Saturday, April 11, 2015

20 Things Boys Can Do K. A. Jabar

From an icon and legend...
20 Things Boys Can Do to Become Men

by Kareem Abdul Jabar

SEP 12, 2013 @ 3:00 AM

Why should a young man listen to an old guy about the best way to become a man? Because the typical teen is not yet able to see a future past the next few months. That's not a fault of character, but the fact that teens' brains have not yet physically matured. The pre-fontal cortex (PFC) does not fully develop in most people until they're twenty-four years old. Yet, the PFC is responsible for regulating mood, attention span, impulse control, and the ability to plan ahead and understand the consequences of one's actions. In the meantime, it's up to the adults to guide them by showing them possible consequences—good and bad—of their behavior. With that in mind, here's my guide to becoming a man:

1. Learn who you are as an individual.

Figuring out who you are, what you care about, what you believe in, and what you                                           stand for is the most important—and most difficult—challenge of becoming a man.                                         We're all raised with people telling us what to think, how to act, and what to                                              say. Sometimes those people are parents, teachers, ministers, and other so-called                               authorities. Sometimes they are our friends and peers. Most of the time, given the                               choice, we seek the easiest path, the path of least resistance. We go along to get                                     along. Sometimes that's okay. But it's those instances when you opt for a different                                   path that can really define you as an individual. The important thing is you make                                             those decisions for yourself—not out of spite against authority figures, or because                                        of peer pressure, or even out of fear of losing someone's affection—but out of                                 conviction of who you are and who you want to be.

2. Stand up for yourself and your beliefs.

British statesman Edmund Burke once said, "The only thing necessary for the                                           triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." That's one of my favorite quotes                                   because it reminds me that it's not enough to have lofty ideals and beliefs, you                               sometimes have to actually get off the couch and defend those beliefs. This is                                   especially hard when you're hanging with your friends and they all express an                                                   opinion that is the opposite of yours. Because you're outnumbered, it's easy for                                               them to ridicule your opinion. Be strong. Defend your opinions and beliefs. If                                                 you think it's wrong to be racist but someone in your group says something                                                     racist (or sexist, or ant-Semitic, or anti-gay), then tell them you don't agree and                                               that you don't think they should make such statements. That's how these verbal                                             bullies are eventually defeated. More important, you'll feel proud that you took                                               a stand. Those moments you do nothing will haunt you for a long time.

3. Avoid a physical fight—if you can.

You're probably thinking, "That's easy for you to say, Kareem. You're 7'1" so                                    
nobody wants to mess with you." That wasn't always true. When I was a                                                     young boy, I was bullied. And my dad was a cop, so that made it even more                                 embarrassing. Later in life, I took up martial arts and even trained with my                                                     good friend Bruce Lee. That's why you can trust me when I say that fighting is                                               almost always a mistake. There's a Chinese proverb that says, "The man who                                           throws the first punch has lost the argument." That means that when an                                             argument turns into a fight, it's because the one starting the fight realizes he                                                   isn't smart enough to win verbally, so he resorts to violence. It's always the                                               dumbest guy who resorts to violence.
What do you do if someone threatens you with violence? You walk away, even                                                 run away if necessary. Even if you're pretty sure you could take him. Bad things                                         can happen in a fight, even if no one means them to. Someone can take an                                         unexpected fall and crack his head open. Teeth can be knocked out. Facial bones                                       can be cracked. And all the crying later about how "it was an accident!" won't                                         change that.
So, if you're threatened, leave and tell your parents. Some people are of the belief                                           that you should just go right after the bully, fighting him to show you're not afraid.                                   While this works well in movies, it doesn't work as well in real life. These days                                   violence tends to beget violence. The bully doesn't just slink away, he returns with                                         a baseball bat—or worse. You can still stand up for yourself without resorting to                              violence: that's what Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, the Buddha,                                     and Jesus did.
The only time you should fight is if there is no other recourse. You can't run, you                                     can't talk your way out of it. If that's the case, hit first, either in the nose                                                     (sometimes the blood will discourage further fighting) or the crotch (because the                                             pain will make it hard for him to chase you). One punch and then run.

4. Play a team sport.

I'm all for individual sports—as I mentioned, I did martial arts for many years and                                         also yoga. (Don't think it's a sport? Try it!) But playing on a team teaches you how                                           to interact with others, adjust to various personalities, work together as a team, be                                         generous, and many other character-building traits. The cool part is that you don't                                     have to join an organized team; you can just go down to the playground or open                                       gym and play pick-up basketball or volleyball.

