Becoming Superhuman in 2011

by Brett & Kate McKay on January 2, 2011 · 153 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

As we advance in the spiritual life and in the practice of systematic self-examination we are often surprised by the discovery of vast unknown tracts of the inner life of the soul. They seem like great plains stretching out in mystery and wrapt in mists that sometimes for a moment lift, or sweep off and leave one looking for one brief instant upon great reaches of one’s own life, unknown, unmeasured, unexplored. Men stand at such moments breathless in wonder and in awe gazing upon these great tracts upon which they have never looked before, with kindling eyes and beating hearts; and while they look the mists steal back till all is lost to sight once more and they are left wondering if what they saw was reality, or the creation of their fancy. Or sometimes they see, not far-stretching plains which fill the soul with an awestruck sense of its expansiveness and of how much has been left absolutely uncultivated, not these plains but mountain peaks climbing and reaching upwards till lost in the heavens, echoing it may be with the voice of many streams whose waters fertilize and enrich those small tracts of the soul’s life which have been reclaimed and cultivated and which many a man has thought to be his whole inner self, though he never asked himself whence those rich streams had their source. Now he sees how their source lay in unmeasured heights of his own inner being whose existence he never dreamed of before. In one brief instant they have unveiled themselves. He looks again, and they are shut out from his eyes, there is no token visible that he possesses such reaches, such heights of life. The commonplaces of his existence gather in and crowd upon him, the ordinary routine of life settles down upon him, limiting and confining him on all sides, the same unbroken line measures his horizon, such as he has always known it, the same round of interests and occupations crowd in upon his hours and fill them, the pressure of the hard facts of life upon him are as unmistakable and as leveling as ever, bidding him forget his dreams and meet and obey the requirements of the world in which he lives. And yet the man who has caught but a momentary glimpse of that vast unknown inner life can never be the same as he was before; he must be better or worse, trying to explore and possess and cultivate that unknown world within him, or trying—oh, would that he could succeed!—to forget it. He has seen that alongside of, or far out beyond the reach of, the commonplace life of routine, another life stretches away whither he knows not, he feels that he has greater capacities for good or evil than he ever imagined. He has, in a word, awakened with tremulous awe to the discovery that his life which he has hitherto believed limited and confined to what he knew, reaches infinitely beyond his knowledge and is far greater than he ever dreamed. -From Self-knowledge and Self-Discipline by Basil William Maturin,

Have you ever experienced such a moment? Suddenly you caught a glimpse of your infinite possibilities-time seemed to stop, your heart skipped a beat, your breath caught in your throat…perhaps you had such a moment when reading the above passage! And then the phone rang, the voice of a friend cut in, your hunger for a Twinkie made itself known. Just as quickly as the curtain was drawn back on your panorama of potential…the vision closed. And your ordinary life marched on, keeping you too busy to think, “What was that all about?”

So here’s my proposition: In 2011 let’s stop turning away from those moments and ignoring what we know to be true about ourselves and our potential as men. Instead, let’s set our sights on becoming more than what we are, on becoming superhuman.

What It Means to Become Superhuman

Becoming superhuman, that certainly sounds interesting…but what does it even mean anyway? Is it a silly idea, something only reserved for comic books and science fiction?

I think we all know what it means to be human. That’s easy. But while we throw around the word “super” a lot, you’ve probably never thought much about its meaning. So let’s take a look at its entry in the Online Etymology Dictionary:

“from L. adverb and preposition super “above, over, on the top (of), beyond, besides, in addition to,” from PIE base *uper “over.”

So if super means going over and beyond something, being superhuman means living a life over and beyond that of the normal, average person. Being part of the top percentage, the human elite, who refuse to accept mediocrity in any aspect of life.

Every Man a Superhero

Of all the superheroes in popular culture, I’ve always been most drawn to Batman. While many superheroes come by their superpowers through genetic blessing or freakish accident, Batman is a regular guy who gained his superhuman abilities on his own. He studied science, perfected his body, sharpened his mind and powers of deduction, and utilized technology. He became superhuman through his own effort, adding to his powers element by element.

While such a transformation might seem like a flight of unrealistic fantasy, it’s really not. While we may never quite approach Batman’s level of prowess, we can build ourselves into men whose abilities far surpass that of the average joe. Don’t believe me? Then take the time to read the Houdini post we did a couple of weeks ago. Houdini was an ordinary man who through the force of discipline and hustle taught himself how to escape from any handcuff, chest, prison, straitjacket or safe in the world, hold his breath for almost four minutes, fly one of the first planes in the world, endure freezing temperatures, untie knots with his toes, and charm the pants off of ordinary folks and dignitaries alike. He kept the goal of becoming superhuman ever before him and he attained it.

