Unfortunately, so many men are weak, cowardly, and otherwise pathetic. These are the men who allow themselves to be completely railroaded by their boss, wives, friends, and even children. They say, “yes” when they should say, “no.” And, they say, “no” when they should say, “yes.” You see it in the men who don’t know what they stand for, dance around important topics, sit the fence, and flip-flop back and forth on the issues. This is not only an issue of weakness but one of morality and obligation.
We, as men, are required to be strong – not only strong physically, but strong of integrity, character, and virtue – because when the situation calls for it, we have the responsibility of leading other people. We lead our families, businesses, clients, colleagues, co-workers, and neighbors. If we are pathetic, weak, and cowardly, people are not going to choose to be led by us. That will ultimately spell the difference between success and demise.
If you don’t have a spine and foundational principles you operate by, people aren’t going to follow you. They may pander to you but that will last only as long as they get what they want. The minute something else better comes along, they’ll abandon you because you lack depth.
And, that is the ultimate problem with spineless men. They don’t have any depth – no depth of character, virtue, and morality. These are not the kind of men that I want to surround myself with. This is not the kind of man that I want to be.
Unfortunately, it’s easy for us to be weak. There are, after all, some very real threats to us making a stand. I face it every day when I get messages from people who say how horrible and/or wrong I am for leading the charge of reclaiming what it means to be a man. If I didn’t have personal foundational principles in place, it would be very easy for me to attempt to appease other people. But that’s not what I’m interested in. I’m interested in sharing my perceptions, views, and philosophies about life. Through that relentless sharing of what I believe to be true, the right people are going to be attracted to me.
With that said, I want to address five strategies for developing a spine.
Disclaimer: When I talk about “growing a spine,” I’m not talking about ignoring new information that wasn’t previously available which could potentially change your perspective. In fact, if you’re the same person you are tomorrow that you are today, you’re doing something wrong. There is so much new information and insight you and I have access to that could potentially change our perspective. If you can’t be open to new ideas, you’ll never grow.
1. KNOW WHAT YOU STAND FOR
Consider this: How much time have you taken throughout your life to consider what it is you stand for, what you will tolerate, and what you won’t tolerate? What are the foundational virtues, values, and principles that you find valuable and important in your life? If you don’t know the answer to those questions, none of what else I share matters.
Take the foundation of a building, for example. If you’re building a structure, you don’t just throw up the walls and put the roof on without first creating the right foundation. Without the right foundation, it’s only a matter of time before your building crumbles. The same holds true with you. When the winds are blowing, the seas are tossing, and life is challenging you, no other system, strategy, or tactic will make up for strong foundational principles.
In my book, Sovereignty: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Men, I addressed a code of conduct. In this code of conduct, I have identified 13 virtues that I will adhere to, practice, and incorporate into my life.
Do you have a code of conduct? If you don’t, you ought to spend some time contemplating what you value, what you will tolerate, and what you won’t. This is extremely powerful when faced with situations in which you’re expected to jeopardize your morals. What are your standards? What are you willing to stand up for?
2. GET GOOD AT SAYING, “NO”
It is amazing to me how many times I need to address this. So many men are so afraid of saying, “no,” potentially hurting someone’s feelings, and the way they might be perceived by others. If you want to grow a spine, you’ve got to get very, very good at saying, “no,” speaking up when you see something wrong, and bringing attention to something that you see as being “off.”
I understand this is intimidating. And, I know there may be consequences for doing it, but it’s critical you learn to use your voice to make a stand.
When you first learn to say, “no,” start with very simple things that aren’t going to ruffle any feathers or rock the boat because this is purely about building the habit of saying, “no.”
Next Level Tip #1: When you’re learning to say, “no,” challenge yourself not to give an explanation as to why. When we explain ourselves, we’re basically attempting to make ourselves feel more comfortable with our chosen response and, although there’s a time and a place for that, if you’re trying to grow a spine, you might as well make it as hard as you can on yourself. Again, offer no explanation. This is a very effective way of placing yourself in an awkward situation that will give you the mental and emotional fortitude required to develop your voice and make a stand when needed.
Next Level Tip #2: If you find yourself in a situation where you potentially have to jeopardize your standards, give yourself margin. What I mean is that if someone asks you to do something that you aren’t comfortable with, you aren’t required to answer them immediately. In fact, if you do, you’ll probably default to what they want you to do. Instead, get out of the situation into an environment that you now control. Then, re-engage in that conversation in a way you see fit. For example, if a boss, asks you to do something you’re not comfortable with, you might say, “Let me think about that,” or, “Can I get back with you on that?” Now, you the space to think clearly about what you want. This also gets you out of their element and back into your element so that you can make the decision possible.
3. DO HARD THINGS
Let me repeat: do hard things. Do the things that push you outside of your comfort zone. If you don’t feel like working out, work out. If you don’t feel like speaking in public, speak in public. If you don’t feel like having a conversation with someone, have that conversation with that someone. If you don’t feel like pursuing a new hobby, pursue the hobby. If you don’t want to start the new business, start the new business. If you don’t want to make that sales call, make the sales call.
You can see where I’m going with this. The more that you can do the things you’re afraid of doing, the more that you inoculate yourself against challenging and difficult situations when it actually counts. If you don’t test yourself or build up the mental, emotional and physical fortitude required to address these challenging and sensitive subjects, you will never be able to address it when the time comes.
Archilochus says, “We do not rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” So, if you want to stand on your own two feet in difficult times, you need to train that way physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. In other words, you need to be adequately prepared when the test actually comes.
4. FIND PEOPLE WHO SUPPORT YOU
I addressed building a team in last week’s Friday Field Notes. It’s imperative that you find people who will support you, stand by you, and have your back. The more people like this that you can surround yourself with, the more confidence you will develop and the more insight you will gain.
If you don’t have anybody who has your back on an issue, topic, conversation, or request that goes against your moral standard, you’re going to be less likely to adhere to it. On the other hand, if you’ve got an army behind you, people who love support, and believe in you, it will be significantly easier to make the choice you know you should.
5. BECOME A SOVEREIGN MAN
A Sovereign Man is a man who is at the mercy of no one. When you are at the mercy of other people for your livelihood, financial, emotional, or spiritual well-being, you are more likely to jeopardize what you know to be true because you’ve placed yourself in a compromising situation.
If you’re up to your eyeballs, for example, in debt, a mortgage company or financial institution has power over you. If you are so reliant upon your job because you are financially destitute without it, you’re more likely to make decisions that go against your code of conduct. If you’re overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, you’ve placed yourself at the mercy of pharmaceutical companies, insurance providers, and the health industry because you need them to survive. If on the other hand, you’re healthy, lean, eating right, exercising, strong, and rested, you have become more independent. The more independence that you can claim in your life, the more capable you are of standing on your own two feet when required.
We live in an environment where more men seem to be weak, cowardly, pathetic, and sheep-like if you will. It’s sad to see men who jeopardize what they know to be true because they’re worried about fitting in, going with the pack, not ruffling any feathers, not hurting anybody’s feelings, and/or pandering to other people.
You place yourself in the best position possible when you learn to grow a spine in order to keep you standing upright. Marcus Aurelius says, “A man should be upright, not kept upright.” He’s talking about the ability to do what’s right on your own.
Fostering conviction, knowing what you stand for, getting comfortable with using your voice, doing things that are difficult, finding people in your life who support you, and becoming a Sovereign Man will forge you into the man you’re capable of being, and the kind of man that your family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, and neighbors need you to be.