What it Means to Be a Man

This essay on what it means to be a man is a guest posting from Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes. Alexander made his inauguration on Masculine by Design as one of my first podcast guests a few months back.

That podcast with Alexander on masculine fitness remains a favorite among my listeners as one of the most downloaded episodes to date. I expect no less of the well articulated ideations on masculinity from him that follow.

After reading this essay on what it means to be a man, be sure to share your comments with Alexander on Twitter (@AJA_Cortes).

Craig James, out. Enter, Alexander Cortes.

What Does it Mean to Be a Man?

As I try to define this question with increasingly clarity, I ironically find myself in something of a No Man’s Land.

In undertaking this task, I am seeking to describe in explicit terms and depictions a subject that in past times would have been implicitly understood. Or, if not understood, it would have been acted out in a culture in which the structural ideas of its meaning were embedded into the fabric of the culture itself.

That is NOT what we find in modern culture. Not by any measure. The subject of “Masculinity” in modern times is so lacking in clarity, and what was previously implicit and transcendent has disappeared into the subconscious. It exists, but only sporadically.

We are living an age of materialism and post modern dogma where the meaning has been extinguished from many aspects of our lives, culture, and society at large. There are no definitions, there are no boundaries, and nothing means anything, because it is all relative.

To even describe to a modern man the ideal of the hero, or the Man, or the man who would be King, it is all a foreign subject. Understandings of masculinity and femininity have been bastardized by mental illness artifices of redefining “gender”.

Modern “thinking” is vapidity at best, falsity at worst. People used to believe once that philosophers KNEW things.

The modern world as its exists today was shaped and crafted by “men of mind” who WERE philosophers, who were great thinkers across vast subjects, and spoke to all of them in a genuine attempt to objectively define life as we know it.

Where are these men today? Would we even recognize them if they were in our midst?

They are emerging, perhaps, but we still stand upon an edge looking into darkness. The world will change, is changing, is always changing, and the direction it goes in will manifest itself according to who can bring their will upon reality and shape order from chaos.

It is a mad world. The culture is in decay. And I find myself in the midst of this, with questions that are undeniably heavy, and I am trying to bring order the best I can by bringing definition to chaos as best I can.

I was reluctant to discuss this topic for awhile, as there is a certain assumption of adolescent chest beating that often accompanies it, as well as a tendency towards tautology.

That said, I’ve realized the past year that my own satisfaction and confidence in my life, and how I’ve lived it, has been in very very sharp contrast to the vast majority of men alive today. And how I live is a direct reflection of how I regard myself as a man.

That is not to say that I consider myself particularly accomplished, and by no measure “successful”. I don’t teach success.

What I have done is I have lived entirely MY WAY, for good and for bad, and I have never lived any other way. Which is more than most people can say, men or women.

I live as I am, and I am as I have lived. I know the aplomb and confidence with which I have done it sets me apart. My experiences as a dancer, personal trainer, and writer, they are unique.

With that, and in cultivating a following that is 80% men, the subject of how to LIVE AND BE as a man has presented itself with increasing frequency.

Masculinity has breadth and depth to it, to say the least. I’ve done my best to live in testament to that. It’s an evolution in continual progress.

So it is I am going to do my best at defining parts of it (which is, in essence, defining myself). I will share precisely what I live out.

Let us get to it.

Defining Masculinity by Attraction and Unattraction

I posted a thread recently on twitter. It was on “Unattractive Qualities” in men, and it proved to be very, very popular. You can read it here.

To summarize, the things that are unattractive in men:

  • Anxiety
  • Indecisiveness
  • Lack of Planning
  • Lack of direction
  • Instability
  • Moodiness

There is a theme.

In writing the aforementioned thread, I had an interesting dilemma. I wanted to define the qualities of what makes a man good at BEING a man. I was not seeking to define what a “good man” is. Those are two different things. I recommend reading the book, The Way of Men, by Jack Donovan. It explores this concept in depth.

I communicated being good at being a man by defining what is unattractive in a man.

