I have a confession to make: when Donald Trump won the US election, part of me was happy.
Before you start judging me, let me explain: I did not vote for him, or support his campaign. And like most, I was concerned about his controversial morals and political inexperience.
But I also believed his election was the perfect Harajuku moment—“a moment in time when you have a revelation that change must happen now, and fast.” More specifically, I felt Trump’s presence in the spotlight would wake us up to the fact that our world is run by men who embody an outdated model of “Masculine Success.”
By many modern standards Trump is a successful man. He has achieved impressive feats and made tons of money but his approach to life is rooted in self-serving beliefs.
Is that what success really should really look like?
I believe this issue is at the root of many societal problems (corruption, social inequality, and abusive relationships for example), and that by addressing it head-on we can solve challenges that have plagued society for centuries.
Together, we need to redefine what it means to be “a successful man.” Then, we must work diligently to practice this new ethos and build, in the words of Buckminster Fuller, “a world that works for everyone.”
In this article, I’m going to take you on a journey into the concept of Masculine Success, how it’s affecting you, and how upgrading your own definition will yield you greater happiness, wealth, and impact on society.
Donald Trump and the Old Paradigm of Success
Donald Trump is a living, breathing paradox.
On one hand, the man is brilliant: he’s a billionaire, has been an executive to over 500 companies, and became the first ever US president with no political or military experience.
You can say what you want about the guy, but this remains pretty damn impressive.
On the other hand, he’s a very flawed individual: he exhibits clear misogynistic and racist tendencies, has a long history of deceptive tactics, and is a master manipulator of the highest caliber.
In this paradox, we can see a blueprint for the old definition of a “Successful Man:”
- He’s great at making money and providing for his family—even if it employs the “I Win, You Lose” methodology that sacrifices the greater good for personal gain.
- He’s tough, hard working, and highly skilled in certain areas—however lacking compassion, kindness, and care for others.
- He’s a powerful man and influential leader—who’s willing to cut corners and sacrifice integrity in order to achieve his goals.
As you can see, he’s got some great qualities- some that you and I could benefit from mastering. But simultaneously, his “success formula” is painfully unbalanced and produces severe collateral damage.
Is Trump a Product of his Generation?
Before we start vilifying Trump (and men like him), let’s look at the bigger picture:
What shaped his approach to success?
What cultural forces forged his belief system?
What conditioning generated his character?
I believe there are 3 dominant forces that made Donald Trump the man he is today, and influenced an entire generation of baby boomers males (born between 1946 and 1964):
- Scarcity and the Tribe Mentality
- Stoicism and the Emotionally Closed Man
- Capitalism and the Rise of Greed
Scarcity and the Tribe Mentality
You and I live in the most prosperous time in history.
Our basic needs are met, we face few (if any) threats, and technology allows us an unprecedented level of comfort (cars, grocery stores, central heating, fridges, computers, cellphones, etc). With these favorable life conditions, it’s easy to forget that for the vast majority of history, things were different. Homo sapiens have been around for ~200,000 years and high standards of living only appeared in the last 100 years. This means that 99.95% of human history was rooted in struggle for survival.
For thousands of years, our ancestors lived in a state of scarcity: they never knew if there would be enough food, water or heat. Survival was a day-to-day affair which naturally created a scarcity mentality: “I need to get mine before you get yours.”
To increase chances of survival, humans banded into tribes and the tribal mentality was born: “You’re either with us or against us.”
Recently, these states of consciousness were further amplified by the advent of World Wars 1 and 2. When Donald Trump was born, in 1946, the world had just suffered through 6 horrific years of mind-bending loss, trauma, and fear.
As a result, the expectation for a man of his era was to become a great provider and ensure his family/tribe survived, whatever it took. Caring for the greater good was the responsibility of social servants, not businessmen.
Stoicism and the Emotionally Closed Man
To succeed in those times of scarcity and tribal mentality, men had to master a few important personality traits: toughness, resilience, and inner strength. Those were essential in order to provide for their family day in and day out, no matter what challenges came up.
One of the best ways to do so was to master stoicism, also known as “the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.” While an effective survival strategy, this approach came with a hefty cost: it made men insensitive, disconnected from their hearts, and lacking compassion for others.
When we look at the traditional model of Masculine Success, we see men that are tough, hard working, and capable of high achievements. But they’re also largely devoid of compassion and genuine kindness.
Capitalism and the Rise of Greed
The third societal force we’ll look at is capitalism, and how it’s brought about an unprecedented wave of greed in the world.
First off, let me say there are a lot of of good things about capitalism. I am constantly in awe of the fact that I can use a piece of plastic (my debit card) to acquire just about any product or service imaginable, instantly. Wow!
But capitalism also encourages excess: both from a consumer and a producer standpoint. There are no inherent mechanisms to prevent people from abusing the system (i.e. making more profit at the expense of the greater good), and consuming too much (i.e. overeating and overspending).
