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A Guy's Guide to Life: How to Become a Man in 208 Pages or Less Paperback – November 17, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0849945348
  • ISBN-13: 978-0849945342
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,909,815 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jason Boyett is the author of several books. He lives in Texas with his wife and two children, and blogs about faith and culture at www.jasonboyett.com.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter One
Manly Myths

This is probably the worst idea ever, but the first thing I want you to do as we kick-start the first chapter of the book is to (drum roll . . .) turn off your brain. Flip the mental switch. I'm going to ask you a series of multiple-choice questions, and I want you to answer them as automatically as possible. Don't think too much. In fact, don't think at all. Go with whatever pops into your head first. Ready?

1. Which of the following occupations is the most manly?
     a. Accountant
     b. Construction worker
     c. Nurse
     d. Teacher

2. If all were equally attractive, which of the guys below would the hot girls be most interested in at school?
     a. The varsity quarterback
     b. The valedictorian
     c. The first-chair violinist
     d. The yearbook editor

3. You just fell down a full flight of stairs between periods. Your backpack spilled across the floor, you're pretty sure your ankle's broken, and something like five hundred people are now eyeing you like a monkey just climbed out of your butt. What's the proper response?
     a. Ask someone to call 911.
     b. Ask someone to call your mommy.
     c. Ask someone for a tissue, then start crying like a baby.
     d. Get up and act like you completely meant to fall down the stairs. That bone shard sticking out of your sock? Just a little scratch. Walk it off.

Ten bucks says this is how you answered, in order: Construction worker, Quarterback, and the No-big-deal approach to falling down the stairs. How do I know? Because those were my answers, too. I'm a guy, and I can guess how most guys think, even with turned-off brains. Which reminds me-time to reboot. Unknot the noodle. That's all the nonthinkage you get for the remainder of this book. Let's get started.

What Is a Man?

Most of us have a pretty good idea of what it means to be a guy. A guy is active, strong, and masculine. A guy is athletic and competitive and a natural leader. A guy is tough, macho, and doesn't show pain. He's not controlled by emotion. He's laid-back, cool, and confident in all situations. He never cries, never shows weakness. He's in charge. He's a stud.

Also: we're wrong.

We've been brainwashed by the myths of manhood. We've been snookered by male stereotypes. What's a stereotype? A stereotype is a set of beliefs about the "typical" characteristics that are supposed to apply to all members of a certain group of people-women, men, blacks, whites, Hispanics, whomever. Stereotypes can be positive or negative, and are a way for society to distinguish one group from another. Occasionally they're accurate. But mostly they're oversimplified, offensive exaggerations.

We've all heard them, of course. You're aware of any number of stereotypes about certain races, from the supposed athletic prowess of African-Americans to the impressive work ethic of Asians. Distasteful? Yep. Racist? Probably. But did you also realize that there are stereotypes about men? It's true. As guys grow up and slog through the process of becoming a man-something you're knee-deep in this very moment, by the way-we tend to buy into wrong ideas about what a man should be. Those misconceptions are based on stereotypes, and the stereotypes are everywhere. You hear them at school, at home, in church, and especially in the media.

That makes things hard. As a teenager, you're at the stage in life where you're starting to leave behind the kid stuff and take on more adult personality traits and responsibilities. You're looking to established men to help you define what those characteristics are. Many of you are in luck, because you have good male role models in your lives-fathers, teachers, ministers. But some guys don't have those things, so they look elsewhere for tips on manhood. And most often, that "elsewhere" means Hollywood. Their models of masculinity are Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, and Vin Diesel.

Good idea? Not so much.

A boatload of media researchers and analysts have studied the portrayal of males on TV and in the movies, and almost all of them have come to the same conclusion: The media's portrayal of what it means to be a "real" man in our society is, well, dumb. Narrow-minded. Clueless. Basically wrong. If you're taking your cues on manliness from the entertainment world, you're probably getting the wrong idea.

So it's time for a counterattack. Time to make some corrections, to offer you a real look at what it means to be a man (which, incidentally, is the idea behind this whole book-handy, huh?). To start, let's look at a bunch of those stereotypes about guys and then discuss what's real. Time to demolish the male myths.

Myth: Guys are action heroes in disguise, bringing muscles, mayhem, and mad combat skills to every situation.

Where It Comes From: Vin Diesel movies, old Bruce Willis movies, pre-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger movies. Actually, pretty much any movie with explosions and car chases and guys with large tattooed biceps.

The Reality: Are you kidding? If I'm ever in some situation where suddenly I have to jump a motorcycle through a plate-glass window ten stories above the ground while machine-gunning a whole gang of bad guys with European accents, all while smoking a cigarette and wearing a tight-fitting shirt that emphasizes my enormous pecs-well, the next time that's required of me is the next time I'm wetting my pants. Many guys have leadership qualities. Many guys are good at taking charge of a situation. Many guys can even be heroic. But very rarely does that heroism call for a degree in motorcycle stunt-riding.

