(Caution: frank talk ahead, with naughty words. Proceed only if you can handle it.)
What makes you a man?
I mean besides your penis.
I get kind of tired of seeing “expert” after “expert” (anyone can be an expert these days) try and lecture us on becoming a “modern” or “new” man. The fact is, the essence of manhood hasn’t changed, isn’t changing and will not change anytime soon, no matter how many pop psychologists want it to.
Don’t misinterpret that as suggesting that a man can’t be a teacher or a nurse, can’t raise a child, or can’t express feelings. These things are neither manly nor un-manly, and anyone who tells you a man has to somehow change to do them is full of shit.
Then there’s the other side: the (usually) guys whose only advice is to “man up.” If you were to break your leg, those same guys would tell you to “walk it off, you pansy.” It’s shotgun advice that in and of itself means nothing. Usually it’s code for doing things the laziest way possible. Well, you’re not an ape or a lion, you make choices based on some amount of self-aware, conscious thought. We’re socialized creatures who have evolved out of using genetic instinct to solve problems and decide courses of action. Thinking is not only allowed, it’s necessary.
So just what does it mean to be a man in the modern world? Get comfy…
You Are Your Habits
Life is a series of small habits that add up to who we are. What we do and how we do it. The way we eat. The way we shake hands. The way we behave when we meet a beautiful woman. How we choose to spend our free time. The way we act in public, and the way we act when no one’s watching.
All of these habits, put together, are you. They’re me. They make us leaders or lovers or loners.
Habits make the man.
The problem with habits is that right or wrong, we prefer the ones we already have, because they’re far, far more comfortable to us than the ones we don’t have. Even the bad habits. In fact, bad habits are often harder to change because we developed them to give us comfort. We eat bad food because the way it tastes is comfortable to us. We watch porn because it makes us feel like we have a sex life. We sit and play video games because then we don’t have to think about what’s troubling us.
Bad habits create inertia, or worse, they move us backward, make us less likely to build relationships, make us unhealthy, or harm our careers. Small habits, like deflecting criticism or grabbing a donut before work or staring just a second too long when a cute woman enters the room, they all add up.
Often, when you think you’re standing still, you’re actually moving backwards. Repeating habits and behaviors that haven’t produced positive results, but expecting things to be different this time—or worse, just shrugging and saying to yourself, “what the hell”—keeps you down more than any outside force you can imagine.
The reality is that to make your life better you must move forward.
The secret is that you don’t have to do it big or do it quickly.
Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits, wrote about something he calls the “half-step.” It’s the act of pausing, then acting by doing something very, very small, but very, very positive. Your house is a pig sty—do a load of laundry. Your job feels like a dead end—make a list of jobs you really want to do. You’re overweight—take a walk. Then make sure you congratulate yourself on that half-step.
All you need now is a direction to take that half-step in.
Like Steve McQueen
Why am I going on about this?
Well, it’s been a long time since I thought about what I’m doing here at Tao of Bachelorhood. I started this site with the mission to build a better bachelor. I also wanted to avoid the crap other men’s sites do: what sells rather than what helps you. “Tao” roughly means “The Way,” and this site is about helping you find your way.
Shiny cars or expensive watches don’t make the man. Put Steve McQueen in a Ferrari and he’s a badass who knows how to handle the car so well he drove it in professional races. The car didn’t define him, he defined himself. But put a stock advisor in a Ferrari that he only drives around town, and it’s clear he owns the car to define himself.
Steve McQueen wasn’t perfect by any means, but he knew a positive habit from a bad one. Studio executives used to be confused when he’d demand hundreds of pairs of jeans or razors in his contracts. They later discovered that he asked for he items to donate to the reform school he attended as a youth. He learned how to fly a plane and ride a dirt bike. Celebrity didn’t mean holing up in his house. He found his path and he made the most of it.
You need to find the path that will define your life as you want it to be. Not the way it’s shaped by others, not the way it looks in TV commercials. The path that, like Steve McQueen, will make you a singular man.
That’s why I’m here. To share small habits. Good habits. Habits you can put together in a way that shapes your life. Everything from meditation to clothing style to what to say to a woman to how to make a kick-ass cup of joe (that last one coming soon). Because meditating can better focus your mind, your clothes can reflect your personality, talking to women can help you meet that woman you “just click with,” and a great cup of joe can make you feel more ready to take on your day.
I’m not here to pass judgement on who’s a “toolbag” or which TV actress is hotter. It’s not my thing, and I gladly leave that to the guys who really want to do it. There’s plenty of them. My business is habits.
Help Me to Help You
I have a long list of habits to help you with. Actually, I have a long list of habits to help myself with, and share with you as well. I’m also going to enlist others who want to share theirs. (Plug here for the Guest Posting page.)
One of the personal habits I’m working on is asking for help. What I need is for you to let me know what you need help with. What do you seek? What are the bad habits you want to change? What are the good habits you want to learn?
I want to help make you a better man.
Scratch that—I want to help make you the best man.
Believe it or not, this is only Part 1. Next time we’ll discuss the Elements of Manhood: the combinations of habits that define you.