Tag Archives: strong men

Strength and Honor

75 Ways To Become A Better Man

On Becoming a Better Man in the New Year

I hope this inspires you to make your own list

Team Strength and Honor

As we approach the new year it’s time to start reflecting on the previous year and make plans for the next year. I think making new years resolutions is B.S. as most of the resolutions are forgotten by February. Instead of wasting all that time and energy of those B.S. resolution why not try making a list of areas you would like to improve on and focus on one per day. Small and incremental changes lead to long term gain.

1.Give to people without expectations

2. Be on time

3. Stand up for and protect the people you care most about

4. Set boundaries in relationships

5. Find mentors who will help you

6. Directly deal with problems

7. Be a gentleman to her

8. Take a moment and pray or meditate

9. Don’t talk behind anyone’s back

10. Stop making excuses

11. Give your best

12. Join a men’s group (a fraternity, a bible study, a service organization)

13. Don’t let anyone treat you disrespectfully

14. Workout daily

15. Be transparent and authentic

16. Only settle for the best

17. Go fishing with your dad

18. Become a Big Brother

19. Be true to how you feel

20. Go on a camping trip alone

21. Let go of your act and be your true self

22. Eat healthy

23. Take up a new hobby

24. Recognize you need help from others

25. Be at peace with yourself

26. Go get coffee with someone you respect

27. Ask a girl on a real date

28. Run a 5k

29. Give yourself a pat on the back

30. Get a massage

31. Laugh often

32. Write down affirmations and speak them over yourself…“I’m a powerful man”

33. Go to a therapist or support group

34. Go on a retreat

35. Write in a journal

36. Learn to say “no”

37. Take one step towards your dream

38. Have expectations for yourself

39. Let go and surrender

40. Face your fears and take more risks

41. Be present (put your phone away)

42. Let your defenses down

43. Dwell on good things

44. Vacation more

45. Take a class and learn something new

46. Give your best

47. Speak up for yourself

48. Set goals

49. Stop and listen

50. Be thankful

51. Floss everyday

52. Get enough sleep

53. Reach out to family and friends

54. Be generous

55. Be self-aware

56. Watch less TV

57. Reconnect with an old friend

58. Build something with your hands

59. Go outside your comfort zone

60. Let people in

61. Laugh at yourself

62. Release any sense of entitlement

63. Believe God loves you just as you are

64. Be vulnerable with someone

65. Don’t be lukewarm

66. Stop overcommitment

67. Be spontaneous and go on a road trip with friends

68. Forgive someone you’ve held something against

69. Invest in community

70. Read a book

71. Brainstorm more

72. Celebrate and honor others

73. Take a break from social media

74. Accept people as they are

75. Make your needs a priority

The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement – One Day at a Time

Get 1% Better Every Day.

Written by Brett Mckay

www.ironjohnbeard.com

The Power of Taking on Step at a Time.

Strenght and Honor

The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement –

It’s happened to all of us.

You have a “come to Jesus” moment and decide you need to make changes in your life. Maybe you need to drop a few pounds (or more), want to pay off some debt, or desperately long to quit wasting time on the internet.

So you start planning and scheming.

You take to your journal and write out a bold strategy on how you’re going to tackle your quest for self-improvement. You set big, hairy SMART goals with firm deadlines. You download the apps and buy the gear that will help you reach your objectives.

You feel that telltale rush that comes with believing you’re turning over a new leaf, and indeed, the first few days go great. “This time,” you tell yourself, “this time is different.”

But then…

You had a long day at work, you just can’t make it to the gym, and by golly, eating an entire pizza would really make you feel better.

Or an unexpected expense comes up, and your bank account dips back into the red.

Or you decide you’ve been doing really well with being focused, so what’s a few minutes of aimless web surfing going to do?

Within a matter of days, your fiery ambition to change yourself is extinguished. That audacious, airtight plan in your journal? You don’t even look at it again because along with your goal to lose weight, your daily journaling goal has also met an untimely demise.

And so you’re back to where you started, only even worse off than before. Because now you’re not just an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man, you’re an overweight, in debt, and easily distracted man who has failed at not being overweight, in debt, or easily distracted. The sting of failure can feel like an existential gut punch.

But time heals all wounds. Nature has — for better and worse — blessed us with terrible memories, so we forget how crappy we felt when we failed in our last attempt to radically improve ourselves.

Thus, six months later that itch to change yourself returns, and the whole scenario plays itself out again, like some Napoleon Hill, Think and Grow Rich-infused version of Groundhog Day.

Getting Off the Roller Coaster of Personal Development
Our quest to become better often feels like a roller coaster ride with its proverbial ups and downs. By the time you’re headed down Self-Improvement Mountain for the twentieth time, you’re vomiting out the side of your cart in self-disgust, cursing yourself that you once again bought a ticket to ride.

Why are our attempts to better ourselves usually so uneven, and why do they so frequently end in failure? There are a few reasons:

Focusing on the big goal overwhelms us into inaction. It’s an article of faith in the world of personal development that you have to make big, Empire State goals. You don’t just want to dominate in your own life — you want to dominate the world.

And so you draw up plans for leaving behind the 99% of schmos out there, and becoming part of the extraordinary 1% — not necessarily as measured in pure wealth, but in passion, fitness, financial independence, and number of Machu Picchu pics in your Instagram feed.

But the enormity of your goals ends up overwhelming you into inaction. What we moderns call “stress” would be better termed “fear”; the physiological reaction is the same in both emotions. A big, audacious goal looks to the brain just like a saber-toothed tiger stalking us in the woods, and the idea of paying off $100K in student loan debt seems so impossible that it’s actually scary. And when our brain encounters scary, the old amygdala kicks into fight-flight-freeze mode, and you assume the position of deer-stuck-in-headlights.

Big, giant goals can be awe-inspiring. But like many awe-inspiring things — a lion, a black hole, the Grand Canyon — they can also swallow you whole.

We think a magic bullet will save us. Let’s say that we’re able to overcome the torpor-inducing effects of aiming for radical personal change, and we start taking action towards achieving our goals. As humans are wont to do, instead of just getting right to work doing the boring, mundane, time-tested things that will bring success, we typically start looking for “hacks” that will get us the results we want as fast as possible and with as little work as possible. We want that magic bullet that will allow us to hit our target right in the bulls-eye with just one shot.

The danger of looking for a magic bullet is that you end up spending all your time searching for it instead of actually doing the work that needs to be done. You scroll through countless blog articles on productivity, in hopes of discovering that one tip that will make you superhumanly efficient. You listen to podcast after podcast from people who earn their living telling people how to make money online, hoping one day you’ll hear an insight that will unlock your businesses’ potential, so you too can make your living online, telling other people how to make a living online. You research and find the perfect gratitude journal so you can be more zen.

