Manvotional: Wanted-A Man

by Brett & Kate McKay on June 27, 2010 · 25 comments

in A Man's Life, Manvotionals

“Wanted-A Man”
from Pushing to the Front, 1911
By: Orison Swett Marden

“All the world cries, Where is the man who will save us? We want a man! Don’t look so far for this man. You have him at hand. This man,—it is you, it is I, it is each one of us! . . . How to constitute one’s self a man? Nothing harder, if one knows not how to will it; nothing easier, if one wills it.”—Alexandre Dumas.

Diogenes sought with a lantern at noontide in ancient Athens for a perfectly honest man, and sought in vain. In the market place he once cried aloud, “Hear me, O men”; and, when a crowd collected around him, he said scornfully: “I called for men, not pygmies.”

Over the door of every profession, every occupation, ever-calling, the world has a standing advertisement: “Wanted—A Man.”

Wanted, a man who will not lose his individuality in a crowd, a man who has the courage of his convictions, who is not afraid to say “No,” though all the world say “Yes.”

Wanted, a man who, though he is dominated by a mighty purpose, will not permit one great faculty to dwarf, cripple, warp, or mutilate his manhood; who will not allow the over-development of one faculty to stunt or paralyze his other faculties.

Wanted, a man who is larger than his calling, who considers it a low estimate of his occupation to value it merely as a means of getting a living. Wanted, a man who sees self-development, education and culture, discipline and drill, character and manhood, in his occupation…

Wanted, a man of courage who is not a coward in any part of his nature.

Wanted, a man who is well balanced, who is not cursed with some little defect of weakness which cripples his usefulness and neutralizes his powers.

Wanted, a man who is symmetrical, and not one-sided in his development, who has not sent all the energies of his being into one narrow specialty and allowed all the other branches of his life to wither and die. Wanted, a man who is broad, who does not take half views of things; a man who mixes common sense with his theories, who does not let a college education spoil him for practical, every-day life; a man who prefers substance to show, and one who regards his good name as a priceless treasure.

Wanted, a man “who, no stunted ascetic, is full of life and fire, but whose passions are trained to heed a strong will, the servant of a tender conscience; who has learned to love all beauty, whether of nature or of art, to hate all vileness, and to respect others as himself.”

The world wants a man who is educated all over; whose nerves are brought to their acutest sensibility; whose brain is cultured, keen, incisive, broad; whose hands are deft; whose eyes are alert, sensitive, microscopic; whose heart is tender, magnanimous, true.

The whole world is looking for such a man. Although there are millions out of employment, yet it is almost impossible to find just the right man in almost any department of life, and yet everywhere we see the advertisement: “Wanted—A Man.”

When Garfield as a boy was asked what he meant to be, he answered: “First of all, I must make myself a man; if I do not succeed in that, I can succeed in nothing.”

It is a sad sight to see thousands of students graduated every year from our grand institutions whose object is to make stalwart, independent, self-supporting men, turned out into the world saplings instead of stalwart oaks, “memory-glands” instead of brainy men, helpless instead of self-supporting, sickly instead of robust, weak instead of strong, leaning instead of erect. “So many promising youths, and never a finished man!”

The character sympathizes with and unconsciously takes on the nature of the body. A peevish, snarling, ailing man can not develop the vigor and strength of character which is possible to a healthy, robust, cheerful man. There is an inherent love in the human mind for wholeness, a demand that man shall come up to the highest standard; and there is an inherent protest or contempt for preventable deficiency. Nature, too, demands that man be ever at the top of his condition…

The first requisite of all education and discipline should be man-timber. Tough timber must come from well grown, sturdy trees. Such wood can be turned into a mast, can be fashioned into a piano or an exquisite carving. But it must become timber first. Time and patience develop the sapling into the tree. So through discipline, education, experience, the sapling child is developed into hardy mental, moral, physical mantimber.

If the youth should start out with the fixed determination that every statement he makes shall be the exact truth; that every promise he makes shall be redeemed to the letter; that every appointment shall be kept with the strictest faithfulness and with full regard for other men’s time; if he should hold his reputation as a priceless treasure, feel that the eyes of the world are upon him that he must not deviate a hair’s breadth from the truth and right; if he should take such a stand at the outset, he would . . .come to have almost unlimited credit and the confidence of everybody who knows him.

