#67: On Doing the Right Thing

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“The more I live I see, this life’s not about me.”

– Anberlin, Burn Out Brighter

I have learned some lessons on Doing the Right Thing, some of which I have loosely organized below. I hope you can learn something from them.

Arrogance as a Barrier to Truth

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There is a saying in sports: “There are those who are humble, and those who are about to be humbled.” I alternately have read that this is Pride versus Humility. The point remains the same, being that the line between Confidence and Arrogance is perilously thin, and must be toed with absolute caution.

I am and always will be a little cocky. I am confident and optimistic, and that is always going to rub certain types of people the wrong way. In my view, the difference between healthy self-confidence and Arrogance gets crossed when one ceases to be appreciate of what one has.

Five years ago, I thought I deserved everything the world had to offer. Not warranted – deserved. I was a snapshot of entitlement. Since then, a number of circumstances have beaten a healthy dose of humility into me, and I think this has helped me to become a better person.

Appreciation for the gifts I have been given has overtaken the delusional narcissism that used to envelop me. I have a desire to Do the Right Thing not because I am afraid of Karmic retribution, but because I am thankful. I would rather start a Positive Feedback Loop rather than a Negative one. This is the well-covered idea of “Paying it Forward“, but personally I like the take-away message from Yes Man better.

I am not trying to sound like a motivational speaker, but the Truth is that if you Create and do Positive Things, more Positive Things will come back your way. This is something that I took a very long time to learn, because my own arrogance prevented me from trying it.

Writing has certainly been a cathartic and helpful part of the process, but my own Arrogance has been the biggest Barrier to Truth, as I interpret it.

This is a lesson I have a sudden urgency to impart onto others. I see people who remind me of my younger self – caustic, cynical, ruthless, and most of all, excessively-confident – and I want to save them the trouble my own personality shortcomings have caused me as a young adult. I have found my message goes over about as well as trying to bathe a cat, but out of appreciation for the intellectual and physical gifts I have been given, I won’t stop trying. In my view, getting the other Arrogant Bastards in line is simply Doing the Right Thing.

Letting Go of Negative Emotions

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This is going to double as closing commentary on my now-former roommate, so bear with me for a bit while I make a point:

The analogy that comes to mind when I describe my experience with the ex-roommate is that we were like two people walking toward each other from opposite directions: I was coming from a darkened road, while she was heading that way. My view is that we are frightening similar on a number of levels, so it’s obvious that we would stop and talk to each other for a few moments during our respective treks. This moment of “talking” was the 21 months we lived together.

I like the traveling analogy because she and I hit right in the middle of a Morality cross-road. I did not realize the entirety of it at the time, but I used to be constantly angry and miserable and negative; like a deep sickness, it had gotten so bad that I almost did not feel the symptoms anymore. Feeling irate and vindictive all the time was “normal” to me, but thankfully this cloud of negativity was a function of the company I kept and the people I worked with. As I have gotten away from hateful and pessimistic people, I have gradually started to lighten up.

Meanwhile, when I met my ex-roommate, she was in a pretty good place, from what I can tell. She remains sharp and worldly, but she had not had an endless parade of bad experiences in the same way that I recently did. When we first met, the good still outweighed the bad in her life by a decent margin. She was hopeful, optimistic, and for the most part a pleasure to be around.

However, she has been in a kind of gradual descent since I met her. She has been somewhat victimized, but she has also been the cause of some of the problems that have led to this free-fall.

In my view, a main problem is that she got away from her 9-to-5 job and went back to bartending. Working at a bar is fine, except that you are constantly exhausted and surrounded by irresponsible, selfish people. Bartending works as a limited-time-only way to make extra money, but the people who make it their long-term or primary business get pulled through an emotional meat-grinder on a regular basis.

Again, I am not criticizing her line of work. I was a bartender for many years. I just know from experience that it leads to this negative cycle in which people become disposable and the uncertainty over your future becomes suffocating. Most bar jobs do not offer 401K plans and insurance benefits, and this eventually becomes a millstone around the neck of a person once they start moving through their 20s.

Going back to the analogy, a series of poor choices and circumstances compelled her to start heading down the dark road I had just come from. Meanwhile, I was desperate to get away from the darkness and negativity, and I spent most of our time together trying to drag her with me away from it. But like me just a short time prior, she was insistent on surrounding herself with noxious, two-faced people and living a septic lifestyle.

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True Story: the consequence of being constantly surrounded by service-industry vampires is that you start treating the quality people in your life badly. You pass along the me-first selfishness and vitriol of the after-hours crowd like a plague. Don’t get me wrong, you can have a blast working as a bartender, but it comes with a toll. You become calloused and sometimes vicious, because you are frequently degraded, marginalized, and lied to.

I am not writing this to make my ex-roommate out to be the Devil. I do not think she is an evil person. Again, I think she’s largely a victim of some bad luck and a few regrettable decisions. I know this because I was just like her, not very long ago at all. But she kept dragging me back into her lifestyle of lunacy and turmoil, and eventually I got so sick of the endless drama and negativity that I basically cut her out of my life.

Our personal relationship came to an end because I had worked almost all of the bitterness and resentment toward the world out of my system, like a poison being expelled. Writing has certainly helped me, but for the first time in a long time I have a loyal and supportive group of friends. My ex-roommate had become what I would call a “tough cut“, in that I did not really want to remove her from my life, but the baggage that came with her was affecting everything else to too great of a degree.

We met recently to settle some debts between us and effectively end communication. It’s kind of a sad story, because we used to be close friends, but this happens in Life.

We fought for months over what are relatively small sums of money and personal property. I was so tired of wasting energy battling with her that I basically surrendered, handing her a wad of cash and opening myself up the risk that she might never reimburse me. I just did not want to hold onto the bitterness needed to keep fighting her over what amounts to ash in the grand scheme of things.

Meanwhile, she continued to lash out at me over things that no longer mattered. It was mostly nonsense – just pure rage spewing out of her mouth. I sat there patiently and let her vent for 30 minutes over a matter that could have been settled with a handshake. In the end, all I could do was sigh, because she was using so much of her energy and focus on hating me and trying to make me out to be the Bad Guy.

Once more, I am not trying to throw rocks at my ex-roommate after the fact. Maybe two or three people reading this would have any idea who she is or what she looks like. I am trying to paint a picture and make this point:

Letting Go of Bitterness and Rage is a way in which I am attempting to Do the Right Thing, or at least do the Wrong Thing less often.

Do not let me convince you otherwise: I am no saint. I used to be berserk and had an insatiable lust for atonement in the form of corrective punishment, alternatively referred to as Wrath:

Certain people want to devote the time in their lives to fighting every trivial battle that might potentially lead to personal gain. They claw and gnash at each other like animals over things that, again, amount to ash in the end. I am not judging these people, because I was one of them for a long time. But I no longer want to be one of them. The big step for me personally has been to become less of a bastard, which meant putting an end to grudges, petty feuds, and spitefulness.

The Real Truth is that if you work to help other people, you get it back tenfold. You just have to be a little selective about the people you help, and sometimes let go of people who are more trouble than they are worth.

Doing The Nice Thing versus Doing The Right Thing

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This is the simplest lesson in principle to learn about Doing the Right Thing, but the most difficult in execution.

There are some people, like me, who have a burning need to help other people. This is not like Nightingale Syndrome, but more of a survival instinct. Some of us just know in our bones that protecting other people is what we have to do, and people like me often end up becoming Doctors, Police Officers, or Firefighters.

You may be confused by the picture at the top of this section, which is plays the cast of the hit television show The Walking Dead. The overriding theme of both the show and its source-material is a realization by the main character, Rick Grimes: while Rick is initially hardened and views others as disposable cogs who only serve to provide protection for his wife and young son, he eventually comes to realize that by being so dismissive of others, that he is indirectly making Life more dangerous for his wife and son. Rick comes to learn that Cooperation, rather than self-absorption, is the Key to thriving in Life.

Regardless of which anecdote is more relevant to you, Cooperation is a conclusion that most intelligent people come to. We are nothing without other people. Helping and Protecting those who cannot protect themselves is the most basic form of Cooperation, and this is often a great thing. However, many people have learned to manipulate others by feigning weakness as a way of dodging responsibility, forcing more accountable sorts to take Life’s lumps for them.

Let me describe it another way: picture a loving parent with her or his child. Let’s say the child starts begging the parent for a gallon of gasoline and a lighter, or for a gun.

Would it be responsible of the parent to give the child anything this dangerous? Of course not. No matter how much the parent loves her or his child, giving the child a weapon would not be the Right Thing to Do, in normal circumstances.

Unfortunately, this is what many of us do every day in Life. We do not arm children, but we do acquiesce to the demands and wishes of those we dote upon, even if we know we are not Doing the Right Thing. Many people would rather be Liked than Right.

You Do the Right Thing when you use a measure of temperance in your decision-making. Remember what I said above about nurturing positivity? You seek to do that, but you should not arm children, which is what we often do when we opt to do the Nice Thing rather than the Right Thing. Sometimes, you have to be a prick, lest the children of the world burn everything down in search of their fun.

Carefree versus Careless

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Speaking of which…

Moving to North Carolina, and in particular a beach town like Wilmington, is a drastic departure from a place like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The Steel City is conservative and resistant to change, but the typical Type-A, East Coast mentality that dominates the Metropolitan Northeast is still very present. A lot of people in Greater Pittsburgh are businesslike or brusque, and many are just flat-out rude.

By contrast, the common demeanor in a beach town such as Wilmington is comparatively very lax. Most of the people you meet in Wilmington are happy and pleasant to be around. I have touched upon the differences between Pittsburgh and Wilmington frequently, but in this case let me point out the difference in attitude in the interest of explaining Carefree versus Careless:

It’s great to be carefree and breezy, as most of the people I have met in Wilmington tend to be. However, as prevalent as the easy-going, Southern-mixed-with-beach-town attitude tends to be down here is the equal tendency to be Careless. 

As I have written before, I get into an auto accident almost daily (knock on wood) because the drivers of Wilmington cannot be bothered to use their turn-signal, or wait to change lanes, or wait to pull out into flowing traffic. I don’t believe these wayward drivers are malicious or intent on causing an accident; they are simply being Careless, otherwise known as Irresponsible. I think you know how I feel about Responsibility and how it ties into Doing the Right Thing.

I don’t expect everyone to feel the Burden of Responsibility on the pathological level that I do, but I also expect people to have a measure of respect for others. The problem is that people who tend to be carefree and easy-going also tend to cause problems with their Carelessness.

Moving to a laid-back beach town like Wilmington has been very instructive, because it allowed me to see the flaws in my character magnified. For example, while I was bartending, I was once angrily sent home from work by management because I did not check I.D.s on a group of 20-somethings that walked in. Granted, we ordinarily had a bouncer who did that, but that does not mean that I had no responsibility to double-check. At the time, I did not really understand why such a big deal was made of the issue by management, but I now see how my Carelessness could have been equally as destructive as purposefully serving under-agers.

It may come as a surprise, but by nature I am much more laid-back than the standard Type-A East Coaster. It turns out I fit in fairly well down here. But I am also Responsible enough that by comparison, I am frequently correcting the Carelessness of others and trying to teach them how their happy-go-lucky attitude can lead to disharmony if a measure of discretion isn’t used.

Carefree become Careless when the consequences of choices become potentially-destructive.

Conclusion

The conclusion is summarized in this quote:

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
George Bernard Shaw

The takeaway lesson is that you can choose to Do the Right Thing, or to Pay it Forward, if you will. I now wholeheartedly believe in Karma, and as they say, What Goes Around Comes Around.

If you choose to be bitter and vindictive, you will find yourself mired in this swamp of never-ending negativity. You may be able to get away with burning through other people for your own selfish reasons for a length of time, but eventually your inconsiderate and self-serving actions will bury you.

Alternatively, you can choose to let go of negativity, and choose to Do the Right Thing on a regular basis. You have a Choice, which most people understand but do not internalize. You do not have to be malicious and underhanded just because other people in your orbit happen to be that way.

You can opt to look out for the interests and well-being of other people, as well as (and occasionally at the expense of ) yourself. For sure, there will be times when your choice to pick up other people, rather than step over them, will be costly to you. But you will want to weigh the costs of looking out for the other people in your life against the spiritual toll it takes on you to feud with and spite them.

More on this later,

Jack

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;#90: Testosterone, My Religion

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This article is written for Men, or maybe boys who want to be Men. Women are more than welcome to read it, but ladies may not find the value in it that males might. Thanks.

At Age 18, after a Spring/Summer of getting my ass beaten by vicious 21-year old Men, I decided to go to college instead of trying to latch onto a Junior Hockey team for the upcoming Fall season. Getting punched in the face repeatedly by players much bigger and stronger than you is incentive for Higher Education, if any exists.

I ended up at my beloved Duquesne University, and things ultimately worked out. But I almost didn’t make the Duquesne team, largely because I assumed I would walk-on because of my ability to put up points.

While my ability to score wasn’t an issue, the Duquesne coach had major concerns about my ability to play physically. Though I could surely take a beating, there were questions about my ability to dish one out. Duquesne was largely a Hitting/Skating team at the time, and I was told that I would not make the team unless my speed and strength rapidly improved.

Insistent upon making the team, I took a crazed approach to getting my strength/speed up to par, living at Duquesne’s modest gym and pounding enough Protein Powder and sports supplements to give Jordan Belfort pause. I probably was the last man on the roster, but damned if I didn’t work my way onto that team.

For training geeks, I took my body fat down from 12.5% to just over 9% (Bioimpedence), took my scale weight from 179 to 195 (noting that I was all volumized from the Creatine), shaved almost 1.5 seconds off my blueline-to-blueline time, added 60 pounds to my Squat, and generally transformed myself into a raging beast in 21 days. I’m living proof that love and feverish dedication can help you accomplish the seemingly-absurd.

(Note: I didn’t take steroids due to NCAA drug testing and whatnot, but at the time I probably would have considered it. That time period was a blur for me, but I remember heavy doses of ZMA, Creatine, Glutamine, and the now-banned Ephedra by the fistful. Shoot to Thrill, indeed.)

But love and dedication alone didn’t get me onto that team. To achieve my goal of making the team, I used two primary sources of information to guide my nutrition and training:

1) A then-fledgling website called Testosterone.com, or T-Nation, and

2) A book written by two prominent T-Nation contributors called The Testosterone Advantage

I would not have made that team without this information, so this article serves as my sincere thanks to Dr. John Berardi, Christian Thibaudeau, Chad Waterbury, Chris Shugart, Lou Schuler, Dr. Jeff Volek, Charles Staley, Tim Patterson, and anyone else who may have indirectly contributed to my efforts. Thank you all, very sincerely.

Anyway, while I was satisfied (somewhat) in achieving my goal of making the hockey team, the real treat was the change in body chemistry that I had undergone. Three straight weeks of daily high-volume leg training immediately followed by 30 minutes of Sprint Intervals, combined with John Berardi and Lou Schuler’s dietary recommendations, had my hormones gushing.

I am privileged enough to know what it’s like to walk into a 75-seat lecture hall and have every girl and woman in the room turn to gawk at you, which of course contributes to my legendary modesty. It was almost as though the girls, and even an instructor or two, could smell me before they could see me. I would get this prolonged, overtly-sexual eye contact from Women who from appearance would not seem to want anything to do with me.

Once a Man has experienced this high – having lots and lots of Women interested in him on a primal level – he will almost certainly chase the dragon for the rest of his life.

People sometimes talk about what their addictions are, as though everyone must have one. Most people say alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, etc. The tack taken by many is that everyone has a vice. While I’ve dabbled in all of the preceding to various degrees, at eighteen I found an addictive force more compelling than all of the collective indecency in Las Vegas. This of course was Testosterone.

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The Good Lord is my Savior, but Testosterone is my Religion. Since my freshman year of college, I have relentlessly sought more and more natural Testosterone and Growth Hormone, even as years of this pursuit have turned me into a twisted mix of Buddy Love and a Caveman.

