When it comes to being a well-rounded man, there's a lot more to consider than lifting weights. I've written before about some of the other attributes real manliness includes, but never in a complete way. This article is to give you a helpful list of the things you can do to become more manly. Maybe this isn't your goal, and that's fine. But if you're one of the thousands of men out there who feel you could be doing better in the manliness department, these words are for you. I don't consider myself the ultimate example of manliness. In fact, there are several items on the list below in which I could use improvement. I'm not writing this to present myself as the golden standard. My goal is to share my view of what manliness is, and offer concrete steps you can take to improve yours.
Get Physically StrONG
Look up the word "manly" in most dictionaries and you'll find something about physical strength. In the past men had no option but to be strong. Their existence and that of their families depended on it. Today strength isn't mandatory, so many men opt for the far easier default of weakness. This is a tragedy. There are no benefits to being weak. Weakness limits every physical act you'll ever perform, and if caused by laziness rather than an accident beyond your control, it limits you mentally, too. Socrates said it best when he proclaimed that "No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. What a disgrace it is for a man to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable." If you want to be manly, make training for strength and fitness a regular and immovable part of your life.
Develop Useful Skills
A vital, often overlooked part of being a good man is the ability to handle yourself in many different situations. The competence to replace brake pads, re-shingle a roof, or use a chainsaw might seem useless, particularly if you haven’t build your life around that sort of work. Trouble is, eventually our imperfect physical world forces every man to face technical challenges which require what Liam Neeson would call “a very particular set of skills”. Unlike Mr. Neeson, you probably won’t need to shoot your way through armies of bad guys to save family members, but you will find yourself in situations that require skills not commonly taught in our cushy modern society. In such situations you’ll be faced with three options: ignore the problem, find or hire someone to solve it for you, or roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. There are times it’s appropriate to hire an expert, but most people reach for the phone far too soon when faced with a difficult challenge. Vehicles are a perfect example. Almost everyone drives one, but almost no one understands the first thing about how they work. If you sense a deficiency in your collection of manly skills, learning basic automobile mechanics is a good place to start. Want to take it a step further? Learn how the wiring in your house works. Replace that drafty living room window yourself. Teach yourself to throw knives or shoot a bow and arrow.
Keep Your Mind Sharp
Mark Twain said “the man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them”. Nowadays even more than in Mr. Twain’s time, there’s a staggering amount of knowledge available in books, to say nothing of the internet. I don’t mean novels, either. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good adventure story, but novels are like candy for the brain. Good non-fiction books are meat, potatoes and broccoli. Everyone should have a non-fiction book on the go, always. Possibly more than one. If you don’t, you’re depriving yourself of valuable knowledge you could have gained. Don’t fall into the sticky trap of passivity and undeserved contentment. Get hungry for mental self-improvement, then satisfy your hunger.
Be DIRECT & Decisive
Few traits are less manly than indecisiveness. My dad taught me from an early age that when offered a choice, I should always make a decision. Be right or be wrong he said, but make a decision. This was a tough lesson for me, since decisiveness has never been one of my natural strengths. Some people have no trouble saying yes or no at the drop of the hat. I envy them. As a child I would agonize over small choices as if they were life-changing dilemas. Being decisive still isn’t easy for me, but I do pretty well most times. If you struggle with decisiveness, perhaps a few of the tricks that helped me can help you, too. When asked a question, I've learned to permanently strike wishy-washy phrases like “I guess”, “maybe” or “could be” from my vocabulary. I replace these with firmer, more decisive answers like “yes”, “no”, and “I’ll let you know tomorrow”. Sometimes I still slip and answer in an indecisive way, but I do my best to catch myself and remember to do better next time. I also try to go with my gut when answering important yes or not questions, regardless of how I think this will make the asker feel. This too is a challenge for me, because I’m naturally a people pleaser, and am sometimes tempted to answer yes when asked to do something when I really should say no.
It’s impossible for a chronic complainer to be manly. There are no exceptions. If you’ve got a complaining habit and aspire to be manly, it’s time to quit one or the other. Not only does complaining do nothing to improve your situation – it also convinces your unfortunate listeners of your weakness and lack of grit. No one likes listening to complaints, even if they deeply love the complainer, because complaining is an act of selfishness. Complainers spew out the rotten dregs of their lives in the hopes of a little sympathy from their listeners. Real men never chase sympathy, even if they deserve some. My dad tells a story about his grandfather that drives this point home. When Dad was 8 or 9, Great Grandpa (GG) took him skating. Dad swerved suddenly on the ice, causing GG to trip, fall, and crack his ankle bone. Not wanting to ruin the outing for my dad, GG didn’t yell, curse or call himself an ambulance. Instead, he limped off the ice with my dad helping support him, and drove Dad and himself to a restaurant where they sat down for a full dinner. Through the meal he never complained once. Only after the check was paid and GG had one-leg hopped back to the car and driven Dad home did he drive himself to the hospital. Whenever I’m tempted to complain about a cold sore, hangnail, or paper cut, I think of Great Grandpa.