What does it mean to “man up?” For that matter, what does it mean to be a man?
I’m not referring to a male, or a guy, or some other generic or biologic definition. I’m talking about a MAN!
How should he think? Behave? Treat a lady? Lead in business? Set an example as a father? Care for and protect his wife? Walk with the Lord? Those are some super-deep questions.
I’ve reflected a lot on these questions in recent years.
During some moments of reflection, I feel sad because it’s so rare to see the virtues of manliness displayed today. I worry our boys didn’t see enough of me living out those virtues as they grew up, especially because now that they’re out of the house, they won’t be exposed to them as often as I wish they would be.
In other moments of reflection, I feel nervous about what the future might look like, without enough men who live out their responsibility of being men, and what it might mean to the women who would like to depend on them (no offense to those ladies who feel they don’t need a man).
You might read this and think, “Big deal, Tom. Times are changing. Every generation is different.”
They are certainly changing, but some things are critical to the fabric of a thriving society. Even Biblical. And the virtues of manhood have always been a cornerstone of the health of society.
That’s not to say that the virtues of womanhood aren’t just as important. They are. The issue, though, is that too few men are Manning Up today.
A Man’s Man…A Book…A Movement
Scott Schuler is one of the “Manliest Men” I know.
He’s a “speak softly, but carry a big stick” kind of guy. Scott is deeply passionate, finds peace in the woods, and could probably go toe-to-toe with Ragnar himself (the old Minnesota Vikings mascot, or the one portrayed on The Vikings TV show).
Scott even sports an epic beard…not the nicely manicured, ready for GQ kind of beard…but the kind that would make a Minnesota black bear question whether the beast in front of him would be something to mess with.
But then, when you sit with him, Scott is soft-spoken, caring, compassionate, and tender-hearted.
Scott saw this same issue I mentioned above: Men not stepping up as men as much anymore. He couldn’t keep his thoughts to himself anymore, so he wrote Man Up: It’s Hard to Resist a Bad Boy…Even More So a Good Man!
Even if you never meet him, you’ll know Scott after reading it. He’s the same guy in his book as he is in person, right down to his use of uncommonly used words, such as ornery, crappy, assiduity, and testicles to make a point.
As you can imagine, you’ll find the book not only informative, but pretty funny in parts, too.
My goal is to tease you with just enough to leave you feeling like you learned something, but wanting more, so you (pre)Order Man Up.
I’d love to see Man Up become an immediate New York Time’s bestseller, so order a copy for every guy in your family, and some of your friends, too. I pre-ordered 20 copies myself.
Instead of just sharing my opinion of Man Up, I want to share a few of the many insights I took away (there were many more that I’m not addressing here). I’ve mixed in a lot of my own perspective, so whenever I’m directly quoting Scott Schuler, I’ve made the text blue and italics. That way I don’t have to keep writing, “Scott said.”
With that, I want to mix in a little Scott Schuler, and a little bit of me as I summarize some of the topics I highlighted as I read Man Up.
To Man Up is to Take Responsibility
A man knows he’s entitled to little, and responsible for much. He needs to stand on his own two feet.
There’s nothing wrong with leaning on mom and dad for wisdom and guidance, but if a man has to depend on them, well, that’s not really manning up.
A man doesn’t need his mommy (or his wife) to pay his bills, make him food, buy him stuff, or help coddle him when he feels bad.
He also takes ownership of the problems around him, even those he didn’t create.
There is a serious lack of ownership everywhere these days. Whether it is in politics, business, relationships, or life in general, it seems no one is to blame for anything! It’s the “not my fault” era. Everyone knows someone else somewhere else is to blame for everything that happens.
Most guys are born with a knack for for identifying problems. But to “man up,” it’s not good enough to just point out problems. You’ve got to come up with a solution, and then do something about it, even if that means learning something new. And if nothing can be done, don’t talk about it.
Weak men assume what they need to know will seek them out. Men of great character and drive search out the knowledge they need.
—Stephen Mansfield, author of Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men
If I saw someone doing something that looked interesting, my thoughts were never, “I don’t know how to do that.” My mentality was always, “I’m going to learn and figure out how to do that!”
A man is physiologically designed to figure s#it out.
On top of that, he’s made to handle stress at much greater levels than his wife. Sometimes, “manning up” means relying on suckituptitude.
He’s made to carry a heavy burden…physically and emotionally. Often, it means taking care of responsibilities at home after dealing with responsibilities at work all day, and then foregoing recreation.
I played a round of golf with my dad earlier this year. It was the first time we’d played golf together in a long time. He’s in his 70s and I was shocked by how well he played and how far he was hitting the ball.
I made a comment about all the years he’d played golf, and he pointed out that he hung up his clubs for about 15 years, while my brother and I grew up and he ran his business. He said that he would have loved to play, but he had other responsibilities. Way to man up, dad!
Men take care of their greatest responsibilities before they take time for their recreation.
If you are following your passion and it doesn’t pay the bills, keep your day job. Do what’s required always.
The “do whatever makes you happy” mentality so prevalent today, especially in self-help books like The Secret suggests the opposite. It puts you at the center of your world. When you man up, your responsibilities come first, even if those responsibilities aren’t fun.
To Man Up is to Manage Your Mindset
I’m not referring to cutting out cussing here. I mean really…there are times when a “golly, gee wiz” just doesn’t work.
I’m referring to the way you think and talk about yourself.
The phrases “I’m trying” or ‘I’m doing my best” are like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. Plain and simple, these are excuses to avoid explaining why someone has fallen or is falling short of their goals.