The Whole Man

Becoming superhuman involves reaching for ever greater heights in all areas of our lives: physical, mental, moral, and spiritual.

The average man spends his days as a sedentary lump; the superhuman man strives to keep himself in peak physical condition.

The average man rarely cracks open a book after college; the superhuman man is dedicated to lifelong learning, constantly feeding his mind with books, magazines, and newspapers and studying a wide variety of topics.

The average man cheats and fudges here and there; the superhuman man makes his word his bond and lives every day with integrity.

The average man is content with surface pleasures and material goods; the superhuman man explores the greater depths of life through meditation or prayer.

Getting Started on the Path to Becoming Superhuman

So we should strive to become superhuman in all areas of our lives, but such a task sounds, well, super-overwhelming. The reason many of us ignore the kind of moment described in the introduction is that the vista of our potential is both beautiful and enticing and overpowering and paralyzing. It’s a vast landscape that stretches outward and upward. “How will I ever be able to explore all this territory?” we think. Getting started seems too difficult, so we’d rather stay where it’s safe and comfortable.

The key is simply to take the first step. Don’t think about tackling every aspect of your life at once. Choose just one peak to climb, and once you’ve scaled that mountain, you will be strengthened and able to see things from a new view, leaving you ready to explore other areas.

But which peak should you choose first?

Deep down you know which one to pick. It has always stood in the middle of your life,  inspiring you with its majestic heights while mocking you with the fact that you’ve yet to reach the top.

Still don’t know which peak I’m talking about? Have you ever had this experience?

I believe that there are few people who have not at one time or another in their lives been startled by the power of self-revelation that comes to them through other people. I do not mean the judgments of others passed upon them…I mean the flash of light which often pierces through a dense fog of self-deception or of misunderstanding of oneself, merely from the presence of another. There are few of us I think who cannot say to someone: “You have been the light of my life.” “In thy light I have seen light.”

Surely it is so. You have come for a moment into the presence of one whose life is a silent but most eloquent rebuke of the inmost tone and temper of your own life; and as you stand within the radiance of such a presence you feel at once what you ought to be, what you might be, and what you have failed to be. Had you been told what now you see, you would not have believed it, nay, you would have protested with honest indignation that the criticism was most unfair, but standing there in the presence of one who reflects in a remarkable way those virtues in which you specially fail—your characteristic failures hidden as they are from your own eyes—you see and judge yourself. Such is the mysterious power of personal life. In his completeness you see your own incompleteness, in his success, your own failure. A person—in all the strange attractiveness of character comes before you, the incarnation of forgotten ideals and of unrealised ambitions, smothered and stifled under a rubbish heap of worldliness, selfishness, sloth and the living image of what you perhaps once dreamed you might be—pierces through all that overlies and weighs upon the soul and calls forth a faint reflection in its mirror. In seeing what you might have been you see what you are. -Self-knowledge and Self-Discipline

I know this has happened to me. I’ll meet someone who has an amazing level of some virtue or strength, to the point they’re truly radiating it, and when I encounter them and partake of their aura, it stirs a dormant desire within me; a part of myself I’ve shoved down and buried awakens to exclaim, “I too could live a life like that!” All the rationalizations for having been too lazy or too fearful to work on that part of myself evaporate in the presence of someone who could have made the same excuses but didn’t. This happens a lot as it concerns my spirituality. I get spiritually lazy and then I encounter a man who radiates intense spirituality, and I think, “Holy crap, I am seriously missing out here.”

It’s a humbling experience; it makes your stomach sink and leaves you feeling kind of depressed. Why am I not like that? Why have I wasted so much time in my life? And from this sinking feeling, two outcomes are possible-1) you can keep on kicking yourself and pitying yourself until the demands of day-to-day life dull that prick in your heart and you forget about your desire, letting it grow dormant until the next time you encounter someone who uncovers it once more. Or, you can use that prick as motivation to take some kind of step, no matter how small, toward making that desire a reality.

If you’ve had this kind of encounter, then you know exactly what area of your life in which to start working towards becoming superhuman. It is your biggest mountain peak, the one that has always beckoned to you; it is your unique center and calling as a man; it is your place to begin the adventure of self-improvement. This is your foundation as a man: once you make that area of your life the way you’ve always wanted it, that will give you the power and confidence to tackle the rest on your journey to becoming superhuman.

