- Be self-employed
When you aren’t the lead dog, the view never changes from day to day. The vast majority of men on this earth lead lives of subordination, slaves to the whims of others for their daily bread. It is possible to break this cycle – it is a heartbreaking risk and a nervous life of constant jeopardy. But it is the only way to the top of the pile if you live in a capitalist country. A life with freedom and self-reliance is worth the trade-off of stability and deep nights of sleep.
- Have a dog
A man should have a dog. The two species compliment each other so completely, and have for time immemorial. As sad as it is to think, a man’s relationship with his dog may be the only one in which he is loved completely, without condition, with a loyalty that couldn’t be shaken. It is likely that nearly every other love you receive in your life will have caveats, conditions and actions with which you could conceivably extinguish it. But not with your dog. It will love you no matter how often and complete your failures might be.
“To his dog, every man is Napoleon”
- Learn Cards
The vast majority of card games are somewhat silly, have simple rules and a lot of luck involved. The reason you learn cards is first to fit in with other people. Cards are simple, and as such, have a place among the simple people of the world – a place which you should also have, no matter how intellectual you think yourself. The second reason to learn cards is because many of the games do involve the complexity and nuances of having to guess what your opponent is thinking, all the while obscuring your own thoughts and feelings.
- Learn to manage your dopamine
A lot of people (myself included) go through life mashing their own feel-good buttons repeatedly, to the point where the button no longer works when you need it. By the “button”, I refer to your mind’s dopamine response— our natural reward, fine feeling, sense of interest and motivation. You press it with late night greasy cheeseburgers, internet pornography, shots of whiskey, binge watching Netflix, computer games, Vicodin, coffee, and so many other things that modern humans have near instant access to.
The more you mash this button, the harder it needs to be pressed in order to get the desired effect. Suddenly you need more porn and real women don’t do the trick. That Vicodin habit makes you forget how beautiful the sun is when it sets just right. The whiskey gives you such a rush that the buzzing of the world can no longer be heard over your own instant ecstasy.
Learn to stop mashing your button compulsively. Your whole life will benefit.
- Get in a fistfight
You really don’t want to go through life imagining that you are made of glass, as so many of us do. When you consider our history as a species, we are not delicate creatures made for cushioned playgrounds and participation trophies.
I’m not suggesting you go up to some large guy in a bar and insult his mother, but nor would I suggest than any man take the pacifists approach of avoiding physical conflict at any cost.
A fight is not the worst thing that can happen. Once you go through a couple you realize that, and you will learn to stand up for yourself afterwards. You’ll be made of sturdier stuff.
- Try a food that disgusts you
There are too many picky eaters in the world; it is a testament to how full our bellies are. There is no excuse for not trying new foods, and it shows a spoiled and unadventurous disposition to turn your nose up at nourishment of any kind. So go to China. Eat a boiled scorpion. Share a cup of snake imbued rice-wine with an old Korean man. Choke down a half-formed chick/egg in Vietnam. You don’t have to try them more than once, but at least be able to say that you gave it a shot. A man of the world is a man with a developed palate.
- Talk to strangers
Beautiful women miss out on a lot of life. Beautiful men too. The world comes to them, desires them, and chases them. It is an advantage they have, but it is also something that atrophies their ability to make their way in the world once those sexy attributes begin to fade.
Sexy women don’t need to go up and talk to strangers. Men do. Remember that as a man, your value is not intrinsic. The world owes you nothing and expecting social interaction to simply fall in your lap leaves many a man lonely and bitter.
So learn to talk to strangers. Learn to fit in where you go. Do it soberly.
- Stand up for someone weaker than You
Sometimes it is fruitful to consider your role in life, from a purely biological vantage point. What are you as a creature? For what purpose were you wrought?
Men were made to protect, to defend, to man a perimeter for a tribe against the brutal horrors of the dark world.
If you ever have an opportunity to fulfill your function, in a way that is just and righteous, it will give new purpose and meaning to your life. Keep in mind that defending someone is not only a physical endeavor, in fact these days it is usually much more subtle and nuanced than stopping a bully from stealing someone’s lunch money.
