Abraham Maslow was a psychological researcher who created a model for understanding the urges of man called ‘The Hierarchy of Needs’. It illustrated, in the format of a tiered pyramid, the motivations of a man’s life that he is driven to fulfill in a loosely sequential order – from the base to the apex.
It was surmised that these motivations are born of inherent, instinctual ‘drives’ within each of us that dictate our behavior.
I’ve adapted his model here to be more modernized and practical. Maslow’s pyramid was simple and straight-forward, and I certainly do not mean to diminish its validity.
The pyramid is logically ascended from one tier to the next. Ideally a man will have a firm grip on the lower branch before reaching for the next one higher.
But we are imperfect people leading imperfect lives… so the ideal order is not often climbed in perfect sequence, one step at a time.
Some will, for example, become great artists in their teenage years and create wonderful things of great acclaim before they have achieved true ‘financial independence’ or ’emotional gratification’.
More often the case is that we work on mastering multiple tiers at once; building on one to naturally empower the other.
To some extent this cannot be helped as we are humans, not robots. But there is also great danger in this multi-tasking. In scattering our energies across too many pursuits, our efforts are diluted and we see lukewarm, mediocre results at each level.
That said – mastering a higher tier on the pyramid before managing the lesser will, generally speaking, make the actualization of those lower tiers a lot easier once pursued.
Basic Living (Base Tier)
You can’t do anything until you pay the bills… or have a benefactor taking care of your living costs. Securing a space to live, food to eat and a non-hostile living environment will consume all of your energy until it is no longer pressing. Strong health and wellness is also assumed at this level.
Social / Sexual (Tier 2)
Once basic living is stabilized and readily secured on a consistent basis, most people will turn to family, friends and lovers for emotional gratification. We are social animals and most everyone needs love and understanding to feel content. Even the darkest souls cannot live and grow without some human contact and interpersonal connection with others.
The family bond is primary… if the individual is blessed to have a good family. Even those with the best families seek a greater fulfillment in their friends. These connections help us to get-to-know ourselves by internalizing the reactions and feedback we get from others.
Socializing is the first ‘adventure’ we embark on in our youth; exploring our emotions, insecurities and our place in the social pecking order.
For men especially, satisfying the sexual urge in youth is critical to on-time development. A young man’s ‘psychic energy’ is consumed by sexual fantasy if he is not actualizing his desires in the real world. The energy spent dreaming about sex is a drain on the mind. When sexual desire is satisfied, and that energy is released, we have greater power to pursue higher ambitions, bigger ideas and more productive things. This is a simplification of an essential Freudian concept.
There is nothing more important to the early development of a young man than learning how to connect romantically (sexually) with girls to fulfill his young lust. He needs to get a grip on his sexual frustration if it is not happening naturally for him.
If one were to hypothetically skip this social/sexual tier, and commit to being an anti-social shut-in, he will likely run into trouble at the higher tiers. Full immersion and fulfillment in most things requires some understanding of, and emotional connection with, other people.
Financial Independence (Tier 3)
While some fortunate souls find a career that fulfills everything higher on the pyramid, most suffer their day-job for money-getting alone. They put off their dreams to a ‘someday’ that never comes.
Caught up in the career rat-race, higher levels of the pyramid that are most important for actualization and fulfillment will take a backseat until old age when our life-force has been long exhausted.
Indeed, making a living doing something that satisfies your whole being is perhaps the greatest achievement that modern man can hope for on the earthly plane.
If he his totally committed and dead-sure of himself, a young man may put all his eggs into a basket of his true passion, and bust his ass everyday towards that actualization.
This course is only rational if he is totally committed and willing to sacrifice friends, hobbies, lifestyle, entertainment etc. while burning 60-80 hours per week in pursuit of turning a passion into a living.
Otherwise, he has two ways to play the money game and secure financial independence:
a.) Creating a very practical, low-investment, low-maintenance business that he can scale and automate (i.e. the Tim Ferris method)
If your career is only a necessary suffering for money-getting, then your sole focus should be freeing yourself. You cannot achieve satisfaction, let alone greatness, at higher levels of the pyramid if your best hours are stuck shuffling papers and scanning e-mails in a corporate office.
Time and flexibility are worth far more than anything else money can buy. Your time must be freed to explore the world, yourself and everything that your potential is capable of becoming.