Remember this maxim from Marcus Aurelius:

If anything is possible for man, and peculiar to him, think that this can be attained by thee.

Ponder that.

Conclusion

People always want to know-what is manliness? As I’ve said before, my definition is really quite simple: striving for excellence and virtue in all areas of your life and fulfilling your full potential as a man. It mean stretching yourself, testing yourself, and ever seeking to become everything you can be. That’s what embracing the Art of Manliness is all about: improving every area of your life-big and small-learning the know-how to be confident and competent in every situation and the knowledge to live life more fully. Living the Art of Manliness is about wanting to be more than the average guy, and striving to be a superhuman man.

Won’t you join us? Who’s in?

{ 153 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Richard, Ogden, UT January 6, 2011 at 3:08 pm

This was another great post by AoM. Thank you for it.

102 S. January 6, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I don’t regularly post on AoM though I am an avid reader but this post… well damnit, this post took my breath away. Maybe you could make this a series, no please do make it a series! Like, Tips on Becoming Superhuman: or something. I read to the end of this and got sad the article was over so… I read it again. And now I want more. I know the journey to “super-human” is self-guided but maybe we could help each other out with tips and stuff. Just a thought, nevertheless, thanks for another amazing post.

103 Patrick January 6, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Brett,

Count me in as well. I would recommend that you pick up a copy of “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge. It does tie in Christian beliefs, but nonetheless it is an excellent read and I think you would enjoy it tremendously. Anyways, I have recently gone through your Art of Manliness book and now this post. I have come to the conclusion that you are a virtuoso and a scholar. Keep up the excellent posts and grand tales.

Yours,
Patrick

104 Gdub January 6, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Brett, what an astounding post you’ve written! It stirred my soul and encouraged me in the course I’m pursuing. Those quotes you shared, though quite meaty in length, are astounding. Thanks!

105 Guy January 7, 2011 at 11:36 am

Super, job Brett!

106 Guy January 7, 2011 at 11:40 am

Brett: The Doc Savage character was a pretty cool, self made man too.

107 Floryn January 7, 2011 at 12:18 pm

I’m in. Not there yet, but getting further every day.

108 CarlnNJ January 7, 2011 at 1:54 pm

A very powerful introduction to your blog (new here).
Leaves me torn between tears of despair and happiness; this rings so painfully true.
I will continue the fight, tooth and nail, against a Babbit-ey fate.
Thank you, thank you.

109 Vaughn G January 7, 2011 at 10:50 pm

This was an excellent post, Brett. It was the perfect way to begin the New Year.

110 Gerard January 9, 2011 at 6:51 am

Im in! IMHO, I think it really helps to be in the company people who are at a level higher than yourself.

111 Leather Fabric January 9, 2011 at 3:04 pm

Great post! Great way to kick off the New Year. Thank you!

112 Rob January 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm

I needed this post right now. Thank you.

113 Bob January 9, 2011 at 10:10 pm

My favorite definition of Manliness…
Reject Passivity
Accept responsibility
Lead Courageously
Expect the greater reward; God’s reward
I’m all in.
bob
Man Church
Chandler AZ

114 anonymous January 10, 2011 at 2:27 am

I have to say that I really enjoyed this article. However, I’ve learned that with greater knowledge of one’s self and the world comes a greater humility. The more I learn and the more I attempt to do, I realize more that I shall only scratch the surface of all that is wondrous in this universe. Interestingly enough, that doesn’t hinder my love of learning. I will continue to learn until the day that I die. Great article.

115 Sean January 10, 2011 at 1:26 pm

This was great. As a freshman in college this appeals to me quite greatly. I am in!

116 Bob January 10, 2011 at 8:54 pm

You know if we are to act like men, we must also first dress like men.. I think this spoof on Jos A Banks does a pretty good job. and a funny short video
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KbB3111WbE&feature=feedlik

117 Brian January 10, 2011 at 8:57 pm

Nice post for the New Year.

118 Christin January 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

Thank you for this greats! I can only say that you get it back!! Happy new year… Brian!

119 Chris Nelson January 11, 2011 at 9:29 am

Those moments of self-revelation hit me pretty much everyday. Usually it comes as I marvel at someone’s ability to be so successful at simply living their life, at being able to pursue something they enjoy (and if they’re lucky, make a living from it) and balance that with their personal obligations without being ground down. I wish I had that kind of grace.

120 Garett January 11, 2011 at 5:40 pm

OK,

Who is the wise guy that fed me Kyptonite?

121 Chazz January 12, 2011 at 12:08 pm

I’m IN!

