In this week’s episode I talk to author Kenneth W. Royce about his new book Modules For Manhood: What Every Man Should Know. Some of you might know Kenneth from his book Boston’s Gun Bible.
- How famous gunfighter Jeff Cooper (creator of the Cooper Color Code) inspired Kenneth to write Modules for Manhood
- The skills every man should have before leaving his parents’ home
- The decline of manhood and the rise of Ortega y Gasset’s “Common Man” and how it’s leading us to Idiocracy
- Why “soft skills” are just as important for men to learn as the hard ones
- What young men can do now to become better men
- What fathers can do to help their sons
- And much more!
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Read the Transcript
Brett: Brett McKay here and welcome to another episode of the “Art of Manliness” podcast. Now if you were to make a list of all the skills, know how, information that every young man should know before he leaves his parents home what would you put on that list?
Well our guest today has set out on that epic journey to create such a list. His name is Kenneth W. Royce and his book about this list of everything that a man should know is called “Modules For Manhood – What Every Man Must Know”. Kenneth W. Royce is a writer, adventurer, hunter, I’m sure many of our listeners are familiar with his Boston’s Gun Bible. In our discussion Kenneth and I talk about “Modules of Manhood”, things that he thinks every man should know, why there is such a decline in manliness and masculinity in our world today and what young men can start doing now, today to become better men and what fathers and mothers can do as well to help shape good solid men for our culture. Truly interesting discussion, fascinating, lot of fun, you’re going to enjoy, so stay tuned.
Kenneth W. Royce welcome to the show.
Kenneth: Hey, it’s a pleasure Brett, thanks for having me on.
Brett: Let’s start off by talking a bit about your background before you get into your book because when you emailed me and I looked into it I was like man this guy is pretty manly. So tell us a bit about your background.
Kenneth: Well I grew up in Texas so manliness is part of the scheme down there [laughing] or at least we would like to think so. Grew up in a small town, I had fathers who hunted and had outdoor stuff for us to do, lots of travel domestic and international and lived near the Gulf coast. So we were on sail boots a lot too. I think I had a pretty good upbringing that is good for a boy getting into manhood.
Brett: What do you do now as a grown man you have done some pretty cool stuff too?
Kenneth: I’ve been a motorcyclist for a long, long time and I’ve been overseas with motorcycles and done trips there. So I still do that I have two 1000 CC European machines, ones on off road, ones more of a street bike. I hunt a lot and enjoy safaring in Africa, I’ve been over five times after the third time I wrote a book, kind of a how to for the American deer and elk hunters who’s always thought about going to Africa but didn’t know if he could swing it. That’s called safari dreams and I’m into flying quite a bit single engine land, some rotocraft, glider I would like to get a seaplane rating this year and a couple of other things so, let’s see what else.
Guns, guns have always been a part of my life, yeah. Went to some of the big buck shooting schools back in the 90s such as Thunder Ranch and Gun Sights and then became an instructor, sort of an adhoc instructor nothing very formal with a school or anything like that but I’d go to whoever someone could accumulate six or more students and I travel to their state and put on a personalized weekend of instruction. I enjoy doing that very much because in order to really know something you have to teach it. It’s good for me to be a shooting instructor because it just hones my skills also as I pass them onto others. So basically guns, hunting, shooting, flying, motorcycling. I’m not a rock climber so my manliness can still bump up a notch or two with some other things.
Brett: No, that’s pretty cool, it’s a life of adventure, its really neat.
Kenneth: Yes, that’s right.
Brett: Ok, so your book is called “Modules For Manhood – What Every Man Must Know” and it’s geared towards the younger men like teenagers, early twenties. What inspired you to write this book?
Kenneth: Well growing up you know maturing as one does through manhood and it’s a journey not a destination. I still have ways to go at my age but growing up I noticed things that I didn’t squared away or things that were just plain missing, and modules of my own manhood. It was a personal remedial and maturity process, I tried to get rid of those along the way. Something that Jeff Cooper wrote, Late Lieutenant Colonel Marine Corps Jeff Cooper was the founder of the Gunsite Training Academy in Paulden, Arizona and it was the first shooting academy for civilians in the country formed in I think early 70s. Just before he died in 2006, in his commentaries which is online if you search for Jeff Cooper commentaries you’ll find it.
