Be Brave and Manly... But...
At Fort in the Woods, we put this quote all over the place all over our different platforms: from the home page of our website to the about section of our YouTube channel. This is a very important quote that we strive to live by, so today we’re going to break it down and discuss what it's all about.
First, we need to establish the context of the quote. It comes from a commencement speech that Theodore Roosevelt gave at an all-boys college. The first thing he says is this:
“I want to see you game boys,
I want to see you brave and manly and
I also want to see you gentle and tender”
This is my favorite part of the quote, so it is what I'm going to spend the bulk of the time talking about. He says two things here: I want to see you brave and manly but I also want to see you gentle and tender. This is of the utmost importance for a well balanced man. We kind of get what's handed to us in society and there are different versions of manliness portrayed in the media. We're often presented with one or another extreme version of manhood, when in reality you need a balance. The first extreme is the idea that you're supposed to be this macho guy, hard as nails, who is completely immune to feeling. It's that idea that says you’re weak if you cry and it really just presents a flat picture of a man.
On the other side, however, some people look at manliness and say that it’s entirely toxic and we should get rid of all aspects of traditional manhood. It's the idea that men are to exclusively be soft, caring, and emotional. In reality, however, a good man is made up of both sides of this coin.
One side of the spectrum without the other is incomplete and fails every time. There's times to be gentle and tender, like when you're comforting a friend or spouse or with your kids. That is not the time to be the hard as nails kind of guy. Sometimes however, as a man, you need to be rugged and tough and bear the burden and truck through adversity. There has to be a balance.
He goes on to say:
“be practical as well as generous in your ideals
keep your eyes on the Stars and
keep your feet on the ground”
Here he's talking about the ability to dream big. You shouldn’t settle in life: dream big, have goals, and do your best to accomplish them. Make sure that you’re being practical though, there is such a thing as dreaming too big and being unrealistic. Even still, dream big. If you have an idea for a business, go for it. Just be practical and make sure you're going about your endeavors intelligently.
He goes on to say:
“courage, hard work, self mastery, and intelligent effort
are all essential to a successful life”
I like this idea of self mastery a lot. You can't expect to master life or be great in life if you have no control over yourself. Approach life in a strategic way so that you’re not being an idiot, surrounding yourself with idiots, or looking up to idiots. We all just have one life and it would be foolish to approach this one shot in a frivolous way and throw it away. We need to value wisdom as men. We need to value intelligence and stop propping up people who make a mockery of everything. If you do that, you'll make a mockery of all things in life.
He ends the quote by saying:
“character in the long run is the decisive factor
in the life of an individual and of nations alike”
So after all that Roosevelt said, it comes down to character and that is a great way of summing up this quote. This duality of the person-hood of a man is about character. What defines good character is that balance of the hard as nails and the caring, thoughtful man.
This article was adapted from our video Fort Philosophy #1 “I want to see you brave and manly | Teddy Roosevelt Quote Breakdown