There are plenty of other ways to be a hero. A guy can be a hero by doing the right thing, by defending the underdog or by speaking up for some kid who's being picked on. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes. And you don't have to be impossibly ripped to be one.

Myth: Guys are violent, angry, and aggressive.

Where It Comes From: Again, movies and TV shows play a big role. So does the news media and, unfortunately, real life. More men than women have been convicted of violent crimes. Almost all school shootings have involved guys. Almost all serial killers have been guys.

The Reality: The reality is that, due to the presence of testosterone (a hormone that sloshes through you during puberty), guys have the potential to be more aggressive than girls. Males have up to eight times more testosterone than females, and studies have linked the presence of testosterone to aggressive behavior. And since aggression leads to violence, the most violent people in the world have been and are most likely to be male.


But does that mean all guys are naturally violent? Nope. Though testosterone has been linked to aggression, there's nothing conclusive that says it's the sole cause of it. Lots of things factor into our behavior, but few of them relate to biology. They have more to do with the way we were raised, with our decision-making skills, and with our level of maturity. Just because I'm a guy doesn't mean I'm kicking your teeth in if you look at me funny. I may occasionally allow myself to get mad or angry (and there's nothing wrong with that, by the way), but because I'm mature and in control of my emotions, I can keep cool whenever necessary. Violent outbursts-whether by a kid provoked into a fight at school or a major-league ballplayer who just got beaned by a Kerry Wood fastball-are impulses that give us a choice. We can choose to let the aggression loose and give in to violence. Or, we can do the manly thing and contain those impulses. Being a man means learning self-control when it comes to our competitive and aggressive nature.

Myth: Guys don't cry or show emotion.

Where It Comes From: Coaches, teachers, parents, older siblings.

The Reality: A lot of guys may be uncomfortable with the expression of any emotion that's not related to, say, your team losing the World Series, but the reality is that it's okay for guys to cry. Our culture gives us the idea that guys are allowed to show "tough" emotions like anger or rage or competitiveness while burying other emotions-like crying-that aren't as cool. We showcase the aggression and hide the vulnerability.

We're way off base. Crying doesn't make you any less manly. It doesn't make you a sissy or a wimp or whatever. In fact, girls like a sensitive guy.

There's just one minor problem. Did you know it's physically harder for guys to cry? No lie-there's a biological block in place that keeps guys from turning on the tears as easily as girls. It's a hormone called prolactin, which is related to tear production. Once guys hit adolescence, prolactin levels drop. So teen and adult women have much more tear-producing prolactin than guys. That's why they can get all weepy at the drop of a hat. And that's why guys are pretty much only able to cry when their dog dies, even if they're cool with showing emotion. This physical difference is true among men of all cultures. Worldwide, men cry less than women.

But that doesn't mean a guy shouldn't cry, or that it's somehow weak for a guy to cry. Not at all. Pay close attention at the end of any championship game in sports-the Super Bowl, the World Series, the NBA Finals, the Stanley Cup-and you're guaranteed to see a bunch of world-class athletes in tears. Look at legendary Kansas City Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil, who seems to get sniffly every time he gives a press conference. Watch the Academy Awards, and you'll see some of our country's biggest movie stars shed tears. Country superstar Tim McGraw-Faith Hill's husband-sings a song that says, "I don't know why they say grown men don't cry." And the Bible says Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died.

Guys who cry are in pretty good company.

Myth: It's not cool for guys to succeed in school.

Where It Comes From: College and pro sports, movies where the jock always gets the girl, TV shows that praise athletic guys and handsome guys while making fun of smart guys. The statistics back it up. According to a book called Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood, by William Pollack, guys form an overwhelming majority of students at the bottom of the class in grade point average. From elementary school to high school, guys get lower grades, on average, than girls. More girls than guys attend college. More girls than guys get master's degrees.

The Reality: Aside from your spiritual beliefs, hardly anything has a bigger impact on your life than your education. Being a good student and getting an education are major, and the most successful people in the world are guys who busted their butts to excel in school. There's no question that it's cool to be an academic stud.

Then why do guys still worry about being labeled a dork/nerd/geek/Dilbert (take your pick) if they seem too smart? It has to do with the same masculine stereotypes we've already discussed. A lot of guys mistakenly believe that being creative or intellectual is somehow a feminine trait-that it's less than manly, a highway to Wedgieville. That causes guys to slack off when it comes to homework, study, and class participation. They may refuse to answer questions to keep from being called "teacher's pet." They may feel the need to disrupt the class by acting like a class clown, or by making snarky comments from the back row. I've even known guys to brag about getting a D on a test because they thought the subject matter was stupid.

