We are more desperately in need of this type of thinking than ever before. We need to produce MEN, not men.
We need guys like our fathers, who won World War II by kicking the crap out of the Nazis and the Japs and made the world safe. Guys like George (NMI) Washington, who founded the country, beat the Brits (most proficient army and navy of their times), and generally showed the world how the cow was going to eat the cabbage at this democracy stuff.
Maybe we’ve just forgotten what it means to be a man and need some remedial instruction.
So, here goes.
Want to be a man
The first thing is you have to want to be a man. You can want to be a giraffe, nothing against giraffes. To be a man, you have to want to be a man.
If you don’t, then I recommend becoming a zebra. Zebras have cool stripes and run around Africa having a good time. They are not men.
Study real men
Read the biographies of men who you admire and find out why. Read about guys like George (NMI) Washington — OK, NMI means “no middle initial.”
Read about guys like Alexander Hamilton. Read about Jackie Robinson. Read about the Green Grocer’s Daughter, Baroness Thatcher.
Read about Ghandi. Read about Mao — do not emulate Mao. He was a murderous bastard.
Identify and catalog the characteristics and traits of men you admire.
Study the men around you who you admire. Identify their traits and characteristics.
[Pro tip: Harvey Weinstein is not going to be on that list of folks you admire and want to emulate. You agree?]
Monkey see, monkey do.
Be a gentleman
This is the big one as it guides almost all the others. A gentleman is someone who makes others comfortable in their presence. It is really that simple. In awkward situations, a gentleman is the one who throws the oil on the disturbed water and cools things off.
A gentleman is so many other things, but it starts with making others feel comfortable in their presence.
A gentleman treats all with dignity and respect — Harvey Weinstein is the dark side of this mirror, y’all — especially those whose position in life appears to be inferior. A gentleman is kind, thoughtful, courteous, mannerly, and provides an example of conduct which is instructive for all who view his actions.
It is a high bar, but it is one that you can emulate and seek for a lifetime.
A gentleman will carry on a conversation with the person at a cocktail party who nobody is talking to. He will draw that person out and listen.
A gentleman is the man who will walk across a ballroom and ask a wallflower to dance, get her a cup of punch, chat her up, and thank her for the dance. This happens at weddings all the time.
A gentleman will render assistance to a person who is lost, confused, or injured.
A real man will participate in the game of life, not play at it. A man finds an undertaking and masters it — the law, construction, software engineering, entrepreneurship, truck driving, airplane flying, ditch digging, masonry, carpentry.
A man masters a skill so he can make his way in the world without asking the world for a hand out. Nothing wrong in seeking a hand up, but no hand outs. A man works his butt off, eats what he kills, earns his way in the world, provides for his family, takes care of his dog.
A man knows how to dance, laugh, fix a flat tire (it is perfectly fine to call AAA, but have the card in your wallet), and tie a monkeys fist knot. [OK, the monkeys fist is a little advanced for some, but it is not beyond the pale. The Big Red Car can tie the monkeys fist in his sleep.]
Be fabulous at something
As you identify the total skills you want to develop, there will be one at which you will be terrific, fabulous, unbelievable.
Pick one of those and master it. Master it.
Once you master one, move on to another. Keep this up until the day you die.
Be good to women
Here is a secret. When a man is good to a woman, that woman will be good to the man. Consider that the lesson learned by Adam at the Garden of Eden. It has been true since then. A man earns the consideration of women; he does not extort it.
Listen to women. [I should probably stop right there and call it a day.]
Be kind and thoughtful to all women, but especially to those who are your family, in your circle of friends, and, particularly, those in your arms.
Quick hitters: Listen, look them in the eyes, hold their doors, seat them, offer them your coat when it is cold, compliment them (hair, dresses, scent, lingerie), let them pick the restaurant, take them to church, go to brunch, go to chick flicks, buy them presents, hug them, hold their hands, massage their feet while you watch the NCAA tournament (see what we did there?), let them win more than half of all arguments, make a big deal about their birthdays without mentioning the actual number of years, and never, ever forget an anniversary.
Send them hand written cards and, if the opportunity presents itself, put a card in their pillow case. Think about this one.