In the process, I’ve become a Mentor to other Men who are still finding their way. I covered a lot of this in my satirical article The Sidekick Manifesto, but what I’ve experienced is that a pronounced uptick in Testosterone levels will have both Men and Women flocking to you. Even if they claim to detest or fear you – as is regularly the case with Mad Men’s Don Draper – people are compelled to seek the approval, comfort, and counsel of High-Testosterone (or Alpha) Males on an almost-biological level.

Having said that, it’s been brought to my attention recently that some of the “Men” in Wilmington have taken to asking themselves, “What Would Jack F____ll Do?” While this is somewhat flattering, the impression I get is that the clownish and wayward are not doing what I would do in given situations. They are not heeding Jack’s Rules and they are not Doing the Right Thing. They either lack understanding as to what I would do in certain scenarios, or they are asking the wrong questions entirely.

In fact, I almost titled this article “What Jack F____ll Would Do”, but I ultimately decided that was too self-indulgent and not at all Vague. I touched upon most of the reasons that I don’t want my name all over the internet in my article on Quitting Facebook, but the short version is that I don’t like being stalked on the internet. If anything herein needs clarification, I can be found at a hockey rink in either Wilmington or Greater Pittsburgh. I’m in the #11 jersey.

Instead of a WJFWD article, I decided to compile The Testosterone Ten Eleven Commandments in the interest of both enlightening and entertaining both low-T males as well as intrigued women.

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Before we begin, I will shill for both T-Nation, Coach Schuler, and Doctors Berardi and Volek. I suggest you visit both T-Nation and Precision Nutrition and consider purchasing a copy of The Testosterone Advantage, as I did when I was 18.  I have no financial stake in any of the above, but I find it all to be excellent information.

In addition to citing specific examples on how to be more of a high-value male, this article will also aim to guide beaten-down and frustrated Men by providing them with more general advice on how to live successfully and the beginning steps to take on a path to long-term happiness. Enjoy.

The Testosterone Ten Eleven Commandments

I) Be Hilarious…and Sexy

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(Note: as noted above, I am no longer on the Facebook, but I remain Hilarious and Sexy.)

When people start assigning personality traits to me (more on this below), they frequently acknowledge how Sexy I am, but because I’m not a clown they assume that I lack a sense of humor.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I am Hilarious with a capital H. But there is a big point of distinction revolving around my use of humor.

To be Hilarious and Sexy, a Man must let comedy flow organically, mostly by making smart-ass comments about the Women in his orbit or working as many as 12 Meows into a professional e-mail. Comedy, not variety, is the Spice of Life, and some people make the mistake of thinking more is automatically better.

What a Man should not do is dance for an audience like a puppet. That’s a critical difference between an Alpha and your standard-issue clown.

I am Hilarious, but it’s on my time and the select privilege of my family, friends, and readers. I don’t go into a car dealership and do my best schtick like Chris Rock opening a set, because that’s a business negotiation. I have a gift for comic timing, and I chose to share that gift for people I enjoy being around rather than those I actively despise.

If you want to be a Hilarious Man, I highly recommend you downshift and seek a more subtle approach. It’s Hilarious when Vince Vaughn quietly pokes fun at the obnoxious characters in his life, but it’s only marginally-funny when Ben Stiller rams his awkward idea of comedy down our collective throat. With comedy, Less is More.

In fact, the Dodgeball dichotomy between Vince Vaughn and Ben Stiller’s characters is an excellent example on Being a Clown versus Being Hilarious … and Sexy. Find the guy who’s trying too hard in this picture:

Vaughn + Stiller

If you are a Man, and if you are trying to be Hilarious/Sexy, my strongest recommendation is that you develop a complete infatuation with yourself. What I’ve found is that Women are fascinated when Men are preoccupied or even self-obsessed to a certain degree. I am not going to breakdown the psychology at play here, but I will link to a wide number of celebrity examples demonstrating attractive women doting on self-obsessed men.

The key is to always walk the line between being serious and bringing the hilarity. My favorite personal example is from many years ago, when I was lounging in my living room admiring my muscles. My female roommate Pickles walked in, and not really sure if I was kidding or not, I lifted my leg off the couch and barked, “Pickles, look at how ripped my calf is,” commanding her to stare at my flexed lower leg.

Was I kidding? Was I serious? It doesn’t matter, because it was Hilarious. Pickles rolled her eyes, but then came and sat down on the couch to listen to more of my outrageous, self-aggrandizing claims.

A large number of people have come to these same conclusions about comedy. Some of them have even attempted to brand my particular style of comedy, to varying degrees of success. But the key is to have a seemingly-unhealthy preoccupation with yourself, mixed with a modicum of self-awareness. Being Hilarious…and Sexy requires having the right proportions of each, used judicially and with practiced restraint.

II) Be an Original

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I will always have a soft spot for Professional Wrestling, as Pro Wrestling basically saved me from full-blown alcoholism. I’ll save the complete story for another time, but the short version is that I had to start locking myself in my apartment on Friday nights because if I didn’t, I would be apt to have 10-12 vodka clubs immediately followed by a tryst with someone’s wife/girlfriend. It was a bad look.

Not sure when you last watched Friday Night television, but the pickings are slim. There’s a healthy amount of Tween porn, white-trash theater reruns such as COPS or Jerry Springer, QVC-type infomercial programs, Pawn Stars mini-marathons, etc. There’s almost nothing substantive.

(Note: Cinemax fixed this problem by putting the Best New Show on Television on Friday Nights. Meet the New Boss is exactly right.)

As far as original programming goes, I can assure you the top of the card used to be Friday Night Smackdown, one of WWE’s signature programs. So, I developed this weekly ritual where I sat myself down with a bottle of lemon-lime soda water and watched these incredibly-athletic egomaniacs scream at each other for two glorious hours and dried out a bit.

I will always be grateful to Vince McMahon of the WWE for providing me with a few hours of mindless distraction on Friday nights, which ultimately prevented me from death by alcohol poisoning or furious-husband stabbing. Maybe Vince can work a “Smackdown Saves Lives!” angle later in the year.

Anyway, one of the signature performers on Smackdown was CM Punk, who has since left the company. Like many other stars who gained mainstream appeal, Punk looked around at the abysmal corporate culture that has killed Professional Wrestling and decided that as much as he loved Pro Wrestling itself, he no longer wanted to be a part of it. Punk has since become a celebrity in his own right, and his personal popularity easily eclipses that of the current WWE product.

Though I’m disappointed CM Punk decided he could no longer reconcile the corporate oppression of the WWE Machine with his personal beliefs, I am thrilled that he was enough of a Man to leave something he loved behind for the sake of his personal well-being. See the 8th Commandment below for more on this.

Punk was willing to give almost everything he had to the WWE, but there were two ways in which he absolutely refused to compromise:

1) Punk was unwilling to sacrifice his personal dignity. He was unwilling to take on a dated, obnoxious Russell Brand-style gimmick or wear a ridiculous bunny rabbit costume for the greater glory of WWE.

2) Punk was unwilling to compromise himself and his personal beliefs. If he was going to be part of the WWE, he was going to do so pantomiming Jesus Christ and playfully forcing his Straight Edge beliefs onto others.

CM Punk is an Original. He took what he personally believed in and made it cool. He did not chase popularity and let it contradict what he knew in his heart to be true. The downside of Being an Original is that you are frequently misunderstood, and that people will tend to denigrate you rather than appreciate you, at least initially.

The mistake would be to copy CM Punk’s attitude and values. Punk is thoroughly counter-culture and anti-authority, and while that can be you to a certain degree, it’s likely you don’t hate authority for it’s own sake.

Instead, Be an Original. You probably don’t think like other people, and if you want to be High-T, you shouldn’t act that way. Being true to yourself and doing things your own way, sometimes to your detriment, is an essential part of being both a Man and an Original.

It’s easy to tell someone to Be an Original, and if it were easy everyone would do it. The problem is that innovators and people who act and think unconventionally are usually not well-received by society, at least not at first. People tend to distill all others in their orbit into concepts and stereotypes that they can wrap their minds around. When someone genuinely unique comes around, it’s our nature to cast stones at them.

It’s also human nature to fear and hate what we do not understand. Part of the reason I am so divisive is that, in my view, I’m fairly original. I can’t really be shoe-horned into the most of the standard categories because my personality is complex and my interests are varied. But I’m both comfortable and confident in living this way, as all Men should be.

Being an Original can and does cause some social strife, but this approach ultimately leads to greater glory. Having said that, in my case it doesn’t help that I refuse to explain myself or my actions most of the time, which leads me to my next topic:

III) Be Vague

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Most people have this burning desire to be understood and to connect with other people. I am no different, but even more than being understood, I don’t want to be misunderstood. It leads to contradictions such as this, in which I will write 9,000 words about my outlook but refuse to offer some of the most basic details about my personal life.

To again cite a recent example, I quit Facebook because it was taking value from my life. While I was mainly using it to keep in contact with friends that live far away, what was happening was that people with agendas were taking some of the most off-base, trivial aspects of my personality and using them to make assaults on my character.

I covered it at length in the Quitting Facebook article, but an example was that people I dealt with professionally would take a Facebook picture of me from New Years 2007 or a profanity-laced post about the 2010 Hockey Olympic Gold-Medal Game and use it against me in any way possible.

Also as noted in the Facebook article, I can’t bring myself to take Facebook seriously, so rather than keep an account and censor myself, I chose to just eliminate the problem all together.

As noted above, people frequently misunderstand me because my appearance greatly varies and my personality traits are so contradictory. One moment I will come across as extremely intellectual, the next moment I will be involved in a fistfight. One minute I’ll be wearing a three-piece suit, and a moment later I’ll be wearing the tattered remains of a $5 t-shirt. One day I’ll have Conan-length hair, the next I’ll have a military buzzcut. There’s usually method to the madness, but to the unobservant it looks like I just do things.

But most people don’t care about your perspective or reasoning. Most people just want to stereotype each other for self-serving reasons. You don’t have to like this about people – I certainly don’t – but it’s a reality.

A high-value Man is not going to be drawn into the sorority-girl scheming and backstabbing that many people love to partake in. People are always going to talk about each other, but there are some people with nothing in their empty lives other than spreading gossip and baseless rumors. Like many Men of value, I consider people like this beneath me.

But people like this tend to create problems for me by constructing erroneous character assassinations, while I will not. As you may know, I am more of a “walk up and punch a guy in the face” type, but I obviously can’t risk going to jail every time someone spreads a rumor that I’m a drug dealer or a male escort.

My suggestion to the like-minded is to Be Vague. Limit your exposure. Your personal and professional business should not really concern other most other people. Plenty of very successful people, including the Greatest Man Alive, play their cards close to the vest. This method simply filters out potential problems, the same way a Spam folder filters junk e-mail.

People are always going to be critical, but you don’t need to give them additional ammunition. I prefer to choose my words somewhat carefully, and present my views on my own forum and in full. I’m a complex thinker with complex views, and I want these views to be fully explained before people jump to judgement.

I hate it when I’m having a conversation with someone and they take two sentences out of a 45-minute discussion and use that to form their impressions of me. But I really hate it when people take something I say or write as an obvious goof and use it to slander me. Being Vague just keeps a lot of the sorority sisters out of my personal affairs, and makes my life less complicated.

IV) Bros > Hos

I love women, to such a degree that it frequently gets me into trouble. I would say I have 80% of my private conversations with women, and surround myself with women by preference. Typically, women are a joy to be around, and I tend to prefer their company.

Meanwhile, I don’t have tons and tons of guy friends because I spend most of my time thinking about ways to beat other guys in competition or otherwise outdo them. For me and probably most other Alphas, male friendship is a rare privilege.

But I’m lucky enough to have 10-12 brothers, scattered across the globe, that I would push most other people out of a moving car for.

Let me tell you about my brother Chuck:

At the end of 2013, my housing development used a small contractual window to unilaterally terminate my lease. In English, they pulled a low-class move to evict me because I was locked in at a lower rent rate than they liked.

Anyway, I was left scrambling for a place to live. Faithful readers may recall that I got robbed at gunpoint that month. Those who know me personally also know that late 2013 was a really stressful time for me professionally. It’s like they say: when it rains, it pours.

Chuck must have seen my temples throbbing especially hard at Hockey one day, because out of the blue he says:

“No worries, bro. You can move in with me.”

It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. After I settled in, Chuck and I proceeded to have the best time two non-gay grown men can probably have. I haven’t laughed as hard in years as I did watching YouTube clips of LA Beast or Predator or Starship Troopers for the 80th time with my brother Chuck.

I’ve since moved out and Chuck has since gotten married, but at the time I needed a brother, and Chuck was a brother to me. He’s a tremendous individual, and I’ll always be extremely grateful to him.

Normally, I would dump a full drink on another guy or throw him down a small flight of stairs if he was preventing me from talking to a certain girl. So while for me it may be “Chicks Before Dicks” in most cases, like most High-T Men, my real brothers mean more to me than all the women in the world.

I actually have another very recent story that further speaks to that point, but I don’t think this is the time or place for it. I’ll probably retroactively link to it after the story is told. But the short version is that I picked the happiness of one of my brothers over a girl, because girls come and go. Brotherhood is more important than that, at least to Men of Value.

Speaking of girls coming and going…

V) Get the Girl

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Everyone has “the one who got away.” Hell, by my count, I have two girls that got away, at least as of this writing.

But as a Man of Value, what you want to do most of the time is Get the Girl. Do not piss and moan and agonize about whether she likes you or not. Make your intentions known and aggressively pursue her, outside circumstances be damned.

There’s been this disappointing trend in which weak Men make excuses as to why they can’t get the Woman they want. They tiptoe around the central issues – the biggest of which is that she can probably get someone better – so they mope and wallow and ultimately chase her away with their desperation and neediness.

I’ll get into this more in the section Kill Before It Kills You, but until the time comes in which you need to totally wash your hands of a bad situation or a stiletto-wearing dumpster-fire of despair, you may need to ride things out until a certain lucky lady comes to the realization that you are in fact the Man for her.

This concept segues nicely into the 6th Commandment:

VI) Have a Set or Grow a Set

nutuporshutup

This is basically the same as Jack’s Rule #11 (Don’t Be a Coward). But if you want to take things a step beyond being unafraid, you need to Have a Set or Grow a Set.

If you’re going to Be a Man, go assert yourself. If you’re not, live the contented, quiet life of a mouse. But don’t whine about circumstances and misfortune if you’re never going to take a chance or make an ambitious play.

I don’t exactly know where it stems from, but many if not most people live entirely different lives in their head than they do out in the world. I’m a realist and I understand that for most people, family and work take precedence over their personal desires.  However, it also bothers me that most people marginalize themselves so much and compromise their sense of self so easily.

In Men, this reluctance to step on toes can become paralyzing to the point of contempt.  I sometimes want to shake indecisive or timid males and bark in my best Sobe Voice, “You are a Man. Grow Some Fucking Balls.”

This condition – prevalent, diluted masculinity – exists for a great number of reasons, most of which would go past the scope of this section. But the takeaway point is that in 2015, it’s harder than ever to be a High-T Man without being seen as a relic or a social outcast. The ability to navigate socially, rather than aggressively dominate, is a much-handier skill set to possess today.

For me and other High-T Men, it would be an ideal world if one could go around tuning up every amoral, disingenuous, and passive-aggressive coward that we came across. Alas, we live in an unjust, lawsuit-happy era, and it’s not socially acceptable to beat the tar out of every clown that cuts you off in traffic.

I may not act on all of my aggressive impulses – like Johnny Rico says in the award-winning film Starship Troopers, The Mobile Infantry doesn’t make stupid Troopers” – but when I have a strong opinion about something, I certainly make it known.

The Passive-Aggressive approach, i.e. being friendly to someone’s face and disrespectful behind their back, doesn’t fly with High-T Men. If you’re a Man and you have something to say, say it to someone’s face. Don’t wait until they get up to get a Sprite and then start whispering behind their back like a catty sorority girl.

