Hard Times Create Strong Men: Book Overview

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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Why does Aarnio claim that Western men are weak? How are weak men destroying society? What can men do to become stronger?

In his book Hard Times Create Strong Men, Stefan Aarnio shares why Western men have grown weak and why this weakness is a problem. He also lays out his definition of a strong man and his ideas on how to be a strong man at work and in relationships.

Read below for a brief Hard Times Create Strong Men book overview.

Hard Times Create Strong Men by Stefan Aarnio

In the Hard Times Create Strong Men book, Stefan Aarnio argues that modern Western men are weak—and this weakness will lead to the decline of Western civilization, especially America. To avoid this, men must learn to be strong by taking ownership of every aspect of their lives so that they can defend the practices and ideologies that make America great.

Aarnio was an award-winning Canadian real estate investor who authored several books on topics ranging from masculinity to business. He wrote Hard Times Create Strong Men in just 11 days and published it in 2018. His book combines original insights with extensive quotations from others, notably The Way of Men by Jack Donovan and The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida. Aarnio passed away from cancer in 2020. 

Aarnio’s Life: A Primer

The lessons in Aarnio’s book stem from his own life. Growing up, Aarnio lacked a strong masculine role model. His father was unable to sustain a successful business and struggled financially. He also couldn’t sustain a successful relationship; Aarnio’s mother lost her attraction to his father because she was forced to support him financially, and she ultimately divorced him. Aarnio thus had to learn how to function well as a man from his own studies and experiences as an adult.

Aarnio decided to share these lessons on manliness after an encounter with his employees. Aarnio, who ran a real estate business, returned from vacation to find that his employees were neglecting their duties. When asked why, the male employees gave him several excuses for not doing their jobs—like that they didn’t love their work or that they thought he was “mean.” Aarnio couldn’t afford to fire them. So instead, he lectured them on “how to be a man”—a speech that none of them had ever heard from their fathers. These men then turned their behavior around and later thanked Aarnio for having that talk with them. This experience made Aarnio realize that many men didn’t know how to function well in the modern world and led him to write his book.

Why Western Men Are Weak

Why are most modern men—such as Aarnio’s employees—weak?  In this section, we’ll explain what went wrong with Western men. Namely, Aarnio argues that men have grown weak due to the cyclical nature of history, a weakening of traditional gender roles, and a turning away from Judeo-Christian religious values.

How has the cyclical nature of history contributed to weaker men? Aarnio contends that history operates in 80-year cycles, following the storyline of the poem by G. Michael Hopf that inspired the title of this book: “Hard times create strong men/Strong men create good times/Good times create weak men/Weak men create hard times.” 

From 1940-1960, American men faced hard times (such as World War II) and so grew strong. These strong men created good times from 1960-1980, as evidenced by the American manufacturing boom. But then, the widespread approval of feminism weakened men from 1980-2000. And since 2000, these weak men have been paving the way for hard times via their reactions to world events like the 2008 banking crisis—and hard times will begin anew in 2020. 

The Problem With Weak Men

We’ve now discussed why modern Western men are weak—but why does this matter? Aarnio argues that this matters because unless men become strong, Western Judeo-Christian society will face destruction from two possible sources: Communism and Islam.

How Communism Might Destroy Western Society

Citing an interview with Yuri Bezmenov, an ex-KGB agent who revealed Soviet spy secrets, Aarnio argues that Marxist powers like Russia are currently deep into a campaign to “subvert” or destroy modern Western culture and install communism instead. This is inherently bad because people die in Communist societies; The Black Book of Communism suggests that the death toll of the ideology is nearly 100 million.

According to Bezmenov, the first two stages of this campaign were: 1) a systematic effort to destroy the morals, values, and beliefs of American society by promoting ideas that contradicted these values, and 2) getting these ideas promoted in institutions. Aarnio argues that both stages were successful. As evidence, he points to the fact that Americans have largely stopped practicing Judeo-Christian values and now instead worship the “new gods,” or false gods, of money, science, and atheism.

Money used to be backed by gold and so inherently valuable; now, it’s a false god because the US no longer runs on the gold standard. In 1968, when the US still had the gold standard, you had to work about 32 hours on minimum wage to earn an ounce of gold; in 2018, you must work nearly 175 hours to earn an ounce of gold. In this way, taking the US off the gold standard helped destroy traditional family values because it ensured that women have to work to survive in the modern world. 

