The idea of “how to be a man” is a concept that until recently, didn’t exist.
For eons it was nature that shaped and created men. Badass men. Strong, resilient, honorable men.
The kind of men that legends are made out of.
Then something strange happened. Something no one expected.
We inadvertently engineered the process that creates strong men out of existence.
Suddenly, our rites of passage were nowhere to be found.
People started becoming confused about masculinity and femininity, so we created these rigid caricatures and confining roles of what it means to be a man or a woman.
Luckily, we’ve grown out of that, and we’re all more free to embrace both sides of ourselves, our innate femininity and our masculinity.
But along the way, something vital was lost.
We forgot how to be authentically masculine.
Recovering the missing roadmap to masculinity
What if you want to embody masculinity, and feel that that is your true core of who you are, yet you don’t know how?
Where do you find the models, the roadmap?
The most direct path, and the only “real” secret to embodying masculinity is through reactivating the wildness within you.
I believe that true masculinity is found naturally, effortlessly, when you reintegrate a man back into the wild.
This roadmap is based on the four pillars of a man: mind, body, heart, and spirit. When all of these are integrated, you’re on the path to uncaging.
Please note, that this is by no means a complete blueprint or final list. And this isn’t a mandate on what you must do to be a complete man. It’s merely a starting point for those looking to reclaim their wild masculinity.
My recommendation is that you find the area(s) you’re most deficient in, then choose to concentrate your efforts there. If you’re deficient in all of them, well, you’ve got your work cut out for you, don’t you?
Let’s start with what you’re using to reading this with…
Mind: Build an unbreakable mind through challenge and adventure
Our primary mode of growth as men is through challenge.
- Hunting a wild boar
- Swimming through a waterfall
- Traversing a river
- Navigating in the dark of night with only the stars to guide you
All of these things are tests that shape us as men in the wild. Challenge helps shape our confidence and mental toughness.
Wildness is the original way to test yourself and find out what you’re made of.
If you really want to create a strong, unbreakable mind, you must go through challenges that shape and develop your character.
Note: This is probably the most under-developed area for me. I want to learn how to better forage, hunt and survive in the wild. I know a little bit, but I still have a long way to go here.
How to create a more wild mind: Find a way to challenge yourself, even if it means starting small. Run a mile further than you did in your last training session. Sign up for an obstacle course. Do something to get out of your comfort zone.
And it goes without saying, don’t be stupid or risk your life unnecessarily.
Body: Rehab your primal body
Every man should know how to throw a punch, dodge an attack, climb a tree, and take a fall. These are just a few of the movements many of us are deficient in, not to mention:
Fitness used to mean being fit for our environment. Because we’ve engineered the need to move to live out of our lives, fitness has been divorced from utility.
Our physical training should help us become stronger to be more useful.
Here are two of the most foundational movements you should start working on today:
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How to get started: Begin a practice of squatting, hanging and crawling. Ditch your furniture for a day and try sitting on the floor like our ancestors did. When you do a workout, opt for a park or trail instead of hitting up the gym.
Heart: Vision quest to remember your purpose
One day, in a moment not too different than this one, will be your last.
If you died tomorrow, would you feel complete? Would you leave this earth knowing that you loved those you care about fully? Would you feel like you accomplished your mission?
In a recent survey I asked men what their number one fear was. Hands down the biggest fear was not fulfilling their purpose before they die.
This was above fear of not being a good dad or not performing during sex.
We put off our purpose because it feels scary and we’re terrified of failure. Or maybe we just don’t know what our purpose is. That was certainly me for several years.
The fastest way to reconnect with your purpose is to remember your death and to spend time in solitude.
Vision quests and retreats are one of the most potent ways to get in touch with your reason for being here. Take time to retreat for a few days into a cabin with no other objective than to reflect on your purpose. Discipline yourself to returning to the object of your mission, over and over even as you get distracted or would rather be somewhere else.
How to get started: Make a practice of taking time out, whether it be once a week for a hike, or a few days at a cabin every few months to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing.
Spirit: Embed nature into your life
You don’t need more time to have more wildness in your life. You just need to think smarter and change your habits.
The more you embed wildness into the fabric of your modern life, the less work it will take. The best part about the recommendations I’m about to share with you is that they’ll also make you more productive and more creative.
Here are my top three strategies for doing this now:
- Go for “productive meditation” walks. Choose a problem you’re trying to solve or something you want to get more clarity on. The more clearly you can define the problem, the better. Decide how long you’re going to walk for (20 minutes is a good start) and discipline yourself to return to the problem over and over, even as you mind tries to wander.