Juxtapose that with the fact that scarcity was until recently a major part of humanity for thousands of years, and you have the perfect recipe for greed. With greed comes a tendency to bend moral guidelines, and to sacrifice integrity in the name of profit.
This has been done by businessmen for generations, and Donald Trump is just another example of that.
An Outdated Success Model
As you can see, 200,000 years of human history have conspired to create a very clear, and deeply ingrained model of success:
- Men evolved into hard-working, skilled providers who are willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.
- Difficult life conditions made them tough and resilient but emotionally closed off.
- Capitalism allowed for an unprecedented rise in prosperity that was paralleled by deception and greed from successful businessmen worldwide.
All of these traits, despite their flaws, have served humanity over time—they got us (for better and worse) to where we are today. But they simply won’t get us to where we need to go. Rather, they will destroy us. Unless we create a new model of masculine success, starting today.
The New Standard of Masculine Success
Now that we’ve set the stage, let me ask you an important question:
How can we take our individual lives and society at large to the next level?
I believe we need build on the strengths developed by our predecessors while developing the qualities they were lacking.
We need to become:
- Great at making money and providing for our family… it in a way that benefits all of mankind. (“I Win, You Win”).
- Tough, hard working and highly skilled… while being deeply compassionate, kind and caring to others.
- Powerful men and influential leaders… who are shining examples of strong morals and impeccable integrity.
That, right there, is what I believe a “Successful Man” needs to be from now on.
It’s a high standard, a challenging one to achieve, and one that is essential to the survival of humanity.
Sounds dramatic? Think again.
Without it, we will continue to fight one another, destroy our planet, and let egos run the world. Who knows where that will lead us?
One thing is for sure: we are at a turning point in history, and it’s time for you and I to step up. It’s time to become the kind of men the world needs. It’s time to become Kings.
Upgrading Your “Success Operating System”
So, how do we actually do it?
Over the last few years, I’ve been experimenting extensively with this. I’ve worked very hard to reprogram my mind, open my heart, and upgrade my “success operating system”.
Along the way, I’ve found a few key mental models that are critical to become a “successful man 2.0”.
- Upgrading from Scarcity to Sufficiency
- Upgrading from Tribalism to Inclusiveness
- Upgrading from Stoicism to Emotional Fluency
- Upgrading from Capitalism to Conscious Capitalism
Let’s dissect each one, decipher how you can make the transition, and upgrade your entire life.
Principle #1: Upgrading from Scarcity to Sufficiency
The scarcity mentality is based on the belief that there aren’t enough resources for everyone: “If you get more, I get less.” This makes us competitors, and I must beat you to survive.
While I’m at it, I might as well accumulate as much as possible so I can be “safer.” My excessive hoarding might cause you and your family to struggle… but that’s not my problem. We’re competitors, remember?
Conversely, the sufficiency mentality is predicated on the fact that there are enough resources for everybody—as long as everyone uses only their fair share.
Did you know that since 1970, there’s been enough food on the planet to feed the entire human population? And yet, billions of people are starving, while more than two-thirds (68.8 percent) of American adults are overweight or obese. This is one of the saddest facts about humanity, and one that we need to address now. Practicing sufficiency is a great way to start.
To do so, you need to install two beliefs into your consciousness:
- I am resourceful and can acquire resources whenever I need. I trust myself and I know I will be OK.
- I only need a certain amount of resources to live comfortably—anything in excess doesn’t serve me or the world.
I know, this is radically different than what most of have been taught our entire life. But don’t let your conditioning close you off to this alternative way of thinking. Just because rappers and pop culture tell us we need to be balling and “rolling billies deep” doesn’t mean it’s true.
A 2010 study from Princeton shows that after $75,000/year, there is no correlation between money and happiness.
Remember: we live in the most prosperous time in history. Money is everywhere. Acquiring it is not rocket science, and we don’t need to be multi-millionaires to be safe or happy.
Exercise: Figure out how much money you need to live a beautiful life, and make that your target. If you simply aim for “more,” you’ll be stuck on the hamster wheel that will compromise your happiness and lead you to accumulate more than your fair share—thus unbalancing the global system.
Principle #2: Upgrading from Tribalism to Inclusiveness
One of the things Donald Trump did masterfully during his electoral campaign was to create an “Us Versus Them” mentality. He played on our evolutionary fears and reinforced the idea that “these people are out to get us!” (so let’s build a wall!)
The problem is, tribalism keeps us in a state of fear, puts us at odds with each other, and promotes conflict at the individual and global level.
It’s a very low level of consciousness, one that was appropriate 10,000 years ago but is now outdated. As we’ve seen with Principle #1, the world is different now than it was before: there is enough for everyone. We don’t need to aggressively compete against each other anymore.
Instead, our best strategy for a happy and productive life is the opposite: collaboration.
And as such, one of the most helpful beliefs you can install in your consciousness is:
“Everyone is on my team. We’re all in this together.”
This belief is incredibly powerful. Just writing it, I feel my nervous system relax and my mind open to bigger possibilities.