He wrote something basically about what every young man should know before he leaves his father’s household before he is 21 or even 18. He had a long list of things and they were pretty disparate but you know they make a lot of sense if you read them. He’s basically understanding history, understanding how finances work, knowing how to speak a language, being capable in unarmed and armed combats, being able to ride a motorcycle, fly a light airplane, some computer skills, knowing how to write all sorts of different kinds of letters whether they are letter of condolence, a letter of job application, a letter of complaint etc. He basically said that fathers need to make sure that their young sons before they leave the household as young eagles are not fledglings and falling out of the nest but can actually soar on their own young wings and be able to cope with the world in a competent fashion.
That was Coopers overarching advice was that men should know how to cope and he lamented the fact that the modern man cannot cope except for one or two narrow areas of which they’re usually in a profession for.
Brett: Interesting, so you kind of took that idea and then expanded on it?
Kenneth: Yeah, in 2006 he wrote that quote and by 2008 I was a couple of hundred pages into what became volume one of three of “Modules of Manhood”.
Brett: Alright, that’s awesome. So how did you decide on the topics you covered in this book? Was it like life experience or looking at the young men that you know in your life? How was the decision process?
Kenneth: Actually both, the second part of that looking at young men and seeing what they needed. A lot of what they needed were stuff that I already have because I’m older and I come from not a Gen X or millennial generation. Some of those things back then in the baby boomer were just more often imparted to a young man and they are not now. What was difficult was understanding not being egocentric about Ok, I know this but I don’t know this, so I’m going to write a book about what I don’t know because I figure everyone else doesn’t know that either. Some of that plays out but a lot of it doesn’t. Young men basic manners, basic courtesy, social graces incredibly lacking and I make the point in the book in Volume I that if you learn some basic manners in life you will be way ahead of your peers. I mean you’ll look like a swab James Bond if you pull a lady’s chair out to the dinner or if you know how to speak to the hostess properly or if you know how check into a hotel without looking like a rube.
That doesn’t take much, so I’d say the social graces will go very far, that’s the one thing that I’ve seen that young men just don’t have, just a sense of style, a little bit of class, just wasn’t–. It’s just not part of a generation, it’s not really their fault but–.
Brett: Why is that, you talk about there is a decline in manhood in America and you mentioned that a lot of the stuff that is in this book was sort of imparted like naturally to young men. But I’d like to hear more, why do you think there’s a decline of manhood in America? What’s your take on that because everyone’s got a take on it, everyone’s got a opinion on it.
Brett: Sure I think there’s a decline generally in humanity across the world. It’s not just an American thing, it’s not a contemporaneous thing, it is not even a male thing. If you go back to the Spanish philosopher Ortega Gasset, his book called “Revolt Of The Masses” written in 1930 and what he described and lamented was the rise of the so called common man, meaning that the average person in Europe or America is now specialized enough and his labor is worth enough in that specialization of a career that he can afford a middle class existence, he can afford international travel, he can afford nicer homes and so forth. But he’s not really –, it’s a phrase in Poland, and I’ll be nice about it, he defecates above the level of his sphincter. That could be translated as you wish and this was Gasset’s theory that the common man defecates higher than a sphincter and he doesn’t know it.
He thinks he’s a more complete and whole person than he really is. He takes civilization for granted when basically civilization become so complicated that not one man can comprehend it. This has been going on for nearly 100 years, now as far as why I think lately especially since World War II, since the sixties even to focus more upon it, I think there are a lot of pressures and others a lot of carrots and a lot of sticks to lure people out of quality of their humanity, to lure people down the easy path, the wide path, that downhill path, the well lit path when the struggle to be a complete and mature and loving person you know that is a narrow path, it’s uphill, it’s tangly and you’ll feel quite alone doing it. So there’s a lot of peer pressure to go the public way and the common way and there are very few individuals I think inherently just have the nature in them to find their own uphill difficult path as an individual.
Most people I think would rather be part of the masses and that’s been encouraged through media, through all sorts of social engineering.
Brett: Yeah, like the movie about rise of the common man “It’s Idiocracy”, have you seen that movie?
Brett: Sometimes you look around and it’s like oh my gosh, it’s idiocracy it’s happening. It is coming true.
