To Be a Man: Reflections of a Life Yet Lived

My dad was always my hero. Of all the things I admired about him and couldn’t wait to emulate when I got older, I’d have to give the nod to his ability to hold court as my favorite attribute of his. He was confident, warm, and jovial in a way that invited you in without reservation. I watched the way he conversed and interacted with everyone from fellow professionals, to his Nigerian countrymen, to the janitorial staff members in his building. The one take-away that still shapes the way I hope to grow into manhood was that he saw no inferiors.

It’s a trait that I notice right away from men I tend to look up to. Most notably, I notice the way they provide sincere inclusion. Great men lend their voice to those around them when needed. People, I’ve noticed, gravitate toward men that project the type of honest confidence that envelopes not only him, but those around him. It’s seductive in a sense.

I should note that I’m writing from a gender specific point of view because I’m a man and that is the point of this short series, but the same attributes that comprise great men, comprise great women (as the reverse is also true). You can find people exhibiting these skills anywhere.

I’m sitting at Great Lakes Coffee Roasting Company here in Detroit as I’m writing this, and I can look around and notice groups of people sharing stories, bouncing ideas around, or working. In almost all of these groups, I can notice that someone sets the tone for the group. Someone makes it easier for others to bring up their story that relates to the discussion. Someone encourages their group to dig a little deeper into their work. Someone co-signs a great point that elicits further buy-in. The group belongs to them, and they, in turn, belong to the group.

The aspect of manhood that has captivated me the most (beyond dressing the part), has been the responsibility I feel I have to lend confidence to the vision and voice of others. It’s a social investment that yields returns both in the short and long term.