14 Rules for Becoming Your Own Man: How to Be Wildly Successful At The Game of Life

Manhood today is maligned and misunderstood. Some believe maleness itself is inherently destructive and should be eliminated. In his book, The End of Manhood, John Stoltenberg says that the notion of manhood “is a sham, a trap, and those who would redeem it are kidding themselves, for manhood is a mask, incompatible with truly human selfhood.” Others view maleness as being superfluous. This idea is reflected in the witticism, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Some view maleness as being unsuited for today’s world. In her book, The End of Men and The Rise of Women, Hanna Rosen says, “the feminist revolution is here. Women are on the rise and men are on the decline.” Finally, some believe there are no essential differences between males and females other than basic ones related to our different sexual organs.

I have a different view. I think men are good and can become great. Men are not better than women, but there are important differences between males and females. Today, good men are needed more than ever. As my colleague Charles Eisenstein recognizes, it is time for men to come together at this time of peril to help bring about “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible.”

Males today are the canaries in the coal mine alerting us to life-threatening danger we face in a world out of balance. Millions of men are irritable and angry. Many more are depressed and suicidal. Some are sexually aggressive, but many more are sexually wounded and repressed. Most are confused about what it means to be a good man in a world that is becoming increasingly unstable and unsustainable. We have lost our connection with ourselves, each other, and with the community of life on earth and we are in danger of destroying our life-support system.

When I completed my last book, My Distant Dad, I thought it might be my last. It was my 15th book and covered a good deal of my own life-history and my work with men. “I think you have at least one more book you need to write,” my wife, Carlin, told me. “You’ve committed your professional life to helping men and we need a book that addresses ‘the gift of maleness.’ Men and women want to know the essence of being male before men took on the armoring of their bodies and emotions that have been caused by societal demands.”

I thought about Carlin’s challenge and decided she was right. I offer fourteen rules that I feel will be most helpful during these challenging times. They are based on my own life experiences over the last seventy-five years of my life and my fifty years working with men individually, in groups, and communities. I’m sure others will come up with a different set of guiding principles, and that’s good. Take these rules as a starting point. Add your own. Re-order them to suit your needs. Come together with other guys and open your heart, mind, and soul.

If you’d like to read and offer your thoughts on what should be included in the new book, email meand put “14 Rules” in the subject line. Be sure and respond to my spamarrest filter when writing for the first time.

Rule #1: Accept the Gift of Maleness

None of us would be here if it weren’t for our fathers. Maleness is a gift to humankind and its time men recognized our gift and honored it. “There are 10 trillion cells in human body and every one of them is sex specific,” says David C. Page, M.D., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). We’re 100% male from top to bottom. There are essential differences in our brain structure, our hormones, in each and every cell in our body. Let’s celebrate that fact.

Rule #2: Embrace Your 1 Billion Year History

Most men feel disconnected from our heritage as males. We grew up in families where fathers were absent physically or emotionally.  Our fathers, themselves, were disconnected from their own roots, and all of us are disconnected from our male heritage that goes back a billion years. It’s true, the first male cells evolved on planet Earth a billion years ago and males have been evolving ever since. Knowing our history is essential for knowing ourselves.

Rule #3: Join a Men’s Group and Learn to Hear the Sound That Male Cells Sing

I’ve been in a men’s group that has been meeting for nearly 40 years. My wife, Carlin, attributes the success of our 39-year marriage, in large part, to my being in a men’s group. In a men’s group we find our place with other males, share the challenges we all face as men, and feel a sense of belonging. The poet Robert Bly captures this reality when he reminds us that “boys need to be in the presence of older men in order to hear the sound that male cells sing.”

Rule #4: Break Free From The Man Box and Get Healthy in Body, Mind, and Soul

Society tries to force us to fit into the Man Box and we’re taught there are certain things that men must be (such as being economically powerful, physically strong, cool, logical, aggressive, tough) and certain things men must not be (such as being nurturing, tender, soft, passive, quiet, giving, apologetic.) To be truly ourselves, men must recognize that society often exploits men by offering a restrictive view of what it means to be a man. It’s liberation time for us all.

