Things men should know

For my stepson, on the imminent occasion of his moving out into the world:

Here are a few things that men told me when I was young (and which I ignored), beside a few that I had to learn on my own (several times, in most cases). No matter who you are, or what you choose to do with your life, these are a few things every regularly abled man should be able to do.

Feel free to ignore them and learn the hard way. That’s how most of us did it, after all…

  1. Play hurt. Don’t do this unless you have to (there are long-term costs involved), but be prepared to work, play or fight through pain when the need is great.
  2. Show true loyalty. This bears thinking about, as mindless loyalty is a great source of evil. If you can’t be loyal to your family, you must leave them. If you can’t be loyal to your employer, go find a different job. If you can’t be loyal to your countrymen, why live in their country?
  3. Dress like an adult. People have the right to take you no more seriously than you take yourself.
  4. Work like a coolie. You’re either that good, or you’re not. Someone else is probably better, faster, and more dedicated than you. Make sure that’s not “most everybody else.”
  5. Relax like a king. Earn it, then burn it. Men who push the rock uphill all day deserve to sit in the sun once in a while.
  6. Negotiate. You probably already figured out that you don’t just get your way because you want it that way. Now figure out how to persuade others that your way works best.
  7. Eat what you kill. You’re going to cause pain in this world, a bit of hate and discontent. We all do. You need to own that, and learn from it, in order to grow.
  8. Take up arms in defense of your country. When required.
  9. Take up tools in maintenance of your home. Whether it’s a bicycle, a car, or a dripping faucet, you own it best when you can keep it running. Put your hands on it, and make it yours.
  10. Drive well. There is freedom in knowing you can get somewhere, safely and effectively and swiftly and well. Whether it’s boots, cars, or aircraft, grow wings and master your travel.
  11. Patch up a crying kid, a whimpering animal, or a mangled stranger. You don’t know when you’ll need to do this, but you will. Best prepare now.
  12. Don’t whine. Ever. When you’re facing unbeatable odds, you do yourself greater credit to do so unflinchingly – and if you’re just getting through the day, you lose respect by complaining. Everyone else has to deal with that stuff, too.
  13. Set the example. Not whining actually makes a great start to this. Most people spend a lot more time bitching than doing. Those who keep plugging along while everybody else makes excuses deserve to win.
  14. Let it go. You can’t save them all. Sometimes you can change your circumstances. Sometimes you must change the world. Sometimes you just have to deal, because some things you can’t get back. Resignation is more useful than bitterness, but a complete acceptance trumps them both. This one is hard.
  15. Keep your sense of humor. A good soldier does what he’s told, accurately and completely. A real soldier can talk about the time he was so scared he nearly pissed himself – and make the whole room laugh until they piss themselves.
  16. Love someone all the way up. This takes more courage than you can possibly imagine, until suddenly you’re sure that you could never be stopped from it. This one will kick your ass harder than anything else on this list, guaranteed. Still worth it. This is more than being a man; it’s being a human.
  17. Man up. Because you can, man. I have faith in you.



  1. Jack, you left out the one piece of advice it took me a long time to learn. Only worry about the things you can control. Worrying about the others is a serious waste of time.

  2. Geeze. Why didn’t someone tell me these things about 45 years ago? Nice work (again), Jack.

  3. i grew up on this list. like most i ignored some here and there.i also think #8 is an anachronism; or at least “when necessary” should be all caps, italicized, and underlined. i’m trying to raise my three boys on this path. it didn’t make me rich, but i can sleep at night and look at my self in the mirror.
    good work, jack

  4. As usual, well said. I wish someone had laid these out for me in my youth. Oh, wait. They did. My head was just too damn hard for the lessons to get through. Some of these lessons I learned along the way; some I think I’m still picking up in my forties. Hopefully, I’ll manage to pass them on to my son before he packs up and starts his life’s journey.

    You write well, and compellingly. From one not-kneejerk-right-wing veteran to another: please keep it up.

  5. Mike: added something to (nearly) that effect; thanks. Good reminder.

    Rick: also a good reminder. I’m leaving #8 as is, in the presumption that the Lad understands “defense” differently than the Cheney Doctrine, and that these are things one should _know_ how to do or in any event be prepared for, if not necessarily things one needs to perform regularly.

    I guess I’m guilty of thinking of men as some breed of sentient Swiss Army knives — i.e. the corkscrew is included whether you need it or not (for my part, G-D bless the corkscrew!). While I’m given to understand that this constitutes an outmoded Neanderthalism, it’s the way I was raised by a number of people, including Mom.

    In the event that I’m wrong about it all, I rest in the confidence that the Lad has access to other sources of information. 😉

  6. SomewhatBent says

    6a; Compromise. Being able to sacrifice ones’ own self-interest for a greater (or smaller) good will make people vastly more inclined to support other parts of the negotiation.

  7. Jack,
    Your words are more true than most will believe. Had a set like this when I knew (thought I knew more, at an age we’ll all wake out of. Hopefully before it stills us) more than the Ma.n speaking them.
    Like many, I feel the need, to add my change from a Quarter.
    # (any). Your word is your bond. Always, no matter what. Go to fullfilment in your mind, on paper, however needed to see for yourself before your word. Give your word a fullfill it like your life is depending upon it.
    If there becomes a roadblock so un-moveable that after a hundred-plus percent given still stops you. Go to the benefactor to negotiate. Nevnever unfinished walkk away or quit. Never leave your burderns for or upon others.

    Now I still have change from the quater, but most times we get to mu h of the-other-guy’s … Well we all know we have orfices like opinions. Enough said.
    Thanks for your words, Jack, and a bookk just finished. Good reads.

  8. Jack, all good points…..but I believe this should also apply to girls. We need to be told to “suck it up” , my dad certainly had the wits to realize his little girl was a bit different. I was given simillar advice just in a bit “sweeter” tone. Thanks for the reminder.

  9. There are times a person does a thing, not because they want to, but because not to is unfathomable.

  10. Jim Wallis says

    So Mr. Lewis it’s been 2 or 3 issues of MC and not word from you. What’s up? I can only laugh at Joe Gresh’s stuff for so long and then get tired of his tedious side.

  11. I dropped my subscription to MC because you’re not there much. Joe Gresh is good but you’re me.

  12. Should be something in the January issue, gentlemen.

    Thanks for reading; always appreciated.

Speak Your Mind