Manvotional: Do You Have Hardihood?

by Brett & Kate McKay on January 17, 2010 · 19 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals

Awhile back, we put the word “hardihood” in a post and a couple of people asked if that was even a word. Well, not only is it a word-it’s a word that’s incredibly fun to say and is a real quality that every man should aspire to.

There are lots of quizzes these days designed to help you find the right field of work to match your proclivities and talents. The book How to Choose the Right Vocation, published in 1917, dispensed with the modern questions about creativity and being a “people-person” and asked men to rate themselves on things like their hardihood. The book argued that while hardihood was an absolute necessity in some vocations, it was a quality all men should seek to cultivate. How’s your hardihood? Ask yourself these questions and take some time to think it over.


Hardihood is so often made synonymous in common usage with rashness, presumption and untoward boldness that its prime meaning is obscured in the minds of many people. This first meaning is—to speak by the book—”boldness and confidence in action, especially in encountering difficulty, danger or contempt; stout and persistent courage.”

Hardihood gives physical endurance; it gives to a degree immunity from exhaustion as it enables one to ignore the first onset of fatigue attendant upon vigorous physical activity or upon stressful mental application and easily to get one’s “second wind,” which makes prolonged effort comparatively easy.

Hardihood generates constitutional boldness in attempting difficult tasks or those where the outcome is doubtful; it drives one into actions that require courage and fortitude to attempt; it leads one to overcome opposition to one’s efforts and to exercise intrepidity without apparent fear regarding the consequences, to climb over obstacles that would daunt conservative judgment or ordinary daring, to set one’s teeth and make the Herculean effort that brings success from apparent failure. What could advantage one more vocationally than such “stout and persistent courage?”

Hardihood is daring rather than conservative in its nature. It is frequently a strong characteristic in men who have vision, or foresight, and also excellent judgment and strong, practical abilities…

Hardihood is a kind of mental toughness. It gives one the courage of his convictions and makes him capable of defense; it nullifies sensitiveness and makes one capable of withstanding rebuffs; yes, even more, it makes one to a great extent indifferent to criticism and opposition. This strictly mental and emotional—or, rather, non-emotional— effect of this characteristic on oneself regarding the attitude of other people is of immense vocational advantage, particularly in business and in the professions. Sensitiveness to the opinions of others, lack of Hardihood sufficient to hold one’s own in one’s every-day relations and dealings is the cause of many a man’s failure who in other directions is capable.

People who are quite deficient in this characteristic are usually sensitive to the opinions of others concerning themselves and their acts. Such sensitiveness is a dangerous vocational deterrent. Disliking harshness, these people are as a general thing mild, conciliatory and appeasing in their expression. They let themselves be imposed upon even tho they half recognize the imposition at the time and wholly recognize it afterward; when they do occasionally get aroused and resent imposition their resentment is apt to be exprest in a passionate, uncontrolled and ineffective way…

As a man who is not “fit” can harden his muscles and his resisting power by proper exercise, so a man deficient in Hardihood can tone up this characteristic by persistent dynamic expression.

Hardihood unassociated with judgment is foolhardiness—the weak extreme of an excellent personal characteristic.

