Masculinity

Testosterone Replacement Therapy 101

Studies continue to show that men’s average testosterone levels continue to dramatically decline. A well-cited 2007 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism demonstrated that between 1980 and 2004 the average testosterone levels of American men dropped 1% each year.

There are many explanations for this drop, which has many negative effects on men, including the increased levels of obesity, the effects of the standard American diet, and increased exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and environmental toxins.

As study of Danish men showed similar declines.

Other studies showing rapidly declining sperm counts, as well as decreases in strength amongst young men. Decreased grip strength is associated with increased risks of heart attack and stroke.

Whatever the reasons for these declines, their implications are profound.

One of my best friends happens to be a men’s health expert who owns a clinic that specializes in Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT).

I’ve learned a lot from Gil on this topic, and instead of writing about it here, I decided to share his hour+ long video where he dropped much knowledge on the basics of this important topic for all men .

I encourage all men, particularly those over thirty to watch the video and become educated on this issue with the kind of factual and non-sensationalistic information Gil provides.

While the topic of men’s health is often demonized, sub-optimal hormone levels can lead to a variety of health problems for men.

No, being on hormone replacement therapy to treat hypogonadism isn’t steroid abuse, no matter what the media tries to tell you.

Gil’s clinic, Elevate Men’s Clinic, is available for telemedicine for those who don’t live near one of their locations. To work with them, you can go to their telemedicine site and fill in your information. Note: this is NOT an affiliate link, and I will not get anything for any referrals. I’m sharing this video and his contact information because he’s an expert and he’s helped countless men get back to optimal hormone levels.

Unfortunately, primary care doctors are generally not informed about best practices, and often do more harm than good when men go to them for help with their hormones.

Charlie Delto Got Me Thinking…

I am thankful that my friend and Fraternity of Excellence brother, Charlie Delto took the time and effort to respond to my recent Heaven & Hell piece.

His response got me thinking… a lot.

The fact is, though it may not look like it on the surface, we agree.

His counterpoint to me was that we must be prepared to be judged truthfully by others based on the “quality of [our] character,” like Martin Luther King spoke of, and if we argue against that we begin falling into the SJW way of thinking, which posits we can define ourselves in any way even if it doesn’t comport with reality.

To Charlie, if I or anyone else says, “I’ll do what I want and not care what anyone thinks;” it should be viewed as a dangerous excursion into new left thinking.

He concluded:

“If no one else thinks that we are handsome, rich, kind, strong or smart, we’re probably not. If anyone and everyone can claim those virtues for themselves then those words will become meaningless. We should accept that some other people’s opinions are important. But those other people need to be our own community that we trust. They need to be our brothers. How you get these brothers is an impossibly long and nuanced process that is as human as humanity itself. But if you’re looking for a good start, do 31DtM and bare your soul to other men who are doing the same damn thing.”

In fact, his conclusion aligns completely with how I think and my initial premise, which I believe I didn’t articulate sufficiently. He cites this portion of my piece:

“But, if we use our freedom to forge our own paths and take responsibility for our own lives, no person and no situation has the power to represent a hell on Earth for us.”

I want to be clear that when I speak of forging my own path and similar language I am referring to forging it independent of society as a whole or from others who probably don’t share my values. In my piece, My Personal Declaration of Independence, I went into some detail about my battle with eliminating the need of approval and validation from other people who haven’t earned the right to speak into my life.

I acted in this manner for much of my life, regardless of whether those individuals shared my values and worldview or not. I will stand by my language as it refers to those who don’t share my values or worldview. I am no longer held hostage by their opinions or expectations of me. If I allow myself to slip into that way of thinking, it would represent a sort of hell on earth for me.

With that said, I fully agree with Charlie’s conclusion, particularly, “We should accept that some other people’s opinions are important. But those other people need to be our own community that we trust. They need to be our brothers. How you get these brothers is an impossibly long and nuanced process that is as human as humanity itself.”