Additionally, Aarnio argues that science—or what we can learn based on what we observe—is also a false god. The science that universities teach does not reflect a genuine quest for knowledge. Rather, universities only teach supposedly scientific ideas that they can use to support their Marxist ideals. Moreover, so-called science is not even economically useful to university students—cutting-edge science takes so long to be published that it’s outdated by the time it reaches the students, and so it doesn’t help them get lucrative jobs in emergent fields and leaves them economically disadvantaged. 

Aarnio also argues that we are currently in what Bezmenov identifies as the third stage of subversion: crisis. As is typical of this stage, the United States is currently experiencing a period of intense turmoil, with violence, protests, and political unrest. Many people want a socialist-style government to solve society’s current problems. This will inevitably lead to either civil war or invasion.

How Islam Might Destroy Western Society

It’s not just Communism; Aarnio suggests that the strong men of non-Western societies may also destroy Western societies. This is because modern Western Christians have grown tolerant (and therefore weak) and are as such vulnerable to attack by strong, intolerant groups—in particular, Muslims.

Aarnio explains that Christians are weaker than Muslims because Christianity is 500 years older than Islam. 500 years ago, Christians were just as strong and intolerant as Muslims are today. But in the past 500 years, Christians have evolved past this intolerance and grown more tolerant and thus weaker. As a result, they’re vulnerable to attack by strong, intolerant groups—like those who practice Islam. Being attacked by Muslims would be problematic because Islamic values are incompatible with modern-day Christian values.

Aarnio proposes that the Islamic ideology may take over Western society and replace our Judeo-Christian values in one of two ways. First, this may occur via the increase in the Muslim population. Muslim immigrants to Western countries are having more babies than Judeo-Christian citizens. These babies may grow up to vote in Islamic values that are incompatible with Western ideals and so transform the United States into a Muslim country. 

Alternatively, the third-world Islamic powers of the Middle East or Africa may invade the United States—just as groups that lack wealth have invaded groups that have wealth throughout history. To illustrate the likelihood of this happening, Aarnio compares the fall of Rome with the modern-day West. Rome’s wealth led it to dismiss Germanic tribes as too weak to conquer them and focus their energies instead on indulging their vices—such as binge-eating and having orgies—thus becoming more tolerant and weaker. 

Similarly, America is ignoring its real problems—like a lack of strong men—in favor of trivial issues, like whether trans women should be permitted to play in women’s sports leagues. Eventually, the Islamic countries we dismiss as a threat will invade the United States, just as Germanic peoples invaded Rome. 

What Makes a Strong Man?

Aarnio argues that the core difference between a weak man and a strong man is whether he embraces ownership of every aspect of his life. While a weak man ignores his problems or blames them on someone else (like his family or the government), a strong man accepts that he is the only person who can solve his problems and actively works toward doing so.

Aarnio adds that strong men command respect—both from women, who view them as sexually desirable, and other men, who view them as a leader. Crucially, this respect does not stem from viewing him as “kind” or a “good person”—the definitions of which differ depending on what your culture values. Rather, this respect stems from universally appreciated virtues: A strong man always accomplishes what he says he will, no matter what. In contrast, weak men don’t command respect; notably, women are not sexually monogamous with weak men. 

Finally, Aarnio argues that a strong man has mastered four essential areas. First, he is in control of his mind, through which he wields financial, social, and intellectual power. Second, he is in control of his body: He is strong and healthy enough to command the respect of other men and support his family for years to come. Third, he is religious in some way, and so able to connect with and draw power from the spiritual realm. Fourth, he is comfortable with his emotions. 

How to Be a Strong Man

We’ve now discussed what makes a strong man, but how do you become one? Aarnio argues that you must be strong in two main spheres—your work and your relationships.

How to Be a Strong Man at Work

To be a strong man, Aarnio argues that you must work. This is your purpose as a man: 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.

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.

How to Be a Strong Man in Your Relationships

Now that we’ve discussed how to be a strong man at work and in pursuit of your passions, we’ll discuss how to behave like a strong man in relationships.

