How to Be a Strong Man at Work and in Relationships

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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Are you a man who feels weak? How can you be a strong man, emotionally and physically?

A strong man embraces ownership of every aspect of his life. Specifically, Stefan Aarnio’s book Hard Times Create Strong Men argues that you must be strong in two main spheres: your work and your relationships.

Find out how to be a strong man so you can thrive in these two areas of your life.

How to Be a Strong Man at Work

To learn how 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.

(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.)

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. 

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. 

(Shortform note: Aarnio’s argument that the difference between “functioning” and “nonfunctioning” homosexuality depends on whether the men procreate with and support their wives implies that ancient Romans accepted homosexual male relationships as long as they didn’t interfere with the men’s ability to raise a family. But researchers suggest that the Romans’ acceptance had nothing to do with whether the men involved could support women and families. Rather, the Romans saw these relationships as expressions of dominance: People accepted sexual relationships between men only if the older or higher-status man was the dominant, penetrative partner; any other configuration was seen as taboo.)

How to Be a Strong Man at Work and in Relationships

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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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