Travel / Exploration (Tier 4)
Once a man has the means, it is a natural urge to seek out adventure in the world. He wants to get out of his comfort zone and explore other continents and cultures.
Travel is tremendously important for gaining perspective… on the world and one’s place within it.
Like social/sexual exploration at Tier 2, we understand ourselves better when we see how other people are living and we understand the world when we experience how other cultures are operating. It is both a humbling and emboldening experience.
Travel is especially important for Americans as our globo-centric perspectives tend to be very narrow.
To really be a traveler rather than a tourist, we must venture off the beaten path of resorts and museums to seek out a more human experience in the place that we are visiting. To own the experience, we must do our best to transcend mere idle observation and fully engage with new places… as far as is possible for an outsider.
Art (Tier 5)
After a man has seen the world and has had his adventures, the deep drive to create will consume him. There is nothing else more exceptionally human (and more pointedly, masculine) than the ability to create things from our own imaginations.
Building and creating is what we do as humans. It fulfills the human experience more than anything else. It is the reason for everything civilization has. And it is a sin to ignore our individual part in the odyssey of human creation; neglecting our duty to the Great Work.
Art is more than just music and water colors. It can be anything that we create to satisfy the creative-fire burning within each of us. There is an art to building a house, raising a family, organizing a social group or building a company. Not to mention writing or making a website.
Art can be anything where one’s imagination is realizing in the real world. Anytime we take a vision from our head and make it a reality. Anytime with output creative energies and apply our knowledge.
Esteem / recognition (Tier 6)
Fame means that you have influence. If no one knows who you are, and no one resonates with your character or creation, then it might as well not exist. If you are not making an impact on people and the world, then any personal satisfaction you might gain from work rings hollow and unfulfilled.
Many dreamers wish they were famous, but creators do not seek recognition for celebrity. Popular validation is rather an indicator that one’s work is having an impact and changing hearts and minds.
If the audience does not receive one’s character or creation well, then he is either a.) on the wrong path b.) keeping the wrong company or c.) well ahead of his time. But regardless…
You have to make it before you can matter.
Your work must be praised and exalted NOT for ego strokes, but rather for a necessary feedback that you are doing something meaningful and useful.
And as far as your character goes: you distinguish yourself by acting honorably on a consistent basis. Doing what you say you are going to do and meaning what you say. Even with trifles and seemingly inconsequential things.
Esteem also comes from helping others, but only in helping those who are worthy of your help. That is – people who want to be helped and are helping themselves enough for your added help to make a lasting difference.
Genuine respect is earned through great works and honorable character – only elitists and parasitic social climbers would have you believe otherwise.
Spiritual Development (Tier 7)
Even the most ardent atheist will find himself longing for some kind of connection with nature and a ‘greater force’ in the world. To suppose that the entire universe was one big accident and that life means nothing is a convenient delusion for a lazy man.
If he is ignoring the higher-consciousness of his own being, it is because he is wrapped up at lower levels of the pyramid and does not have the energy or focus for that consideration. Or he is a stubborn science-worshipper who knee-jerk dismisses anything intangible that cannot be measured or explained with facts.
Forget about gods, dogmas, religion and houses of worship. The concepts those terms represent have been bastardized and corrupted beyond repair by the greatest deceivers the world has ever known.
What matters here is ritual meditation on one’s own existence; awareness of one’s mind-body connection to nature, space and time; a deliberate consideration of the ‘big picture’ that all the little pieces of life come together to create.
The true spirit is nameless and formless. There is no god; only unity and boundless light. Meaning and purpose are the ultimate revelations of prolonged contemplation.
Being a Good Ancestor (Tier 8)
At the apex we come full circle to pay our dues to those who came before us. As our lives represent evolutionary victory against impossible odds, we are charged with the task of carrying forth that tradition.
Being a good ancestor can be as simple as procreation. Bringing a new life into the world and raising it to be strong and bold is the most sacred honor that you can give to past and future generations.
Also, helping others be good ancestors too; reminding them of their exceptionalism and empowering them to be the best versions of themselves.
Finally, being a good ancestor means that we create a lasting positive impact on the world. Building an edifice or spreading ideas that empower future generations to come. Creating something that benefits all mankind.
If we continue on indefinitely to live life only for ourselves, then we live without gratitude. And we have much to be grateful for in all our ancestors endured for us to be alive and well in this present moment in time. Our failing to have gratitude is misery.
The rest is up to you…