How to Be a Better Man: The Guide That Doesn’t Suck

man standing on a rock

Since the day I started The Graying Area, the goal has been to build a like-minded community of guys that want to improve themselves. With that came a lot of fun and exciting articles, but tackling how to be a better man head-on might be the best approach.

The reality is that there are lots of articles out there on lifestyle blogs, and most of the crap they spew isn’t practical or helpful — it’s most quasi-philosophical nonsense. And it’s written from the standpoint of some far-off deity bestowing the gift of fire upon the mortals. That stuff is mainly for guys who ask Google what tattoos they should get. That’s not the readership of The Graying Area.

The reality is that most of those guides are written by freelance writers, and the points they make are based on search engine optimization and keywords — not reality or real experience. That’s why this guide doesn’t suck: While I am optimizing the article the best I can, I’m only covering valuable points written from real-life experience.

So, without a bunch of self-promotion or bullshit, let’s take a look at how to be a better man with a guide that doesn’t suck.

The Guide To Being a Better Man

Being a better man is a lifelong pursuit, and no one achieves it all at once. I don’t have all this nailed down; I’ll be the first to admit that. But the following list of suggestions will have you well on your way to being a better man. Some of these items might be more important to you than others, but try to find a happy balance between them.

How To Be a Better Man: Pursue a Hobby or Two

You’ve heard hobbies mentioned here on The Graying Area dozens of times, but they’re so important. When it comes to being a better man, they can be downright critical.

how to be a better man

There are tons of benefits to hobbies, but there are two benefits that I find the most important in my own life. Those benefits are the opportunity to destress and the act giving yourself something to look forward to during long, difficult weeks or trying times. Unplugging and shutting off the world for just a few minutes a day doing something you love can do wonders for your mental health. And, knowing you’ve got those few minutes to look forward to each day can help brighten a crappy day.

Lots of incredible men were huge proponents of hobbies. Teddy Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman and conservationist but also a boxer and a judo player. Abraham Lincoln loved sports, music, and animals. Einstein was a piss-poor sailor, but he sure loved it. Eisenhower was an avid painter, while George Patton loved fencing. Churchill played cards and enjoyed goldfish keeping.

Those men faced immense pressure daily. But they found a pursuit that would allow them to disconnect just a bit from their careers or callings and do something they loved. Their hobbies put them back on an even keel (except for Einstein — he really was a crappy sailor), if only for just a few hours each day.

How To Be a Better Man: Learn To Be Useful

One of the marks of a man is usefulness; you’ve got to bring something to the table.

In times past, usefulness meant hunting and gathering, building a shelter, and creating a family. That’s how humankind survived, and usefulness was a forgone conclusion. 

If you weren’t useful, you didn’t make it.

how to be a better man

Today, being useful might mean possessing carpentry skills, being a mechanic or an artist, writing computer programs, doing people’s taxes in such a way that they DON’T get audited (trust me, it’s not as rare as you think), or teaching other people skills so they can be useful.

If we dig really deep into this, we’ll strike the idea that you have a purpose for being here. But you don’t have to have a purpose. In fact, you can spend your whole life searching for a purpose and miss out on all the good stuff. You just need to be someone that your family and friends can count on for something.

How To Be a Better Man: Put the childish stuff behind you

If you want to be a better man, putting the childish crap you used to do in the past is an important step. While there are plenty of good men who do childish things, they’d be better men if they didn’t.

When you’re trying to become a better man, spending all night in a bar, picking fights, and chasing any woman who walks by isn’t going to help. There’s a scene in Bull Durham where the veteran catcher, Crash, refers to howling at the moon. When he mentions the phrase, Ebby, the young, immature pitcher, has no idea what he’s saying because that’s just a young man’s lifestyle, and that scene is the perfect example of my point. 

That’s not to say that you have to be a boring sack. You can still tell a dirty joke, enjoy a cocktail, and break the speed limit from time to time. In fact, I’d argue that those are risks worth taking. It’s the self-destructive bullshit you did when you were younger that has to go, and it’s a hard lesson to learn.

How To Be a Better Man: Get some exercise

No list of ways to improve yourself would be complete without dedicating at least 100 words to exercise. We all know the benefits and the reasons, but exercise is so important that leaving it off this list simply because it’s been mentioned so often would be misleading. It’s important.

how to be a better man

I don’t care if your goal is to do 100 pull-ups and run a 4-minute mile or play basketball a few times a week with your kids and do yoga in your living room; exercise is a critical part of becoming a better man. I’m not a personal trainer, and I’m not even in great shape right now so I’m not going to profess that you do anything in particular. But you’ve got to do something, even if it’s for no other reason than to spend as long a life as possible with the people you love.