In High-T Men, this mindset endures in all areas. While discretion may in fact be the better part of valor, there is also the notion that fortune favors the bold. As Woody Harrelson’s character Tallahassee likes to say in Zombieland, Nut Up or Shut Up.”

VII) Be Physically Dominant

muhammad-ali

Like most High-T Men, I am a Physical guy. Everything I like to do – sports, sex, working out, even the jobs I’ve taken on – is predicated on the use of my body. As such, it’s become my nature to be as Physically Dominant as possible.

Certain people are going to misread this idea and think, “Go start bullying people.” That’s not what I’m suggesting at all. But if you’re ethical and just, it almost behooves you to also be physically dominant so that you might uphold these values. It’s a cornerstone of Testosterone.

I’ve mentioned it several times, but there was an incident recently in which I was suspended from the Wilmington rink because I fought a kid. The kid threw a slew-foot on me, so I got up, and I warned him that his behavior was out of line. He not only refused to apologize or heed my warnings, but he continued to buzz around and say things that offended me. So, I fought him and roughed him up, and very honestly I could have beat him much worse.

People may rightly look at me as the bad guy in this situation, and that’s fair. But even in wailing on him a bit to try teaching him a lesson in respecting those bigger and stronger than you, I protected the kid. I’m a Hockey purist, and I don’t think there’s much honor in beating on a smaller person. But there’s even less honor in kicking out someone’s skates from behind and exposing them to severe injury.

The point is this: if you’re going to be an Alpha, i.e. Simba in the Lion King, you need to be physically dominant. If you are not, there is a good chance you will become a beta, i.e. Skar or the Jackals in The Lion King. As a craven beta, you will have to be the type that has to kick out the Alpha’s skates from behind because you can’t physically-compete with him. You will then you will have to cry out “I’m only 17!” so the Alpha doesn’t maul you. It’s a potentially bad life.

Apologies for mixing metaphors, but I’m a writer. It’s what we do.

Moving along, the more-appealing reason to be physically dominant revolves around a Man’s interactions with Women. I’m going to be as Vague as possible and not incriminate myself, but my  experience has been that most Women want a powerful Man who makes them feel protected. This is hard to accomplish when your girlfriend can out-lift you at the gym and wears the same size jeans as you. Remember what you’re supposed to be bringing to the table as a Man.

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Since we’re talking about being physically dominant…

VIII) You WILL Do Squats

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By my estimate, Mr. Olympia/fitness icon/actor/California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is the most fascinating person of his era, possibly only superseded by actor/martial artist/philosopher/writer Bruce Lee. The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding remains my favorite book and an essential read in the fitness community almost 30 years after first publication.

Arnold’s most-recent book, Total Recall, tells a tale that would be roundly rejected by book publishers as an absurd work of fiction due to unbelievability. Yet the spread of photos in the middle of the book, to say nothing of Arnold’s bodies of work in Bodybuilding, Acting, Fitness, and Politics, are proof of the epic life that he’s lived.

Like many people, I sometimes get very busy, and at the end of a long day the last thing I want to do is go force myself through a workout. But I like having high Testosterone and being good at sports, so most of the time I manage to drag myself in.

On the rare occasions when I absolutely lack motivation and my usual motivational carrots – Hockey, Women, personal pride, etc. – fail to inspire me, I use a photo of The Oak such as this to shame myself into going:

arnoldglare

If you’ve read New Encyclopedia, then you’re familiar with the very distinct manner in which Arnold writes. He has no issue making up his own Austrian/English words (such as Problematical), and uses his unique brand of motivation/humiliation to inspire others. After a few reads through the massive tome that is New Encyclopedia, you can hear Arnold’s voice as clear as day shaming you into being less of a whiner and more of a winner.

Maybe I had a dream about it, but somewhere amidst the meandering 800+ pages of New Encyclopedia is a very basic tenet: You WILL Do Squats.

Squats are non-negotiable, if you consider yourself anything other than a complete girly-man. You WILL do them, under order of the Terminator himself.

squats

Maybe you aren’t interested in Strength Training, but if you’re interested in Testosterone there’s a good chance that you have an unhealthy obsession with the iron. If you want to make Testosterone your religion, there’s no better building block than a high-volume squat workout. You WILL Do Squats, starting immediately.

IX) Kill Before It Kills You

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I’m not going to get all Darwinian on you or overburden you with scholarly articles, as I’m apt to do. The cold truth of life is that the world is not a terribly nice place most of the time. As they say, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, and this is something most everyone will comes to learn as they mature.

While many are able to embrace this savage aspect of human nature, many others who are hard-wired with the instinct to protect others.

I am wired this way. I may be, as one woman famously put it, “a colossal dick”, but at the end of the day my instincts are to protect people in both physical and emotional ways. I am far from alone in this regard, as there are innumerable people who think of the good of the collective before they think of their personal desires.

A notable example from fiction is Rick Grimes, lead character of both The Walking Dead television show and The Walking Dead graphic novels. Throughout both the novels and the show, Rick is described as “a Man of Conscience”, and is frequently shown to have ethical objections to some of the horrible things he must do to ensure the safety of his family and friends.

But in the epic 4th Season finale, Rick very literally puts the 9th Commandment of Testosterone into practice:

The clip from The Walking Dead serves as a metaphor. In life, there are a great number of threats – some insidious, some obvious – that can compromise our health and livelihood. The key is to identify and eliminate these threats before they take a severe toll on you.

There are two particular areas in which I apply this commandment: Women and Work.

As I will discuss below, one of my bigger character flaws/traits is that I am a sucker for a damsel-in-distress. If a Woman appears to be in trouble or vulnerable, I am basically powerless to stop myself from trying to help her. Over the years, shrewd Women have observed this trait in me, and tooled me to various degrees.

While some people may read this and chuckle about what a chump I am, this trait – the need to intervene and help others – is also one of the strongest aspects of my character. I wouldn’t be who I am if I suddenly started turning a blind eye to others in need. I often proceed knowing that I’m being played, because that’s more palatable for me than the alternative.

Acknowledging that, the maturation process for me has been to identify when I am clearly being used, and to kill the relationship before it kills me.

I touched upon it in “On Doing the Right Thing I”, but I ended a close friendship with my former roommate because her toxicity was sucking the life out of me. In addition to being a sullen wench, not a week went by in which she didn’t manipulate me into helping her solve one of her personal problems or self-constructed dramas.

She was usually pretty personable with me, but she would surround herself with these douchebag, effete hipsters who would rightly see me as a threat and passive-aggressively provoke me into confrontation. I enjoyed her friendship a lot, but it was exhausting. One day, I took a deep breath and decided I had to remove her from my life, for the sake of my own well-being. I “killed” our relationship before it took anything more out of me.

That’s just one example, but it’s part of a larger pattern of traditional behavior for me. I’ve written in the past about what a problem quitting is for me, and for the longest time I was unable to separate quitting a relationship from “killing” one. I’ve changed in that regard, and while it may not be progress, but it’s definitely evolution.

The same goes for work. I was raised by a family of farmers, and I am fortunate enough to have a great work ethic and pride in being professional. The downside of this, as I discussed in Jack’s Rules, is that I’ll tend to let my personal pride keep me from leaving a bad job or hostile work environment.

I think everyone reading this can empathize, as they are either like me – i.e. tend to stay too long in flawed relationships because of personal integrity – or they are the sort of person who tries to exploit people like me. Regardless, the lesson is this:

To grow and thrive, a Man will sometimes need to make a hard choice and “kill” a given relationship. There could be any number of factors – money, sex, emotional investment, honor, etc. – that make the relationships seem salvageable, but a high-value Man will identify when a relationship has outlasted its usefulness, and sever it.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds, because most of the time there is a strong human component to a given relationship. Most of the time, “killing” a relationship will involve putting a weaker person out to pasture for the sake of your own well-being, and as a Man of Conscience, this will wear on you. But as a Man of Value, you will tap into your inner strength and make a hard choice that most other people cannot.

To be a strong-enough Man to accomplish this, you will need to learn the 10th Commandment well…

X) Don’t Beg for Mercy, Work for Strength

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(John Cena Deadlifting 650 pounds, like a boss – don’t dare say he doesn’t deserve his spot)

We were told just to sit tight,
‘Cause somebody will soon arrive.
Help is on the way.
But it never came
It never came

Rise Against, Help Is On The Way

Megatron: [feigning defeat as he reaches for a gun] No more, Optimus Prime! Grant me mercy, I beg of you!

Optimus Prime: You, who are without mercy, now plead for it? I thought you were made of sterner stuff

Let me tell you one thing I’ve learned about Women. Free tip:

For many if not most Women, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Good Man or a Bad Man. What matters to them is if you’re a Strong Man. The rest is negotiable.

This isn’t meant to paint Women in an unflattering light, and there are certainly exceptions.  But my experience has been that Strength – be it emotional, physical, or otherwise – is the critical component Women seek when searching for an ideal mate.

There are some awful Men who do or have done extremely-well with Women. We also all know some great guys who can’t get anywhere with the fairer sex. Unfortunately, the misconception of many Men is that Bad Boys automatically get all of the Women, while nice guys don’t. This leads Good Men to behaving badly in the interest of doing better with Women.

But there are plenty of Good Men who do great with Women, and in fact I think if Women had their way, they would all have a Good Man. But their Man needs to be a Good, Strong Man, both emotionally/mentally as well as physically.

Strength is More than Physical. A Strong Man ideally would provide financial and psychological support when needed, and as noted above should be a pro in making his Woman feel comfortable. If he’s physically-strong to boot, the Man in question should be so busy fighting off Women with a stick that he doesn’t have time to address his other shortcomings, whatever they may be.

(My two cents? You should take care of your Woman, and she should let you. After all, she takes care of you. But I’m traditional.)

So let’s say I can sell you on the idea of being a Strong Man rather than a Good Man or a Bad Man. If you want Strength – emotional, physical, or otherwise – you’re going to have to work for it. Life is largely unfair, and you are not going be magically transformed from weak-willed to resolute. You are going to have to fight for Strength.

Let me tell you another thing I’ve learned: The Only Help is Self-Help.

Not to say that a lot of people haven’t helped me through the years, because I’ve been blessed enough to have had an outstanding support network, at times. But there have been a lot of times when, like most Men, I’ve basically been on my own. It always seems like this happens when the circumstances of life are at their most overwhelming.

Again, life can be brutal. I’ll steal this speech from Rocky Balboa:

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!

Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth! But you gotta be willing to take the hits. And not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!

A Man can beg for mercy, but sometimes, there will be no mercy. A Man will need to work to find the Strength needed to Rise against whatever circumstances life has thrown at him. Testosterone will help greatly in this regard.

Lastly:

XI) Be a Hero

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(Props to me for working not one but two relevant Zombieland references into the article)

If there’s an overriding theme to my work, it’s Be a Hero. There is very little in my eyes more masculine than stepping up when no one else will, especially as circumstances grow more daunting.

Anyone who reads my writing knows that I am a big fan of Heroes in all forms and shapes. But if I had to pick one, we all know it’s Batman. Here’s why:

Even the most casual fan is aware that young Bruce Wayne witnessed his parents being murdered, and rather than pout like a little girl or turn to chronic substance abuse, he dedicated himself to ensuring that such an incident would never have the opportunity to repeat itself.  He went on a decade-long odyssey in which he prepared his body and mind for a forthcoming war on injustice.

Being as realistic as possible in looking at the situation, if an eight-year old saw his parents killed before his eyes, he would likely be a fucking mess. Any number of emotional or psychological disorders would have likely crippled any child in Bruce Wayne’s position, and the fact that he was a pillow-soft rich kid makes it all the more likely he would have collapsed under duress. The real-life Bruce Wayne would have turned to drugs and alcohol, and ultimately let substance abuse consume him.

But that’s why the idea of Batman is so special, and resonates with fans as it does. Bruce Wayne, even with irreparable psychological damage, chose to Be a Hero. It would make him a one-in-a-billion type of person considering the circumstances, and that’s why Batman is a work of fiction. But it’s inspirational nonetheless.

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It’s interesting to me that both Bruce Wayne and Patrick Bateman of American Psycho infamy are played by actor Christian Bale, because it allows for some interesting comparisons. Both obviously come from a great deal of money. Both have obvious psychological damage. Both exhibit great intelligence and extreme control-freak tendencies. Both show an obsession with their bodies and their health.

Watching the films in succession, it’s almost impossible at times to distinguish between Bale’s Bateman and his Batman. It’s a very thin line between the Man Bruce Wayne became and the one Patrick Bateman became. But that’s the point of the 11th Commandment of Testosterone. Be a Hero, by choice, even if circumstances lead you in the opposite direction.

It’s far more-realistic that a traumatized eight-year old would become Patrick Bateman, i.e. a murdering psychopath, than he would become a Hero. Not even a Man in a Bat costume, but a cop or a doctor or a firefighter, i.e. someone who works for the good of others.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that Bruce Wayne and Patrick Bateman even think in fundamentally similar ways. Not just in terms of control and precision, but also in terms of emotional scarring from trauma during development. In most interpretations, Batman/Bruce Wayne is shown to a borderline sociopath at best and at worst a very disturbed individual.

But that’s why Batman is so revered, even 75 years after the character’s creation. Batman does something that most people are incapable of, which is that he creates something good from great tragedy. He does not let tragedy dictate the person that he is or what he aims to accomplish. Even if Batman’s brain is not a nice place to be, he still opts to make positive, tangible contributions to the world around him.

Two scenes from Batman Begins reinforce this concept:

A Man can choose to benevolent, even if he’s an aggressive or even malicious person by nature. A Man can choose to Be a Hero, because a Man in control of himself. That’s the fundamental difference between Batman and Patrick Bateman: Bateman can’t control himself because deep down, he’s a scared little boy. Batman can control himself, and focus himself in a positive direction, because he’s a Man.

Batman is also the model for those who have had to work for their success, which many Men of Value have had to do. While some Men are born with seemingly-endless gifts and have their own unique struggles – not unlike Superman – many Men have had to build themselves from nothing. They have had to overcome a lack of talent with education and work ethic, and they have had to overcome personal issues on their own. Batman is a choice role-model for Men like this.

As a Man, realize that you have a choice. You don’t have to Be a Hero, but you also don’t have to let tragedy and circumstances outside of your control define you. The one thing a Strong Man can control is himself, how he acts and reacts to the world around him. It’s a great responsibility, but it’s also a tremendous freedom that weaker Men may never get to experience. As a Strong Man, the choice is yours.

Bonus Section

These two extras aren’t Testosterone Commandments per se, but they are both helpful things to know.

Bonus #1) Dictate Your Environment

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“I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me.”

– Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), The Departed

This isn’t a full-on commandment, but as a Man you do want to be conscious of how your environment impacts you, and vice versa.

My friends know that “the world is my living room”. I can frequently be seen walking around Hockey rinks barefoot or plugging my iPhone charger into any power outlet within sight because I am, for whatever reason, very comfortable making myself comfortable.

As my friends also know, I am very comfortable forcing my preferences onto other people. I’m a sport and I’ll be accommodating, but if you give me the slightest bit of latitude in making a decision, we are going to end up watching Super Troopers way more often than we watch the latest Sarah Jessica Parker farce/Rom-Com.

It’s the nature of Men to take something and make it theirs, and a Man’s environment is no different. A side effect of ramping up my natural Testosterone levels has been that I have become almost territorial. If you ever want to be embarrassed, come into my Hockey team’s locker room some time without an invitation. I promise no one will belittle and berate you louder that particular day.

You don’t have to be as obnoxiously-territorial as I can be to learn an important lesson in masculinity: Dictate Your Environment.

There is definitely a line between being a bane on society and being a mindless, timid conformist. A Man will dictate his environment to a large degree, as he knows his personal worth meets or exceeds that of the people around him. But a Man will usually not make those around him deliberately uncomfortable for his own sake. The key, as with most judgement calls, is to Walk the Line and show a reasonable amount of discretion without letting anyone else step on you.

