12 Lessons on Manhood from Johnny Cash

When you watch John Wayne‘s movies you just feel like a man. When you listen to Johnny Cash’s songs, you feel that same strength and assertiveness and bravado. The depth of the voice, the pain and the power, wrapped up in medley’s about failure and loss, death and freedom.

Johnny Cash is like many of us, he was lost, he fell to the depths, he fell in love, he failed and succeed and rose from depths that many would stay within, surrounded by the self-pity that coincides with many a fall from grace. He rose. He fought. He loved. His songs were from the gut and we still feel them in ours.

None of us are perfect, but most of us are good. Cash was the same, an imperfect man who fought demons and dared mightily. As with many throughout history who have reached such highs and lows there are lessons to learn from their journey.

12 Lessons in Manhood from Johnny Cash

1. Failure is a great thing.

You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.

If you’re going to be a success, however you may define such a thing, you’re going to have to look at failure in a different light, not as the end or as a curse, but as a new beginning, a lesson, a blessing.

Without failure you won’t have success, not real success. Without failure you won’t become tough, and every man needs to be tough. Without failure you won’t develop grit, thus, you won’t experience greatness.

Mr. Cash failed time and time again, and by the end of his life he’d lived a full one, wrought with failures and shortcomings, but also happiness, success, and contentment.

2. A man’s gotta be tough.

I learned a man’s gotta be a lot tougher than the timber he’s cutting.

Men can be broken, we can and likely will be brought to our knees. Yet no matter what life throws at us we have to fight back, it’s in our nature, it’s a part of what it means to be a man.

A man can never lie down and give up, it’s just not an option, there are too many who depend on us and besides that it’s just not something we do. We’re born fighters, warriors, leaders, and generals. We’re made to fight and claw our way back from the depths, no matter how deep we may descend, we’re never defeated.

Know that things will get bad, it’s just a part of life, but also know that where you are is never the end. There’s always a corner that you must turn, it’s the fighters corner, the corner that aims to keep you confined in darkness, it is darkness, but if you fight, just beyond this dark turn there’s light. It’s a man’s duty, through toughness and grit, to find the light.

3. You’ve gotta have faith.

The things that have always been important: to be a good man, to try to live my life the way God would have me, to turn it over to Him that His will might be worked in my life, to do my work without looking back, to give it all I’ve got, and to take pride in my work as an honest performer.

Faith can take many shapes and forms. A faith in a higher power can bring you out of the darkest depths. A faith in yourself and your mission can keep you working when all others have long given up. Whatever faith you have, live it, breathe it. Don’t relegate it to superstition, don’t confine it to a wish. Know it. Know that you will rise, that you will work and struggle and hustle and eventually find your place in the sun.

Faith, sure, have the absence of certain evidences, but if you really look at it for what it is, there exists all the evidence you need.

Without faith those depths can become unbearable. Without faith there can be an end. With it, though, you know that there is no quitting, no relenting, no laying down and dying, there’s only the fight and there’s always tomorrow.

4. It’s good to have enemies.

It’s good to know who hates you and it is good to be hated by the right people.

Having enemies isn’t always a bad thing. Some call them haters or individuals who are jealous of your success, but if you’re doing something of value you’re going to ruffle feathers. If you’re giving a lot of yourself there will be people who’d rather see you fail.

If you’re ruffling feathers, that’s a good thing. It means you’re doing things differently. You’re going to have a more loyal following, a tight-knit group, but you’re also going to have people that hate you vehemently. These are the life-suckers that you want hating you, for they hate anyone who’s doing good, the oppose anyone who’s being who they’d rather be.

5. You have to pick a side.

How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.

There is good and bad and although we may wish there was a grey area, there isn’t. We may be great at rationalizing our laziness, feeding that part of us that says rest is warranted and deserved, but it isn’t.

The truth is usually much simpler than we’d like it to be, and we know it is. We ask for advice to get another perspective, hopefully one that allows us to take the easy road rather than the road we know we must take.

Success requires hard work. You either work or you don’t. Pick a side.

All your life, you will be faced with a choice. You can choose love or hate…I choose love.

6. A man can’t be defined by a word or a sentence.

I love songs about horses, railroads, land, Judgment Day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And Mother. And God.

Men may be simple, a lot simpler than women are, but who we are can’t be defined by one aspect of our lives. We’re constantly evolving, and though we may be one guy in one circumstance, a father, a husband, a good and honest man, there’s an outlaw underneath. Though we may me kind and loving, there’s a warrior begging to be free.

No matter how hard we try we can’t rid ourselves of this outlaw, but we can channel him. We can use him for good. Don’t aim to crush him, fuel him, he’s the one that will take you outside of society’s lines and to the adventures you want to badly to experience.

7. Grief and loss are a constant. Accept it and keep pushing through.

There’s no way around grief and loss: you can dodge all you want, but sooner or later you just have to go into it, through it, and, hopefully, come out the other side. The world you find there will never be the same as the world you left.

