When does a male quit being a boy and enter manhood? The answer has little to do with his age, Ryan Michler says.
Michler, the host of the “Order of Man” podcast and author of the new book “The Masculinity Manifesto: How a Man Establishes Influence, Credibility, and Authority,” has a simple definition for when a boy becomes a man.
“A boy consumes more than he produces, and a man produces more than he consumes,” he says.
“When you are producing more than you consume—meaning, you’re able to give value to the people and others around you—you are acting like a man. That’s manly behavior,” the author says, adding, “We would call that individual a man.”
Michler joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to discuss his new book and how males can become men of influence as fathers, husbands, and leaders within their workplace and community.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Virginia Allen: Ryan Michler is the host of the “Order of Man” podcast and author of the new book “The Masculinity Manifesto: How a Man Establishes Influence, Credibility, and Authority.” Ryan, welcome to the show.
Ryan Michler: Thanks for having me. Looking forward to the conversation today.
Allen: Well, since 2015, you have been talking to men about what it actually means to be a man on your podcast “Order of Man,” and on the show you have talked to so many different incredible men and very different men from people like Dan Crenshaw to Matthew McConaughey, Ben Shapiro, Dave Ramsey. What started you on this journey of talking about manhood and how did you ultimately then end up writing a book about masculinity?
Michler: Yeah. I wish I could tell you that I started it in order to help other people. I really started it to help myself. I was trying to be a better father, a better husband, a better business owner, just a better man in general.
And I actually had another podcast that focused on helping medical professionals with their financial services because that’s my background. And I realized very quickly I love the medium of podcasting, but I didn’t want to have that same conversation.
So I decided to make that pivot in 2015 and I thought a podcast would be a great way for me to talk with other men that I’m motivated by and inspired by. And what reason would they have to talk with me other than maybe put this into a podcast format where I could have one-to-one conversations and consultations with them and then publish them.
So that’s what I did. And we found out very, very quickly that there was a need and a desire for these types of conversations. And here we are seven years later with, I think, close to or over 900 interviews now and a couple of books. And I think I just saw that we have 45 million total downloads on our podcast. It’s been unreal.
Allen: Wow, that’s awesome. … You’re right, there’s such a hunger in culture today to have this conversation about manhood. And I think for men to be affirmed in their identity and who they are, I mean, really, that’s what everybody wants, right? To have that affirmation, but especially around that topic of masculinity and manhood, that’s so critical at this moment.
And Ryan, you talk about, both on the podcast and in this book, you talk about these three words that you say make a man: protect, provide, and preside. What exactly do you mean by this? Why are these three words significant to manliness?
Michler: Well, I’m glad you used the word manliness because a lot of the time people will use the term masculinity. I mean, it is in the title of the book, “The Masculinity Manifesto,” but what I want to be very clear about is masculinity is amoral. It’s neither good nor bad.
So usually you’ll have two sides of the equation. One camp will say masculinity is inherently toxic and destructive and dangerous. And then you’ll have this other side that says masculinity is inherently good and productive and righteous. Neither one are actually true because masculinity is just a set of characteristics and behaviors that are determined by our biological makeup, our hormones, and other things like that.
So it’s how we utilize our biological makeup, testosterone, our masculinity, the characteristics that inherently we possess generally in greater degrees than women that make us men.
For example, violence might be one that we could isolate. If a man decides to attack somebody and violently assault that individual, I think we can all agree that that is not a righteous use of his ability to be physically dominant, for example. But if, on the other hand, I saw that taking place and I used my ability to exercise and exert my will and my force and my power over that person, then I think we would all agree that that would be more manly. That would be manly behavior.
So the reason I talk about protect, provide, preside are those are the three general broad archetypes of manliness: the ability to protect yourself and other people; the ability to provide for yourself and other people emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually; and then the ability to preside, which is synonymous with leadership. So leading people effectively as well.
Allen: Well, and this really goes into the fact that you talk about the fact that every male is obviously born a male, but there’s a process to becoming a man and there’s actually steps that males can take to become a man. Draw that distinction for us if you would.
Michler: Yeah. The line is actually very clear. A boy consumes more than he produces and a man produces more than he consumes. That’s it.
I’ve got three sons. I’ve got a daughter as well, but we’re talking about boys right now. So I’ve got three sons. They’re not men. We don’t even expect them to be. Young men, sure. Boys, yes. But they consume more than they produce. They take a lot of time and energy and resources, financial capital, a lot of different things to be able to raise those young men, and that’s OK.