The insidious thing about searching for magic bullets is that you feel like you’re doing something to reach your goals when in fact you’re doing nothing. Magic bullet hunting is masturbatory self-improvement. All the pleasure, without the production of metaphorical progeny.

vintage 1927 Bill Jones motivational poster proud of your record

We stop doing the things that helped us improve in the first place. Okay. So let’s say you don’t let the bigness of your goal overwhelm you, and you’re not a chump magic bullet hunter either.

You get to work. Slowly but surely you start seeing results. You lose five pounds. You whittle $200 off your debt. You meditate for 20 minutes a day for a whole week.

You’re having success!

But in our personal backslapping, we would do well to heed Napoleon’s warning: “The greatest danger occurs at the moment of victory.”

There’s a tendency for folks to view self-improvement as a destination. They think that once you reach your goal, you’re done. You can take it easy. So when these folks start having some success and things start getting better in their lives, they stop doing the things that got them to that point. And so they start backsliding.

I fell into this trap when I was first trying to get a handle on my depression. I’d take some proactive steps to leash my black dog — meditate, write in my journal, get outside, etc. As soon as I started to feel better, I’d think, “Hey! I beat it this time! I’m cured!” So I let up. I stopped doing the things that helped me feel better in the first place. And of course, I went back to feeling terrible.

Self-improvement isn’t a destination. You’re never done. Even if you have some success, if you want to maintain it, you have to keep doing the things you were doing that got you that success in the first place.

The Kaizen Effect: Get 1% Better Each Day
“Little strokes fell great oaks.” –Benjamin Franklin
It’s time to get off the self-improvement roller coaster.

To do so, we’re going to embrace the philosophy of small, continuous improvement.

It’s called Kaizen. It sounds like a mystical Japanese philosophy passed down by wise, bearded sages who lived in secret caves.

The reality is that it was developed by Depression-era American business management theorists in order to build the arsenal of democracy that helped the U.S. win World War II. Instead of telling companies to make radical, drastic changes to their business infrastructure and processes, these management theorists exhorted them to make continuous improvements in small ways. A manual created by the U.S. government to help companies implement this business philosophy urged factory supervisors to “look for hundreds of small things you can improve. Don’t try to plan a whole new department layout — or go after a big installation of new equipment. There isn’t time for these major items. Look for improvements on existing jobs with your present equipment.”

After America and its allies had defeated Japan and Germany with the weaponry produced by plants using the small, continuous improvement philosophy, America introduced the concept to Japanese factories to help revitalize their economy. The Japanese took to the idea of small, continual improvement right away and gave it a name: Kaizen — Japanese for continuous improvement.

While Japanese companies embraced this American idea of small, continuous improvement, American companies, in an act of collective amnesia, forgot all about it. Instead, “radical innovation” became the watchword in American business. Using Kaizen, Japanese auto companies like Toyota slowly but surely began to outperform American automakers during the 1970s and 1980s. In response, American companies started asking Japanese companies to teach them about a business philosophy American companies had originally taught the Japanese. Go figure.

Illustration small things add up over time self-improvement

While Kaizen was originally developed to help businesses improve and thrive, it’s just as applicable to our personal lives, and it’s the antidote to perpetual, puke-inducing rides on the self-improvement roller coaster.

Instead of trying to make radical changes in a short amount of time, just make small improvements every day that will gradually lead to the change you want.

Each day, just focus on getting 1% better in whatever it is you’re trying to improve. That’s it. Just 1%.

It might not seem like much, but those 1% improvements start compounding on each other. In the beginning, your improvements will be so small as to seem practically nonexistent. But gradually and ever so slowly, you’ll start to notice the improvements in your life. It may take months or even years, but the improvements will come if you just focus on consistently upping your game by 1%.

You’ll eventually reach a certain point with your personal development in which a 1% increase in improvement is equal to the same amount of improvement you experienced in the first few days combined. That’s sort of hard to get your mind around, because math. But think about it: 1% of 1 is just .01; 1% of 100 is 1. You’re maybe at a 1 right now, and will only be making tiny improvements for awhile. But stick with it. You’ll eventually reach that 100 level (and beyond) where you’ll be improving by a factor of 1 every day.

That’s the power of the compounding effect.

Why Kaizen Works
“When you improve a little each day, eventually big things occur. When you improve conditioning a little each day, eventually you have a big improvement in conditioning. Not tomorrow, not the next day, but eventually a big gain is made. Don’t look for the big, quick improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens — and when it happens, it lasts.” —John Wooden
The Kaizen approach to self-improvement completely circumvents the unproductive ups and downs all too common to the quest. By breaking down big, overwhelming goals into super small, discrete pieces, Kaizen encourages action. The small successes you experience with your baby steps feed on each other and start building some momentum, which leads to taking bigger and bigger actions.

What’s more, one of the underlying assumptions of Kaizen is that there is no magic bullet that will suddenly make things better. Change comes through small, continuous improvement. Instead of wasting your time searching for the “one thing” that will change everything, Kaizen calmly directs your attention to the task at hand and offers this needed reminder: “You already know what you need to do. Get to work and find small ways to improve along the way.”

Finally, Kaizen isn’t a “one and done” approach to life. It’s a process of continual improvement. You’ll never “arrive” with Kaizen, so the temptation to rest on your laurels once you’ve seen a bit of improvement is reduced. The Kaizen mindset reminds you that all improvements must be maintained if you wish to secure your gains. As Rory Vaden says: “Success isn’t owned, it’s rented. And the rent is due every day.”

How to Implement Kaizen in Your Life
Ask yourself this question every single day: What’s one small thing I can start doing that would improve my life? The Bearded Lifestyle.

Then, start small. Like really small:

Want to start the exercise habit? Just do a single push-up as soon as you roll out of bed in the morning. The next morning, add another. And so on and so forth. In two months, you’ll be doing 60 push-ups in the morning. In a year’s time, you’ll be giving Charles Bronson a run for his money.
Want to establish a morning and evening routine? Start with the evening, and concentrate on the 10 minutes right before you go to bed. Plan what you’ll do during those 10 minutes — it can be as simple as brushing your teeth for 2 minutes, flossing for 1, and reading for 7 — and make it a habit. Every day, add 5 more intentional minutes until your whole evening becomes a satisfying routine. Then work on the morning.
Want to start journaling? Instead of making it a goal to write a page each day, just start off with writing for a minute. That’s it. You might only get a sentence or two down, but that’s okay. The next day, add a minute. In a month, you’ll be writing in your journal for 30 minutes if that’s something you want to do.
Want to start reading your scriptures more? Start with one.single.verse. Add another verse each day, until you’re reading a chapter a day.
Want to start meditating? Begin with a minute of breathing exercises. That’s it.
Want to lose weight? Cut out one sugary drink a day. Or cut your usual afternoon snack in half.
You get the idea. Think of the smallest step you can take that would move you incrementally towards your goal. Then try to make it even smaller.

