It’s our job as men, as fathers and husbands, community leaders, coaches, whatever capacity of life that we’re showing up as to remain vigilant. I ran across this quote as I was preparing to talk with you about this today, and I’ve shared this quote before, it’s one of my favorites. It says, “The real man gains renown by standing between his family and destruction, absorbing the blows of fate with equanimity.” That’s by David Gilmour. Let me read that again. “The real man gains renown by standing between his family and destruction, absorbing the blows of fate with equanimity.”
Guys, if this doesn’t illustrate perfectly what it means to be a man, I don’t know what is. It is our job to stand between our family or our friends, or the members of our community, and neighbors, or our employees, and employers, and coworkers. To stand between them and the blows of fate with clarity, with calmness, with the capability to face these threats as they happen. But how often have we been exposed to these threats, and because we’ve decided or maybe not even made the conscious choice to remain ignorant to what threats are there, have we exposed ourselves or the people that we have an obligation to serve and protect. Have we exposed them, and put them at risk?
It’s our job to be vigilant. As I had a conversation with my son on the podcast, I think it was last week, we talked about vigilant. I can’t remember the context in what we were talking about it, but he was talking about being situationally aware and knowing what’s going on around your surroundings. Like us seeing, or him I should say, seeing the porcupine yesterday, but how many other threats have we not seen? He was talking about being aware of your surroundings and I told him, I said, “We need to remain vigilant, we need to remain vigilant.” I’m sure we all know what vigilance is, but just in case you don’t, the definition here is keeping a careful watch for possible danger or difficulties. This is our job as men.
I remember in 2005 and 2006 I was in Ramadi, Iraq. I was serving with The National Guard, and then our unit got activated, and we were then serving with the Army. One of the signs that we had is at the exit for our military base in which we were operating, was complacency kills, just a big green sign with red writing and it said, “Complacency kills.”
In the context of war and where we were in Ramadi, in one of the most dangerous places in all of the world at the time. When it said, “Complacency kills,” it meant literal death. But this is very true in our own lives as well, is that we expose ourselves to risk and uncertainty, and threat, and although we may not face an experience where we will literally die, there are threats to our own wellbeing, and to our wealth, and to our growth, and potentially even to our own lives or the people again, that we have an obligation for.
So it’s our job guys, to remain vigilant, to be aware of our surroundings, to not fall into a level of complacency and comfort. Specifically, I wanted to share with you three strategies for remaining vigilant for really being who you’re supposed to be as a man. This is ultimately our job.
You know, we hear things in the media and social media where they say, “Well, you know, times have changed. The man doesn’t need to do this, or women can do this as much.” You know what, look at this. At the end of the day, if things go wrong and things go south, people are going to look to the men. They’re always going to look to the men. That’s because it’s our job. It’s biologically hardwired into us to respond to these threats and we need to be aware of doing it.
I think these threats when I’m talking about vigilance and complacency, really fall into one of two categories.
1. Accept the role of being vigilant
This could be an active shooter situation or an emergency, or an accident, a natural disaster. These are threats to our own safety and wellbeing. Those are our, I don’t want to say they’re easy to recognize, but I think they’re more observable.
The second category of threats, where I think these things fall into is this temptation to slip into mediocrity. Is to get caught in the current or the drift, and allow life to take us wherever it wants to go. We don’t have any deliberate intentional plans or strategies, or even action to keep us from drifting wherever life may take us.
That I think is not necessarily the greater threat, but the less observable threat. The one that is easier to creep in on us is, is that we realize that, or don’t realize that we need to be careful of slipping into some place, or some state of being that we don’t want to fall into. I know I’ve been there in my life and I’ve shared this with you.
10 years ago I was 50 pounds overweight. My marriage was falling apart, the businesses were crumbling. I think a large part of that was because gradually over time, it didn’t happen at once. Because if it did happen at once, I would have been aware of it. But over time, over the course of years of not eating correctly, over the course of years of not maintaining or exercising any level of discipline, over the course of years having the conversations, or not having conversations with my wife. Or lacking communication, or failing to communicate things with her. That type of stuff built up slowly over a course of years. Ultimately I found myself at rock bottom. My wife had left, took my one-year-old son, with me 50 pounds overweight, businesses were crumbling around me. It was a very dark, dark time of my life. The reason that was the case is that I hadn’t remained vigilant. I hadn’t exercised any sort of vigilance and I let the world act upon me, rather than me acting upon the world.
So my call to you today guys, is that we find a way to maintain vigilance not only against eminent threats but also against the drift. Also against complacency, and mediocrity, and letting life take us where it wants to take us without giving it a second thought. These are risks to our wellbeing and the wellbeing of those that we have an obligation to care for and to preside, to lead with and over.
