Yes, the 'real man' question.
Know the destination and the needs of the journey to develop an effective discipline.
Do you have a "20 mile march"?
Becoming a man is a lengthy, arduous, challenging adventure. Through the last century, what it means to be a man has evolved. But there are timeless qualities that most would agree constitute desirable masculinity. Here are 8 that I agree with:
A mature man ...
- ...makes promises and keeps them.
- ...is kind.
- ...is passionate.
- ...is fatherly.
- ...is humorous.
- ...is morally upright.
- ...is wise.
How can we arrive at this amazing and lofty destination?
I think the first expedition leader to trek to the South Pole can offer some significant insight.
"I may say that this is the greatest factor—the way in which the expedition is equipped—the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order—luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck."
— from The South Pole, by Roald Amundsen
Amundsen's contemporary and competitor was Robert Falcon Scott. He and his team lost the race to Amundsen's team and unfortunately perished on the return trip. Both teams had different ways to get to the destination but the marked difference was the daily discipline of what leadership guru Jim Collins calls "the 20 mile march". Through this simple but powerful routine, Amundsen's team uneventfully completed the journey. In good and inclement weather, they covered the set distance and used extra time to rest and were able to maintain needed levels of health and strength for themselves and their dogs. In contrast, Scott's team would push further on good days and hunker down on bad ones. Rather than responding to the weather, it appears that a sound internally driven discipline proved to be key.
So, thinking about the journey to authentic manhood...
- What are the difficulties?
- What precautions must we take?
- How do we organize ourselves for victory?
- What must we not neglect?
- What timely dangers must we be aware of before it's too late?
Well, here are some dangers many men encounter in the process of becoming adults:
- Blurred boundaries
- Low self worth
- Low self-awareness
These dangers are primarily caused by fathers who were either absent or emotionally unavailable. The results are anger and emotional voids filled with unhealthy/destructive habits. And the root of this is a lack of equipping to effectively overcome fear and anxiety.
These dangers can result in abuse of the body, depression of mind and soul, dysfunction in relationships, divorce of marriages, and disintegration of families. And worse of course.
What might be our 20 mile march for this South-Pole-trek-like journey? I love John Kim's insights (full article here):
- Respond rather than react.
- Look within first and bravely examine defects, deficits, weaknesses. Practice transparency and vulnerability.
- Purpose to improve / build yourself to contribute meaningfully to your relationships and thus the world.
In a word, INTROSPECTION. No, not navel gazing but rather, COURAGE. Braving the shame and pains of insecurity, inadequacy and failure to become emotionally healthy and developing skill to maturely manage difficult intrapersonal landscape.
Doing this daily with lower and upper limits of introspective effort can move us towards our destination. We need to take action daily to stop/pause to notice inner life challenges (fears/anxieties caused by outdated code, ie. limiting beliefs and rules), bravely lean in to identify hurts, injuries, scars, and the codes that perpetuate them. Once identified, practice repeatedly letting them go, divorcing ourselves from them, even demolishing them to become and achieve what true love requires.
Wisdom is understanding and acting to overcome the unseen, hidden, insidious forces and dynamics that steal our true identity, our authentic masculinity.
It's never too early or late to get on the path of deep, meaningful growth and development. Is your organizing principle prioritizing your maturation? If not, fear and anxiety are the likely drivers of what you think and do. This is most destructive in our homes. It also fosters havoc and degeneration in companies and nonprofits.
Let's chat to get clear and move forward with what matters most in being mature men.