- Boxing (or some martial art)
If there ever does come a time when you need to confront the physical reality of our world, you want to be ready.
- Learn to argue
We owe our grand legacy of Western thought to the concepts of logic and reason, to debate and the search for objective truth. There has been a falling down of our culture of late, wherein groups of people have decided that their feelings actually define right and wrong, that they are entitled to discover “their truth”, and that they don’t need to justify their absurd beliefs using rational arguments or making points that flow from each other.
The left is famous for this. I hear arguments like this all the time:
Feminist: We live in a patriarchy!
Normal person: What the hell is a patriarchy?
Feminist: It is the system which oppresses women!
Normal person: What system is there to oppress women in America?
Feminist: I just told you, it’s called the patriarchy…
Normal person: That sounds like your argument is circular.
Feminist: Why do you hate women?
Don’t argue points based on your emotions. Question what you believe. Be informed, and be able to logically destroy insane people when you meet them. You can help stop the spread of bullshit – and that is among the noblest of pursuits.
- Accept your flaws (but don’t give up changing them)
As you get older, if you pay close attention, you will likely learn just what the hell is wrong with you. A reflection-based habit of telling yourself the truth and growing from it is the responsibility of a grown man. Sticking to this mental exercise means you will be often be stricken by your many imperfections, your awkward stumblings, your outright mistakes and the times that you’ve hurt people that ought not to have been hurt. That pain you feel when you look hard at yourself – that is there for a reason. Let it instruct, but not consume you.
- Develop a meditation practice
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” –Blaise Pascal
I’ve always admired birdwatchers. The reason is because I could not spend an hour birdwatching; my mind is far too noisy for the quiet appreciation of the flight of birds. This saddens me.
If the ability to find stillness is a muscle then, meditation is the bench-press. You sit alone in a room with yourself quietly. At first you can’t imagine being able to sit still so long, yet the longer you do it the more seamless it becomes. The stillness then trickles down into the other parts of your life. Suddenly, you realize that a lot of your problems were nothing but the inability to sit quietly as you’ve now learned to do.
- Keep a log of your life
Memory is one of man’s most fallible faculties. Sadly so, for the happenings of a life— from the mundane to the wrenching – are treasures. Write them down. Stow away postcards and snapshots. If you live long enough, there will come a day when you crack open that chest of treasures and quietly assay them in a way that unaided memory alone never could.
- Discover your family history
We Americans are famous mongrels. One need only spend some time in an old world country to realize what hybrid mutts we truly are. But as human beings we are not the kind of animal to let generations pass without reflections on the grand continuity of ourselves. Therefore, it behooves a man, particularly the American man, to do what he can to investigate the root, the depth of which allows him a twig in the nebulous history of mankind.
- Keep your friends close
A friendship lost is a terrible thing if neglect be the sole cause. Too many of us men pair off into matrimony, and in doing so forget about the bond that used to exist between us and our fellows. As men without male companionship, we are made poor of spirit, sick of mind, and angry at our spouses for being unequipped to fill the cavity that we ourselves let grow through disrespect and oversight.
For the lonely and depressed, I have a piece of advice that is my go-to bit of trivial wisdom. I learned it first hand as what I thought was a failed person. The advice is to volunteer. Raise your hand for something thankless and difficult. Volunteership is a shortcut to trust that few other things in life are, and when large groups of people trust and depend on you, good things begin to happen.
There is no excuse not to be able to cook. Baking delicate pastries and whipping up flan might be beyond most of us, but the basics of cuisine are very accessible. If you want to start learning some skills with your hands, cooking is the one that has the most reward with the least effort, making it a perfect starting point that will stand you in good stead wherever you go.
- Learn to walk away
Men are programmed to fight for things, to work through problems, and to overcome obstacles. But there comes a certain point, particularly when that obstacle is another person, where it is often better to simply walk away. Sometimes that takes more courage than staying in the fight, but some fights just can’t be helped by doubling down, and you have to learn how to protect yourself. This pertains particularly to one’s relationship with women. Don’t be the guy who takes abuse and disrespect and sticks around trying to “make it work”. You will lose even more respect that way. Don’t tolerate disrespect from anyone. Just walk away.