In reality, it's stupid to think school doesn't matter. The education thing isn't always fun, but it's important, and it's one of those times you have to look past the here and now to the future. Getting a high-school education is the difference between a career in politics or business and a career handing out shoes at the Bowl-a-Rama. Getting a college degree is the difference between being a guy who drives for the trucking company and the guy who owns the trucking company. And if you want to get into college? Don't expect it to be easy if you slouch your way through high school. Unless you're a 6'11? dunking machine, universities aren't much interested in slackers.

Myth: The only thing guys are interested in is sex. And girls. And sex with girls.

Where It Comes From: You have to ask? Movies. TV shows. Men's magazines like Maxim or Playboy or Stuff. The locker room. The hallways at school. The parking lot. Church. And so on . . .

The Reality: Yep. Guys think about sex a lot. A whole lot. It's said that we males reach our sexual peak around the age of eighteen. That means your sex drive is highest as you near the end of high school, and all those years leading up to it will be accompanied by a constant heightening of your libido (which is a fun-sounding fancy word for "sex drive"). The combination of rambunctious libido and sexual peakness means guys are hugely interested in sex.

But is that all they're interested in? No way. There's more to life than libido, especially when you've decided to hold off on sex until you're married, which is a good idea (lots more on that in Chapter 9). Healthy teen guys are into a lot more things than sex. Guys think about sports and exercise pretty often (see Chapter 8). Their minds are on school and friends (check out Chapter 12). They're into church and helping others (see Chapter 14).

Here's the deal: If you find yourself having sexual thoughts-a-plenty, you're normal. Then again, if it's not on the brain 24-7, you're also normal. You're neither a freak, a perv, or a prude. Some guys have one-track minds, some don't.

A lot of guys like to talk about sex to get attention or to enhance their reputation, and they make it sound like girls are the core of their existence. Be aware, though-they're probably exaggerating. Any time guys bring up their sexual prowess, sexual activity, sexual experience, or sexual knowledge, they're most likely overstating everything. A guy who's had sex twice will tell you he's had it four times. A guy who claims to know all the sexual moves and positions probably read a page or two in Cosmo or took notes while downloading porn. Loser. Guys are masters of sexual embellishment, and as a result, it seems sex is all they're into. Don't be fooled. It ain't so.

It's entirely possible to get through your teen years without giving in to sexual pressure. Lots of guys have done it, and they all know one thing: There's a lot more to being a man than letting your penis be your guide.

Ways to Be Manly

The point of this chapter is simple. There are lots of ways to be a man. Real masculinity-the kind that's godly, the kind that's modeled after Jesus-isn't bound by any stereotypes of what a guy is "supposed" to be. Real men can be creative or artsy or musically inclined. Real men can be intelligent and successful in school. Real men can be nurses or teachers or ministers or chefs. Real men can have a meaningful relationship with a girl without it getting complicated by sex or romantic pressure. Real men can discuss their feelings, show compassion, and be sensitive. Real men can cry without it being a news event.

On the other hand, real men can also be lumberjacks. They can be construction workers or pro wrestlers or football players. They can be plumbers. They can be CEOs of billion-dollar corporations. Real men can pick their teeth with chain saws and file their nails with a belt sander and hunt Kodiak grizzlies with a handful of rocks and a box of rubber bands.

What am I trying to say? There is no one single way to be manly. And, guys, that's good news. As a teenager growing into a man, that means you can just be who you are. Even if you don't have muscles. Even if you don't have a harem of girls fainting over your every move. Even if the closest you get to the playing field is as equipment manager, you're no less a man than anyone else. You're free to be you. You can do the stuff you want to do without being worried whether it's "girly" or "gay" or "wussy." Because it's not. The only thing "girly" is a girl.

It's time to bust out of the stereotypes, guys. Be your own person. Be creative. Be real. Relax about who you are, knowing that on a daily basis God is shaping you into the man he wants you to be. Keep that at the front of your brain, and stay confident. Have fun and enjoy the ride-we'll make some stops along the way, but the final destination is manhood.

In Conclusion

A helpful recap of the main points of this chapter:

  • We've been snookered by stereotypes about what it means to be a man. Without good role models, it's hard to know what true masculinity is. Also, Vin Diesel is not a good male role model.
  • Not all guys are hyperaggressive, stunt-riding action heroes. That would be cool, of course, but it's a myth.
  • Not all guys are violent. A real man knows that violence and aggression are a choice, and he knows how to maintain control.
  • Lots of guys believe it's weak for a guy to cry. It's not. It's harder-physically speaking-for guys to cry, but there's nothing wrong with it. Ask Dick Vermeil.
  • There's nothing "stupider" than acting like school is stupid. You think it's uncool to succeed in school now? Better hope you still believe that when you're slinging burgers at the age of forty.
  • Guys think about sex a lot. But not every guy has lovin' on the brain 24-7. There's more to life than your libido.
  • There is no one single way to be manly. The most masculine thing you can do is be yourself.

