ultimately, The Crocodile Hunter taught us that manliness means following your passions whole-heartedly, regardless of how dangerous they are, or of what anyone says, thinks, or expects. He taught us that manliness means showing compassion to even the least significant creatures on the planet (we’re all living things, after all). And he taught us that manliness means being true to yourself, without apology for who you are.
Steve Irwin had a boyish gusto for life that every man craves. So maybe following the above lessons from his purpose-driven life isn’t such a bad idea.
I have no fear of losing my life – if I have to save a koala or a crocodile or a kangaroo or a snake, mate, I will save it. — Steve Irwin
Case Study #3: Bill Gates
Does Bill Gates, one of the richest men in the world, able to leap over office chairs with a single bound…
…does he really encompass what it means to be a man? Or at least, some of the qualities of manliness?
Well, here’s what we know:
- Bill Gates currently has a self-made net worth of 102 billion dollars.
- He also cares deeply about issues like malaria in third-world countries, aids, and the education system (as shown in his TED talk below).
- And one Quora contributor who is an ex-employee for Microsoft describes Bill Gates as intimidating and sometimes impatient. But, she adds, “he’d be the first to say that he was meant to be a thinker, not a manager.”
So what does that tell us?
Well, we get the picture of a zealous, ambitious, remarkably wealthy, compassionate individual. We get the picture of a dude (no matter how nerdy he looks) who believes he can solve all the worlds problems and has damn-near done so. We get the picture of a man who is willing to fight for his ideas, be ruthless in negotiations, stand up for what he believes in, and even admit his mistakes.
Bill Gates certainly has his short-comings.
But he has also taught us a lot about what it means to be a man and what it means to retain your gusto for life.
What does this teach us about how to be a man?
He’s a business man, a college drop-out, and one of the richest men on the planet. He’s not the first person who comes to mind when you hear the word “manly.”
But, in his own way, he is manly.
After all, what’s manlier than fighting for what you believe in relentlessly, serving so many humans that you become one of the richest people on the planet, and donating $28 billion to charities you care about?
No — he doesn’t have the biggest muscles or the greatest facial hair or the best looks. But he’s determined AF, he’s compassionate, he’s loyal to his family, and he accomplishes the goals that he sets out to achieve…
…which is a lot more than most men have to say for themselves.
How To Be a Man, Part 3
What Makes a Man… a Man?
We’ve looked at 3 unusual case studies of manliness.
Marcus Luttrell and his squad of Navy SEALs.
Steve Irwin and his boyish love for life.
Bill Gates and his compassionate, relentless pursuit of making the world a better place.
But now we have to ask the question that you came here to get answered…
What makes a man… a man?
Are you manly just because you have certain genitalia between your legs?
(That certainly helps your case)
Are you manly just because you have big muscles?
Are you manly because you have a hot wife?
Because you sleep around with tons of women?
Because other men are intimidated by you?
Because you can break a baseball bat in two using nothing but your beard hair…
The answer is…
In fact, all of those things have very little to do with manliness. You can have a big beard but be the biggest wuss in the room (I know several big-bearded wusses). You can be intimidating to other men, but only because you’re a hot-tempered piece of shit. You can have the biggest wiener but not know how to please a woman.
The point is, being a man doesn’t have anything to do with what you look like, how tall you are, or even how people respond to you — it has everything to do with exhibiting the 8 qualities below.
So let’s dive right into what makes a man… a man.
Manliness Quality #1: Commitment To Becoming Better… Every Day
A real man doesn’t settle for anything less than fulfilling his full potential.
When he sets out to do something, he does it to the best of his ability. He doesn’t cut corners and he doesn’t lie, scam, or cheat. He does the best that he can do because he expects more from himself than anyone else.
And everyday, he works to become a better person (using many of the rituals mentioned in Part 4 of this article).
He knows what he wants out of life and he doesn’t stop until he has his hands on it. He’s patient, persistent, gritty, and determined to give the world all he’s got before he’s gone.
A real man is offended by the prospect of not being the best person that he can be. And every day, he becomes a little bit better.
Manliness Quality #2: Grit
It doesn’t matter how big the other guy is.
A real man knows when to stand his ground and he does so relentlessly. He might be outmatched 10 to 1, but he doesn’t care, because he knows what he believes in and he fights for it.