Credit: this concept was adapted from Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work.
- Create a hiking mastermind. If you’re an entrepreneur, or just want to advance in your career, chances are you’re a part of a mastermind, or have thought about creating one. So why not do it while hiking, or walking in a park?
- Create a morning ritual to ground your day. This is what I do to ensure that I never put wildness and connecting to the earth last on my To Do list.
How to get started: Steal my morning wildness ritual and commit to a 30 day challenge of doing it every day.
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Mind: Reclaim your feral mind
Uncaging as a man has just as much to do with your mindset as it does your movement and how much time you spend outdoors.
A wild mind is a free-thinking, questioning, curious mind. He practices what Zen practitioners call Beginner’s Mind.
We all have the ability to design our own lives. We all have the ability to shape and influence our own beliefs.
What do you believe is true? What do you want to believe instead?
You get to decide.
How to get started: Make a list of your top 10 beliefs about life. Then really sit down and question them, ask if they’re really true, try to poke holes in them. Approach any problem you might be facing with the mindset of a curious beginner.
Body: Embody your inner warrior
As men we grow through challenge, overcoming obstacles and expressing ourselves physically.
I’ve been saying for a while now that physical development is my favorite form of personal development. I like testing myself physically to find out what I’m capable of. In each training session I try to push my edges and get just a bit further outside of my comfort zone.
Many of us have gym routines and movement practices, which is great. But how often do you actually engage in combat and roughhousing?
Men need an outlet for the expression of aggression, anger and embodying our warrior energy.
If you find yourself sad, frustrated or anxious, it might not be that you need to talk it out or analyze your problems. Maybe you just need to wrestle, to box and get physical with other humans.
How to get started: Find a local martial arts gym and sign up for a class. Try exploring a lot of different styles of martial arts and see what resonates most with you.
Heart: Reunite with the rhythm seasons
For most of my life, I lived like seasons didn’t exist. We had the AC on in the summer and the furnace full blast in the winter. It was a rare day that I just opened all the windows and let the outside in.
It wasn’t until recently that I came to reconnect with the seasons and uncover how much value there is in moving with their rhythms. As much as possible now I try to open the windows, even when it’s cold. My wife and I don’t use AC, and in the winter we use the heat, but turn it off at night.
Connecting to the elements also helps you get in touch with the food you eat and where it comes from. Before industrial farming we couldn’t buy bananas or blueberries in the store year round. We were more in touch with the earth because we had to be.
So, get outside and yourself to the elements. Get in touch with the plants, and the cycles that they go through. Get out of your temperature controlled cage.
How to get started: Try going without one of your layers when it’s cold out. Turn your thermostat down 1 or 2 degrees and see how it feels. Notice how the plants change through the seasons where you live.
Spirit: Rewild your habitat
I saved this one for last because it’s possibly the easiest and the most impactful place to start. Taking back conscious control of our environments is the fastest way we can change our habits.
We all know that if we want to improve our diets, we need to take the cookies out of the cupboard and fill our pantry with healthy foods. Changing your habits becomes more automatic when you’re surrounded with healthy food options, and aren’t actively resisting the sweets all of the time.
This works exactly the same way with our habitat and how it supports as uncaged, modern humans. If you have a pullup bar in your doorway, you’ll be a lot more likely to hang on it when you pass through it. If you have a station to squat or stand while you work, you’ll probably end up using it.
Alternatively, if you only have chairs and cushiony couches around that support poor posture and stagnation, well, you’ll probably opt for that since it’s the easier choice.
But rewilding our environment extends beyond just the obvious layer of movement.
- How does your physical space feel?
- Does it have a lot of natural light?
- Are there plants surrounding you?
- Are you surrounded by art that inspire you?
- Is your pantry stocked with local, grass-fed, organic produce and meat?
Consciously creating your own empowering habitat is one of the highest leverage quests you can embark upon, precisely because it makes everything else so much easier.
How to get started: Do one thing today to modify your environment. Buy a plant, a doorway pull-up bar, or a piece of art that inspires you.
So, where do you start?
If you feel like you need to work in all of these, you could just start spending a little bit of time in each area. But you might not make very much progress that way.
Instead, I recommend starting with the body. When you start reclaiming your primal masculinity, through your body, you inevitably affect all of the other areas. It’s a keystone of domino habit that trickles down to every other area.
So, get back in touch with moving like a (hu)man again.
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What are the five biggest movement deficiencies we’re all starving for? What movements do you need to be skilled at and strong in to be useful as a man?
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