Note: This article was written with the help of Brendan Schmidt at a cabin in Cape Lookout State Park, late into the night after having too much coffee and tobacco.
Lots of money, beautiful women draped around you, a ripped six pack body.
This is the media’s definition of masculinity, a shallow caricature that leaves a lot of men feeling like hopeless, weak pussies.
We’re led to believe that manliness is something you’re either born with or not.
Real masculinity on the other hand, has nothing to do with these things.
It’s not about power and status, how much money’s in your bank account, or how many women you banged in college.
Here’s the truth about masculinity you were never told.
Being a great man is the result of having good models — from fathers, teachers, coaches and elders. Men that teach you how to show up powerfully in life, how to be there for your partner and family, how to overcome challenges and problems. And yes, even how to feel your emotions and know what to do with them.
But maybe you were one of the many men who had never had that example.
So you don’t know what masculinity is, and why should you? You were never given the chance.
Does it mean you’re just hopeless and broken, or that something is wrong with you?
No. It just means that you never received the opportunity to find what it really means to be a man. Or maybe your decisive or ability to be directive and strong was shut down by people bigger than you.
Whatever it is doesn’t matter much. The only important question:
Where do you go from here?
These are practices I’ve found to help you embody your true, authentic masculinity. I hope they benefit you as much as they have me.
You can do these no matter what kind of models you have in your life, or what your past was like. Each time you do one of these practices, you’ll start to feel that strong man within you, that’s been waiting to emerge.
1. Embrace not knowing
I don’t know.
These are the three scariest words in a man’s vocabulary.
Think about it, when’s the last you felt afraid to admit that you didn’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing?
That you don’t know how to change the oil. That you don’t know what step to take next. That you don’t know where you’re going in life. And biggest of all, that you don’t know who you are.
Getting comfortable with not knowing can change your life as a man, and is actually one of the quickest routes to true certainty. When you embrace that you don’t know, you’re not getting in the way for the answer to emerge.
Not knowing is not weakness. It takes a strong man to admit that he doesn’t know. When you own your “I don’t know” you create space for curiosity, for insights, revelations and next actions.
The practice is very simple, just admit that you don’t know. Own it. And the power it has over you dissolves.
I didn’t always feel strong and capable in my body. I had no idea what I was doing, but I kept making mistakes.
Here’s my journey:
2. Feel your emotions (manliness ≠ not feeling anything)
Believe it or not, men have, wait for it… emotions. What a novel concept, eh?
Now I can just tell you to feel and own what you feel, but if you’ve lost touch with your emotions, that wouldn’t be very helpful. And it might be because you’ve been taught not to feel them, you’re not even be aware of when they’re actually happening.
So, where do you start?
Frustration can be the easiest place to start. When a coworker sends you an annoying email, when your boss says something that pisses you off, instead of shrugging it off and acting like it doesn’t matter, try feeling it fully. Take a moment to just sit with it.
If a friend or family member lets you down, or says something hurtful, don’t just act like it didn’t happen. Feel it, even if it sucks. Bypassing it might seem easier, but it resolves nothing and helps no one. If you don’t express it, it will just take residence and fester in your body, creating a backlog of unexpressed emotion that prevents you from expressing your true masculine power.
Consider all the other areas of your life that are emotional for you that you maybe haven’t acknowledged. For example, maybe you get really emotional like I do when you watch UFC. Or maybe playing poker gets you really jacked and amped up.
If you’re really struggling, think about why you do the work you do. Why do you show up to your job or your business? What’s the real reason you do it? Is it to provide for your family, to set an example for your kids, to make a positive impact in the world?
Reconnecting to the underlying why behind what you do help ground you in your purpose. It gives you precious fuel that propels you to operate at a much higher level.
Emotions are life. They don’t make you a sissy.
3. Meditate on your death
One of the most powerful practices I’ve picked up is from Stoicism, called negative visualization. It immediately shifts things back into perspective and helps you remember what truly matters.
Deliberate contemplation of your death is the fastest route to getting clear on what matters most to you. Ironically, pondering that you will die gives you a greater perspective on the value of your life.
Lie down face up on the floor with your eyes closed, as if you were a corpse. Feel the energy in your body and realize that that life force will one day leave. A future moment not too far from now will be your last. Imagine like a slowly dying battery, the life draining out of your body.
Your last breath. Fade to black.
Have you done everything you came here to do? Have you served those you love and the world in the way you know you’re truly capable of?
What will people say about the way you lived?
With this perspective, contemplate what you would change to die complete, and how you might alter the way you spend your days.
Now return to this moment where you’re full of life. Life and unlived potential.
How will you live today as if it were your last?
If you really want to get clear on your purpose, do not leave this post without doing this practice.
4. Create a practice of silence
Emptiness is where men most feel at home. Think about the driving reason behind all of your actions. You want to get done, to reach completion, and you probably have the fantasy that most men do, that someday you can work enough so you never have to work again.
The problem with this, as I’m sure you’ve realized, is that despite your efforts, there is always more to do. You will never, ever, ever, ever, be done.
So how do you experience the bliss of done, right now? By sitting in silence.
This practice is simple and uncomplicated. Sit somewhere, get yourself comfortable and don’t try to do anything. Don’t try to meditate, don’t try to silence your thoughts. If you have thoughts that come up “Am I doing this right?” or “Is this pointless?” just let those thoughts be there.
Silently remain aware of your mind, of your body. Don’t try to fix or change your thoughts. Don’t try to think positively. Let your mind be a mind.
Allow things to be as they are.
If this feels too simple, just sit with that thought.
5. Be fully present, in every situation
As you’re reading this right now, is your attention fully and completely here? Or is it off, somewhere else? Maybe part of your attention is here, but another slice is thinking about what you’re going to have for lunch, or what your partner said to you earlier today.