What are palaces and equipages; what though a man could cover a continent with his title-deeds, or an ocean with his commerce; compared with conscious rectitude, with a face that never turns pale at the accuser’s voice, with a bosom that never throbs with fear of exposure, with a heart that might be turned inside out and disclose no stain of dishonor? To have done no man a wrong; to have put your signature to no paper to which the purest angel in heaven might not have been an attesting witness; to walk and live, unseduced, within arm’s length of what is not your own, with nothing between your desire and its gratification but the invisible law of rectitude;—this is to be a man.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Daniel June 27, 2010 at 6:14 am

This is sublime.

2 Shaun Daws June 27, 2010 at 6:28 am

Brett, your ability to land upon the most amazing writings never ceases to amaze me. Thanks again for publishing another inspiring article!

3 David June 27, 2010 at 7:14 am

Actually, I think its a little discouraging. Only Superman need apply?

4 JJ June 27, 2010 at 8:46 am

David’s attitude reveals clearly what is wrong with men today. They want the standard watered down and tailored to how men “really are.” They’re used to low expectations. But what we should desire is the very highest standard. We should want high expectations and look to the very best ideal. Living up to that ideal will be difficult, even impossible, but as cliche as it sounds, it’s better to aim for the moon, for even if you miss, you’re still among the stars!

5 John June 27, 2010 at 9:07 am

JJ is right. Men courageously stare any challenge in the face, from settling an untamed Western frontier to tackling an intimidating sales meeting. To shirk and cower from the prospect of basic fundamental things like sticking to your guns and convictions, or being afraid of having a passion, is an indicator of not manliness but childishness. David’s attitude is a sad commentary on the portion of the human species that is born male, but never becomes a man.

6 Robert W June 27, 2010 at 9:15 am

Great article…thanks!

Yes…It’s easy to pick a low mark at hit it. In order to achieve anything great (anything!), one must aim for the highest point. Then, even if you miss that high mark, the aiming, the striving, the reaching, has forged one’s character *far* more than if one had merely picked the easy route.



7 Ryan June 27, 2010 at 9:51 am

This is a brilliant article! It makes you look at yourself and want to change so you can be a better man.

8 Jeff June 27, 2010 at 10:57 am

As G.K. Chesterton wrote, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried.” The achievement of perfection is indeed impossible. However, the emulation of perfection is not. Jesus Christ serves as an example of perfect love, humility, and honesty. In the same way, inspiring prose such as these can help remind us of our goal. They set a standard and provide us with a reminder that we have a higher morality at which we are meant to function. Although difficult to achieve, we must make the attempt at our best.

“…thousands of students graduated every year from our grand institutions…turned out into the world saplings instead of stalwart oaks.” The argument here is that society is so quick to do away with the standard. We must not allow ourselves to follow that path. We must seek to make ourselves stalwart oaks in the face of a world that settles for saplings.

9 ctd June 27, 2010 at 11:08 am

Suffice to say: “If” by Kipling.

10 Dan Smith June 27, 2010 at 11:36 am

I’m sure I’ll be ridiculed for this as David was, but I agree with him. This is a great ideal, but it leaves out fathers, for example. What is described in this dissertation are pioneers, settlers, explorers, etc, not fathers, husbands, and the like. Yes, fathers can be courageous, symmetrical, and on and on, but what you want here is a man who will climb Mount Everest. I apologize, but I have a diaper to change.

By the way, if you aim for the moon and miss, you are not among the stars, you’re only in the upper orbit of earth.

11 Tom Hughes June 27, 2010 at 12:16 pm

This is indeed a very deep yet sublime message. It has as much an impact on us today as it did in 1911. It is also interesting in the fact that it was written in the same general era when Lord Robert Baden Powell, in England was lamenting the fact that the youth of the day were misguided and “shallow chested” with no sense of self reliance or moral fiber. During the Boer war in 1902, Scouting was concieved as young boys, as messengers for the British Army, learned the skills and traits that would ultimately form them into useful soldiers and stalwart men.

The movement grew after the war, and expanded to the United States in 1911 as the Boy Scouts. The simple point that held true then and is just as important today is that as we aspire to manliness ourselves, it is important to teach our sons so they may grow to be real men.