5. Choose your friends for the right reasons.

Good friends can see you through a lot of the tough parts of growing up. But bad                                             friends can actually be the cause some of those tough parts. Don't hang out with                                       kids just to piss off your parents or try to be something that you're not. You                                                     waste a lot of your youth that way—and miss out of some meaningful friendships.

6. Fight your fear of the unknown.

We all have a tendency to hate what we don't understand, whether it comes in                                             the form of different food, different cultures, or different ideas. There was a                                                   Yale study in which researchers examined the brains of people as they were                                             presented with proof that an opinion they held was wrong. MRIs showed that                                                 when those people immediately rejected the new evidence, their brains released                                           an addictive  chemical that made them feel good. In that way our own bodies                                                 are actually encouraging our ignorance and fear. Fight that impulse. Becoming                                               a man means growing, learning, and understanding—not cowering under a                                                 blanket with a handful of comforting notions.
(By the way, don't confuse physical bravery with intellectual bravery. It's easier                                               to jump out of a plane—hopefully with a parachute—than it is to change your                                                 mind about an opinion. Acts of physical bravado will give you an initial rush,                                                 but exploring a new culture or examining a new idea will mature you and make                                               you the kind of person others will be interested in.)

7. Listen to advice.

Whatever troubles and doubts you're facing, billions of guys before you have                                             gone through the same thing. Your dad probably knows exactly how you feel                                                 most of the time because he can remember the same pain and anxiety.                                                   Listening to people's advice doesn't always mean taking it. You have to decide                                             which advice is right for you. But it might be a good idea to collect some quotes
from those who came before you so you can refer to them when you need to.
I'm going to get you started with one of my favorites from philosopher George                                 Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."                                  
That means that if you don't learn from the experiences of others and yourself,                                               you will end up making the same mistakes over and over. So, when someone                                           gives you advice, don't dismiss it just because they're older than you.

8. Be politically aware.

One clear difference between children and adults is an awareness of your                                                     community outside your circle of friends and family. The world is constantly                                       changing. Whether it changes for the better or the worse depends on the                                                           actions of those willing to get involved. Kids who don't know anything about                                                     their world try to hide it by saying, "I don't really care. It doesn't affect me."                                                     But that just confirms that they wish to remain children and have adults tell                                             them what to do and think. Part of being a man is to be informed so you are                                                 prepared to take an active and responsible place in your society. Read                                                 newspapers, magazines, watch the news. Discuss these subjects with your                                               friends, but always while respecting each other's opinions.

9. Mind your manners.

When you're a kid being told to firmly shake hands, keep your elbows off                                                         the table,  or ask guests if they'd like a drink, it all seems like a load of dumb                                               and arbitrary rules. Some of it is. But part of becoming a man is the
realization that it doesn't matter whether or not the rules of manners make 
sense. What matters is the effect of following these rules: people appreciate 
the effort and respect shown them. In turn, they will show you respect.

10. Be patient in love.

Most of the information boys have about girls is WRONG! WRONG!
WRONG! It's based on stereotypes, rumors, bad songs, shallow teen movies,
and immature celebrities in personal tailspins. The worst thing you can do 
in looking to find a significant other is to try to change yourself into 
something you're not just because you think that's what girls are looking for. 
It doesn't work.
The best way to get an idea of what's attractive to girls is to talk to them.
Like a girl? Get to know her, ask her about herself, then show her you've 
been listening to what she says. Did she mention a book she likes? Send her 
an article about the book. It's low-key, non-stalkerish, and shows you care 
what she talks about.

11. Stay fit.

It's hard for all those teenage boys with turbo-charged metabolisms to
understand that their bodies will not always be evaporating the masses of
greasy calories they consume. They can eat a pizza and a tub of ice cream,
then run three miles. They can't imagine that will ever change, even when you 
show them photos of their lean dads' as teens and they look at the potbellies 
that have miraculously appeared later. But eating somewhat healthily and 
maintaining an exercise regimen will not only help fight off diseases and aging, 
they'll also help ensure an active lifestyle for many years. In other words, the 
body is like any machine: It may run great when it's new, but after years of 
neglect it will slow down, and eventually break down. Then you're the one
vegging on the sofa while your pals are playing pick-up ball at the gym.

12. Never, never do something on a dare.

"I dare you" may be the three most dangerous words in the language for
kids. The challenge to prove yourself to others is very tempting, especially 
since the alternative seems to be showing yourself to be a coward. But that's 
not really the case. The person who dares you is counting on your not being 
strong or smart enough to see this challenge as the empty, laughable joke it is. 
The person who refuses a dare displays intelligence, courage, and 
independence. And that's what daring someone is trying to rob them of.