That thread described what is unattractive by characterizing it against what IS attractive, especially to women. And women LOVED IT. The female response was 100% positive, and it was in the thousands.

The only negative responses were from men who self-identified with the negative traits and felt victimized by it. That is called irony, my friends.

What was fascinating in all this is that I managed to very clearly capture what women find attractive, but at a level far beyond what even women realize about themselves.

If you read it, you’ll notice that I was NOT trying to define being a “good man”. I made no mention of morality, of loyalty, or of any politically correct convention on how men should treat women. Yet the thread was clearly a hit.

I got many direct messages, comments, and re-posts from women that read the thread, were shocked at how well it described how they WISH MEN WERE, and were more surprised at how clearly it defined their own feelings about men that they themselves could not articulate and never truly thought about on a deep level. And the thread resonated very deeply.

What I struck in that thread was a profound truth of masculinity and femininity, in that they are complementary to each other. You cannot describe them in isolation, as they, by necessity, need the contrast of the other to be fully understood.

Masculinity and femininity are transcendent truths of the universe. And transcendent truths permeate the fabric of the human experience.

  • Love and Hatred
  • Forgiveness and Revenge
  • Good and Evil
  • Masculine and Feminine
  • Confidence and Hubris
  • Belief and Delusion

There are many of these, and we all live them out every day. For every virtue, there must be a vice. For every strength, there is a weakness. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Everything in existence has its antithesis.

Quantum physics calls this quality complementarity:

Complementarity- the idea that two different ways of regarding reality can both be true, but not at the same time, so in order to describe reality we must choose between the two because the internal validity and coherence of one would interfere with that of the other.

~Maria Popova~

The universe is governed by these transcendent truths. Masculinity and femininity are no different. They’re both apart from each other, and part of each other at the same time.

When we speak of attractive qualities then, we must both consider men independently, and consider women, as well.

While some men might delusionally argue not to care what women think, the reality is that men and women exist as two halves of a whole, and it is impossible to characterize what makes a man attractive without mentioning the dynamic of women.

You are leaving the border of masculinity undefined if you leave women out of it.

That said, these traits are not only what makes a man attractive to a woman, but to the world at large.

The Attractive Qualities that Comprise What it Means to Be a Man


What it Means to Be a Man - Physicality

Physicality is the presence that men carry that is exactly as it sounds. PHYSICAL.

This is physical confidence that comes from being healthy, fit, strong. It’s the poise that comes with mastering the body. Everyone knows what this looks like, and in its highest form it’s manifested in the heroic archetype as the look of the Hero.

The Bonnie Tyler classic, “Holding out for Hero” (I prefer the Ella Mae Bowen cover), describes this physicality perfectly:

I need a hero

I’m holding out for a hero ’til the end of the night

He’s gotta be strong

And he’s gotta be fast

And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight

I need a hero

I’m holding out for a hero ’til the morning light

He’s gotta be sure

And it’s gotta be soon

And he’s gotta be larger than life!

Larger than life

Strong, fast, decisive, physically adept at handling himself with violence, confident, and larger than life.

Physicality makes a man able to protect himself and others. Protection is one of the biological imperatives of masculinity (the other being provider). A man that cannot protect himself cannot provide for himself.

To possess physicality implies that you can both look after yourself and for others of your choosing.

A man that has this is undeniable in his presence, regardless of what he’s wearing or the environment he is in. Physicality denotes a physical mastery of self and a willingness to take on the chaos of the world with aplomb.


Men that make decisions, and do so with conviction, are regarded as leaders. Why is that?

Because a decision represents order in the face of chaos. We make small decisions every day, but big decisions, decisions of consequence, people struggle with.

This is why decisiveness is a characteristic of effective leadership. To lead is to weigh, consider, and then CHOOSE. To be decisive is to choose with courage. Courage is an active manifestation of making choices from a position of power and confidence.

Men that are indecisive, they aren’t looked upon as leaders. And men that struggle to choose for themselves are considered immature.

While it’s true that immaturity can manifest itself through the making of unwise, impulsive choices, in men this ideally evolves into the making of bold choices that comes with more mature thinking as a man ages.


