Apr 19, 2016

You're Not That Guy: Becoming Your Own Version of a Man

The EdgeWe’re all told today how to act like a man. It’s ingrained in our movies, our music, even our weekly basketball pick-up games. If there's a more meaningless phrase a kid hears growing up than "be a man"... it's news to me as a now adult male.

My grandfather was the kind of guy I think of when I think of a classic man. The dapper, well groomed man. I have pictures of him on wooden skis with the most amazing wool sweater and vintage goggles that makes a part of me incredibly proud to be his grandson. Sometimes, I feel like I’m losing the battle of mirroring the towering image of my grandfather with his fast cars, scotch laced musings, and the gold-plated De-Ville lighter nestled in his pocket next to an amazing pocket watch. 

My grandfather was a guy that had a heartbeat for adventure, and I feel the same draw in myself when I take the time to listen. Daily life seems to dampen that call, piling on responsibility and duty while all the time it gets a bit more muted and I feel it being replaced with a sense of lost time and regret. While I'm lucky, not all of us had grandfathers whose lifestyles are worth emulating. 

The Dock

But here’s the deal, the beat that made my grandfather an adventurer, a guy worth looking up to are completely different than the passions buried in me. I tell myself, weekly, to stop trying to act like that man, the man that lived in a different time and had his own sets of deep seated daily-life struggles. Be you, and be the very best version you can be. The stories and pictures may always be of the mountaintop successes, of the full sail on open sea; but they started as a first step and you can do that today. Here are a few steps to take to become the man you should be.

1. Start an adventure list – This is the most important part of becoming that bolder version of you, the one with pictures and memories of wild adventures. If you start looking at where you want to be, it’s amazing how quickly the path opens up. A few years ago I wrote down three mountains I wanted to summit, and a few stretch adventures that would let me see the world. Within a few years I had bagged the mountains and travelled farther than I dreamed. I’ve seen sunrises from summits and distant islands, climbed glaciers in foreign countries and eaten more foods I couldn’t pronounce than you can imagine. I actually had to turn down a few opportunities because I was somewhere equally amazing during the same time. Don’t plan small, throw in a few goals that will take a massive amount of effort and luck to achieve, like driving the Autobahn in an Aston Martin (I’m still working on this one).

2. Make the time to listen – Take the time to dream, to really dream about what you want to do. And don’t make it about where you think people would want to see you, or where the best pictures may come from. Really listen to your heart on this one and find what would make your heart pound. The experiences that truly shape us come from those moments that make you feel alive, and only you know what those are.

Half Dome

3. Celebrate the first steps – Like I said, those mountaintop victories started with some pretty banal steps along the way, and it’s that hard work most people don’t want to do that keep them from the adventure. If you want to climb a mountain, be in the shape it takes to do it. Most of my opportunities came with the urgency of a last minute trip, so if I hadn’t been in mountaintop shape I wouldn’t have been able to say yes. If you want to dive off the Great Barrier Reef one day, it’s worth making sure you are PADI certified and ready to grab a tank and go when the opportunity arises, because that’s how it always happens.

4. Be ready to say yes – A long time ago, I also made the commitment to say yes more often. I was falling into a pattern of coming up with reasons why I couldn’t do what I wanted and most of them were paper-thin at best. I was too tired, had to work on Monday, and didn’t have the right gear to do it. But then again, think of the story I could tell when I came in talking about summiting a 14,000 ft peak over the weekend – what did you do with your 48 hours of freedom? It can be a stretch, but it’s amazing how much can be fit into your life if you stop finding the reasons why it can’t.

Waterfall Rainbow

5. Surround yourself with people who inspire – One of the reasons I started writing down an adventure bucket list was because I started hanging out with a few guys who inspired me to dream. They were active, passionate, and dedicated to spending the time it took to squeeze every bit out of this life. They effectively re-defined what a man is in my mind because they were starting to figure it out themselves and it inspired me to do the same.

