At what age do you think you became a "Real Man"?

Aight, it's Friday night. I got off from the phone after 4 hours of catching up with friends and family. I would've hit up a bar with roommates and what not, but I am here pondering about things after a few drinks. (thanks COVID-19)

I've been pondering about many things - this girl I had an amazing chemistry with but never hit on (and how much I regret that), an abusive senior I never stood up to in high school as a freshman, times I acted like a jerk to family/friends/gfs, and really all the "unmanly" ways I acted in the past. I'm sure great many of us experienced something similar.

As a 20-something year old, I feel like I'm at an inflection point- going from a young adult to a "Real man". Now I guess everyone has different opinions and I have my own (unfortunately I don't think some people ever become a "Real man"): Being able to act on any opportunity he finds important (career, love, family & friends, ...), fortitude, resilience, and some kind of decorum of his own, ability to make ends meet and provide for his family in some way (if he has one), etc...

I've been wondering what your versions of a "Real man" are and when you think you became one (Or how far along you think you are if you aren't there yet). Man, I gotta find a real male role model.

Comments (67)

Mar 28, 2020

I would say when I started realizing that being kind to others isn't a sign of weakness or being "beta", I was always insecure and I definitely overcompensated as a result back then and I regret that quite a bit sometimes

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Mar 28, 2020

When I was on my own at 16

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

Mar 28, 2020

When I was on my own at the age of 7, I began working in the coal mines. By then I was already on my 2nd marriage and my diet consisted of tobacco and bourbon whiskey. - Milton, hate to crash your weekend but need real man asap thx.....eta?

Headhunters ask me what's up with those Horsebit Gucci's, I say it's for the Hater's and Coochie.

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Mar 28, 2020

wtf are you talking about?

Finance Data Science

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Mar 29, 2020

https://www.generationshcm.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/FAST-method.jpg

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Mar 28, 2020

I act the same as I did when I was 17 or so...(un)fortunately

Mar 28, 2020

when you got rejected by all BBs and felt alright about it

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Mar 29, 2020

Did everything work out for you in the end? Just out of curiosity

Mar 29, 2020

Got one from baml like two weeks later after someone rejected his. But I got an offer straight into buyside and I ended up there. I was so fucking desperate at that time and started applying for big 4 and graduate schools. Glad that my 3.3 GPA didn't drag me to hell.

Mar 29, 2020

I think there should be more to life than career, but you do you.

Finance Data Science

Mar 28, 2020

Thanks for starting an interesting and thoughtful thread. I am in my 40s and sometimes wish I could go back 20 years and give advice to myself to redirect the wasted time and energy. I don't think personality really changes much. Experience does make people more confident and savvy.

  • Intern in IB-M&A
Mar 28, 2020

Hey if you don't mind can you share some advice

Most Helpful
Mar 28, 2020

Thanks for the interest and trust in my advice. I think everyone on the forum has a different starting point and some unique circumstances, which makes lives both interesting and challenging, right? I have been around enough college students and young professionals, so I hope the following three "rules" based on successes and failures witnessed and experienced in the past 20 years would be helpful:

  1. Always be learning

I think it is well-recognized that one has to be at least a bit uncomfortable to learn and grow. @Layne Staley is absolutely right when he pointed out that responsibility changes people. However, it can be challenging to recognize the need to learn constantly and to have the discipline to keep learning despite trying circumstances.

During college, coursework is structured, so it is relatively easy to measure how much one has learned and stays on track. After college, candidate and timely feedback on work performance is much less frequent. It is even trickier to measure growth beyond work performance. It is important to know that (1) It is easy to cruise in an entry position that you are well qualified and (2) time is precious. Your success and choices made during the first few years after college may very well set your career trajectory.

How do you keep learning? I will list a few common examples based on my own experience and what I have observed. Comments are welcome!
1. Ask for new assignments if you have done well in the current job.
2. Build a good daily routine such as setting aside a couple of hours per day to read, to sharpen the toolset that is important for your work, and to network to learn from others and gain support. If you feel you are in general shy, take public speaking lessons. If you do analytical work, take online courses in analytics, programming, finance, economics, accounting, etc. If your work requires good writing skills, read and write more. Have the faith that no matter what lies ahead, your knowledge, the skills, and the ability to teach yourself will be your assets for life.