This doesn’t mean he’s unnecessarily aggressive. And it doesn’t mean he hurts people just for the fun of it.
It does mean that he’s willing to protect the people he loves most in the world (even if it means dying to do so) and it also means that he’s willing (afraid or not) to stand up for what he knows is the truth.
He doesn’t back down because of social pressure, anxiety, discomfort, fear, or physical exhaustion. He keeps fighting because he believes in what he’s fighting for.
Anything less is unacceptable.
Manliness Quality #3: Courage
A real man doesn’t care if he’s afraid. He doesn’t care if he’s scared, anxious, or uneasy about doing the right thing..
He does the right thing for one reason and one reason only — because it’s the right thing.
He’s courageous in the face of embarrassment, slander, physical aggression, and all other types of attacks. He understands the power he holds inside him and he uses this power to help rather than hurt others.
He is courageous about doing the right thing even when no one else is going to join him.
Manliness Quality #4: Self-Reliance & Independence (With a Caveat)
He doesn’t depend on anyone else for emotional stability or mental fortitude. A real man is self-reliant and independent. He does everything in his power to provide for himself and manage his emotions.
This doesn’t mean that he never accepts help from others or that he never lets others do his bidding, it simply means that he does all that he can do, the best that he can do it, and if others must fill in the gaps because he’s unable, then he’s grateful for their help rather than frustrated or manipulative.
A real man does not expect anything from others, but graciously accepts help — whether physical attention, camaraderie, compassion, or even financial assistance. He is independent, he is self-reliant, but he is also unafraid of allowing others to help him, because he has nothing to prove to anyone.
Manliness Quality #5: Levelheadedness
A real man understands that life is complicated.
He understands that there’s an unseen context behind every comment, every attack, every compliment, and every admiration. He knows that things are not always as they seem.
Because of this, he is slow to anger, he is quick to compassion, kindness and empathy, and he takes the time necessary to understand a situation before making judgements — many times, he won’t make any judgements because he does not have all of the context necessary.
And he knows that it is far better to withhold judgement than it is to judge people, situations, or scenarios without the necessary information.
Manliness Quality #6: Compassion & Empathy
A real man seeks to understand where other people are coming from. If someone is upset or hurting, he doesn’t mock them or make fun of them, but offers kind words and an encouraging spirit.
He understands that other’s feelings are valid, regardless of his own opinion on the situation. For that reason, he restrains judgement.
He does not feel less manly for offering physical comfort to someone who is hurting, crying with them, saying encouraging words, or providing a safe space (whether man or woman).
He is confident in himself and thus able to be compassionate and empathetic toward others.
Manliness Quality #7: Self-Confidence
He knows who he is and why he’s on this planet. A real man has a great sense of purpose which drives his self-confidence. And if he doesn’t know his purpose yet, then he’s working diligently to create it or discover it.
Because of this immense confidence in himself, he is able to help others to the best of his ability. He is able to show emotions without being uncomfortable. He is able to be honest about his beliefs and his opinions. And he is unaffected by other people’s opinions because he knows who he is and doesn’t need the approval of others.
Manliness Quality #8: Self-Awareness
A real man know what he is good at and where he falls short. He is honest with himself about his strengths and his weaknesses.
Because of this, he is able to improve himself and become a better person faster than most people. But he does not hold this over others. He simply uses this self-awareness to challenge himself and become the best person that he can be.
He listens to other’s opinions about himself, but he only internalizes them if they’ll help him to become better — otherwise he tosses them out of his mind, knowing they will not benefit him.
His self awareness makes it so that he is in complete control of his body, thoughts, and emotions.
A quick note about these masculine qualities…
What I’ve laid out are the qualities which define manliness.
These are qualities which reach through every culture and century to the very core of what makes a man… a man.
BUT… while the ideal man will exhibit all of these qualities, perhaps the most important of all the qualities are the first and the last: to always strive to improve and to be self-aware.
With those two qualities, all else falls into place.
You might not, for example, be very confident in yourself yet, but so long as you’re working to improve your sense of purpose and your self confidence, you’re embracing your masculinity.
This is not, after all, an overnight transformation from wuss to Captain awesome, but it’s a gradual progression of self-discovery that lasts an entire lifetime.
If I could wrap a nice bow around what it means to be a man, I would say that a real man is always working to improve himself and he is self-aware enough to do so.
