I was taught a lot of things about being a man from growing up fatherless. Here are 6 lessons that I learned:
#1 Having a child makes you a father but not a “dad”
“What’s the difference?” you might be asking. Well, a father is a proper term for a male that produces a child. But in the eyes of a kid, a father is a “dad” or “daddy.” It’s a name that has to be earned; earned by being supportive of your child both financially and mentally. You don’t become a “dad” without working hard for it or without being there whenever your kids need you.
#2: A man needs to be self-sufficient
Don’t depend on someone else or a trust fund for your well-being and livelihood. At any moment, either could disappear from your life. I was fortunate to realize at an early age that no one is going to hand me my dreams or what I need in life, and that I need to go out there and capture it myself.
Since we live in modern times we aren’t required to farm and hunt to survive on our own. Self-sufficiency is different; it’s now more about thriving as a man than just surviving. These days we can gain self-sufficiency by doing things like:
Gaining a varied education
Be open-minded to various cultures, subjects, views, and people. The more things you experience and the more subjects you are knowledgeable about, the more situations you can handle. Seek valuable skills that will make you an asset to employers and communities.
Not letting fear stop you
Fear is probably the biggest obstacle for most people. It keeps us from success, keeps us from getting what we need, and it keeps us dependent on other people.
#3: Becoming a man doesn’t come with age
Though the law considers any male 18 and over as a “man,” a boy becomes a true man through experiences and by learning from those experiences. Sometimes this can take years past the age of 18 to happen.
Through experience a boy becomes a man by:
- Taking ownerships of failure
- Letting go of stubbornness and accepting lessons
- Knowing how to handle challenging situations and fixing their incorrect reactions and attitudes
- Learning more about themselves
#4: Blaze your own path instead of following someone’s footsteps
I can’t understand why so many young men decide to do exactly what their fathers did with their lives. You may be thinking that it’s easy for me to say this because all I had to aspire to was becoming a drinker, drug user, and abusive deadbeat. But besides that, my father did work; he did construction and odd jobs. That’s a common career that sons decide to pursue because their fathers did.
Any work is worthy work and if what your dad does or did really is your passion too, then that’s great. But for me, I wanted something different, something more exciting and something that had never been done before. Here’s a great quote that makes you rethink following so closely in someone’s footsteps: We are not here to do what has already been done. – Robert Henri
Men go down the path less-traveled and never traveled.
#5: Mental strength is often more necessary than physical
No matter how strong my father is physically, mentally he is weak. He didn’t have the conviction to be a dad. If you want to be a man of great courage and accomplishment, it isn’t going to happen just by hitting the gym and lifting weights. A courageous man stands up for the weak, stands up for what he believes in, faces fear, failure, and criticism. He’s not afraid of responsibility and seeing things through to the end.
#6: Your father doesn’t need to be your father figure
If you have a father who’s incarcerated, or who left you, or who didn’t have much success in life, look for a father figure in someone else. Every man needs a father figure, even far into adulthood. You don’t even need to know him personally, and he doesn’t even need to be alive. Most successful men leave a legacy and lessons behind, whether in a book or video. You can then read, watch, and practice their advice; just like any other father figure. My four most influential father-like figures are Chris Gardner, Andrew Carnegie, Richard Branson, and Randy Pausch.
In addition to studying the lives of great men, seek the companionship and camaraderie of male friends. As Wayne has said, as you open up to these men, they can become “father figures” to you as well.
What a man is and what a man isn’t
So growing up in a fatherless home is something that I’m now proud of experiencing. It has made the line between a boy and a man much clearer for me.
For a quick synopsis and a few more lessons, here is a list of what I learned a man isn’t and what a man is from growing up fatherless:
A man isn’t:
- Someone who runs from his responsibilities
- A person who makes excuses
- A person who strikes a woman
- A man through age – a boy grows into a man through experience
A man is:
- Someone who stands up for something they believe in, even when they’re fearful
- A person who creates a new path
- A “dad” when he earns it