122 Eric January 12, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Great post, searching questions, I’m in!

123 Charlie Bourque January 13, 2011 at 3:15 pm

I’m in. Let’s kick ass and take names.

124 Gerard Santiago January 13, 2011 at 11:29 pm

I have had one of those encounters. Oh how it feels good to be in the right state of mind again. Thanks, Brett.

125 Aaron January 14, 2011 at 1:51 pm

“Batman is a regular guy who gained his superhuman abilities on his own”

Batman doesn’t have any superhuman abilities he perfection of his abilities are still in the realm of human achievement.

I have never considered Batman a Superhero cause there is not a single part of him that would make him otherwise. A Special Tactical Soldier with special martial arts training gadgets and weapons, isn’t consider a superhero by nature. Yet they are trained to do a job that the average person without training couldn’t do.

To me Batman is what he originally was seen as, a Hero, Vigilante Detective nothing more.

126 Chris January 15, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Thanks, I needed this.

127 Evan January 16, 2011 at 1:53 am

I’m in, too.  Some of my favorite takes on the Superhuman Man:

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.” -Maximus; Gladiator

“No man was ever great without divine inspiration.” -Cicero; De Natura Deorum (II, 66)

“A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it.” – Chesterton; Everlasting Man, 1925

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” – Chesterton; Illustrated London News, 1911

It seems to me that the ordinary man must fight for something superhuman in order to be superhuman himself. In order to transcend, he must seek that which is transcendent. In order to be great, men must look to that which is greatest. We must know these things, and stand up and fight for them even when the tide of the times tells us that greatness is impossible, and ‘good’ is good enough.  

This is what it means to fight the good fight. This is what it means to be truly alive. This is, to me, what it means to be Man.

Oh yeah, one more:
“Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now…and so we’ll hunt him, because he can take it. Because he’s not a hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector…a dark knight.” -Gordon

128 Jared - Australia January 16, 2011 at 5:51 am

Great article. I’ve been a fan of your site for over a year, very inspiring!

129 Steve J January 16, 2011 at 6:33 am

A few years ago I came to the conclusion that I must strive to become more than I was living. I used to exercise and I think that was it. I was something of a grump and sad to say I was also something of a ‘yes man’ in my professional life. I resolved to change and I have not looked back. Of course, it is a journey without a final destination. However I am glad I have changed. I dress how I wish to dress, I read and study the classics, I still exercise but have also trained my creative side with writing and now acting. I am much more assertive at work and put family/home life above the demands of my profession. My goal was to be something of a ‘renaissance man’. As fine a physical specimen as I could, a scholar and poet to boot. As mentioned, it is a work in process!

130 H.T. January 16, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
Adapted From Nelson Mandela

Living a life of destiny is choosing the long term benefit over the short term. It’s picking up a book instead of turning on the TV. Its being a good influence over being a “friend.” It’s going against the crowd. Its speaking up. Its disagreeing. Its about doing whats right over doing whats nice. Its about figuring out what is right. It is choosing virtue in a corrupt world. It is finding things to love in this corrupt world. . . finding reasons to live. It is having a vision of what you want to be and what you want the world to be.

Advertisements tell us that manliness is football, beer, women, cheeseburgers and trucks. But, there is a dichotomy in advertising. At some level, marketers appeal to what we already believe and our attitudes. At another level advertising tells us what to believe and dictates our attitudes. Brett, your blog is a breath of reason in a confused world.

131 David January 16, 2011 at 4:25 pm

Im in as well. It seems to me that the key to this as with any attempt to improve or change a habit is just to be mindful, be aware of what is going on in your life and act when you become aware that you aren’t going in the direction you want to go.

132 VR January 17, 2011 at 3:30 am

thanks for another great post.

133 Joshua January 17, 2011 at 11:09 pm

I think the idea about helping each other out is great. Start a forum topic maybe???
My First stepping stone will be getting in excellent physical shape. It like hit me in the face while I was reading. I never considered physical shape something spiritual though. But thinking about it that way now makes so much sense.

134 Ryan January 18, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Count me in!

135 Matt January 18, 2011 at 7:34 pm

This is truly a great read. So much wisdom packed into this article, awesome stuff.

136 D.B. January 19, 2011 at 11:33 am

I read this and then read it again- then I printed it and carried it around in my attache and read it several times further. Eventually I’m sure I will refer to this as an epiphany.
As it stands I am absorbing the words as though it was a story told by a wise grandfather extolling me to live a better life. I want to fully absorb the meaning, aim and then fire.
Well done.