13. Get organized.

One main difference between a boy and a man is that boys talk about what they
want to do and men actually do those things. Another difference is that men have
less time to accomplish more. In order to do all the things they want, they have to
be organized. They keep a calendar (the one in your smart phone is handy), they 
make a to-do list, and they don't put off doing things until later. Being organized 
can change your life: you do more things you want to do, you finish things you need 
to finish, and you have more time to pursue new activities and relationships. In 
general, you will be much more successful.

14. Find heroes to copy.

There are so many worthwhile people to look up to and try to emulate. People from                           history. Even characters in books and movies. The trick is in picking the right people                                for the right reasons. Skip most sports, music, and movie/TV celebrities. It's not that                                   they aren't nice people, but the fact that they're successful and make a lot of money                               doesn't  make them wise. Often, it's just the opposite. They pursued fame and glory                                    so single-mindedly that they have no other interests and minimal education. Many                                        are woefully misinformed about current events, yet at the same time frequently                                         offering their weak, misinformed opinions. Don't make the mistake of believing that                                 just because a person can act or sing, he or she also has valuable insights into politics                                   or culture. Find heroes—real or fictional—that embody the values that you want to                                 have, not the bank account.

15. Be independent.

A man can take care of his own daily needs. In fact, he wants to. Make your bed,
do your  laundry, learn to cook, hang up your clothes. Slovenliness is the sign of 
an immature mind. The sooner you start doing things for yourself, the sooner you 
will have the respect of others—and of yourself.

16. Question authority.

Respect your elders but don't think them infallible. Teachers, parents, relatives,
politicians, and well-meaning guys like me really do want what's best for you. But
we aren't always right. Even when presenting supposed "facts," people can be
misleading in an effort to manipulate you into being who they want you to be or
doing what they want you to do. History is filled with politicians misrepresenting
"facts" in order to convince the population to back rash policies. Teachers sometimes
aren't caught up on the latest research. To be your own man, you will have to make
up your own mind about things.

17. Get smart.

Making up your own mind doesn't mean "going with your gut," "listening to your
heart," or any other such clich├ęs, however. That's the lazy man's way of avoiding
the work that comes with developing an informed opinion. Want to express an
opinion about the election, the death penalty, or gay marriage? First, do your
research. Don't rely on biased sources. Your goal is to find the truth, not just
confirm an opinion you already held. Every time you express an uninformed
opinion, others will dismiss you as a child, someone who can only parrot others'
opinions. A man knows how to educate himself in pursuit of truth.

18. Express yourself.

Go ahead, dye your hair purple. Grow it long, shave it off. Wear all black, wear
all white, wear boots, wear leather, wear a dress. This is the time to try on new
identities to see which ones fit you best. Sure, you might have to endure some
taunts, but it's more important that you figure out who you are than caring
what those shut-ins of the mind think.
(A word of caution: avoid doing anything permanent, like tattoos, because,
just your taste in clothes, hair styles, music, your thoughts about pretty much
everything will change. What you think is really deep and insightful today will
seem shallow and immature in a few years. And you don't want something
you will later think is childish permanently etched on your body.)

19. Pay attention to the short run….

People who care about you are always talking about your future: what courses to
take for your career, what sports will help you get into college, what to look for in
the person you're going to marry. All that stuff is important to think about. But
don't let planning for your future consume your present. Do some things just
because they're fun now. Take that art appreciation class just because it would be
fun to learn about it. Play Injustice just to see Wonder Woman kick Batman's ass.
Read those Deadpool comic books just because they're wickedly funny.

20. …But keep your eye on the long run.

Most of what's important to you now won't be in a few years. Friends will change.
Priorities will shift. That can be a pretty scary prospect. Most boys are afraid of
growing into their nightmare version of an adult: the flaccid, self-righteous,
humorless sack of meat dumped on the couch shouting commands or barking
advice that begins, "When I was your age…." Don't worry, it doesn't have to
turn out that way. Another favorite quote of mine is from Thomas Jefferson:
"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." He meant that the cost of freedom is
to always be watching for someone wanting to take that freedom away, but a
variation of that quote can apply here: "The price of being a man is eternal
vigilance." Know who you are, what you stand for, watch for any assaults on
your principles, but always be open to change if the evidence warrants it.
MORE KAREEM: 20 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Turned 30 
(in the following Oklahoma Mentor post also)

Ret. 4-10-15

Note: We contemplated posting some entries with a "Boys" or "Males" label; however, girls need these lessons, too, if only to learn discernment in choosing male friends or a potential mate. Many girls do not have positive male role models from which to learn.  

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