America has been called “Lard Ass Nation” because of our ever-increasing sedentary lifestyle. The average man no longer farms, works construction, joins the military or participates in other active manly pursuits. Most of our jobs now are seated. Fewer of us play sports. Most young men spend their free time gaming or viewing digital media. Yet, men are biologically-wired to be active. and active we must be!
Better yet, be active with a purpose. A dog chasing his tail is active, but he is not getting anywhere. Choose a meaningful activity, be it something short-term or long, and dive into it. Discover – Pursue – Conquer, then move on to the next thing. Make a difference with your life rather than sitting on the couch consuming media, while slowly killing your brain and atrophying your muscles.
All men die, some men never live. My paraphrase of the Braveheart tagline says it all. You do not need to merely exist; you need to conquer the world. You need to scale the mountains, brave the deserts, and dive the oceans. Not every man will have the means to literally do all these things but you can put them into practice metaphorically.
Picture yourself on your death bed as you ponder back over your life. Will you crack a smile and feel as though you really lived and followed after your dreams. Or, will you die in utter disappointment having failed to spend your sojourn time wisely? For instance, a young man today can, on average, get the equivalent of two bachelor degrees in the time they spend on gaming. What will all the wasted time be worth in the final hours. Sure everyone will have some regrets, we are not perfect. But you can choose today, at whatever age, to truly be alive.
Competition is now considered evil. Boys are hard-wired to be competitive but modernity is trying hard to breed it out of them. In my day, we had to put in a lot of sweat if we wanted to play first-string baseball, football, basketball, or whatever. Not everyone got to play. You had to be better than the next kid. Now, everyone plays and everyone gets a trophy. To hell with this nonsense.
Men need to continue being competitive. You need to put that sweat in, master your skills, and develop courage to contend as real men. Young man, you need to go after that girl. It doesn’t matter that 10 other boys are trying their best. A true competitor does not give up. You need to go after that job opening with everything you’ve got. It doesn’t matter there are 25 applicants. A true competitor has an advantage right out of the gate. If you are self-employed, you must lasso those customers or else your competition will. Life is full of rivalry so learn the importance of possessing a competitive spirit.
In survey after survey, women say the number one thing they look for in a man is confidence. Indeed, it is one of the premier signs of real manhood. A man must be confident in himself, and his beliefs. This confidence is usually hard-won. It is the reward of being courageous and persevering through many “dangers, toils and snares.” It is the hand-maiden of the next principle, courage. You must develop the courage to tackle the difficult things in life and you will emerge a more confident man. Confidence is often confused with arrogance, but they couldn’t be more antithetical. Arrogance actually stems from insecurity, it is compensation for some area of weakness...a faux confidence. Arrogance has something to prove, while confidence does not. Men, it is of the utmost importance for you to develop this spirit of well-being.
Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather overcoming fear. It can rightfully be said that a man who has no fear, has no true courage. It is normal to be fearful. When fear takes hold of you, you must challenge yourself to overcome it. This is the only way to learn true courage and you must do this to wear the badge of manhood. Courage is required in most every pursuit in life. Read the lives of courageous men and tap into it. Dream of courageous exploits. The next time you are faced with fear, do not back down. If you falter for a brief moment, feel the shame of cowardice, and stir up the manhood in you to overcome it.
Men are losing their creative minds. It 's been labeled the "Creativity Crisis" and there are numerous scientific studies devoted to it. Many blame the current system of education, while others point to lifestyle problems. One thing for sure, Americans are consumers more than producers. For instance, how many of us gather around, play guitar and sing songs these days? It is easier telling Siri to play Led Zep’s Ramble On as you bluetooth it to your speakers. How many of us sit down and write a novel, or a blog, or a list of be-attitudes? We choose rather to consume hour after hour of daily digital media. Instead of firing up our creativity, we put the brain in passive mode.
Perhaps a bigger problem is we are losing our ability for linear thought. In an age of distracting technology, brain-imaging studies have shown we are actually re-wiring our brains. If you spend hour after hour in digital addiction you truly are, slowly but surely, losing your ability for creative and critical thinking.
Robert E. Lee wrote, “Duty...is the sublimest word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more, you should never wish to do less.” Some have questioned the authenticity of the quote but I don’t care. It sounds like something Lee would have written and it is sage advice. Noah Webster in his 1828 dictionary defined duty as “that which a person owes to another; that which a person is bound, by any natural, moral, or legal obligation, to pay, do or perform.” Let that sink in for just a moment. Duty is an obligation, just like a debt. As a real man you must seek to know your duty and do your duty at all times under all circumstances.
