What we think of men today is far different from what men used to be, and what men were meant to be. Men were once warriors and farmers. They were leaders and kings. They were strong, smart, and dangerous. They conquered and they defended. There was a time when the TV remote wasn’t yet invented and the sword was handled in its stead. A time when a man’s ambition determined how high he would rise, how many men he would lead, and how many lands he would conquer.
To be ambitious in times past meant you had to bring yourself closer to death’s door on a more frequent occurrence. Any man, if he didn’t want to rise and instead remain with his family, protecting them, providing for them – which is of course incredibly admirable – could live a longer life, possibly a more enjoyable one, and the same can be said today. The difference, however, is again with the ambitious ones, those not satisfied with what they can do and completely consumed by doing what they can’t.
Sure, ambitious men of today risk more than their unambitious colleagues, they fail more and attempt more, but men of past cultures, like that of the Vikings, if ambition was a fire that burned in their hearts, had to quench this thirst with the sword or the axe in battle and in blood, fighting fellow warriors with the same thirst and the same fire, finding new lands yet to be discovered by their kind to feed the flame that still blazes in so many of our hearts today.
This flame hasn’t faded or died down but our ability to feed it with the physicality of battle and of victory and of death, possibly the only true way to feed that ambitious fire, has.
Ambition has changed. Our methods for carrying it out have evolved, but the thirst still has the same core, we want to conquer. Of course we want to aid and help and provide something to our fellow man, but many of us, though the times don’t allot us the same violent victory, want to rise up, literally, standing on the bodies of our enemies, sitting on the throne, leading the warriors who fight for us and beside us conquering an unjust ruler and promising to be a just one.
Business is exciting, it’s a thrill. To see something you’ve worked so hard at for so long come together and begin to grow and help and be of some service to the people you’re trying to benefit is a wondrous feeling. You feel like a conqueror, but what if you were an actual conqueror; one who has come so close to death on so many occasions that you’ve accepted it’s inevitability which has allowed you to live as men were always meant to live? With urgency. What if you killed and escaped death and worked your way up the ranks of your village to become its leader, its king, now able to do more for your people than the previous leader ever dared?
That physicality of a battle won, of flesh pierced and sliced and lives lost no longer exists in the ambitious endeavors of men although they aim to conquer still the same. Death sucks, I’m not fond of it, nor do I want to bring it back in the quantities that it once existed, but death, when so prevalent and immediate, does something incredible to life. It makes it more urgent, more present, more fierce and passionate.
Today’s “man” would, by-in-large, fair poorly in a culture such as that of the Vikings’. Our brains are no bigger, our capacity for intelligence no greater, we’ve merely been given knowledge that has been built up and compounded over hundreds of years. Our toughness, our grit, however, are both diminished beyond recognition.
Our fear of death so great that it prevents us from living.
Our fear of danger just as grand as it inhibits our adventures and tempers our risk. Our fear of pain has grown to dangerous proportions where we now protect our young from any semblance of it or of danger in a vain attempt to keep them completely from any ounce of harm.
In short, we’re pussies. Our society, everything that it covers and intrudes into, our parenting, schooling, and even our “everyone wins” athletics, has weakened us to the point where I’m not sure that Viking men, for example, would see us as men, but as some clone or similar species that lacks what a man has, courage, honor, a warrior’s spirit.
Though we’re in a pitiful state, we are not doomed as toughness can always be regained and grit re-learned. Today these attributes have to be self-taught and self-imposed as society seems to be doing all it can to shelter us from how the world truly is and who men truly are. And so, guys like me, and many who are much better, write about ways in which we can bring back our manliness, our shared heritage, our warrior’s spirit, our outlaw’s spirit, in a very necessary attempt to steer the ship in a better direction.
Let us, then, look to cultures past and take from them what we can to aid us in our own quest to become conquerers and warriors and leaders of men who are equally as great as we are, or better.
8 Lessons in Manhood From the Vikings
1. Accept death with open arms.
If death isn’t feared but instead welcomed there’s no limit to what you can accomplish and what you’ll aim to accomplish. Viking explorers ventured into uncharted seas to discover what was not yet known. We not only fear death but we fear the unknown and injury and failure and for shite’s sake we need to stop, and the end will start when we bring our greatest fear into the present.
Life expectancy has never been longer; as disease and war and death by the hands of another man in a feud over honor are removed from our civilized, evolved societies, we live less. We go through the motions even mocking death because we know by the odds that it’s going to be far in the future. Only, in our future we wish so gravely that we hadn’t lived our lives with more urgency and daring.
People regret more now then they did once for many reasons. There are more distractions that pull us away from what’s truly important, death is less of a constant and it’s less violent so we take most of our days for granted, and most of our lives are led to impress people we don’t like, spending money we don’t have, working a job we hate to buy clothes we discard not too long thereafter. If, somehow, we could bring urgency back into our lives our regrets in old age would surely be diminished.
The only way I see able to accomplish such a thing is purely mental, and purely a change of perspective. It isn’t bringing death back into everyday life – though I’m not sure that would be such a terrible thing – but bringing a conversation and an awareness of death into everyday life.
We need to talk about it more, it needs to be a part of our lives, like it once was in the times of the Vikings, for without darkness there cannot be light, without sadness there cannot be happiness, and without death we cannot experience life.
2. Physical toughness and mental toughness are one in the same.
The gym is now our Agoge, our training for physical toughness but also for mental toughness. Where men, both young and old, trained for war we now have to train as if we’re training for war. Of course, some men still actually do train for war and they’re tougher for it, but for those of us not following that path we still have to use our training to incur more than muscles or abs or pecs.
We need to train to become tougher, grittier men as warriors once did.
