Sometimes it takes the articulate words of a poet to capture the essence of our thoughts. So when I came across a quote by 18th-century poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, it struck a poignant chord. Of manhood and personal growth, he said, “All of us who are worth anything, spend our manhood in unlearning the follies, or expiating the mistakes of our youth.” I love this because the man I thought I was in my twenties is nowhere near the man I strive to be in my mid-forties. I have lived, loved, failed and learned a great deal. But, I constantly find myself looking for ways to tweak or develop to become better. It’s a never-ending process of self-discovery.
As a coach who deals with many female clients, our sessions often turn toward matters of the heart. What I’ve found is principles of success are universal. One principle can have many different applications of wisdom throughout our lives. For instance, if you’re a suspicious person, that tends to be your mindset across the board. Whether at work or with friends, you look through eyes of skepticism. In like manner, if you cut corners or only commit to giving half the effort in your career, your relationships probably follow suit.
When I recently met with a successful business woman about her new direction, I saw right away that beliefs about relationships, in particular how men mature, is a hindrance in more ways than one. She mentioned an issue with her current boyfriend and after learning his response, I knew right away the type of guy she was dating. The key is not only to understand the character traits of your guy but discerning the stage of life that men go through.
See ladies, you will meet guys going through one of three major transitions of life; the soldier stage, the prince stage or the king stage. I know what you’re thinking and you are absolutely wrong! It can’t be figured out by their age. You would think the older we became, the easier it would be to manage. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve met 50-year-old men still struggling through the second shift of manhood. Allow me to elaborate:
- The Soldier Stage: This is when men feel their strongest desire to be a conqueror. It doesn’t matter what it is; life or love. In this stage it is all about the spoils. We don’t see the concept of management, only winning. It is in these times we have the deepest urge to see how far our abilities can take us. We don’t long for commitment, we just want to be victorious. And for every man, our definition of victory is different. For some, having three women on a string is a win. For another, getting into the military and making rank is a win. For others, the corner office is how we measure success. No matter the man, we are all just exercising a God-given impulse to subdue and dominate. The problem is we are often so wild, we lack the skill to maintain what has been obtained.
- The Prince Stage: A prince is astutely aware of their power, but they are still learning two important keys; limits and legacy. In the prince stage of manhood, we struggle with understanding that life has to have some form of boundaries in order to be successful. As a prince, excess is fairly routine. We work our hardest as a prince because we do not comprehend that life sets a pace for us for a reason. We can burn out in this stage easily because we don’t even realize our own personal limitations. With an almost arrogant tone, we approach life and love equally. Not as a conqueror, but as someone who is owed something.
- The King Stage: If we live and learn long enough, we can graduate to this final stage. As a king, we find it imperative to have three things; a throne, a legacy and a contemporary. Why a throne? This speaks to having something of substance that lets the world know we existed. Usually, we will crave a real relationship and companionship. This is much deeper than a sexual partner; it is someone with whom we can share a kingdom with. The legacy is when we stop looking back in regret and start looking forward with hope. We want to leave our work, children or wealth, something behind that speaks to the type of man we were. Finally, in this stage we look to connect with other men on our level; Real friendships that enrich our journey, not those that are petty and superficial.
As a coach, it frightens me how many ladies are dating little boys in grown men bodies. Their age has nothing to do with the stage they are stuck in. I relay this so women can avoid the heartache of trying to re-raise a man. Ladies, if his mother couldn’t do it, no matter how hard you love, it won’t work. Real men change when they discover their ways are no longer effective; they appreciate the compliment of a loving partner but are not waiting for pressure to shift their perspective.
Being a soldier and prince are great within the appropriate season of life. We all go through it, but our goal should always be to develop into the man life is requiring us to be. Will we miss it? At times, yes! But more often than not, we should be in a state of growth. Why? Because manhood, after all, is about reviewing the past while looking into our future selves.
By Early Jackson
(Edited by Cherese Jackson)
Top Image Courtesy of Early Jackson – Taken by Hayne Photographers
Inline Image Courtesy of Thomas Hawk – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Nate Vaughan – Flickr License