To be assertive is to be high energy, which is one the most obvious traits of masculinity.

“He is making his move.”
“He goes after what he wants.”
“He makes things happen.”

All these statements carry the physical element of movement and momentum. This is aggression by another word. Men create momentum, men go after what they want.

I keep referring to chaos, but chaos factors into all of this.

Being assertive means making things move in physical reality. It’s a quality of being that shows fearlessness, decisiveness in going after what you want, courage, and confidence. Assertion carries with it a calmness. Acting clearly and with intention. To be clear and intentful, you must be calm.

Women are drawn to assertion for this reason. Men that are assertive are intuited to be adept at handling chaos (and the nature of women is controlled chaos). A man that is calm in high-stress situations is more likely to be a man at ease around women. Not always, but in general.

Men that are non-assertive are always regarded as beta men, passive men, low-energy men. They are not depended upon, they are given less responsibility, they are not looked at as authorities or role models.


Leading from the former quality of assertion, there is the quality of calmness. Calmness is mental stability and focus in the face of chaos. To be calm you must be in control of yourself. Men that are calm are relied upon. Men that are nervous are not.

Calmness is characteristic of mastery. Especially in competition, the need for a “calm mind” is a prerequisite for high level performance.

In the presence of women, I characterize a man that is calm as a “man at ease”. A man at ease around women demonstrates a comfort and familiarity with female energy. While some nervousness can be attractive to women if a man shows interest in her, a nervous personality as a whole is unappealing, showing inexperience and generally be uninteresting to interact with.

Completely lacking calmness and being neurotic are always considered weak traits. Exhibiting them is indicative of a man that breaks under pressure. To women, it is destabilizing for them, as it inflames their own neuroticism.

Women will always seek calm men for comfort, consolation, and general stability. Nervous men are never heros.


It is of a Man’s nature to work, to build. To produce is to make something from nothing, to make defined order from chaos.

Men move the world by work of will upon it. Men that do not work, and are lazy, they are not good men, because they are bad at being men. Lazy men are universally loathed.

Productivity represents that a man can provide for himself. And if he can provide for himself, he can provide for others, as well.

Productivity creates value, and value is wealth and worth of time.

A productive man uses his time well. If he is very productive, he creates systems of value that other people can partake in. In the modern world, these are men of industry. They are highly esteemed for this reason.

Productivity is perhaps one of the most plainly attractive traits. To put it simply, it means you work hard.

Passion and Intensity

This manifests as a man being high energy and intense. High energy is attractive, as it indicates health and an enthusiasm for life. Intensity shows focus, single mindedness, and indicates mastery.

As energy is the everything element that drives patterns and complexity, being passionate and intense are absolute necessities for creating ANYTHING in life.

Passionate men have an energetic effect on those around them. Passion is life-promoting in this fashion.

A man’s own intensity will concentrate the feelings of others. Learning how to do this in a directed way is immensely powerful for bringing out the buried passion in other people. Good leaders are able to inspire others for this reason.

Women are always attracted to this, both for what it represents for the man and the fantasy of being that center point of the man’s passion. Women desire to have that intensity figuratively and metaphorically brought into them, and only them.


What it Means to Be a Man - Indomitability

Indomitability is a quality of never backing down. You can call it courage, and courage is a quality within it, but indomitability is a bigger concept, referring to the whole of someone’s being. It’s the essence of who you are and runs through everything that you do.

Men that are indomitable live by their will, and this will does not stop. Nothing is ever done and they know it. It is their nature to keep going, to keep improving, to keep moving, to act, as though there is nothing else to do BUT act.

Indomitability cannot be understated. A man may have internal doubts, but when his way of being is continuance, he will not stop unless killed.

Indomitability is a heroic quality, it is facing fear, facing death, facing failure, facing doubt all at once. In the mundane world, it’s relentless self-improvement and drive. In the shadow and mythical and meta world, it is going to do battle for cause that can save the world.

The opposite of indomitability is cowardice, and submission to fear. The gods and God hate cowards. Cowardice as a way of being is a sin in every faith on earth.

