My friend over at Boring Married Guy recently wrote about ”The Idiot’s Guide to Enjoying Single Life and it got me thinking: now that I’m in my mid 30’s, what wisom would I pass on to my 21 year old self? So to younger me, here’s some wisdom for a man.
Find Your Alpha
As a recovering Nice Guy, I tell my young self: this will make or break life for you as a man in career, home, fun, relationships, women and especially in your self-respect. Identity is key - be assertive and learn to say “This is what I think, this is who I am”. Check yourself frequently to make sure you are not a tyrant, however people are either going to like you for who you are or they are not. You’ve got to accept that as a fact of life and not care whether people and especially women like you. It’s not worth it putting on an act to please people, what you crave is respect and people will respect you more for having, pursuing and defending your mission and ethos.
Remember that the heart of the good king is to better his kingdom and its inhabitants - not to please them, but what’s good for them, know that he will benefit from a healthy kingdom.
Do Dumb Things You Can Recover From and Find Your Adventure
Males of most species are continually testing themselves and us humans are no different. Push yourself, do dangerous things, drive too fast occasionally and break the rules from time to time. learn your limits of energy, of strength; stretch and grow them so that you know yourself and what you can do. Keep growing what you can do in that and keep testing it. More importantly, have fun. Part of the joy of being a man is to do things that aren’t “safe”, to go where others fear to tread, to master your fear and to learn to live with fear as a friend and guide. Many people treat fear and pain as things to be avoided, however pain is an indicator that something physical or emotional is trending out of a limit or tolerance and fear should simply be the catalyst to help us either challenge a situation and make it known or to rectify/avoid where we are for our and others well-being. Adventuring is implicitly unsafe and unknown - or it would not be an adventure. Remember that pain and hurt from an adventure are a part of the risk of life and reminds us - life is neither guaranteed nor safe nor predictable.
Young self, do not under any circumstance other than with your wife, adventure or do dumb things with sex. Sex is not to be feared or something to dabble in and must be treated as an extremely powerful force that in the right context gives life, health and happiness, and in the wrong context takes all of those things away along with your integrity and self-respect.
Develop Your Mission and Ethos
Speaking of integrity and self-respect, develop your mission and ethos: Your mission is your over-arching goal, that thing that gets you out of bed in the morning and helps you push through when it gets tough and you want to quit; Your ethos is your character, your guiding belief and ideas - how you do business.
When it comes to mission, some guys know what they want to be from the time they were a twinkle in their fathers eye and some guys in their 50s are just discovering themselves; the time is now to figure out what motivates you, what you love to do, what you don’t love to do and to decide what you are going to do. Choice and decision is key here, don’t be afraid to make mistakes, you’re going to. Just keep moving forward and live a full and passionate life. Dr. Corey Allan of Simple Marriage says it like this:
Growing up is being able to handle life on life’s terms and not be dominated by any of it, but choose what we want.
Since your ethos is how you do business, your core principles and character you need to develop it: build a good work ethic, set good boundaries, defend your integrity against yourself and others; while your reputation may not be as tight-knit as it once was in smaller communities, your integrity or lack thereof will quickly make itself known - develop it to protect you and your self-respect.
In that same vein, one of my close friends recently talked with me about developing the 30% rule - when it comes to time, money and energy, keep a 30% margin to rely on. Don’t spend all of your time or all of your energy in any one area, even if it’s good or you love it. There are times when you need to spend your margin - that’s what it’s there for, however should it be come a long-term strategy, it’s time to re-evaluate why you need to do so.
Let’s synthesize these concepts into more stark language: Young self, grow a pair of balls, ask women out and expect to hear yes but don’t care much whether they say yes or no; climb the hill, catch the wave; spend less time working - it doesn’t make you happy. Invest in the right places in church; streamline your time and energies. Find the meat and marrow of life and savor it - don’t eat to shovel stuff into your face; stop, taste, enjoy, marinate in whatever experience you are in, good or bad and be fully present in wherever you are. Remember that life is about people and relationships; those can’t be stolen and won’t rust away. Develop great man friends, great guy friends and great younger man friends and help them become great men.
Develop a mission bigger than yourself and pursue it, don’t be swayed by those who say it’s not possible or not worth it - only you can define if it’s worth it to you. Make your choices, be a man and live with them. Demand honesty from yourself, never settle for good enough.
Develop good character and boundaries - the world, your friends, your family and your woman will respect you for it.
Most importantly, you will respect yourself.