Something I’ve learned from years in men’s work is that for most guys to really feel like men, they need to be initiated into manhood by a community of other guys, especially older ones. This is where they learn certain skills and ways of living.
Most importantly, this initiatory process of skill-sharing is where they gain a deep sense of belonging to the world and ways of men.
In modern times, the key figure in this whole process is the father. He’s supposed to be the primary person who passes along this wisdom and show the boy the ropes. But a significant percentage men grow up without fathers, or at least had one that wasn’t able to be physically or emotionally present, so they don’t get taught certain things.
For all those men, and more, this is my list of a few simple things that every man should know.
1. How to shave your face
Grooming facial hair is one of the classic male rituals. Many men can remember being kids and gazing up with wonder as they watched their father leaning into the bathroom mirror and running a razor through a face full of foam, excited for the day they would be able to do the same. Of course, there are also electric razors, which require little explanation. But going the manual route comes with a satisfying ritual and process, which begs for a little more walkthrough than just flipping a switch.
Whether you choose to shave with an old-school straight razor or the newer multi-blade razors doesn’t matter that much. The most important thing is how you treat the skin of your face in general.
That said, the type of razor you use can make a big difference in how the whole experience makes you feel – if that’s something you care about. Putting effort into your appearance boosts your confidence. The same goes for the effort you put into each part of your self-care routine. If you get that boosted feeling from the ritual of shaving, or want to, go for the full package with the straight razor and soft, high quality badger hair brush for shaving cream. Most guys are happy to apply the cream with their hands and get the job done with no fanfare.
When shopping for shaving cream, look for something super neutral and minimal on ingredients, if you can – for two reasons. First, you really don’t need all the extras. Anything pricier selling you on having tons of minerals and rejuvenating effects is fairly useless. If you truly care about those benefits, your money would be much better spent on a separate rejuvenating mask or moisturizing cream, which will sit on the skin longer to absorb, and deliver far superior results.
Second, most shaving creams have a bunch of hard to pronounce chemicals in the ingredients. You don’t need to put that on your body in the first place, but especially not when you’re taking off a layer of skin, or potentially nicking yourself.
Whether or not you even need shaving cream altogether is debatable. It’s just a product marketed as a necessary part of the process, like how toast and dairy are “part of a complete breakfast,” as a TV commercial used to claim. You just need something to create a bit of a lather, which buffers between the razor and your skin, and allows it to glide smoothly across the surface without causing razor burn. There are plenty of great substitutes.
Coconut oil, for example, has a single, natural ingredient, it’s an all-in-one moisturizing aftershave, and doesn’t gunk up your razor. Plus, people have been using fats to shave for thousands of years.
That said, there is something deeply satisfying about whipping out a shave brush and lathering up your face. Tactile and sensory experience make a difference. Something to consider to really enhance shaving is scent. Smell has a significant effect on state and mood. If you’re shopping for creams, give a few the sniff test to suss them out to see if any of them do anything for you, and be sure to read the ingredient label on the back. If you use coconut oil, you can add your own essential oils and scents to customize your own shave blend.
Many guys go without aftershave lotion, but this is where you can get a lot of benefits from skin-soothing to revitalizing. If your skin is extra sensitive (which you’ll notice if you get a post-shave rash) you’ll definitely want to consider buying one. Again, coconut oil will work too, but there are lots of great products out there with a sophisticated musk, which doubles as a subtle cologne for the day.
When you’ve got everything at hand, rub some hot water on the to-be-shaved areas to warm them up. Warm water loosens the skin, opens the pores where the follicles root in, and softens the hair, which makes for a much smoother shave and less risk of doing damage to your skin.
When you’re all set, it’s time to lather. If you’re using cream, apply it relatively thick, more like you’re icing a cake than putting on sunscreen. If you’re using coconut oil, apply a generous glaze. If you’re worried about cuts, or tend to make them often, spend a few bucks on a styptic pen to quickly seal and disinfect the nicks.