Kenneth: One thing, I saw a video it was in the sixties and it was filmed by I think the Navy or the Air Force and it was basically trying to show sailors or airmen I forget which branch you know social races. They had two guys, that had a guy who was mister spit and polish and knew all the courtesies and manners and really clean cut knew how to go about it and then they contrasted him against the rube,
Brett: You know the slob. Now iis corny to watch now when a kind of sad but what I really caught out of it was the rube of 1966 would’ve been David Niven today. It’s gone down faster than they even expected and it’s really pretty sad.
Brett: Yeah I love this old social etiquette movies like the Cornett films, big man, yeah you are right. I’m a big collector of vintage men’s magazines and I am always amazed that looking at the pictures, there is this one that’s cute where like college guys and shows like the wardrobe for the college men and it’s like a suit and a tie, a hat. Now I mean no one dresses like that on a college campus. The definitions like casual wear back in the 1940s is like you had to wear a pair of khakis, a button down shirt and a vest. Casual wear now is like t-shirts, cargo shorts and flip flops. You can wear that to class.
Kenneth: Yeah, you can wear that to a nice dinner…international plain. It’s pretty disgusting.
Brett: People don’t have a sense of–, yeah the social grace is that, we just think about ourselves, that’s the ideas like. We’re living in an internal world and don’t think about the group enough.
Kenneth: Exactly the public experience,
Brett: That’s an important part of life.
Kenneth: It is, why men who dressed up and wore hats and ladies wore dresses till 50 years ago.
Brett: But yeah you’re right, the media and just our culture, it fosters a consumer mentality and me first–. I am kind of going off track here but I like this idea like the private, the Greeks, the word idiot that we have like that meant private, that you are a private man back in I think in Rome or in Greek. If someone calls you an idiot and Greece and then early Latin I guess so it’s Rome, they’re saying you have no conception of public life and that you are so involved in your own world. We are literally surrounded by idiots because oftentimes people aren’t thinking about others around but the public experience of life.
Kenneth: Yes, yeah you’ll see people yelling across a public room at each other, hey Harold, when’s checkout time across the hotel lobby instead of just walking 30 feet over and hey, Harold, you know. No conception of other people, so yeah I’d say selfishness is a huge subset of the common man.
Brett: Very cool stuff. Let’s get into the book and some of the topics you hit in the first volume. What I thought was interesting was when people think “Modules of Manhood” they will think oh yeah he’s going to show me how to shoot a gun, he’s going to show me how to fly a plane.
Kenneth: Rich Knox.
Brett: Exactly, throw a caber or toss a caber, but most of the skills are like those soft skills like communications you talked about the social graces, persuasion and we talked about this earlier there is this sort of decline amongst young men who have trouble with these things. Why do you think young men and I think even like you would argue too that young women today, I must’ve been talking about this in a roundabout way but why do we have such a hard time with soft skills like selling or persuading or rhetoric or these type of things?
Kenneth: I think it just hasn’t been taught. You mentioned young girls, young girls today are cruder than young men were in my age. It’s gotten that bad. But yeah you are right, in Volume I I do start with the soft skills, I try to start building someone from the inside out because that’s the only way it can be done.
My first chapter is understanding. Understanding what? Understanding a lot about a lot of different things, just how the world works. Dr. Phil has a really good book called I think “Ten Life Lessons”, I highly recommend it, one of the best self help books out there. One of the ten is you either get it or you don’t in this Texas fashion. He is right, this was what I was trying to convey in the understanding chapter. I talk about all sorts of things from people to finances and economics, just little vignettes of you know things that you just have to get in life.
One of them, I’m just flipping through routinely – Accomplishment is what creates happiness> Happiness is not the same thing as joy. All things permissible not all things profitable that is quoting Paul from First Corinthians 612, worry solves anything, trust your gut, whatever you think about you will do, whatever you do you will become. We’re spiritual beings having a physical experience. You know just basic little building blocks about how life works and who you are. So I have to start there just to get the reader hopefully somewhat on the same page with where I’m going to go after that.
Then Chapter II, I get into thinking truth and wisdom. Then Chapter III integrity and character, Chapter IV is a big important chapter conquering – conquering yourself, conquering your fear, depression, laziness, anger, patience, pride. You see where I’m going with this, if you don’t have these things, it’s ducks in a row it doesn’t matter about your career and which college you choose, you’re going to make a hash of it anyway.