Self-Measuring Questions Concerning the Characteristics of Hardihood

  • Have I “stout and persistent courage” or am I only courageous under excitement or stimulation of some kind?
  • Do I have to screw up my courage to meet difficult situations?
  • Am I conscious of being mentally and physically rugged?
  • Do I challenge hardships or do I try to avoid hardships and difficulties by following “the line of least resistance?”
  • Do I hesitate about trying out my powers in unused directions that demand fortitude or courage?
  • Have I the courage to blaze new lines of action when success seems reasonably certain or do I wait until others have occupied the “strategic positions?”
  • Does the element of personal risk in sports, travel, adventures or vocations count greatly with me?
  • Does that which is unknown or untried affright or allure me?
  • As a child, did heroic deeds thrill me and was it my ambition to emulate them or was I an afraid to-dive youngster?
  • Am I attracted or repelled by the hazardousness of life-saving callings?
  • Am I resolute and clear-headed in the presence of imminent danger or do I quail or become panic-stricken?
  • As boy or man, have I ever shown individual heroism or is my bravery always of the mass or mob kind?
  • Do I struggle to master matters that test all of my resources?
  • Can I stand and profit by severe criticism when I have been or seem to have been at fault?
  • Do I, if necessary, court severe discipline as a preparatory course for a desired vocation or do I pamper myself and like to be coddled by others?
  • Do I strive for personal efficiency, grasp at opportunities and recognize my right to advancement?
  • Do I rebound quickly from defeat?
  • Am I indifferent to supercilious fault-finding?
  • Do I enjoy being in contests of fortitude and endurance and in intellectual combats?
  • If I were a candidate for some elective office would defeat dishearten me or should I reckon each successive defeat as preparation for final victory?
  • When confronted with unexpected difficulties in anything that I have undertaken, is my first impulse, or reaction, the desire to back down or to go ahead with greater energy than before?
  • Do I stand by the presumption that I am to succeed, even when things look blackest?
  • Have I a persistent resolution when once a careful judgment has been made?
  • In making purchases—whether of neckties or machinery equipments—do I inspect the goods under consideration and form independent opinion of their merits or am I influenced unconsciously in my decisions by what I think the salesman may think of me?
  • Do I sometimes accept less than I know I should for services rendered because I lack the stamina to stand up for my rights?

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Michael January 17, 2010 at 2:37 am

I like the idea and love the word, but is it possible to even know some of these things without having them tested?

Or is it like being in love: if you’re not sure you have “stout and persistent courage,” then you don’t?

I think like a lot of guys I can answer “yes” to many of these questions, “no” to a few, and “I’m not sure” to others. When I come up against “courage” and “bravery,” I’m not sure mine has ever really been tested – which may mean I had them and didn’t recognize that they came into play because the situation was something I could handle, or that I’m living a sheltered life lucky enough to be untouched by dramatic stress.

I think I’ve confused myself.

2 Richard | January 17, 2010 at 4:14 am

Hardihood is a great trait to develop. Rebounding quickly from defeat just like Rocky, it’s so inspirational.

3 Jamie Kennedy January 17, 2010 at 5:50 am

If I may offer a different experience to the final paragraph, regarding the characteristics of being deficient in hardihood.

In addition to the personality described, I believe the sensitivity to criticism can manifest itself in people who are the opposite of mild-mannered and conciliatory. I think sometimes people in this situation can think they are being strong, but they are, in reality, setting themselves up to be inflexible and brittle in character. It’s an unhappy state to be in, because I think it usually results from having chosen, with strong resolution, an action that is short-sighted and ultimately incorrect or too difficult. With that said, it is as you say; only partially realised at the time.

I think in this instance, true hardihood would be practised by remaining true to your goal and admitting mistakes so that you can begin again with something more reasoned and likely to succeed.

4 Mike January 17, 2010 at 9:12 am

“Hardihood unassociated with judgment is foolhardiness—the weak extreme of an excellent personal characteristic.”

I think putting that line in bold was a great move. Because too many men think hardihood means simply being brash and moving forward even when one knows that the course you’re on is the wrong one. I can’t help but think of George W. Bush when I think of false hardihood. A man must combine courage with excellent judgment!

