Learn how to be a man in the 21st century.
Man is the only animal that doesn’t mature automatically, and sadly, the world is full of males stuck in childhood no matter how old they might be.
Growing up requires a conscious and deliberate effort. Becoming the man you want to be necessitates self-mastery in several key areas of your life, namely your mind, body, relationships, and learning.
The mastery of these four areas culminate in the mastery of your core self, the connection to which will elevate you to the echelon of the mature man.
This definitive guide on how to be a man is geared towards anyone determined to master the art of manliness.
Becoming A Man: Then And Now
The question of how to be a man is one that has been asked since time immemorial, from generation to generation, and by every culture and creed.
You didn’t choose to be born a male, but becoming a man is certainly a choice you make.
In primitive times, even as early as the 19th century, the decision was essentially made for you, and the path to manliness was clear cut.
You only had one live-or-die imperative and that was to ensure the survival of your tribe or clan by protecting it, providing for it, and procreating.
Young boys didn’t get a say as to whether or not they took part in their community’s violent and strenuous rites of passage, and all men were expected to hunt and die at a beck and call.
Sure, it was hypothetically possible for man to opt-out of his communal obligations, but the consequences were too dire to even contemplate pursuing such a life.
Not only did he have to contend with the great shame that came with not fulfilling his life obligation, but he risked being ostracized — ejected into a harsh environment in which no man could survive alone.
A man’s identity was so tied up with his community that losing his status was a crippling blow to his pride.
Those were difficult but simpler times, indeed. Boy have the times changed!
Technology Is Redefining Manhood
Technology has permanently altered the role of men in society, single-handedly redefining what it means to be a man in the modern era.
Roles, jobs, and social hierarchy used to revolve around the concept of men being the stronger of the sexes, and women being the child bearers, but rapid technological advancement within just a few decades has radically transformed this paradigm.
Technology has also given rise to a societal blackhole that consumes time and ambition. With the omnipresence of digital screens in our lives, today’s man is almost always distracted, wasting his time on useless activities (excessive gaming, social media, porn, etc.) that drain his energy and motivation.
The result? Confusion and mediocrity. No longer having a clear and direct path to manliness, together with the sheer amount of distraction, has created a generation of aimless males who simply don’t know how to be a man.
Fortunately, we haven’t gone too far down the rabbit hole. The path to manhood might be less clear cut than it used to be, but it’s still there. It begins with the mind.
Self-Mastery And The Art Of Manliness
What is self-mastery? Most people take it to mean self-control — that is, a person’s ability to control his impulses in order to steer his future in the direction he wants. But although self-control is a key part of self-mastery, it is by no means the only aspect.
Self-mastery is a path, or better yet, an orientation we choose to uphold for our fulfillment. It’s a commitment to never-ending improvement, and a process of becoming.
It’s based on the understanding that there are parts of us that will always try to hold us back from reaching our full potential, and that our biggest obstacles aren’t other people or our life circumstances — they reside within us!
Self-mastery is a necessary part of becoming a quality man. And a man who is committed to the principle is willing to find ways to transcend his fears and break through his resistance.
As with every type of life transformation, the journey begins with mastering the mind.
Master Your Mind
Like most people, you probably fixate on your outer appearances and neglect your mental and emotional health. What you fail to realize is that the mind is the most important part of your being.
Your mind controls your thoughts, your actions and, inevitably, your life, so the first step in becoming a man is to develop a healthy mindset that is conducive to your self-actualization.
1. Get To Know Yourself
In order to become the man you want to be, you must know the man you currently are.
Figuring out who you are, what you care about, and what you stand for is the most important and challenging part of becoming a mature man. It requires doing deep inner work to unravel the decades of social conditioning that has made you who are.
Once you find out who you are, ask if you are happy with that person. After a lifetime of being told what to think, how to act, and what to say, it might be time set out on a new path and redefine yourself as an individual.
2. Overcome Your Limiting Beliefs
Every man in every culture has been socialized in ways that may be psychologically damaging to his health and overall happiness.