Bonus #2) Understand the Nature of Estrogen

Before you get your thong in a twist, hear me out. This is not an attack on women. In fact, it’s a defense:

I’ve written extensively about the benefits of Testosterone, which you can of course read more about elsewhere. The opposite of Testosterone (not the antagonist, obviously) is Estrogen, a hormone that prominently occurs in Women. Estrogen exists in Men as well, leading to a disturbing number of maladies if left unchecked, but offers a number of benefits to Women including:

  • Increasing serotonin, and the number of serotonin receptors in the brain.
  • Modifying the production and the effects of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain.
  • Protecting nerves from damage, and possibly stimulating nerve growth.

Estrogen is also of course critical in female sexual development and child bearing. But the downside of Estrogen is that it’s an extremely volatile hormone, and that it can cause wild fluctuations in mood irrespective of gender. You can read the entirety of this WebMD article on Estrogen and Women’s Emotions here.

A condition called Estrogen Dominance can occur in both Men and Women, in which Estrogen levels run rampant and unchecked, leading to numerous problems. Here are some of the effects of Estrogen Dominance:

estrogendominance

I am not going to do your reading for you, but you should understand the basic positive and negative effects of both Estrogen and Testosterone. If you’re thoroughly-undereducated, you can start with this scholarly article and work your way through.

Estrogen Dominance sounds like hell on earth to me, which is why I so voraciously chase Testosterone. But I am a Man, and I have the luxury of attempting to turn on my Testosterone like a spigot with smart lifestyle choices.

Women, however, generally have about 1/10th of the Testosterone of the average Man, thus missing out on most of the benefits of Testosterone while combating the Estrogen Dominance conditions detailed above. As an example, the average Woman has to work much harder to lose a few pounds than the average Man, again due to the average Woman’s Estrogen: Testosterone ratio.

Once more, this is not to say that there are no positives to Estrogen. There are many. It’s a hormone not unlike Ghrelin or Luteinizing Hormone or Cortisol and serves a major purpose within both male and female human bodies. But Estrogen Dominance is not a desirable condition for Men, and as noted above, even Women do not want out-of-whack Progesterone: Estrogen ratios.

I included this section for two reasons:

1) I think it’s important to educate Men on how problematical Estrogen Dominance can be, and how it can be contributing to any number of mental or physical problems a Man might be experiencing. I highly recommend that as a Man, you educate yourself on ways in which you can mitigate Estrogen Dominance – if only to limit your chances of conditions like Prostate Cancer – even if you do not wish to aggressively pursue high Testosterone levels.

2) I can’t believe I’m writing these words, but … try not to give Women such a hard time. Lord knows this is a case of “doing what I say, not what I do”, but the reality is that the hormonal deck is largely stacked against Women in many instances, and that’s before contributing factors such as Birth Control are thrown in.

As a Man, you can’t reasonably be expected to know what’s going on with a Woman at any given time. But as noted under the 11th Commandment, you can choose to cut a good girl some slack if she’s acting like a maniac. Educate yourself, adjust your patience accordingly, and make your own determinations.

Final Words on Testosterone

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A brief list of things NOT to be:

Don’t Be a Coward

Don’t Be a Clown

Don’t Be a Crybaby

By now, you’re seeing a consistent theme in Testosterone-based behavior. Pretty much anything that lacks basic masculine dignity is a major no-no as far as this is concerned.

I have a passion for both Strength Training and body development, so it’s hard for me not to push the benefits of both. Do you need Strength Training to be a High-T or high-value male? Absolutely not. But is a passion for Strength Training or body development going to hinder you? Absolutely not.

In closing, if Being a Man were easy, every male would do it. Most take the easy way out and elect to gleefully conform to our current passive-aggressive culture, and generally bend over every time life decides to stick them. Being a Man of Value, rather than just a male placeholder, takes dedication and a stiff spine.

If you decide to rise to the challenge of Being a Man, know that the rewards are significant. But it won’t be effortless. You will need to dig in, and ideally with some support in the form of these Ten Eleven Commandments, you can become a Man of Conscience and Value. Lord knows we could use a few more.

Jack

 

Issue #96: Concussions and Clarity

(UPDATE: 7/19/2015 – I rarely edit my articles for content, but I’ve been a concussion-addled mess for the better part of a month. I finally noticed a decent amount of clarity last Friday the 16th, and while the first draft of #96 wasn’t embarrassing, upon review I thought it needed some tightening. This update is the post-concussion version of #96, which I hope paints a more-complete picture.)

One of the best sports-themed websites in publication is The Players’ Tribune, which grants professional athletes a forum in which they can convey their unique views and perspectives. The hockey-related content, such as this stellar piece by Pascal Dupuis of the Pittsburgh Penguins, is always must-read material.

One recent article in particular struck a chord with me. It’s a piece by Chicago Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo, in which he pays homage to recently-departed former NHLer Steve Montador. Steve Montador, “Monty” to his friends, suddenly died in his home in February 2015. Montador had been instrumental in helping Dan Carcillo, among others, acclimate to life as a professional hockey player and helped Carcillo cope with substance-abuse issues.

Steve Montador was beloved, and his passing reverberated around the League. Montador’s autopsy would reveal that he had a severely-progressed case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain condition that mimics dementia.

As per the Montador article, here are some of the symptoms of CTE, as explained by Steve’s father:

“…depression, memory loss, vertigo, nausea, and insomnia.

The concussions “had significant impact in terms of memory loss, thinking, decision-making — all kinds of things that were difficult for him near the end of his life,” Montador’s father said.

“He would forget things within minutes. And he knew it. He realized it. He was trying to relate it to the concussions or depression or whatever was causing those things.”

The effects of CTE and repeated concussions are just heartbreaking, but they are an inherent risk that contact-sport athletes consent to. Stories like Steve Montador’s, tragically, are not so much rarities as they are rapidly-growing concerns, or even an epidemic.

If you want to depress yourself, you can read about former NHL players Bob Probert, Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak, and most recently Todd Ewen. These stories will make you sick to your stomach. There’s also the tragic case of former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster, who regrettably has become the textbook example of CTE.

If you skipped the Carcillo article linked above, at least watch this brief video of Carcillo talking about his friend Montador:

 

Carcillo makes a call for a stronger “exit program” for NHL players, as many players end up leaving the League not only in damaged physical condition, but also with very limited job or practical skills. Carcillo is certainly right in calling for the sport to do a better job taking care of it’s players, and his take on the concussion-related issues that afflicted Steve Montador is harrowing.

(UPDATE: Dan Carcillo abruptly retired from the NHL to found the player-support program known as Chapter 5, named after Steve Montador. Say what you will about Dan Carcillo the hockey player, but Dan Carillo is a conscientious human being.)

Montador’s story is tragic, but is hardly the first of it’s type. Other notable athletes whose lives ended due to CTE symptoms include for NFL stars Mike Webster and Junior Seau, among others. You can read their respective tales of tragedy via the links above.

All of this information would be troubling under any circumstances, but here is why all of this is so personally-relevant to me:

Concussion #8 (?)

In mid-June 2015, I took a hard elbow in a hockey game where the lower jaw meets the ear on the back of my head. I don’t remember all of the details, but I remember that I was on a half-breakaway. I’m a left-shot player, and I was cutting across the goaltender from my left to my right on my forehand. I thought no one else was around me except for the opposing goaltender.

The last thing I remember is a player with red gloves/pants nailing me behind the right ear with either his hard-cap elbow pads or the butt-end of his stick.

My legs immediately gave out, and I laid face-down on the ice for what was probably only 15-20 seconds, but felt like an eternity. My eyes were open, but I could only see black. It was the loneliest feeling in the world. I vaguely remember thinking, “that was the hit that finally put the lights out.” I remember that it felt like dreaming.

Slowly, my vision returned, and I realized I was looking at the ice as the black gave way to white. I could now hear a player from the other team calling for the officials to blow the play dead, but as my vision returned I got to my feet and skated back into the play. A teammate of mine later said I was stumbling, and he originally thought that I had injured one of my legs. Hello, concussion walk.

As I write this, I’m getting angry remembering the game. I am not a player who goes down easily or flops to draw calls, but amazingly neither official saw a penalty on the play. I got off the ice as soon as possible because the right half of my head was killing me, but finished the game.

The player who hit me had been running around like an asshole all game long. He had taken two separate runs at one of my team’s better players, and earlier in the game had run our goaltender. He was playing an adult-league game recklessly at best, and at worst he skating around trying to hurt people.

My philosophy in hockey, particularly adult-league hockey, is Shut Up and Play. I remember yelling from the bench at my notoriously-chatty goaltender earlier in the game to “get back in the crease and shut the fuck up,” as he was crowing at the player who ran him, meaning the same player who would later run me.

I didn’t go after the kid earlier in the game, before he had the opportunity to seriously hurt someone, and that was a mistake on my part. I had failed to enforce the Spider-Man Rule, which is that you deal with or neutralize a potentially-problematic person before he or she does something that can’t be undone. Because I failed to act earlier, I ended up the victim of my own restraint, and now the proud recipient of no less than eight concussions.

Anyway, a bit later and with a little encouragement from me, this asshole was kicked out of the game early in the third period. The genius had managed to rack up five minor penalties in just over two periods of play, and that didn’t include the elbow/butt-end on me or the run on my goaltender. But it was too late. I knew I would be spending the next few days, at least, in the quiet room.

To the kid’s credit, he later came and tried to apologize, but I wasn’t having it. He was mercifully pulled away from me before I could fight him. I was livid, as the combination of my throbbing head and my disdain for dangerous beer-league players didn’t leave me in the most diplomatic mood. In fact, I often wonder if the number of knocks to the head I’ve taken have permanently altered my mood, which I’ll try to explain in the next section.

Backstory and Perspective

I need to rewind a bit in the interest of making a few points.

My first point is about who we are versus who we may have become, and I’ll use myself as the example:

I was born intellectually-gifted. I routinely got “99” on those standardized tests that are given to grade-school kids, and I was once reprimanded for bringing home a report card with a “B” on it. I got a 1390 on my SATs, finished high school with a 4.25 GPA thanks to Honors class weighting, and got a large academic scholarship to a very well-regarded private university.

All of that means nothing, as I’ve largely squandered my academic and intellectual gifts by using my head as a battering ram for the past two decades. But there was a point when my brain was an uncashed lottery ticket.

That time has seemingly come and gone, and noting that my memory is basically garbage at this point, a look at my college transcripts can pinpoint the exact time period that everything changed for me.

In January of my Senior year of college, I got my fifth or sixth concussion playing hockey. Within the same month, I got my sixth or seventh concussion playing hockey. I have only the most vague recollection of the situation in which I got each concussion, but I kind of remember getting two big hits to the head within a few weeks of each other early in my Senior year.

Back when I was playing in college – and this was circa 2007 or so, not 1974 – concussions weren’t really treated as a big deal. Are you awake? Can you stand? OK, shake it off, get back out there, and skate a little harder.

In fact, it really took an epidemic of head-shots in the NHL – most notably the shots taken to the head of NHL poster-boy Sidney Crosby – to raise awareness about concussions. As I’ve tried to explain to people, a concussion isn’t like a broken bone or even a bad bruise, because barring a CT Scan or an IMPACT test, there’s no tangible evidence. Because concussions don’t leave telltale signs, historically they have been marginalized compared to more-obvious injuries.

Anyway, after taking two concussions early in my Senior year, I proceeded to fail five of the six classes I was enrolled in. My mother was understandably beside herself, as I hadn’t gotten anything lower than a B-minus in my entire academic history, and also understandably she assumed drugs and/or the alcoholic she-devil I philandered with were destroying my life.

It was infuriating to try to explain the situation to my mother, and of greater concern, I was worried that she would try to make me stop playing hockey if I fessed up and told her the full truth. It’s almost ten years too late, but here’s the truth as I remember it:

My head killed me almost 24/7, but because I was this indestructible meathead college hockey player, I didn’t say anything about it. I basically did the worst things I could have possibly done, which included 1) no medical treatment, 2) continuing to play hockey 4-5 times per week, and 3) liberal drinking with she-devil girlfriend.

I did recognize that I was failing what should have been my final semester of college, so I would do things like put myself to sleep at 7PM on a Monday night, only to wake up at 4PM the next day. A few times, I slept well over 24 hours straight.

While rest – meaning time in the quiet room with the electronic screens dimmed-down – is highly-advisable, sleep is still a very debatable remedy for a concussion. In any event, my body’s response was to try to sleep my way though these traumatic brain injuries I had, and this desire or need for sleep forced me to repeat my Senior year. Here comes the Super-Senior!

This was the divergence event, and it brings me to the greater point within the context of the article: what kind of person would we become if not for certain events within our lives?

If I had never taken those shots to the head my senior year of college, who would I have become? Would I be a more well-adjusted member of society? Would I be less aggressive? Would I have greater impulse control? Would I be “nice”? What line of work would I have gotten into? The world will never know.

The same can be said for any number of people. Almost everyone has a few events that radically alter the course of their lives. But fewer people can pinpoint the exact moments in which their lives take a sharp turn in a different direction, and even fewer can attribute these changes in character to physical (rather than emotional) impact.

There’s a well-known story about an American railroad foreman named Phineas Gage, in which Gage survived a catastrophic injury to the frontal lobe of his brain. Per Wikipedia:

Phineas P. Gage (1823 – May 21, 1860) was an American railroad construction foreman remembered for his improbable[B1]:19 survival of an accident in which a large iron rod was driven completely through his head, destroying much of his brain’s left frontal lobe, and for that injury’s reported effects on his personality and behavior over the remaining twelve years of his life—​effects so profound that (for a time at least) friends saw him as “no longer Gage.”

Again per Wiki, these are the functions of the frontal lobe. My notes are in bold:

“…involves the ability to project future consequences resulting from current actions (need for immediate gratification versus long-term), the choice between good and bad actions (or better and best), the override and suppression of socially unacceptable responses (aggressive/anti-social behavior), and the determination of similarities and differences between things or events (sharp memories versus Vague Memories).

The frontal lobe also plays an important part in retaining longer term memories which are not task-based (the Memento Effect). These are often memories associated with emotions derived from input from the brain’s limbic system. The frontal lobe modifies those emotions to generally fit socially acceptable norms (again, antisocial/nonconformist emotions).”

The story of Phineas Gage is almost-metaphorical, but serves to illustrate the potential severity of head injuries. Educated people can no longer be ignorant to how life-altering concussions and concussion-related conditions such as CTE can be.

Adjustments

Above, I considered who I might have become had I not taken so many hits to the head, i.e. a nice, normal, well-adjusted member of society. By contrast, here are the alterations I’ve made to my life as a result of the brain injuries I’ve incurred:

  • Writing

I’ve mentioned this before, but I write in large part because my memories and thoughts are fleeting, at best. Sometimes driving home from hockey, I’ll have a tremendous idea or a great narrative hook, but if I’m not quick to write it down, I’ll likely lose it forever. I sometimes read things I’ve written and think, “that’s brilliant”, but have little or no memory of having written said piece.

I was writing as far back as middle-school, but I would say the way I write now is as much therapeutic as it is artistic. I literally write ideas down so that I don’t forget them, or so that I don’t forget momentous occasions in my life.

(Funny aside: I was hanging out with my old pal Billy last year. Billy went to college with me, and at one point lived with the she-devil ex-girlfriend mentioned above. We were talking last year, and he starts talking about “Chris.” I’m like, “Who the hell is Chris?”

Billy looks at me sideways and again says “Chris. You know, you dated her for three years???” And I go, “OH, KRISS! Haha, I had forgotten about her  and her soul-sucking drama entirely.” See? Brain damage taketh away, but it also giveth.)

  • The Notebooks

I mentioned the movie “Memento” in the above section. In the film, Guy Ritchie tries to organize his life by keeping a system of notes and learning to trust his own handwriting and instincts. I’ve adopted a similar system.