Best,
DB

137 serg January 21, 2011 at 7:26 am

I see you like the “superhero” analogy to your point… but I believe you should look at the men who have actually accomplished being a “superhero”.

…I will give you the greatest one of them all to date: Timogen a.k.a Genghis Khan

138 Carter January 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Very inspiring!

139 Brodi January 22, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Timogen?! Maybe Thrasymachus as well? I think an important element missing on this subject is that mankind is supposed to conform to its purpose in life and in this world. Virtue is what makes human creatures bear the semblance of humanity. Timogen and men like him epitomize the “might-makes-right” philosophy which is not virtuous at all. In fact, the danger of constant introspective concentration is that we will be blind to the proper standard of “perfected” humanity, or for men, manliness. Only with our eyes on God, that is Jesus Christ, the perfect unblemished Lamb of God, can we have the appropriate standard and source of strength by which we do become “great men.”

140 Anthony Smitha January 23, 2011 at 12:37 am

I’m in! This is an inspiring post!

141 Nick January 23, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Really moving stuff. I’m all for it. Thanks for another great read.

Nick

142 Nathan January 25, 2011 at 6:19 am

stirring stuff. I’m in.

143 Marco Bautista- Philippines January 25, 2011 at 12:51 pm

This is awesome stuff. Something really useful for every man and father molding their son’s. Thanks Brett.

144 Evan Jones January 27, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Reading this I realized I had witnessed ‘superhuman-ness’ growing up through my grandfather. I feel I should share an emphasize that greatness does not require copious monetary resources, extensive connections, or fame. My grandfather was a blue-collar worker for the phone company who achieved much through his own modest means, and in almost ninety-one years of living had:
-Received the Legion of Merit while serving in WWII
-Built a camper and sailboat by hand, of which the boat is still used by my family
-Become an amateur calligrapher
-Set foot on five of the continents (all but Australia and Antarctica) in his travels
-Contributed thousands of dollars and hours to various charitable organizations (his favorite was Habitat for Humanity)
-Been a lifelong patron of the arts
-Logged tens-of-thousands of miles on his racing bicycle in long-distance rides, a hobby he didn’t start until retirement, and continued the rest of his life
-and much more I do not know about because he was quite humble and quiet about all of this.
Like I said, greatness like this does not require fame and fortune, nor are they products of its achievements. I shared all of this in the hopes that people may be inspired through realizing greatness comes from within and it is what we make ourselves to be, rather than what we start out as.

145 Richard January 28, 2011 at 5:19 am

Great post! I’ve recently had some profound changes in my life, and even more recently decided to makes changes within myself. This site is a gift to anyone looking to be the man they were meant to be!

146 Scott February 1, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Yesterday I found your web-site. Today, my life has been changed!

What an amazing read. What amazing comments.I salute you all gentlemen. It is a pleasure to know that I am in your company!

“Salute”

147 Hunter December 8, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Nice post. I wonder in your summary too often we equate superhuman with elation or approval for coworkers, media, the public and do not think of superhuman so much as the unsung work of being a great husband and father. I have done many challenging things and accomplished much but in time, all of that washes away except the contributions made at home.

148 isaac March 5, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Great post, i would love to see a series of this. pure brilliant and inspiring

149 RL Bates August 11, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Brett,

I visited the Huckberry store and saw the KLHIP ULTIMATE CLIPPER. I think properly trimmed nails are essential for being a well groomed man. I have been on a quest for proper nail clippers for a very long time!
Regards,
Bob

150 Nabeel November 8, 2013 at 6:04 am

Brilliant, thank you for your efforts they are far reaching indeed.

151 Andreias December 25, 2013 at 8:35 pm

I’ve been on this journey since middle school. The concept is called apotheosis or self-deification. I’ve just recently rediscovered my manhood and find that spirituality and discipline are integral parts of this. I also think this would be much easier for men to do in a healthy way (without blaming feminism or women) if there was a foundation for it in our communities. Nowadays guys want to be players (PUA) — independent men who don’t really respect women. When I look at some MRA posts it reminds me of this exact lack.

152 Marc January 3, 2014 at 8:14 pm

A little over two decades ago, my life changed drastically, and not for the better. I thought I was a strong and very disciplined individual. Then it happened, my life crumbled all around me. I broke….completely. Since then, I have tried to be the person I was supposed to be (several times) and have failed. I think it’s time to try again. Thank you for the inspiration.

153 Fred February 23, 2014 at 9:09 pm

“A hero can be anyone. Even a man doing something as simple and reassuring as putting a coat around a young boy’s shoulders to let him know that the world hadn’t ended.”

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