When tackling big goals, it’s usually advised to only work on one goal at a time, but with the Kaizen approach, working on several things at once it entirely doable.

Try to do just 1% better than the day before. Start small and make your increases gradual. Avoid the temptation to get impatient and start rushing forward and taking bigger leaps. Take it slow, steady, and consistent.

Simply try to do a little bit better than you did the day before.

Yes, the improvements will be gradual. Some days you may not even notice your improvement and it will be tempting to abandon ship and try something else. But with Kaizen, Father Time is your ally. You’ve got to play the long game with your self-improvement — you have to develop what wrestling legend Dan Gable calls the “Patience of Change with your self improvement.”

As my buddy Mark Rippetoe would say, “Just do the program!”

Once you’ve reached your goal, start a maintenance plan, and keep it up for the rest of your life. Lost enough weight? Keep up the manageable diet/exercise plan you’re on, indefinitely. Reached the point where you’re reading 30 minutes a day? Keep it up, and enjoy watching a library of read-books accumulate year after year.

Self-improvement isn’t a destination. It’s a process. It’s like shaving; even though you did it this morning, you’re still going to have to wake up and do it again tomorrow. The process never ends.

Give up on the idea that you’ll someday “arrive.” You’ll never arrive. Instead of focusing on the results of your effort to improve yourself, focus on the process. Joy in the journey, and all that jazz.

And remember this: If you want to maintain the improvement you’ve made, you have to keep doing the things that brought you that success in the first place. Don’t let your early success lull you into a false security, and allow yourself to slack off.

What About Setbacks?
Of course, you’ll encounter setbacks. Some days you may get worse by 1%. That’s okay. It’s just 1% worse. Forget about yesterday and concentrate on today. Get back into the saddle and start doing 1% better again.

Change is possible.

You can get better.

It just takes time and patience.

With small strokes, you shall surely fell great oaks.

The Bearded Lifestyle Series.

Thor: The Ultimate Example of What it Means To Be a Man

What we can learn from Thor.

When looking at the three pillars of manhood — Protect, Provide, Procreate — Thor arguably embodies them all more than almost any other god in any culture’s mythology. Though he’s not the pinnacle of “goodness,” he’s the ultimate example of being good at being a man (or a god, that is). Thor uses his strength to defend his own honor, as well as that of his friends, family, and loved ones; he’s the ultimate defender of the perimeter. His tools help him provide for his family, but he knows how to improvise should he need to. And even though we don’t know many details about his family, he does indeed procreate and helps raise up the next generation of world-creators.

While Odin represented the cultivation of the mind and the attainment of wisdom, Thor represents the cultivation of the body. Physical strength is just as important as mental strength; just because it’s not as needed in our current climate doesn’t make it a less worthy pursuit. In the Viking age, those men who deftly combined the characteristics of Thor with those of Odin (as well as other gods) were the most revered and fulfilled. They could recite poetry and engage in “battles” of words and rhymes (yes, the Vikings had rap battles), but could also maneuver a hefty battle axe and willingly sacrifice themselves for their family and community. May we emulate those Viking men of old, and seek to better not just our minds, but our bodies as well, using Thor as our compass.

 

Strength and Honor.

10 Rules On How To Be A Man

What does it mean to be a man today? How can men consciously express their masculinity without becoming cold or closed-hearted on the one hand… or wimpy and emasculated on the other? What’s the most loving way for a conscious man to express himself?

Here are 10 ways to live more consciously as a man:

1. Make real decisions.
A man understands and respects the power of choice. He lives a life of his own creation. He knows that life stagnates when he fails to decide and flourishes when he chooses a clear path.

When a man makes a decision, he opens the door he wants and closes the doors he doesn’t want. He locks onto his target like a guided missile. There’s no guarantee he’ll reach his target, and he knows this, but he doesn’t need such guarantees. He simply enjoys the sense of inevitability that comes from pushing the launch button.

A man doesn’t require the approval of others. He’s willing to follow his heart wherever it leads him. When a man is following his heart-centered path, it’s of little consequence if the entire world is against him.

2. Put your relationships second.
A man who claims his #1 commitment in life is his relationship partner (or his family) is either too dishonest or too weak to be trusted. His loyalties are misplaced. A man who values individuals above his own integrity is a wretch, not a free thinker.

A man knows he must commit to something greater than satisfying the needs of a few people. He’s not willing to be domesticated, but he is willing to accept the responsibility that comes with greater challenges. He knows that when he shirks that duty, he becomes something less than a man. When others observe that the man is un-

yieldingly committed to his values and ideals, he gains their trust and respect, even when he cannot gain their direct support. The surest way for a man to lose the respect of others (as well as his self-respect) is to violate his own values.

Life will test the man to see if he’s willing to put loyalty to others ahead of loyalty to his principles. The man will be offered many temptations to expose his true loyalties. A man’s greatest reward is to live with integrity, and his greatest punishment is what he inflicts upon himself for placing anything above his integrity. Whenever the man sacrifices his integrity, he loses his freedom… and himself as well. He becomes an object of pity.

3. Be willing to fail.
A man is willing to make mistakes. He’s willing to be wrong. He’d rather try and fail than do nothing.

A man’s self-trust is one of his greatest assets. When he second-guesses himself by worrying about failure, he diminishes himself. An intelligent man considers the prospect of failure, but he doesn’t preoccupy himself with pointless worry. He accepts that if a failure outcome occurs, he can deal with it.

A man grows more from failure than he does from success. Success cannot test his resolve in the way that failure can. Success has its challenges, but a man learns more about himself when he takes on challenges that involve risk. When a man plays it safe, his vitality is lost, and he loses his edge.

4. Be confident.
A man speaks and acts with confidence. He owns his attitude.

A man doesn’t adopt a confident posture because he knows he’ll succeed. He often knows that failure is a likely outcome. But when the odds of success are clearly against him, he still exudes confidence. It isn’t because he’s ignorant or suffering from denial. It’s because he’s proving to himself that he has the strength to transcend his self-doubt. This builds his courage and persistence, two of his most valuable allies.

A man is willing to be defeated by the world. He’s willing to be taken down by circumstances beyond his control. But he refuses to be overwhelmed by his own self-doubt. He knows that when he stops trusting himself, he is surely lost. He’ll surrender to fate when necessary, but he won’t surrender to fear.

