Inner Growth Through Outer Growth

Time and time again we get the urge to try something different in order to to tick something off our bucket list, or simply just to shake up the monotony of our daily routines.

In doing so we get a great deal of satisfaction, fulfillment and a sense of achievement in accomplishing something we’ve never tried before. It provides us with an opportunity to learn, and to develop. Everyone is different of course; we all have our own ideas of what we want to achieve, and what things we want to try next. That being said, there are some common items which crop up on the bucket lists of many.

For men, one thing which exists on almost all of our lists is the desire to grow a beard.

I myself had always opted for the ‘clean and tidy’ approach to grooming- short hair and clean shaven. I’ve never had my hair long and the life span of my stubble would generally never exceed three days.

My old college room-mate and closest friend Brian (Wildsey) still recalls the day we moved in together in first year. As his car pulled up to the apartment building, I was standing outside gathering up the last of my stuff.

‘He’s very clean-cut isn’t he?’ His mother said, as she turned to her son in the passenger seat; all 6 foot 5 inches of him, shaggy long hair, 2 week old ‘designer’ stubble, ripped jeans hanging on for dear life, dirty converse with laces untied.

I can imagine what she thought at that moment; chalk and cheese- how are these two going to get along.

Thankfully we did get along- it was the beginning of a special friendship- but more on Wildsey later.

I was clean-cut.

Almost one year ago to the day, things took a dramatic turn. I  decided to try something new- to tick something off the list.

For a lot of men, and certainly in my case, growing a beard was nothing more than a pipe dream. I would always talk myself out of it and come up with ladylike excuses; it would take too much time, it would feel too rough against my skin, it would look ridiculous, it would be too itchy, food will get stuck in it, girls won’t like it.

In many cases, there is a source of ‘beard inspiration’ involved; someone who encourages you and motivates you to ‘man up’- for want of a better expression- and take that first step. A beard you want to emulate.

Cody Mireles had in his possession a glorious- truly magnificent- beard, which simply commanded the respect of a room.  It was an absolute joy to behold, and I was in awe of it.

Tip of the hat to you, Cody

One night, while sharing a plate of fried chicken feet (accidental slip of the tongue we made while ordering) and a few beers with Cody, I started to pour my heart out. I declared my admiration for his glorious beard, and explained to him how much I wanted to grow one but feared that I wasn’t worthy of such discernible masculinity.

I can’t recall the exact words he said to me, but it was somewhere along the lines of- in his deep, booming American accent-

‘You can dude. Just stop being a little f*ckin’ bit*h, and do it!’

He was right.

Cody’s words provided the slap in the face that I needed. I would stop shaving immediately, thus embarking on a wonderful journey of self-discovery.

Here are just some of the things I learned.

Grooming Tools

Beards increase productivity

Beards- to some people- suggest scruffiness, carelessness, and even a lack of hygiene. I can tell you unequivocally, that the complete opposite is true. A huge amount of care and love goes into maintaining a beard. It becomes a ritual, part of your routine, and you will take huge pride in it. You may even find yourself becoming more organised, productive and efficient in other aspects of your life as a result.

Beards demand respect

We- as men- can appreciate the effort and sacrifice involved in growing and maintaining a beard. Complete strangers will often approach with approving handshakes and words of encouragement. Sometimes they will go out of their way to show their appreciation; perhaps they might offer to buy you a whiskey, or they may offer to sharpen your axe, something along those lines.

Irish Vikings- Faolán and I

Beards transcend cultural boundaries

They have the ability to break down social barriers, and bring people closer together. People from any and all cultural backgrounds will find you interesting, and they will want to ask more about your fascinating journey. Language barriers do not stop people approaching and trying to engage. You may find that perfect strangers will become entranced by its wonder- they may want to touch it, or they may just stare at it- ‘oooohing’ and ‘aaaaahing’ in its presence. Beards are thought-provoking.

Beards exemplify perseverance

Beards are a true sign of inner strength; by persevering through that initial ‘brillo pad’ phase, you will feel more confident and assured when faced with any obstacle or challenge in the future.

Excuse me, Miss. My eyes are up here.

Beards are endearing

You will seem more approachable in social situations in the eyes of the opposite sex. Some girls like them- some girls don’t- but in either case they will be drawn to it and will want to find out more about its mystery. It breaks the ice with masculinity and assurance- no awkward chit-chat required.

Beards are inspirational

Others will look to you for guidance and direction; they will follow your lead in the hope that they will arrive at their destination safely. Beards have the power to inspire and to motivate others; they provide support, comfort, strength, and hope for the weak and weary.

I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, and it was an extremely fulfilling learning experience. Sometimes I think back and wish I could have it again, but I will always be that ‘clean-cut’ guy at heart. It was a one-time thing for me, and I’m happy I was able to tick it off the list.

I would recommend for every man to try it at least once; go ahead and embark on your own journey of self-discovery. If like me, you think you can’t and you find yourself coming up with feminine excuses as to why you shouldn’t- believe me you can, you just have to let it happen.

Or to quote my good friend Cody-

‘Just stop bein’ a little f*ckin’ bit*h, and do it!’