Have you ever had a nickname that you hated? One that caused your stomach to churn every time you heard it? 

Yeah, me too! My nickname all through school was “Unicorn.” Pretty embarrassing, huh? I mean, what guy wants to be associated with a white horse with a horn that’s usually a feminine symbol?  

Though I didn’t choose that nickname for myself, there’s a pretty great story that goes along with how I got it - and I’m going to share it with you for the first time today. 

When I was in the sixth grade, my buddies and I were sitting in gym class - we were cutting up and joking like pre-teen boys do. Now, there was this kid in our class that we’ll just call J.S. (name shortened to protect the guilty). He was supposed to be in the ninth grade, but he had been held back a few times. As a result, he was a foot taller than me and had about 40 pounds on me. I can see him to this day: a white kid, with freckles, and long red hair with a rat tail (yeah, those were the days).  

Well, J.S. said something to one of my buddies that I didn’t like very much, so I said something smart back to him. Everybody laughed.  

J. S. was TICKED. I had embarrassed him, and he was LIVID (though he had NO idea what that word meant). He threatened to kick my you-know-what, and I said something smart back again (yeah, I didn’t know when to quit). Like a giant, he hoisted himself up and walked over to me - slowly, deliberately, threateningly. He locked his hands together with clenched fists and SLAMMED them down on me like he was wielding Thor’s hammer! I still remember the excruciating pain of that blow: an electric shock went through my body and the wall behind me shook. He had dropped the hammer on me right in the middle of my forehead! 

I put my hands over my face while my friends sat in stunned silence.  After a minute, they all rallied around me to see if I was okay. As I pulled my hands away from my face, I heard one of them say, “Holy cow, Bill, you look like a unicorn!” J.S. had managed to hit me so hard that a large bump was protruding right out of my forehead - just like a unicorn.  

I gotta say that I never liked that nickname, but it stuck around for a few years.  

Now, what did I learn from this? A few things: 

First, I learned that if you say something to embarrass someone who’s bigger than you, you’re likely to get hurt. It may or may not be worth it, but you should definitely consider the consequences before you get on the wrong side of a bully. 

Next, and much more importantly, I learned how it felt to be supported by a group of friends who had my back. See, while my friends couldn’t stop that initial blow from J.S., once they saw him hit me, they rallied around me. These guys were so happy that someone had finally stood up to the bully that they almost gave me hero status. 

I learned what it felt like to be a part of a brotherhood - to be connected and united with others in a fight against injustice (even if, in this case, it was just the injustice of a grade-school bully). For the rest of that day, kids from all over the school were checking up on me. Even the older kids, who rarely ever bothered with the sixth-graders. 

These guys took me under their wing for the remainder of that school year. They taught me how to fight back and defend myself. They taught me how to cap (that’s what they called having a word duel with a bully - it was definitely a special skill of mine). They shielded me from future attacks. They even taught me how to breakdance! 

I got a taste of what it was like to have a group of guys who were FOR me - who were looking out for my best interests. I gotta say that after a childhood where I was bullied and semi-isolated (I had friends, but no one who really stood up for me when there was a menace around), this felt like I had entered the promised land. 

And once I had this taste of brotherhood, there was no way I was ever going to live without it again. I’ve been purposeful in adulthood to build a network of strong, supportive men who have my back - first as a Green Beret, and now as I coach other men to live lives full of integrity. Having men I can count on has made my life more rich, more full, more satisfying. And it’s taken a TON of pressure off of my marriage. Our women weren’t made to fill the same role as our male friends. As men, we need that woman we can nurture and nourish, but we ALSO need that crew of men who are ready to fight for us (just as we’d fight for them)! 

So my question for you today: Do you have a brotherhood? Do you have a group of men who can support, encourage, and uplift you? Men whom you can TRUST? Men who can MENTOR you to greatness? 

That’s what The 13 Codes community is all about, and I’m honored that you’re part of our circle. 

Keep watching your inbox over the next few weeks, because I’ll be sending you information about a very special opportunity coming up in June. 

Until then, I want to know: what’s YOUR most embarrassing nickname? Just hit reply and tell me YOUR story. I read every single response. 

Living and Leading by Example, 

Bill McDonald