We try to avoid pain because it hurts, it’s uncomfortable. There’s no such thing as a life without pain and loss. They’re a constant. They’re always going to be there and they’re things we have to go through. They’re necessary. Sure they make us tougher, they make our lives more urgent and immediate and without them we could have no “moment”, not focus, no appreciation for the present.

Don’t aim to miss them or skip these truths. Go through them, it’s the only way.

8. Know what you can and can’t do.

You’ve got to know your limitations. I don’t know what your limitations are. I found out what mine were when I was twelve. I found out that there weren’t too many limitations, if I did it my way.

Limitations are often a myth. There are many things in my life that I honestly thought were impossible for me to do, but they’ve been done. A man’s limitations are looking at him in the mirror. Our limitations are our own concoctions. We may have to do things a little longer or a little differently than the rest, but we can do what we deep down want to do.

Know that your limitations aren’t real. See them not as obstacles but as challenges, then tear those bastards down.

9. Feel the pain. Learn to gain.

I learn from my mistakes. It’s a very painful way to learn, but without pain, the old saying is, there’s no gain.

Mistakes should be felt, not avoided. If you make a mistake, stay there, be there, own up to it. It’s the way of the man to act with honor even though honor can be more painful. It’s my remaining in this self-induced pain that we learn. It may take a lot of pain for us to learn but it’s something that we as men, warriors, alpha males, need to go through to let the lesson stick.

Make glorious mistakes and epic failures, but don’t flee the scene, stay there, own up to your failures and act like a man, you’ll become a man in the process.

10. Be who you are with audacity.

Ain’t nothin’ too weird for me. People call me wild. Not really though, I’m not.I guess I’ve never been normal, not what you call Establishment. I’m country.

Every human should feel comfortable in their skin, but this isn’t something that comes innately. It’s not a given emotion or understanding, but something we earn. Be weird, but earn that comfort in being who you are by being proud of who you are.

Work and forge the best version of however weird you are and be yourself with an audacious intensity that will force people to remember you. This isn’t to say be weird for the sake of being weird. Be YOU. Be an original. It takes work and a lot of trial and error to forge your original self. It will take time, but don’t lose yourself in what others expect of you.

Stay true to who you are and work at being better at who you are.

11. Take pride in where you work and eat and sleep.

I do believe the sum extent of the messiness, disarrangement, disorder, and dirtiness of your room is equal to that of your brain.

If you take pride in the small things, it will lead to quality in life’s bigger moments. It starts with your desk and your room and your home. Take pride in where you live, even if you’re in shambles, make your bed, take out your garbage, keep moving and keep clean. It’s about dignity, every man needs his dignity. Dress and live like a dignified man, don’t live in a mess like a child.

12. Have the courage to speak your mind or speak not a word.

If you aren’t gonna say exactly how and what you feel, you might as well not say anything at all.

Real talk is a rarity. We’re either too afraid to offend or we get offended too quickly so no one says what they really feel, at least not to one another’s faces, that is. The internet is wrought with trolls and cowards nestled behind a computer, but few truly say what they want to say and when they want to say it.

That isn’t to say that ignorance or pure emotion should lead the way, but don’t leave this world wishing you’d said something when instead you kept it hidden.

If you love somebody, say it and say it often. If you’re angry, get angry then get over it. If you want to stand up for someone even though it may bring you harm as well, it’s your duty as a man to stand up and fight.

Too many stand idly by. Don’t ever leave this earth wishing you’d done more at a pivotal point in your life. Take action daily so when those big moments come you’ll be ready.

Lessons in Manliness from Johnny Cash

Being a man ain’t easy. Being a boy is.

Boys can buck their responsibilities and without baring the brunt of the consequences. Boys don’t have to make the tough decisions that men have to make. They don’t have to do things that they don’t want to do. They can run to the safety of their mothers arms or those of their father.

Being a man is something entirely different from being a boy. Being a man means walking through hardships without complaint. Being a man means taking on your fears on a daily basis. Being a man requires courage, balls, guts, and grit. It asks of you things that even you don’t think you can do but you have to do them regardless.

Being a man is an unforgiving life. It’s devoid or reward or praise and yet it’s what we’re here to do, to do what must be done, what needs to be done, for the betterment of those around us and not necessarily for our own needs or wants.

When someone says, Man Up!, we know exactly what they’re calling us to do in a given circumstance. They’re calling is to fight, to stop complaining, to stop wining and wallowing in our own self-pity. To do this we need much of what was talked about here, much of what Johnny Cash said. We need faith and we need grit. Excuses aren’t there to fall back are, nor for that matter are reasons. We simply must do and we mustn’t complain whilst doing.

In the end, if you want lessons in manhood from Johnny Cash, listen to the man’s songs next time you’re cruising down the highway.

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