How do we raise "good sons" during this difficult time? Traits we've always considered masculine--like being tough and not showing emotion--are no longer what we want for our boys. Especially when society most needs unity, empathy, and the understanding that all humans are created equal.
As we try to raise caring, thoughtful, respectful young men, this book will lead the pack, teaching them, in a language they will understand, that emotional honesty is the epitome of bravery and that the toughest of the tough are those who raise their voices to uplift and support those most in need.
Unlike any book out there, The Warrior Challenge will capture readers with its epic and engrossing stories about courageous men across history, real-life examples of modern manhood, and straight-talking messages about compassion and authenticity.
Author, mountain climber, and professional speaker John Beede disproves the "boys will be boys" mentality and encourages boys to be, above all, good humans.
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About the Author
Through it all, John's core message to the kids he speaks to and teaches is that we live by the strength of our morals and values, not our accomplishments. He has shared this message via motivational presentations and workshops to nearly one million live audience members in all fifty U.S. states and all across the world. He has given keynote speeches for national teen organizations including 4-H, FCCLA, FBLA, DECA, BPA, SkillsUSA, ScoutsUSA, FFA, Teen Institute, and the National Association of Student Councils.
John is also the author of Climb On! Success Strategies for Teens and The Mini-Manual for Becoming Super Awesome. He is an Eagle Scout and he graduated with a bachelor's degree in mass communications from Wheaton College. John lives in Nevada. Find him online at www.climbonsuccess.com.
Johnny Dombrowski is an award-winning illustrator working in New York City. While pursuing a freelance career, he also works as the Senior Designer at the Society of Illustrators. Check out Johnny online at www.johnnydombrowski.com.
Read an Excerpt
“Are you listening to me, boy?”
The man yelling at you is inches from your face. His eyes are wide and wild, and you can feel the heat of his breath on your cheek. You’ve never seen or met him before in your life. You have no idea who he is. His intensity makes you cringe and turn your head. You take in the inky darkness and feel the soft dirt under your feet. It’s just the two of you out here in the middle of nowhere, seemingly in the dead of night.
Where the heck am I?
Beside you, a blazing fire pops and sparks. You tense and find that you’re sitting on . . . a hard stump of wood. Am I . . . camping? Your mouth is dry like sandpaper and your nostrils burn with dust and smoke.
“If you do not listen, you do not stand a chance,” the man goes on. He imitates a knife slicing across his neck as he backs away from you, the motion drawing your attention to his bare, dark-skinned, muscular chest. The band around his head has . . . Are those teeth?! They’re pointed upward like tiny menacing horns.
You try to find something familiar in your surroundings, but your eyes haven’t fully adjusted to the darkness. Orange light flickers from the fire and illuminates a few nearby huts. Each is thatched together with branches and grass.
This sure isn’t like the camping trips you went on when you were little. This feels very different. Like it’s not about having fun.
“You’ll be sent out soon,” the man says as he circles you, thudding the handle of a spear with each step as he sizes you up.
“Which is why the village elders have tasked me with starting to train you.”
Train me? For what? you wonder, the blood beginning to beat in your ears. And . . . what in the . . . This dude has a legit spear?!
“Take your weapon.” He gestures to a second spear, its handle pushed into the earth next to you. The sharpened blade points to the stars of the galaxy above. They seem to be glowing more brightly than you’ve ever seen before.
“I crafted yours with wood of the ebony tree, bone of the wildebeest, and iron from the earth. It can kill an animal three times your size. Only true warriors are fit to carry this weapon. Make it your prized possession. But use it poorly, and you may injure yourself. Or worse . . .”
You look at the blade. It’s as long as your leg.
You finally find your voice. “Who . . . who are you?” you ask.
“Me?” He laughs, full of pity. “I am your only hope. I am the only chance you have. I am the one who will guide you through this savanna, and I am the one who will teach you how to return alive from your quest.”
“My quest?” you ask, feeling more deeply ensnared by each of his questions.
“Yes. Your quest to face the King of Beasts,” the man says.
