How To Be A Man – 8 Traits Of Real Men

how to be a man

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Manhood has many such outdated indicators.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.

how to be a man

He’s not manly because he has expensive clothes or a million friends. He’s manly because he knows what he wants.

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.

how to be a man

Chaps and cigarettes don’t make manly. But because his clothes indicate he’s a confident expert, men want to be him.

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

There’s something else you should know. What Women Want From Men and How To Be A Gentleman.

[Featured image credit Rodrigo Maia /]
[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.]


  1. Good post! Sadly, I think, society has lost what a real man should look like for a variety of reasons. While I agree with all of your points, I think #1 is vital. I real man keeps his word and that speaks volumes.

    • It’s true–the meaning of manhood really has been obscured. Unfortunately, as men have lost their identify we seem to be getting emasculated more and more.

  2. At, we nurture the same ideals in becoming the best man you can be!
    Check us out!

  3. I can attest that a knowledge of Latin won’t make you successful or wealthy. Looking back, studying Spanish in high school would have helped my career a lot more.

    • Ha did you study latin?? That’s pretty cool and regal. Maybe not super helpful unless you’re translating ancient texts… I have no doubt your IQ is above average–with so many latin roots in English, you must have a bigger vocabulary. Bigger vocab means you understand more ideas, and therefore higher IQ.

      Now put that on your next resume update.

  4. I was wondering if this was going to be one of those, you must chew tobacco and wrestle an alligator while simultaneously defending the honor of your girlfriend. I’m glad to see that the world is coming to realize that a “real man” doesn’t necessarily fit into only one specific category.

  5. Great post. True words that should ring loud.

  6. Wow, this was really refreshing to read. Sword fighting lessons? I didn’t even know such a thing was offered. I almost want to react with the meme, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” However, then someone will argue the same for the time I spend writing for history journals, gardening, reading or any of my other hobbies and passions.

    For me, being a real man is about integrity. All of the other traits can be in there but, we cannot have a group of leaders, or a group of know-it-alls, or a group of mechanics, cooks and whatever else men are supposed to have as skills. As a man, a lot of people in my life look to me as a person of integrity. They may need my assistance, they may want me to lead, they may need someone to listen, need a suggestion, etc.

    Integrity, for me assumes an ability and effort for all of the traits of a real man. One may not be perfect for them or even understand them but, they are honest and at least working on it.

    • You make a great point when you say we can’t have too many leaders, know-it-alls, and “cooks in the kitchen.” Men are often told they’re built to be leaders, but men also need to know how to be followers and learners. I think that takes integrity.

  7. These traits are a given and the foundation behind being a man. Traits 1, 5, 6,7 are expressed great in the post.

  8. Nice, very nice… Bring it on, I love it!!

  9. So. I’m about 4 years late to the party but the party is still going! A real man doesn’t fit a particular mold and isn’t all about control. I think the ability to relinquish control is the mark of a real man, along with the traits you spoke of. He’s confident and planted firmly enough to be perfectly comfortable in his manliness. Great post!

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