“If you feel like someone else is winning, and you feel bad about it, that’s an indictment on you – not the other person”
I used to resent Ryan Michler.
It wasn’t a deep burn, but there was a period in time where I’d see any and all of his successes and find myself stewing over them.
When I first met Ryan – back in 2015 – I was already building an audience and speaking at events as an “influencer.” In fact, we met because he attended an event at which I was speaking.
Ryan was like many of the attendees at events like this – polite, gracious, ambitious, and he had an idea for a website and a podcast about helping men become better. We hit it off because he’s incredibly easy to get along with and we had some common ground in our faith and other variables.
So, when he asked me to come be a guest on this new show he was starting, I was happy to “do him a favor” and make an appearance. I liked him and wanted to see him succeed – and man has he succeeded.
That little show and website – The Order of Man – have gone on to impact the lives of hundreds of thousands and Michler is now arguably one of – if not the largest pro-masculinity show out there.
He’s brought on guests like Jocko Willink, David Goggins, Ben Shapiro, Dave Ramsey, Andy Frisella, and plenty more.
Ryan is a master hustler and networker. It’s easy to see where the discipline comes from. He served one tour in Iraq and that military experience shows through very easily in his demeanor, approach, and the language he uses. The man is not afraid of hard work or rejection and because of that, he’s been able to build his own empire not only quickly, but in a way that maintains his integrity.
But it’s not just that work ethic. Michler attributes it to something far more interesting.
“I’m not that naturally gifted at things. I’m pretty ordinary and average. But the way that I can make myself pretty indispensable, in light of being a pretty ordinary dude, is – if I can help somebody else win by maybe making a connection, or giving them a shoutout, whatever they need. If I can do that, that’s how I can make myself valuable.
And there’s so many guys out there who are like, “I don’t have any value to add.” And I’m like, “bro! Just help other people to win!”
Just a normal guy, without any sort of super power, unique skill, or interesting take on the world, who’s made a name for himself doing what any of us can – connecting men to each other and helping everyone succeed in the process.
You can see how well this has played out for him. When you’re at an event with him or listening to him interview a guest on a show, he doesn’t simply see or treat people as a means to his own ends. Yes he knows his own stock rises when he can benefit others, but he also genuinely wants to see these men get better.
Both Jack and I recently got to experience this with Ryan last month in Cancun as part of a mastermind the three of us participated in. There was a whole mix of men at that table and it was easy to see how much Ryan wants each and everyone one of them to win.
When I asked him if he’s always been like this, he told me,
“I don’t think I’ve always been like that. I would see my friends and other people win and I would be super resentful and contentious inside. I’d put on my smile and give them the obligatory pat on the back, but deep down inside I really resented the fact that they were winning and I wasn’t.”
“Then I came to realize the resentment was toward them winning, the resentment was toward myself – that I wasn’t winning. And I found that, the more I do the work required to win, obviously I get the results, but also I’m less intimidated by other people who win and the more inspired I am by it.”
Order of Man has a simple, clear motto – Protect, Provide, Preside – that Michler believes are the primary responsibilities of every man. And if you spend any amount time with him, it’s easy to see how he not only lives out this mission himself, but sets up others in his life to do the same.
From practicing Jiu Jitsu and developing weapons proficiency, to learning to hunt and harvest his own meat and teaching other men how to build their wealth, to teaching and delegating to the men in his Iron Council, Michler both practices and preaches Protect, Provide, and Preside.
But the online world of masculine self-development is a convoluted space and there are plenty of men out there who appear one way online and are entirely different in their real life. They may be dialed in one niche arena, but blow up when pushed outside of their comfort zone.
With the internet full of fake “alphas” who want to reframe masculinity to fit whatever makes them appear the most manly, how do you know someone like Michler isn’t just next on the list?
The only real solution to this is to spend time with people like him in person – ideally in less-than-normal circumstances.
That’s what I got to do at the end of last year with Michler and his family in Cancun.
