In my last letter, I wrote about the difference between Boys and Men, and what it means to be a Man. The shortest way to summarize it is this. To be a Man isn’t just to have a man’s body and mind – it is understand that that body and mind are powerful and come with intense needs and drives.
To be a Man is to understand what the male body needs and desires, and choosing to meet them in a way that makes the world a better place. It is to understand that the need to feel powerful is best gained through respect, not bullying, or status. It is to understand that the drive to compete is done best with rules through games and through business, with honesty and sportsmanship – rather than through intimidation and humiliating your opponent. It is understanding that your desire to be the lead in your marriage works best through leadership, and not domination.
Of all the masculine drives, I think the one that is most important, and most neglected is that as a Man, you need a Dragon to slay.
I don’t need to tell you that every man likes to feel like a hero. It is bone-deep in us to want to protect other people, to make the world a better place, and to drive out injustice where we see it. It is at the heart of every game a little boy invents for himself. And every story that a boy naturally gravitates to is one that tells the tale of heroes doing the same.
Many people will tell you that this is a “culture thing,” but it only takes a few hours of looking at boys from around the world to know that this need transcends culture, and it comes about early on. It is a part of our DNA. The few boys who don’t have a desire to save the day are the deeply damaged ones.
That need doesn’t disappear when we are adults, but sometimes it is hard to feel like the hero. many men give up on that impulse, seeing it as something childish that they can safely put away… but they can’t. If you don’t feel like you are the hero in some little way in your life, it eats away at your self-esteem and you drive. We don’t need to save the world to feed this drive, but we do need to feel like we are making it a better place. It doesn’t have to be a grand battle between good and evil in real life, but it has to be something that makes you feel accomplished.
The best thing I do for other Men is help them find their Dragon. For some it is doing research science to expand our frontiers of knowledge. For others it is reforming the industry that they work in. For one man it was helping other men avoid the terrible mistakes that nearly cost him his marriage. For another it was helping other men realize that a relationship with a bad woman doesn’t make them a bad man. For one man I care deeply about, it is just about fixing broken things, so that people’s technology serves them better. For another, it is about making Oshawa a beautiful city with a thriving art community.
For your Opa it is about making the world a happier place. For your Grandpa it was about facing the sea and coming back in once piece. For me it is helping men who are struggling become great and happy Men.
What your Dragon is doesn’t matter, only that you have one, and that you kill him every few days.
When you have that sense of purpose and direction in your life, you have more energy. You feel more motivated to get up in the morning. You want to grow and meet challenges, instead of just getting through the day. It makes little things all part of the battle that you tackle with pride and gusto, rather than miseries that ruin your day.
Having a Dragon to slay helps you greet every day with bravery, energy, and courage. Finding one is a personal journey, one I hope you will share with me.
Father, Knight, and Brother in Arms,