“Er, like a lion?”
“Is there any other King of Beasts?” he snaps. Then, lowering his voice: “I am Kakuta. I was chosen to be your Warrior Guide. Take your spear. Come now, take it! We don’t have time for games.”
You reach and slowly pull it from the earth. You feel its weight in your palm, which convinces you that you aren’t dreaming. This is mine?
“Every warrior before you has completed a quest like the one in front of you. You must face and kill a lion. Learn, and you will survive, grow, and become strong. Succeed, and you will prove yourself worthy. You will be held in the highest respect. Our people will call you Warrior.”
There is a pause. And the question falls out of your mouth: “And if I fail?”
“Then we will not call you anything,” the man snarls, “because you will be dead. You will bring back the body of a lion, or—”
You dart your eyes anxiously, waiting.
After a beat, he finishes, “Or a lion will bring your tattered body back to its cubs. One way or another, one will die. And one will live.”
You shake your head. How can this be happening?! You learned in biology that an adult male lion weighs, like, 420 pounds. They can leap up to thirty feet in the air and run faster than fifty miles per hour. What possible chance would you stand against an alpha predator like that? Even ten grown men would run for their lives if a lion was chasing them down the street!
Kakuta takes a step toward you. With each word, the tone of his voice becomes graver. “Do. You. Understand?”
You gulp and nod.
“Many have failed on this journey: Drowned by the raging floodwaters of the river. Mauled by the leopard. Some dropped dead with thirst. There are dangers all around. The one who is prepared to navigate all these challenges with honor—that is a man indeed.”
The words ring in your head: “the one who is prepared to navigate all these challenges with honor—that is a man indeed.” You wonder, Is that me?
“You’ll be sent out soon,” he says, “so your training begins now. I’ll show you what I’ve learned about becoming a man in our village. But eventually, you must decide for yourself what defines you, for every boy must decide what kind of man he will become. Your first task is to learn to wield your spear. Try to use it on me! What kind of man will you be?”
To punctuate his speech, he adopts a defensive stance. “Your first task is to wield your spear. Go ahead! Use it on me.”
You stare at him blankly. You suddenly feel dizzy, overwhelmed. You look down at the ground and see the Adidas sneakers you bought last week. You’re still wearing your jeans, backpack, and the T-shirt your sister bought you for your birthday a few months ago. What is going on?
“You still with me? Hello?” The man twice thumps his spear in the dirt, which draws your eye to his sandals. Long brown hairs extend from the straps. They’re made of animal hides. His toenails are the texture of cantaloupe skin, yellowed and corrugated.
Your gaze pans up his body; the fire’s orange light casts dancing shadows over various scars on his limbs. Most obvious is his leg scar. It’s thicker and deeper than any you’ve ever seen. It’s as long as your forearm.
“That?” says Kakuta, pointing to the thick, tightened flesh of his old wound. “That is from my own training. I did not use my shield properly, and the spear of my sparring partner pierced my leg. It’s a mistake I’ve never made twice.” He lifts his spear, retracts it behind his body, and points the sharpened tip straight at your face. “Attack me with your spear!” His voice snaps like a whip. You hesitate to lift your spear in return.
He raises his voice as you falter. “Attack! Now!” He screams each syllable, the whites of his teeth flashing through the darkness. “Your training begins! Become a man!”
To punctuate his command, he suddenly stands tall, spinning the spear in his hands like an airplane propeller. The heavy iron blade smashes like a meteorite into the center of the fire, creating an explosion of burning embers. Missiles of hot coals fly at your body. You frantically brush at your lap and chest. You drop your spear in the same moment you smell your own burned hair. This does not feel like it’s going well.
“Never drop your weapon. Your weapon is your life. Without it, you will be vulnerable to an increasingly dangerous world!” he yells.
Your nails scrape through the dirt as you grab your spear off of the ground. Your head swims. You feel hot with anger, and fear constricts your breath. This isn’t fair. I shouldn’t be here! This isn’t my life. I don’t even know why I am supposed to fight this guy!