Self-limiting beliefs can certainly prevent you from achieving your goals, so overcoming them is essential to creating a sense of self in manhood.
Did you grow up in an abusive environment of abuse? Physical and emotional abuse often leads to insecurities, feelings of not being good enough at anything or for anyone, and self-sabotage.
Were you taught that being “tough” and manly means suppressing emotion and never exposing vulnerability? Repressed emotions often fester and get worse, putting you at risk of an early death.
Were you thought that a traditional 9 to 5 job is the only way to make a living? What about your preconceived notion that you don’t deserve to be successful or have everything you want?
These are all examples of self-limiting beliefs that need to go, pronto!
Examine the environment in which you were raised, determine any beliefs or customs that are holding you back from reaching your full potential as a man, and take action to overcome them.
3. Own Your Emotions
Emotions are a natural response to living. They are our most present, vital and sometimes painful response to living fully.
Unfortunately, most of us have been conditioned to bury uncomfortable emotions in order to be “be nice and not make a scene” or out of fear that revealing them will make us look weak.
We never learn how to express our emotions in a healthy way. Instead, we suppress them until they fester and manifest in unhealthy ways such as stress.
Contrary to popular belief, negative emotions (shame, fear, anger, etc.) can be powerful catalysts for immense creativity and personal growth. Instead of suppressing these emotions or doing something regretful, the mature man attempts to understand where they come from and what they are truly about.
Highly developed men go a step further and channel their negative emotions into projects that bring value to their relationships and personal life.
4. Fight Your Fear Of The Unknown
Humans have a tendency to fear the unknown and hate what they don’t understand. Studies even show that our bodies actually encourage us to be ignorant and fearful.
It’s time you fought that impulse. The negative feelings that arise from fearing the unknown create mental blocks that influence the way you live and undermine your ability to self-actualize.
That’s because opting for a life of fear leads to decisions that come from a place of fear, decisions that hold you back instead of move you forward .
Becoming a man means growing, learning, and understanding, not cowering behind a computer with a handful of comforting notions.
You will not be able to avoid disruptions to your life and the feeling of fear they induce, so why fret?
Find the cause of your fear and question it. Is it warranted, and is there anything you can do to address it?
Master Your Body
Every man should understand his body at a deep and intimate level, not just for the sake of his health but also for the purpose of presenting himself well to the world and being there for those he loves.
The goal is to look and feel your prime at any age, and this entails looking after your body by exercising and eating well, dressing to your body type, appearing well-kempt.
1. Exercise, Eat Healthy
Being ripped and muscular or having the endurance to run a two-hour marathon are not prerequisites to being a man, but having a healthy body certainly is.
Self-discipline and healthy living are the most elementary steps for preventing any sickness and remaining healthy.
In fact, it is every man’s duty to be healthy, not just for himself and the achievement of his life’s mission, but especially for his children. And not just so he can be there for anyone that might need him, but also so he can be a positive role model.
Stop eating unhealthy food just for their taste, put out that cigarette, throw out the alcohol, and get off your ass.
To be a man means to be healthy and fit. Cardio, strength training, sports, or any other physically-demanding activity, in combination with a healthy diet, should be an integral part of your lifestyle.
2. Practice Preventive Care
Yes, exercise and a healthy diet are essential to preventing a lot of conditions and injuries that lead to illness and death, but they are not the only forms of preventative care.
Getting regular medical checkups are also important to living a healthy life. Sadly, the longstanding stereotype that men don’t go to the doctor is true.
Even with an abundance of health-related information at the tip of our fingers, men still fall behind women in taking care of their health by going for annual exams or seeing a doctor unless a condition becomes unbearable.
In other words, the man box idea that men are supposed to be tough, emotionless and full of machismo is putting millions of men at risk of an early death
Real men understand that their health is the most valuable asset they have, and that without it, they have nothing. They don’t let pride and popular opinions get in the way of keeping their body in optimal condition.
Don’t feel ashamed to see a doctor, a therapist, or any other medical professional. Make regular health checks a life priority.