For the smoothest shave possible, make sure the skin of the area you’re shaving is taught. If you can’t do this by moving your lips, or lifting your chin, use your free hand to gently tug and spread the skin tighter. Only drag the razor in SLOW, downward strokes, going with the grain of the hair. When you shave upward (in the wrong direction) you increase the chance of painful snags, cuts, and ingrown hairs.
When you’re finished, rinse off with cold water to soothe your skin and close the pores, and admire the baby-faced beefcake in the mirror.
2. Rolling a towel over your waist
Whether you’re in a spa, locker room, the pool, your home, or a guest in someone else’s, a man should how know to move around in his manly towel wrap. It frees up your hands to deal with sorting clothes, shaving, your lover, stealthily change your swimsuit for underwear, and whatever else you’re getting up to between getting dressed.
With the towel held horizontal behind your body, and a hand on each top corner, wrap one side around to be your main penis-shield. To be extra sure you’re covered, make sure that edge goes past the opposite thigh.
So, let’s say you’re bringing your left hand around first, make sure that edge of the towel goes past your right thigh before bringing the other side around. This will set you up to minimize the chances of accidentally flashing your genitals to your grandma, by placing the opening slit more toward the side than right between your legs. It’s a rookie mistake.
Now bring the opposite side around and tuck the top corner beneath the first layer. The tighter you do the wrap, the better it will stay on your body. Loose wraps are also a rookie mistake. Make sure you get a big enough chunk to tuck underneath so that there’s the most possible surface area to create friction and hold it up. For bonus grip, take the top edge of this new wrap you’ve made and roll it down over itself.
3. Manage your finances
The state of your finances, and your relationship to them, is an extension of your psychological maturity. Men with aversions to financial responsibility – spoken or unspoken – are just overgrown boys. Taking control of your cashflow, monitoring your spending, and allocating for investments isn’t a tight-assed or lame thing to do. It’s the sign of a powerful king with intentional reign over the resources in his kingdom.
You don’t need to get hyper-anal about tracking where every cent goes. But you should have a basic idea of your monthly and annual expenses, so you can see where you might be hemorrhaging money unnecessarily and make improvements. This is the precious fuel that empowers you to achieve your life goals. So much gets wasted on distractions and meaningless “stuff”.
Plus, it’s a beautiful feeling when you can follow your heart and create the experiences you want to have, or buy dinner for someone special, without having to wince, worry, and penny-pinch.
The secret to money is: if you treat it with respect, it will treat you in kind. Don’t expect to accrue wealth if your strategy is to “go with the flow” and cross your fingers every time you hand out your credit card.
Hold bank accounts in mind with the weight and importance they deserve. Watch your cashflow and always save to put your money to work for you through investments. At the same time, expand your mind to what (and how) you can earn. Always be developing skills and pursuing opportunities to bring more value to the world, so you can be rewarded for it, rather than purely focusing on how you can cling to what you have.
4. Be able to find the clitoris
Obviously this one’s for straight guys. But that’s what I am, and I can only write from my experience.
Growing up, nobody taught me much of anything about sex besides “use a condom”. Gee, thanks for the detailed walkthrough high school sex ed. Instead, I and the rest of my guy friends got the low-down from magazines (yes, I was JUST old enough to catch the tail end of that wave) and then eventually the internet.
The sexual education that we receive in this culture is abysmal. In the standard school system, we receive no information on the things that arguably end up mattering the most in life, such as managing money, being good at socializing and connecting with others, and sexual intimacy. We’re expected to just fumble our way through it. Meanwhile we’re memorizing the names of racist generals who fought in 19th century wars.
Studying the clitoris is far more interesting and a hell of a lot more rewarding.
First thing to know: the clitoris becomes infinitely less mysterious when you actually communicate with the person attached to it. As opposed to the cock, which is relatively thrilled with the exact same stimulation every day, each woman will have a different preference for how to stimulate her clitoris, and on different days. Not talking is what leaves a lot of guys confused as to what’s working and what’s not.
Some women might like it when you use your fingers, others not so much. The same goes for tongue and vibrators. Before you get to that, you’ll have to find it first.