Read “The Character Factory” by Michael Rosenthal – circa 1987

12 Mike June 27, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Thanks so much for this posting. I couldn’t stop reading it. It got me so motivated, I just ordered the entire book, “Pusing to the Front”, from Amazon!

13 Brett McKay June 27, 2010 at 1:57 pm


I’m curious as to why you think these things don’t describe fathers. I don’t see anything that excludes them. It’s really a call to live with integrity and strength which I think applies to all men. If you check out the book from which it is excerpted, none of it is geared to the kind of men who climb Mount Everest; it’s for ordinary men, men in business, men who want to better themselves.

14 Dan Smith June 27, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Brett, I freely admit that, as I read it again, it is something that a father could be ok with. After all, I am as passionate about my children and their upbringing as any explorer could have been about finding a new country. I often feel limited because I am not as free as these single fellows to pursue every lust and passion. Still, God has called me to be a husband and father, which sometimes feels like I’m climbing a mountain, so perhaps this fits well.

15 Jack June 27, 2010 at 5:33 pm

I appreciate your re-read Dan–its my hope that my family and wife are never left wanting a true man.
On another note, I teach a lot of young men and the article contains the qualities I would love for them to develop in themselves. We must seek the ideal.

Parva parvum decent (Horace)

16 Jack June 27, 2010 at 5:48 pm

I just reread my post. Sorry…there is nothing snobbier than misquoting Latin and then not giving a translation.

Parvum Parva Decent— small things become the small

i.e. great men will seek to great things

17 EM HAAG June 27, 2010 at 7:13 pm

It’s a great article about meaningful human qualities. Both men and women need these. A society is only as great as its women. The societies at the lowest rung are the ones in which women are treated the worst. Let’s teach our sons and daughters all these incredible qualities of character and skill development and watch our country really soar.

18 Rob June 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm

to David. Chin up, Buddy. It is achievable but more than that it’s worth working toward each day but acknowledge that you’re human and sometimes fall short and when you do don’t beat yourself up but,rather, pick yourself up and go at it again. I sense that maybe too many people have told you for too long what you can’t do and somewhere along the way you started believing them. You were born for a purpose. Imbued with power. And you carry the seeds of greatness within you. That’s a fact. That’s reality. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
And to Dan. Happy to see the re-read. Brother I’ve believed for a long time that the fathers of this world are some of the most courageous men on it. The sacrifices you’ve made. As you said yourself you are unable to persue other dreams and lusts but you’ve taken on a responsibility and every day you climb out of bed and go off to work to do what you must to provide for your family. Those dreams and lusts can only be in your head as you continue forward to do what you must. You can’t turn back and you cnat run away. You just keep marching forward in the battle of life doing your best to provide for, care for, and poroperly raise your children. To me there’s no greater courage. Courage is not bravery but the tenacity to continue forward against all obstacles to achieve the objective. There may be days you are brave and others you’re craping your pants but when you continue forward in spite of it all, Man,. That’s Courage.

19 PatrickC June 27, 2010 at 8:34 pm

The only man worth imitating is the God-man Jesus Christ and He is patient with us.

20 Mike June 27, 2010 at 9:22 pm

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

21 Michael M June 28, 2010 at 1:10 am

Real men pray with their family. Real men read/study the Bible. They do devotionals. They train their children and teach them moral and ethics. They provide for their family. They put God first, their wife second, and their children next. They uphold honor and the truth. They don’t drink, smoke, or do any other drugs so they don’t purposely shorten their lives leaving their family behind. They don’t curse or use fool language. I know when I have met a real man when I have met a man with these qualities. Oh and they don’t whine and complain (almost forgot that).

22 TR June 28, 2010 at 7:13 am


23 Steve June 29, 2010 at 11:27 am

I believe the most accurate quote offered up above is as follows: “It is better to aim for the stars and land on the moon than to aim for the curb and land in the gutter.” Shoot for ideals. If you don’t hit your mark, your still better off than shooting off the mark initially. The word “sin” means to miss the mark. There is much good, but to choose a lesser good over a greater good is to miss the mark.

24 Jon June 30, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Wow…just wow. My only thoughts right now are that I wish this article had been presented to me (and that I understood and taken it to heart) 25 years ago. This ought to be mandatory reading for boys entering junior high school or middle school.

25 Jester July 6, 2010 at 5:37 pm

There’s no point in aiming for the moon if you truly don’t believe you can hit it.

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