5. Express love actively.
A man is an active giver of love, not a passive receiver. A man is the first to initiate a conversation, the first to ask for what’s needed, and the first to say “I love you.” Waiting for someone else to make the first move is unbecoming of him. The universe does not respond positively to his hesitation. Only when he’s in motion do the floodgates of abundance open.

Man is the out-breath of source energy. It is his job — his duty — to share his love with the world. He must wean himself from suckling the energy of others and become a vibrant transmitter of energy himself. He must allow that energy to flow from source, through him, and into the world. When he assumes this role, he has no doubt he is living as his true self.

6. Re-channel sex energy.
A man doesn’t hide his sexuality. If others shrink from him because he’s too masculine, he allows them to have their reaction. There’s no need for him to lower his energy just to avoid frightening the timid. A man accepts the consequences of being male; he makes no apologies for his nature.

A man is careful not to allow his energy to get stuck at the level of lust. He re-channels much of his sexual energy into his heart and head, where it can serve his higher values instead of just his animal instincts. (You can do this by visualizing the energy rising, expanding, and eventually flowing throughout your entire body and beyond.)

A man channels his sexual energy into his heart-centered pursuits. He feels such energy pulsing within him, driving him to action. He feels uncomfortable standing still. He allows his sexual energy to explode through his heart, not just his genitals.

7. Face your fears.
For a man, being afraid of something is reason enough to do it. A man’s fear is a call to be tested. When a man hides from his fears, he knows he’s fallen out of alignment with his true self. He feels weak, depressed, and helpless. No matter how hard he tries to comfort himself and achieve a state of peace, he cannot overcome his inner feeling of dread. Only when facing his fears does a man experience peace.

A man makes a friend of risk. He doesn’t run and hide from the tests of fear. He turns toward them and engages them boldly.

A man succeeds or fails. A coward never makes the attempt. Specific outcomes are of less concern to a man than his direction.

A man feels like a man whenever he faces the right way, staring straight into his fears. He feels even more like a man when he advances in the direction of his fears, as if sailing on the winds of an inner scream.

8. Honor the masculinity of other men.
When a man sees a male friend undertaking a new venture that will clearly lead to failure, what does the man do? Does he warn his friend off such a path? No, the man encourages his friend to continue. The man knows it’s better for his friend to strike out confidently and learn from the failure experience. The man honors his friend’s decision to reach out and make the attempt. The man won’t deny his friend the benefits of a failure experience. The man may offer his friend guidance, but he knows his friend must fail repeatedly in order to develop self-trust and courage.

When you see a man at the gym struggling to lift a heavy weight, do you jump in and say, “Here… let me help you with that. Maybe the two of us can lift it together”? No, that would rob him of the growth experience — and probably make a quick enemy of him as well.

The male path is filled with obstacles. It typically includes more failures than successes. These obstacles help a man discover what’s truly important to him. Through repeated failures a man learns to persist in the pursuit of worthy goals and to abandon goals that are unworthy of him.

A man can handle being knocked down many times. For every physical setback he experiences, he enjoys a spiritual advancement, and that is enough for him.

9. Accept responsibility for your relationships.
A man chooses his friends, lovers, and associates consciously. He actively seeks out the company of people who inspire and challenge him, and he willingly sheds those who hold him back.

A man doesn’t blame others for his relationship problems. When a relationship is no longer compatible with his heart-centered path, he initiates the break-up and departs without blame or guilt.

A man holds himself accountable for the relationships he allows into his life. He holds others accountable for their behavior, but he holds himself accountable for his decision to tolerate such behavior.

A man teaches others how to treat him by the relationships he’s willing to allow into his life. A man refuses to fill his life with negative or destructive relationships; he knows that’s a form of self-abuse.

10. Die well.
A man’s great challenge is to develop the inner strength to express his true self. He must learn to share his love with the world without holding back. When a man is satisfied that he’s done that, he can make peace with death. But if he fails to do so, death becomes his enemy and haunts him all the days of his life.

A man cannot die well unless he lives well. A man lives well when he accepts his mortality and draws strength from knowing that his physical existence is temporary. When a man faces and accepts the inevitability of death… when he learns to see death as his ally instead of his enemy… he’s finally able to express his true self. So a man isn’t ready to live until he accepts that he’s already dead.

The Lost Art of Manliness

The Lost Art of Manliness

If it seems that political correctness has made real men something of an endangered species, it’s not as bad as you think. Real men have always been a rare commodity. For the majority of the male species, it is far easier to sit down, shut up, and do as we’re told. It has historically been the duty of only a precious few to act as bulwarks against the rising tide of male mediocrity. This is the order of things.

In Heaven’s name, be a man, sir! Your pitiful whining sickens me!
Alan Moore, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman

We looked up to manly men. They raised the bar, and gave us someone to emulate and in the process, improved our collective masculinity. In our heart of hearts, we all wanted to be Frank Sinatra or Clint Eastwood or David Hackworth. We wanted to be worthy of nicknames like Old Blood and Guts or The Chairman of the Board. And if we never quite cut the same swath, we took solace in the fact that we had at least fought the good fight.

Our heroes were larger-than-life, but at the same time, unflinchingly human. Audie Murphy was the most-decorated American soldier in history, but gambled away a fortune. Theodore Roosevelt ranks among the greatest of the U.S. Presidents, but believed in forced sterilization. Sean Connery, his mustache, and his Scottish burr all could have separate entries in the Encyclopedia of Manliness, but said it was okay to slap a woman, as long as you didn’t use a closed fist.

Somewhere along the way, it became unfitting to possess those qualities that, while they could make us terrible, could also make us great. Suddenly, we had to apologize, seemingly, merely for being men.

No, if there is mourning to be held, let it be for the slow, tortuous demise of the idea of manliness as a virtue. Yet before we sound the final death-knell, let us examine once more what exactly makes a real man. Let us do this in the hopes that more will take up the standard and keep the ideals alive.

Borrowing heavily from the leadership principles of the U.S. Army, an organization known for its manly men, you can say that a real man must Be, Know, and Do certain things to master the lost Art of Manliness.

He has an air of honest manliness, too, which in these days of fribbles and counter-coxcombs, I own I find refreshing.
Georgette Heyer, Bath Tangle

It’s all about character. By simply being true to those innate qualities that make up the best part of himself, a real man will stand out in a world of lesser men whose convictions change with the direction of popular opinion.