How to Find It
The tip of the clitoris looks like a little pea-shaped gland that sits above the vaginal opening, covered by a small fleshy hood. I say the tip, because the clitoris is actually much bigger than that, contrary to what most men would believe.
That tiny gland sits at the end of a small shaft that continues upward a little bit, before separating into two wishbone-shaped arms that travel down either side of the vaginal opening.
How to Stimulate It
Barring the occasional sudden moments of passion, the best practice is to warm up to it very slowly. Begin with indirect stimulation around the vagina and work your way in. Like the penis, the clitoris fills with blood when aroused, and becomes a lot more pleasantly sensitive to touch. It just takes a little time. For a woman to reach peak arousal, she needs to feel relaxed, in her body, undistracted, and well-primed. While many men can get a full erection in a matter of seconds, most women take closer to 5-10+ minutes of sexual interaction before their clitoris is fully engorged.
Use feather-light touch on her inner thighs and stomach. Throw in kisses and licks as you feel inspired. Grow closer to the areas surrounding the vaginal opening, until you’re ready to move head on. Tip: The clitoris LOVES lubricant! Whether or not you have plenty of saliva to use, coconut oil or a water based lubricant are also slick and effective choices. Use the application of it to tease and play with her even more. As you apply it, try drawing slow circles with your fingers, and then small strokes straight up and down – and yes, you can ask which feels better.
There are many different ways to manually stimulate the clitoris. You can rub in various directions with flat fingertips, at all pressures and speeds, or use two fingers to stroke the shaft, and combine any method with simultaneous/alternating G-spot stimulation with the other hand. Remember, clitoral orgasms are only the most superficial of the three different types of vaginal orgasm that women can have. Though they’re still very fun and useful to trigger, or accompany, the other two. You can learn more about the other kinds of vaginal orgasm here.
When you find what’s really doing it for her, holding steady is a very safe play. When you get a little more confident with your handiwork, you can try cranking up the tension by interrupting that particular movement pattern and returning back to it with even more intensity. This gives her a little tease while generating a bigger orgasm.
For some extra tips, and full walkthrough of how to use your mouth, here’s another article on giving her the best oral sex of her life.
How to Communicate
Most women are well acquainted with their clits, and are more than happy to help you figure out what works. It’s always smart to ask and see if she has a vibrator she likes to use. For some women, this can sometimes be the only way for them to achieve a full clitoral orgasm. For others, it just cranks up the dial on the pleasure. If not, see if she’d be keen to try one down the road to spice things up.
When you want to figure out what feels better for her in the moment, and she’s really turned on, it’s best to give her examples, rather than asking her to explain what feels good using words. This is unideal not only because it takes her out of her body and into her mind, but because “just the right” spot and touch can fluctuate so much moment to moment.
So, instead of asking, “Do you want it faster/slower, or harder/softer?” etc., ask her “What feels better… this…” and demonstrate one option, “…or this…” and demonstrate the alternative. This way, she gets to remain in the zone, focused on feeling, and can intuitively respond to what her body wants. Once in a while, it’s perfectly fine to ask her outright what would turn her on during your sexual play.
Another great way to calibrate is by using your senses to watch for, listen to, and feel what’s turning her on. When she’s feeling it, her hips will wiggle, her back will arch, her breath will deepen, and she’ll start vocalizing. As your sexual relationship deepens with your partner, you will get better at reading her body language in time.
5. Listen well
Men are notorious for jumping into problem solving mode when they hear their partners sharing about their day. Fixing stuff is one of our gifts. It’s part of our wiring. And something women appreciate. But it’s not always the right tool for the job. If you fail to recognize the right time and place for that approach, it will begin to cause serious problems in your relationships.
Instead, learn to just listen. The essence of masculine energy is mountainous space, and pure consciousness. The essence of femininity is flowing energy, and feeling. When a woman comes to you with her stuff, she’s usually looking for this exact polarity – a space in which she can unwind and spill out the swirling contents of her mind. Once she has emptied the metaphorical bucket, she’ll reach her own conclusions in short time.
The majority of men can’t seem to see and accept this difference, which leaves them chronically stumped and frustrated when their partner doesn’t respond well to their best intentions and instincts. This is especially the case when she has something critical to say about his behaviour, or the relationship.
