5 Mistakes You Can Learn to Avoid on Your Path to Greatness
Relationships are the key to life. And I’m not just talking about romantic relationships, about love and dating. I’m talking about all the impactful relationships you’ll ever form in your life. All of them have helped shape who you are now and they’ll continue to shape how your life will unfold and what you will become. “No man is an island,” they say. Yet, they’re an aspect of life that so many people struggle with.
Finding the right crowd and keeping them around is no easy task. And if I had to take a guess, I’d say the hardest part of building and sustaining healthy, happy relationships is doing the work on ourselves that makes us someone that the kind of people we want to be around, want to be around.
I repeat: you have to become someone that the kind of people you want to be around, want to be around. It’s better to attract friendships and camaraderie than it is to pursue it and “obtain” it in any way. Whether we seek romantic love, business partnerships, friendships, or other kinds of relationships, it’s invariably better to attract the kind of people you want to be around than it is to pursue them and convince them to be around you all the time.
This means that you have to become someone that’s attractive to those you want to attract. Or at the very least, anyone who wants to build better, happier relationships in life should do their very best to not actively repel others.
And this is where most guys struggle…
They have developed habits in life that others consider intolerable. The good news is, people can change. Growth is possible. Human beings are a tremendously adaptable species. I say all this not to put men down but to put it out there that these are the areas I’ve seen where men need the most growth. And I believe everyone can do it.
We just have to put our minds to it. I know this because I’ve changed a lot in my life and I’ve become who I set out to be in most aspects of life. I believe that others can do it, too, they just have to make a commitment and put in continuous effort.
That’s how we become our own personal versions of greatness. And that’s what we should all be aiming for, right? Don’t we want to be the best versions of ourselves we can be? I think so.
Meanwhile, you can learn a lot about what to do by learning what not to do. Let’s keep it short and sweet, and discuss five things that really great guys never, ever do.
5. Great Guys Don’t Beg
Period. Not for their lives, not for money, not for sex, not for followers, not for favors, not for anything. Real men don’t grovel. Boys do, but men are self-sufficient and independent. Men own their mistakes. Men overcome the obstacles in their lives. Like the great Carthigian military general Hannibal Barca once said, great men will either find a way — or they’ll make one.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…you’re probably thinking that I’m advocating that stoic-to-the-point-of-unhealthy maleness attitude that says we can’t ever show weakness or expose our feelings to the light of day. But that’s not quite what I’m saying…
This iron law of great maleness is twofold…
Great guys don’t beg, not because they have too much empty pride, but because they’re willing to accept that it’s just a part of life when things don’t go their way. No matter what it is in life, criminal cases, speeding tickets, divorce, business failures, you name it, great guys are always willing to accept life on life’s terms and understand when things are out of their control. For an example of what not to do, see Donald Trump’s refusal to accept that he lost the election. That’s what cowards do and it’s’ definitely not what great guys do.
The other prong in the fork of why great guys don’t beg is because they don’t have to. And they don’t have to because they don’t end up in situations where they have to beg.
4. Great Guys Don’t Count on Others to Get Them Through Life
Great guys don’t end up in situations where they have to beg because they’re used to taking care of things for themselves. Would you consider “great” a guy who had it all, looks, charm, smarts, you name it, but was so irresponsible that he kept getting himself in situations where his parents had to bail him out all the time — even after age thirty? I don’t think so…
Greatness is equal parts ability and responsibility.
Most people tend to focus on just the ability part of the equation. Or — and this one is even worse — they focus on having the appearance of ability without ever mastering anything. And that’s not very great, is it?
Greatness is measured by ability. The more ability you have to do something well, the greater you are at it, and this includes relationships. And responsibility is the overflow of ability. Once you’ve maxed out on the usefulness of a skillset for yourself, you put it into practice helping others.
But great guys have become so able in the necessary areas of life to keep them afloat that they’re responsible and able to respond to the needs of others because they’re not constantly worried about keeping themselves afloat.
Great guys never have to beg because they’re too responsible to end up between a rock and a hard night of calling their parents to confess they’ve fucked up again and need a place to stay. And on the rare occasion, things do get that bad, they accept it as a hardship they’ll endure.
