Will the REAL MEN please stand up?

Will the REAL Men Please Stand Up!?

Well, what is a real man? I think it's safe to assume that we agree men of today are not the same as the men of years past. When I think of what it meant to be a man during my father's childhood a few images come to mind. I think of blue collared workers, ones that had job security and the opportunity to plan for their futures, men that provided for their families, come home to a good whiskey and cigar, and those who often did not express much of their emotions or feelings.

How in one generation have men gone from guys like Jack Nickolson and Harrison Ford to ughhhhh...
— Anne Hathaway, The Intern movie

Millennial men get ragged on from time to time but lets take a moment to look at some of the common denominators of the millennial generation? By focusing on the strengths, perhaps we can redefine masculinity and create an opportunity to be more effective fathers, husbands, and leaders. What follows is my MAN-ifesto - my take on key characteristics of being a REAL MAN, both a true gentleman and a commendable leader. 

The good news for millennial men is we have naturally developed a better aptitude for putting these characteristics into practice in my opinion. For many of us, it may not be far from common practice. For those senior to my 32 years of age, I encourage you to take an objective look at yourself, see where you can improve in these areas as I believe they are the commonalities I see in both great and successful men. 

1. High Self Awareness

Millennial Men have greater LEVEL of emotional intelligence than previous generations.

Let's begin with emotional intelligence, a term coined in 1990 by Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer, described as "a form of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor ones' own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them, and to use this information to guide one's thinking and action." Self-awareness is the cornerstone of emotional intelligence, and its definition is having conscious knowledge of one's own character, feelings, motives, and desires. People with strong self-awareness are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather they are honest; with themselves and with others.1

Self-awareness is the stance in which we take notice of ourselves in the way we think and act. It is critical to observe our own egos and emotions at play. Once we take note and evaluate, only then are able to choice in which manner to respond responsibly. Not only should this be applied to your personal life and relationships but also professionally. For example, look at serial entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary recently attributed much of his success in business (CEO of VaynerMedia, recently valued at over $400 Million) to his level of emotional intelligence, or EQ, over his IQ in his article My In-Depth look At Emotional Intelligence

The good news for millennials is they seem to already have a grasp on this.

“In terms of emotional intelligence they are much better. They are observant, responsive, and they react accordingly. While that is a generalization, it’s my experience.” - Lynda Shaw, cognitive neuroscientist and business psychologist, HRmagazine.com

And if you're not considered a millennial or emotional intelligence doesn't seem to come naturally to you the good news is that it can be learned. I believe that if we consistently make it a point to stop and choose how to respond rather than instantly react we will more often opt for the responsible choice in terms of our behavior and inevitably start creating more positive outcomes in those moments.

Not to get too political, but perhaps this has something to do with why millennials have such an aversion to Donald Trump, evident by the way they voted in the most recent election. Trump's self-absorption, narcissistic traits, defensive attitude, and perceived lack of self-awareness are ridiculed even by his biggest supporters. This may be why many young Americans have expressed their concerns with Trump fulfilling the role of commander-in-chief. Seems like no coincidence that Bernie Sanders, who ran a campaign based on empathy and compassion (two pillars of EQ), was most popular amongst voters under 30 years old during the presidential race, where he fetched nearly 80% of the democratic vote in some states. But I'm digressing...

The first step towards self-awareness is to recognize and be open about the things that cause stress, anxiety, and negativity in your life. From there, it's possible to accept that sometimes you're just plain wrong. One of the most admirable and useful traits for entrepreneurs is the ability to admit your mistakes and move forward. 3

And the thing about self-awareness is that it seems to go hand in hand with humility. By keeping a handle on our egos, we subsequently remain humble. Self-awareness extends to a person's understanding of his or her values and goals. Someone who is highly self-aware knows where he is headed and why; so for example, he will be able to be firm in turning down a job offer that is tempting financially but does not fit with his principles or long-term goals. A person who lacks self-awareness is apt to make decisions that bring on inner turmoil by treading on buried values. 'The money looked good so I signed on," someone might say two years into a job, 'but the work means so little to me that I'm constantly bored." The decisions of self-aware people mesh with their values and consequently, they often find work to be energizing. 4

It is also my belief that as we cut away all the clutter of looking good and boosting our egos, we are creating a clean slate for us to build from while forming clarity to determine what our vision is. Self-aware people seem to be able to better define what is important to them and it supports them in finding a path to their 'North Star'. In other words, they have an unwavering commitment to their vision. As a result, self-aware millennials are living out their dreams and passions more than any previous generations which I believe will result in men who are happier and more fulfilled than their fathers. 