I should have articulated it in my original piece, but those who know me well know that the opinions of those who share my values and who I know have my best interests in mind do mean a great deal to me. In fact, as my brothers in the Fraternity of Excellence know, I am constantly seeking out their thoughts and opinions on a wide range of situations. While they don’t get to define me as an individual, I do expect to be judged by them if I am failing in some way, and I welcome it. That’s what our brotherhood is all about. We work together, and sometimes have tell each other when we are fucking up.  

This is the “community” that I have that Charlie referred to as being important, a community we are both part of.

The key, to me, is to pick those who you allow to have some voice in your life wisely. If you properly curate this part of life, you will welcome their judgments of you because you will know their actions, words, and beliefs are meant in good faith and for your good.

Likewise, don’t let those who don’t deserve a voice in your life have one.  If you do, they will represent a type of hell on earth for you.

Charlie is one of the smartest men I know. He recently released a course on philosophy, Epistemology 101. I am buying it to broaden my knowledge. You should too (not an affiliate link).

Your Wife Wants To Respect You, Don’t Make It Hard For Her

Respect is defined as “admiration for someone or something that you believe has good ideas or qualities.”

So, by definition, in order for another person to respect you they have to:

(a) admire you, and

(b) you must actually have good ideas or qualities that are worthy of admiration.

The great Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky observed “If you want to be respected by others, the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.”

I agree with Dostoyevsky.

If you don’t have positive qualities, how can you expect anyone else to admire you?

Men have to realize that perhaps the reason why they are not getting the sex they want, the true partnership they desire, and the deference to their leadership they expect is because their wife or LTR simply doesn’t respect them. And, like Dostoyevsky indicated, the real problem at the root of this problem is a lack of self-respect.

To get the marriage you want, you simply must develop greater self-respect. You will then have earned the respect you want from your wife, and incorrectly believe you are entitled to by virtue of mumbling a few words during a marriage ceremony.

The fact is your wife wants to respect you. She wants to give herself to you wholeheartedly, body, mind, and spirt. She wants to defer to your leadership. Too often, however, you make it really hard for her.  

Face the facts. Your wife doesn’t owe you anything. She doesn’t owe you wild and passionate sex. She doesn’t owe you a happy life. She doesn’t owe you any deference to your leadership. You have to continually earn it by being the kind of man who respects himself and shows to her he is worthy of her respect.

I have identified several ways that some men self-sabotage their way out of having the kind of relationship they want. 

They get fall down drunk every time they go out.

If every time you go out together she knows she will end up driving at the end of the night because always get too sloppy drunk to get behind the wheel, you are not worthy of her respect.

In my own life, I believe driving is my responsibility, and if I’ve let myself get so intoxicated that I have to shift that responsibility to her I’ve failed her and myself.

If you feel like you cannot enjoy her company without getting sloppy, you have issues with yourself. It’s that’s simple. No, I’m not saying don’t enjoy some wine with dinner, but I am saying to have some self-control and don’t allow it to get out-of-hand. Save that for when you are with your male friends, if at all.

I remember one time when I was at a party, very early in the night one of the husbands was already stumbling around and nodding off alone on a couch, barely able to be roused. He ended up vomiting in the bathroom and passing out on the couch while it was still early. His wife, obviously used to this behavior, ended up visibly shaking her head in disgust and laughing at him with her friends, including other men.

His behavior demonstrated a decided lack of self-respect, and he should have no expectation of any admiration from his wife. In fact, he deserved to be laughed at and deserved her obvious contempt.

If you can’t enjoy a night out with your wife without getting shit-faced drunk you should know that the time to unfuck yourself is now.  

You disappear into your “Man-Cave” every night.

First of all, if you have a place you call your “Man Cave” that is meant to watch sports while drinking copious amounts of beer, you have an issue. I’m not saying not to have hobbies. I’m not saying not to have a study where you can read, work, think, or write or a workshop where you can build things. These latter activities include the act of creation. You are, in fact, doing something.

If you have a “Man Cave,” the purpose of which is to watch other men doing something on as large an HD screen as possible while you increase your already high estrogen levels drinking beer, and wear shirts with another man’s name on your back, you are not creating anything. You are being lazy while others get shit done. You are escaping. You are not demonstrating any self-respect or earning any respect from anyone else, most particularly your wife.