Those who know me in real life will notice that I frequently carry around these little 4″ Mead notebooks at the expense of looking like a bookie. I use these notebooks for a variety of tasks, mainly to organize my thoughts but also to write out the tasks I need to complete step-by-step. The notebooks are mostly filled with chicken-scratch and strike-throughs and check-marks, reminders of tasks I’ve completed or plan to complete.

If I don’t keep lists, I’m liable to walk into a grocery store and suddenly have no idea what I’m there for. If I’m not careful, I’m capable of doing things like buying half-gallons of almond milk multiple days in a row. Nothing majorly catastrophic, as I consider the Notebook Gimmick part of the cost of my life as a hockey player, but life without these notebooks would be pretty inconvenient.

  • Bright lights/Noise

I’m rarely photographed without a pair of sunglasses in the frame, and I mostly hate anything extremely-bright. As an example, I live at the beach yet go no more often than once or twice per year because the glare off the water makes my temples throb. I’ll wear sunglasses indoors on occasion and draw the requisite Maverick jokes.

That goes double for noise. I just about refuse to go to concerts, and I’m known to get up and walk out of a loud bar or restaurant if the noise is loud or pervasive enough.

Again, these are concessions I gladly make for love of my sport. But I am a little curious what it would be like to actually want to go to a Rise Against concert or spend a day on a boat.

  • Diet/Exercise

Exercise helps clear my head in a very literal way. My theory is that the type of exercise I tend to do (strength training for hypertrophy) and the type of diet I generally follow promotes Anabolism, which spurs regeneration of damaged brain cells in a similar way to the regeneration of damaged muscle cells.

Playing hockey promotes Anabolism via a different pathway, due to the amount of growth hormone and testosterone that is released during high-intensity anaerobic activity. I almost always feel mentally-sharper after a good skate, assuming I didn’t get my head clubbed in.

Is this science bulletproof? No, but I’m both Lead Scientist and Lead Lab Rat. My experience has been that following the diet and exercise protocols of a bodybuilder/anaerobic athlete improves my cognitive function. I’ll save the rest of the science-heavy talk for a future scholarly article.

For health enthusiasts, I’ve also noticed that inflammatory foods increase my headaches and decrease my mental clarity. The most inflammatory foods for me seem to be wheat, dairy, and soy, and when I get lazy and start having pizza with any regularity, I immediately notice a recurrence of concussion symptoms. It’s almost like the brain-bruises feed off these inflammatory foods.

  • Caffeine

My body has a love/hate relationship with caffeine. While it’s great for jump-starting my brain in the morning and aiding cognitive function, it also seems to promote a cortisol release (which makes sense because cortisol often comes hand-in-hand with an adrenaline boost). My body runs hot (hyperthyroid) and loves to burn up muscle, and high caffeine intake seems to erode my explosiveness/strength and invite joint injuries.

So what’s a guy in my position to do? Being a hockey player, I’ll steal a quote from Gordie Howe about why he wore a protective cup but not a helmet:

gordiehowe

I generally opt to be sluggish, stupid, and unbearable before noon rather than let caffeine intake indirectly chew up my lean body mass. But there are periods of time, such as these past two weeks post-Concussion #8, in which I’ve upped my caffeine intake to help with mental clarity.

The Biggest Frustration

Shortly after receiving Concussion #8, I attended the wedding of my best friend from high school. It took a concerted effort just to keep the nausea at bay, but this was my oldest friend and there was no way I was going to miss her wedding. So I rode shotgun while my sister drove the two of us to Boston for the wedding, with a dark pillowcase wrapped around my eyes.

At the wedding, there was a live band, and the wedding featured a lengthy cocktail hour following the ceremony. The cocktail hour was in this confined area near the band, and my head absolutely could not take that much noise in an enclosed area. So I went inside to where dinner was being served, and sat by myself for the duration of the cocktail hour.

Both the bride and the groom came in and did everything in their power to make me comfortable, but neither of them are athletes and really have no understanding what a hit to the head feels like, let alone a severe one. I sat there and nodded dumbly at them like Rain Man and quiet sipped my Absolut-and-soda while the wedding unfolded around me.

The bride and groom didn’t make a big deal about it, but the bride’s sister and several other inebriated guests kept hammering me about how anti-social I was being. I sat there and smoldered, because these drunken fat fucks, who hadn’t so much as broken a sweat since 1999, screeched at me like horny alley-cats because I wasn’t pounding shots of Cuervo or doing the Cha-Cha slide.

This is the battle Hockey Players, from mites to professionals to beer-leaguers, wage: Hockey Players live in various levels of discomfort at all times, ranging from bumps-and-bruises to broken bones and soft-tissue tears. Hockey Players become accustomed to chronic discomfort, and hold decorum while injured as a badge of honor. This is a sacrifice that the rest of society needs to have a better appreciation for.

And while like most Hockey Players I take injuries in-stride, this is the most frustrating part for me about Concussions:

If I had shown up the wedding with my foot in a cast, all parties concerned would have been falling all over themselves to fetch me drinks, dinner, and otherwise dote upon me. I would have gotten a healthy amount of sympathy, and the collective would have worked to make me as comfortable as possible.

But you can’t see a Concussion, so it doesn’t “count” as an injury. In the view of the uneducated masses, a Concussion is just something I’m making up as an excuse to be anti-social and sullen.

This frustration is not unique to me. Any athlete, and especially any contact-sports athlete, deals with very similar frustrations. It’s part of the trade: you don’t get the accolades and the glory without the pain and discomfort. But the overall lack of understanding about the severity of Concussions by the Average Joe remains a major point of frustration.

On Clarity

I’m writing this article in one sitting because for the first time in two weeks I feel reasonably “clear”. I don’t have the mental fogginess or inability to focus that is so commonly associated with concussions, and it’s important to me to get this piece out while I can think straight.

I have been angry – almost furious – for most of the past two weeks, to an irrational degree. I believe I was justified in angrily-refusing to accept an asshole’s insincere apology, but I’ve been irritable or worse for most of the past two weeks. I’m not feeling spectacular as I write this, but at least I recognize that my behavior and manner of thinking over the past few weeks has been uncharacteristic.

These little tastes I’ve taken from the concussion buffet are enough to make me very interested in increasing concussion awareness. I didn’t want to write another article in which I droned on about myself, but I believe it’s necessary that I do my part to increase concussion awareness and to discourage other players from trying to cripple each other with unnecessary head-hits.

I was talking with one of my teammates last week, and we were talking about the difference between “Hockey Players” and “people who play hockey”. Here’s one clear distinction between the two:

My view is that Hockey Players – especially humble A-leaguers such as myself – have a responsibility to protect each other on the rink. None of us are being paid, and most of us are going to work the next day. There’s no need to ever see a blindside head-hit in an adult-league game. Hockey Players need to have a baseline level of respect for each other, because at the end of the day, we’re all pretty similar and most of us share a love for the sport. It’s insane to be throwing head-hits in games that mean nothing.

As for “people who play hockey” – including those types who show up to games drunk and/or high and serve as a danger to others with their disrespectful, reckless play – this recent experience with Concussion #8 has left me far less charitable or sympathetic than I was two weeks ago, and I wasn’t all that charitable or sympathetic to begin with.

So I’m back to my zero-tolerance policy with people who deliberately endanger other players. As explained in Issue #90, I would rather have twenty hockey-fights per year than let some irresponsible clown or coward injure one of my teammates or me with blindside hits or slew-footing in an adult-league game. I’m sure that seems contradictory to embrace fighting while denouncing concussions, but I’ll save the pro-fighting/anti-headshot discussion for another time.

As Dan Carcillo wrote in his Players Tribune article, the concussion and CTE conversation needs to continue. Hockey administrators at the developmental levels need to do everything in their power to discourage head-hits. Adult league managers need to punish high-hits at a level commensurate to Fighting. Professional leagues need to continue constructing concussion awareness and exit programs for their players so that stories like Steve Montador’s have less of an opportunity to repeat themselves.

Thanks for reading,

Jack

#89: Why I’m Quitting Facebook

donwriting

There’s a great episode of Mad Men in which Don Draper takes out a full-page ad in the New York Times and airs his grievances with Lucky Strike Cigarettes by writing this open letter:

don_drapers_tobacco_lucky_strike_adI am not going to take out a full-page ad in the Times, nor even the Wilmington Star-News, but I am going to use my modest platform to air a grievance in a similar fashion. Like many others before me, I am going to attempt to quit a habit that has become even more detrimental to my overall well-being than cigarettes. This is:

Why I’m Quitting Facebook.

People talk all the time about Quitting Facebook in the same tone that they might use to talk about quitting drugs or alcohol. Facebook has become so ingrained in not only our culture but also our day-to-day lives that the thought of deleting it brings about reluctance bordering on anxiety.

After all, how do we live if there’s no electronic proof of our exploits? It doesn’t count as a trip to the gym or to Whole Foods if there isn’t a litany of photos/posts/tweets documenting the experience.

But most of us understand how narcissistic and self-indulgent Facebook and Social Media at-large tends to be. In fact, I’m not even the first person to write an article with this title:

quittingfacebookUsing Don Draper’s Lucky Strike Letter as a parody is a reasonably-clever idea, but my point in writing this article wasn’t to take credit for it. I’m writing this to serve two ends:

1) To consciously remind myself of why I’m deactivating my Facebook account

2) To encourage readers to ask themselves how much value Facebook and perhaps Social Media in general is adding or subtracting from their lives

With no further buildup, here is Why I’m Quitting Facebook.

The Main Reason

The main reason – and the story is so ridiculous I’m not going to fully repeat it – is that my relationship with a close friend has been damaged severely due to a freaking Facebook post. Adding insult to injury, it wasn’t even a post that I made.

I tried to hold down my temper as I apologized and explained that the Facebook post was taken well out of context, but it was too late. My friend’s feelings are hurt, and as I write this it has obviously damaged our relationship. To what long-term extent, that remains to be seen.

It doesn’t matter that I consider Facebook and similar Social Media a total joke, because reckless Status Updates clearly have the ability to hurt the feelings of people I care about. I apologized to my friend through gritted teeth, because the notion that a Social Media service was causing me a real-life problem was infuriating enough to make me rip my steering wheel off the column, but ultimately it didn’t matter. The damage had already been done.

Facebook claims I have around 210 Friends, but the reality is that I have four or five. I have a bunch of acquaintances that I could happily do without, but in terms of true friends – meaning people I could count on to support me when the chips were really down – at best I have a handful. Now I’m down one because of a Facebook post that I didn’t make.

Something I like to say is that Social Media is Free Marketing. My logic has always been that if you run a business or a service, you should have as many Social Media accounts as possible. If your business or service generates one lead or sale via Social Media, you’ve won, because you invested zero dollars in constructing an account.

But the converse is true as well. If I lose one actual friend because of something ridiculous that was seen or written on Facebook, Instagram, etc., then that particular service has outlasted its usefulness.

I’m Quitting Facebook mainly so that this same situation never has the opportunity to repeat itself. But there are some secondary reasons why Quitting Facebook is a good idea anyway:

Facebook Murders Productivity

I’ve written this before, but I’m retiring Jack Has Spoken at #100 because it detracts too strongly from my other projects. Aside from Reboot Hockey, I think I have a novel or two up my sleeve, and they aren’t getting written as long as I allow myself to write self-indulgent articles about Cougars or whatever.

In a very similar fashion, for me Facebook is a stop-gap activity that impedes productivity. It’s entirely too easy to go home for the night, pull up a combination of Facebook/Netflix/Whatever and call it Living (more on this in a minute).

I would challenge most people to keep track of the amount of time they spend on Facebook or similar Social Media in contrast to the amount of time they spend exercising, expressing themselves artistically, or having actual conversations with other people.

Facebook is ultimately worthless, and if you disagree, ask yourself: what happens if you have the most Facebook Friends or the coolest profile or the most-clever Status Updates? Do you get paid? Do you get an award? Does it make you healthier? Is it truly improving your relationships with other people?

I’m Quitting Facebook because it does the opposite of all of the items mentioned above. It doesn’t pay me, it doesn’t improve my health or relationships, and in the end it builds toward nothing. I would rather disconnect from it and make better use of my time.

Facebook Isn’t Living

any-given-sunday

I’m sure you’ve gone on Facebook and looked at someone’s vacation pics and thought to yourself, “it must be nice to be in Miami/San Marcos/Cozumel” or whatever. Facebook is much less about Living and much more about constant one-upping, with people demonstrating how much better or happier they are living than you through the use of strategic photography and carefully-doctored Status Updates.

Using Photos and Updates strategically isn’t a bad thing if you’re trying to market a product or even yourself. In fact, I’m keeping a ninja Facebook account just so I can continue to moderate Reboot Hockey’s Facebook page. But Facebook is not Living, and it never will be.

There’s a great quote from the movie Any Given Sunday in which Al Pacino’s character, in the midst of a Football pregame speech, refers to Living as “the six inches in front of your face“. He’s not wrong. You can look at as many pictures of the most gorgeous beach in the world as you like, but if you can’t taste the salt in the air or feel the warm sand beneath your feet, what’s the point?

Facebook is unnatural. It’s Sweet-and-Low, Equal, and Splenda, all rolled into one innocuous-looking packet. It does such a good job imitating Life that many of its users stop actively pursuing real experiences.

Real Life requires effort. Facebook offers a cop-out, because it’s easy to convince yourself that you’re interacting with other people and thus Living. But the best Facebook Messaging conversation in the history of the written word can’t compare to the kind of a fulfillment you can get from a good in-person conversation.

I am fortunate enough to know what social interaction was like before Facebook. Thinking back, my pre-Facebook life involved more time at the gym, more talking with women face-to-face, more worthwhile writing, and more actual time spent with real people. Facebook and similar Social Media services are easy and free, and what ends up at happening is that people – myself included – repeatedly forgo real experiences in lieu of electronic ones.

It has gotten to the point where Facebook is detracting from my Life, rather than enriching it. I am Quitting Facebook in the interest of focusing more on Real Living.

damon

Facebook = SkyNet

terminator

Nerds with Calculators will know what I mean by the term “Data Mining“, but for people like me who get laid regularly and play sports, Data Mining is, “an analytic process designed to explore data (usually large amounts of data – typically business or market related – also known as “big data“) in search of consistent patterns and/or systematic relationships between variables, and then to validate the findings by applying the detected patterns..

What this means in lay terms is that an electronic entity – let’s call it Facebook – keeps a record of the websites you view, what type of music you listen to, where you buy those fetish sex toys that you adore so much, etc. Right now, this is used primarily as a Predicative Sales tool, but I personally don’t like having something record every keyboard click I make. I’m pretty sure this is how the Machines take over in the Terminator movies.

To further my point, I would have just deactivated Facebook and been done with it, but a Facebook account is necessary for a number of other Media applications that I enjoy – notably Spotify. If I were a tech geek, I can’t imagine how many other ways I would be inconvenienced by deactivating my Facebook account.

I realize I am not going to take down this infestation by Social Media that some of the tech conglomerates are pursuing. All I am saying is that I don’t want Facebook and their associates to have my personal information via Data Mining.

While we’re talking about personal information:

Facebook Is Not Vague

vaguedrinking

People who know me know that I am a pretty reserved person. I have plenty of reasons for this, but let’s focus on the professional reasons why I am Quitting Facebook:

In every place that I have worked or done business as an adult or a near-adult, there has been some troublemaker who wants to take a Facebook picture from 2005 or an out-of-context Status Update related to my hatred of the Philadelphia Flyers and try to make my life more difficult.

My favorite example was the time I made fun of the local adult hockey league manager’s inability to conjugate a verb properly on my Facebook page. I didn’t use any coarse language and I didn’t call him any mean names, but I did point out that I’ve seen more professional-looking writing in Valentine’s Day cards from my seven-year old cousin.