3. Be Well Groomed
Physical cleanliness is a necessary life skill for any man to have, but being ‘well groomed’ doesn’t mean subscribing to some modernist social trend. After all, the modern “grooming” and “mascaping”industry operate to make money, and nothing else.
For example, you don’t have to shave everyday, especially if you are growing a beard, nor do you have to shave your chest or body hair.
Yes, a man benefits from showering when he is dirty or smelly, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he ‘must’ shower and bathe everyday.
Cutting your hair and fingernails regularly is a good idea, but notice how most men like simple, no-nonsense haircuts.
The superficial image of the “smooth, chiseled man” parroted by modern fashion, advertising and movie industry? A ploy to steal your money.
Be proud of what makes you a man, and the physical attributes that nature gave you. Work with what you have the best that you can, and don’t conform your male identity to the whims of the grooming and manscaping industries.
4. Wear Clothes That Fit You
Mastering your body also includes knowing how to properly dress for your body type. After all, not every man is muscular and stocky like the fashion world depicts or looks good in baggy, loose-fitting clothes.
While it can seem like there’s a lot to know about fashion and style, having the fit of your clothes on point can be all you need to look stylish. These clothes don’t need to be brand name or cost a fortune, but they should fit well.
Every man should at the very least have the following items in his wardrobe:
- A couple of very serviceable legwear, including one pair of casual jeans, khaki, or chinos; a pair of work pants; and a pair of formal pants.
- Some button-down shirts — a couple for casual wear, a couple for work, and a couple for formal occasions.
- Between three and five different kinds of shoes at any given time — a pair of casuals (chukkas, lace-ups, sneakers, etc.), a pair of formal shoes for work and big occasions, maybe even slightly-less-than-formal shoes (oxfords, top-siders, loafers, etc.), athletic footwear for the gym or sports activities, and work boots as necessary.
For a more complete list of items all men should have to look sharp and ready for any occasion, read our 15 Men’s Fashion, Style and Dress Tips for the Clueless Guy.
5. Don’t Use Drugs As A Crutch
As born adventurers, men are more likely than women to be drawn to alcohol, drugs, pornography or any other potential sources of addiction.
We use and abuse almost all types of illicit substances to a much higher degree, and this results in a higher incidence of emergency department visits and overdose deaths.
Men who are comfortable with themselves tend not to use alcohol or drugs to relieve stress and escape from their thoughts and feelings.
Even with bills weighing them down, work and personal deadlines staring them in the face, and relationship struggles eating away at them, they find a way to appreciate the beauty of life without needing to sedate themselves.
Understand that your life can’t improve when you’re abusing alcohol or any other drug (in fact, it makes it worse by slowly destroying your mind and body), and there are more effective ways of dealing with hardship.
Master Your Relationships
Your relationships — that is, the people you surround yourself with — influence more than your behaviors. They determine who you will become and how successful you will be.
Good relationships are instrumental in helping you succeed at anything you do, while unhealthy ones can derail your path by undermining your health, personal happiness, and even life expectancy.
So whether it is connecting with a significant other, raising children, nurturing friendships, or climbing the corporate ladder, a man takes his relationships seriously and does everything he can to ensure they are strong and healthy.
Communication is the most important skill to have in any relationship. Being able to clearly and consistently state your needs to others allows small issues that might otherwise develop into bigger problems to be resolved early on.
Effective communication is not a one-sided affair — it also requires that you actively listen to what others have to say (how they are feeling, what they need, etc.).
Communication provides opportunities to approach other matters that affect the health of the relationship, matters such as conflict resolution, sex and romance, and stress management.
2. Conflict Resolution
No relationship is perfect, and conflicts are bound to happen. In fact, the absence of any conflict whatsoever is usually an indication that someone is holding something back.
A man knows that respect and accountability are cornerstones of conflict resolution, as is effective communication. He accepts that he played a role in any conflict that might arise and communicates it to those involved.
Refrain from using accusatory and hurtful statements, or saying anything you might regret later. Being cruel, spiteful, contemptuous and sarcastic during conflict resolution will only make matters worse.