The backhoe has replaced the shovel, the nail gun has replaced the hammer, and the forklift has replaced the back. God gave men the muscular body, not women. Men are designed to toil in labor and live by the sweat of their brow. The ease of modern labor-saving (read labor-evicting) devices has made it easy on us. American men are becoming fat and lazy. This leads to numerous health problems but that’s not all. It also leads to testosterone problems. Today’s young men have 26% lower T-counts than their dad had at their age, and it’s constantly getting worse. Being sedentary and overweight robs men of testosterone in two ways: first, fat cells are estrogenic and second, resistance exercise boosts T levels. Men, you do not necessarily have to join a gym to be fit, but you do have to get off your bum and exercise...or at least, be active.
Be Free of Debt
Debt is a form of slavery. It allows you to mortgage the future to have things now. Debt is slavery because it gives another man power over you. As Paul wrote to the Romans (13:8), “Owe no man any thing, but to love one another…” The wise man put it this way in Proverbs 22:7, “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant [slave] to the lender.” Men are not only enslaved to the leviathan state, they are also enslaved to the bank and Master Card. Just because you do not literally wear shackles and chains does not mean they are absent. If you wish to totally be free, you must begin to diligently work to pay off your debts.
Be Free of Tyranny
In Lord of The Rings, Aragorn asked Eowyn, “What do your fear my lady.” Her reply puts to shame that of most modern men, “A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.” Roger Waters wrote in the song Wish You Were Here, “Would you trade a walk-on part in the war for the lead role in a cage?” I fear most men would. You can still be in a cage without physically being in jail or prison. It happens when tyrants seek to control your basic Magna Carta freedoms. When they want to silence your freedom of speech, limit your freedom of movement, or invade your freedom of association, they are in essence putting bars around you. As a real man you must always stand up for your rights and never apologize for having a dissenting opinion. Political-correctness has caponized many a man.
No man can turn his face into Brad Pitt, but who wants to do that anyway. You have to work with what you’ve got. No matter what your looks, you can learn to embrace it and be confident. As we have already mentioned, women go for confidence over looks anyway. To be handsome merely means to take care of your grooming and appearance. Some websites insist men must return to suits and ties because this is somehow the essence of manliness. While there is nothing wrong with being as debonair as James Bond, the truth is you just need to give attention to personal hygiene and looking good in whatever style you choose. Lots of men follow fashion believing it can somehow make them kewl. This makes them sheep, not men. Be yourself and be handsome...you confident man you!
Be A Hero To Your Sons
One of the most disturbing statistics I’ve read this year is that the average time fathers spend talking with their sons is a measly 30 minutes a week. How are these dads ever going to teach manhood to their sons, or be a manly role-model without the one on one that is so desperately needed? As a father, you are under a microscope. Your children observe all of your speech and actions. They are as impressionable as clay. Will you take the time to mold them into fine figures of manhood, or will you leave them to this world to be their mentor? Man Up dad! Teach your sons sports, go camping, watch John Wayne movies together, take a martial arts class together, join a gym together, try hiking, grab a pole and go fishing, or grab a rifle and go hunting. First, teach your son how to respect and properly shoot guns. Fire up the grill and burn a steak or ribs together. Change the spark plugs, plant some trees, re-shingle the roof, and get mom's ring out of the sink trap together. The list is endless. Spend quality time with your sons, speak truth when they can hear it, stand up to injustice when they can see it, and you will be a bonifide hero to them. What more can a man ask for?
Being industrious is being active on steroids. I have already mentioned the call to be active, but this is the maturing of it. Being industrious is working energetically and devotedly to whatever you put your hands to. It is not just working, but working hard. It is being diligent. My grandfather used to tell me, “John Thomas, whatever is worth doing is worth doing right.” It has been my lifelong battlecry. You should not settle for shortcuts, but do things right. You see, being industrious doesn’t necessarily mean doing it the fastest. But, by being devoted and applying energy to things things right the first time, you will probably never have to re-do things., hence faster. Winston Churchill remarked, “It is not enough that we do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.” Think on it.
Ray Bradbury began his novel, Fahrenheit 451 with these words, “If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” While I am not suggesting anarchy, or being a rebel for the sake of rebellion, we do need a paradigm shift. Men are losing their ability to think outside-the-box. As with creativity, there are problems associated with our modern lifestyles and declining ability for linear thought.