Women test the indomitability of men. Men that back down from a woman’s emotions, mood swings, shit tests, arguments over nothing, they are proven as cowards.

If you’ve ever wondered what it is that strikes young women’s fancy in the Marilyn Monroe quote of “if you can handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best”, this is why. An indomitable man, will, for lack of a better phrase, be able to “handle them”.

A man that is fearful will be intimidated and back away.

If you’ve ever wondered why women are difficult for no reason, that is chaos testing you.

Do not take this so far as to believe a woman MUST be difficult to be worth knowing. This can obviously be taken to excess. And she could in fact simply be a raging harpy. There is nuance to this, as there are all things.


You can attempt all the qualities listed so far, but if you do not consistently live them out, it does not matter. Inconsistency undermines belief. We are how we live and what we do.

Consistency continues from indomitability, though is it is a more neutral quality. You can be consistently inconsistent, consistently undisciplined, consistently lazy. Consistency is often described as a “practice”, and it can be applied to anything. The qualities you live by are not one time affairs.

If you preach what you practice, and are consistent throughout, you are considered reliable, knowable, dependable. You can be understood, and responsibility given to you. You are trustworthy.

If you are inconsistent, then you are not trustworthy.

Be aware, absolute consistency in ALL things is to completely choke out chaos, and creation in turn. Some inconsistency, some hypocrisy, some gap between ourselves and who we are and can be is absolutely necessary. Too much order will kill you.


If we accumulate the whole of the above traits, we become a man who has breadth and depth. But why is this attractive?

Because, on a meta level, such a man has the WORLD within himself. He is independent within it, but his range of character and ability are such that he demonstrates a mastery and understanding over it. This makes him interesting and compelling.

He has lived in chaos and brought order out of it. There are many archetypes to this.

This man is someone other men aspire to be. He has status, perhaps some form of power, and success. If nothing else, he possesses self-confidence, knowledge, and is rich in transcendent ways.

For women, the “man of mystery” archetype, the cultured rogue, the intellectual hero, the Secret Agent, the brooding artist, these archetypes all characterize this depth and breadth. A man that is simple, that has seen little of the world, he is not compelling to a woman because he cannot offer her greater experiences beyond herself.

Occasionally some women might desire a “dumb” man because they can be in control of him, but the vast majority of women are innately drawn to intelligence and experience, as they show a man with the masculine drive to go out into the world and make something of himself out of it.

Men that are the broad and deep are endlessly fascinating to women, regardless of age. You see this in artistic and creative types, the rock stars, musicians, and dancers who are endlessly intriguing and fascinating to women, despite offering nothing of what makes a “good man”.

You see this also in teenage freshmen girls who brag that they’re dating a senior (who is, of course, more mature, more developed, and more worldly, by high school standards). Or in the high school girls who boast that their boyfriend is in college.

And you see this in college girls who date graduate students, or sleep with their professors, or the Teacher’s Assistant, and so on.

You see this in women at every age, who continuously prefer older men, because they are more mature, more experienced, more accomplished, more successful, more interesting, and usually have more to offer in terms of protection and provision.

This phenomenon is always in effect. Depth is always attractive. Immaturity is always a turn off. To be boring is to kill desire. No one cares about you if you’re boring. It’s always better to be interesting.

Get Good at Living Out What it Means to Be a Man

Being “good at being a man” has transference into being a “good man,” but the former is far more powerful than the latter. To be a “good man” only requires so much as to simply not make the world worse for your being in it.

To be good at BEING a man requires everything that you are, can be, will be, and must be.

– Alexander Juan Antonio Cortes (@AJA_Cortes)

Craig James here. If you enjoyed this essay on what it means to be a man, and want more content like this from Alexander, make sure you go to AlexanderJuanAntonioCortes.com and sign up for his newsletter.

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2 Readers Commented

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  1. Tomas Teixeira on November 14, 2017

    THE ULTIMATE guide to be a REAL strong man!

  2. Revel on December 26, 2017

    Absolutely outstanding essay, and true on a level of depth not often heard. This resounds throughout history, and in this aimless modern age.