2. Purpose Driven

Millennial Men want to work for something greater than themselves.

Recently noted in Deloitte’s annual Millennial Survey, which this year focused on values, ambitions, and job satisfaction, they concluded that millennials work for purpose over paychecks. Corporate values that are shared by Millennials also promote loyalty - particularly when employers demonstrate a strong sense of company purpose beyond financial success.    

So our generation cares about the integrity of the companies they represent as well as recognizing our growing need to feel as though we are part of something greater than ourselves. 

When we "focus out", we find our purpose. The difference between a vision and a purpose is that vision is often times about oneself, it can be inward focused. It's about career, financial, or relationship goals. It's what you see for yourself in the future. Purpose on the other hand, is outwardly focused. It causes us to look at something outside ourselves. And a funny thing happens when we focus out, by giving our time, money, or energy, we become happier and more fulfilled men.

Princeton professor, Dr. Sander Van Linder,  discussed this in his article 'The Helper's High': "Individuals who engage in charitable giving are often reported to be significantly happier and healthier than those who do not. An analysis performed in 2007 by Arthur brooks of Syracuse University pointed out that givers were 42 percent more likely to say they were 'very happy' and 25 percent more likely to report they were 'in excellent health'."

So purpose driven people are happier and more fulfilled. How does happiness translate to being a gentleman? Well, I believe that men who follow this methodology also show up positively in their romantic relationships in the form of chivalrous actions. And we all know how much our lovers appreciate chivalry. 

And how about being better fathers and partners? Michael Kimmel, founder of Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities said in a recent Esquire article, "I'm seeing among men: being nurturing, caring, and loving at no sacrifice to their masculinity. Men believe that, they fell that way. Men are also saying, 'Wait, we have children, partners, aging parents, and we are loving and kind and nurturing to them, and that's also part of being human.' Now, in a way, men are beginning to embrace their full humanity, but adding to it the half that we have denied ourselves for so long. This isn't some feminist cabal of women saying they need to change men. This is men saying, 'Look at me with my kids, I'm awesome.'"3

3. Courage

Millennial men are courageous

Confidence is the state or quality of being certain. Courage, on the other hand, is having the ability to take action that you know is right or good despite the associated danger, fear or difficulty of taking the action. Confidence is a state of certainty. Courage is acting in the face of uncertainty, danger and/or fear.5

As many millennials came entered into the real world they learned they got punched in the mouth. The oldest members of this generation graduated college just as the economic downturn of 2008 hit the United States economy. It forced many young men into a place of uncertainty that around required consistent courage over confidence in order to succeed. 

Rather than focus on perfecting a single skill many went out and learned a variety and tools and started taking actions, testing the market for validation of their ideas and hypotheses. As Mark Zuckerburg famously said of what it takes to be successful in this every changing market, 'You must move fast and break things. If you're not breaking things you're not moving fast enough'.

I believe growing up during this time has forced many to be conscious about complacency. Not having long term certainty about job security and the like, millennials have been primed to live in the moment and be present to their experiences. The idea that many people spend their lives focused on a destination. I'll be happy when.... I'm retired. 

Opposingly, the baby boomer perspective is based largely on an end goal, and focused on the destination. When our focus is on the destination we are not present to the journey.  We live life longing for the outcome, instead of expressing gratitude for where we currently are. 

If we're seeing these three traits more and more in millennial men, I believe that's a good thing.  children, a good sign for our significant others, and a good sign for the business we work in.

So let me ask again, will the real men please stand up?