The following is a guest post by an author who gets the readers of Fearless Men. We’re extremely excited to have novelist Ronan Cray as a guest on our site. Check out what he has to say on How To Be A Man. And if you’re interested in submitting a guest post, please read our guest posting policy and contact us.
A friend of mine recently said, “I’m signing up for sword fighting lessons.”
What he meant was, “I want to be more manly.” Like so many of us, he is an an unhappy, white-collar professional, looking to get back his masculinity and be a man.
But why sword fighting? When was the last time that came in handy?
I can’t condemn him. I, too, contemplated sword fighting, along with learning to play poker, ride a horse, ballroom dance, and a dozen other things men or gentlemen are supposed to do. Why turn to archaic arts in the search for manliness?
Read our posts on What is Manliness, the Gentleman Rules and How To Be A Gentleman.
We labor under the delusion that a real man is a product of 40’s era fiction – a moderate to heavy drinker who talks with his fists. How do we reconcile those preconceived ideals with our (thankfully) safe and secure lives? Buy a motorcycle? Run with the bulls? Please.
It’s time to distill from myth what it takes to be a real man.
Find the Indicators
Until the middle of the last century, college students learned Latin. Students spent hours laboring over Cicero to impress each other with a dead language. Arguably, that time could have been spent learning something more practical, like finance. But if someone speaks Latin to you today, admit it, you’re impressed. You think Ivy League. Why would a useless skill impress us? Because it’s a recognized indicator.
After the Dark Ages, the only people who read or write belonged to the Church. Their lingua franca? Latin. Later, while everyone else worked the farm, only rich kids could afford to waste their time learning Latin. From then on, Latin implied education and, in turn, wealth. Latin became an indicator, even when it had no other practical use.
Manhood has many such outdated indicators. In the example above, you might run out and learn Latin to appear educated and wealthy, when what you really want is to be educated and wealthy. Latin won’t help you with that. So before you waste your time on similar pursuits, lets focus on…
How to Be a Man…?
A real man welcomes the occasional fisticuff. He is an expert shot. He excels in engine repair. He has two best friends: his dog and his motorcycle. He’s a loner who never fails to attract women. He does not work in an office but somewhere that requires a strong arm or a quick fist. He’s the Marlboro Man.
Or…. He is educated and landed. He dresses impeccably. He drives a nice car. He is an expert swordsman. He has an excellent wit. He is in a position of power. He’s James Bond.
Never mind that both of these visions are mutually exclusive. A blue collar worker will not drive a nice car. A loner will not hold a position of power. Fistfights land you a rap sheet that makes it hard to get a job. So will carrying a sword or shooting a gun in public. Electric cars barely even have engines anymore.
Time to distill the essence of these indicators into a regimen we can follow in our emasculated lifestyles.
How to Be a Real Man
Here, then, are the real traits behind the myth. These will always have merit, and any man can achieve them.
1. Keep your word. If you say the report will be on his desk by Tuesday, make it 8:00 am. If you say you’ll make it to your daughter’s recital, do. If you say you’ll mow the lawn this weekend, make that your first activity Saturday morning. People respect a man who keeps his word.
2. Be a fighter. Think of Joe on Family Guy. “Bring it on!” You might have a hard time finding an adversary with plans for world domination, but even a broken taillight needs fixing. Tackle each challenge with determination and bravado. Approach conflict diplomatically but directly. Be persistent and never tire. Don’t quit until it’s resolved. You don’t have to be a combative jerk to make things happen. You just have to be the one in front. Don’t know how to fight to the end? Refer to Rule 1.
Want to know How To Win A Bar Fight? Then click here.
3. Build your army. A real man is not a loner. A real man gets things done by engaging, and leading, others. He understands and sympathizes with the human condition, even if he doesn’t condone or excuse it. A little patience and humility goes a long way toward building a coalition, even with sworn enemies. Don’t know how to get people to trust you? Refer to Rule 2.
4. Fix things. Whether it’s the loose doorknob or your credit report, don’t let entropy get the better of you. Real men take on tasks before they become problems. Procrastination is for teenagers. Be proactive and get it done. You might not be able to fix that Prius yourself, but you can man up and take it to the shop rather than hobble down the road for six months. Don’t forget… part of being a man is knowing when you need help to get things done. If you can’t do it yourself or learn how, refer to Rule 3.
5. Know what you want. Get focused. A real man is happy with what he gets because he gets what he wants. Most modern men don’t know what they want. Money, but to buy what? Hot girl, only to wind up with a terrible personality? A career your parents dictated? Where does all this lead? Real men don’t ask if life has meaning. They make meaning. Yes, it’s harder than it sounds. A real man picks a path and walks it, no matter how rocky or steep. He is happy because he is on the path, right now, not wondering or dreaming about it. Having trouble staying on the path? Refer to Rule 4.
6. Be an expert. Sword fighting requires years of study. In the phrase “expert swordsman” it is not the word “sword” that makes the man, but the word “expert”. It doesn’t matter if you are the world’s recognized best balloon animal tier. You are a man when you’ve put the effort and time into being an expert at the thing you’ve chosen. Don’t know what to be an expert in? Refer to Rule 5.
7. The Clothes Make the Man. Fashion is a big part of our manly myth because clothes are another indicator. Just ask yourself, are you trying to look like a man, or be one? Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Understand what clothing indicates about you to society. Once you know what you want, look the part. Follow the same rules with clothing as the rules above. 1. Don’t get sloppy. No matter what your uniform of choice, it must be neat and orderly. 2. It should serve a purpose. You think cowboys wear leather chaps to impress the horses? They may get dirty, but they won’t let function fail. Pick clothes that are climate appropriate, functional, fit and last years. 3. Pay for quality. Don’t shell out for a brand name because it’s cool. Do spend big bucks on good quality. Shoes, especially. Three hundred dollar shoes are worth it if you walk everywhere. 25 dollar shoes are fine if you don’t.
*This image isn’t an endorsement of cancer sticks, but to prove a point.
8. Care. Of all the rules above, this is the most important one. We idolize the bad-boy devil-be-damned characters because it looks so easy. Life doesn’t reward that type outside of fiction. Men didn’t fight duels after a pithy exchange of “meh!” You’re a man when you take life seriously. Your opponent will respect you for taking them seriously as well. You’ll draw admirers like flies. Why? Because only one in ten people in the world give a damn, if that.
Be in the minority.
Be a man.
Ronan Cray lives in New York City when he isn’t holed up in his writer’s shack in rural Pennsylvania. He penned the thriller “Red Sand” which earned him a place in “Top Ten New Horror Authors” by Horror Novel Reviews. Through frequent travels, he survived the frozen Neva, sandstorms in Dubai, the smog of China, and horse meat in Kazakhstan, though he prefers to work on his cabin. His next book, “Dust Eaters”, appears this summer. Follow his adventures at ronancray.blogspot.com.
There’s something else you should know. What Women Want From Men and How To Be A Gentleman.
[Featured image credit Rodrigo Maia / http://dribbble.com/shots/438562-The-hardest-job]
[Ron Swanson image credit NBC Parks and Recreation]
[Marlboro Man belongs to Philip Morris USA, a company that exists to profit from your poor health and death.]