A recent email from a friend let loose about talk and inaction. It made me stop and think about what a man is at his core and question whether there are there common qualities in men. I’m not talking about the media view of men but a personal view based on experience and knowledge.
The email said,
I feel angry and sad that coming up on a year we are essentially speaking about the same things we did when we formed alignment, collaboration, purpose, and leadership. … I want us to stop discussing, planning and analyzing. Either produce or move on.”
Those words resonate with so much that has happened in my life.
My Experience of Men of Action
For the first decade of my working life I was in the theatre in practical and design roles. The key to the work was achieving successful productions. People could see the results and judge the level of success. There was a resistance to spend time talking: there was usually too much to do.
Later I moved into the construction industry, as a designer, and discovered a world of constipation and dissension. You could easily spend most of your time in meetings discussing endless details of design and cost, and forget the work that had to be done. People were afraid of action, afraid of the cost implications, to the extent that projects often lost that spark of imagination that great buildings are known for.
I have been known in my life as a man of action and have both achieved and caused upset. I often do before I think, even though I love logic and conceptual thought. The question is what is more beneficial to the world, men of action or men of thought.
Hugh Thomas Brown considered this in 1854 in a debate at the Dialectic Society on Men of Action. He said,
It may however be said, by those on the other side of this question; that those ambitious warriors, and conquerors, who have swept some of the fairest climes of Earth with devastating armies, have done more serious injury to the human race, than the skeptical French philosophy, and they will no doubt parade this before you, as one of their strongest arguments. But It seems to me, that we have no right to decide on the motives of men in the abstract, but we are to look at, a man’s acts, and his life summed up together, apart from their moral quality, and see whether they were detrimental or beneficial to the human race.
Now there have been many ambitious heroes, whose aspirations were only for dominion and conquest, and who cared not how many widows and orphans were made in the accomplishment of their purpose; yet when we come to look at the ultimate result of their careers, they were, we find, decidedly beneficial to the world. It is a fact that all history, sacred and profane, teaches that the great Author of our being in the working of his misterious providence, does not always choose his owneas instruments for working good to mankind.
Brown was himself a man of action who became a lawyer, after graduating university and was killed as a captain in the Confederate army. He separates men’s achievements from the morality of their actions, a necessary device as action never considers its rightness or effect.
Alexander The Great – One Of The Great Men Of Action
Alexander the Great was, in many ways, a brutal man, but he carved an empire that had a lasting effect on Europe and Asia. He brought men together and encouraged them to see beyond their locality and beyond simple conquest. He elevated the nations he overcame and encouraged them to think and work together and to move beyond petty racism.
Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies closely to hand.
But Alexander turned that on its head and saw into the distance and into the future. No amount of philosophising and argument would have enabled his vision to prevail, only action was possible.
Mark this well, you proud men of action! you are, after all, nothing but unconscious instruments of the men of thought.
—Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Alexander was the instrument of Greek philosophers he had studied when young, but it was Alexander who showed the world what the men of thought were considering.
Action is a truly masculine quality. It is forged from base metals of focus, direction, power and strength. It sees far into the future and it sweeps aside petty considerations. What is important is achieving the end desired. People often question whether the end justifies the means, men of action certainly think so.
Femininity is less inclined to take precipitate action. Women are more caring and compassionate. They see the effects on people and that concerns them. It is right that they should because the world of men needs their balance. Great men live in polarity with great women who temper their action without dissipating it, they know how to love a man. This partnership is practically unbeatable.
Men look at yourselves and what you do. Do you take action or do you vacillate in thought and lose the opportunity you had? What would be better for the world, what would be better for you?