How To Be a Better Man: Get your money in order

how to be a better man

We were all young once, and most of us spent our fair share of money we didn’t have. Hell, you could make an argument that our generation was more or less forced into debt by uninformed parents and banking and higher education systems that took advantage. Without the knowledge that only real life could provide, many of us thought that if we could afford the monthly payment, we could afford the purchase. But it’s time to get that shit nailed down.

I’m not someone who believes in being completely debt-free, but I do think that minimizing your debt is key. I don’t care what benefits your credit cards provide you; they don’t offer a better return than investing your money. If you’re able to use your cards and pay them off each month, they make sense. But the trouble carrying a balance can bring can deflate your financial bouncy-house in a hurry.

Now I understand that this is a challenging one, and I still carry a balance on a few cards. But, doing your best to leverage the cash you have available to pay off those high-interest debts will allow you to transition from making the minimum payment to investing your cash, and that’s when you start winning the financial game.

How To Be a Better Man: You have to push yourself

Becoming a better man means continuing to push yourself to get better. I don’t mean this in the tire-flipping, PR-crushing, hyper-masculine way. It’s more about just looking for new ways to be a better man.

That is the point of this article, after all.

In my opinion, the best way to push yourself is to learn something new. Whether you’re taking night classes at a local college, learning an instrument, or starting a new business, it’s all about seeing how far you can take it before you can’t take it any further. 

More importantly than how you push yourself is simply that you push yourself. There are many, many happy men who have accepted their station in life, and I hope to find that someday for myself. But those people don’t have to stop growing. Continuing to hone a skill, get better at a hobby, learn a subject, or challenging themselves in a myriad of other ways is key to being a better man.

How To Be a Better Man: Focus on what matters most

If you have a family at home, understanding that they always come first is part of becoming a better man. 

We’re always so wrapped up in the things that go on around us that we forget how peripheral those things are. We’re always worried about what other people are thinking of us, but realistically, people aren’t thinking about us at all. They’re too wrapped up in thinking about what other people are thinking of them.

a happy couple with their baby girl

Seriously.

It’s important to understand that ultimately, the only things that matter are the relationships in your house. Your spouse and your children. Period. A law degree, the partnership, the promotion, the fancy car, the coffee stain on your t-shirt, the overdraft fee… None of those things actually matter. You can still be a great man even if you mess them all up.

But, if you’re not focused on the people who look up to you and depend on you, can you be a better man? There will always be more jobs. You’ll find another shirt. The bank will gladly tack on a late fee or interest charge on that overdrafted money. And you’ll survive each of those scenarios. You’ll make it. Trust me. None of those offenses are punishable by death, and tomorrow’s another day.  

Instead of focusing on all that nonsense, focus on those people at home and remember, the only things that actually matter are those relationships. Literally, nothing else is so dire.

The Better Man Debate: Nice vs. Good

There’s a long-standing debate in my house between being nice and being good. My wife implies that I might not be the nicest person when I’m out and about, but that I’m a good person all-around.

I argue this: Other adults shouldn’t need you to be nice to them. They should be able to handle an interaction with a person that doesn’t lead to a pat on the back or a hug. 

I prefer not to be nice to people because I want to get through whatever I’m doing and go home. I don’t want to talk for an hour in the produce section at the grocery store. I don’t want to discuss the price of plywood in the lumber section at Lowes. I’d rather be able to slip in and slip out. I just don’t think being nice is very important, and most times, it’s just insincere. 

Now wait: I’m not saying you should be an asshole. 

I do think that being a good person, on the other hand, is a critical part of how to be a better man. You need to treat people fairly and respectfully. When you see someone on the side of the road, you should stop. If someone’s hurt, you should help. If someone is struggling, you should let them know you care and try to assist them. Caring about others, people helping people, whether you prefer to be around them or not, is an essential point to becoming a better man. 

You want to be good. The hell with being nice. It’s not your job to manage the happiness of the people around you.

Your Turn

How to be a better man is a difficult idea to address. Everyone has their own picture of what a good man looks and acts like. On the whole, this was a well-rounded list of points guys should consider when trying to become better men.

What are your thoughts? Is there a point you think I left off? Does something on this list stand out to you more than others? Let me know in the comments below, and I promise to respond. And, I’ll even do it nicely — despite what my wife says.

How To Be a Better Man FAQs

How can I be a better man in 30 days?

This list isn’t a 30-day program, but it can offer near-instant results. Beginning an exercise routine, pursuing a hobby, and focusing on the people under your roof are the best steps to becoming a better man. 

How can I improve myself as a person?

The fact that you’re asking is a step in the right direction. The best thing you can do to improve yourself as a person is to invest in yourself. Take night classes, learn a new hobby, or just shift your focus from outside of your home to those within.