My little cousin at least knows how to use “Your” and “You’re” properly, as evidenced by the “you’re my favorite cousin” she wrote in magic marker on a red construction paper Valentine card, but I digress.

you're

At the time, my Facebook profile wasn’t set to ultra-private. Someone I probably knew but wasn’t necessarily friends with noticed my remarks, alerted the manager, and it became this huge deal where the adult league manager tried to have me banned from the local hockey rink. Again, the manager of an adult hockey league attempted to ban me from the local rink because I made fun of his misuse of “grammer” on Facebook.

Similarly, as you may or may not know, I worked for a number of years as a personal trainer. I was actually very good at this job, but one thing I couldn’t reconcile with the profession was that I did not live the Globo Gym lifestyle. I would be a complete pro at work, but after work I wanted to go out, have some drinks, and talk to some girls. Nothing out of the ordinary for a 24-year old guy.

Most of my fellow trainers despised me because I was both in better shape than them and not a money-grubbing scumbag like they were, so they dug around the internet to find anything they could use to assail my character. They never managed to find anything that could stick, but they did like to use the Facebook Tags placed by our mutual Facebook friends – Jack’s at Cabana Bar with Missy and Rachel again!to depict me as an alcoholic.

The issue here isn’t how a fitness trainer should spend her or his free time. The issue is that in a competitive professional setting, many people are more than eager to use information they find on the internet, and Facebook in particular, against you.

I’m a grown man, albeit one who occasionally likes to make fun of people on the internet. I just don’t have a place for this brand of high-school nonsense in my life any longer. For whatever reason, I can say whatever I want on Twitter or Tinder and no one aside from Brandon Sutter cares, but if I call someone a clown on Facebook it becomes newsworthy. By Quitting Facebook, I’m cutting off the problem at the source.

Speaking personally…here, I’ll be as Vague as possible ….

mystery

All I’m suggesting is that Christian Grey, James Bond, Batman, Prince Charming, and pretty much every desirable man in the history of the human race doesn’t have a Facebook account. If women want to get in touch with me, the traditional ways still work well.

And lastly …

Facebook sends the Wrong Message

I am Quitting Facebook because it is communicating all of the wrong things about me to my family and friends, which is exactly the opposite of what I intended for it to do. Aside from the falling-out with my friend described above, here are two other recent examples:

My sister and I are far apart enough in age that we have not spent a lot of time together since I was 18 or so. When I went to college, she was starting high school, and when she was in college, I was out in the world, etc. She loves me and we have a familial closeness, but there are a lot of things about my Character that she misunderstands because of the age difference. I’m almost more like an uncle than a brother to her.

We also live far apart, so she has kept tabs on me mostly through Facebook. This has become a problem for me because again, pictures and updates posted on Social Media come without much context. What has happened is that she and other people who don’t see me every day have taken some of the least-relevant aspects of my Character and made them my defining characteristics.

Here are the facets of my Character that I consider most-relevant: I am a Hockey Player, through and through. I am intelligent and thoughtful. It’s not always obvious, but I am a good person who cares deeply about his friends. I am not a coward and I am not a quitter. I usually Do the Right Thing. I am not always easy to get along with, but I am reasonable and usually open to discussion. Once I lower my guard around people, I have a great sense of humor.

Here are the facets of my Character that my sister takes from Facebook: I am a drunk and an obnoxious prick. Also, for some reason she seems to think I really like GNC. Those aren’t really the impressions I want her to have of me.

Like many people, I occasionally go out and drink too much. At this point, this happens no more than two or three times per year, usually after my hockey team wins another championship. I like to have a few drinks in a low-key setting, and maybe chat up a lady or two. I’m the definition of a social drinker.

But thanks to some indiscriminate Facebook Tagging, there were a number of pics of me looking like Lindsey Lohan clogging up my profile. Sure enough, for every flattering photo of me helping an old lady cross the street or laughing with my friends, there are five pics of me flipping someone off after having a few tequilas.

Both personally and professionally, this just isn’t the image I want to project. In recent years I’ve gone ultra-private on all things Facebook-related, but I’ve finally reached the point where the hassle outweighs the reward.

I have another close friend, a girl I grew up with, who has also developed a misunderstanding of the kind of person I am due to Facebook. She rarely logs into Facebook, but of course the one time per year that she logs in my Status is something like, “Going to Rue21 to hit on high-school girls” or something.

An out-of-context Facebook picture or Status Update becomes like a punchline without a joke. Acquaintances, or family and friends who aren’t around you on a regular basis, can get this warped impression of who you are based on this lack of context.

I write articles like this because I can give some context and depth to my actions. If you read my writing with any regularity, it becomes apparent that I have my head screwed on straight and that most of the ridiculous things I’ve said or written on Social Media are complete jokes.

In person and in real writing, I choose my words quite carefully, but I consider Social Media such a joke that I will get mad watching the Penguins play, post something like “Brandon Sutter is a no-good cocksucker” and think nothing of it. Without fail, it always becomes a major ordeal.

To wit, Sutter himself keeps an eye on my Twitter to make sure that I don’t write 10,000 words pointing out how he’s bad at his job. Social Media is a much smaller playground than we realize, and people are so hyper-sensitive that one can’t write something in-jest without potential real repercussions.

Most people don’t know me very well, because I don’t say a lot about myself. I try to offset that by writing articles like this, but most people don’t have the patience to read something longer than 160 characters. What has happened is that many of the people in my life have taken my Facebook profile – which I have not been careful with – and used it to entirely shape their impression of me.

Maybe Facebook is an insight into a person’s Id, or maybe Facebook is the greatest impediment to true understanding working today. Regardless, it has sent the wrong message on my behalf, so I’m done using it on a personal level.

 I’m sure I’ll be back on at some point – after all, Facebook has it’s dirty little hooks into many aspects of my day-to-day life – but I’m looking forward to starting 2015 without it. Maybe you should consider a similar approach.

Jack

#88: On Excellence

mariohart

“The grit, the character.” – Mario Lemieux

I had a version of this article ready to go about two weeks ago. I sat on it because it was … OK. It was fine. It may even have been good.

But it wasn’t Excellent. It was funny and insightful at certain spots, but at other points, it rambled. Lord knows I have a tendency to get off-topic, and while that can be entertaining, it does not always make for a congruent read.

So the article sat while the wheels turned. I picked and picked at it until I realized the problem: I was trying to write three articles at the same time. After putting this article aside for a few weeks, it eventually occurred to me that I had three interrelated-but-separate points to make. Trying to mash all of them into a single article detracted from each of the respective points, and didn’t make for outstanding work.

After that realization occurred, the knots became untangled, and the second version of the article flowed much more cohesively. This article is On Excellence:

Excellence is Out, Emo is In

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I don’t know if it’s my environment or just a sign of the times, but I have seen a cultural shift in which Personal Excellence and the habits that go along with it have been continuously denigrated. Mediocrity is the new normal, and people want awards simply for showing up to work. The current generational trend is one of entitlement and narcissism.

National Basketball Association fans are well aware of this cultural shift. As recently as 20 years ago, it was commonplace in the NBA for a franchise to build their team around one superstar player: Larry Bird on the Celtics, Isiah Thomas on the Pistons, Charles Barkley on the 76ers, Hakeem Olajuwon on the Rockets, etc. This ethic of hyper-competitiveness, individual achievement, and personal-pride-bordering-on-egotism was culturally pervasive across the NBA.

In fact, it took a revision to the Olympic Games to get more than a pair of the elite basketball players of the early-1990s, many of whom openly despised each other, on the same team. Even then, there was so much animosity between some of these elite players that several were left off the ’92 Olympic Team entirely.

The model at the time – and the cultural mentality – was for one elite player to prove he was better than all of the other elite players by winning with “his” team. Aggression, Competition, Dominance, and Rivalry were core values of the era. The values that are currently more revered – Cooperation, Equality, Passivity, and Social Acumen – were almost frowned upon, or seen as signs of weakness.

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No player or team better represented this model than Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls of the late 1980s/1990s. Even the most casual sports fans know about the iconic Jordan, who won six NBA championships and a litany of personal awards despite taking a three-year hiatus in the middle of his prime to pursue a professional baseball career (or to accept a secret suspension for gambling). Michael Jordan is almost universally regarded as the Greatest Basketball Player of All-Time.

Meanwhile, Scottie Pippen – a Hall-of-Famer and an all-time great in the NBA – will forever be remembered by many fans as Michael Jordan’s sidekick, so much so that the phrase “the Pippen to his Jordan” is more-or-less commonplace. As great a player as Scottie Pippen was, there was never a question about who was the face of the ’90s Bulls, due to the charisma and magnetism of Michael Jordan.

The state of Western culture at the time was for an individual or small group to demonstrate their superiority by dominating all comers. Having to partner up with a true equal was seen as a sign of inferiority or weakness. This attitude was prevalent in everything from big-budget motion pictures to Professional Wrestling. Life was all about rising to the top and beating the other guy.

But times have changed. Society seems to prefer collaborations and ensembles to individual transcendence.

For example, the modern NBA is defined by “super-teams” in which multiple superstar players finagle their way onto the same roster. This is best represented by LeBron James, who in 2010 opted to join two other elite NBA players on the Miami Heat. The Heat went on to win consecutive NBA titles in 2012 and 2013. LeBron James has since returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the current culture is still one of Cooperation rather than Dominance.

LeBron-James-hugs-partner-in-crime-Dwyane-Wade

The criticism LeBron James will likely endure for the rest of his career, unless he somehow takes the Cleveland Cavaliers to an NBA title, will be, “You couldn’t do it without Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. You needed help.” While it’s perfectly fine to accept support, this trend – this current tendency of the Excellent to revert to the mean – concerns me quite a bit.

I am not going to go into a tangent about why Western society has gotten less dominant and more cooperative, other than to say that cooperation, getting along, and protecting everyone’s feelings all the time has become the new norm. I think this is an observation something most reasonable people can agree upon. My concern is that the current trends of coddling and collaboration are directly leading to less personal excellence and individual accomplishment.

Like my favorite basketball player Kobe Bryant, I am a remnant from the “Michael Jordan” generation. I have an unhealthy obsession with Winning. I think dunking in someone’s face is Awesome. I want to see an NFL team go 15-1, not see 12 teams finish 9-7. My view is that Parity is a direct antagonist of Excellence, and that people that put in the extra effort to excel deserve to see their efforts rewarded. I see competition as serving the greater good.

I adhere to a mentality of Dominance, often to my own detriment. It’s not enough for me so simply work hard and have a place in the hierarchy. It’s ingrained into me to beat the other guy. As you would expect, like Kobe Bryant, I step on a lot of toes as I make my way.

At this point, I can’t be reprogrammed. In fact, even if I could, I wouldn’t want to be. I hate having to go around and choose my words ultra-carefully or risk offending someone with hair-trigger sensitivity. I’ll spare you my full tirade on the current state of hyper-sensitivity in America for the moment, other than to say that I am not thrilled with how things are “progressing” socially.

Moreover, I hate – Hatewhen less-ambitious types try to make people like me feel bad or uncomfortable for striving to be Excellent. It aggravates me so because all Excellence really takes is dedication, hard work, and perseverance. But it’s easier for the lazy and uninspired to tear down people trying to make the most of themselves than putting in the effort necessary to succeed.

People frequently ask me why I’m always working so hard at the gym or on my writing, or why I do so much extra conditioning and technique work for beer-league hockey. I almost never have a response for them, other than “Why are you not doing extra work?” Overreaching and striving to be better is a self-evident proof for me, yet many others need to be coached or persuaded into working to improve.

I don’t think I’m better than most other people, but I sure as hell try to be. I want to be a great person, not a mediocre one. I don’t simply want to be a good writer; I want to the Best Writer. This mentality – striving to be better than other people – is almost the verbatim definition of an Elitist:

1. (of a person or class of persons) considered superior by others or by themselves, as in intellect, talent, power, wealth, or position in society

While almost everyone lauds Excellence – which is frequently attributed to positives like hard work and sound choices – most people detest elitists. Some of this is likely due to how elitists carry themselves, but an equal measure of this disdain comes from the preconceived notions of the apathetic and mediocre.

The elitist mindset generally involves bruising the ego of someone resigned to wallowing. Meanwhile, it infuriates someone who blames her or his own lack of success on circumstances within their control to see someone else excel. This has led to our current culture in which Excellence is almost frowned-upon.

A terrific, personally-close-to-home example is the almost-irrational hatred people tend to show toward Duke University, which has done nothing but routinely excel in College Basketball for the last 30 years. Alas, Duke University is one of the country’s most-selective colleges, nestled in the middle of both a state and a region that abhors all things pretentious.

The Duke University Basketball program is a prime example of Excellence and Elitism being almost indistinguishable. The main question revolves around the general impressions of “elitist” institutions such as Duke versus actuality, as well as the impressions the “elite” have of themselves.

Is everyone who Excels an Elitist? Not necessarily. But Excellent People are certainly Elite, and a lot of traits that are mindlessly assigned to Elitists and Egotists are also commonly seen in the Exceptional. It’s worth considering the value of self-acutalization before tearing down someone who wants to make the most of her or himself.

I’ve concluded that my views are probably those of an Elitist, plain and simple. I will leave that to you to judge if I am a Good or Bad Person, but I will continue to explain my perspectives on Elitism and Excellence below.

On Elitism

2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U20 World Championship

“You cannot be a team of common men. Common men go nowhere.”

– Herb Brooks, Gold Medal Winner, Team USA Hockey, 1980

A teammate and I were talking about how expensive it to play Amateur Hockey. He was telling me that a parent of one of his Amateur teammates kept receipts, and totaled all costs – equipment, ice fees, hotels, travel expenses, etc. – at just over $10,000 for a single year. I nodded in agreement.

“Sounds about right,” I replied, doing some rough math in my head.

My teammate referred to Hockey as an “Elitist” sport, which I initially disagreed with. I cited the roots of Hockey being played on frozen ponds by poor Canadian farm kids, though acknowledged that the cost to propel an aspiring player higher up the ranks in America was astronomical. After a bit more consideration, I came to agree with him.

While Hockey may have humble origins, this is the reality of Amateur Hockey in North America: the kids whose parents have money have a tremendous advantage. They get better equipment, better ice times, and better opportunities. If a pair of parents can afford to put their son or daughter on a AAA Elite team, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, the player is getting more exposure and likely sharing a locker room with the sons or daughters of former professional players. As with everything else, money factors prominently into predicting future success.

While in theory Hockey Players are some of the most Down-to-Earth, self-deprecating people you could hope to meet, again reality paints a different picture. Hockey Players, generally, are not a bunch of impoverished kids sharing a $15 basketball or soccer ball on some rundown court or field. The cost just to outfit a Hockey Player is often hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

There are programs in many cities such as Hockey in Harlem that encourage inner-city kids to pick up the sport, but the cost just to participate in Hockey is a major mitigating factor. Hockey is also not recession-proof, evidenced by several years of declining enrollment at the Amateur levels.

As an example, for tax purposes I recently totaled the receipts for my hockey-related purchases in 2014. This was somewhat easier than in the past because I play most of my Hockey at a single rink, allowing me to estimate costs much more accurately. I’ll spare you the details, but here I spent a total of $5435 (!!!) on league fees/ice-time purchases and an additional $1670 (!!!!!!!) on equipment-related purchases. 

I am not rich, and I figured on the low-end of all expenditures just for the sake of simplicity and my own sanity. I assure you that figure is extremely conservative, and if it were up to me I would play much more frequently, which of course would drive up all of the above figures.

Now, Hockey is my Love and exclusive interest in life. I don’t ski, I don’t go to concerts, I don’t do drugs, I basically hate electronics and other expensive toys, and in most respects I am value-conscious bordering on miserly. But that does not negate the fact that I conservatively spend over $7000 per year on my chosen sport.

More over, this is not even close to being an all-time high for me. God bless my mother, who somehow found a way to outfit both my brother and me and put us both on multiple amateur teams. I’m sure there were years in which she spent $20,000 or more in total to allow the two of us to play. Soccer certainly would have been cheaper.

