Since the guide to manhood no longer exists ...

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By Ken Trainor

What does it mean to be a man? I've been giving that some thought since my son turns 21 next week. Part of being a man is figuring out what it means to be a man?#34;and not letting society impose its version on you. Besides, the guidebook is no longer in print.

Here's some of what I've learned in the 32 years since I turned 21:

Don't give up. Always strive to be a better man.

You're a good person. Never let anyone convince you otherwise, and don't be afraid to show your goodness. Be strong and be emotional. Acting brave and being afraid aren't mutually exclusive. Usually they coincide. Find a balance between head, heart and soul. Don't let any of the three turn tyrant. Find your unique voice and use it ... sparingly ... when it's needed. Don't be afraid to take a stand.

You will respect yourself no more, no less than you respect others. Respect others unless they give you compelling reasons not to. Own yourself, even when serving others. Don't be afraid of passion. Find ways to keep your fire stoked. Feeling something so deeply that it causes you to weep is not a sign of weakness.

If you can, relieve suffering. If you can't, sympathize. Understanding others' struggles makes you capable of kindness.

Accept the fact that you are the hero of this adventure. As a friend once put it, if you can't romance your own life, how are you going to romance someone else? Admit when you're wrong and be receptive to life's lessons. Spend as much time and effort acquiring wisdom as you do acquiring possessions.

Inform your opinions, but think for yourself. Don't let the blowhards dictate them to you. When in doubt, turn off the TV.

Enjoy the grace and power of your body, but don't abuse it?#34;your body or its power. Unmask the depth of your soul. Be a team player, but never a member of the mindless herd. Learn to enjoy solitude, but find ways to connect. Above all, love?#34;and let yourself be loved. Then learn to love better.

Take yourself seriously, but not too seriously. Be the kind of person people can rely on. Ask for directions. When you don't know, say so. Admit your weaknesses, but don't discount your strengths.

Strive for equality with women. Respect their intelligence. There is much more to enjoying their company than making love. When a woman asks you to dance, the answer is "Yes" (I still regret the time I said no). Always accept "No" for an answer when the question involves sex. You can't be a good lover unless you're capable of tenderness.

Tell the truth even when it makes you feel uncomfortable?#34;unless the listener can't be trusted with it. Don't fear the truth. Never assume you possess the whole truth.

Forgive. Let life sculpt you, but if you can, choose the chisel. Prepare your spirit for life after death?#34;you never know. Pray for courage. Life is good, and you are never alone, even in solitude. Don't panic?#34;somehow life always works itself out. Make your bed every day so no matter what else is happening, there will be order somewhere in your life.

Pursue happiness for all you're worth. Keep the child alive inside. He's the only one who remembers where you left your joy. Be grateful for the gift of life. Be generous and show your gratitude by making at least one someone happy.

Sidestep the many prisons created by those who profit from human misery. Find meaningful work that you love. Don't end up a salary slave.

Enjoy being a man. You've been blessed. When you fall short, as we all do, go back and reread the first two items on this list.

Welcome to the club, young man.

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