You see, a man isn’t a collection of bad-ass photos with leather, scotch, and dapper beards. A man is that guy listening to the beat of adventure buried in his chest, who is dedicated to finding out what makes him come alive and isn’t afraid to step out and make it happen. What is that adventure buried in your chest, and what are you going to do about it?


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Fred on Sep 02, 2016:

Maybe my comment has to do with image of an American highway that symbolises the open road and a wide country to a European. But the European often forgets that not all highways are like that and that he is not free to drive as fast as he likes.

And the other side is an American who dreams of a German Autobahn where he can drive as fast as he likes. Of course most Autobahnen have a speed limit and so much traffic that it is nonsense to drive fast. However the problem on German streets is not (imho) the missing speed limit, but the fact that many drivers don't keep a minimum distance to the car in front of them.


Maybe highways and Autobahnen don't really live up to their image. The reality of modern day traffic comes in the way.


But of course if it is your dream, I hope it comes true. And I would like to drive down some California highways. But for me it would be vacation and not the daily drive to work. So it is not really comparable.

David on Sep 02, 2016:


Thanks for the kind words, and thanks for the encouragement!

David on Sep 02, 2016:

@Fred, Ah, so I understand a bit more now! Sounds like I may want to set my sights on another adventureous road on my way over you way as well! I guess the Northern California scenic highways I drive over here are much the same for me, beautiful but nothing new after all these years. I think you would love my home with the lost coast highway and redwood forest area as I would love to see Frankfort. I hope you check in soon from the seat of a motorcycle somewhere, or chasing the horizon in a sailboat. 


Daniel Riso on Sep 01, 2016:

Great read. Inspiring. Cool that you put yourself out there. It's rad that each person gets to decide what's trivial, what's not and make their own dreams. So from me to you, I hope I can inspire you in some small way to reach your dreams and do you (not excluding driving hella fast in a rental somewhere near Frankfort)! PS, even if you end up in Euro Camery, I still have your back.

Fred on Sep 01, 2016:

Autobahn, all under construction. Just waiting.

Maybe it's just normal for me to drive it every day. (And it is no fun if someone drives much faster than all others.)

I prefer more adventurous roads in my dreams. But I don't think I'll drive most of them. It is just not important enough in life. To travel is the adventure, the people along the way and so forth. My goal is to have time for a long road trip (or motorcycle or sailing). Doesn't matter much where to go.

But, like you wrote, start with some small adventures - small road trips, diving certification, etc. That's the best way to get started. Most people don't go from zero to high speed with the first attempt.

David on Sep 01, 2016:

Hi @Fred, thanks for the note! I agree, the core message is to be you, and to figure out what in us is drawn to the examples those that inspire us have set. I'm not my grandfather, but I am who I am in many ways because of him.

As far as the bucket list, I agree life isn't all about checking off boxes, but I'll tell you this - if you want to do something focus hard on it and it happens. So, I personally have set very specific, detailed goals for some things because I know very well that a vague dream remains a dream. For me, I want to drive the Autobahn sometime in the next 10 years, and if I make it over there to do it, it's certainly not going to be in the European version of a Camry. Setting a specific goal makes it mine, makes it something I can visualize, and also makes it something I can share with others (people love to support dreams when you share them). Not everyone should have that goal (it's mine), but they certainly should have some goals that are as specific and chrystal clear so they'll know when they get there.

I'm thrilled to have you read my article, and I really appreciate the comment. Thanks for providing some feedback on it. I love your outlook on life and your ability to know the person you want to be.



Fred on Sep 01, 2016:

Be the person you want to be. That's the core message.


I don't know if a bucketlist is necessary. Life is not a checklist and driving a special car on a specific street can't be an important dream. A real dream or a real goal has to do with hard work or overcoming obstacles (not renting a car). But to have goals or dreams is never a failure. A positive outlook to life in general and the will to prepare (like PADI certification) is a plus.

Don't feel pressured by the image of other men. They're only images, they are not reality.