Guys obsess over sexual stamina, which matters. But your real stamina in being able to just sit and receive someone else’s truth without reacting, taking it personally, or trying to fix them, is just as (if not more) important.
How To Listen Well
Rule #1: Hold Space.
When she’s saying her piece, or sharing a dilemma, embody the question, “What else would you like to tell me about this?” Your position is to hold non-judgmental space and draw out any lingering thoughts and feelings. Treat it as a state of meditation, where you’re batting away distractions in your own mind and returning your attention to a single point of focus, which is her communication.
Demonstrate active, engaged listening through your body language. Face her, lean in, and maintain eye contact. If a particular emotion is starting to show through, acknowledge it by saying something like, “Yeah, I can see that that makes you angry/sad/upset.”
When she comes to a pause, rather than giving your evaluation and advice (which is rarely solicited), take a long pause, and then you can literally ask, “What else?” or “Is there anything more in that?”
Instead of telling her what to do, you can opt to say, “I know that must be [insert adjective here], and I know you’ll figure it out. Is there anything that I can do to help?”
Another bad habit some men have is slicing through any narrative we perceive to be emotional, or irrational, and defending our point of view. All this does is invalidate her reality and make her even more frustrated. Any emotion or perspective is valid and reasonable, if you take the time to understand the context behind it.
Rule #2: Always acknowledge. Never invalidate.
Especially in the case that she’s expressing something about you, or the relationship, where you need to issue a reply, begin by reflecting back what she said. Most fights, arguments and clashes stem from miscommunication, where both people are operating from different stories that their egos made up to serve a hurtful narrative. When you do the groundwork to get on the same page, you create the possibility of a sane, productive conversation, and create space for both of you to own up to whatever past bullshit you’re bringing to the present moment.
Tell her what you heard, and ask if what you relayed to her is correct. Stick to the facts. For the sake of a simple example, “So, if I’m hearing you correctly, when I came home late from work last night without calling, that made you feel ignored and unvalued, which caused hurt and anger for you. Is that right?”
Rule #3: Own whatever you can.
It takes two to tango. If there’s an upset, there is always something you can own in the situation and take responsibility for. This sets a healthy, grounded, loving tone to the conversation, while further acknowledging the other person’s feelings, and making room for your side of the story to be heard.
When you reply, compassionately acknowledge their reality, own your part, share your story, and move toward a reconciliation. Such as, “Okay, I hear you, and I can totally get why you’d feel that way. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you. Your frustration with me is completely valid. I absolutely should have been more aware of communicating. I love you, and I promise I’ll communicate more in similar situations going forward.”
The skill of listening extends far beyond your romantic relationship. To evolve as an individual, and work through any conflicts, you need to be able to take direct feedback and occasionally hear things that will be uncomfortable to stomach. Thinking you know it all and can never be wrong is the kind of arrogance that isolates you and stunts your growth in life.
Learning to listen well will revolutionize your entire life more than anything on this list.
6. Speak succinctly
Blabbering on endlessly is extremely ineffective communication and needlessly diffuses your energy. Not only does the other person get lost on the point you’re trying to make (if there even is one to be found), but it shows a lack of self-definition and awareness. Many people open their mouths before taking even a second to consider what they want to say, or how they’re feeling in the moment.
Concise and direct communication is highly masculine, effective, and attractive. There are plenty of times where it’s awesome and beneficial to speak in a more meandering, exhaustive fashion to express yourself, or work through emotional conflicts. But most of the time the tight way is the right way.
Know what you want to say, and how you want to say it, and leave it there.
Conscious pause. Before you speak, slow your mind down by taking a conscious breath. This one is tough to remember, but it makes a massive difference in the quality, tone, and pace of the message that follows.
Relocate your voice. When we speak, most people hold their awareness in their heads, especially over-talkers. This translates in the way you speak: like a robotic voice flowing out of a floating head without a body. When you talk, bring your awareness to your gut, and imagine your words and ideas flowing from that place. As you try this, you’ll notice an immediate shift in the depth of your voice and the efficiency of your communication.