3. Understand Others
Knowing and understanding the people in your life is one of the most important relationship skills anyone can have, but it goes beyond just remembering the basics like their birthday or favorite color.
Whether they are your wife / girlfriend, children, friends, or work associates, you must know them at a deep and intimate level and communicate this knowledge with your actions — not just your words — so that they feel loved, respected, and appreciated.
A man understands that it’s one thing to be told you are loved and appreciated, and it’s another thing to actually “feel” loved and appreciated.
Self-management focuses on how you manage your own behavior and well-being. It’s about staying true to who you are and knowing your strengths in order to achieve your goals.
According to experts on the subject, every man must develop three core self-management skills if he is to reach his potential personally and professionally.
- Learn to manage your commitments and time.
- Cultivate the motivation and capability to learn new things on your own in support of your work.
- Build and nurture your relationships.
Taking care of yourself is paramount to success because life can throw all sorts of situations at you, with or without a support network.
A man who is in the habit of loving and caring for himself can more easily take life’s hits, with the full understanding that no one defines him or is responsible for his well-being.
5. Stress Management
Everyone experiences stress. It might be something major such as a new move, a health concern, or a toxic relationship, but it is often something minor like a busy week at work or a broken-down car.
Regardless of the severity of the stressor, the mature man understands the importance of controlling stress from work and other areas of his life so that it doesn’t spill over into his personal relationships.
You need to be able to identify the stressors, effectively communicate what you’ve been going through, strengthen your resilience to cope with stress, and of course, reevaluate the relationship.
6. Sex And Romance
Often, when guys seek advice on how to be a man, what they really want to know is how to be a man to a woman, especially in the bedroom.
For sexual relationships, sex and romance are key to connecting with your intimate partner and keeping stress levels down.
There are no secrets to romance, but going back to the sections on communication and conflict resolution, a man makes an effort to learn what works for his partner (what makes him or her happy) and applies this knowledge as often as he can to keep the relationship healthy and strong.
Master Your Learning
Learning is essential to our livelihood, nourishing the mind just like food nourishes the body. Mastering your learning is a critical part of mastering your mind.
Lifelong learning — that is, the ongoing, voluntary, and self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for either personal or professional reasons — is especially powerful and benefits a man in a number of ways:
- Boosts his confidence and self-esteem.
- Makes him less risk averse and more adaptable to unexpected changes.
- Challenges his ideas and beliefs.
- Helps him find innovative solutions to problems, and opens up doors to more opportunities.
- Life becomes more interesting; helps him achieve a more satisfying personal life.
Ultimately, continuous learning helps you become more wholesome and remain relevant in today’s rapidly-changing society.
A man recognizes lifelong learning as an indispensable tool for his growth, success and overall happiness. He understands that anyone who isn’t learning isn’t evolving.
The very idea that you want to learn how to be a man is a sign that you understand the importance of learning.
1. Be An Effective Learner
Ordinary men seek entertainment; extraordinary men seek education and learning. However, it’s one thing to love learning, but it’s another thing to know how to learn properly.
In the book Master it Faster, author Colin Rose uses the mnemonic MASTER to eloquently describe six stages of becoming an effective learner.
Motivation: Self-motivation is probably the most important requirement of lifelong learning. If you can’t see the point of what you are learning, you are unlikely to get started or see it through.
Acquire: Effective learning requires that you successfully acquire information through practice, experience, reading, listening, observing and experimenting. This process is enhanced by knowing your learning style and capitalising on it.
Search: Rather than just memorise a series of facts that you will shortly forget, strive to understand the implications of the information being acquired and how it can be applied to your life. Turn facts into personal meaning.
Trigger: If you are like most people, you cannot and will not remember everything you learn, which is why you must develop techniques to trigger recollection. Common practices include taking notes, practicing, engaging in discussions, and experimenting with new ideas.
Exhibit: We often spend hours upon hours trying to learn yet very little time practising the recall of the information learned. Instead of cramming, spend more time demonstrating what you know and keep adjusting and correcting until you get it right every single time.
