Rules Every Man Should Live By

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I wrote this for my sons...I have two of them, and each are already grown men. One is getting married later this year, and the other is working on figuring out which path is right for him. Both can
be daunting. And while I certainly am no authority on this life we're all working through, I have picked up a few things along the journey that I feel might be of some use to them, and to others, I

Submitted: September 20, 2018

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Submitted: September 20, 2018



I wrote this for my sons...I have two of them, and each are already grown men. Just ask them. They are out in the world already, making decisions, making mistakes, and starting down their own paths. One is getting married later this year, and the other is working on figuring out which path is right for him. Both can be daunting. And while I certainly am no authority on this life we're all working through, I have picked up a few things along the journey that I feel might be of some use to them, and to others, I hope.

When I sat down to put together this list, I struggled at first. But then the words seemed to flow out of me in my father’s voice. Much of what I believe, turns out, I believe because of him. Next thing I know, there were thirty or forty items on my list…way too long and boring for my taste. So, I whittled it down to just the fifteen I felt were worth saving for posterity. I hope you agree. There, that’s the foreword…now on to the list.

1. Be kind. There are very few times in life when being kind isn’t the best option. For one thing, it keeps karma off your back. But more than that, it keeps you humble. And it just feels good. Be mindful of your actions at all times; a single act of kindness may seem small to you, but it’s through random acts of kindness that we have the power to change the world. So, smile at the babies, hold doors open for strangers, and always say thank you. Who we are is judged by how we treat others and the actions we take; remember that.

“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
~ The Dalai Lama

2. Wear boxer briefs. They are way better than either boxers or briefs. Take my word on it.

3. Be forgiving of others, but hard on yourself. Life is about accountability and setting standards. Set your standards high and refuse to accept less; if you do, you will be happy and successful based on how you define those two things. If you don’t, and you allow your standards to fall below your expectations, and that’s what your life will be…below expectations. Set the bar high and then hold yourself to those exacting standards. You, and you alone, are responsible for your decisions and the consequences of those decisions. No one else is or can be.

4. Take the chance. When you hear of people speaking about life on their deathbed, or close to the end of their life, you never hear them say, “I regret trying to…”, or “I wish I hadn’t taken that chance…”. Instead, we tend to regret the things we didn’t do, the chances we never took, or the people we never tried to get to know. The books we kept bottled up inside but never took the time to put on paper. The ideas we had that we never shared. The people we loved, but never told. We are all going to be there one day, at the end of our journey, and I hope that when your time comes you can say “I’m glad I took the chance…” instead of listing the things you wish you had.

5. Only worry when there is something to worry about. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to sit here and tell you not to worry at all. That would be pointless, it’s human nature to worry. But, don’t dwell on things that haven’t happened yet. The truth is most of the things we worry the most over never come to fruition. And if they do, they are seldom anywhere near as atrocious as we have built them up to be in our minds. Here’s the truth, the things that will have the most profound effect on you during your life are more apt to be things that never cross your worried mind. So, learn to relax and find a way not to worry about things. Live in the moment…that’s where life is happening.

6. Don’t make enemies with your joints. Especially your knees; you’ll never understand how much they do for you until they decide not to play on your team anymore. Elbows, shoulders, hips…you take care of them and they will take care of you. Abuse them by not following proper form working out, or by pushing them a little too hard playing sports and …boom. Pain. Lots of pain that only gets more painful the older you get.

7. Understand, there are no rules. Disclaimer: I’m not talking about the law. Those you’ve got to follow, OK? I’m talking about the other “unwritten” laws that we all seem to cling to. Some are valid; others are not. What you need to understand is that the only rules you have to follow are those you choose for yourself. Love for example...there are no rules with love. You love who you love, and you don’t owe anyone an explanation. And if you like those little fruity cocktails instead of man drinks, even though you’re a dude…so be it. That’s not lady like at all. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

8. Pick up some of those wet toilet wipes for the bathroom. It will change your life.

9. Dress. Here’s the thing…nobody respects a man in basketball shorts unless he’s actually playing ball or working out. Nobody has ever said, “Wow. Check out that guy shopping in his pajama pants, he’s clearly a successful guy”. This world will treat you only as well as you treat yourself…so always have the self-respect to take the time to dress appropriately. I’m not saying it’s got to be three-piece suits 24/7…not at all. I’m saying real men don’t leave the house in sweatpants. Some will disagree, I get it. But consider this; you truly only get one chance to make a first impression and no one has ever been impressed by a dude in sweatpants. Here’s a simple rule of thumb: Always dress one level better than you must. If sweatpants will do, wear jeans. If jeans will do, wear khakis. If business casual is required, wear a suit. You never know who you will meet. 

10. Choose to be happy. When I was a young man, I was given a piece of advice that stuck with me and I credit it with being one of the primary reasons I have a successful marriage. Here it comes:

You can be right, or you can be happy.