Slow down. Pretty much everyone could instantly be a better communicator by speaking at less than half their usual speed. General nerves and the craziness of our overstimulating, hustle-bound world has us moving far quicker than we need to be. When you practice slowing down, you find yourself using much fewer words to get your point across, while delivering them at a more digestible rate.
Five Word Challenge. If you’re a chronic over-talker, try taking on this challenge to practice refining your message. When you speak, or respond, you’re only able to use a maximum of five words to get your point across. To help, you can count them with your fingers as you speak. Besides being very fun, you’ll find your brain adjusting very quickly to function in a much more economical way.
7. How to cry
Men in most modern cultures receive an onslaught of messages from childhood onwards that tell them crying is somehow bad or wrong. This teaches them to deaden themselves against sadness and repress the outward display of any signs of it.
This is a recipe for disaster, because sadness is a crucial emotion to feel and allow to move through you. It relieves weight and pressure, and makes you a stronger person. Repressing sadness leads to addiction, depression, and all sorts of disorders, by creating a distant reservoir of unprocessed pain that wreaks havoc from deep beneath the surface.
When you work to actually emote your sadness, grief, and pain, it allows you to move past that energy and gain necessary growth from them.
It’s a necessity that all grown men reclaim their ability to cry. Your life (and the amount of aliveness in your life) depends on it.
How to Induce Crying
If you haven’t cried in years, the best way to start is by simply opening yourself up to the idea. Hold the act of crying as totally okay and healthy in your mind. Remind yourself that crying is simply a thing that bodies do, nothing more.
Invite sadness and tears to arise and move through you. Get curious about what that would feel like. Give your mind and body permission to open up and release what you’ve been holding back.
You can’t force anything to happen, so don’t worry if nothing stirs, despite your best efforts. For many, trapped emotions might require more time and serious, committed therapy to release.
The first common habit men develop to suppress sadness is to distract themselves from it. Clear a room and make a sacred, intentional space for your emotions to arise. Make sure you have nothing to do for the rest of the day, so you can let everything go and free your mind. Stash away your phone and any tech gadgets, dim the lights, lie down, and get a blanket if you need one to keep yourself warm.
The second major way men suppress their sadness is to numb their bodies against the emotion. A primary unconscious tactic of doing so is to shut down breathing and make it shallow. Counteract this bad habit by drawing long, deep, unbroken breaths deep into your belly.
You can take this to the next level by finding a guided breathwork experience facilitated by a reputable local therapist. These have not only been some of the most powerful experiences of my life, but I spontaneously break into tears 9 times out of 10 while doing them. The same goes for everyone else I’ve been with in the room.
Find a focus
Once you’re open and relaxed, it helps to have a focus, or something to strike a nerve, to get some tears forming. It doesn’t matter what gets you there. Emotion is emotion. You might end up crying about one thing, but it will also be releasing stored up sadness from things you’re not even consciously aware of.
You can try reviewing past breakups, emotional experiences from childhood, looking at photographs of your youth, considering people you loved who have passed away, or listening to moving, ambient music. You could also imagine fictional scenarios, such as losing loved ones, or attending their memorials. Nothing is too weird or too dark. Give yourself permission to go places in your mind you’ve never gone before.
If you do manage to have a release, be extremely gentle with yourself. If you’re home alone, place your hands over your heart and breathe deeply until you feel settled. If you have someone with you, or a close friend you can call, getting a few long hugs and spending time talking on the couch are ideal medicine.
No matter what, take the rest of the day to nurture yourself. Take things slow, keep cozy, and eat well.
If you feel extremely physically blocked, or just mentally confused around this whole concept (which is a symptom of physical blockage) I encourage you to seek professional therapeutic support. Take your emotional health seriously. Allowing someone to help you with this will change your life. Which leads to our final point…
8. Know how to ask for help
Men die by suicide at a rate of nearly 4x that of women. It’s not a competition – any number of suicides is too many. It’s just a sign there’s something deeper going on here.