In fact, she probably feels a certain level of contempt for you. She won’t verbalize that feeling, but it’s likely clear through her actions she is demonstrating it, and it’s well-deserved.

This contempt is demonstrated through infrequent duty starfish sex, talking shit behind your back to her friends, and not deferring to you in any area of life.

Your beer belly continues to grow.

Don’t believe the lie. “Dad Bods” are not attractive. Your gut should not stick out further than your chest.

This indicates a lack of self-control and a lack of self-respect. Women don’t want to be led by men who can’t even manage to lead themselves.

By failing the very basics of fitness, you are showing you are not worthy of admiration because you can’t even do the basics to show that you can defend her physically if you had to.  

She may lie to you and tell you she likes a soft belly because it’s comfortable to cuddle with, or that men with “Dad Bods” have a great sense of humor, but she is probably only humoring you. 

Lift. Stop eating like an asshole. Stop drinking so much. Make the physical improvements you know are necessary and can easily be accomplished with even a minimal amount of self-discipline.

You make her pick out your clothes like she’s your mommy.

Your wife doesn’t want to be your mother. She wants to be your lover.

She doesn’t want to make decisions for you. She wants you to be decisive. If you can’t even do the simple things, like ensure you have presentable clothing that fits correctly, and can make the easy decisions, like whether you should wear the dark jeans or khaki chinos, she will never trust you to make the important decisions that will affect the lives of her and your children.

You have made clear that you have ceded even the simplest of leadership roles and are dependent on her, and she can never respect someone who is so quick to cede leadership.

You fail to keep your word.

Do you continually tell her you’re going to do something, and fail to live up to your promises?

Do you forget to pick up the bread on the way home from work like you said you would do?

Do you fail to pay bills and rack up late fees because you forgot?

Do you tell her you will be available to pick the kids up from school, and fail to follow through at the last minute?

Do you promise a date night alone at a nice restaurant, and at the last minute include your boys in the night out and take her to a bar to watch the baseball game instead (after all, it is the playoffs!).

If you don’t do what you say you’re going to do, you demonstrate that you are not worthy of admiration.

It shows you are unreliable and not dependable. It shows her you can’t be trusted. 

The motto of the Fraternity of Excellence is Acta Non Verba, “Actions Not Words.” If you consistently fail to keep your word you are demonstrating that your words are meaningless.

You must act and show that you care. One way of doing that is by acting in congruence with your words.  Your words mean nothing if they are not followed by concrete action.

Conclusion

Sometimes the problem is not with “the relationship” or with your wife, it is with you. While it’s not always the case, it usually is.

She is not acting the way you think she should nor showing the affection you think you are entitled to because she simply doesn’t respect you.

The thing is… she wants to and will, if you show yourself to be respectable.

I’ve just scratched the surface with ways some demonstrate a lack of self-respect and concomitant lack of respect from their wives, but the factors I’ve identified are a good start.

You may have a lot of work to do to begin to respect yourself and earn it from her, but you have to start somewhere. Begin with correcting one of the factors I’ve identified and work hard at fixing it.  

Don’t do it for her. Do it for yourself. If you lack self-respect, it’s time to put in the work. Make yourself a higher value man. She’ll recognize it and, if it’s too late, and the relationship is truly over, you will put yourself in a better position when you start over.

Just make the decision and get to work.    

Crush Your Ego

“Ego” is the Greek word for “I”.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines ego as: “the idea or opinion that you have of yourself, esp. the level of your ability and intelligence, and your importance as a person.”

Why are we so unwilling to accept criticism, even of the constructive kind, and so loathe to change our opinions in the face of evidence that contravenes our opinions?

Our ego, of course.

We all have some kind of inflated opinion of our ability, intelligence, and importance, and when we admit that maybe we are wrong about something we often feel attacked or unworthy.

Our ego is always present, and always protecting its turf, which is our own perceived self-worth. If we question our own importance, abilities, and intelligence, we question our very core.

Thus, we will cling to our opinions and fight to the death to preserve the identities we have constructed for ourselves.

We begin to identify with our beliefs about the world and about ourselves. These beliefs become “us”.