Now think about what you really desire as a man, from your partner, your kids, the people you lead. You want them to trust you, right?
You can’t build trust without presence, without giving your undivided attention. No one can trust a man that doesn’t feel fully there, focused, completely in the moment.
This is perhaps the hardest thing to practice out of everything on this list. The world more than ever is training us to be fragmented. Everyone and everything is demanding our attention, fighting for it. The screen and the feed seem inescapable.
Which just makes the importance of disconnecting and being deliberate about how you deploy your attention ever more critical.
Make a practice of doing one thing at a time. The next time you drive, try doing just that. When you have a conversation with someone, discipline yourself to return to the moment and really listen to what they’re saying. When you open your computer or phone, ask yourself, what am I doing now?
You might even want to make this question the background on your smartphone. This one simple thing could make you a better dad, husband and friend.
6. Practice being decisive and directive
One of the greatest strengths of masculinity is the ability to be directive, to move confidently in a specific direction to achieve a goal. The masculine wants to get it done, to make it happen, to overcome obstacles against all odds.
If you feel indecisive most of the time, you have an undeveloped and unpracticed masculine capacity.
The more you practice being decisive, the more you can strengthen this part of you. You’ll probably find that you end up craving decisiveness, and find yourself in situations where you assertiveness can be a gift to others. With time and practice you can learn how to make decisions that best serve the group by taking a strong lead.
This isn’t just about achieving goals or advancing in your career though. Yes, those are great areas for practicing making strong, deliberate choices, but you can practice this in any area of your life.
The next time you go to a restaurant, don’t hem and haw about what you’re going to order. Quickly feel what you’re in the mood for, and pick something without hesitation. When you pay the check, put your card down on the table with purpose. Look your serve in the eye and thank them with intention. Give your full presence to those that you are with.
Whatever you do, do it like you mean it.
7. Reconnect with nature (and rehabilitate yourself from captivity)
As men, we have an innate call to adventure, a deeper drive to break free from restraints and challenge ourselves to find out what we’re really made of.
We’re not meant to live in cages, either metaphorical or literally by staying indoors all day, and being chained to a device.
You are not a zoo animal. You are a human, that comes from nature.
You come from the wild, and you shouldn’t be afraid of the planet you live on.
But wildness isn’t just about primal screaming, rolling in the mud, or going off the grid and living in a commune away from everything you’ve known.
It’s about reconnecting with the source of where you come from. It’s about feeling at home in the forest, the mountains, the trails. It’s about using nature as a way to reconnect with yourself, to find out what you’re really capable of, of who you really are beneath all of the conditioning.
Start with exposing yourself more to the elements each day. Put your bare feet on the ground. Stop being scared to touch things around you. Go off the path. Feel the wind on your face and the sky above you. This is your home. Your original home.
Return to the source by making a commitment to getting out into the wild as much as you can. Take retreats into the woods in whatever way you can make work in your life. Make a morning routine of connecting to nature.
Most importantly, don’t put wildness and connection to your planet last on your To Do list.I never put wildness last on my To Do list. Click To Tweet
8. Reclaim your primal strength
Movement is life. The energy, the power and force you want to inhabit as a man is dependent on how embodied you are.
Power lives in the body. Your body is your vehicle for moving through the world.
Yet most men live their lives predominantly trapped in their own heads. We’re always thinking, analyzing, planning — we might as well be walking heads on a stick. Like our desire for completion, it never ends.
We don’t want to kill the mind and exalt the body, that would just be another trap. But we need to bring a counterbalance to constantly living in our heads.
It doesn’t really matter where you start, so much that you find something that resonates with you, something that gives you power, something that you can be devoted to. It could be parkour, brazilian jiu jitsu, tango or swing dancing.
However, movement doesn’t have to be something you pay for in a class. You can just as easily start by going to a park and crawling on the ground, climbing trees or jumping from rock to rock.
Being willing to be a weirdo helps. And anyway, movement is life. The people not moving, sitting 12 hours a day are the weirdos, right?
If you’re really serious about transforming this area of your life, join the Uncaged Body 12 week program.
9. Give courageously
A core masculine desire is the creation of freedom. It starts with wanting personal freedom. To be able to do what you want, when you want, how you want, no restrictions, no boundaries.
But if it only starts and ends with you, it eventually becomes a meaningless pursuit.
Freedom for what? To what purpose? To what end?
Freedom in the service of others is a much more interesting, fulfilling game to play.
How can creating more freedom in your life serve for your family? Your friends? The world?
Remembering your death helps you ground back into why you’re doing what you’re doing. This day could be your last. Do you want to end it giving courageously, or staying centered only on your own small desires?
Start from where you are. What small thing can you do or share today to give?
10. Find a tribe (join this one)
Just as wolves come in packs, birds come in flocks, humans come in tribes. Human evolution depended on the cohesiveness of the tribe.
Yet, our highly individualist society has caused us to lose our biggest asset as humans. Self-reliance is great, but at what point do we let ourselves rely on others, and others rely on us?
Brotherhood makes us stronger.
I believe that men are waking up and realizing that they are missing something. We’re remembering the value that being surrounded by strong, honorable and courageous men can bring into our lives. Doing it alone only gets us so far. When we’re in a group we expose ourselves to collective knowledge, skill and men in all ranges of development, young and old.
If you’ve read this, I have a strong inclination that you are one of these men.
Whatever you do, don’t shortchange yourself by being a lone wolf and thinking that you’re somehow more elite because of it.
Create a Foundation of Primal Strength
Domestication and too much sitting has made us weak. We need to learn how to tap back into the primal strength that makes us truly fit for any situation.
The Uncaged Body program gives you the foundation of strength, mobility and skill so you can finally feel confident in your body.