5 Dr. Rod Berger January 17, 2010 at 6:31 pm

Your post has me a bit befuddled….agreeing with some and wondering about others. I think that resiliency runs parallel with character and can serve us all well to live a life void of apathy and rich with purpose. I would like to know, from you both, how inclusive “Hardihood” is or if it is viewed as an individual mantra? I am of the belief that for Normal Males to succeed in the role model battle…we have to demonstrate our willingness to persevere through collaborative means rather than through isolation. Too many men continue to think that they have to approach the world in a singular and non-communicative fashion. That approach retards our development as a gender and perpetuates the negative stereotypes we all have to deal with in the media. I would love to hear your thoughts….thanks for making me think.
Dr. Rod

6 Eric Sorenson January 18, 2010 at 7:35 am

Theodore Roosevelt was using the term “hardihood” years before 1917 (he died in 1919). He often used it to refer to particular men he knew from his ranching days or the boys of 1898, the Rough Riders. From my memory, I would say he usually used in the physical sense, referring to physical strength and courage. I suspect he would have accepted the definition from How to Choose the Right Vocation.

7 Robert January 18, 2010 at 5:11 pm

So true is this, that every person, males and females alike, want to have “stout and persistent courage”. Since becoming a father, I am continually taking stock of the events and achievements in my life and identifying what I like and dislike about myself in order to pave the road to the life I want to live.

Hardihood is certainly one factor is this path.

8 Dennard January 19, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Nice article. I think men especially would do well to use the measuring stick of hardihood and the related questions in this article when looking for the correct career or for any decision that needs to be made.

9 Mike January 20, 2010 at 10:39 am

Great series…thanks. I’m looking forward to your future columns on how to develop this quality. I agree with some of the other posters, however, that it may not be a quality in and of itself.

10 Erik January 20, 2010 at 2:15 pm

LOVE the blog! I found AOM just as I was rebuilding my life from the ashes of a divorce, and it’s been a regular inspiration for me. (I’m also raising two boys.) Thanks for all the work you put into it.

Here’s another comment on the “hardihood unassociated with judgment is foolhardiness” statement.

There was a good story on NPR the other day taking a look at General Motors’ disastrously blind adherence to it’s short-term goal of gaining a 29% share of the world automobile market a few years back. They reached something like a 28.3% share, but they had to lower prices and reduce costs (quality) to a point where they were losing money on every sale and damaging the perception of their product by consumers. They also chased after the hot item of the moment (SUV’s) while ignoring the obvious big seller of tomorrow (hybrid-electric) … just to reach that goal.

GM was certainly hardy in pursuit of their goal, but they used very poor judgment. We’ve all seen how that turned out. Great post!

11 Alejandro January 21, 2010 at 1:22 am

Hardihood is just plain having the balls to stand up for yourself, especially when you know you’re right; political correctness be damned! I’ve learned that the hard way (no pun intended, literally!) after spending my entire life – before now – trying to please everyone at the same time and make certain others are happy with me, instead of being happy with myself. I have very definite opinions on everything in this world and haved developed the courage from a lifetime of ridicule and shyness just to stand by convictions. American men have let themselves get pretty wimpy within the past 20 – 30 years; hoping to be more passive like females, instead of aggressive and determined as nature intended. God forbid if a man should talk back to a woman these days! It’s social suicide! But, I don’t care! Men and women are different; hence the AOM blog! Hardiness doesn’t mean being stubborn or insensitive. It just means being proud and certain in who you are and what you want out of life. You give and you take – all within reason and moderation. We all make mistakes, but it’s how you learn from those mistakes and what you do with those lessons afterwards that makes the man.

12 russel January 31, 2010 at 6:18 pm

To Jamie Kennedy , If you are the same J.K. involved with J. L.-H. , you sir must have hardihood enough to spare . Although all the posts give great validity to the term , your hardihood in that endeavor is inspiring . not to mention your other achievments . Let’s all strive for a certain amount of hardihood sans boastful pride . If others recognize worthy deeds , they will talk about it for us .

13 James January 31, 2010 at 6:27 pm

This is just the kind of test I have been looking for. It is always necessary for me to reflect upon my values and personal characteristics.

14 stu February 4, 2010 at 1:34 am

I blame it all on my overbearing mother, and my weak passive father. now that it is out of the way, how do I get on with becoming hardy? what kind of thoughts do I think, what should I say when I talk to myself, how should I imagine myself in my mind?