And honestly, I didn’t even play for the “Elite” teams. I was the pond hockey kid who skated funny and tried out for second and third-tier teams and had to play my way up to the “Elite” teams year-after-year. While the mentality of constantly having to “try-out” has helped me to build a lot of character, it does not change the fact that more money would have paved a much smoother path.

So speaking socioeconomically, Hockey is absolutely an “Elitist” sport. The larger questions are, “Does Hockey Produce Elitists?” or “Do Elitists Gravitate to Hockey?” I’ll attempt to address those questions next.

Winning Fixes Everything

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Mark Messier, as with Michael Jordan in the NBA, is one of the Greatest Hockey Players of All-Time. Ignoring all of his individual accomplishments, Moose is best-remembered for two team-related accomplishments:

1) The Guarantee, in which Moose promised a victory in a 1994 Eastern Conference Final elimination game against the New Jersey Devils. Moose made good on his promise by scoring three goals in route to a Rangers’ win. The Rangers would of course go on to win the 1994 Stanley Cup in what is remembered as one of the greatest Cup Runs of all-time.

2) His six Stanley Cup Rings, including Captaining the depleted 1990 Edmonton Oilers (sans Wayne Gretzky) and ending 54 years of frustration in leading the Rangers to the ’94 Cup.

Moose is also remembered as one of the bigger egotists in NHL history. But this alleged character flaw, for which players such as Alex Ovechkin are highly criticized, is the foundation upon which Moose forged the most-impressive resume of Team Accomplishments in the history of the League.

The lesson? Winning Fixes Everything. While poor Alex Ovechkin – despite being a three-time Hart Trophy Winner and 60-goal scorer-  is hailed a me-first diva by the assembled Canadian media, Mark Messier so revered as to have the NHL Leadership Award named after him.

Most athletes, and Hockey Players for sure, are taught to believe that they are better than their competition, or capable of being better. So it may be true that Hockey Players are in fact Elitists, or at least raised with an Elitist perspective, because the Elitist view literately serves a greater good: Accomplishment as a Team.

As established above, Hockey is absolutely an Elitist sport, and to make it in the higher levels of the sport a player needs to have a certain dedication to Personal Excellence. But eventually, when a player’s Personal Excellence is given up wholly for the greater achievement of the team – as is the case with NHL Hall-of-Famers and Stanley Cup Champions such as Steve Yzerman and Mike Modano – the player is revered, or even immortalized.

Egotism, or perhaps the Elitist perspective, is simply a means to an end. While arrogance for the sake of self-satisfaction is basically worthless, Ego in the name of Excellence – and ultimately Team or Group Success – not only worthwhile, but noble.

Excellence in Writing (?)

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While I write in part to air my grievances with the world, as noted previously I also write to teach and pass information along. My view is that if I am going to take the position of an Author – as an authority on a given subject – I need to not only know what the hell I’m talking about, but also present my points in such a way that they can be understood. This need of mine to put forth an outstanding product is usually just attributed to my massive ego.

But there’s an alternative view to dismissing this need of mine as egotism. It’s possible I spend so much time editing and honing these articles of mine because I want the work to be Excellent. After much thought and reflection, my view is that my pursuit of Personal Excellence has fed my self-confidence, not the other way around.

And suddenly, there’s a nobility to these self-aggrandizing articles I write. While most of these articles are about me, they aren’t really about me. The articles are about the life lessons I’ve learned, which I try to pass along to readers. I try to use my experiences and personal growth as a template – in both negative and positive ways – for others to follow or reject, but ultimately to learn from. All of this is done in the name of producing something Excellent, not putting myself on a pedestal (yet another reason I’m retiring the blog at #100).

Writing, as with all other forms of art, gains or loses value dependent on the writer’s dedication to the work versus her or his personal agenda. When the writer or the artist makes the work about the work itself, rather than the name on the bottom of the work, I think the quality of the work increases exponentially.

If you want to be an Excellent writer, make the writing about the work – as Bruce Lee did with Jeet Kune Doand not simply a vehicle for ego fulfillment.

A Final Lesson in Excellence

As you may or may not know, most of the Jack Has Spoken articles double as therapy for me. If I am annoyed or dwelling on something, I don’t generally go and vent to my friends or family. I often spend significant time alone, and try to look at whatever is bothering or distracting me as objectively as possible.

In fact, I have always been kind of a loner. Even though I have made a team sport my religion, I have always been kind of kept to myself and more recently used writing as a means of curing what ails me.
In any event, I have taken a lot of quiet time to reflect and think. Here are two absolute truths about I know about myself:

1) I Give a Fuck

I will get into this more in a future article. But the truth is that I do care, deeply. You know those people who are always spouting about, “no fucks given” before they do something reckless or short-sighted?  The people who use the phrase “You Only Live Once” as an excuse to be an obnoxious bane on society? Those are the people that are doing YOLO wrong.

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The people who truly understand how fleeting and fragile Life is Do Give a Fuck. My favorite example from fiction is Rick Grimes, lead character from the best-seller novels/smash-hit TV series The Walking Dead.

Here is a great misunderstanding about Rick Grimes from the Meme crowd:

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Like me, Rick Grimes Does Give a Fuck. In fact, Rick Grimes gives many, many fucks. He cares so deeply about the safety of his family that he can will himself to rip the throat out of another man with his teeth.

Some people – usually losers who secretly hate themselves – think being dedicated to your goals or the people you care about is lame or a weakness. It’s exactly the opposite of that. Caring about something or someone provides you with inner reserves of strengths that you did not realize existed.

Rick Grimes gives a fuck, and so do I. One of my biggest character flaws is that I will go through extended periods of time when I pretend not to care. I even lie to myself about it, and in the past I’ve tried to drown that truth in binge-drinking. But the truth is that I do care.

(Critical Note: I am not turning my back on Alcohol, my One True Friend. Unlike the rest of my friends, Alcohol has always been there for me. Having said that, there is a huge difference between having a few pops to celebrate your Hockey Championship versus using Alcohol or Drugs to dull the pain of a battered soul. I speak from experience on both counts.)

2) I May Be an Elitist/Egomaniac, but it’s because I’m a Competitor/Winner

noexcuses“Rule #76: No Excuses, Play Like a Champion!”

– Vince Vaughn, The Wedding Crashers

People frequently point out that I am a dick, a snob, arrogant, cocky, SMOFO, (Smug Mother Fucker) or some variation therein. Half the time these people have never even exchanged words with me, but that’s another story altogether.

I fully admit I was a raging prick throughout college and a few years afterward. Many men go through a maturation period in which they realize they have greater responsibilities than themselves, and I am one of them. I have spent recent years atoning for mistakes I made as a younger man.

But here’s something I learned: without that extra edge and that drive to compete that I’ve traditionally had, I’m an inferior person.

My father had me playing baseball before I could put one foot in front of the other, and I’ve played Team Sports nonstop since. Without realizing, I was raised to adopt the traditional values of an Athlete – Aggression, Cooperation, Dominance, Fair Play, Work Ethic, Refusal to Quit, and ultimately Excellence – as my Core Values. I can lie to myself about it, but the fact is that I want to beat the other guy, not get along with him.

As I’ve explained, my Core Values have become a limiting factor as I’ve gone out into the world. As an example, I recently described myself to a friend’s wife as having “an aggressive personality”, and she replied sincerely, “oh, that’s too bad.” The point is that while I see Aggression not only as something to aspire to, but as a Survival Necessity, most people view Aggression as a highly-undesirable trait.

(Note: My friend’s wife also likes to say, “You catch more bees with honey.” My response? Who the hell wants to catch bees?)

My mistake in all of this has been attempting to apologize for who I am and what I believe in. It’s fine that I am aggressive and cocky and competitive, because the world takes all types to revolve. Moreover, being surrounded in recent times by mostly-complacent people led me to forget why I was raised to be this way:

Sports are ultimately about defeating competition and/or reaching new peaks in performance, in a controlled environment. Sports are thoroughly noble. Sports have a beauty and a purity surely unseen in War and Politics. If I were King of the World, I would use the Olympic Games to settle disputes between countries. But I digress.

Without competition, without the possibility of someone taking your job or getting a better opportunity than you, a person will atrophy. Having the drive to outdo someone – not all the time, but when needed – is what has protected our race since the dawn of time. It’s simply Darwinism: the better hunter gets the antelope, and the weaker hunter starves.

My view is that getting too far away from the competitive mentality ultimately damages a person’s ability to survive, which I covered at-length in #87:  Challenge Yourself. Cooperation has immense value, but so does having the ability to excel.

I am a Hockey Player. To my core, I believe that Collectivism and Unity achieves much more than Individualism. But I also believe, in my core, that my family/friends/teammates and I are the ones that deserve to achieve, and like Rick Grimes I will go to extreme lengths to see the people I care about prosperous and/or victorious.

There is room to strive for Excellence and the Elitist approach, just as there is room for Compassion and Cooperation. All of these ideals are best achieved while conducting yourself with both Character and Class. The trick, as usual, is using a measure of discretion as you navigate the minefield.

My closing piece of advice is to refuse to let the dissatisfied and the mediocre drag you down. If like me you instincts are to Rise and to aspire to greater things than yourself, do not let the bitter and the vindictive sway you.

BK

Jack

 

#87: Challenge Yourself

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Not long ago, I had the opportunity to play in a local Fire vs. Police Charity Hockey Game. At the time, I was in the process of becoming a Firefighter with the local department, and the veterans were kind enough to include me. Being asked to play was a big personal thrill.

While I’m extremely grateful that I was asked to play, months later I am still too salty to fully appreciate the experience. Predictably, the Cops cheated and brought a line full of ringers, and Law beat Fire 8-5. Not that I am at all biased.

You need to understand that Fire and Law have a mostly-antagonistic, Dogs vs. Cats-type relationship. Last February, I had a New Hanover County cop pull me over and hand me a $160 ticket for “No Seatbelt” as I was leaving the Fire Station. My experience has been that Fire and Law cooperate when absolutely necessary – such as legitimate crises or life-and-death situations – but otherwise squabble like siblings.

Fire won last year’s game 10-0, and really it shouldn’t have been shocking if I saw Alex Ovechkin deputized for the day and skating for Law. Understandably not wanting to be drubbed again, the cops enlisted a few overqualified players with loose connections to the local departments. Fire got manhandled on a number of shifts by this unit of players, the three of whom appeared to be a regular line on an upper-tier amateur team.

It would probably be much more sound politically for me to not publish this portion of the article, but as you know my ethics as a Hockey Player supersede everything else about me. As a Hockey Player, I don’t think what Law pulled was particularly classy. Fire beat Law badly in the 2013 game, but all of the guys skating for Fire in the 2013 game were Firefighters or EMS personnel. I am ruthlessly competitive, but I don’t play D-League to sate my ego because there’s no honor to it. As the iconic Arnold Schwarzenegger says in the epic film Predator, “No Sport.”

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I know for a fact that Fire could have had a much stronger roster for the 2014 game, but the Captain of the Fire team rightly pointed out that the game was “so people could watch the firefighters in their community.” He very respectably stayed within the spirit of the game, even though he could have beefed up the roster with players loosely connected to Fire/EMS. This entire scenario seems to play into my view on how some people look to break rules in order to Do the Right Thing while others do whatever they want as long as it’s within “the rules”. I’ll let you figure out which groups most cops and most firefighters respectively fall into.

While I’m salty, admittedly irrationally so, that Law brought in a group of 18-year old Junior players to win a Charity Hockey Game, that’s not the issue at hand nor the point of this article.

Months later, I am angry about how I played. I played…OK. I had a Goal and an Assist, won 90% of my Face-Offs (as I am wont to do), and competed hard. But outside of the Face-Off dots, I was not dominant, at least not in the way I am accustomed to being. Fire lost, so in my view, I did not Rise to the occasion. My view is that it doesn’t matter if Law brought half of the Carolina Hurricanes in to play for them, I should have made a better account of myself. I did not play to my ability at an opportune time, and that clearly continues to bother me.

(Jack’s Note #1: I am may not have been “Tiger Mode” dominant, but I’m still Jack Farrell. See Alan in the red jersey cutting behind me? I also see him, even though I’m looking at the net. He’s about to get a pass under Blue’s stick as soon as Blue bites and tries to knock the puck off me, which he won’t because I’m teasing him with it as Mario, Jagr, and Kovy taught me. God, do I love Hockey.)

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(Jack’s Note #2: Not to further detract from the point, but I am able to sleep at night knowing that I had blown rivets on my skates for the Fire/Police game. Notice the glorious USA Hockey soakers on the Modano Tacks. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, but holders coming off the boots will knock any Hockey Player down a peg or two. Here’s a picture because I don’t lie about this sort of thing. Keep reading though, there’s a lot of helpful stuff later in the article.)

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As with most aspects of my life, it takes failure in Hockey to force me into personal or psychological growth. I did not elevate my level of play in a situation that really mattered to me because I had become too accustomed to playing at half-speed. The root of this problem, like many of the other problems that plagued me in 2013 and early 2014, was not my lack of effort or Will, but the fact that in several ways I had become complacent, or worse, resigned.

I am not entirely sure how it happened, but at some point I began to routinely accept mediocrity in my life. If you know anything about me, you know how completely out of character that is for me. I am an Elitist that borders on being snobby. Like MLB Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn, I hate to suck. My disdain for personal incompetence trumps my desire for Excellence, a trait you commonly see in those of us with Narcissistic Personality Disorder. It’s almost more important to not be bad than it is to be good.

Also, if you consistently read my blog, you know some of my core tenets are Rising and using Willpower to get through almost any conceivable scenario. But there is an underlying concept that enables Rising and Will, the same way spark plugs enable engine ignition, and that concept is Challenging Yourself.

Challenging Yourself is the road that leads to Rising. You cannot be expected to swim the English Channel if you can’t do fifty laps in the community swimming pool. Continually overreaching and exceeding your limits is what allows you to Rise to a given occasion, when needed.

A Simple Lesson Lost

At some point, like so many other people, in a number of ways I stopped Challenging Myself. It becomes frighteningly easy to stop striving and to embrace the relative comfort of complacency. When there are a cacophony of external stresses – Financial, Mental, Physical, Psychological, Sexual, Social – it becomes very easy to cut corners, or worse, put particular areas of your life on Cruise Control.

The problem is that at times Life is like pushing a boulder uphill: it gets more and more difficult, especially if you lose momentum.

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If you are familiar with Greek Mythology, you will know the tale of Sisyphus, King of Thebes. An arrogant, clever cat if ever one existed (my kind of guy), Sisyphus continually mocked the Greek Gods, at one point cheating death by tricking Thanatos, Death Himself, into releasing him from bonds in Tartarus.

Anyway, as punishment for his gall and hubris, Zeus eventually condemned Sisyphus to an eternity of pushing a boulder uphill, only to watch the boulder roll back down as soon as Sisyphus neared the top. Wikipedia sums it up very nicely:

“…an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration. Thus it came to pass that pointless or interminable activities are sometimes described as Sisyphean…”

Going back the Boulder analogy, this is what happens when you cease to Challenge Yourself on a consistent basis: useless efforts and unending frustration. There becomes a recurring pattern of falling a day late and a dollar short. Sisyphean activities. How much you care and how hard you try become irrelevant if you have not properly conditioned yourself for adversity. Almost all of us can identify with this.

I’ve given a lot of thought to why 2013/early 2014 was such a rotten time in my life personally, and I think I have traced the problem to the source:

A few years ago, I was doing very well in all of the areas mentioned above – Financial, Mental, Physical, Psychological, Sexual, Social – and like Sisyphus, I had perhaps grown a bit too arrogant for the gods’ liking. Shortly after college, I decided that I had enough of my bar manager at the time stealing from my register to fund his on-the-clock cocaine habit, so I became a Personal Trainer. Obtaining the PT Certification was a Challenge, but my work habits were strong enough that I was able to accomplish it with a reasonable amount of dedication and effort.