But of course, now we need to know the tools and rituals we can use to enhance our masculinity…
How To Be a Man, Part 4
How To Be a Man: 11 Rituals That Create, Preserve, and Enhance The Qualities of Manliness
Now we come to the “how”.
We’ve learned that what it means to be a man is very different from culture to culture and century to century. We’ve torn apart 3 unique case studies of manliness. And we’ve examined 8 fundamental qualities of what makes a man a man… placing an emphasis on self-awareness and consistent self-betterment.
But if you want to fully embrace your masculinity, your boyish fervor for life, and your love for adventure and problem-solving, then you need to know how.
And here, I’m going to walk you through 11 different rituals that have helped me to hone my masculine qualities. All of these, at one time or another, have turned me into a better person.
I hope they do the same for you.
Masculinity Ritual #1: Physical Exertion & Competitiveness
Men have evolved to embrace physical challenges.
Our male ancestors would chase after angry boars with a spear. They’d fight with enemy tribes. They’d hike over mountains and through valleys to find a source of water.
Because of that caveman lifestyle, men today build muscle easier than women, their facial structure is literally designed to take a punch, and the Dorsal Premamillary Nucleus (DPN) — the part of the brain which is responsible for instincts such as competitiveness, territorial defense, and aggression — is significantly larger in men than in women.
And that’s a good thing. Obviously, using your DPN instincts inappropriately (to manipulate or harm someone else) is a bad thing. But that’s not what we’re talking about here — we’re talking about embracing your masculine instincts in a healthy way.
So get some friends and challenge them to a game of basketball. Go snowboarding and race your pals down the hill. Learn a new physical skill. Start a fight club in your garage. Play with your kids every morning. Join an exercise routine with your friends and create a pool of cash where the guy with the most reps or best time takes all.
You’re wired to compete against other men and your physiology is a natural machine built for intense physical exertion. Embracing your competitive spirit consistently (every day or most days every week) is an important step toward embracing your masculinity and getting your gusto back.
Masculinity Ritual #2: Meditation
With only the first ritual in tow, man becomes a lumbering ball of strength and energy that does whatever the hell he wants to do, without consideration for others and himself.
(We all know a douche-bag like this, don’t we?)
This is partly why, as a man with exceptional physical capabilities and a desire for competitiveness, we must also be self-aware. We must take others into consideration. We must have thick skin. And we must have self-control.
Meditating for even 10 minutes every morning helps massively with self-control and self-awareness. Plus, when you’re self-aware, you have the ability to challenge yourself and become a little bit better ever day — the height of masculinity. I like using Headspace for my meditative time. Give it a try.
Masculinity Ritual #3: Cold Water
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: cold water can change your entire day in just a few minutes.
You can’t really understand the power of taking an ass-cold shower until you do it and then walk out feeling like a fucking gladiator.
The science is that our bodies are designed to endure — with some training — everything from high-altitudes to freezing cold temperatures. Our caveman counterpart did so with nothing but his loincloth. And we can do the same.
Plus, it wakes you up and triggers your fight-or-flight response in a way few things do, making you ready to take on the day with newfound energy.
So give it a try. Take a cold shower (turn the knob all the way and jump right in), lay in the snow for a few minutes, or even dump some ice in a bath and be hard-core about it.
You’ll feel like a real man once you’re done, no way around it.
Masculinity Ritual #4: Problem Solving
This isn’t so much a ritual as it is a type of activity that men need to consistently engage with.
Louann Brizendine, author of The Male Brain, describes that mush between our ears as a “lean, mean problem-solving machine.” In fact, if there’s one overarching quality of the male brain, it’s the desire and ability to fix problems.
You can feel it and so can I.
You love to fix problems, you do it without thinking. You’re even proud of the silly little solutions you come up with for fixing a fence, getting a stubborn nail out of the wall, or painting the house twice as fast with a new type of roller.
Keep that in mind as you’re working to develop your masculinity.
Ask yourself, “How can I consistently challenge myself with new problems to fix?” For our male brains, problems equal adventure. And the more adventures we have, the more satisfied we are.
Find what you love doing, what you love working on, and do more of that.
Masculinity Ritual #5: Hyperventilating
“There’s nothing left to say other than ‘Breathe, Motherf*cker.’”
