Brett McKay is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Art of Manliness, the largest independent men’s lifestyle magazine on the web with over 10 million monthly page views. Brett earned a degree in Letters (with a focus on Classics) from the University of Oklahoma and graduated from the University of Tulsa College of Law. He lives with Kate, his wife and AoM’s Executive Editor, and their two children in Tulsa, OK. When he’s not talking or writing about manliness, Brett enjoys barbell training and spending time outdoors.
Favorite Success Quote
“Be useful, not important.”
1. Focus on Being a Man of Value
We live in a society where everybody wants to be “Somebody.”
And while there is nothing inherently wrong with ambition or a drive to become successful, in our modern, ego-driven culture, this desire for fame and recognition has begun to supersede our desire to provide real value as men.
We are more worried about our status on Facebook and the number of fans we have on Instagram than the quality of the work that we are producing on a daily basis.
And it’s gotta stop.
Success is the result of doing your work and doing it with excellence. It’s the result of trying to find ways to serve others, instead of constantly serving yourself.
And the sooner that we can embrace this axiomatic truth, the sooner we will be able to live richer, healthier, and more abundant lives.
It’s not about you.
It’s about the impact you have on others and the legacy that you leave.
2. The Worst Rarely Happens
Mark Twain is often quoted as saying
I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.
And while the quote itself might have been uttered tongue in cheek, it’s relevance to our modern lives cannot be understated.
Yes, you are going to face challenges in your life, you will face difficulty, adversity, pain, and suffering.
It’s an inevitability.
But the vast majority of your internal worries will never come to fruition.
As a society, we spend time locked inside of our heads, mentally plugging through the “What if’s” and “Oh no’s” until our blood pressure is through the roof and our anxiety levels critical.
To be an effective risk taker and leader, you must learn to discern between genuinely possible worst-case outcomes and unlikely disasters.
Yes, if you quit your job to go full time with your side hustle, it is possible that you might lose everything, go bankrupt, become homeless, and eat out of garbage cans until Elon Musk saves humanity.
But it’s not very likely.
Chances are, even the worst failure would simply require you to find a new corporate job, live at home for a while, and rebuild yourself from the ground up.
There is an element of risk in everything worth pursuing. And as a man, you must learn to cull your fear and worries and realize that despite the perceived risk, the big, scary, life-altering disaster of an outcome that you fear is unlikely at the least and downright laughable at most.
3. Toughen Your “Mental Hide”
With the wide reach of the internet, it is all but impossible to do anything of worth without attracting negative criticism and denigration.
Keyboard warriors and airsoft commandos abound, each of them offering a different (and graphically detailed) opinion about why you suck and should immediately quit at your current endeavors.
It doesn’t matter whether you are creating products, offering information, or detailing your journey through life… If you do anything for long enough, you are going to have to haters.
So what is a man to do?
While it might be uncomfortable and difficult, there is certainly merit in accepting and responding to constructive criticism that offers genuine value to you and your brand.
However, the vast majority of the emails, comments, and posts that you will find littering your inbox and social platforms are not constructive, they are simply the result of disgruntled individuals with an abundance of time and a lack of common sense.
In these situations, you must simply learn to toughen your mental hide.
Not everyone will like you. In fact, if you do anything well enough, some people will hate you.
And that is ok.
You must learn to ignore the haters and stay focused on your dreams and mission.
When others try and knock you off course, or make wild accusations, you should learn to take it as a sign that you are doing something right.
Because it is a rare occurrence for a man offering little value to attract much attention (positive or negative).
So build your mental resilience and learn to be ok with the haters.
4. Focus on Adaptability Not Effectiveness
One of the greatest struggles for men of a high caliber is learning to embrace adaptability over effectiveness.
Yes, you should have routines and rituals built into your daily life that allow you to create and contribute at a high level, but you must remember one simple truth…
Things don’t always go according to plan.
People get sick, cars break down, the weather changes, you get food poisoning, and your kids get into fights at school.
When events like this happen, learning to go with the flow and adapt is paramount not only for success but also for mental well-being and stability.
You will not always be able to stick to your morning routine, you will occasionally have to sacrifice your hour of uninterrupted work time to tend to a family emergency, you won’t always be able to get to the gym… And that’s ok.
Learn to be like water.
Flow from one task and “tragedy” to the next without missing a beat and your quality of life will increase ten-fold.
5. Just Do Something
If you are struggling in life right now, if you are on the fence if you have been wanting to get started on a dream for years but you don’t know where to start… start by doing something.
One of the immutable laws of the universe is that a body in motion will tend to stay in motion, and once you get yourself in gear and begin taking action, you will find that the remaining pieces will begin to fall into place.
Want to get in shape but you feel lost in the sea of diets, fads, and “scientifically proven” workouts? Go for a run and do 20 pushups and figure the rest out from there.
Want to start a business but don’t know how? Buy a website, write a short ebook, and start creating content and figure the rest out from there.
When you start walking, the path will be revealed.
But you must start by getting up, lacing your shoes, and taking that first step.
1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
2. Resilience by Eric Greitens
3. Self and Soul by Mark Edmunson