A real man must Be Confident. Nothing promotes loyalty in men and attraction in women more than a leader who is calm and self-assured. The goal isn’t false arrogance or foolhardiness. No, a real man exudes a confidence based on his own determination and abilities. Deep within himself, a real man knows that whatever situation may arise, a cool head and a steady hand is often all that is needed for him to come out on top.

When Group Captain Sir Douglas Bader of the Royal Air Force lost his legs in a crash in 1931, he knew that his life in the skies wasn’t over. He re-qualified as a combat pilot, and is credited with over 20 kills during World War II. When he was finally shot down and made a German prisoner-of-war, he made numerous escape attempts, until finally his captors had to take away his artificial legs to keep him in one place.

A real man must Be Courageous. There is no substitute for physical and moral courage. Manly courage means recognizing the situation and the difficulty, and when necessary, going forward anyway. He knows that as a man, he has duties and obligations that sometimes come before self.

Jackie Robinson had a well-earned reputation for not kowtowing under racial pressure. In college, and again in the Army, Robinson faced legal trouble for confronting racist antagonists. When he was chosen to be the first African-American to play Major League Baseball, Robinson, understanding what was at stake, agreed to have “the guts to not fight back.” He endured immeasurable abuse, but continued to carry himself with dignity and grace, and today, his number, 42, has been unanimously retired by baseball.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects
Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough For Love (Lazarus Long)

It’s all about knowledge. A real man must acquire and use the knowledge necessary to master the world in which he lives. This knowledge can and should include a well-rounded formal education, but that is by no means the only path. Frequently, men must learn by doing–by rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty. Farmer or philosopher, poet or pugilist, men who are to truly be men seek out that knowledge which best affords them the opportunity to control their own destiny.

A real man must Know Himself. A man who has a keen sense of self-awareness, one who is sure of both his abilities and his liabilities, can be formidable, indeed. Because such a man lacks the uncertainty and crippling self-doubt that handicaps other men, he is able to surmount obstacles that otherwise thwart him.

By now, the story of Kurt Warner’s Hollywood-esque rise from an overnight grocery sacker working for minimum wage to a NFL Super Bowl champion with a bust in the Hall of Fame is familiar to most people. Although it’s hard to imagine now, there was a time that most people had never heard of him. After his breakout season, Sports Illustrated put him on its cover, asking “Who Is This Guy?” In reality, it seems that his seemingly-sudden ability to play at the highest levels came as a surprise of everyone–everyone, that is, except Kurt himself. “This is how I expect myself to play. If you look at the things I’ve done over the past few years…when there’s a play to be made, I expect myself to make it.”

A real man must Know How to Accomplish Things. To live a truly manly and independent life, a man must possess a wide variety of skills that can be called upon when necessary. When the chips are down, the wolves are at the door, and the Zombie Apocalypse has begun, others will turn to the nearest real man, because they know that his knowledge and skill may be the only thing standing between them and certain doom. They know that somewhere within his repertoire, a real man will have the maximum effective anti-Zombie solution at the ready.

Captain Sir Richard Burton is remembered as one of the explorers of the Victorian Era. He spoke twenty-nine languages, and used this skill to travel to areas in Africa and Asia never before seen by white Europeans. . A true Renaissance man, Burton could have been called, at various times of his life, an explorer, cartographer, soldier, spy, author, falconer, translator, diplomat, and master fencer. Among his accomplishments were visiting Mecca in disguise as an Arab, and bringing the first translation of the Kama Sutra to Europe. Known also as “Ruffian Dick” during his Army days, it was said he had fought more enemies in single combat than any other man of his era. At one point during his explorations, he was impaled through both cheeks by a spear, and escaped by riding away with the shaft still in his face.

Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s all about action. Even the best character, knowledge, and even intentions in the world do not matter if we refuse to do anything. Two of the defining characteristics of a real man are his ability to recognize a problem and his willingness to take action to solve it. Put another way, you could that say that what makes a real man is his inability to simply sit on the sidelines when something needs doing.

A real man Does the Right Thing. Faced with a choice between expediently violating his own personal ethos and facing hardship for adhering to his principles, a true man will typically view that as no choice at all. A real man decisively acts for those things he believes to be right, and damns the consequences to himself.

By her own recollections, the wife of Oskar Schindler says he did nothing remarkable with his life either before or after World War II. A deeply flawed man with an askew moral compass, Schindler originally was merely a wealthy industrialist member of the Nazi Party hoping to make war profits by manufacturing items for the German military. He had an attack of conscience when he saw firsthand the atrocities committed during a 1943 Nazi raid on a Krakow ghetto. At great risk to himself, Schindler began to protect the Jewish workers in his factory. Through a combination or bribes, false statements, guile, and his own considerable force of personality, he convinced the Nazi party that his workers were essential to the war effort and could not be sent to concentration camps. Over the span of six war years, 1939 to 1945, his actions directly resulted in the preservation of the lives of 1200 of his Jewish workers. Oskar Schindler bankrupted himself to achieve this, and died penniless. Today, he is the only former Nazi Party member who is buried in Israel.

A real man Does More with Less. With four pieces of clothing, a real man can dress for almost any occasion, and if he has WD-40 and duct tape, he can affect repairs on nearly anything. A master of re-purposing, lateral thinking, and possessing an uncanny ability to squeeze every possible bit of use from what he has on hand, a real man realizes that the only tools he every truly needs are his hands and his brain. Everything else is just bonus.

The Apollo missions were a perfect example of masculine teamwork. Brainy real men were expected to send other real men into space, and, hopefully, bring them home, using machines that had less computing power than the average smart phone. As might be expected, this did not always go smoothly. During the infamous Apollo 13 mission, en route to the moon, the spacecraft suffered a catastrophic malfunction when an oxygen tank exploded. The entire lunar mission was scrapped, and the only objective became a scramble to bring the astronauts home alive. With resupply impossible, the ground and flight crews worked together to formulate on-the-spot plans to handle this unforeseen circumstance. Rather than panic or give up, the two crews ingeniously cannibalized existing on-board items to jury-rig a field expedient apparatus suitable to remove carbon dioxide from the craft’s environment just long enough to return to Earth. Everyone on board survived.

Being, Knowing, and doing the right things at the right time isn’t always politically correct or diplomatically possible. Real men and their ideals and actions should lay sacrosanct outside the purview of milquetoast naysayers who quail at the sight of blood and turn up their noses at the exhilaration felt from a live lived near the bone. Manliness is a lost art that celebrates our ascension to our rightful place atop the food chain, and as such, is a philosophy worth adopting. Only by embracing the noblest parts of the savage and beautiful beast within us, can we be sure that manliness of men, by men, and for all men shall not perish from this earth.

A Case in Tribal Honor.

The Yanomamö and the Origins of Male Honor

In a Man’s Life.