But, have they really served us well or do they inhibit our growth?

Crushing Our Own Ego

I am well aware of the need to crush my own ego, so I can live more freely and continue to grow, and it has been a process I have been undergoing for months.

It is not easy.

Sometimes it is painful.

I understand that I have made myself the center of my own universe for my entire life, and it has not served me well.

This needs to die.

I am not the center of the universe and no one owes me a damn thing.

I am not special and need to get over myself.

I now understand that, paradoxically, when I complete this process I will be able to truly live without preconceived, and often erroneous, notions of how the world should work and my place in it.

At some point in the past year, I became tired of living in “bad faith.” My simple understanding of this existentialist concept (and I know it’s much more complex), is it refers to how we act inauthentically to fit in to social expectations and norms. We don’t act in ways true to ourselves, and thus are not truly free because freedom implies the ability to be our true selves and act accordingly.  

We become slaves to others and their expectations because we want and desire their approval more than anything else. Our ego, thus, gets intertwined with this inauthentic edifice around ourselves we have painstakingly constructed and jealously guarded.

Knocking that structure down becomes exceedingly difficult because it has been with us for our entire lives. It is, in effect, our security blanket, and we fear the process of creating ourselves anew.  

For about a year I’ve known I needed to do this work on myself because I’ve been living in bad faith.

This realization was necessitated by a crisis, but not an acute one. Instead, it is one that has built up for more than a decade and cuts to the core of how I understand myself and the people closest to me.

The Work On Myself

While the work of crushing my own ego and remaking myself is not yet complete, I have made great progress.

Below are the steps I have been taking.

I am the first to admit, that I am not always successful and, at times, backslide into old ways of acting and thinking. The process is not a linear one; it has peaks and valleys.

No one said that undoing decades of constructing and defending my ego would be easy.

Remove unnecessary hobbies or actions from life

When you think about the things you do reflexively, consider how many you do because you truly want to, and how many you do because it is a societal expectation or just something you’ve always done without considering the reason why.

I realize I’ve wasted time, effort, and energy on trifles. I have settled for mindless pursuits and, in the process, missed numerous opportunities to live, learn, and love.

One small example is I no longer watch professional sports. I am not suggesting that everyone has to do this, but for me it’s something I never truly enjoyed, which made it an unnecessary part of my life.  

It is something I did because it is what is expected of men in America, and because it gave me something to talk about with other people. To not feel left out, and to fit in I watched sports.

At the beginning of the football season, I made it my mission to not watch a single down of a single game, and I succeeded. I didn’t even watch a moment of the Super Bowl.

Remove people from my life

We are taught the subtle and sometimes not so subtle message that having a bigger social circle makes us more valuable. We strive for popularity.

I’ve come to the realization that life is too short, and time is too precious to waste it worrying about and especially trying to please anyone who brings negativity or provides no value to my life.

And, oh have I expended much energy and time in this pursuit.

Time I can never get back.

Lest you think I am all negative, I am trying to double down on those people and relationships that are positive and do bring value to me.

I now know it’s not the number of friends that are important, but the quality of those relationships.

I would rather have one or two close friends who bring positivity than one hundred people who claim to be friends but are actually fair-weathered acquaintances.

Learn to Say “No”

The word “no” is now a regular part of my vocabulary. The fewer commitments and promises I make, the more time I will have to improve myself and spend with those who deserve my attention.  

I simply don’t have to say “yes” to everyone and anyone who asks something of me.

I know this may sound like a lack of empathy or an anti-social attitude, but it’s not that at all because I expect others to treat me the same way.

Just because I receive a text message, an email or phone call, it doesn’t mean I have to drop what I’m doing to handle it.

No one else owns my time and energy, nor has a right to it whenever they want it, and I owe no one explanations for my unavailability.  

Experience the Created World

I need to get out into nature much more often. Living in the city, I am not surrounded by magnificent mountain vistas or abundant forests, so this can be a challenge. Even when I hike in the woods near my house, the cacophony of vrooming vehicles is still omnipresent, making it difficult to truly melt into it.