15 Dennis October 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm

I applaud bringing hardihood to today’s male. There has been so much said about the emasculation of our society. Men are those males of strong character that can overcome adversity to pursue a right goal. Men don’t make excuses, they don’t back down from challenges to their plans, dreams, and ambitions. Stu, I know it’s been awhile since your post, but you develop hardihood by making the decision everyday to do right and “extend your tent pegs”. Try something new. Press your point in a meeting when you feel you are being ignored. Ask out the girl you have been admiring from afar. Do those extra five pushups. You build hardihood by challenging yourself to do more than you have before.

16 Christopher December 22, 2012 at 11:33 am

Mike mentioned President George W. Bush as the non-exemplar of hardihood, and while this example is loaded with political fraught, it is also a common experience for all of us – even though perhaps none of us have ever met the man. So allow me to follow up with this example.

I think President Bush represents the exemplar AND non-exemplar of hardihood. In Bush we see the first and only American president since Richard Nixon who was willing to stand up to terrorists in the Mideast. None of his predecessors would! Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton – all shrank from the task, lacking intestinal fortitude.

Not only did Bush establish a war against the terrorists in the Mideast, but he did so in the face of fantastic political opposition at home and abroad. Regardless of whether you like him or not – this man stuck to his convictions! And I admired that about him.

Indeed, it was only at the end of his eight-year presidency that he waffled in hardihood. When it came time to stabilize the economy, Bush’s apologists argue that he had to “destroy capitalism in order to save it.” Bush signed the TARP along with the Republican and Democrat Congress, showing that in the end Bush et al. chose to “rescue” the wealthy people on the face of the planet, in the history of the world…over the American people.

In President Bush we see both the exemplar and the non-exemplar in hardihood. But let us appropriately define each example. Hardihood is standing up for what you believe is just and moral. Hardihood is not demonstrated when folding to the selfish demands of your wealthy friends at the expense of the common man.


17 Bill August 14, 2013 at 1:07 pm

I’d like to disagree about the hardihood of George W Bush. The war example you gave would have worked if we had Bushes, Rumsfelds, Chenneys and Wolfowitzes leading the way into battle. But it wasn’t the folks who wanted to go to war who paid the price for the war. The intestinal fortitude you love was paid for with the lives of the sons and daughters of America and their value is great. Is it wrong to wonder whether the cost is too high? And to give you a little historical information, there was no terrorism in Iraq before the war. Just a brutal dictator who crushed opposing forces including terrorists.

18 Bill August 14, 2013 at 1:28 pm

I don’t think standing up for yourself by talking back to women is what is implied anywhere in hardihood. I may be wrong but hardihood and manliness says you just take it like a man. In other words, don’t shrivel and shy away, remain calm and fully in control (think James Bond). A phrase that comes to mind is staying above the fray. Be what she needs and let her get it out sometimes.

One of the few times in my life I felt a great sense of manliness occurred in a situation where talking back would be common.

I was in a store and asked a question when the sales clerk flew off the handle and started berating while I was at the front of a long line. For some odd reason I stayed cool and recognized that it was not about me and this poor women was having emotional trouble. I stood calmly (like a man) and let her pour out her venom all over me. She ran out of gas and I quietly leaned in and asked if she would like me to go or if she needed me to stay and listen to anything else. She quickly turned from anger to embarrassment and said I could go. I very sincerely told her I hoped she felt better and I wished her a good day. As I walked away she raced after me, grabbed my arm apologized and thanked me for being kind to her.

I tell you I left with a powerful feeling of manliness and I doubt a sole who witnessed thought I was anything but a good man.

Now I need to work on my hardihood gentlemen

19 Mark Anderson January 18, 2014 at 9:54 am

Good story, Richard.

The ability to remain unaffected by the errant behavior of others towards one is the essence of hardihood. It’s always been a challenge for me, as has being affected by criticism.

I gotta get my act together.

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