The most important thing you can do is take action. Thinking, planning, and learning mean nothing if nothing is done.
It’s difficult to ‘think’ about what it means to be a man in this day and age. Cultural and social definitions of masculinity can contradict each other and lead to imbalance. Taking action to redefine your masculinity is one way to cope.
I grew up in a society that embraced the masculine culture of smoking, drinking, and womanizing while having Christianity shoved down my throat. The apparent contradictions I saw made the world a confusing place. I was left to independently discover what was important. At thirty-six years of age, I am still testing the waters for what works and what doesn’t. Sometimes, the waters are calm and I can gets things done. At other times, the waters are rough and I have to figure out how to take action.
Early on I looked to mythology for answers on what makes a man. With thousands of cultures to look to, there were plenty to choose from. Picking up a copy of Robert Bly’s Iron John, I found some answers on what it meant to be a man. The book helped me discover the stages of my life that had been skipped, ignored, or that I could still look forward to. In some ways, I stepped by in my life and lived the stages that had been missed in an attempt to capture what had been missing from my life.
- I grew a beard to show my disconnection from society.
- I went on hunting and fishing trips with other men to learn what it meant to be a primitive man.
Over years of trial and error, I searched for what my talent was only to discover I took the most action as a writer above everything else.
After finding my talent, learning was the next step. What did it take to be a writer? Musashi Miyamoto’s Book of Five Rings is a great account for how to become the best at what you do. Learn the basics, learn other styles, master the other styles, create your own style, and in the end forget everything. Needless to say, I’m still in the early stages of this task, a task known to take a lifetime to accomplish. Learning about yourself, and your chosen skill or profession, is something that should never have a finish line in sight. There will be peaks and valleys, but the journey you is the focus. Once a man has figured out what his journey is, there is a time to clean house and find balance. When you know where you are going, you can get things done.
You cannot journey through life alone. The old adage of pulling yourself up by your boot straps is complete garbage and should be looked upon as such. With the journey ahead of you in sight, it is time to figure out what fits and what doesn’t. This includes everything, the people you know, your hobbies, the books you read, the food you eat. You can’t change everything at once, but change needs to happen.
Some of the things you kick to the curb will be immediate and obvious.
- Friends you will no longer spend time with because of their negative attitude, or how your life is no longer compatible to theirs.
- Drinking and other social activities might start to affect what your ability to take action.
Personally, I set aside the weekend for social interaction and do not work for those two days. This takes care of my guilt, and allows me to relax after five days of 12-16 hour work days. For some people, this is the most difficult part of changing your life.
Planning your path is an important way to take action that let’s you know where you are and what you need to do next. This takes the form of the general paths and detailed decisions of your day.
- What projects do you have going?
- What books are you trying to read?
- Where do you want to be in one, or five years?
These are the questions to ask yourself and figure out how to get things done. Events will occur along the way that either move your schedule ahead or far behind. The point is to know where you currently are and where you desire to be. At home, I have dry erase boards. I write down my tasks for the day and gradually erase the task I have accomplished. This gives me a sense of accomplishment and motivates me to continue on. Plus, if my day doesn’t go as planned, I can move the unfinished items to the next day and push ahead on my agenda.
After all of this, the most important thing one can do, is to take action.
Think about doing something, planning and learning mean nothing if nothing is done with it. Sit down and write that book, rebuild that car sitting in the garage, or sign up for those classes at your local university. Part of being a man is getting things done. Sitting back and daydreaming about what you could do with your life is to be left for boys still trying to figure themselves out.
Taking action shows confidence and purpose, an aspect that is admired by many people and gives you a sense of importance and place in society. Sure, I write books and some would say I don’t really contribute anything. I would counter with the words of Stan Lee:
“I used to think that my job wasn’t important and that I didn’t contribute anything. I was embarrassed to tell people what I did. Then I realized that I entertained people and that was important to them. They liked it.”
When somebody tries to down play what you want to do, remember who is better known in our society, them or Stan Lee.
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