Being a real man is no small endeavor. Picture this. A fine marble statue is sitting atop a pedestal in a large city park. Its every detail has been painstakingly crafted by a skilled sculpture who has worked tirelessly toward this goal for years to see its completion. It is simply beautiful. It is magnificent. One might even say… perfect.

While onlookers admire the statue’s majesty, the sky suddenly darkens. Everyone in unison looks to the sky. After a moment, as if with one mind, the mob scatters in panic as a pigeon the size of a 747 flies overhead. And here’s only one thing a pigeon that size is going to do to that statue. This isn’t going to be pretty, folks.

Our sculptor is about to realize that sometimes there’s no amount of planning, care, or hard work that can protect us from life’s, um… unpleasant circumstances.

Put yourself in the shoes of that sculptor for a minute. Everything you’ve worked years to accomplish has just been buried under a mountain of crap. You’ve done nothing wrong. You didn’t deserve this. It was completely out of your control, but its still your masterpiece that just got buried. There’s not a cleaning crew on Earth who will attempt to fix this. It’s a complete loss.

At this point you have two options. You can think, “Why me?” and play the victim. You’ll definitely garnish some sympathy for a while. A lot of mere guys take this route, and who can blame them? Your other choice is to be a real man by beginning the prep work needed to make your next achievement even more spectacular than the last.

Which one are you going to choose? That depends if you’re a real man, or merely a common guy.

A Real Man Recognizes Failure Puts Him in Good Company

As men, we often view our failures as the result of a character flaw. If only I had worked harder/been smarter/somehow found a better way, my business/marriage/mortgage wouldn’t have failed. It’s all my fault because I wasn’t good enough to succeed.

It’s important to take responsibility for our actions, there’s no denying that. It’s also important not to beat ourselves up over failures. The only failure that’s permanent is the one we decide to make permanent. If, instead, we keep pushing forward like real men, we’ll find ourselves in good company.

  • Harrison Ford was not only fired by Columbia Pictures, on his way out they told him he’d never make it as an actor.
  • Thomas Edison failed to read until he was 12.
  • R.H. Macy ran seven businesses into the ground before making Macy’s the success it is today.
  • Dr. Seuss was turn down by 28 publishers before seeing his books in print.
  • John Grisham’s first book was rejected by 16 publishers before he found an agent to help him sell it, only to have that agent decide he was a lost cause and dump him.
  • Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times on his way to become one of baseball’s home run hitting icons.
  • Albert Einstein didn’t speak until the age of three.
  • Thomas Edison (I like him, hence the double reference) also took more than 2,000 attempts to create the incandescent light bulb. I love his response:  “I never failed once. I invented the light bulb. It just happened to be a 2,000-step process.”

You see, failing in your endeavors doesn’t make you a failure. Real men fail all the time. It means they’re trying new things, and stretching themselves beyond their comfort zone. Refusing to try again is what makes a person a failure. You haven’t truly failed until you quit trying.

A Real Man Finds Something Worth Fighting For

I love the scene in Braveheart (okay, I love every scene in Braveheart, but stay with me here) when they’re lining up for battle and they see the size of the English army. One Scot says to his buddy, “I didn’t come here to fight so they can own more lands; then I have to work for them.

To which his buddy replies, “Nor me. Alright lads! I have no time for these bastards; lets go home!

That line has always stayed with me because it’s true in so many circumstances. Without a compelling goal to strive for, we will wither when faced with adversity. Who wants to risk death in battle just to end up working for a different land owner?

William Wallace was driven by his dream of a free Scotland. Rocky was fighting to make a life for Adrian. Maximus (of Galdiator fame) had… well he had revenge driving him, which isn’t necessarily the most noble motivation, but it’s still a powerful one. They all identified something greater than themselves to work towards that pulled them through the hard times.

To quote Andrew Carnegie, “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity.”

So what is it that’s driving you? What is so important to you — such a part of who you are — that no amount of failure can dissuade you?

A Real Man Fights With All That’s In Him

Men love movies like Braveheart and Rocky and Gladiator because it’s obvious what the hero is fighting for. The way he fights is straight forward and usually fairly bloody, and he’s only got one issue to tackle. In our day and age, our challenges are nothing like that.

We’re usually faced with many diverse problems, all competing for our limited attention and resources. We can’t settle issues by cleaving heads. Victory isn’t quite as cut and dry in our world. However, our struggles are similar in one key way: the opposition falls at our feet when we make it our single-minded purpose to make them fall.

Come back to the movie examples with me for a minute. Can you imagine what would have happened to William Wallace if, on top of freeing Scotland from English oppression, he’d also been concerned with re-thatching his roof, negotiating better grain prices, and saving enough silver to buy the latest iSword?

What if Rocky had been pursuing a college degree and a record deal at the same time he was training to whoop Apollo? The result would have been hilarious, but not inspiring. Both men would have failed, and failed miserably. Their attention would have been stretched too thin to accomplish anything noteworthy.

It is the single-minded determination we see in these kinds of movies that ignites real men’s hearts and inspires us to action. We see this play out off the big screen as well in the lives of men like Bruce Lee, Michael Jordan, and Alexander the Great. They set their minds to a single purpose and dominated their endeavors because of this single-minded determination. It’s a powerful concept if we will grasp it.

I once heard a quote that has stuck with me. In fact, it’s my current desktop background. It says, “Desperate men fight differently.”

Take a minute to absorb that thought.

You see, if a stranger pulls a knife on you in a dark alley, you don’t really care what color you’re going to paint the guest bedroom next weekend. You’re consumed by the situation. You’re desperate to find an immediate solution and pour all your energy and attention into that one thing. You fight with all you’ve got because that’s the only option you have. It’s that single-minded determination that brings about success.

Ask yourself this: What’s the difference between a flashlight and a laser? Nothing, except the degree of focus, and the result that focus will bring.