Neither am I calling everyone to the laboratory to be a Tesla or Edison. There are numerous ways to be inventive. For example, when I was 21 working in the corporate world I happened to be processing an “Education Expense Reimbursement.” I thought it was ridiculous to have four forms to fill out when much of the information (name, address, etc.) was repeated on each form. When I asked why the need for all the repetition, I was told “It has always been done this way.” I sat down and designed a new form that collected all the information and approval signatures on one single page. I submitted it to the procedures committee and they were dumbfounded. They put it in effect and it saved the world’s largest construction company thousands of dollars over time. I didn't invent the light bulb or a better mousetrap, but I did get a promotion. I have always believed there is a better way to do everything, you just have to put your mind to it.
Skynyrd’s song Free Bird begins with the words, “If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me.” Will your life be looked back on with honor, respect, and possibly a bit of awe? Is this asking too much here? Is this sort of thing out-of-reach? Yes, for most men it is. But I challenge you to be a legend.
I was once at a conference where a speaker had made comments about living an honorable life. He said if you wanted to honor your ancestors by joining the Sons of Confederate Veterans, you had to go to the courthouse and look them up and show the lineage. If they fought in the war you are eligible for membership. He stated that he hoped his great-grandchildren would go to the courthouse and look him up. This disturbed me. When I got up to speak, I mentioned the need to be such a legendary man that your great-grandchildren knew your name and your tales without need of investigating any lineage. Your noble deeds will be passed on generation to generation. The prior speaker let me know how upset he was at my comments. I did not apologize.
Be A Lover
Choose women not porn. Males of all ages are becoming increasingly addicted to porn, and it is adversely affecting relationships with women. It is so bad that a growing number of men choose not to date or be involved with women at all. They find it easier than dealing with the cost of dating, the fear of rejection, and the anxiety of relationships. We now have a condition affecting young men called PIED, or porn-induced erectile dysfunction. By jerking off to pornography, these fellas can no longer get an erection with a real woman. Talk about losing manhood!
And sorry bro, but if you are on Viagra...shame on you. Your sex organs, indeed your entire body, is designed to function well into old age. If your plumbing is clogged, or your T levels are rock-bottom, you have not eaten right and taken care of your body. Man Up, admit it, and do something about it. Virility is synonymous with masculinity. If you can’t make love to your woman you need serious attention to your entire state of being.
Loyalty is the backbone of our relationships. Whether it be fraternal, paternal or husband-wife. It embraces truth, commitment, allegiance and fidelity. When you are loyal you earn the trust of others. Loyalty is the thing we desire most from others, but how hard do we work to give it? When I owned a computer store, the office supply man came in one day and complained that Sam’s Club was putting him out of business. He couldn’t understand why people were not loyal to him. Oddly, a few days later as I was purchasing some bulk foods in Sam’s Club I ran into my buddy. He had a computer is his basket. The whole time we chatted he did not appear to realize the irony.
Be Master of Your Time
As the pendulum swings in every aspects of life, we find most people off on this or that tangent. Few maintain balance. When it comes to time, you have those, on the one hand, who have no regard for it. They waste away hour after hour with little or no regard for their frivolity. Then you have those who put it in a vise to wrench every nanosecond of use they can out of it. We are told time is money. It is not. As Andrew Nelson Lytle says, “Time is property.” The principles of Stephen Covey may work for the corporate executive, but that dawg don’t hunt in Mississippi. Yes, it is important to not waste time and to develop good habits, but spontaneity is one of the great spices of life. I may be trying to keep to my schedule but if I am driving along and see a beautiful rainbow with a gorgeous tree in the foreground, I will stop my truck and take advantage of the photo op. It’s the whole “take time to smell the roses” thing. You don’t want idleness to be your master, but neither your scheduling app.
This may well be the most difficult thing on this list for men. We have to work hard to attain to this level of Jedi mastery. Men are not wired for patience but it can be improved. I gained a lot of patience as I raised and homeschooled my children as a single dad. I made great progress. However, I find myself having lost most of it and trying to gain it back. This is a tough one.
To be persevering is to not be a quitter. As men we seem to inherently follow the Pareto Principle. We achieve 80% of the progress on a project in 20% of the time, then we get bored and are ready to start the next project. After all, the final 20% of the job will take 80% of the time. Real men must learn to finish what they start – to continue in a course of action in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement. Churchill said, “If you are going through hell, keep going.”
