We’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.
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.
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.
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?