It’s the finishing sentence to the forward of a wonderfully insightful book, What Doesn’t Kill Us: How freezing water, extreme altitude, and environmental conditioning will renew our lost evolutionary strength.
In it, Scott Carney — skeptical journalist turned environmental conditioning zealot — teaches hyperventilation practices used by Wim Hof, who’s known for hiking snow-laden mountains during winter in nothing but swimming trunks.
And Wim Hof’s breathing technique — which is also used by Scott Carney and Laird Hamilton (the most ambitious surfer to ever live) will shake you out of your most stubborn mid-day sludge via oxygen saturation.
Here’s the technique:
- Lay on the floor and relax.
- Inhale quickly, about one second for each inhale, and don’t force your exhales — just exhale as needed. Count your breathes and do 30 or 40 breathes like this.
- At the end of your count, take a big gulp of air and hold your breathe as long as you can. Then exhale and take a half-breath and hold it for 15 seconds. This will feel amazing.
- Repeat steps 2 and 3 four times.
- At the end of your fourth time, hold your breathe as usual and turn over and do as many push ups as you can while holding your breathe — you’ll be able to do more than usual because of the oxygen saturation in your body.
- Finish the practice with another half-breathe inhale and hold for 15 seconds. Now exhale and tell me you don’t feel clear-headed as hell.
Masculinity Ritual #6: Reading
“If a man stops learning about himself, about the way the world works, and if he stops striving to be better, then he’s stopped embracing his masculinity and he’ll soon become dissatisfied with life.” — Michael fucking Blankenship
Reading books about topics that challenge you or interest you (I’m mostly talking about non-fiction here) is critical for getting your gusto back. There’s so much joy in learning, but few people exercise their learning muscle enough to know that.
Plus, reading consistently will challenge you to become a better person, embrace new ideas, and change the way you think.
Even 20 or 30 minutes every morning reading about a topic that spikes your interest can increase your fervor for life and help you become a more empathetic person.
Masculinity Ritual #7 — Sex
What guy doesn’t feel great during sex.
And that’s kind of the point (kind of).
The truth is, you’re wired to love sex. The Medial Preoptic Area of your brain — which houses your desire for sexual pursuit — is 2.5 times larger than it is in women.
That desire for sex isn’t a bad thing, though, no matter what political men-haters would have us believe. The trick is to use it in a healthy way. Consistent pornography viewing, for example, is a misuse of your sex drive that can harm you over the long run.
But consistent and intimate sexual relations with your significant other, or even casual sex every now and again, can boost your immune system, increase confidence and creativity, and even make your more satisfaction with life.
But I don’t need to tell you that…
You know exactly what I’m talking about — you feel like a million bucks after sex with a beautiful woman. So have more of it. Be more vulnerable during it and make it more intimate. And once you’ve grown tired of casual sex, consider committing yourself to one woman to experience deeper intimacy.
Masculinity Ritual #8 — Generosity
Most people draw immense satisfaction from giving to others without expecting anything in return.
It makes us feel like we are in control, like we’re making a difference in the world, and it confirms our internal belief that we’re a good person. For men, being generous also satisfies our natural desire to provide for others — whether strangers or people we deeply care about.
Try it and see how you feel. Tip a little more than you usually do at the restaurant and revel in the waiter’s gratitude. Buy your wife roses before you go home and watch her face light up. Buy your child a new toy. Give a friend an un-merited gift and enjoy the moment they try to figure out why you’re giving it to them.
Giving freely to others is one of the most masculine things you can do — it’s selfless, it makes you feel incredible, and it genuinely helps make the world a better place.
Note: I’m a firm believer in being careful with your giving. While I think that you should give consistently, I also believe you shouldn’t give money to someone who is clearly a drug addict (give them food instead) and you shouldn’t using giving as a way to enable someone’s bad behaviors. For this reason, I almost never give money to people on the street corner and opt for giving to people who I know and deeply care about instead. I’ve also found that giving to people who I know will use my generosity to better themselves is more satisfying and inspiring.
Masculinity Ritual #9 — Fasting
I know that you love eating…
We all do.
But you can’t understand the power of intentionally not eating until you’ve tried it. Going 3 days, a week, or even a couple weeks without food does tons of good stuff for your health.