  1. Be patient

We live in a modern society with much conveniences and good access to information. I am going to play the "age card" here (and risk getting MS on this statement) to say that I feel many 20-25 year-olds nowadays seem less patient than the 20-25 year-olds 20 years ago. (I don't think this observation is because I am getting slower as I am getting older, but I digress.)
It is hard to overstate the value of patience in a professional life. I am result-driven and have low tolerance over what I perceive as "nonsense". I tend to charge ahead and speak my mind. I have a few friends with similar tendencies. (Is it so surprising that "Birds of a feather...", right? ) Looking back, however, I cannot think of one situation that would not have been improved by showing more patience. You can chalk it up to diplomacy, but to me, it feels the same.

Competition for top positions is intense no matter which industry you are in. If you have worked for at least few years, it is rare you have not met a superior or a client with whom you strongly disagree over a key decision that could affect your job performance. Even for those who are fortunate enough to have your own business or don't have a direct boss to dictate what you do, patience still goes a long way when you deal with regulators, competitors, clients, etc.

Here is what I would advise: (1) Know that sometimes even if they are in the wrong, you just have to accept the decision and move on. (2) Even if sometimes you have been dealt an unfair hand, it is best to keep your eyes on the ball and keep doing the best job you can, Don't despair. Don't complain. Hard work earns respect. Hard work makes you better. Have faith in yourself that a diamond will shine eventually. Play the long game.

(3) Take care of yourself and others

I like working out. I used to push myself to the extent, that over the next 2-3 days, I felt as if I were run over by a truck. (OK, maybe it was not as bad as running over by a truck. I "borrowed" the expression from an MMA fighter, Don Frye, who commented on how fighters often felt after a fight, but you got my drift.)

Trust me when I say there's only so much abuse a body can take. As you step into your 40s, prior injuries start to take a toll. Most people in my age group whom I know are experiencing some kind of stiffness and aches. When you are young, you feel invincible. When you get older, you realize you are just human, even though most of us probably do want to feel like a superman. So here is my advice on training and physical health to those in early 20s. Learn and apply proper training techniques. Pay attention to good nutrition and good daily routines. Actions have consequences. Learn Take care of yourself, even when you are young, strong, and are an energy ball.

What about mental health, you might ask? Did work-life balance become more important as you get older?

Allow me to set the premise: I like working. I used to pull all-nighters. I used to keep such long hours that I knew the schedules of the evening janitorial staff and my boss, who arrived by 6am each weekday and by 7am on Saturdays. I think it is best to take risks and work as hard as possible when you are young. (Chalk it up to opportunity cost.)

Now? I still stay up for important projects. I still take risks (to grow and to challenge myself). But now that I have a family, I have more responsibilities beyond taking care of myself. I take pride in my work. I am energized by my work. But I am also keenly aware that a meaningful life goes beyond glamorous work performance, money, and fame. Life can be short. What memories do you want to leave behind? I rarely think of these questions when I was in my 20s. Now that I am older, and perhaps more jaded, I have learned to appreciate having a loving and supportive partner, a loving family, a good friend circle, and a supportive workplace. I also understand I need to spend time to maintain all these. Success at work is more meaningful when you have someone to share the success.

Being nice to others goes beyond taking care of family and friends and being collegial at work. It includes paying it forward and mentoring younger students/professionals, as many of the WSO forum users have done.

An auxiliary note: We probably all have read horror stories on the WSO forum. We probably have all encountered Jackals, liars, and cheats at work and in life. They may gain the upper hand temporarily, but they won't in the long run. Try not to be frustrated or disgusted by such behavior. Stay away from these people if you can. And if you have to engage, stand your ground and be polite. Don't get baited into fighting or arguing with them. Remember "When you fight with the pig, you get dirty, and the pig likes it." It takes a strong man (or woman) to be nice in trying circumstances.

Thanks for reading the much lengthier post than I had intended. If you have follow-up questions/comments, I'd love to hear them.

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Mar 28, 2020

Discussions like these always remind me of the final episode of Mad Men when Don Draper finally finds peace instead of actively, anxiously, and boyishly looking for whatever.

In real life it's actually a process instead of some discontinuity but the realization that everything you need/want/fear is right in front of you is an important one. Living accordingly is a different task not made easy by our nervous monkey brain.