There’s a certain sense of freedom that comes over me when I’m out in nature. I’m sure it is evolutionarily programed into all of us. Unconstrained by the four walls of a man-made structure, we are free to ponder creation and our place in it, and truly experience life.

I know this has been missing from my life, and I know some of the greatest freedom I have felt has been experiencing – truly experiencing – creation.

Love Unrelentingly

Although the word “passion” is, in popular parlance most often used in the context of sexual or romantic love, the definition is deeper than that. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, it is “a powerful emotion or its expression, esp. the emotion of love, anger, or hate.”

Living with passion means that we allow ourselves to experience the power of our emotions. One of those is love.

I have been working on this intensely in my own marriage. I want my wife to ignite in me the highest highs, and she does. I want to feel the deep bond and connection, the desire to bring out the very best in each other.

In short, I want to feel.

This also, conversely, includes the lowest lows since everything is not always perfect, and the you cannot experience highs without also experiencing lows.  

There is nothing worse than indifference for another person because that means all passion is extinguished and, I know it sounds weird, but I would rather that she hates me than feels indifferent about me. At least with hate, I know there is passion still there, even though it is negative.

If she were indifferent it would mean I am no longer a blip in her mind.

For us, we are at the point, after twenty-five years, where we often finish each other’s sentences and thoughts.

We lift each other up.

We desire the best for each other, whatever that may be. Sure, there is an element of selfishness still; I think it is impossible to totally eliminate that, but as time goes on I know our passion continues to grow.   

Let Go

We all have past actions that cause us shame. We have all made poor decisions that, when we dwell on them, cause us to shake our heads and wonder what we were thinking. Some of us, who are prone to excessive self-analysis and self-criticism, have a difficult time with this, but I am now more certain than ever of the need to work exceedingly hard on this.

This may be the most important thing we can do to crush our own egos, and it is also one of the most difficult.

I now know that it is a form of arrogance when I ascribe to past versions of me the same values I now hold as a result of my life experiences and the learning I have done since then.

We need to let the past go.

It is said that the past is dead, and we have to internalize this. If we don’t we end up with a lifetime battling ghosts. 

The past is the past. There is nothing we can do to change our actions, nor those of anyone else.

Failing to let go of the past imprisons us in the worst form of solitary confinement, and unless we do something about it, it ends up mutating into a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Without doing it we lose the freedom to live, to grow, to love, and to enjoy each fleeting moment.

That is profoundly sad, and a true hindrance to any growth. 

Don’t dwell on the future…too much

I am one of those people who, when reading a novel, is anxious to get to the end. I want to know what happens now. There have been times I’ve read entire books and missed many of the details because I have been so focused on the conclusion and rushed through it.

I need to remove from my mind excessive thoughts of the future. While it is important to make plans for growth and improvement, an excessive focus on what is to come makes us overly attached to outcomes, instead of focusing on the journey.

This single-minded focus on the outcome sets us up for disappointment since other people don’t always act the way we want them to act, and things will never go exactly according to plan.

This causes anxiety and worry and prevents us from living and experiencing each present moment.

The funny thing is that once those future situations come that we worry about so much now, we won’t really experience them then either since we will be living even further in the future by then.

It is important to stop to smell the proverbial roses and focus on the here and now without trying to control the future.   

Have Gratitude

We all must be grateful. This means we have to stop seeing the negative in situations, and more intensely and intentionally fight to see the positive.

I recognize that this is especially true when thinking of my own life. I dwell on what I perceive to be the negative aspects of myself and my situation and ignore the positives. This causes anxiety, sadness, and lack of motivation.

Forgive Ourselves

Very often, the person most hard on us is us. We imprison ourselves with our own second-guessing and have nightmares of our poor decisions.

We need to be less hard on ourselves and, while acknowledging our errors, accept them, transcend them, and recognize they are but a mere stop on the road to our final destination.

Forgive those close to us who have wronged us

A necessary component is having empathy for that person.

It is very likely that your loved one who hurt you is also living with the knowledge and pain of what he/she did to you and is also having trouble forgiving themselves for it.