All the bravado and machismo many men project online disappears as soon as you spend more than five minutes seeing them interact with a wife or girlfriend – even more so when you witness how they parent their children.
But Michler’s integrity holds up. The love and respect he and his wife have for each other is equally as impressive as the caliber of his children. This family loves their patriarch dearly and are happy to follow his lead.
This hasn’t always been the case though. Michler is not shy in talking about how he and his wife almost divorced around a decade ago.
“I was very passive. I was very weak in my relationship. I wasn’t experiencing results in my life – and that’s primarily because I wasn’t doing the work”
When I asked why he wasn’t doing the work he told me,
“There’s a couple of reasons. One, I didn’t know what work I needed to do. I didn’t have the mentors and the people in my life to say, “do this.” I didn’t have that. But I think that’s more of a passive way to look at it.
The other side of it is that I was I was pretty content with just being ok and ordinary and average. So I really needed to step that level up and it wasn’t until I hit rock bottom did I realize, “Oh there’s consequences to being mediocre.”
And that’s what makes him so compelling as both a man and a leader. Sure he wasn’t handed a silver spoon, but most of us weren’t.
He grew up without his father, almost lost his wife and family, stared into the abyss of comfortable mediocrity and said, “no, I’m going to become something better.”
Michler isn’t perfect – a far cry away from that – but he has definitely become something better.
The best gauge for a man’s leadership is not his employees, clients, or even his peers. It’s his children – especially his sons.
And while Michler has three boys (and one daughter) the story of his oldest son, Brecken is the most compelling. At 13, Brecken has more directed ambition, discipline, and capacity than the majority of men twice his age.
I’ve witnessed first hand as he speaks confidently with adults, and shakes their hands with respect and strength. I’ve watched online as he’s tackled his own weight loss and pursued powerlifting as a healthy channel for his testosterone. I’ve seen him wake up at 6:30, on vacation, to come down to the hotel gym and train with his dad – or go out on the beach and be run through training from a relentless SEAL instructor and mentor.
But my favorite thing has been to watch how Brecken leads and treats children that are younger than him. The average 13-year-old boy tolerates his younger siblings and wants nothing to do with anyone else under the age of 12. It’s an age when selfishness is at its peak and self awareness is at its low.
And I’ve watched Brecken spend hours making sure younger kids are played with, cared for, and protected.
I’ll own up to a full and complete bias here, but seeing Brecken treat my own son as a beloved younger brother – wrestling with him, carting him around the pool, and playing silly games that are at a 7-year-old level are what really solidified my respect for both Brecken and his father.
As easy as it would be for Michler to take all the credit on this, he attributes it all to his son.
“I wish I could tell you I did x, y, and z and here’s the 10-step formula to get your son on track. I just try to show him what it’s like to take risk and what it’s like to step into things that you’re uncomfortable with – be willing to have conversations that most people won’t.”
While I appreciate his humility, it’s obvious that there’s some real direct involvement on Michler’s part. He and his wife homeschool their kids and he’s brought Brecken on as an employee to handle shipping and fulfillment for all of his Order of Man merchandise.
But it’s not just about keeping them at their current level – he’s setting his family up for their own journeys as well. He and Brecken have recently started a podcast called Man in the Making in which the two of them share their father-and-son discussions with the public.
It’s all about setting Brecken up so he can learn and grow like his father has and, based on how the show is already doing, it was a great move for both of them.
Michler isn’t some cartoon version of masculinity. He’s not afraid to be bold and brash – to confront people in an uncomfortable way when it’s necessary – but he’s so much more than that.
In a world where so many broken men overcorrect and become caricatures of some goofy masculinity, Michler is a man who is truly and actively healing from those past breaks and growing well beyond them.
You can see it in the loyalty of those who work for and with him, the love and respect from his wife, and the way his values are integrated and normalized within his children.
I stopped feeling that subtle resentment for Ryan a long time ago. He’s proven time and again that he’s earned his success. He puts in the work, takes the risks, and then shares the rewards.
The world needs more Ryan Michlers.
Photo credit: Jack Donovan