But then you have other young men, I’ve seen 15-, 16-, 17-year-olds who act more like men than maybe even some 35- and 40-year-olds who are still living in mommy and daddy’s basement, living off of their parents’ income, and not providing at all.
So the distinction is actually very, very clear. When you are producing more than you consume, meaning you’re able to give value to the people and others around you, you are acting like a man. That’s manly behavior. We would call that individual a man.
Allen: That’s a really interesting definition. I’ve never heard that before. I love that. It’s basic, it’s straightforward, gets the point across really clearly.
Michler: I was going to say, we even talk about what we would say is men. And I don’t want to get tripped up over semantics, it’s easy to do, but I’m just defining these terms so we know what in the world we’re talking about.
But we would take those males of what we would consider at the age of man, so a 20-year-old, a 25-year-old, a 30-year-old, but we’ll call them boys if they’re not doing manly things. If they’re still living at mommy and daddy’s house, we’ll call them boys. Now, technically no, they’re not boys, but we call them that because we inherently recognize that they’re not behaving like men should behave.
Allen: So then in the culture, in the day and age that we live in where people are talking about things like toxic masculinity, how do we encourage boys to become men?
Michler: Well, it starts with ourselves as men. No. 1, making sure that we’re living our ideals, that we’re exercising our manliness, that we are trying to and striving to become better men ourselves.
And then in turn, to be able to turn around and look at the young men and the boys that we’re there to serve. That could be within the walls of your home, your own sons. That could be as simple as coaching a Little League sports team.
I used to do that quite a bit, and it was amazing to me and frustrating how hard it was to find other fathers or members of the community who would step up and help me coach. We always had one or two, and I’m very grateful for them. But it was very, very difficult to find those men to step up and help coach. And I know that there was a lot of young men on my team who we as coaches were their only real present father figure in their lives. And that’s got to change.
So we lead by example, we lead ourselves, and then we start to magnify our reach by participating in sports, by participating in community activities, by participating in church activities and men’s callings, these types of things.
Allen: Ryan, I want to ask you, if you would, to speak to both the men listening and to the women listening. For our guys out there who are, they’re established men and they’re thinking, “Oh gosh, I would love to do something to help mentor or bring up the next generation to cross that line from boyhood to manhood,” what would you say to them? And then also, what would you say to women? How can we be of support to the males in our lives and encourage and inspire them to be the men that they are created to be?
Michler: Yeah. With the men, I would just echo what I said. Go to the Little League team or a sports team and say, “We want to coach.” I guaranteed they will be happy to have you. They’ll run a background check, they’ll ask for your qualifications, and they’ll get you going. It’s as simple as that. You could even go down to your community center and say, “Hey, I’d like to participate in sports.”
Or maybe you have a special knowledge with podcasting, for example, and you’d like to teach a community course to young men in the community. There might even be extracurricular activities at school that you can participate in based on your knowledge and your skill set.
It’s very easy. It takes a little bit of effort just to go out and see where you can start serving these young men.
Another area might be in your church organization. If there’s not a young men’s program, maybe you can get together with your pastor or other men and find out a way to get together with the young men in your church organization once a week and you do things like shooting or service work or you go bowling. And you can mix that in with some sort of spiritual undertone or message to your activities.
So many different ways to do it.
To the women, … I’d say it this way, ensure that your sons and the boys that you have some sort of responsibility for are around other men.
My mom raised me primarily on her own and she did as good a job as she could have as a woman. And I’m not saying that to take away any of the hard work or effort that she put into raising my sister and I, but she recognized that I needed to be around other men. There was a void in my life that she could not possibly fill.
And again, that’s not to put her down or knock her at all, but she recognized that and what she did, one of the best things for me, was to step back, drop the ego, drop the pride, and figure out a way to get me involved with other men. And that was done in my life primarily through competitive sports and coaches who stepped up for me.
Allen: That’s critical. As you wrote “The Masculinity Manifesto,” did you have a certain section of the book that you found for you was particularly challenging or hard to write? Or even as you found yourself writing it, you were thinking, “Oh gosh, I know that this is an area where I need to invest more time”?
Michler: All of it. … I’ll get more specific, but I don’t want that to be a cop-out answer.
But admittedly, I thought I was writing a book for other people, but as I wrote it, and it was very telling for me when I read the book for the audio version that we made available, I would go through it and I’m like, “Oh, I’m not doing that,” or, “I’m not doing this,” or, “I’m not living up to that ideal,” or, “I’m not living up to that standard.”
