Yesterday, I became a man … or so I tell myself. But it’s what I believe. No, I did not get married. No, I did not become a father. No, I did not misplace my innocence. It wasn’t until recent times that I actually understood what it means to be a man. Before you say shame on me, I’m not talking about having generalizations of what it means to be a man, but actually understanding what it means. Yes, maybe shame on me still; I know. But it is what it is. Long time ago, just like most people, I always generally assumed that when you become of “age”, you naturally transpose or transition to being a man. Then my ideology evolved to having that vague notion or concept that it’s not age that defines who a man is but how he conducts himself. But I didn’t really know what that meant or how it applied to life, or to my life. I just knew about the concept, but I didn’t really understand what it meant.
So, Kayode, what happened yesterday? To put it plainly, I had an epiphany. For a long time now, I had been waiting to exhale, and then yesterday happened. I came to a realization of that thing which I do that has limited me; undermined my potential; caused me to waste my time. I used to tell lies. That’s what it was. Not silly, everyday lies, but lies that nurture a covert lifestyle. Lies are the bastard product of a twisted and corrupt(ed) mind. Unfortunately, the word lie is in the dictionary. It has been with us since time immemorial and would exist as a staple in the individualistic self expression of many for years to come. But it doesn’t have to be a part of your story. It was a part of my story; up until yesterday. I used to tell people that I stopped lying when I became financially independent in my mid-20s. That was a lie, because I still used to tell lies. At least up until yesterday. Lies restrict; they constrict. They undermine potential. They limit capacity. They reduce ones ability to create value and achievement. They clandestinely take a lot away from your ability to think and express yourself as a man. At the moment a lie is told, it may feel liberating but what we have done in those instances is to ensnare our future; to imprison our future by building walls that limit our full self expression, impede effective self application and enervate our ability to attain personal goals. The bricks used in building these walls are the lies we tell. When you tell lies, you dig a hole for yourself. When this lie grows, the hole grows till its big enough to be a grave and then you bury yourself in it and can’t get out. To be a man, you need to get yourself out of that hole as fast as you can, because if you have not realized this until now, all the lies you have told have put you in a hole, and it would only get deeper.
I told so many lies. Lies that ensnared me for hours; for days; for months; even for years. I’m still climbing out of some holes. I climbed out of one yesterday. But I’m glad I have not dug a grave. I would have been buried in it by now. I was fortuitous to have been thrown a ladder, and this happened through self awareness, self discovery, self actualization, and self expression and now I’m on my way out of many holes.
Enough about lies. Let’s talk truth. My truth. For a long time, I wondered what it was to be a man. Not biologically. Biologically, there’s male and female, but the mindset of an individual as well as his occupation (how he occupies or spends his time) is what differentiates males at different stages in life. That’s why you have males in their 20s who come across as responsible and mature, and you also have males in their fifties who live as though the pleasures of life would soon go out of fashion. It goes without saying that age does not qualify one as a man.
So, if a man is not a male who is of age, who then is a man? What makes anyone a man? I’ll tell you what I think. There’s an awareness and conduct associated with that status and existence. Without the awareness and the conduct, you are just an old boy, or at best, an elderly male. A man acts responsibly at all times and he is accountable for all his actions. He has many interests but he is able to identify the things that are not important and does not stress over them. The late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, said that “A man should not allow his jingoism to influence his sagacity”. In other words, he is not easily swayed (and really shouldn’t be) by sentiments. He identifies the things that are important, he is fully aware of his abilities and desires, and he makes sure that those things he wants to do and those things that need to be done are one and same.
A man has a duty as well as responsibility and he attends to them with dispatch and alacrity. He does not seek to become someone in society, but instead he applies himself towards positively influencing his social circle. He is not a devotee of the consumer lifestyle; instead he is a creator. Being a man goes beyond knowing what to do with life or time; it also requires that you do these things. Society needs men. The degeneration and backwardness that exist in society today may be attributed to the fact that many males have not fully established themselves as men and taken their place in society. Society functions based on a preset and defined format. There are roles that most be fulfilled by both men and women alike for us to have a progressive society. These roles involve industry as well as moral-value creation. For a progressive society, the preset format requires that individuals embrace their roles and deliver on the objectives of these roles. These roles shape, establish, and sustain society and when these roles are not adequately filled, a dysfunctional society is created; there is paucity of good will, austerity of moral values, lawlessness and disorder. Society needs men. Males who have an awareness of their responsibility, towards industry and moral instruction, and also fulfill these responsibilities. Look around you; there are many males. Some are not aware of the roles they are meant to play, and most of those who are aware don’t take the step to actualize the intent of these roles. Fulfilling the requirements of these roles generates results that help to form the bedrock of a stable society. Their occupation, or how they spend their life, helps in providing a fertile ground for the creation of a bright future for the next generation. Not fulfilling these roles means there would be no development, no sustained growth, backwardness, dereliction, and the absence of a luxuriant society for future generations to thrive in. Is this situation familiar? An outsider may describe the Nigerian situation with similar words.
