Before you can answer this question, you’d better first figure out just what the hell “a man” is.
Because let’s face it, in this day and age, we’ve lost sight of what it means to be a man. And if we don’t know what a man should be — how he should act — how will we ever know if we can consider ourselves “a man?”
So my question is this: what makes a man a man?
Is it simply physical? The obvious traits that mark him different from a woman? Damn straight a beard is manly, but does a beard make the man? How about a hairy chest?
No. A man is much more than just a beard and a hairy chest.
A man possesses character . . . determination . . .
At the core of every real man lies strength.
In “Sculpt the Real You,” I described exactly the kind of man I want to be. Forgive me for quoting myself:
“I picture a man strong in body and spirit. He’s unafraid to do the hard work necessary, and refuses to quit no matter how tough things get.
Resilient. Persistent. Up to the challenge.
He lives by a moral code and stands by his beliefs – even when the wind blows the other way. He speaks his mind, gives respect where respect is due, and will defend his loved ones to the death.
This man can be relied upon — he will never hesitate to help a friend in need. And so his friendships are unbreakable. People from all over seek his advice, for he has wisdom and speaks the hard truths without fear. He is who he is and absolutely will not fucking apologize for it.
This is a man who travels the hard path. A man of iron.”
That’s the kind of man I want to be. That’s the kind of strength I wish to embody. Every choice I make is either a step closer or a step further away.
But the choice is mine. Just as the choice is yours.
The truth of the matter is we make ourselves. The idea of sculpting ourselves is a beautiful metaphor, but we could also say we build ourselves, or we forge ourselves, or we cultivate ourselves.
However you choose to look at it, we create ourselves. It’s up to us to make ourselves into the man we want to be.
And it won’t be easy.
It shouldn’t be.
If it were easy then it wouldn’t build the strength required of a man. Becoming the man you want to be will be painful. It will mean taking a hard look at who you are. It will mean accepting your faults . . . then chipping away at them one by one.
But that pain is necessary.
Only through fire can the Pheonix be reborn. So it is with man.
You must scorch the earth. You must be ruthless. Purge yourself of the weakness. Only then can you find the strength that lies within. The strength that marks you a man.
So figure out for yourself what makes a man. But don’t think overly hard. Writing a list of virtues from which to pick and choose is not going to get you any closer to becoming a man.
Picture this man you want to be. See him clearly.
Follow your gut.
Let your intuition and common sense be your guide. Deep down, you already know what makes a man. For a few quiet moments, allow yourself to look inside. Open your heart and mind.
The revelation will hit you hard. If you don’t shed a few tears then you’ve missed the mark.
You may never reach that ultimate goal – your idealized man. You shouldn’t. If you did then the ideal wasn’t pure enough. You set the bar too low.
Becoming the perfect man is not the point.
The point is the journey . . . the path you take. I’ve chosen the hard path. It leads me to the qualities I seek as a man. But there are other paths . . .
The path of tranquility.
The path of service.
The path of devotion.
Maybe yours is the path of family or the path of community. Or maybe it’s the adventurous path for you.
Whatever road yours might be, find and follow it. They are not so different. They crisscross. And they all lead to the same destination.
Know your destination. Find your path. And with each choice . . . with every step . . . be sure to set foot in the right direction.
In time, you won’t need to ask what kind of man you are. You’ll know. As will all those around you.
(Special thanks to my good friend Maestro for providing the image that inspired this post.)