Truly and unmistakably forgiving will set us free and eliminate bottled up tension that is eating us alive.

I know, for me, this has been a difficult process, way more difficult than I thought it would be; but necessary.

Without it, much of this other work becomes impossible to do.     

Ask for help

We must not be afraid to ask for help. Very often our egos and inflated sense of self prevents us from doing this. We think we have it all figured out or have the ability to handle every situation on our own.

We can’t, and we don’t.

Whether from loved ones, friends, or even strangers who care, I can’t do things alone and need to ask for help when needed. Sometimes it’s just words in a text message that help us cut through the noise and see things in a different way.

I mention this because this happened to me. A good friend of mine helped me solve a problem that was vexing me for many months with exquisitely timed words in a text message.

We have to understand that we don’t have all the answers, and we have to be willing to accept how much we don’t know.

I understand this requires a certain humility that can be difficult, but when we accomplish it we take a big step in crushing our egos.

Embrace solitude

I know I need to accept and embrace being alone sometimes. I have never lived alone, nor been alone for extended periods of time. I think this has resulted in a situation where I am uncomfortable with myself when I am feeling alone, a sense of loneliness. This leads me to overcompensate and rely way too heavily on my wife for affirmation and validation.

This is too much pressure to put on another person. No one else is responsible for your happiness or comfort, and it’s unfair to put them in that situation.

Embrace your time alone and learn to become comfortable with yourself as a companion.

Conclusion

I know from experience that crushing my ego is not an easy task. It has been cultivated for 42 years and it gives me comfort. But, I also know it has not served me well.

It has led to poor decisions.

Faulty ways of thinking.

Hurting the people I love most.

I am still in the midst of annihilating my faulty ways of thinking about my own abilities, intelligence, and importance.

This process, which is not yet over, is leading me down a path that is allowing me to live a more loving and authentic life.

I am not sure where it will lead and what will be left of the me I’ve lived with my entire life at the end but, I’ll accept the uncertainty and I am embracing the process of crushing my ego.   

It is important. It is necessary. It is right.

*I am thankful to the men in the Fraternity of Excellence for discussing many of these issues with me since I joined in October. If you are looking for a brotherhood of like-minded men who are all working towards becoming better versions of themselves and provide support to each other, I recommend checking it out for a month. Joining was one of the best decisions I made.

My Review of 31 Days to Masculinity

If you are among the millions of people who have read Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life, then you are already familiar with the general format of 31 Days to Masculinity, (paid link) a comprehensive guide to help men live more authentic lives by Hunter Drew.

The premise is simple, the book is anything but.

You are going to go through a chapter a day without looking ahead to what is coming next. Each day there is a reflection on some aspect of masculinity, and challenges to perform based on those reflections.

The format is not too different from The Purpose Driven Life, but the content is not quite the same.

Each day includes a physical challenge (hint: it’s a lot of pushups) and usually a mental challenge, though there are several additional physical challenges thrown in the mix.

The mental challenges are meant to be difficult and force you to confront and challenge some long-held assumptions you might have internalized for decades.

They force you to think about yourself, how you think, how you treat those you love, how you approach your life, and how you view your place in the world.

Some of the challenges include physical calls to action. For example, on one of the days you are asked to break out of your routine and do something fun that is different than the usual with your family. Sounds simple, but it may not be for those who are stuck in certain familiar routines.   

I was fortunate enough to do my 31 Days as part of a group for the December of Discipline campaign. This gave me extra accountability with a group of men who started the program at the same time as I did.

There are several rules for the 31 days:

  • No masturbation
  • No porn
  • 100 pushups per day (though that number does go up)
  • Start reading a book
  • Start giving genuine answers to people in your regular life
  • Start to remove a vice from your life
  • One chapter a day. Do not skip ahead.

This will not be an exhaustive review of 31 Days to Masculinity. I’d rather not give too much away, and let you experience it on your own. Instead, I will offer a few reflections on my experiences in December. 

Reflections on 31 Days to Masculinity

Day 1 starts the month with a goal setting exercise where we wrote down 3 short term and 3 long-term goals. This was more challenging than expected because we were also asked to include three roadmap actions for each goal. It’s easy to say “here are my goals;” it’s a different story when you must articulate how you are going to get there. This means our goals must be actionable.