In 1964, anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon arrived in an almost entirely unexplored region of the Amazon Basin to spend a year studying the Yanomamö: one of the last large, isolated, and virtually uncontacted tribes in the world.

Over the next 35 years, Chagnon returned to this area on the border between Venezuela and Brazil 25 times and lived among this primitive people for a total of 5 years. He spent his time there intimately and exhaustively detailing the lives of 25,000 Yanomamö who lived in 250 separate villages in a way nearly unchanged from how humans existed for tens of thousands of years before the modern era. His education in anthropology had not prepared him for what he would observe. While he had been taught that tribal peoples were mostly peaceful, Chagnon found that war was a nearly constant state of affairs for the Yanomamö that shaped every aspect of their lives and culture. While his textbooks and professors had said that when tribes did fight, the battles were rooted in conflicts over material resources, Chagnon found that the Yanomamö’s wars were almost entirely over women. And while Chagnon had believed that all tribal peoples were highly egalitarian, he found that Yanomamö men were in fact very concerned about status and that there were several ways for a man to elevate himself above his village peers.

Napoleon Chagnon and a Yanomamö tribesman

Chagnon describes these revelations and the controversy they caused in the anthropological world in his recent book, Noble Savages. While every tribe around the world and throughout history has had their own distinct culture, what Chagnon observed about the Yanomamö are traits that have been recorded in many other primitive peoples as well, and what I found most interesting about this quite fascinating book is the way many of his observations related tribal codes of honor (Quick review: classical honor is defined as a reputation worthy of respect and admiration.) In that series, we talked about the way the code of honor for men has evolved, from bravery and physical prowess to virtue and character, while its basic mechanisms for achievement and enforcement have remained the same. By taking a look at how honor operated among the Yanomamö, we can discover specific examples of some of the principles which we previously described in the abstract, as well as a possible explanation of how and why the basic masculine code of honor-as-courage developed in the first place. At the same time, it causes us to reflect on how this primitive code of honor still echoes faintly in the present. For while the lives of tribes like the Yanomamö can seem light years away from our own, in the long sweep of history, men lived like them far longer than they have lived like us; the many centuries the world has experienced modern civilization is really a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of things. So how did men live and earn honor in, as Jared Diamond would put it, “the world as of yesterday?”

A State of War

Chagnon’s first big surprise when he arrived among the Yanomamö was that the tribe existed in a state of chronic war — their lives were overhung with the “ubiquity of terror.” Chagnon’s education in anthropology had largely presented him with an image of primitive tribesmen as Roussean “noble savages” – communal, peace-loving people who were one with nature and each other. Warfare, his fellow anthropologists argued, was largely the product of capitalist exploitation and colonization, and tribes had experienced very little conflict until disrupted by contact with industrialized nations. This academic image would collide sharply with what Chagnon found in the field. “While it is also true that tribesmen spend many happy hours hunting, fishing, gathering, and telling wonderful stories and myths around the campfire,” Chagnon writes, “one of the most salient features of their social environment is the threat of attack from neighbors.”

This fear of attack was not an unfounded worry; early morning raids by neighboring villages happened with some frequency and the results were often fatal. Through his meticulous research and data-keeping, Chagnon found that in 1988, “two-thirds of all living Yanomamö over the age of forty [had] lost one or more close genetic kinsman—a father, brother, husband, or son—to violence.” In comparison, around one-sixth of Britons lost a member of their immediate family in the famously bloody Great War. This of course means that the percentage of Yanomamö men who had killed another was also quite high; Chagnon discovered that 45% of these tribesmen had slain at least one other man.

Chagnon argues that other anthropologists had underestimated the violent nature of tribal cultures because their fieldwork had been done with tribes that had already changed their way of life due to contact with outsiders; there were very few uncontacted, “demographically intact” tribes left to study at the time – places “where populations of tribesmen were still growing by reproducing offspring faster than people were dying and were fighting with each other in complete independence of nation states that surrounded them.”

From his fieldwork, and looking at the history of other tribes around the world, Chagnon theorized that war, far from being the product of capitalist exploitation and colonization was in fact the true “state of nature.” He concluded that 1) “maximizing political and personal security was the overwhelming driving force in human social and cultural evolution,” and 2) “warfare has been the most important single force shaping the evolution of political society in our species.”

Fighting Over Women

If Chagnon was surprised to find that the Yanomamö were not the peace-loving noble savages he had expected, he was equally surprised to learn the cause of their constant conflict.

Chagnon’s education in anthropology had stressed that primitive peoples only went to war over material resources – land, food, oil, water, wealth, etc. – just like industrialized nations did. What Chagnon discovered in the field was the Yanomamö did indeed fight over a scarce resource, but it was one his contemporaries completely dismissed: women.

Chagnon argues that the Yanomamö were driven by a biological desire to pass on their genes just as other animals were, and that their conflicts were almost entirely rooted in reproductive competition. “The tokens of wealth that we civilized people covet are largely irrelevant to success and survival in the tribal world and were irrelevant during most of human history,” Chagnon writes. “But women have always been the most valuable single resource that men fight for and defend.”

 

Yet the Yanomamö’s desire to obtain a woman with which to sire progeny was not simply a biological imperative, but also related to the third surprise to come out of Chagnon’s fieldwork: the tribesmen’s desire for status and honor.

Because primitive tribes didn’t have much in the way of material wealth, Chagnon’s fellow anthropologists believed that their cultures were very egalitarian in nature. Which is to say, the only status differentiators were thought to come down to “automatic” designations rooted in sex or age; older people had higher status than younger folks, and men had higher status than women, but there was nothing individuals could do to elevate themselves above their peers in order to attain “vertical honor.”

In contrast, Chagnon found some Yanomamö men were more prominent and given more deference than others. These men attained a greater degree of honor in several ways. First, the men with the most kin and the largest patrilineage enjoyed higher status, and Chagnon observed “that the political leaders in all Yanomamö villages almost always have the largest number of genetic relatives within the group.” They were also at an advantage when it came to perpetuating this higher status; the more male relatives a young man had, the easier it was for him to successfully find a wife. A young man’s father and older male relatives would help him find a spouse, and other men in the village preferred to give their daughters in marriage to those who came from prominent lineages anyway. This, Chagnon argues, is in fact the main function of patrilineages: “What these Yanomamö descent groups control and defend are reproductive rights in nubile females and the male kin who give these women to you and take them from you.”