So again, I want to share with you a couple of strategies here. As I was thinking what I wanted to share with you today. I think the first step and really maintaining a level of vigilance in your life is to understand that is your role as a man. Also to accept the role, to accept the role that you are the one who has to stand between the people you care about and the blows of if you will. That is your job, and you cannot do your job effectively if A, you don’t recognize that that is your job and responsibility and B, that you accept it fully.
Guys, here’s the deal. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always comfortable and you’re going to have to sacrifice, and you’re gonna have to be disciplined, and you’re going to have to work extremely hard. You’re going to have to make decisions that aren’t always win-win type situations or, or outcomes.
Those are the things that you’re going to have to do. You know, we’ve all heard of things like it’s lonely at the top and all those kinds of things. Well, the reason that they are so popular is that there is some element of truth to it. That it’s hard to be the leader, that it is lonely at the top, that people aren’t always going to like you, and that you’re going to have to make difficult decisions.
But that’s what a man does because a man is always vigilant against the threats, eminent threats, immediate threats, and the gradual threats that I talked about earlier. You have to accept that role and if you’re not willing to accept that role, I really feel like you’re not operating to the full capacity you can and should be as a man. It is your job to accept the role, to be vigilant, to protect yourself, to protect your wife and your kids, and your colleagues, and coworkers, and neighbors, and even complete strangers in a lot of ways.
So I challenge you and I ask, have you accepted the role of a man? Are you willing to be vigilant? Are you willing to make the sacrifices that need to be made in order to ensure that you and the people you care about are safe and secure, and comfortable, and living the best life that you possibly can? That’s number one, accept the role in being vigilant.
2. Free yourself from distraction
If you’re distracted and you can look at an example is having your head buried in the phone, and not really knowing your surroundings or looking at what’s going on. Then it’s easier for you to become a victim of other people or the drift that I talked about earlier. You’ve got to free yourself from distraction. You’ve got to eliminate the things that are getting in the way of you being vigilant in your life. Those could be physical things like getting off the phone, shutting down the notifications on your phone, turning off social media, but they could also be some of these softer skills. Things that maybe you don’t recognize, like learning to say no to opportunities that aren’t going to serve you, that isn’t moving you in the right direction.
Just the other day, I think it was on an ask community thing. Somebody asked if I was interested in starting a Michler brewery. While it sounds really cool, I’m not going to do that because it’s not part of my mission, it’s not part of my focus and ultimately it would become a distraction towards what it is that I’m after, and what it is that I want.
So think about your life, think about where you might be distracted. Think about where you might be spreading your resources too thin and exposing yourself to unnecessary risk and eliminate that stuff. Ruthlessly eliminate those things. What are you saying no to? I’ve heard it said this way, is that when you say yes to something, you automatically say no to something else, and the opposite is also true. When you say no to something, you give yourself the opportunity to say yes to something else.
So figure out what you want. Spend some time. One of the things that we do in our exclusive brotherhood, the Iron Council, is we do 12-week battle plans, and our 12 week Battle plans are focused on obviously 12 weeks of achieving objectives in four quadrants, four main areas of our life. So we’re in the middle of that right now. But the reason I bring that up is that we have a plan. We have a system in place. We have a process for ensuring that we are moving the needle in a relevant and meaningful way, towards whatever it is that what we’re after in trying to accomplish. But without a plan in place. How is anything ever going to get accomplished? So the first thing to free yourself from distraction is to have a plan, have a vision, have some objectives, some things that you want to do and complete in your life.
If you’re not sitting down on a daily basis and pondering about what could happen and what could be, and how you’re going to make it happen, and having some faith that some things are gonna happen, and actively working towards those objectives and those goals. Whether it’s a better marriage or a marriage in the first place. Or a career advancement or a certain amount of money in the bank account, or losing body fat, or gaining strength, or going on this vacation. If you have no idea what you want, it’s going to be very easy for you to drift wherever life wants to take you. You’re not being vigilant when you’re doing that. You’re just allowing the world to act upon you when you as a man should be the one acting upon your environment. We do this by having a plan. We do this by executing this plan and then being vigilant in the pursuit of our objectives.
So number two is freeing yourself from distraction. Learn to say no, and I would challenge you here is say no more often, it’s a skill set. Learning to say no is a skill set. The more you can develop that skill set by saying no, by actively doing it, the better off you’re going to be.
3. Train yourself for vigilance
I mean that you can turn this into a game. I mean that if it comes to the imminent threats, the visible, noticeable catastrophic potential threats that we face, we can make ourselves aware of those things. Be aware of your surroundings, check for exits, check for a baseline for how the environment is that you’re dealing with. Check for people who seem out of the ordinary that aren’t within this baseline standard of the way people should be operating, right?