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Mar 28, 2020

Well said. I cannot agree more.

Mar 28, 2020

I was just thinking about this perfect ending but I've to say that in that scene Don finds peace yes, but he doesn't change he's the same guy than before (prior season he's already growing when he sees her ex Jewish girlfriend who died from leucemia). One thing that proves is the fact that he's smiling and just afterwards we understand that he's back to business and his smile is linked to a genuine and exceptional idea of ad that emerged in his mind at this peculiar moment. It is translated with the last scene after he's smiling when we saw the Coca Cola advertising with people jumping with joy on a similar background than the natural-yoga-whatever retreat of Don. He finds peace in its work, he does not change. (John Ham said that I believe in a interview)

Mar 28, 2020

My observation, both of myself and others, is that responsibility changes people.

The most common example is having dependents in the fiscal sense - a partner and/or children that rely on you for their well-being. It's the confluence of a few powerful elements: 1) there exist people whose livelihoods are more important to you than anything else; 2) those livelihoods are dependent on your actions; and 3) you aren't completely insulated from failure.

It's incredible what people will put themselves through or sacrifice if those elements are present. The responsibility that entails is a crushing force that alters people permanently.

Having a family isn't the only catalyst. Could be being married, or caring for parents, or a sibling, or even being left to fend for yourself when there's nobody to ensure you'll get to next month.

My grandfather fought in WWII. He felt that the immediate responsibility of looking out for his fellow sailors changed him, as did the broader responsibility of defending his country.

There are plenty of definitions of "real men" or "real women," but my mental picture of both involves people stoically undertaking monumental tasks for the benefit of others.

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Mar 28, 2020

Completely agree on this point... I thought I was a real man at first when I moved out of state to college, then when I moved abroad I felt I really was a real man, then I got married and that was another level, and then a mortgage, and then a child.

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Mar 28, 2020

30s, Fun, important job, nice paycheck that is a multiple of the national average family income, (hey work, can you add a zero, so I can brag about making more than a million a year) a nice paid-off sports car, and a healthy savings account and I don't feel like I'm there yet.

Honestly, I'm not sure that there really is a universal answer. The closest that I could get would be having kids, although I know some (irresponsible) people who had kids who I definitely wouldn't call 'adults.'

There is also the second question about if you want to be. I miss high school and college. I definitely wasn't cool, but I had a good time. Second half of college especially. By the time we graduated we had the most killer shore house possible. Two years out of college two high-school kids walked up to our place having scored a rack of beer and asked if they could drink it there if they shared with us. The angle of the sun was bad for them, and they didn't realize that they were asking their math teacher that question. He was legendary the following year.

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Mar 28, 2020

When life gets tough and shit hits the fan. Especially when it is totally out of your control. Being able to cope with stuff like that is what, in my opinion, catalyzes the transition for boy to man.

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Mar 29, 2020

That's facts. A lot of life can really just be boiled down to situations and how you respond to them.

Mar 30, 2020

The age you get rich or stop facing adversity is the age you never grow up from.

Mar 28, 2020

I think there's not a particular moment when you become a real man, it's rather a process and you are aware of it when you've taken enough step to look behind you and see the path of this process which begins when you're a teenager I guess. But it can be accelerated with non-predictable events such as war or fall in love with someone or a relative death I guess.

Mar 29, 2020

I completely agree with @SweeneyTodd. Reactions to crisis define or break a man (or woman).

Mar 28, 2020

type Jordan Peterson into YouTube... he will help

Mar 28, 2020

already a fan. I mean someone I actually know (and knows me back)

Finance Data Science

Funniest
Mar 30, 2020

jesus fucking christ

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  • Incoming Analyst in IB - Gen
Mar 29, 2020

I'm still on my way there, but thank you for posting this! I wish more content on this site was like this tbh

Mar 29, 2020

I saw a good post from the Best forum category: https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/investment-...
While it is incredibly important to set general directions as early and as well as one can, it is small progress and daily routine that define a meaningful life and successful career. Luck plays a role, but focus and perseverance win the race.

Mar 29, 2020

"a real man keeps focused. a real man doesn't brag about being real as long as he knows it." - Hopsin Honestly, I'm not there yet, but I think it's more of a state of mind. I've met people who're able to do whatever they want because they're disciplined enough to. I think that's the biggest factor - do you have control over your habits (bad and good).

