This is a good moment to remember the sheepdog mentality: “Manly men tend their fields and watch over their sheep.” It means that we take care of the lives and property entrusted to us. It means that we take responsibility for everything in the “field assigned to us.”

We cannot do this without knowledge. We cannot do it if we are ignorant of our times, blind to the trends shaping our lives, and oblivious to the basic knowledge that allows us to do what we are called to do as men. We must know enough about law, health, science, economics, politics, and technology to fulfill our roles. We should also know enough about our faith to stand our ground in a secular age, resist heresies, and teach our families. We also shouldn’t be without the benefits of literature and poetry, of good novels and stirring stories, all of which make us more relevant and more effective.

We need all of this, and no one is going to force it upon us. Nor will we acquire what we need from a degree program or a study group alone, as valuable as these can be. The truth is that men who aspire to be genuine men and serve well have no choice: they must devote themselves to an aggressive program of self-education. They have to read books, stay current with websites and periodicals, consult experts, and put themselves in a position to know.

It isn’t as hard as it sounds, particularly in our Internet age. Much of what a man needs to know can land in his iPad while he is sleeping, but he has to know enough to value this power in the first place.

Challenge: Take inventory of your life and determine areas of knowledge in which you are weak. Identify teachers, websites, books, video series—anything that will help you learn. Don’t be too proud to use books like American Government for Dummies or The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Accounting. Series like these are wonderfully helpful. Get the knowledge you need. Don’t be ashamed.