More About the Author

Jason Boyett is the author of several books, the most recent of which is the Kindle e-book Pocket Guide to 2012. It joins several other books in his Pocket Guide series of titles (Pocket Guide to the Apocalypse, Pocket Guide to the Afterlife, etc.). Jason is also the author of O Me of Little Faith: True Confessions of a Spiritual Weakling (Zondervan). His writing has appeared in a variety of publications--including Salon, Paste, the Daily Beast, and Relevant--and he is the host and co-creator of the weekly 9 Thumbs podcast (9thumbs.com). Follow Jason online at jasonboyett.com, at facebook.com/jasonboyettbooks, and on twitter @jasonboyett.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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The writing style is witty and easy to read.
Mom of two
It covers everything from good grooming (thank goodness) to puberty, peer pressure to dating, and everything in between.
P. Anderson
I would strongly recommend this book to any of my students or their parents to read through.
Seth Daniels

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By WichacpiHoskila VINE VOICE on March 18, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I feel a bit uncomfortable when religious agendas are offered in a book's content and not disclosed before purchase. I'm fine with this book's ideology, but I wish the description had been more up-front with the fact that this is a book of religious instruction; I don't want non-religious readers (or people buying this book for a school or treatment setting where religious instruction is inappropriate) to feel "tricked" by this omission.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Mom of two on November 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is perfect for a high school freshman or jr hi student.The chapters are short and to the point, so guys will actually read it. The writing style is witty and easy to read. Topics cover everything from sex to how to tie a tie. The book clears up common misconceptions and helps guys learn to be themselves and not need to follow the "cool" crowd. This book gives good Christian guidelines without sounding preachy. I recommend it to any young man between 12 and 16.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gregg Keen on March 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
I gave this to my almost 15-year old with some anxiety, wondering how he would accept it. He pretty much read it cover to cover without putting it down, commenting regularly on Jason Boyett's style of humor. I thought he'd shy away from mentioning what he was reading (especially the section on the three-letter-word)but he did well at telling dad what he was thinking. What more could one ask of a book aimed at a teen-age boy?
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Format: Paperback
This book is targeted to teenage boys and is crammed with humorous, sound and godly advice to prepare today's boys for manhood. Using a three-fold approach, Boyett covers the mind, body and spirit. With chapters on communication, sex, grooming, faith, exercise, family, friends and being a gentleman, there is sure to be an area of interest to any boy who picks up this book!
The book was fast-paced and easy to read, great for teenage boys who may not even like to read. Boyett uses modern-day language, straight talk and humor to capture your attention. I liked the sidebars in the book. They are quick little bites of info that sum up the important messages in that chapter. His style of writing is perfect for today's teens. The Biblical basis for the content of the book is presented in a down-to-earth tone, not preachy in the least. It would appeal to both Christians and non-Christians. I loved the book and plan on using it in my homeschool curriculum next year for my own son's reading program!!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 <[...]> : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
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Jason Boyett hit the nail on the head with this book. The book is specifically designed for teen guys and helping them through all the difficulties they deal with in adolescence. Jason tackles girls, parents, God, purity, and more in the book. The book also offers practical insights into how to shave, tie and necktie, and more on the practical side of growing up. His insights into the spiritual, emotional, and physical life of the teen guy are incredible. I would strongly recommend this book to any of my students or their parents to read through.
Jason writes in a humorous easy-going way that keeps you engrossed in the book. It reads more like a novel than a textbook. If you have a teen guy in your house or know one, you need to buy them this book.
Also, I'm supposed to let you know that I was given a free review copy of the book, but that has nothing to do with whether or not I liked it.
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Format: Paperback
A Guy's Guide to Life, by Jason Boyett seeks to provide timely advice for a young man while not preaching at him. The author blends humor with solid practical insight, to help young men navigate through what he calls the "Myths of Manhood."

I think a father could use this book as a great tool to begin a conversation with his son(s) about a multitude of subjects, from shaving, to how to talk to girls and a lot more. The author makes sure to direct the reader to the real man builder, Jesus Christ but does it in an easy-to-read manner, not with a “hit you over the head” condemning tone. I think many young men would find this book helpful.

This book has been given to me for purpose of review by Thomas Nelsons Book review Program.
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book for my son two years ago as he was entering Middle School. As a single mom, I wanted to be able to open up the lines of communication regarding "guy stuff". This book has been wonderful! It covers everything from good grooming (thank goodness) to puberty, peer pressure to dating, and everything in between. It has been the source of many great conversations and is chocked full of real life information. Three years later and now a Freshman in High School, my son still refers to this book and its well worn pages. Highly recommend for middle school and high school boys.
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