Brett: Yeah, very cool. So one of the things I love about your book and keep on flipping through it but the way it is presented, a lot of it is like quotes and vignettes and excerpts from other books, from other thinkers, from other writers. I’m curious because you can flip through any section and there is some kind of cool thought.
Kenneth: Yeah, there is a nugget.
Brett: There is a nugget, exactly. So I’m curious about this like how you collect all these quotes and all these things? Do you have a commonplace book, how do you collect all that sort of stuff?
Kenneth: I used to be a quotation collector nut, right after high school and into college. Any quotation book I could find at a used book store I grabbed up. I’ve Bartletts and all those, I’ve went through them, I’ve read 100,000 quotations I’m sure and I probably kept 2000 or 3000 of them. How I started writing Brett was started writing quotations.
I’d have an insight about a particular subject, and a witty way I thought to say it and that’s how I started writing. A lot of my quotations, if you ever see something by Dressed and James that was a name I was going to use. So over the years I’ve got a vast archive of quotations and a lot of people kind of complain politely that your books are always full of quotations especially this one. I got to thinking about it and in my way of taking a reader into success as a human is this – I take them into a gold mine shaft and as we walk through that mine shaft my job is to scratch the wall and show where the vein of gold is. It’s not my job to be with them with a pickaxe and shovel and a wheelbarrow and all that to actually do the mining but I do with my experience in this walk them through that mine shaft and scratch the walls on each side and I say there’s a vein of gold, you need to get at that later, here is another one, get at that you know when you have time and so forth.
That’s just why I can get away with so to speak merely offering a quotation for a subset of a subject. The quote contains all the notes, the thinker having scratched a wall and showing them where the vein of gold is. That’s all I have to do, the rest is up to them to build that themselves and do the mining.
Brett: Alright, so many of our listeners are young men who your book is for. What do you think is one thing that they can start doing today that will have the most payoff in becoming men, men of value.
Kenneth: That’s easy. Turn off the TV, get off the couch, cut your video screen entertainment time as much to zero as possible. Most guys spend a thousand hours or more a year on video whether it’s Skype or the internet or gaming or whatever, thousand hours a year. You know that’s almost three hours a day. So gosh in that time if you took a thousand hours a year and picked any one of the three things I’m going to read to you, you could master those three skills in an hour a day a piece probably. Then the next year pick another tip.
Alright so speak an entirely new language well, own basic and reflexive skills in a solid martial art, become a confident dancer ballroom, swings, salsa whatever, learn to fly a small airplane, become a private pilot. That takes only 70 hours, it takes about nine or ten thousand dollars also, ride motorcycles, take up sailing, become proficient in a small boat, get into public speaking and master this important art, learn to write any kind of a letter, become an incredible cook using ingredients from scratch, play guitar or piano decently with many songs in memory, learn dozens of poems to recite from memory, totally transform your body through vigorous exercise, I’d say this is one of the first ones. Learn home construction welding, how to fix cars.
So take the guy in high school, if he wants to impress the ladies he should do three things – get fit, learn to fight, learn to dance. Next year learn guitar, learn a foreign language, fly an airplane. Talk about Studley and in two years they’ll think he’s James Bond by the time he is a senior in high school even in college. But there is only 24 hours a day we’re only awake for 16 or so of them and you’ve just got to get rid of video screen entertainment. Carve out a real life, real accomplishment and then you’ll become a real guy who can attract a real lady. A real man for a change, quit surrogate living, that’s what I’d say.
Brett: Yeah, that’s something I’m actually writing it out right now is in order to become a man you don’t want to spend all your time living in vicariously through another man. Actually do those things. For those who are listening who are dads, who are fathers what can they do to help their sons grow into good solid men?
Kenneth: Oh that’s easy too. Spend time with your sons. It almost doesn’t matter what you do. The average amount of time per week American and British men spend with their sons is less than half an hour per week. Yeah it’s just minutes per day, “oh, son how are you doing?, how’s school? Oh great, Yeah OK I’ve got to go do something else” and son wants to do something else too. Because father’s not taking them out and doing things. My fathers, I’d a father and a stepfather, my father’s did OK here and there but there are a lot of stuff that they could have shown me, could have told me had they just taken a little more time. Then I’m not saying this to disparage them on the air, it’s just life. I think any son could say that about any father almost. But yeah take your sons and do something, tell them how the world works, talk to them about women, talk about sex because otherwise they are going to learn something lousy about it at school or through their peers.