To man up is to own it when you miss the mark. It’s easier said than done, but much about manning up is doing the hard stuff.
The faster you can admit you fell short, the sooner you can move onto doing better. Whatever results we get–good or bad–they are a result of our actions or choices. And there is always a reason for those choices.
When you can explain why you do something, it helps you reinforce more of the good choices, and makes it easier to stay away from the not-so-good ones.
Think of the word because. By simply using this word in a specific way, it can change your habits. Use “because” to attache value to why you are doing it. I go to bed earlier now because I want to show my boys that their dad takes the time to take care of himself…I watch what I eat because I want to look down and be able to see my shoes!
What a cool concept! For every action we take, or don’t take. For everything we do that we later regret, there is always a reason why. If we’re honest, we can use the power of that single word to get real about the motivations behind all of our choices, even the not-so-good ones.
For example, “I skipped my workout this morning, because I stayed up too late watching The Real Housewives last night.” Not…very…manly.
Or, “I didn’t kiss my wife on my way out today, because she hurt my feelings last night.” I know there isn’t a guy who’s reading this that’s ever done that, right? I have. And attaching the reason after the action sure makes me feel silly for making that choice.
It’s such a simple concept, and yet so powerful. I’ve already started using it in my own mind to question why I do some of the things I do that aren’t the best use of my time, and to reinforce those things that I know are important for me and my responsibilities.
To “man up” isn’t to be perfect and always do the right thing. It’s about getting better all the time. And the only way to get better is to be honest about our shortcomings, weaknesses, where we fall short.
You might remember a Saturday Night Live skit with the character Stuart Smalley. In the skit he sits in front of a mirror and recites the affirmation, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” Great for Saturday night comedy, not so good for personal development advice. When you think about it, the whole concept of this technique is flawed, unless you are already a sociopath. The problem? It’s basically saying to lie to yourself until you believe it. But, what if you are the only one who believes people really like you? What if you really aren’t good enough? What if you really aren’t smart enough? Life is not fair, and not all of us are going to be the good-looking one, smart one, or good enough all the time. It’s time people start taking ownership of who and where we really are in life.
If your ego is overinflated, or especially fragile, you’ll have a hard time with this. You’ll do your best to hide your flaws. And when the day comes that someone calls you out on them, you’ll treat them as an enemy instead of a friend.
A confident man knows he can succeed on his strengths and is aware of and works on his weaknesses. An arrogant man cares only about his strengths, and believes he has no weaknesses (he’ll even get angry if you point them out). And a timid man focuses so much on his weaknesses that he cannot use his strengths.
To Man Up is to Take Care of Your Health
Why is it so difficult to take ownership of our own health? We need to stop waiting for or expecting someone else to make it important to us. If you’re not willing to Man Up in your health, just go ahead and say to your wife, “Here are my testicles, honey, I really don’t think I need them anymore.”
I don’t think I can make the point any better than that, and this topic I write about all the time!
Your health is your responsibility. It doesn’t take a lot to make improvements, but you do have to be intentional. (Here’s 5 Simple Habits for Better Health to get you started). An you do need to make exercise, especially weight training, a priority.
Your value as a man comes from your mind and your body. Your mind operates best when your body is in great shape. And you can maintain a healthier body when you’re of sound mind.
To Man Up is to Strive to Be an Awesome Husband
If the whole world thought I was a tool, but I walked with the Lord, and my wife was sincerely proud of me, it would mean far more than having the admiration of the world, while my walk was disappointing to Christ, and left my wife feeling emotionally and physically abandoned.
Marriage is the most difficult and rewarding, frustrating and invigorating, painful and healing, heartbreaking and exciting relationship a man will ever have.
Two independent people who become one, but still have unique personalities.
Her place in a husband’s priorities is second only to The Lord. For much of our marriage, my career came first. I never hung out at bars, played sports, did other stuff that took time away from Vanessa and our boys. But I did make my job a priority over the time she needed from me. I cannot erase that mistake, but I’ve learned from it and I try to share that mistake with other guys.
As guys, we’ll work on our skills for sports, business, and investing. We’ll study every football player to come up with the perfect Fantasy Football team.
But we’ll totally overlook the importance of getting better at the skill of marriage.
For me, I’d read hundreds of business books, read thousands of nutrition and exercise studies, and listened to audiobooks and podcasts to gain a greater advantage for my career. But it wasn’t until 12 years into our marriage where I started thinking about how I could be a better husband. What a missed opportunity!
Scott shares some great advice for upping your husband game. I’ll leave that to him to share with you when you read the book.
I’ll leave you with this. Though many guys wouldn’t admit it, a wife’s admiration, respect, and praise means far more than getting it from anyone else. In the Forward of Man Up, Brenda, Scott’s wife, writes the following paragraph. I think it sets quite a bar for all of us men to go after.
I can tell you with 100 percent certainty, there is no one more qualified to write this book. I’ve watched him step up in every single area of life. He is strong and he is strong enough to admit when he is wrong. He is strong enough to do the right thing when no one is watching. He is strong enough to deal with his past. He is strong enough to put his family first. He is strong enough to stay true to his word. He is strong enough to stand up for his convictions. He is strong enough to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. He is strong enough to set a goal and go after it no matter the opposition. Scott is the epitome of a real man, not because he is big and burly or hunts or rides a Harley, but because he is confident and secure in who he is. He is true to himself and he uses his inner strength in a way that benefits those around him.
Imagine your wife describing you in such a way. I know I did as I read those words. Then ask yourself, what area of my life do I need to work on, to make that happen? Order Man Up: It’s Hard to Resist a Bad Boy…Even More So a Good Man! to help you work on it.