So for example, if you’re at church, most people are probably trying to be reverent and quiet and if somebody’s loud and obnoxious and well, that’s out of the ordinary. If on the other hand you’re at a concert and the baseline is loud, obnoxious, and everybody’s rambunctious and jumping up and down,’s and somebody being quiet and little sketchy, and hanging out in the corner, and you don’t really know what they’re doing, well that’s out of the ordinary, right? You can train yourself for these things. You can be aware of these, you can count your exits. You can run through different scenarios.
I had a baseball coach and most of you who played baseball understand this is it’s a mental game. 90% of baseball is mental, only 10% is physical. So he would always say before we’d run plays in practice, is he would say, “All right, what are you going to do if this happens? What are you going to do with this happens? What are you going to do with this happens?” So we would constantly be running through these scenarios in our head, and that way if the ball was hit to us in this particular circumstance, we didn’t have to think about what we should do. We’d already thought about it, and now we’re just responding to the plan that we had already laid.
This is the importance of being vigilant about getting your nose out of your phone, checking your surroundings, making sure that you’ve got provisions. Making sure your vehicle’s got enough fuel in it for whatever may happen. Making sure that you have an emergency kit, that you have firearms training, that you have some sort of defensive or martial arts training. These are all ways that you can exercise vigilance should something catastrophic or potentially catastrophic, or violent happened to you.
But you can also train for vigilance in these not so easy to recognize situations, that drift like I’ve mentioned earlier. It’s just letting life take you wherever it has the desire to take you. I guess it’s how do you train for that though, right? The way that you train for it is what I said earlier. You have a plan, you have a plan in place, you have a daily strategy, you have a daily routine, you have a nightly routine, you have practices in place you’re doing after action reviews. You’re constantly training your mind to think about what could go wrong, what may go wrong.
There’s a very interesting concept that a lot of companies use when they’re testing a new product or service and they call it red teaming. And what it is is these teams that they put together and they invest a lot of money in these red teams. Is these teams, their sole objective is to break or find fault in the new product, or the new system that these companies are instituting. Why do they invest in this? Because they want to know where the weaknesses are.
This is vigilance.
They’re trying to figure out and identify where the weaknesses are before there’s a problem, so they can address it before something comes up. So as you’re going through your day to day life, think about what might go wrong, what could go wrong, what challenges may come up, what obstacles are going to present themselves? What contingencies do I need to build into this business plan or we’re going on vacation? What could happen? Well, we could run out of gas, or the engine could blow up, or we could find ourselves not knowing where we are, or the cell phone might die. These are all things that you probably ought to be aware of so that you can remain vigilant and you can protect yourself and again, those you have an obligation for.
Guys, this is really, really important stuff and the reason I bring it up is because I see so many men, whether it’s driving down the road, or going into the store and I see people with their heads buried into their phone, that couldn’t tell you know anything about anything in the environment, because they have no idea where they are. It seems to me that people are walking around more like zombies.
I hear from men every single day just by the nature of my work who feel like they’re not getting ahead in life, that they’re not accomplishing anything in their career, that their marriages are on the rocks and not doing well, and they can’t figure out why this is the case. I believe more often than not, the reason it’s the case is that they aren’t deliberate. They aren’t intentional. They aren’t stepping between themselves and their families and the blows of fate with equanimity. They’re not even aware of what could potentially go wrong. They’re so stuck in their current patterns and their current behaviors or in their own thought process or not thinking that they’re not aware of what else is happening around them.
Guys, we need more men who are vigilant, who are looking for problems, who are trying to solve problems, who have the systems in place to solve these problems.
We don’t want passive men. We want assertive, bold, courageous, vigilant men. When we have those kinds of men, not only are we going to produce individually in our lives, but we’re going to be better off as a society because these threats aren’t going to be as catastrophic, or they may potentially be non-existent because we address them before they come up.
So this is my call to you as a man to remain vigilant at all times, to be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of what’s happening. Be Aware of the people in your life and what they’re experiencing. Are they having a hard time? Be Vigilant in that. If one of your kids is dealing with a difficult situation, don’t ignore it, address it, be bold. Be Courageous and really figure out some of this stuff so that you can be the type of man that you are capable of being, and that your family and your friends and your colleagues, and your coworkers are relying upon you to be.
So this is my mantra to you. Write it down. If you need to put on a Post It and put it in your mirror. Put it in the dashboard of your vehicle that you are to remain vigilant at all times, to always be vigilant.
Anyways, that’s all I’ve got for you guys today. Share with me what’s working for you. Share a story where you’ve been vigilant, and you’ve neutralized a threat. Or some strategies that you have to ensure that these threats don’t affect you as much as somebody who isn’t aware of what’s going on,
isn’t capable to be able to deal with these types of threats. You can share those on Instagram or Twitter, Facebook, all @ryanmickler. My last name is spelled M-I-C-H-L-E-R. But guys, we need more vigilant men in this fight and I know a lot of you are. I know a lot of you have some room for improvement as do I, and I would encourage all of us to really step up and think about how we can be more vigilant.