If you are a man, you should share your experience of that existence with others. If you are yet to become one, read on. Just like anything else, success requires planning/strategy followed up with action. The planning part is sometimes the most difficult and if done properly, you are more than halfway to your goal. I got an outline from a podcast called The Art of Manliness . A guest, on the podcast, Chad Howse, delineated steps you can take to starting this process.
- As a first step, think about the type of man you want to become. Do you want to be the type who indulges in life’s pleasures with reckless abandon and wishes he was 25 again by the time he is 40 just because he got to his ‘yesterday’ a little too late? Or do you want to be a man who is known for those things which he truly holds dear? Think deeply about the type of man you want to be
- Secondly, write down a list of your role models. Those people who you admire; those people whose lives paint a real picture of the type of life you want to live.
- Define the characteristics of these people that will aid you in living just like they do. It may require that you do some research … be a man and get at it. Keep this list close by (could be on your phone)
- At the end of each day, review your list and do some adjudication. Did you practice behaviors that are not in alignment with the characteristics you have listed? Remember that this exercise doesn’t involve anyone else. Only you. So you can tell yourself the truth, or dig a pit and fall in it.
A man takes action. He’s not all talk; he’s a doer. He is confident and takes action to become the person he has defined. He is Motivated from within. He is Ambitious. He has a Never say never attitude. These are some of the things that make him a M.A.N. I wasn’t a man; at least up until yesterday. Being a man requires that you identify a truth, your truth, your vision for your life, and that you live up to it. In all honesty, at any point in time, only you can tell if you are living up to your truth (to the image you present or project to the world of who you are), but in time or with time, your true self or your truth will be revealed to all. It’s just a matter of time. Presenting a false personae by living out falsehoods greatly detracts you from being that man you have defined for yourself. In the process, you hurt others, waste time and other resources, and have the potential to ruin yourself. I have seen this happen to many; it could have happened to me; at least up until yesterday.
So, how would I live my life going forward? How do you live your life? Let’s go to the bible for a moment. Brother Paul shares this: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Corinthians 13: 11-13. Ask yourself just one question. Is there anything you are doing that if made public, you would be ashamed of? What is it that you do that keeps you from being that Man you truly desire to be? Identify it, and stop doing it. It won’t go away naturally, it won’t go away one day. You could speak about it. Speaking about it helps. That’s part of what I’m doing right now. When your dark secret is shared it makes it easier to free yourself of it. It’s not the easiest thing to do. I’d slip sometimes; but I’ll move on. I’d make mistakes, but I’ll move on. After all, a man who does not make mistakes does not make anything else.
Society today needs men. You hear of scandals everywhere mostly because males who are of age have refused to put away childish things; childish behaviors, avarice, covetousness, aimless pursuits to seek self gratification. Let me ask another question? If you are not married and you wish to get married, how can you be so sure that you will be a good husband? Or, if you wish to set up a business, how are you so sure that you will be a successful leader? Some may tell you that you really cannot tell the future; in that case, it may be unwise of you to enter into any of the ventures earlier mentioned, because you need to go into them with a high level of certainty else you won’t be successful.
Success in anything requires self-leadership, and leading oneself successfully requires that you stay true to you. If there’s an iota of falsehood in how you present yourself, you have taken a step closer towards failure in self-leadership. Success requires commitment. The road ahead is filled with attractions, distractions, and seemingly insurmountable challenges. But you need to keep at it. So long as you are in pursuit of that which you truly desire, giving up is not an option. Success requires that you are diligent; that you do what needs to be done when required. Success requires sacrifice; giving up ephemeral pleasures to achieve lasting future happiness. Success requires commitment. Being committed does not only involve staying consistent when times are good; it requires that you choose to stay the course even when you feel overwhelmed or upset.
I’m not trying to preach to you; far from it. I’m only trying to help myself better understand my situation and also possibly interest you in starting a conversation within you that can lead to self discovery. Whatever you choose to do with what you have read really is your business. As for me, whatever happens, I’ll make sure I don’t repeat the mistakes I made before yesterday. No regrets.
“Self conquest is the greatest of victories. Mighty is he who conquers himself” – Bruce Lee