- Bridge the gap (preferably without alcohol)
One of the best things about alcohol is how it seems to unlock the tongues of even the most taciturn. Suddenly, the world seems a lot kinder and people more open and receptive. But relying on alcohol to make this so sets up a trigger and reward system that is at the base of all addictions. Therefore, make an effort to see if you can get the same reward without any liquor involved. Learn to talk to strangers, to relate to the alien, to be open automatically and to know when it is safe to do so.
- Return the favor
There are too many mooches in the world, and gratitude is a lost art. As cynical as it may be, human beings are very transactional creatures. Don’t dwell on the score, but learn to keep it. Particularly when it isn’t in your favor. Repay what you owe as best you can.
- Body language
More than anything else, a superb knowledge of body language is the key to success in so many areas of life – a sort of cheat code to social interactions. There are so many great resources out there to learn, and you owe it to yourself to at least do a bit of cursory research. If anything, it will dramatically change the way that you view humans, and teach you that people as one know them are not, in fact, “socially constructed” beings as the popular academic thought of the day posits. Rather we are primal, bestial creatures who give away everything with the movements of our physical pieces. However, we are intelligent beasts, and you can use your intellect to instruct upon the primal aspect of your nature or on on the nature of others. It is the closest thing to “magical powers” that I can think of.
- Go without
Hunger compels you. It creates habits. It drives and impassions. But we are so full these days. We have the things our craving mind desires around us at our very fingertips. We gorge and fulfill until we no longer find hunger to be a part of our existence, as it was for millions of years. It has all kinds of effects on the spirit – to use a euphemism for brain chemicals – and programs the mind in convoluted ways.
The practice of intentionally doing without becomes useful.
- Learn to manage your finances
In America there is a quite strict social convention against openly discussing money, salary, savings and other financial issues with your peers. This, to jest, is likely a conspiracy created by large employers to stop employees from getting a fair shake by comparing their salaries with each other. As a result of this unhealthy attitude, there are thousands of Americans who are horrible with money. I’m reminded of a discussion I had with someone about freelancing in which this person was upset because, even though they were making 250 grand a year, they were only able to sustain that level of income for eight years.
At the end of the run of successful freelancing, this person was left in much the same position as he started. What an idiot.
Having money creates a situation in which making more money is insanely easy if you have even basic knowledge of investment and money management. Also, how the fuck do you spend $250 grand in a year? Maybe move out of San Francisco and stop buying garish cars jet skis that you never use.
Take care of your money. By doing so you make money less important in your life.
- Learn about women
We give young men so much misinformation about women, sending them out into love with the insistence that if they just “be themselves” all of the romantic puzzle pieces will fall into place. We tell them that love is ephemeral, magical, and that they will simply trip over it one day as if it were a auspiciously placed stone. These young men then grow up to experience a world full of women who are expectant. What these women expect is something which these young men have been told doesn’t matter at all. If they are not naturally attractive (if “being themselves” doesn’t work), they become confused and bitter.
As always, the human animal teaches its young the world is the way one would like it to be, not the way that it actually is.
I’ll be publishing a book in the coming months called “Dating for the Human Animal,” which is aimed towards teaching young men about dating and women as these things really exist in the world— without the well-worn smattering of polite delusion.
- Accept death
The ultimate item on any bucket coincides with the ultimate purpose of every human. We are born to expire, after all, but what comes before should not be fettered by the nagging computation of death’s approach. We are perhaps the only animal to spend time in reflection of our own mortality. While a healthy remembrance of death’s inevitability can help drive us to make the most of our time, death should be something that one accepts whole-heartedly as just another condition of creature-hood.
Perhaps this is easier said than done, and I can’t say that I, at the age of 31 would be ready to embrace the end were my final diagnosis to arrive. But it is something I strive towards, to let go so absolutely that the fear of death no longer stops me from living.