Reflect: The most successful men reflect on their learning. They monitor what and why they learned, compare the results with their desired outcome, and adjust their approach if they are not satisfied. Mistakes, like successes, are seen as a learning experience.
2. Be A T-Shaped Man
Most men desire a V-shaped physical body, but did you know that there is also an ideal physique for the mind? It’s called the T-shape.
Two characteristics define a T-shaped man. First, he has a depth of knowledge and a focused expertise in one skill or discipline, as represented by the vertical stroke of the letter T.
Second, he has a willingness to use a broad range of skills and disciplines outside his area of expertise, a characteristic depicted by the horizontal stroke of the T.
Contrary to what you might think, instead of diluting your core area of expertise (you’re bread-and-butter), having broad interests actually enhances it.
A T-shaped man is in essence a jack of all-trades and a master of one. He is not concerned about using fancy, two-dollar words — all he cares about is having a broad range of skills and knowing how to apply them when it comes time to get things done.
Master Your Core Self
A man who successfully masters his mind, body, and spirit is primed to connect with his core self and well on his way to self-actualizing.
Your core self is your truest, most authentic self. It is the part of you that shapes your reality, placing you at the center of experiences that you personally create.
Men who have a strong and healthy core self know they are real, don’t feel controlled by others, don’t live for approval, understand their own emotional life and are not swayed by the emotions of others, and give and receive respect.
They also have long-range goals to work towards, and work through difficult situations for their own sense of dignity and self-worth.
Connecting to your core self is essential to building a happy and fulfilling life.
1. Develop Your Own Principles
Your happiness and success are strongly determined by the principles you live by. So ask yourself: “What are my guiding principles for my personal and professional life?”
Spend some time thinking about what they might be and how you can stay true to them regardless of the situation. Consider the following when developing your personal principles:
- Real men have self discipline and practice good ethics. They don’t take shortcuts when it comes to morals, and strive to build a strong work ethic.
- A man has focus — he knows what he wants and concentrates his efforts on achieving it.
- A man has patience and diligence, two virtues that allow him to face adversity without losing sight of his goals. He recognizes that hard work, consistency and time ultimately lead to success.
- A man is open to helping others in need. He knows when to lend a helping hand, even if the utility lies in the gesture itself.
- A man is capable of trust and stays true to his word. He follows through with what he says he’ll do and expects others to do the same.
A boy says and does the things he thinks he is supposed to do, while a man says and does the things he believes, regardless of what those around him may think.
2. Define What Success Means To You
Nature programmed men to be naturally ambitious. We want to be breadwinners, respected, and appreciated.
However, the fact that not all men choose the same career paths means ambition doesn’t always amount to the same thing, and this can lead to frustration when your results seem to not stack up to your peers’.
Success, it turns out, can mean totally different things for different people. American motivational speaker Earl Nightingale, for one, defines success as “the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.”
In other words, it is the effective pursuit of your dreams and desires that makes you successful. The man who runs the corner gas station is a success because that was his dream, as is the teacher who is teaching because that’s what gives him fulfillment.
To most people, success means money, fame and status, and that’s perfectly fine. But you need to have your own idea of what success is.
Whatever career or profession you choose, set goals, go after them with undying determination, and be flexible enough to make adjustments as needed.
3. Seek Responsibility, Take responsibility
Responsibility is what sets a man apart from a boy, and an adult form a child.
Responsibility is a core principle that every man needs to have in order to be successful, respected and appreciated, both at home and in the workplace. It means accepting your duties, honoring your commitments, and being accountable for your actions.
Responsible men refrain from blaming others and complaining, and don’t take things personally. They are decisive, stand by their convictions, and operate with integrity.
Men who want to develop their career actively seek out challenging assignments, and if a leader, readily take responsibility for the actions of their team.
Unlike children, men clean up after themselves, figuratively and literally.
4. Learn To Make Sacrifices
Like it or not, making sacrifices is part of growing up, and the importance of sacrificing short-term pleasures for long-term happiness cannot be overstated.