One of the contributing factors to that unfortunate gap is that men buy into the idea that they have to bear as much responsibility as possible, go it alone, and never ask for help.
This is a by-product of the same “be strong” messaging which teaches boys not to cry. We learn that admitting you can’t do something and need help, or don’t have the answers, is a display of weakness, and you’ll be scrutinized/rejected/punished for it.
But this cuts us off from our true nature, of being interconnected, social animals. When you refuse to reach out, you refuse the flow of life, which wants to bring people, opportunities, resources, lessons, and moments to you all the time.
And if you’re only ever putting energy out but you never allow yourself to receive it, you will inevitably burn out. But when you allow yourself to ask for help, and let things in, you rejoin that flow and restore cosmic order.
You can practice getting better at asking for help by doing three simple things:
Start Saying “Yes”
People who are bad at asking for and receiving help are always saying, “Nah, that’s okay, I got it.” From now on, when people offer you anything from advice, to coffee, a ride home, or lending hands moving, just say “Yes” – even if you don’t really need it.
Simply letting someone extend their generosity makes both of you feel good. This might seem trivial, but it has a much bigger impact than the act itself.
“Yes” carries the energy of allowing. It’s leaves the door open to life, where energy can flow in and out. And I’m not talking about saying “Yes” to literally everything, like “Want some crack?” or “Can you work for me for free for the next ten years?”, or whatever might cross your own boundaries. I’m referring to the genuine offers of kindness we’re receiving all the time from friends, co-workers, and others we meet.
Watch for the little opportunities every day where your instinct is to pass on an act of kindness. Replace that chronic affirmation of self-sufficiency with an open and welcoming, “Yes, please!”
Join a Men’s Group
The mere act of sitting in a room of other guys with the intention to talk, share, and better yourselves is in itself a demonstration of knowing you can’t do it alone. It takes a tribe to make a good life, and a good man. The essence of a men’s group is helping each other. That said, just because you’re in the room, it still might not come easily. It takes a lot of guys a while to break through the unconscious habits of deflecting and isolating to truly open up.
One of my core lesson in men’s groups was asking for help. I’d gone through my 20’s fiercely (and painfully) self-sufficient and independent. I had built my entire business by myself, and didn’t feel like other people would be much use on a practical level. I pushed them away before they could push me away. I originally thought that I joined my men’s group because I wanted to find like-minded, self-employed lone wolves. But a deeper, wiser part of me was trying to be healed and open up to others.
Being part of a group like this will give you regular accountability to sharing your mind, your struggles, and your wins. It’s a trusted support system to help you through the hard times and a platform to raise you up in the good ones. If you live in a major city, you should be able to find a group in your local listings. If not, start one, or begin weekly check-ins with a male friend.
If You’re Struggling, Pick Up The Phone
When going through a genuinely hard emotional time, the M.O. of most men is to isolate and be silent. This is a hard habit to break, because everything in you might be resisting the foreign idea of extending to another person.
I don’t care who it is – your mom, partner, ex-partner, friend, whatever – call someone who would be there for you when push comes to shove, admit what’s going on, and talk with them. If you really don’t have anyone to turn to, and you are looking for personal support, there is a phenomenal service called BetterHelp where you can get personalized, 1-on-1, 24/7 feedback from registered counsellors and therapists for a ridiculously low price. It’s a fantastic service that I recommend wholeheartedly. You can check it out by clicking this link.
When you do extend to another person, you don’t need to know everything you’re going to say. The biggest healing comes from being seen, and not feeling alone.
If you’re stuck, use this word for word:
“Hey, I’m going through a really hard time and could use some good company. Could you spare some time to talk or meet up for a bit?”
If you’ve never done this with someone before, you’re probably about to experience the biggest breakthrough in human intimacy that you ever have.
There’s much more of a process to being a man than any article can contain. But these eight things are a solid starter kit.
And if you are one of those men who grew up without a father, or without a present/attentive male role model in your life, I’m sorry. I honour all of the work that you have put forth in your life to get to this point, and I am proud of you as a man. Thank you for getting up, and doing what you do, every day. The world is better off as a result of your efforts.
Dedicated to your success,
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