This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Hard Times Create Strong Men" by Stefan Aarnio. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What is a man’s purpose? Why is a man’s strength defined by how he works?
In Hard Times Create Strong Men, Stefan Aarnio says that for a man to be strong, he must work. His strength is defined by how much he provides for his family, which should be his main purpose in life.
Check out more on what it means to be a man and how to fulfill your purpose, according to Aarino.
How to Be a Strong Man at Work
To be a strong man, Aarnio argues that you must work. This is a man’s purpose: to do whatever allows you to provide for your woman and your family. Aarnio contends that if you stop working, you lose your purpose and so lose your masculinity; therefore, both retirement and relying on the government for survival are unmanly. You should always be chasing as much money and power as possible, as both allow you to control your life, which is inherently manly.
(Shortform note: Over 70% of Americans share Aarnio’s view that men should be able to provide financially for their families. And while working forever to do so may seem foreign to some modern Americans, the concept of retirement is relatively new. In The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel explains that prior to World War II, most Americans couldn’t afford to retire. But Housel disagrees that you should constantly chase money and power. Rather, he recommends that you figure out how much money is enough to keep the lifestyle you desire, then learn to be happy with that amount. Otherwise, you may risk your existing wealth for wealth you don’t need—such as by risking your life savings on the stock market to buy a boat.)
Aarnio specifies that you must choose the right work. At first, it does not matter whether you enjoy what you do; focus only on whether your work provides you with enough money to survive (and let your dependents survive, too). It’s only by becoming capable of providing for yourself and any dependents that you earn the privilege to focus on finding work that you want to do. To achieve this goal, Aarnio recommends that you focus your energies on your passions in your free time. Such passions may include artistic pursuits, but they should also include goals like becoming an entrepreneur and running your own business.
(Shortform note: If you struggle to work at a boring job because it’s unfulfilling, do as the authors of Your Money or Your Life suggest and redefine the word “work.” Choose to see work as any activity you do that aligns with your values, purpose, and dreams—whether it’s paid or unpaid. Broadening your definition of work in this way allows you to balance work you do and don’t want to do. Furthermore, acknowledge that the work you’re passionate about may never turn a profit—even becoming an entrepreneur is risky since 65% of businesses fail within 10 years. Acknowledging this risk will keep you motivated to pursue boring, paid work and even find it fulfilling because it allows you to pursue what matters most to you.)
Avoid Immediately Gratifying Pastimes
Aarnio warns that successfully pursuing your passions requires avoiding immediately gratifying pastimes such as video games. Men find video games addictive because they allow men to regularly troubleshoot issues, which men love doing. But video games only provide the illusion of accomplishment; in reality, playing video games wastes time that you could be spending on more productive pursuits. Moreover, it reduces your appeal to women, who dislike when men play video games because such a man is not working toward greater success and is therefore unmanly.
(Shortform note: If your video game usage interferes with other aspects of your life, you may have gaming disorder. Ninety-four percent of gaming addicts are men, perhaps due to a difference in male and female brain functions: One study found that men who gamed even for a short period had greater neural activation than women. Of course, the fact that you enjoy video games doesn’t mean that you’re addicted to them. However, experts recommend that you reevaluate your video game playing if you’re using it to distract yourself from other issues in your life. Additionally, pay attention if your playing upsets your partner: She may dislike it not because she views you as unmanly but because she’s feeling neglected in your relationship.)
Additionally, Aarnio recommends that you avoid pornography. When a man ejaculates, he expends tremendous sexual energy. If this ejaculation involves sex with a woman he loves, he benefits from the battery effect. This is a supercharging of your ability to fulfill your purpose that stems from the exchange of feminine and masculine energies during sex.
(Shortform note: Aarnio describes the health benefits of avoiding pornography, but how do you actually do so? Experts suggest several methods, such as installing a porn blocker on all your devices or joining an online community dedicated to avoiding pornography.)
However, ejaculating to pornography provides no benefits. Despite this, many men regularly masturbate to the pornography that’s now easily accessible on the internet. Aarnio recommends that instead of wasting your sexual energy and time masturbating to internet pornography, you should take advantage of what Think and Grow Rich author Napoleon Hill called “sexual transmutation”: Redirect your sexual energy into creative efforts. Your sexual energy is a powerful creative force that you can harness to achieve financial or artistic success, especially because it allows you to connect with the spiritual realm that provides you with world-changing ideas.
(Shortform note: Other cultures make arguments similar to Hill’s and Aarnio’s regarding the power of semen retention. Notably, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe that semen is essential sexual energy and if you don’t ejaculate, you can transmute that energy into mental energy by meditating. But if you ejaculate too often, you’ll experience negative impacts on your health—like memory loss or reduced energy levels—that may impact your ability to succeed. That said, not everybody who stops masturbating experiences such benefits: Several participants in a yearly month-long no-masturbation challenge felt no change in their lives.)
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Here's what you'll find in our full Hard Times Create Strong Men summary:
- Why modern Western men are weak, leading to civilization decline
- How to be a strong man at work and in relationships
- Why pickup artistry doesn't lead to fulfilling relationships