Be a Protector
The two main historical roles of manhood are provider and protector. You are the man. You are designed as the strong one. You must know how to defend yourself and your family. If you feel you lack physically then get fit, take some martial arts classes, learn to shoot firearms, or toss tomahawks...but learn to be a protector of those you hold dear. Many wives and children are killed each year because of weak and timid men.
Be A Provider
The second of those two main historical male roles is that of provider. We have forgotten this as more and more women have entered the workforce. In many households, the woman is now the main provider. Women are graduating college at much higher rates than men. The under 35 corporate woman is now making more money than their male counterparts. The unemployment rate is higher among men than women. Our world is upside down and getting worse each year. You must man up and take charge of your destiny to be the provider for your family. You need to learn, develop skills, and apply industry to bring home the bacon. But you must also live a lifestyle that isn’t so costly and extravagant as to require your wife to be a breadwinner.
This is meant in the old sense of the word. When I was young my grandfather used to tell me to “be quiet.” I thought it was odd because I would not even be talking, though I somehow knew he meant to be still. Men must learn to be still, to calm his nerves in stressful situations.
Allow me to tell a quick story to illustrate why this is so important. Once, while sailing offshore in strong winds, a turnbuckle gave way and my sailboat mast fell into the sea. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I was miles offshore but in fairly shallow water. The top of the mast, still attached to the boat by the stays (wire), was planted firmly in the bottom. With every wave my hull threatened to crash down on the bottom of the mast which was now exposed out of the water. All it would have taken is one hit to put a hole in the hull and sink the boat. I had a friend with me who was in a severe state of panic. As I was positioned on the side of the boat kicking away the mast with every wave, I remained calm as I developed a plan. I asked my buddy to get my wire cutters and begin cutting all the wires save the forestay (if I cut everything else loose, this would save the hull and serve as a temporary anchor). He was so fearful we were going to sink and drown he could hardly move. At that moment his panic was more dangerous than the exposed mast. Through much difficulty I managed to calm him enough to cut the wires as I fended off the danger. I am still here to write this because I learned to “quiet” my mind and not let fear overtake me.
Your mind will atrophy with disuse. Most men I talk with believe they received enough learning in school and they do not need see the need to learn anything else. If you maintain this attitude your mind will not stay sharp. You must constantly challenge your mind. You must read and think deeply. Consider learning a new language, or a musical instrument. Practice neurobics. Do something to keep your mind engaged. A real man must keep his mind sharp in this bemuddled world.
Be Sober & Self-Controlled
Being sober is not a call for total abstinence of your favorite vice. We are using the original sense of the word. It is being master of own self. It can involve alcohol, but it is much more than that. It is developing the ability to moderate your vices and have control of your mind at all times. As General Lee put it, “I cannot trust a man to control others who cannot control himself.” You must develop self-discipline because oftentimes you will be confronted with making choices that require strong willpower. The spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak. No man can serve two masters so chose this day whom you will serve.
Be Truthful & Trustworthy
In the movie “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” the Indian character Ten Bears speaks about words of iron. He says “No signed paper can hold the iron, it must come from men.” He is talking about the power of speaking truth and keeping your word. The Bible tells us to keep our word to own hurt (Psalm 15:4). A handshake should be a contract among real men. Keeping your word, especially when its inconvenient, establishes trust. And to be trusted opens numerous doors closed to the remainder of the world. You should think twice before speaking once, but once you speak make them words of iron. To have a good name is perhaps the greatest intangible possession.
Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Americans today are quite myopic. The focus of attention is on the here and now. It is the age of instant gratification. Amazon lures the masses with 2-day prime shipping so we can get our toys faster. And FedEx stands ready to get it to us the next day. We are so caught up in today and this week, that we give little thought to next month or next year...much less the next decade or two. Men need to give thought to the long-term consequences of their decisions, the choices they make in real time that have an effect on their future, the future of their family, and in some cases, the future of mankind.
Be a Graduate
The Man Up Boot Camp is designed around the 5 main parts: Diet, Fitness, Manhood, Brain Health, and Digital Addiction. However, throughout the program, we speak of the necessity of character. Real men have a code. They believe in virtue. Honesty and integrity are not optional. Many of the principles listed on this page will be discussed in more detail in our camp sessions. Sign up and be a part of the fraternal brotherhood.