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Kareem on boys becoming men

October 24, 2013

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has a list of 20 things boys can do to become men, including:

6. Fight your fear of the unknown.

We all have a tendency to hate what we don’t understand, whether it comes in the form of different food, different cultures, or different ideas. There was a Yale study in which researchers examined the brains of people as they were presented with proof that an opinion they held was wrong. MRIs showed that when those people immediately rejected the new evidence, their brains released an addictive chemical that made them feel good. In that way our own bodies are actually encouraging our ignorance and fear. Fight that impulse. Becoming a man means growing, learning, and understanding—not cowering under a blanket with a handful of comforting notions.

(By the way, don’t confuse physical bravery with intellectual bravery. It’s easier to jump out of a plane—hopefully with a parachute—than it is to change your mind about an opinion. Acts of physical bravado will give you an initial rush, but exploring a new culture or examining a new idea will mature you and make you the kind of person others will be interested in.)

16. Question authority.

Respect your elders but don’t think them infallible. Teachers, parents, relatives, politicians, and well-meaning guys like me really do want what’s best for you. But we aren’t always right. Even when presenting supposed “facts,” people can be misleading in an effort to manipulate you into being who they want you to be or doing what they want you to do. History is filled with politicians misrepresenting “facts” in order to convince the population to back rash policies. Teachers sometimes aren’t caught up on the latest research. To be your own man, you will have to make up your own mind about things.

17. Get smart.

Making up your own mind doesn’t mean “going with your gut,” “listening to your heart,” or any other such clichés, however. That’s the lazy man’s way of avoiding the work that comes with developing an informed opinion. Want to express an opinion about the election, the death penalty, or gay marriage? First, do your research. Don’t rely on biased sources. Your goal is to find the truth, not just confirm an opinion you already held. Every time you express an uninformed opinion, others will dismiss you as a child, someone who can only parrot others’ opinions. A man knows how to educate himself in pursuit of truth.

Critical thinking is a skill that is sorely lacking today. People too easily accept what they read or hear and too often we don’t recognize the systems in place in our lives that prevent us from realizing that we have accepted as truth something that we haven’t ever truly questioned.

I also think every single one of these 20 items can apply to both boys and girls. There seems to be nothing really gender specific about any one of them.

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