But it doesn’t just make you healthier, it also helps to interrupt your bad habit of overeating, increases your self-discipline, self-trust, and self-love. You gain a massive sense of pride for the control you show over your body.
And you just feel like a motha’ fuckin’ badass.
Give it a go.
Masculinity Ritual #10 — The Great Outdoors
You have to wonder…
…when you’re sitting at the movie theater, eating popcorn, scrolling through Facebook as you wait for the “Coming Attractions” to end, is this lifestyle really good for us?
What would our caveman ancestors have thought of this?
We’ve evolved to be physically active in the sun all day, harvesting plants, gardening, fighting, and climbing trees, but in just a couple decades, technology has moved us inside to cubicles, couches, and coca cola.
But the truth is, we just aren’t designed for that kind of lifestyle.
Our bodies are built to be active, to fight against different kinds of pressures, to sit in the hot sun, and to walk through the woods with other men. Which is why when we do do those things, we feel amazing, like we’re at one with the world and the world is at one with us.
So spend more time outside. Start a little garden that you can work on every day, take more pride in your lawn, start running, hike often, and/or schedule an annual backpacking trip.
You’re not a cat that needs to sleep 15 hours per day.
You’re a well-evolved male meant to be outside kicking ass and taking names. So get outside.
Masculinity Ritual #11 — Brotherhood
Have you ever heard the saying that “You are the average of your 5 closest friends”?
For men, I’ve found that to be particularly true. There’s something really powerful — mystical, even — about the way two men can connect with each other as brothers (even if they’re not).
You know what I’m talking about.
Neither you or your best friend discuss it, of course, but there’s something deep and special between you, a bond that can never be broken, a brotherhood that would have you dying for each other at a moment’s notice if required.
One small study even suggests that bromances are more impactful than a man’s romantic relationships.
“In fact, a small study published in Men and Masculinities indicated that men may even benefit more from their bromances than they benefit from their romantic partnerships.
Some men reported that in these bromances, they felt less pressured or less judged than by their romantic partners. This meant that they could share and receive feedback (in a non-judgemental way) at little to no risk to the state of those partnerships.”
The point is, men have an amazing capability to bond with other men, and these bonds are immensely satisfying. So surround yourself with men you respect and go on more adventures with them — go backpacking, hiking, to the gym, build a business together, or even just have coffee.
Embracing your bromances can increase your sense of masculine fervor and boyish excitement for life faster than anything else.
How To Be a Man, Part 5
A Quick Note About Toxic Masculinity
Toxic masculinity doesn’t exist.
And I love the way that a friend of mine, Kyree Oliver, explains it…
He hits the nail on the head — toxic masculinity doesn’t exist, but a lack of masculinity does.
Men who beat their wives, men who never cry, men who believe that being tough makes them manly, men who drink too much, with drug addictions, men who use their strength as a veil, they aren’t real men… they are struggling with MASSIVE insecurities.
They don’t know how to embrace their emotions because they believe doing so will lead to shame and embarrassment…
They hurt others because that gives them a sense of control they don’t get anywhere else…
And they rely on their physical strength and verbal jabs to manipulate others because that’s the only way they know to feel good about themselves…
They are weak. They are sad. They are insecure. They are toxic. But they are not masculine.
Masculinity is a beautiful thing that has many beneficial qualities (as I discussed in this article), but toxic masculinity is an absence of manliness, not the pinnacle.
So what is man?
What is manliness?
Are you masculine?
How do you become more masculine? How do you embrace your most masculine qualities? What rituals can you use to enhance those qualities?
I hope you now have some answers to those questions.
To sum it up, I’d recommend that you do two things for the rest of your life.
- Strive to be better than you were yesterday.
- Love others unconditionally.
If you do just those two things consistently and throw everything else away, you’ll quickly become the most manly guy in the room. You’ll have more confidence, you’ll build more satisfying relationships, you’ll enjoy your life, and you’ll get your gusto back in no time.
Because you, as a man, were never meant to be stagnant. You were created, designed, evolved — whatever — to move and to live and to be on an adventure.
So go have yourself an adventure… before it’s too late.
Mike is a writer for SUCCESS, AdWeek, and Addicted2Success. He’s been quoted on Forbes and Entrepreneur for his expertise in marketing and personal development. He’s also the owner of Get Your Gusto Back where he helps people reignite their inner fire.