These 5 marks of a man are a path toward better, more meaningful life

Who we deem worthy of compassion says more about us than almost anything else.

It compels us to donate to charities, give canned goods to food banks and drop coins into the bell ringer’s basket at Christmas. But in America, compassion has its limits. Want to see compassion sucked right out of the room? Mention men. 

But if we feel compassion for populations that are hurting, left behind and in trouble, men must be included. 

Men have an average life expectancy five years less than women. Men commit suicide at four times the rate of women. A recent study claimed 44% of men have contemplated ending their lives in the last two weeks. 


Men are two times more likely to abuse alcohol than women. One in five men reports having no friends at all, and 44% of men say they feel lonely “sometimes, often, or all the time.” 

Men are drowning, and our culture has no intention of throwing them a lifeline. 

I understand why finding compassion for men is difficult. Some males have abused their power and strength to get what they want – with no price too high to pay. No matter their age, status or influence, they were not men. They were boys. 

I believe the vast majority of males don’t want a life of perpetual boyhood. But the way forward is foggy. Most have no idea where to go, what to do or who to even ask for help. We try to prove we are a man on a sliding scale of subjective hash marks. It hasn’t always been that way.

In most of anthropological history, boys were initiated into manhood. They passed a difficult test, crossed a line and never looked back. That day and age is gone, and with it, clarity. We no longer know what a man is, what a man does or how a man acts. 


When my own son was born, I knew it was my life’s work to raise him into a man. I’d be damned if I allowed him to stay a perpetual boy. So I did a deep dive on masculinity, examining the lives of men in history, and in my own spheres of influence, who were honorable, courageous and impactful. 

Along the way, I discovered the Five Marks of a Man – five attributes every man of consequence has in common. In a world where men are floundering, these marks are a plumb line reorienting us to a better, and more meaningful, life. 

Men Have a Vision

Boys live for today. They want pleasure as quickly as they can get it. They look for the open doors and the easy opportunities and take them. Men see the larger vision at play and work for the long game. They focus on the task at hand, even if it won’t have immediate payoffs. Boys spend and men save. Boys date and men commit. Boys put off responsibility, while men accept it and thrive under it.

Men Take a Minority Position

Boys go with the flow, pick the easy road and will always find themselves in the majority. Men are willing to stand apart, be looked down upon and do the unpopular thing to follow their convictions. While boys passively ignore problems and get swept downstream with majority opinion, men turn against the flow, committing themselves to being part of the solution.


Men Are Team Players

America idolizes the lone wolf – he can go where he wants, do what he wants, and be the MVP of his own life. In reality, lone wolves are sick and dying. Healthy wolves run in a pack, and the same is true for men. Men would rather be on a team that wins than be the stand-out on a team that is consistently losing. Men help others win, and in the process, find victory themselves. 

Men Work

Boys consume, while men produce. Men put their nose to the grindstone and get their work done, while boys endlessly look for ways to skip out. That doesn’t mean men don’t play or have fun. I actually believe that’s integral to a healthy and thriving life as healthy hobbies and fun allow us to not only enjoy our lives, but produce better work in the end. However, while boys live to play, men play to live. 

Men Are Protectors

Boys are predators. They want their pleasure today – be that with a woman, with their finances or the latest gadget. Men are protectors. They think about a woman’s tomorrow. They save money to provide stability to those who depend upon them. They come to the aid of those being bullied or pushed around. All great men spend themselves on the security of others. 


It’s not your age, job status or income that makes you a man. I know 45-year-old boys and 15-year-old men. Rather, it’s the choices you make that define your future. 

Men don’t have to drown. There is an ancient lifeline, a primal path that every man of consequence has walked: the five marks. 

Let’s chart a better course together.


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