Rule #5: Understand Your Anger and Fear of Women and Learn to Respect and Cherish the Sacred Feminine

“A majority of men never break free, never define manhood by weighing and testing their own experiences,” says Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly. “And the single largest reason is that we never acknowledge the primal power WOMAN wields over us.” This dependence on the feminine also generates a great deal of subconscious anger and fear, which anthropologist David D. Gilmore explores in his book, Misogyny: The Male Malady.

Rule #6: Learn The Secrets of Real Lasting Love

In my book, The Enlightened Marriage, I describe the 5 Stages of Love:

  • Stage 1: Loving Yourself and Finding the Right Partner
  • Stage 2: Becoming a Couple and Building a Life Together
  • Stage 3: Moving Through Discontent, Distancing, and Disillusionment
  • Stage 4: Creating Real, Lasting Love
  • Stage 5: Finding Your Calling as a Couple

The most important thing we have learned is that “discontent, distancing, and disillusionment” are not indicators that we have picked the wrong partner, but a call to go deeper, heal more fully, and prepare for the real joys of Stage 4 and 5.

Rule #7: Undergo Meaningful Rites of Passage From Youth to Adulthood and From Adulthood to Super Adulthood

In traditional societies throughout the world, there have been Rites of Passage that were created to bring about the transition of boyhood to manhood and from manhood to elderhood. In modern society, we have lost these important rituals. Without them, we grow up feeling that something is missing in life. It’s time to renew and revitalize these important rituals.

Rule #8: Celebrate Your True Warrior Spirit and Learn Why Males Duel and Females Duet

Men have been and will always be connected to the warrior spirit, which is different from the violence and exploitation of war. We compete with other men and express our spirit through male communication which are more like playful duels. And males have always been called on to protect and serve the tribe at times of danger.

Rule #9: Understand and Heal Your ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) and Male Attachment Disorders (MAD)

Most of us have experienced one or more ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences), which have been shown to impact our health and well-being throughout or lives if not addressed and healed. These early wounds make it difficult for us to fully trust relationships and we suffer from male attachment disorders (MAD). The good news is that they can be healed.

Rule #10: Heal Your Mother and Father Wounds and Become the Father You Were Meant to Be

Many of us grew up in families where our mothers and/or our fathers were absent physically or emotionally. The father-wound is, by far, the most common. “A father may be physically present, but absent in spirit,” says psychologist James Hollis. “His absence may be literal through death, divorce, or dysfunction, but more often it is a symbolic absence through silence and the inability to transmit what he also may not have acquired.”

Rule #11: Treat the Irritable Male Syndrome and Male-Type Depression

In my book, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Understanding and Managing the 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression, I describe the importance of hormonal imbalances, changes in brain chemistry, increasing stress, and the lack of meaningful male roles in a world out of balance. Fortunately, there are now ways to address these wounds.

Rule #12: Explore Your Family History and Accept Your Unique, Authentic, Self

Embracing our full-family history allows men to mature and answer, “Hell, yes,” to the three questions we must all ask and answer: 1. Did I live an authentic life? 2. Did I love deeply and well? 3. Did I make a positive difference in the world?

Rule #13: Find Your Mission in Life and Do Your Part to Save Humanity

We all must find our true mission in life, which is always resonant with the times in which we live. The psychologist and philosopher, Sam Keen, reminds us that:

“The radical vision of the future rests on the belief that the logic that determines either our survival or our destruction is simple:

  1. The new human vocation is to heal the Earth.
  2. We can only heal what we love.
  3. We can only love what we know.
  4. We can only know what we touch.”

There is much that needs to be one and there isn’t one solution. Each of us is called to address some part of the problem. Men of greatness are called on to find their own unique mission and get to work.

Rule #14: Accept the Challenges of Aging, Be With a Loved One When They Die, and Prepare For Your Own End of Life

We all fear death and disability, yet the final life lessons involve coming to grips with death and the only way we can do that is to be with loved ones when they are making the final journey. One of the greatest gifts of my life was to be with my wife’s mother when she died. Embrace life fully, which means also embracing death fully.

Please share your questions and comments below.

If you’d like to explore these issues more fully and help with the new book, email me and put “14 Rules” in the subject line. Be sure and respond to my spamarrest filter when writing for the first time.

This article first appeared on Jed’s blog.

Photo by Razvan Chisu on Unsplash

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