Semper Virilis Review: A Roadmap to Manhood in the 21st Century

The literal translation from the latin term ‘Semper Virilis” to english is ‘always manly’.

It’s sad the phrase “Be a Man” gets thrown around so much.

Even though the definition is so ambiguous it’s usually used as positive encouragement for young boys.

It wouldn’t be a big deal except with the current interpretation you’re instilling the idea that to be a man you should never complain, act scared or show remorse.

And until recently I thought that’s exactly what it meant. You turn 18, stop complaining and presto you’re a man.

Ironically just prior to reading the book Semper Virilus written by Brett from the Website/Podcast The Art of Manliness, I overheard a young lady talk about her “man”. I happened to know the guy and I couldn’t take her seriously. He might be old enough by definition but his maturity level definitely wasn’t on par with the idea I had in my head about what a man represents.

That book helped me clarify the definition for me.

Caveat: I’m far from the manliest person you will meet but as I will describe, I feel the definition has shifted from being able to grow a beard like Brian Wilson to a clear understanding of your values and what you stand for.

I also understand that it isn’t until a certain age that young men start to look for answers to these types of questions. If nothing else, having the information available will hopefully save years of searching.

You have to be a man before you can be a gentleman – Art of Manliness

I’d encourage you to red the entire book/post yourself but here are the top three takeaways for me.

1. Virtue should be fundamental.

2. There are Pillars to Manliness

3. Seek to improve everything, always. Starting with yourself.

1. Becoming Virtuous.

The idea of virtues should be so fundamental to someone’s being that it should be its own high school class. Not only was I never taught about virtue, I had only a vague idea of what it meant until reading Semper Virilis.

Aristotle defined virtue as “that which makes both a person and what he does good.”

To truly bestow manliness you must display this high level of moral standard.

For example Benjamin Franklin lived a life in pursuit of moral perfection as defined by his 13 virtues.

I really hope there starts to be conversations about virtue in high schools when students are deciding on what they want to be. Typically people make the decisions based on income and lifestyle when really there should be a step before this process where they are encouraged to define what they stand for, what their values are and why those things are important to them. If you are able to spend your life working on something that is directly in line with what you stand for you are guaranteed to be more fulfilled and happy in general.

You may not know what you stand for yet which is fine but it’s something you definitely need to take some time to think about. If you don’t know what you stand for how can you make decisions about where you will work, how you will spend your time, who will be your wife/husband? To use a relationship analogy would it hold more value if someone you just met was completely transparent and able to clearly communicate what they stood for or would it be better for them to agree with everything you say and have contradicting opinions on everything?

2. The three pillars to Manliness.

If you can define what you value and potentially what higher purpose you are going to serve you are ready to start acting on it. The three points described by art of manliness include Protect, Provide and Procreate. These are aligned with an old school of thought but it still applies. A “man” by definition should be able to do those things for his family.

Protect obviously refers to physical stature but should be taken as a big reminder that your body is your vehicle and one of the most important things to inheriting the status of a “man”. You don’t necessarily have to be a bodybuilder but you should absolutely be continuously working on your fitness. If nothing else, working out can help build a routine for yourself and the confidence needed to get things done. You should push your body the same way you push your mind.

Provide means to have your finances in order. To be able to build a home that you would be proud to raise a family in. Historically it really meant to be able to hunt but now I would say it means hustle. Know your worth and value your time enough to get paid or at least gain some experience from a mentor. As Big Sean says “Today if I don’t earn, best believe I’m gon learn”

Procreate is obvious by definition but is meant to embody more than just the ability to impregnate. Procreation as a pillar of manliness is the assumption that you already have a high level of self awareness and you have chosen a mate based on the values you’ve defined.

3. Consistently Improve.

Spend each day trying to be a little wiser than you were when you woke up.  – Charlie Munger

The biggest fallacy that gets burned into your head as you grow older is that it’s unreasonable to go after things that aren’t common so you should stick to something that is “safe”. With 25 years experience I can say that the people I know who have been successful at their craft have one thing in common; they stuck with it longer than anyone else. Using sports as an example it’s crazy to think that at 14, 15, 16  you will know whether or not those kids will make the NHL and be successful. You could just be picking up skating for the first time but if you continue to improve, remove failure as an option and inch towards your goal day after day after day you will not be stopped, period.


Knowing these things are one thing. Living by them is something completely different. If you are serious about it start journaling on a daily basis and write down what three virtues you are going to live your life by, what big goal you are going after and what the next most immediate step is you can take to get there. Commit to it and keep improving.

“The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. He knows there is no such thing as a fearless warrior or a dread-free artist.” – Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

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