Attract and Select the Right Woman

First, Aarnio explains that you must learn how to attract women. Do this by working on your purpose, which will increase your masculine energy and so attract women to you. Don’t resort to pickup artistry, which involves a series of techniques that you can use to convince women to have sex with you. Pickup artistry doesn’t lead to fulfilling relationships because it relies on gimmicky tricks that convince a woman you’re someone you’re not. Eventually, this woman will discover your authentic self—which isn’t the person you portrayed yourself to be—and leave you.  

Moreover, many pickup artists get hooked on sleeping with as many women as possible. This can hurt both the women you’re sleeping with and yourself. Aarnio writes that he destroyed his chances with the one woman he actually cared about because he was dating too many other women simultaneously.

Second, Aarnio contends that you must select the right woman. Women fall into different ranges of the “Hot Crazy matrix,” ranging from 1-10 on a scale of physical attractiveness and 1-10 on a scale of mental instability. Moreover, the more physically attractive a woman, the more mentally unstable she may be as people forgive this instability. If you’re only seeking a dating relationship, select women who are 8-10 hot and 7-10 crazy. But if you want to get married, only pursue women who are 8-10 hot and 5-7 crazy, prioritizing stability over physical attractiveness. 

When selecting a girlfriend or wife, Aarnio adds that you should evaluate the following factors. Determine whether you have compatible values; ideally, you’ll have grown up in similar environments and so have a baseline agreement as to what’s “normal,” or standard. Ensure that you like her parents; her relationship with her father will inform her relationship with you, and she’ll likely grow to physically resemble her mother as she ages. Choose someone whose income is lower than yours; otherwise, she’ll feel like you’re not fulfilling your purpose as a man and grow to resent you. And if you want kids, make sure she’s a good potential mother. 

Third, Aarnio recommends that you have a monogamous relationship with the woman you select. This is important not just to help you supercharge your purpose, as discussed earlier, but to help maintain your strength. Women are hypergamous: They’re wired to exchange sex for power and stability and so naturally seek out the strongest man available. But if you allow her to remain attached to you while she continues to seek out men she likes better, this will make you weak. 

Maintain Attraction in Your Relationship

Once you have a partner, Aarnio suggests that you maintain attraction by accepting—but not yielding to—her feminine demands. Citing The Wife of Bath’s Tale, Aarnio argues that women desire “mastery over their men.” But as we learned earlier, people are attracted to opposite energies; masculine energies are attracted to feminine energies, and vice versa. So if you actually give your woman control over you by prioritizing her needs, she’ll grow less attracted to you. This is because if you prioritize her needs over your purpose of working, you’ll develop a more feminine energy that automatically turns her more masculine—which she won’t like. 

As Aarnio notes, many men grow frustrated by women’s illogical behavior—like when they ask their men to prioritize them but lose attraction when they do. But this is simply a feature of feminine energy; feminine women live moment-to-moment and are easily swayed by their feelings, unlike more rational, logical men. So don’t try to ignore her volatility or make her less volatile; if you do, you’ll push her toward masculinity, lose your attraction to her, and end the relationship. Instead, accept her for who she is and understand that without her occasionally frustrating feminine energy, you won’t be together. 

Modern-Day Homosexuality Is Unmanly

Aarnio’s advice on how to have a relationship as a strong man is predicated on the assumption that your partner is a woman. This is because, according to Aarnio, having a relationship with another man is unmanly.

Aarnio explains that the modern-day expression of homosexuality is unmanly because it harms women. In Roman times, they had what Aarnio calls “functioning homosexuality”: Older Roman men openly had sexual relationships with younger men. But that younger man was still expected to marry and have children with his wife. When he did so, he was expected to stop having sexual relations with the man he’d been seeing, but he was culturally free to develop a different relationship with a younger man.

In contrast, modern gay men date each other and exclude women from their relationships. Moreover, most of them don’t raise children. This, according to Aarnio, is “nonfunctioning homosexuality” because it allows men to shirk their manly duties of procreating with and taking care of women. Aarnio points out that if every man in a society practiced nonfunctioning homosexuality, that society would not survive. Therefore, Aarnio argues that it is morally wrong and therefore unmanly to choose another man as a life partner. 

Hard Times Create Strong Men: Book Overview

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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

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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