3. Great Guys Don’t Get Defensive When Challenged
This is one of the fundamental cornerstones of being able to accept constructive criticism. Great guys don’t sit around and grumble, or worse, lash out in anger when someone offers them legitimate criticism or challenge to what they believe and how they act.
This one comes with a huge caveat that the person challenging him is doing so in good faith and on reasonable grounds. This means a great guy is willing to pay attention and listen to almost any feedback from the world around him that’s coming from a place of honest conversation. Especially in the age of the internet, people are going to try to strong-arm you and will employ dirty tricks to do so. Never take the bait — but always be willing to engage in an honest discussion. You know the kinds of honest conversations I mean, they’re the ones that usually hurt the most. The uncomfortable things we don’t want to hear but we must admit, have some merit to them.
And that’s why not-so-great guys quickly get defensive and react so reflexively that everyone knows they’re uncomfortable handling a challenge. It also tells the world something about this guy’s impulse control.
Great guys are willing to engage in good-faith discussions with those who would criticize them reasonably and they’re always willing to take the time to at least try to help those who can’t see things reasonably.
2. Great Guys Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
You know it’s true. This one is sort of in line with not getting defensive. Great men reduce their stress load and expand their stress tolerance through the act of living life. We go out, we experience things, we transcend ourselves, we move beyond them and come out the other side better and more flexible. In a word, this process is called “growth” and it’s what great guys do. We grow, even if it’s just a little bit every single day.
Great guys have learned to develop a high-stress tolerance and not to sweat the small stuff because losing your cool is a liability. It can hinder your relationships of all sorts which can affect your job, income, health, wealth, and overall well-being. It’s a serious business to learn to become a master of your emotions able to brush off the nonsensical flak that life dishes your way.
If you aren’t into them already, meditation and mindfulness are excellent ways to start working on not sweating the small stuff.
1. Great Guys Don’t Disregard the Feelings of Others
By now, you may have noticed a pattern, here. That none of this greatness has anything at all to do with skills that will make you look cool. They aren’t things like cars and riches, clothes, and mastering the art of keeping up outward appearances. It’s not that those things aren’t important in life, they are, but no one has ever been called great just because they looked a certain way or bought certain toys. That’s not greatness.
Greatness is a series of behaviors that once mastered help others as much as they help us. Greatness is the humble but revolutionary act of quietly taking the long road and doing the hard thing instead of caving and giving in to the shortcuts that promise an easier route.
So great guys’ relationships aren’t just mere transactional exchanges, they’re support structures to those people in his life who truly matter the most. To great men, relationships extend beyond the pursuit of mutual goals or defense of mutual territory. Loving, giving, being-with one another, these things are principles that the great man holds in higher esteem than others do. They aren’t merely means to ends but the most robust and beautiful ends-in-themselves.
This all makes me think of the Henry David Thoreau quote, “The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” Friendship operates on a deeper level of meaning than meets the eye.
This means that great guys always, and I mean always listen — without fail. They don’t disregard the feelings of others. They don’t shut other people down when a topic becomes uncomfortable because that’s what it means to be responsible; great guys are willing and able to respond to whatever types of situations might arise around them.
I think most people in this world just want to be heard. And more than that, they want to feel like they’re being heard.
So we can’t really be there for others in any way, shape, or form without first listening to them, can we? Funny, I think most people take the opposite tactic, they listen little and talk much, throwing out words that they think will make them interesting, never taking the time to be interested in others. They make every conversation an exercise in making themselves feel good rather than working on how to build a solid exchange.
Being responsible and well-rounded in your responsibility is the longer, more overarching narrative we want to strive for. We want to develop and maintain congruence between the external reality and our internal worlds. That’s the sign of a healthy, great human being, someone who’s coherent and responsible in a lot of situations. They’re responsible because they’ve become so able, they’ve mastered the necessary skills of life to such an incredible degree, that they now overflow with it.
It all boils down to one word: responsibility. Master it, or your greatness will be forever incomplete.