Mar 29, 2020

I emancipated and moved into my freshman college dorm at 16, fought Somali Pirates at 19, another war in Iraq at 21, made my first 1mm at 26, reproduced at 29, but still am scared shitless when I see a tiny spider, then spend a couple of minutes to work up the courage to smash it.... so depending on your benchmark I may still be waiting....

Mar 29, 2020

you sound like a good dude to get a beer with. Sincerely,

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Mar 29, 2020

you anywhere near Detroit? I am always game to grab some drinks

Mar 29, 2020

Second. I rarely ran into people who used the term "reproduce".

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Mar 29, 2020
SkullCrusherDJ:

Second. I rarely ran into people who used the term "reproduce".

"we ain't nothing but mammals, so I do it like they do on the discovery channel"

Mar 29, 2020

The day you lose your virginity

Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it seems, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career.

Mar 30, 2020
WillHunting:

The day you lose your virginity

2003 in a threesome?

Mar 31, 2020

No way

Finance Data Science

Mar 29, 2020

I can not address exact what age you become a "man" (or a woman) however I think there's three or four extremely sobering points in your life as follows:

  1. Young Adult - coming into your own but most importantly realized this isn't a dress rehearsal. You got one shot at this. You start to see your parents get older around this age. Could be 18-25 depending on your life experience and circumstances.
  2. Bringing a child into the world. Not life is longer about you.
  3. When you realize you're riding off into the sunset. Your kids are now going through their own realization of #1.
  4. You're old and dying. Not sure what this would be like but it's likely the most sobering point of life.
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Mar 30, 2020

Sounds hella depressing man. What makes life worth looking forward to in that framework?

Mar 29, 2020

When things stop being about you. When your life is about providing and taking care of others, when people need to lean on you for support, when they look at you for guidance in crisis, when you respect others and actually internalize what it means to be on this planet for the time that we are. Always be striving to be better, and to learn, and to help others. But yeah. Something I thought of just off the top of the dome.

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  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Mar 30, 2020

At age 12 when I realized that there is no such thing as a real man. I am very wise and think ahead a lot.

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Mar 30, 2020

I agree with a lot that was posted above but I think coming under pressure + exposure to some traumatic/life changing event takes you there pretty fast.

Think having an immediate family (wife and kids) - i really changed after getting married, became more concerned with those around me as opposed to the singular career focus and obsession that people like us might develop. Don't get me wrong didn't make me mellow and laid back, it just made me more appreciative of what I have.

Loss of a parent does change you massively, you can easily get crushed as you feel that a safety net is out of the door and the weight of the world suddenly falls on your shoulders. Even if your parents do nothing for you, just their presence provides a sense of security that is implicit.

Life throwing you a punch in the face - think work problems, healthscare to you or a loved one etc. That also makes you put things in prespective.

Re- the situations that come to your head, like the girl and the badass dude. You can always control these situations. PM me for details if you want.

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Mar 30, 2020

I think of being a man or woman as when you start to meaningfully care about other people close to you more than yourself. This could be parents, partner, child, friend, coworker, or teammate. When your actions are no longer centred around yourself but others.

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Mar 30, 2020

Well said!

Mar 30, 2020

The age you get rich or stop facing adversity is the age you never grow up from. Men are continuously growing, it is human nature. However, we grow into whatever shape or form our surrounding environment morphs us. Hard times catalyzes the need for change (also evolutionary biology). As a result, those who never face adversity or are born wealthier than most were never pushed to change as much.

Mar 30, 2020

When you decide to face the things that have always made you afraid, and you understand and accept the consequences of doing so...

...you'll be a man my son.

Mar 31, 2020

You sound like a depressing drunk.

I guess i'll throw in my $0.02 though cause i'm drinking a bit. Some people have eluded to it already but...

I'd say it's when you have a strong set ethical/moral standards and you stick to it regardless of the benefits or losses that come from it.

"Out the garage is how you end up in charge
It's how you end up in penthouses, end up in cars, it's how you
Start off a curb servin', end up a boss"

Apr 1, 2020
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Apr 18, 2020
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An incoming medical student interested in health tech, consulting, and entrepreneurship.