ROTTERDAM – I have been looking forward to this one, if only because of the terrible pun (N.U.T.s, get it?). In fact, the acronym stands for “non-negotiable, unalterable terms”:
N.U.T.s are the things you’re committed to, the things that matter more than anything else: your kids, your career, your primary relationships, yourself, your purpose, your spiritual practice, your hobbies, your integrity, your morals and your psychological well-being.
The man with the plan. How exactly this relates to DEFINE YOUR CORE VALUES (day 1), I’m not sure. They seem to be awfully similar. N.U.T.s must be more pragmatic than values, I imagine.
One of the most important challenges facing every good man who wants to be better is to know exactly what he’s committed to. Without a clear understanding of what is acceptable and what is not, a man is untethered, and likely to find himself down a path of compromise, resentment and despair. So, what’s a better man to do? Find his N.U.T.s and maintain a firm grasp.
Compromise is part of the path to resentment and despair. The Modern Man (or Real Man, I have been using these terms interchangably) has several principles he will not negotiate about, whatever the circumstances. More or less the bottom line in international relations about how “we don’t negotiate with terrorists”. They are, as the acronym spells out, unalterable.
N.U.T.s are the boundaries that define you as man, those things which, if repeatedly compromised, will gradually—but assuredly—turn you into a pissed-off, resentful man who will likely blame others—especially your wife—for your unhappiness.
Your N.U.T.s are uniquely yours. They reflect who you are as a man and the man you want to be. Compromise your N.U.T.s, and you’ll compromise yourself. Compromise yourself too often, and you’ll become an extremely unhappy man, husband and father.
It’s a relief to know that my nuts are mine and mine alone. You wouldn’t want anyone to hold your balls in their fist, now would you?
Again we encounter the narrative of the unalterable Self that is constructed by decision. As William Ernest Henly once wrote in his poem Invictus, made famous by Nelson Mandela:
I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul
Now, poor Henly had good reason to construe his will to live as a decision made on deliberate grounds:
Henley’s literary reputation rests almost entirely on this single poem. In 1875 one of Henley’s legs required amputation due to complications arising from tuberculosis. Immediately after the amputation he was told that his other leg would require a similar procedure. He chose instead to enlist the services of the distinguished surgeon Joseph Lister, who was able to save Henley’s remaining leg after multiple surgical interventions on the foot. While recovering in the infirmary, he was moved to write the verses that became “Invictus”. [Wikipedia]
You and you alone identify your N.U.T.s, and the failure to live up to these standards is yours alone. This individualist narrative, reinforced by modern society, puts the responsibility of failure squarely on the shoulders of the man.
As I argued in a previous post (CREATE A BUDGET), your N.U.T.s are mostly shaped by your upbringing, social situation, your life experiences, and your world view. Now, how many of these processes do you have complete control over?
I am not trying to iterate the idea that personal responsibility does not exist in the face of the social structure we find ourselves in, neither am I attempting to discredit the idea of individual agency. However, the idea that you and you alone are in charge of your behaviour, which consists of iterated patterns leading to habit which builds your personality is to put responsibility of one’s Self solely on the self while reality really does not work that way.
You cannot just reinvent yourself. I am all of social change, – it’s my academic specialisation, and part of social change is individual transformation. However, one of the reasons we so poorly understand transformation or radical change is the simplistic approach we usually employ towards it, which focuses too much on deliberate decision-making. These approaches start with “awareness” (just consider for a moment the number of “awareness campaigns” you’ve encountered lately) which is somehow supposed to lead to change or transformation. The number of failed attempts of change (from revolutions to incremental change) suggests that we are grossly overestimating the extent to which we have direct control over our lives.
We’re not a car with our Ego at the wheel, who can turn into any direction you want.
Anyways, I’m done with my rant now. Let’s move on and find my N.U.T.s.
Here’s a short list of Non-negotiable, Unalterable Terms provided by the men of our BetterMen Community. These will give you an idea of the N.U.T.s which men, like you, have developed for themselves in their efforts to be the men they’ve always wanted to be.