The Yanomamö, like most tribes in history, practiced polygamy (more accurately polygyny – only men could have multiple spouses), and every Yanomamö man hoped to have multiple wives. Yet this privilege was largely reserved for men of higher status. The problem with polygyny, of course, is that if some guys have six wives other guys will have none. Polygyny created a scarcity in women, which is why females – the key to reproductive success – became the one resource worth fighting over. A group of men from one village might raid another village to bring back some of their women; Chagnon found that 20% of the women in the villages he studied had been abducted from other villages. These raids could then set off a cycle of retaliatory violence; if the original raiding party killed someone during their abduction mission, men from the raided village would plan a counterattack to even the score. Back and forth it would go, creating the aforementioned conditions of constant “war” and fear of attack.

From his observations of the pervasiveness of female-rooted conflict, Chagnon theorized that “if we viewed the human ability to harness, control, and prudently deploy violence for reproductive advantage, we could consider this skill the most important of all strategic resources,” and that need to regulate the deployment of this resource is what gave birth to social as well as political rules and laws. He summarizes his conclusions thusly:

“Regardless of their marital status, most Yanomamö men are trying to copulate with available women most of the time, but are constrained from doing so by the rules of incest and the intervention of some other man with proprietary interests in the same women. This is why there is so much club fighting and why villages split into two or more groups so easily. Conflicts over the possession of nubile females have probably been the main reason for fights and killings throughout most of human history: the original human societal rules emerged, in all probability, to regulate male access to females and prevent the social chaos attendant on fighting over women. Males in this persistent kind of social environment sought the help of other related males—brothers, sons, cousins, uncles, nephews—and formed male coalitions to pursue their selfish reproductive goals as well as to minimize lethal conflicts within their own groups.”

Courage and Fierceness

At last we come to answering the question of how the most basic form of the male honor code came to revolve around prowess and courage. Here Chagnon’s observations are especially interesting, and we will make ample use of them.

The Yanomamö were interested both in maintaining the honorable reputation of their village as a whole, and as individual men within it.

Village-Wide Honor

As the Yanomamö lived in constant fear of an attack and the abduction of their women by a neighboring village, it was crucially important that not only were the men of each village prepared to fend off such an attack, but that the village as a whole had the kind of reputation that made other villages think twice about even attempting a raid. The maintenance of honor was thus a group project; each individual man in a village, if he wished to earn “horizontal honor,” had to do his part to project and demonstrate courage and fierceness (“The Fierce People” was a “phrase the Yanomamö themselves frequently used to emphasize their valor, braveness, and willingness to act aggressively on their own behalf.”) If individual men didn’t pull their weight, and evinced fear and timidity instead, this showed weakness, damaged the village’s reputation for strength, and essentially invited attack. Chagnon explains further:

“Let me emphasize the Yanomamö view that when members of a group acquire a reputation of timidity and cowardice, their neighbors take ruthless advantage of them, push them around, insult them publicly, and take their women. Thus it is strategically important to react decisively to any affront, no matter how trivial. If a group is small, the men try to make up for their numerical disadvantage by acting as if the group is bigger, nastier, more ferocious, and ready to fight on a moment’s notice. Feigning to be “larger than life” is a deception that is widespread in the animal world but is usually a characteristic displayed by individual combatants. The Yanomamö, however, engage in this masquerade as members of social groups. I often deliberately avoided visiting small villages because they were predictably very aggressive and unpleasant to be around in order to compensate for their actual military weaknesses.”

As Chagnon notes, since reputation-maintenance is so important, villages are quick to address any perceived insults as to their manliness, strength, and courage from other villages. Because they don’t want such “offensive rumors” spreading around, “they are immediately addressed by a ‘we’ll show you’ melee.” The Yanomamö have varying degrees of these honor-defending contests that correspond to the seriousness of the insult received.

If one village feels that another has been unfairly spreading gossip about their timidity and weakness, but the insults have not been too serious in nature, the two villages will agree to resolve the issue with a good-natured fight, often when one is visiting the other for a feast. These free-for-alls consist of the men slapping (using a closed fist is considered unfair) each other’s sides, pulling each other’s hair, and wrestling in the mud and dirt. The younger men participate while the older men circle around, waving their axes and machetes, yelling instructions to the fighters, and keeping the skirmish from developing into a more serious fight. The young men hurt each other, but generally avoid causing severe injuries, and after about 40 minutes the fight breaks up. Nobody is declared the winner but the intention of the melee is fulfilled:

The whole purpose of the fight just seems to be to set the record straight as far as rumors of cowardice or unwillingness to fight. When the young fighters regain their breath and composure, they quietly and unceremoniously get to their feet, go outside the shabono to clean up and wash their bodies, maybe even take a leisurely swim in the nearby creek. There seem to be no obvious hard feelings afterward and the more ceremonial events like eating, trading, chanting, and dancing proceed as though the fight had never happened. But they have now sized up each other and are better informed regarding just how far they can push or intimidate each other in the future without triggering an unanticipated and more serious reaction. And they usually learn the possible costs of spreading false rumors about people who are feasting with them.”

If a village feels it has been more seriously insulted, they may challenge the rumor-generating village to a more formal chest-pounding or side-slapping duel. In the former contest, two men face off. One agrees to take the first blows and offers his chest to his opponent as he gazes manfully into the distance. His opponent winds up like a baseball pitcher and delivers several powerful overhand blows to his pectoral muscles. The men then switch roles, and the guy who just got beaten can now deliver the same number of blows to his opponent’s chest. The goal is to bear the blows as stoically as possible and make your opponent cry “uncle” first. A side-slapping duel works much the same way, with the two fighters squatting and kneeling and brutally slapping each other “on the flanks between the rib cage and the pelvis, with an open hand.” In both kinds of duels, the fighters become deeply bruised and sore, and injuries to one’s internal organs can occur; lung tissue is damaged and kidneys tenderized. Occasionally duelists do die from their injuries, but the contests are designed to be a nonlethal means to address honor-impinging insults.

In response to the most serious kinds of slander, as well as things like tobacco and food theft or another man trying to seduce or abduct one’s wife, a club fight becomes the appropriate means of redress. Like in the aforementioned duels, two men square off, and one delivers the first blow — arcing the end of his club all the way from the ground, through the air, and square on top of his opponent’s head. The recipient of the wallop is tasked with bearing the blow stoically, and attempts to remain motionless while leaning on his own club for support. Now the recipient of the first blow, often with “large chunks of their scalp bashed loose, flapping up and down on their crania,” gets to deliver one in turn to his opponent. Club fighting matches start with two duelists, but may progress into all out melees where numerous men grab their clubs and start swinging them at each other with abandon.

Scars from club fighting.