Brett: What about women? Do they play a role helping them become men?
Kenneth: Absolutely, absolutely. In Chapter VI of my Boston’s Gun Bible I’ve got three pages in the women and guns chapter. It’s basically saying that women need to have higher standards because men are only going to be as good as what’s demanded of them. If women give men a pass on manners, on manliness, on responsibility, on what they can do in life to provide for the family, if women go slack on that, men are efficient we’re only going to do as much as we have to. It’s just the way we’re built because we have a lot of things to do so we are not going to overdo something if there’s no payoff for it. So women need to like put men through you know some courtship rituals like the animal kingdom, you know saying I’m incredible, check me out.
The male sparrow has to go through more to get Mrs. Sparrow than the human male does. That’s just not right. If women complain there’re no good men out there, it’s like well start demanding good men. The general rebuttal I hear from women about that, well you know we don’t want to be single and then some other slut is going to be just you know say fine, we’ll take him as he is, we don’t need quality, that’s understandable, you sisters need to get together.
And within 10 years if they did they could really ramp up the manly qualitiness in this country because men would have no choice.
Brett: Yeah, it’s interesting, women I love reading history and I’m always –, yeah the effect that women have on men. Like the Spartans right, the women played a huge role in shaping that Spartan ethos once they were warriors. Like they would shame men basically for not living up to the Spartan way of life
Kenneth: Yeah, come back behind your shield or on it.
Brett: Yeah, or like moms would if they saw cowardice in their son they’d say you know lift up their skirt and said come back under here where you belong you’re not fit to be a man yet. We don’t do that.
Kenneth: No, there’s no shame in being … and there should be and the women can start with that.
Brett: That happened in World War II and World War I where if I think in Europe if there is like some deserters like that the women would like throw chamber pots at them and bricks.
Kenneth: Wow, dying in battle is worse than that.
Brett: Yeah exactly I mean you’d probably just want to die in battle. Alright so this book “Modules in Manhood” is the first in a three part volume collection. What can we expect in the next two?
Kenneth: Before I answer that let me just get a quick little rejoinder to the last thing. The other thing women can do is understand what men are, what manhood’s about and not get in the way. When they say, oh you two guys, no, no don’t fight you guys you know–. Sometimes guys need a fight to get something out. So women need to understand how men operate because it’s much different than women. So stay out of the way.
As far as the volume collection, Volume II will be out in late September and I think the Amazon page is either up or will be up soon. What I get into in volume two is a lot more action and doing oriented stuff – teaching, deciding, prioritizing your time, solving problems great chapter, power, understanding what power is, what power you have, what power people have over you and how to deal with that, leading, working in success, savings and debt, money and inflation, taxes, governments, very hard chapter for me to write because I know so much about it, it’s hard to nail it down.
The last chapter in Volume II will be fighting and I don’t say self defense, I don’t say martial arts. It’s fighting, everyone is fighting for something. Even an old lady in a nursing home is fighting about something.
Volume III – eating, health, moving, meeting, locomoting yourself around the planet, surviving, pursuing a woman, loving a woman, husbanding, fathering believing in god, how to know god, dealing with suffering and the last chapter sort of a end cap called “living-successful living”
So I think the chronology in the hierarchy makes general sense and I think these are successive building blocks that will be helpful. I’m very excited to get the two other volumes out this year.
Brett: Awesome, yeah sounds great. I can’t wait to check them out.
Kenneth: Yeah, very good.
Brett: Kenneth W Royce, thank you so much for your time. So we can find your book on Amazon right?
Kenneth: Yeah, Amazon.com or my publishing house javelinpress.com, cash orders get a signed copy personally from me.
Brett: Very cool. OK, Kenneth W. Royce, thank you for your time, it’s been a pleasure.
Kenneth: Likewise here, look forward to the next time.
Brett: Our guest there was Kenneth W. Royce and he’s the author of “Modules For Manhood – What Every Man Must Know” and you can find that on Amazon.com or javelinpress.com.
Well that wraps up another edition of the Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the Art of Manliness website at artofmanliness.com and until next time stay manly.