You can seldom be both in life. I wish it wasn’t the case, but it is. And the sooner you come to terms with it, the happier you are going to be. So, decide now, which is more important? Is being right all the time really worth it? A lot of guys think so, and a lot of guys are jobless, single, divorced, in jail…you see where I’m going with this. Don't get me wrong, I'm not telling you not stand up for what you believe in. Always stand for what's right in that aspect. I'm talking about the little things we all spend way too much time bickering about. Me? I choose happiness 9 times out of 10. In fact, it’s got to be something pretty important for me to fight over being right about something. Learn to let go of the ego aspect of it and you’ll find that just knowing you’re right is often enough.

11. Relationships are not 50/50. Growing up, I heard a lot of people say that “a good relationship is 50/50.” It’s simply not. The truth is, a strong relationship is a fluid thing…it fluctuates and changes from day to day. Sometimes you are on top of the world, but your partner is having a difficult day…on that day it’s 80/20 with you giving far more than you’re getting. Other times, it may be you that is struggling to get through the day, and your partner has to come to the table with the lion’s share of the effort. It still has to total 100% to work, but how much effort you are willing to give to the relationship has to flexible and based on what the other is ableto give at that particular time. If your partner is having a hard time and can only give 20%, and all you’re willing to give is 50%...well, that’s why divorce rates are so high. Understand the dynamics up front, and if you are willing to put the effort in, and you can build a strong relationship that will last.

12. Memento Mori. In ancient times, Roman generals returning to huge celebrations in Rome were sometimes known to have a servant ride in the chariot with them. Every so often, they would ease up to the general and whisper “Memento Mori” in their ear. It was a reminder that they too, would die. It wasn’t a threat, it was a belief. It was a way of reminding themselves that death could come at any moment and in that way, they were no different than anyone else. It was a way of staying humble despite the praise and adoration being thrown on them by the crowds. Another way of looking at it is as a reminder to stay present in each moment and to cherish life. I advise you do the same. Far too often I see people around me buried in their phones and unaware that life is going on all around them. It’s our culture now, but it doesn’t have to be. You can choose to put the phone down, turn off the TV, or just take a breath…and to enjoy the moment. Because, as the stoic philosophers would remind us, death can come at any moment.

13. Don’t be careless with other people’s hearts, and don’t allow people to be careless with yours. Life is short, refuse to let someone treat you in any way that you aren’t 100 percent comfortable with. That’s how people fall into traps that can take lifetimes to get out of, if they ever do. You don’t have to put up with anything, or anybody, that makes you feel less than you are. 

You’re not a tree; you can move. 

If you’re unhappy, leave the situation. And before I hear that it’s not that easy, let me stop you. It is. Love with all your heart and don’t accept less from anybody else in your life. And if that’s isn’t something they are prepared to do, as hard as it may be, you need to remove them from your world.

14. Get a dog. I firmly believe that dogs are the closest thing to heaven we can aspire to in this world. Yeah, they make messes, tear stuff up, smell bad sometimes…I get it. But they also love you unconditionally. That's worth repeating...they love you unconditionally. And all they ask in return is some attention and the chance to spend time with you. Get in the floor and play with them as often as you can. They are the model God put on earth to show us how we should love. If you already have a great pooch, here’s the other piece of my advice… work hard to earn your dog’s love by being the person your dog already thinks you are.

15. You are who you believe you are. Thoughts are things, powerful things. Thoughts govern how you perceive yourself and the actions you take based on those perceptions. So, how you choose to think, or believe, defines who you are inside…which defines what you do. The best part is that your brain isn’t a static thing, it can be changed and molded using new thoughts. You can choose how you perceive yourself and by doing so you choose who you are. It doesn’t matter what your life’s story has told you so far. What you’ve done isn’t as important as what you do next. It really is as simple as deciding what kind of person you want to be and then acting, in all things, the way that version of you would. Fake it till you make it, I guess you might say. This, more than all the rest, is the one thing I hope you take away from this list. It can change your world…and you can change everyone else’s.

There you have it...the rules I think my sons—and men overall—should know and live by. This list isn’t meant to be all inclusive and I'm sure you have your own; this is just my rules. Like all things, it's open to debate and to questions. I hope it encourages some conversations out there. More than that, I hope it is a beginning and that others take what I have written, add to it, rearrange it, and change it as they see fit. And then…share it. But, mostly, I hope it encourages action. Knowledge, they say, is power. But it’s not. Only knowledge followed by action, is power. Should have made that number 16……

And to my two sons: I wish you nothing but the best this life has to offer. But I also wish you fail, often, so that you can learn from those failures and build your own list of rules for your sons and daughters. I can’t wait to read it.

With much love.

© Copyright 2019 Mac Childs. All rights reserved.

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