This focus on action sets the tone for the rest of the month.

We are not here to talk.

We are here to act.

Acts non verba.

Setting goals without a plan to achieve them is just a form of mental masturbation meant to make us feel good about ourselves. It is not action. Several times throughout the 31 Days we review those goals and the progress we are making. This accountability to ourselves is so important.

I have rarely been challenged in body, mind, and spirit like I was during these 31 days.

The pushups, which for me were the easiest part, actually got tedious by the last week. I started dreading each up and down, and by the end of the month each set was an interminable slog of mental torture.   

I vowed to myself at the beginning to be completely honest with myself and with the other men doing the challenge at all times.

Some of the challenges brought me to dark places.

From confronting how I treat my finances and my time, to being asked to spend time completely alone, to reflecting on grudges I hold and being asked to let them go, to reflecting on my own mortality, each day carried a new angle that forced me to look deep inside myself, and have the kinds of uncomfortable internal conversations that we usually try to avoid or self-censor.

Some days were not easy.

Some days I didn’t want to think about certain topics, and I certainly didn’t want to reflect on and write about them. 

I did it anyway.

One of the most difficult parts of it was the frequent negative visualization exercises. While I have performed positive visualization as a way of preparing for sports games, I had never performed negative visualization before. During these exercises, I visualized all kinds of bad and horrific things befall my wife and kids.

As was stated in the book, “In order to truly appreciate what you have, you must lose it.”

Indeed.

I was forced to confront the loss of everything dear to me day after day.

And it sucked.  

But, I realize it was necessary.

And after the day’s exercise was over, I gained back everything dear to me.

I can say that after all these negative visualization exercises, I truly started to appreciate the life I have much more than ever, and my love for those in it increased even more.

I realized that I have taken so much for granted and I have failed on most occasions to appreciate the life I have and the people in it. 

This is one exercise that I am continuing to do even after the 31 Days, albeit on a more infrequent basis.

The book is meant to truly challenge all the men who go through it. It is meant to be hard. Some will not be able to last more than a few days before saying “Fuck This,” and quitting to crawl back sheepishly into their comfort zones.

In order to become more authentic men, however, we have to overcome and shatter our comfort zones into pieces.

All of them.

In this instance, comfort is our enemy.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “Comfort” as “the pleasant and satisfying feeling of being physically or mentally free from pain and suffering.”

In short, when we live in our comfort zones we live in a pleasant place free from any form of pain or suffering.

Is this really a place conducive for personal growth?

No, it’s not.

We all know that it is in the struggle where we truly experience growth.

Catholic tradition includes the concept of “The Dark Night of the Soul,” that spiritual crisis and periods of darkness Catholics believe is necessary and inevitable for those on their path towards union with God. This Dark Night” was experienced by many of those now venerated as Saints, most notably by St. Teresa of Calcutta.

Likewise, the classic “Hero’s Journey” is a narrative arc that traditionally includes a protagonist (the hero) who goes on some kind of adventure away from home, experiences a crisis situation, and ultimately wins a victory and returns home transformed into a better version of himself. If you read books or watch television, you are familiar with the Hero’s Journey, even if you’ve never called it by name.  

In the struggle, we achieve growth.

To grow, we need to break free out of our comfort zones, and 31 Days to Masculinity forces us to do that.

I can say without hesitation that since going through it, I am living more authentically; and certain weights that I’ve carried on my shoulders for years are now lighter.

I confronted myself.

I eliminated negativity.

I broke down walls that artificially existed in some relationships.  

Just Do It

To truly understand the program, you have to go through it yourself. It is not a book to simply read. You must immerse yourself in it, and you must experience it.

If you do not want to go through it alone, there is a dedicated channel inside the Fraternity of Excellence to get the program for free and it includes accountability with other men doing it as well.

I encourage you to sign up for the Fraternity of Excellence, an online brotherhood of men who challenge each other daily. There are very few male-only spaces left where men can work with another, challenge one another, and support one another, and this is one of them.

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