[Pro tip: Buy a couple of special gifts and store them for those moments when they will come in handy. Pass this along.]
Be courteous, have good manners
I once had a stewardess (this was before we had flight attendants, a simpler world) tell me after one of those long flights where you get fed a couple of times, “You have the nicest manners.” My mother was very proud.
You will find that good manners and courtesy are sexy. I did.
Your courtesy and manners are how your wrap your personality and present it to the world. It is what they see first before they see you.
Be an adventurer
Take a morning and brainstorm about things you may want to be able to say one day, “I did that.”
It can be tied in with a skill. The Big Red Car is an instrument rated pilot, as an example.
It can be a physical challenge like climbing all the Fourteeners in Colorado.
It can be intellectual like being an Election Judge or writing a book or speaking Mandarin.
It can be geographical like going to Machu Picchu or surfing Rincon in January when the big waves arrive. [Pro tip: Do not try to learn to surf in twenty-five foot waves.]
Stake out and have adventures.
Be a protector
A man protects those who are unable to protect themselves. In the case of family, this is a sacred responsibility.
[Did not a single one of the women abused by Harvey Weinstein have a brother who was an Airborne Ranger, a Green Beret, a Navy SEAL? How is that statistically possible?] Remember this one?
One does not have to be a six-foot-four specimen to be a protector. One may protect others with a well spun 9-1-1 call or a Letter to the Editor.
A man does not say, “Somebody else will take care of those people.”
A man takes action. A man protects those who cannot protect themselves. A man puts skin in the game of life even when it might be his own skin.
Learn to fight
One day may come when it is necessary to fight for your own survival or to fight to protect the safety of others.
Go learn to protect yourself against assault. Take a krav maga course. If you cannot get into Ranger School — fabulous hand-to-hand combat instruction — then find a way to be able to say, “I can protect myself in a pinch.”
Get a CHL/LTC — concealed handgun license, license to carry.
Master using a handgun and be prepared to use it, but only when warranted.
Live a life of values
As you begin to become a man, you will see an emerging set of values which drive all things manly. They are real. The question is — are they yours?
Four times a year, make an appointment with yourself and do some brainstorming. Ask yourself, “What are the values of my life? What are the traits, the characteristics, the actions which I desire to be identified with, to live?”
When there is a gap between those two things — the values you want and the values you live — take action to close that gap.
The only values that count are the ones you live. All the rest is just fiction. Know your values. Live your values.
Test yourself. Test yourself against the hardest things you can imagine at an instant in time. The Big Red Car went to a military school, was a paratrooper, a Ranger. The big secret? The Big Red Car didn’t know if he was good enough to pass the course.
He tested himself and found out something very important — Hell, I’ve got this. Nobody was more surprised than the Big Red Car.
In seeking your skills, do some hard things. Learn to ski, snowboard, surf, swim, body surf, fly an airplane, raise tomatoes (OK, raising tomatoes may be on the edge), and ride a horse.
Take the wheel here, dear reader, map your own path to living hard.
In the course of living hard, drink some tequila. Get it out of your system.
Steer clear of drugs. Steer clear of excessive drinking. Stay hydrated.
Real men know the world in which they live. They are voracious readers who are informed as to the issues of the day and the history of their country. They will rent the experiences of others to inform their own actions.
When a problem confronts them, men will use their knowledge, their scholarship, their reading to confront it and fashion a solution.
In the end, the most important thing is to recognize you are a unique man. You are unlike any other man who has ever lived. You are real and this is real. Life is a graded exercise.
You will make choices that will color your life forever, you will confront your fears, you will fail at things, and you will triumph — but you will still be you. You will validate Rudyard Kipling’s advice when confronting both triumph and disaster. You will learn from both, but treat those two impostors both the same, because you are a man.
You will choose the path less traveled and leave footprints along the way for others to follow. When Frank Sinatra sings, “I did it my way,” you will say, “Me too, Frank.”
Now, get the Hell out there and man up. Every day, in some small way, become the man your Labrador thinks you are. There is no higher opinion of a man than that of his dog. Do not make that dog a liar.