When you walk into the gym put your game face one, don’t be a goof yelling and screaming and spitting everywhere, but know that this workout is a battle, it’s a battle against your weakness, that voice that wants you to quit one rep early or walk out of the gym and back to the comfort of your couch before the workout has been fully completed.
Physical toughness, that is, the ability to push through pain, to workout when it’s the last thing you want to do, to squeeze out one more rep when everything in your logical mind says enough is enough, is mental toughness, and it’s this toughness that will help you become a man in the truest, greatest sense of the word.
3. Do what can’t be done.
There was something about that culture, the Viking’s culture, that wanted more, that didn’t fear death and that allowed them to try what others wouldn’t. They expanded at an incredible rate for such a small culture. Had they not ventured east, Russia as we know it now, would be China. They did what wasn’t supposed to be done but as a culture they didn’t think of it like that.
There wasn’t an attempt, like there is today. We try to do something but we don’t do something. We set a goal then do what we think is our best to accomplish it, falling short, but giving it a valiant effort worthy, in our minds, of some kind of accolade or applause. The Vikings, and other warrior cultures did. They had an idea and because their time on this earth was so short they didn’t ponder or over-plan or ask for advice, they just did.
Side note: With the Ultimate Warrior having passed just the other day, I watched a video of him recently where he gave some incredible advice: Don’t ever ask for advice. There’s a compass inside of you that knows what to do, where to go, who to be. To elaborate on that, when we’re asking for advice what we’re often doing is asking for affirmation that what we wanted to do is the right thing to do, but we know what is good and what is bad and what must be done. We (I included) ask for advice far too often instead of listening to that inner compass and doing what our souls beacon us to do. I just thought that was a brilliant point and may he rest in peace.
4. Eat whatever the land provides you with.
Our diets are a mess. Science today says this, science tomorrow says that. It’s a joke. What we need is simplicity. Eat what the land provides for you. It seemed to work for the Vikings who had a diet high in meat and vegetables and were massive. The key thing is meat (fish included). Look at their physical development versus the English, whose population grew forcing them to eat food of a lesser quality, or the Asians who were even smaller and had less body hair who ate more soy (estrogenic) and more rice.
The Vikings ate meat and fish and fruits and vegetables and different grains that weren’t processed. But they ate. They drank and consumed foods that were in season – of course, that was the only option – and tasty.
Eat meat. Eat lots of fatty fish. Eat veggies (lots of veggies). Eat fruits. Dabble in the others stuff, you don’t have to go completely Paleo (I’m in Italy right now and I’m on the opposite of Paleo diet), you still have to live. But if it’s something you can kill or something you can pick, eat it.
That’s pretty much what we follow in the Man Diet, something I highly recommend if you’re a guy and you want to be awesome.
5. Your fate is sealed.
How you die is a story that’s already written, or so the Vikings believed. And why not believe this? We don’t have control over how we die, so why run from it? Why worry about it or fear it?
Why not take risks in business, or with love, or with adventure? If your fate is already sealed that girl’s “yes” or “no” is as well, so who gives a rat’s ass if it’s a no, or if you fail in business, or die on an epic adventure out into the wilderness. Live as if your fate is already sealed.
Fear doesn’t benefit a man, it only hinders his quality of life and his capacity of greatness.
6. Hard climates make hard men.
The Vikings lived in a very harsh climate where it was hard to grow crops and build colonies and survive. You see it in our modern day as well, where the constant harshness that a climate provides produces men who are tougher and more resilient. That “climate” can be work. Farmers are tough dudes. Cowboys are damn tough. Guys who have to daily persist through physical labor and pain develop a thick skin, literally, and grit to accompany it.
They key to becoming a “hard man” is the repetitive, constant harshness that a climate provides and a workout can’t. A workout lasts 1 hour, and it’s intense. It’s awesome, it builds toughness, but a climate never relents. It never holds up and gives you a break. It’s there, always.
One thing I’ve done in my life is simple, and it’s something anyone can do:
Always take the hard way. It’s no grand, epic thought or idea. You just take the harder road instead of the easier one. Always take stairs not elevators or escalators, for example. Do what’s a little tougher because it’ll make you a little tougher.
It’s becoming harder to truly simplify and focus on one thing. There was a time when one thing was pretty much the only thing you could focus on. If you’re sailing, you were sailing, not tweeting or emailing or even reading. If you were farming you were farming, and if you were fighting, well, only a fool would think about something other than his enemy while entrenched in battle.
In today’s hyper-technological society wrought with things that take us away from our purpose and what we’re supposed to be doing, simplification must be self-imposed, it’s rarely the only option.
A few things to do:
- Turn the internet off when you’re working. Work. Don’t surf or search or tweet. Just work.
- Turn your phone off or on silent, always. Be where you are. This one’s enraging, when someone’s on their phone while they’re supposed to be in a conversation. Turn that shit off.
- Focus on one thing, complete that thing, then move on to the next thing. Multitasking is a myth, it doesn’t work, and you should never attempt to force it to work.
8. Follow Your Ambitions!
Ambition is the calling of your soul. It’s that inner voice telling you where your life should head. For a few great Vikings that meant expansion or becoming king or conquering neighboring tribes. For us, the possibilities are limitless, however, we’re in a weak world where ambition is labeled as a selfish act by people who simply don’t have it, when it’s ambition that has provided us with every medical and technological breakthrough that we now take for granted. It’s ambition that brought us electricity and the automobile and even that stupid little cell phone.
Ambition is what shapes the world. When a good man lines up his ambition with action, the world is the one who benefits.
Go forth, expand, conquer, rise up and above your current status. It’s in the nature of a man to want to become better and there’s nothing at all wrong with that, it’s only good. Follow that gnawing feeling in your soul that wants you to expand and grow to a place where your fingerprints are left all over this wonderful world. It’s okay to be ambitious.