You should check out the BetterMan Life Coaching website. They have BetterMan Retreats (copyrighted):
At the conclusion of The BetterMen Retreat, rather than leaving in an altered state of “seminar bliss”, it is hoped that the men leave invigorated but firmly planted in their masculinity. We want the men to know more about themselves as men, to learn specific tools they can use immediately to be the men they want to be at home, at work and in their communities, and to understand the process that will keep them connected to the men with whom they have shared this powerful initiation into manhood.
Anyhow, the Art of Manliness provides several examples of N.U.T.s:
I am faithful to my wife.
I say what I want.
Compassion for my family trumps my need to be right.
I replace doubt with acts of faith.
I am a risk taker.
I devote at least three hours a week to my writing.
I will only seek validation from the men.
I live in accordance with my religious faith.
I do what I believe is in the best interest of my kids, even if they disagree.
My commitment to my children comes before everything else.
I do not ask for permission.
Fear does not keep me from taking risks.
I do not indulge my addictions.
I am a man of my word—period!
I take my problems to men, not to women.
I do not show anger to my elderly mother.
I do not tolerate my wife’s attempts to belittle me.
When name-calling begins, the discussion is over.
I spend time with the men.
I have my own private office/space some place in my house.
I exercise regularly.
I do whatever it takes to keep my family in our home.
I ask for help when I’m not being the man I want to be.
I speak my mind in spite of my fear of confrontation.
I honor my daily spiritual practice.
I welcome feedback.
I only apologize when it’s appropriate, not simply to please others.
I do not hide out at work just to avoid issues at home.
I decide how I interact with my boys.
I choose which of my friendships to maintain.
I do not sell out who I am to placate others.
I share my men’s work with the men in my life.
I do as I see fit.
I’ve highlighted several I find particularly interesting, for they do represent aspects of the identity of the Modern Man that somehow eerily make me think of the tantrum of a 3-year-old. I DO WHAT I WANT WHEN I WANT TO! WAAAAAAAAAAAAH WAAAAAAAAAAAAH.
Some of these essentially promote a divide between the genders: “I take my problems to men, not to women“, for instance. Women, they just want to “fix you” and “talk about it”. You need men, who.. well, hm. Men are solution-oriented, to they’ll probably come up with solutions that’ll help you. Which is not at all similar to fixing the mess you made in the first place.
These N.U.T.s (the highlighted ones, anyways) are quite infantile, needlessly confrontational, and sometimes anti-social principles to hold unto, especially if you unwaveringly refuse to discuss them, because, after all, they’re non-negotiable
This list is here simply to inspire you. Maybe some of these N.U.T.s resonate with you. If so, use them and make them your own.
Can you imagine the transformation in your life and relationships if you were this clear about your terms? Can you see how much easier it would be for you make decisions? Do you understand how you owning your N.U.T.s makes it so much easier for those around you to rely upon you and respect you?
[See previous point about transformation].
Today’s Task: Find Your N.U.T.s
Carve out a good chunk of time. Have privacy. No distractions. Breathe for a couple of minutes like this: count to seven in, hold for seven, count to seven out. Do it a few times. Feel yourself relaxing and connecting to this important moment.
Take the list of N.U.T.s offered above and identify candidates that suit you.
In all fairness, not all of the inspirational N.U.T.s are nuts. Some of ’em do make sense, and it is a good practice to identify moral beliefs you stand by even if they are being challenged. However, morality is a tricky subject and often greatly involves and impacts the people surrounding you. I wonder whether your masculinity should be fundament on which you base your sense of morality, especially since the track record of manliness hasn’t been all that impressive, morally speaking…
Anyways. Let’s talk about my nuts.
I stand for what I think
I take care of my body
I take great care of my friendships
I try to keep an open mind
I weigh my arguments carefully
I do not let social expectations determine my actions
I take time to pursue my passions
I take time to enjoy them, too
I do not shy away from needed confrontation
Man-meter: My N.U.T.s are alright, my N.U.T.s are great!