“Many accomplished and persistent club fighters have scalps that are crisscrossed with as many as a dozen huge, protuberant, lumpy scars two or three inches long after their scalps are healed,” Chagnon observed. And they’re proud of these scars:

“Men with numerous club-fighting scars like these are not bashful about displaying them prominently. They shave the tops of their heads in a tonsure and then rub red pigment into their numerous deep scars, to exaggerate them. Such a man, if he lowers his face and head to you, is usually not showing deference: he is conspicuously advertising his fierceness.”

Despite that fact that death was sometimes the result of these different degrees of duels and melees, “none of the fighting…is intentionally lethal,” Chagnon explains, and should rather be classified as “deliberately sublethal ‘alternatives’ to warfare.” Just like the “affairs of honor” and “rough and tumbles” engaged in by men of the 19th century, the fights were not specifically designed to kill, but were a means for a man, or a group of men, to show they were unafraid to fight and bleed in order to maintain their honorable reputation.

Individual Honor

While individual Yanomamö men had a stake in maintaining their village’s reputation for courage and fierceness and thus minimizing the chance of being attacked, it was not an entirely altruistic effort.

First, protecting one’s relatives and their chances for finding a wife indirectly helped a man’s chances of passing on his own genes even if he himself didn’t have children, as Chagnon writes in explaining the “kin selection” theory:

“since related individuals share genes with each other, an individual could get copies of his or her genes into the next generation by favoring close kinsmen and not reproducing sexually at all. For example, individuals share on average half (50 percent) of their genes with their siblings, they share one-fourth (25 percent) with their half-siblings, an eighth (12.5 percent) with their full cousins, etc. Thus if they engage in certain kinds of “favors” that enhance a full cousin’s reproductive success, then, to the extent that those favors enabled that kinsman to find a mate and produce offspring, their favoring of that kinsman helped them to get some of their own genes into the next generation. As one theoretical geneticist, J. B. S. Haldane, is rumored to have said: ‘I’d lay down my life for eight cousins. . . .’ That’s because eight cousins would carry, on average, 100 percent of the genes that the person who laid down his life carried.”

More directly, a Yanomamö man’s level of courage and physical prowess during melees and battle could enhance or diminish his individual status within a village; those who showed timidity were “branded a coward, an accusation that tends to remain forever in the memories of others,” while fighting with fierceness usually led to an “increased ability to sway public opinion and public action.”

The male desire for honor was so strong that tribesmen would seek to demonstrate their fierceness even as they were dying; the idea of honor being more precious than life was not minted in the modern age. Even if a Yanomamö man knew he would not live to enjoy the benefits that displaying fierceness would bring, his legacy and the memory of his manliness was worth protecting right down to his dying breath, as Chagnon vividly illustrates:

“Valiant leaders like Ruwahiwä sometimes sustain what are apparently—or even certainly—lethal blows to their heads from heavy axes, but still rise, stagger forward, and somehow are able to keep on their feet despite being mortally wounded. My own Yanomamö informants, who were also eyewitnesses to Ruwahiwä’s death, described the first ax blow to his head as a fatal blow from which no man could possibly recover…Yet Ruwahiwä managed to stand up and fall down several times—all the while being shot multiple times with arrows to his face, neck, stomach, and chest. Many years later, one headman I knew—Matowä—was killed shortly after I arrived, as described earlier. He probably also sustained as many lethal arrow wounds as Ruwahiwä, but defiantly stood his ground and cursed his assailants until he could no longer stand. He, too, never acknowledged the pain—nor the terror of knowing that his wounds were fatal—but stoically taunted his assailants with defiant declarations of his valor and fearlessness until he fell, dead, from his many wounds. He died with many six-foot arrows stuck helter-skelter through or into his neck, chest, and stomach. One of my informants, who was part of the raiding party that killed him, told me in whispers that this valiant warrior Matowä bragged about his valor and ferocity even as the raiders continued to shoot arrow after arrow into his body.”

The clearest way to demonstrate one’s fierceness and the surest route to greater honor within a Yanomamö village, outside the size of one’s lineage, was earning the title of unokai – a man who has killed another man. Since “not all men were willing to endure the risks and expose themselves to the dangers that Yanomamö unokais did,” Chagnon explains, “unokais held a special, earned, and respected status that only some men achieved.”

The higher status of unokais is reflected in their greater success in attaining wives; Chagnon found that unokais had 2.5 times more wives and 3 times as many offspring as non-unokais.

Unokais received such honor (and enjoyed the benefits incumbent upon their status) because of the way their personal reputation enhanced a whole village’s reputation as one not to be messed with:

“Unokais are both respected and somewhat feared because they have demonstrated a willingness to kill people and are likely to kill again. In a political context, the military credibility and strength of a village can be measured by how many unokais it contains—with the caveat that village size is extremely important as well. But, if two equal-sized villages are compared, the one with the largest number of able-bodied unokais will be the stronger, the more feared, and the more formidable opponent.”

Chagnon’s observations of how unokais behave compared to men who have not killed is quite interesting, as is his theory that a man’s willingness to kill is ultimately what leads to his power, and from that power, laws and states:

“Many men acquire a reputation for being waiteri, fierce. But someone who is an unokai has demonstrated his willingness to inflict lethal harm on an opponent and to actually behave in an ultimately fierce manner. Publicly and socially, such men can be extremely placid and calm in their outward demeanor, and even very pleasant and charming. By contrast, many men who are not unokais seem to be compelled to behave in such way as to imply that they are killers of men. Such men can be very obnoxious and unpleasant in their public lives—ordering people around, intimidating them, threatening to hit them with their machetes or axes, even threatening to kill them. But if an unokai threatens to strike or to kill someone, he usually means what he says. When an unokai gives an order to some man in the village, that man had better do what is asked of him. That is how power, authority, and coercive force by leaders emerges, adds to, and goes beyond the kind of solidarity and cohesion that inheres in the lesser cohesiveness associated with kinship amity. This is the quality that leads ultimately to the power behind law: the odiousness of sanctions. Without law, political states cannot exist.”

Conclusion

This is not a post where there is a clear and immediate takeaway, but one which seeks to provide some hopefully interesting background information on some of the possible origins of masculine culture and honor. My own belief about manliness is that it involves both the harnessing of primal urges and the discipline to sometimes overcome those urges in pursuit of greater development and virtue. But in order to strike that balance in either direction you have to first understand what kinds of primal behaviors might have been ingrained in your psyche over thousands of years of human history. I think Chagnon’s observations provide a fascinating look at how and why the basic code of masculine honor, as defined by stoic courage, originally developed. And as I mentioned at the start, what stuck out to me is that the lives of Yanomamö men, while incredibly far removed from that of us moderns, still have faint echoes today. Learning about the Yanomamö gave me a dozen random insights that I feel relate to the state of modern men.