Now you might be thinking, “Well that’s a nice philosophy but that’s not how it works in reality.”
Let me tell you this: I’ve been actively employing this philosophy every day for the last two years, and it does work. Here’s why: as we know from quantum physics and the Double-Slit experiment, the expectation of the observer directly affects the behaviour of the observed. In simpler terms, this means that if you go through life expecting people to be selfish, mean, and dangerous, you’re drastically increasing the chances you will experience that. Conversely, if you expect people to be kind, generous, and friendly, you’re much more likely to bring out the best in them and consistently have positive experiences with others.
But don’t take my word for it, try it and see for yourself.
Exercise: next time you leave home, set the intention to interact with the world as if “everyone is on my team.” Smile to people. Say hi to them. Assume friendship. Then, notice what happens…
Principle #3: Upgrading from Stoicism to Emotional Fluency
To be a powerful man and an influential leader, we need a tremendous amount of inner strength. Stoicism is one way to get there.
But there’s a big downside to this approach: by disassociating with our emotions, we reduce our existence to a cognitive experience that lacks depth, beauty, and aliveness.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not a deal I’m willing to make. Especially when there’s a better way: emotional fluency.
While stoicism produces strength through the suppression of emotions, emotional fluency strengthens us through the ability to use them as positive fuel.
Emotions can only impair us if we’re incapable of dealing with them in a mature way. If we let them control us and throw us off. With emotional fluency, we are able to feel our emotions, harness their energy, and intentionally use them for good.
Feeling fear? Use it to work harder and sharpen your senses.
Feeling sadness? Use it to soften your heart and connect more deeply with others.
Feeling anger? Use it as a signal that something is off and that changes are needed.
By doing so, you will become a much more effective individual and develop much more compassion towards others.
Additionally, when you allow yourself to feel the unpleasant emotions, you’ll feel the pleasant ones more strongly: joy, love, bliss, and compassion will be amplified.
Exercise: Next time you feel a strong emotion arise, pause. Resist the urge to suppress it or to numb yourself. Stay present with it, and get curious: why is it there? What’s it telling you? And most importantly, how can you use it for positive action?
Principle #4: Upgrading from Capitalism to Conscious Capitalism
As I stated earlier, capitalism has a lot of positive aspects to it. A free-market economy provides us with an incomparable access to goods and services, and rewards hard work, initiative, and value-creation.
But let’s be honest, just like the old definition of “a successful man” had upsides but was severely incomplete, so is the capitalist system.
Thankfully, we don’t need to completely overhaul the system. I’m not suggesting we switch to communism or any radical system. Rather, we need to upgrade the current system. Enter Conscious Capitalism.
Here’s an overview of this approach:
While making money is essential for the vitality and sustainability of a business, it is not the only or even the most important reason a business exists. Conscious businesses focus on their purpose beyond profit. By focusing on its deeper purpose, a conscious business inspires, engages, and energizes its stakeholders.
In other words, we need to approach our career and business within a larger context: making money is critical, and doing it in a way that benefits everyone involved is equally important.
To make this more concrete, here are two contrasting examples:
- Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort. In this venture, the sole aim is to maximize profit. To do so, they get customers to spend as much money as possible at the casino (even if it’s detrimental people’s health, well-being, and sanity). Meanwhile, they pay employees and suppliers as little as possible to keep expenses down. None of the profits are redistributed in the community.
- TOMS Shoes. In this venture, profit is only one of many aims. Every time you buy a pair of shoes, TOMS donates a pair of shoes to a child in need. Their model is elegant and effective: create a great product, sell it a fair price, redistribute some of the profits to those who need it most, and make sure that everyone who’s involved in the process (employees, customers, suppliers) are generously rewarded for their effort.
According to traditional capitalism, TOMS Shoes is throwing money away. But using a greater lens, they’re doing better business.
Moving forward, I invite you to expand your own lens: don’t settle for work that pays you well but doesn’t serve a greater purpose. Think of all the people who are connected with your business. And create an ecosystem that uplifts every single person.
Exercise: Challenge yourself to think broader. How can you create more value for society through your work? How can you aim not to maximize profit but rather maximize utility for all?
The Higher Road is the Better Road
I started this article with a confession, and I’ll end it with another one: walking this path is not easy.
Every day there are countless temptations to take the path of least resistance, to conform, and to revert back to the old model.
Practicing sufficiency requires superb discipline and commitment.
Practicing inclusiveness requires incredible acceptance and open-mindedness.
Practicing emotional fluency requires immense humility and tolerance for discomfort.
Practicing conscious capitalism requires exceptional generosity and selflessness.
It’s not easy. But it’s so immensely worth it. For yourself, those you love, and the world we live in. If you’ve read this far, I know there’s a calling in your soul to step up. So let’s do it, together.
Day after day, week after week, let us strive for higher ideals with a strong conviction that it’s worth it, and that our love, courage, and strength will inspire millions to follow suit. This, my friend, is how we change the world. One person at a time. Starting with ourselves.