Achieving success often requires leaps out of your comfort zone, and that’s why a man is ready to step up to the plate when the time calls for it — not hesitate or complain .
Understand that if you want to build a business empire, you need to invest enormous amounts of time reading, learning, and experimenting rather than wasting your days oversleeping and binge-watching Netflix.
If you want to develop a rock-hard, toned body, you need to invest enormous amounts of sweat, energy, and time exercising rather than being sedentary and stuffing your face with junk food.
When sacrifices concern loved ones, the devotion of time, money or other resources becomes a duty.
5. Be A Good Man
“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”
These words, written by Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius nearly two thousand years ago, encapsulates what it means to live a good life: Actions, not words, is what defines a man.
In a world drowning in drama and outrage, it is easy to get lost in the maelstrom of the debate of what’s good or bad, right or wrong.
“What’s a‘man? What is masculinity? What does it mean to be a good man?” These once ordinary questions have also become issues of contention, and there has certainly been an increasing number of books covering the topic of how to be a man.
Fortunately, the qualities that define a good man have remained unchanged for centuries, qualities such as integrity, honesty, respect, loyalty and responsibility.
A man does the right thing, the right way for the right reason, even when no one is watching. He goes above and beyond his self-defined responsibilities in order to be a good role model and make his community a better place.
If you’re going to be a man, be a good man. Always strive to do the right thing, the right way, and never stop re-evaluating your behavior, values and overall character.
To live contrary to this lifestyle makes you no better than a child.
What About The Man-Code?
For many young men, especially those with a sense of humor, any discussion about how to be a man wouldn’t be complete without highlighting the “Man Code” (aka “Guy Code’).
Basically an unwritten set of rules and regulations that some men live by, the Man Code governs situations as simple as the protocol on taking the last beer in the fridge, to the complex intricacies of dating a friend’s ex.
While some of these “rules” contain worldly wisdom, many others are silly, if not ludicrous. Here are a few of our favorite manly codes of conduct.
- Never date your friend’s sister unless you intend to marry her. Don’t date his ex girlfriend or wife unless he gives you explicit permission.
- Share your possessions when possible. If a friend asks for a pair of work boots, a drill, or a crock-pot a day in advance, you should be kind enough to loan it to him. Certain things like cars, lucky items, or partners are not necessarily applicable.
- No man should be required to buy a birthday present for another man. In fact, even remembering your best friend’s birthday is optional.
- Never choose a urinal immediately adjacent to another man if an open, further-removed urinal is available. And never initiate a conversation with him.
- A man repays his debts. If your friend loans you money or buys the first round, you must pay him back one way or another, even if you have to be his slave for the interim.
The Man Code should be taken with a grain of salt, but any man who has good discernment and is able to separate the wheat from the chaff can surely find some value in it.
How To Be A Man? Choose To Be One!
Human beings are the only creatures who do not mature automatically. The erasure of a clear and direct path to manliness, a consequence of dramatic technological change and the monumental shift in gender roles, has created a world full of males stuck in childhood no matter how old they might be.
I was one of these maturely-stunted people, admittedly — confused and living a life of mediocrity. I started Too Manly primarily to share my journey of becoming a mature man in hopes of inspiring and motivating other guys who have yet to start their journey.
If you are one of the millions of males stuck in childhood, realize that to mature is a choice; to become a man is an achievement. No project is more decisive for your personal development and self actualization than the project of becoming a mature man.
Let this guide be what sets you on the path of becoming an authentic man. At over 5,000 words long, it highlights the importance of self-mastery to your growth and evolution.
To be a man — a mature man — you need to master your mind and body, your learning and relationships, and ultimately, your core self. The journey can take decades to complete, but satisfaction increases as you pass every sign post and turning point along the way.
Make today is the day you shift your allegiance away from superficial activity and toward the deep project of becoming a completely authentic mature man.
Sit down and write your personal vision of who this man is. Once you know where you are heading, the path to becoming him will unfold and the art of manliness will become so much a part of your core self that you will never again ponder the question of how to be a man.