And what I realized is that I actually wrote that book for myself more than I did for anybody else. And it was actually a little bit difficult for me to read the book because I realized that I’m falling short of the ideals that I try to espouse and that I’m trying to teach to other men. So that was a real challenge for me.
But one thing I talk about in the book is bear the burden, and I talk about that in the first part of the book, is bearing the burden of masculinity. And it is a burden and it is hard and it is challenging and it’s often thankless, and we don’t get rewarded maybe in the way that we think we should or we don’t get the accolades or the notoriety.
At best and at worst, our efforts are undermined and mocked and ridiculed and dismissed. And so what? We need to do it anyway. We need to step up. We need to sacrifice. We need to do the things that we need to be doing. That means being disciplined toward those activities and behaviors and really live a life of service to other people, which is an undertone of the book itself.
Allen: For those who read the book, what is your hope that they will walk away with?
Michler: My hope, I’ll say it for men and for women because I know both will read it. And my hope for men is that they can learn that contrary to popular culture’s opinion, you don’t have to be ashamed of being manly and you don’t have to act like a woman in order to be a productive, healthy member of society.
Now we need to learn how to harness—and I talk about some very interesting subjects from violence to dominance to aggression to stoicism and competitiveness and vigilance. Topics that you don’t hear a lot about, that even in a lot of ways have a negative connotation. But I talk about how we can harness those characteristics for righteous and productive outcomes for ourselves and other people.
And I want men to grasp the idea that violence, for example, in and of itself is not bad. It’s how we utilize it. Or that competitiveness, although taken to the extreme, could create some problems, but done in a healthy way can actually innovate and drive new ideas and new ways of living and new ways of doing things.
So that’s what I would look for for the men.
For the women, I would want them to recognize what a good, capable, strong, moral man looks like and talk with their husbands or boyfriends about that, expect that of the men in their lives, expect that of their sons, hopefully use that.
I do have a lot of single mothers who reach out to me because they don’t have this father figure in their sons’ lives wondering what they can do to raise their boys right. And I answered the question earlier, but I hope that this book will help them see that they’re going to have some characteristics and some behaviors that maybe a woman wouldn’t necessarily completely understand, but this might help her navigate that and get her boys around other men so they can learn how to harness that masculinity that’s coursing through their veins.
Allen: Yeah, excellent. Now, Ryan, you have done, as I mentioned, through your podcast, you’ve done interviews with so many different men who all have platforms, who are giving back to society, but in vastly different ways. I mean, obviously, people like Dave Ramsey versus a Matthew McConaughey versus a Ben Shapiro. I mean, they’re all doing such different things.
At the end of the day, in all of those conversations, are there any themes that you have taken away from the hundreds of conversations that you have with men about kind of the core desires of a man’s heart for what he’s ultimately aiming for or what is that deep-seated longing in the heart of every man, no matter his platform, no matter whether he’s more artsy, more athletic? What is that thing that is core to so many men that’s kind of driving them forward that as a society we need to be aware of?
Michler: So I will steal this answer because I think there’s a gentleman by the name of John Eldredge who’s said it significantly better than I ever could. And what he is saying, and I think you actually alluded to it, have you read any of his, “Wild at Heart”—
Allen: I have. I’ve read “Wild at Heart,” so disclaimer there.
Michler: Yeah. Well, the way you said it, I was like, “Oh, she must have read ‘Wild at Heart.’” He says that men are constantly striving to answer the question, “Do I have what it takes? Do I have what it takes?” And that’s what I’m trying to answer.
Do I have what it takes to be the kind of husband I want to be? Do I have what it takes to father my children? Do I have what it takes to grow a business so that I can provide for my family financially? Do I have what it takes to protect myself and others in a violent encounter?
And we as men derive a lot of our sense of worth on the answer to those questions. Now, I don’t know if that’s exactly right, meaning I don’t know if we should do that because then there might be some self-esteem and confidence issues. But I know that when I take a real good look at where I’m deficient and then I match that with effort and growth in those areas, I begin to bridge the gap and answer that question more productively, which is, yes, I do have what it takes and I feel good about the work I’ve done to get there.
Allen: Yeah. Well, Ryan, we certainly appreciate the work that you’re doing to really inspire other men to embrace who they are, who they’ve been created to be, and to lean into their masculinity and to not be ashamed of that. So we encourage all of our listeners to pick up a book of “The Masculinity Manifesto: How a Man Establishes Influence, Credibility, and Authority.” You can get it on Amazon, wherever books are sold. Ryan, thank you so much for your time today. We really appreciate you joining us.
Michler: Thank you. Honored to join you, and I loved the conversation.
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