I took a job at the first place I applied, the endlessly-greedy and corrupt LA Fitness, despite the fact they were offering me slave wages and nonexistent benefits. I made more in an hour fondling the waitstaff and letting drunk girls flash me than I would make in a day at the vaguely-French LaFitness, but for whatever reason I decided to…settle. It was easier to let LA pay me pennies than to continue searching for a job that compensated me properly.

As they say, Fortune Favors the Bold. The inverse is true as well. Because I settled for the first employer that said ‘yes’ rather than continue to beat the bushes for a better opportunity, I set myself up for failure, and in the process managed to take a very bad perspective: Good is Good Enough. I’ll explain why this mindset is not only flawed, but potentially self-destructive.

 Unlearning Bad Habits

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Regrettably, one of the things most of us learn is how to stop striving. We encounter professional situations in which nothing in our power can compel an employer to increase our pay grades or in some way show greater appreciation. Rather than continuing to press or finding a new employer, we most often yield and accept that things are the way they are. We don’t just accept, but embrace, mediocrity.

This leads to a litany of undesirable effects, not the least of which is a cloud of negativity that not only follows you around, but permeates to everyone in your vicinity. Resignation is a slow, painful death by atrophy, and the emotional erosion is in many ways worse than the mental and physical tolls extracted.

I have always been a worker, and as an adult my confidence has usually bordered on arrogance. As such, traditionally I have never needed motivation to strive for accomplishment. For most of my Life, I have wanted to be excellent at everything simply for the sake of being so. Challenging Myself was something that came naturally and thoughtlessly.

Unfortunately, the decision to take the LA Fitness job taught me an awful habit: to accept mediocrity, from others and eventually myself. A heavy toll was taken on all of those areas – Financial, Mental, Physical, Psychological, Sexual, Social – in which I had previously expected accomplishment and progress.

One thing that will always stick with me about the LA Fitness experience was how thoroughly unprofessional most of my coworkers were. I would sit for hours at night coming up with innovative training programs for my clients, and treat all of my clients – even the absolute train wrecks – like they belonged to the President’s Cabinet. Meanwhile, my coworkers couldn’t be bothered to stop playing on their phones long enough to ensure that their clients weren’t dropping weights on themselves, or to look at their clients while they were speaking. The contrast was jarring.

At first, this didn’t change anything in my approach, because I was dedicated to excelling. But the combination of the atrocious employee treatment, nonexistent pay, and catty glares and whispers from my indifferent, lazy, resigned coworkers began to grind me down, again in all of the areas of competence mentioned above. A poisonous professional situation such as this is one most anyone reading can identify with.

The first thing to give was my body. Because my employer was more than happy to drive me into the ground without compensating me properly, my ability to Challenge Myself physically went by the wayside. If I managed to force myself through a workout at the end of a 12-hour day, it was almost certainly a half-assed one. I gradually lost the ability to stave off the daily physical stress I was putting on myself.

One of my major character flaws is that almost everything I like to do is Physical. I have tried to round myself out to a certain degree, mainly through writing, but my favorite activities, in no order, are fighting, working out, having sex, and playing hockey. I actually like farming and doing chores around the house (ladies, take note). Every job I’ve ever sought – bartending, landscaping, house-painting, stripping, training, construction, Fire/EMS – has involved the use of my body rather than my mind, and not by accident. My version of Eternal Torture is being forced to sit still.

So, it was a catastrophic blow to all areas of my well-being when I severely injured my knee about four months after taking the LA Fitness job. I was playing a hockey game at Bethel Park in Pittsburgh, made a routine turn, and something just snapped in my knee.

I did not have Health Insurance at the time – thanks again for the employee benefits, LA Fitness! – so I never had an MRI nor the surgery that those results likely would have recommended. I still haven’t had an MRI, so Lord knows what’s happening down in my right knee. All I know is that I walked with a noticeable limp for nearly a year, and had disability and intense pain for nearly two. The knee still flares up if I am not diligent with my training and nutrition.

I might have still injured my knee if I had not taken the job with LA Fitness. However, I have a hard time envisioning a scenario in which I would be more employer-raped and physically run down for less money. As I detailed in Jack’s Rules, I made a major miscalculation by putting pride and the wants of people who did not care about me above my own needs. Had I made the more Challenging decision to put my own well-being above that of a ridiculous, underpaying job, I likely would have saved myself a lot of future turmoil.

Because I did nothing, I not only embraced but endorsed a culture of mediocrity. My advice for you is to refuse to do the same, both now and in the future. If you have learned how to underachieve and how to do the bare minimum, Now would be an excellent time to reverse that line of behavior.

Challenging Yourself vs. The Challenge of Others

youvsyou

As I wrote above about my experience with LA Fitness, an insidious Challenge becomes when you have to differentiate between Challenging Yourself and the Challenges others present to you.

Let’s say you are a talented, goal-scoring soccer player. You work your tail off, you’re gifted physically, and you have a great mind for the game. Yet, you are failing to reach your potential on your current team because the moron playing Center Midfield refuses to pass you the ball.

When you have controlled all of your personal factors – your commitment, your conditioning, your work habits, and so forth – and external factors begin limiting your personal success, the Challenge of Others comes into play.

This is an experience I personally understand very well, because I have spent my life playing Team Sports. While many athletes are naturally cooperative and team-oriented, quite a few thrive despite being relentlessly selfish. A unique frustration sets in when the selfishness of someone else undermines your personal success, and this idea is never more prevalent than with Team Sports. One indifferent or lazy player can often derail the efforts of 10 or 20 committed, hard-working ones.

The Challenge of Others is one area in which I have to admit writing is superior to Sports: in writing, the Writer becomes the only true impediment to his or her success. All of the brainless editors and bureaucracy in the world cannot stop you if you properly hone your writing ability.

Anyone who has spent considerable time in the Dating Scene will also know what I mean by The Challenge of Others. The ongoing Battle of the Sexes, and the continued unwillingness of most Men and Women to admit that they need each other, is a Biblical-era classic. Men and Women present continual and never-ending frustrations for each other because their genetic goals are diametrically-opposed. It’s the oldest rib in the history of the human race, and it’s hysterical.

One thing that most of us will agree is that you cannot force other people to be attracted to you. There are ways in which you can influence others and enhance your own attractiveness, but I’m sure all of us have that “one that got away” who we seemingly couldn’t seduce under any circumstances.

The Challenge of Others in this case is that there is only so much we can do to make another person attracted to us. If you Challenge Yourself properly, it’s possible to climb Mount Everest or lift 500 pounds, but most of us have yet to unearth the secret to making someone special fall in love with us. It’s like trying to use a net to catch a mist.

The only thing you can really to combat the Challenge of Others is to stack the deck in your favor as much as possible. You may not be able to make anyone fall in love with you, but it certainly helps if you’re a handsome, talented, wealthy actor. The freedom comes in knowing that there are external factors that you can control, if you Challenge Yourself appropriately. Focus on yourself, and do not let the Challenge of Others frustrate you to a debilitating degree.

Grow or Die: the Atrophy Principle

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In Exercise Science, there are a number of terms that refer to the state of Muscle Tissue. Muscles, like all tissues, can grow (Hypertrophy) or they can wilt (Atrophy). Homeostasis, a state defined by little or no change, is possible in Muscle Tissue, but many factors make it uncommon.

Meatheads like myself are obsessed with Hypertrophy, not because we are obsessed with growing to the size of gorillas (most of us), but because of how unpalatable the alternative, Atrophy, happens to be.

“Muscle Loss” will make a fitness enthusiast break out in a cold sweat. There are many fitness-minded people, myself included, who would rather lose a job than consistently lose muscle. Atrophy, or the idea of erosion and wasting away, is powerful enough to compel people to go to the gym at 5:30 AM or to eat Protein Powder by the spoonful.

Speaking of fitness-minded people, as noted above one of my all-time favorite people is Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s safe to say that he played a heavy influence in my decision to pursue a degree in Exercise Science. In my estimate, Arnold Schwarzengger is the real Most Interesting Man in the World, having had such a variety of experiences that encapsulating them would go beyond the scope of this article.

If you want to talk about someone who never stopped Challenging Himself, take Arnold. All of the details are in his outstanding book Total Recall, but here are some of his accomplishments:

* Went from being poor as a boy in Austria to being a five-time Mr. Olympia, champion bodybuilder, and fitness icon

* Parlayed his bodybuilding career into an acting career, in which he was one of the highest-grossing box-office stars in the history of entertainment

* Parlayed his acting career into a political career in which he was elected and re-elected as the Governor of his adopted state, California

arnold2

More recently, Arnold has returned to his roots and become an Action Movie and Fitness icon. He is absolutely revered, and rightly so. If you were to ask Arnold the key to personal success, I strongly suspect he would cite the fact that he never grew complacent, and never stopped Challenging Himself, a concept he largely drew from his experiences as a bodybuilder.

One of Arnold’s first films was called “Stay Hungry“, an idea he frequently acknowledges in interviews. I think most would agree that a big reason for Arnold’s success is that he has continued to evolve and grow as a human being, if only because the alternative – Atrophy – was completely unacceptable. Again, I think Arnold would agree that this was a lesson he learned moving heavy weights and subsequently applied to other arenas.

This lesson applies to you and I, as well. Grow or Die. If you fail to Challenge Yourself, you will assuredly regress. Embrace competition and reach beyond your comfort zone, in all areas of your life, and always pursue growth.

Areas of Challenge

I could describe specific examples, but I believe those of you still reading will know how to Challenge Yourself in all of the following Areas of Challenge:

Challenge Yourself Intellectually

Challenge Yourself Mentally

Challenge Yourself Psychologically

Challenge Yourself Physically

Challenge Yourself Sexually

Challenge Yourself Socially

What you may or may not have articulated or considered are specific methods of Challenging Yourself, or that you have become complacent or worse, resigned, in certain areas of your life. My suggestion to you would be to consider the Areas of Challenge I listed above, and to seek balance, as in my view they are all interconnected.

As a fitness trainer, I came to know many people who would endlessly Challenge Themselves physically, but would not pick up a book or strike up a conversation with an attractive stranger. Like bad bodybuilders, some people overdevelop certain areas of competence while completely ignoring others. As written above, failure to regularly Challenge Yourself in all areas will lead to Atrophy, compromising the Areas of Challenge you are striving to hard to enrich.

The Final Lesson

Writing is not a major challenge for me, at least under most circumstances. I have a clear voice, and I love the sound of it, so I am almost never short for ideas or material. My Challenge becomes making my writing more and more worthwhile.

Any idiot with Microsoft Word and a stolen WiFi Connection can compose an article that looks and reads adequately, but fewer writers can consistently entertain, invigorate, or motivate their readers. At this point, simply putting words to paper is not an adequate Challenge for me. My Challenge as a writer is to write exceptionally, rather than just passably, because I’m capable of doing so.

However, obtaining my EMT-Basic certification was a major, major Challenge for me, for reasons I’ve written about. There were people in my class who I was pretty positive could not read the nutrition label on a box of Ritz Crackers or operate a can opener, but were excelling while I was floundering. But as I wrote in the EMT article, I was extremely proud of myself for leaving my comfort zone of Barbells, Hockey, and MILF Porn long enough to complete something that I do not have a natural aptitude for.

The Final Lesson is to keep Challenging Yourself. I separately and deliberately underlined those words so they sear into your brain. What Challenges me may or may not Challenge you, and vice-versa. Do what Challenges YouIf you are lacking for inspiration, consider and evaluate the Areas of Challenge I’ve suggested. Look for Challenges every where and in everything. Upcycle. Do whatever it takes to continue evolving and growing, for the alternative (Atrophy) is not just undesirable, but unacceptable. Grow or Die.

Jack

Issue #77: Gender Psychology: So, You Want to Be a Bad Boy II: Reins and Rumors

banshee1

A while back, I wrote an article on Gender Psychology called “So, You Want to Be a Bad Boy?” in which I broadly outlined some of the characteristics and traits of a Bad Boy. The article seems to be somewhat popular or useful, as about 150 300 people per week click on it, according to WordPress.

I am constantly getting new material on the subject. I had a pretty-absurd Fall and early Winter 2014, and my condition as a Bad Boy contributed greatly to the Highs and Lows being so pronounced. I will save those stories for a later date, other than to say that that I am on the ground-level as a Bad Boy authority. Short of being involved in an international drug cartel as a meth cook, I cannot envision a more-tumultuous lifestyle.

My lifestyle stands in stark contrast to the lifestyles of my old friends, most of whom I have less in-common with by the day. Most of my friends from High School and College have now been married for a number of years, and most of them are working on their second child. While marriage-and-family is not the path I’ve chosen, I have great respect for those who have chosen to start families. The commitment it takes to build a family, and the transformation I’ve seen many of my friends undergo as they take on spouses and have children, is extraordinary.

My best friend from high school is my primary example. You never think the guy you used to get into childish slap-fights and drink ghetto malt-liquors with before hockey games would develop into a tremendous father and husband, but he has. Almost all of my childhood friends have taken this route, to varying degrees of success.

Then, there’s me. Like Lon Chaney as the Moon grows more Full, I seem to get “Badder” and Wilder by the week.

I’ve written before that my Bad Boy path started in College, when I was the antithesis of the guy you took home to meet the parents. But I was still a college kid with a large support network and an undefined role in the world. I think the expectation from most was that I would eventually evolve and take the more-traditional route of Marriage and Children.

I suppose I still can go that way. But for the moment, I have clearly gone the other way. Like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, I’ve played the Bad Boy role for so long that it has become difficult to separate the actor from the character.

The real change started several years ago, when the first of my friends began to announce their Engagements. There was an unspoken-but-sharp change in the status quo. The normal process of getting blind-drunk, dating strippers, and starting fistfights at dance clubs was suddenly immature and passe. There was an epic shift in both conduct and priorities as most of my peers sought to settle down and wife-up.

For a few years, from ages 24 to 27 or so, I was something of an outcast. Everyone in my peer group was focused on finding a committed, “mature” relationship. Like most people in their mid-20s, I probably attended 10 or 12 weddings in a two-year period. I attended most of them by myself and left many of them with only a well-vodka hangover.

Because I was seemingly not marriage-material, Women of marrying age wanted nothing to do with me. This was a drastic departure from college, when I was in constant high-demand. Interestingly, I continued to appeal to many older women, but both my friends and the girls we went to school with were both highly-invested in their long-term relationships. I was mostly an afterthought.

More recently, since about age 28 or so, there has been another shift. Like all trends, I again became fashionable. While almost everyone I associated with from ages 15-25 has committed to a spouse or had children (or both) and spent the last several years making the requisite personal sacrifices, I’ve been on my own. I have had time to work on myself and to learn a lot of things about the world. At the least, I’ve had a relatively-unique journey.

My married friends and all of the Women who had blown me off to start their families are suddenly very interested in what I am up to. The three or four or five years that they had spent building families, I had spent developing myself in different ways. My decision to do something different with my life is apparently interesting to people who began families shortly after college.

Which brings us to today. My entire thought process and approach to life is so unconventional that Women of all makes and models are attracted to me. I walk through a store and get extended eye-contact from wives, grandmothers, high-school girls, and especially the Women from my peer group who have now been married for a few years. I’ve become a cardinal in a forest full of robins, and for better or worse it has made my Life Experience very interesting.

Because for the moment I have chosen to forgo the comforts of family life, I have had a lot of negative experiences, and I have have had a lot of positive ones. My experiences have been pointed, bordering on extreme. Rather than playing the role of a Bad Boy, as I did when I was younger, I have become one. There is value in what I have learned, and will likely continue to learn, which I share for the benefit of other would-be Bad Boys and interested observers.

Here are more situations you can expect to encounter if you continue to take the Bad Boy track:

The Rumor Mill

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The girl I’ve been running around with informed me of a rumor floating around that I had been taking my “Girlfriend” to public skate at the local hockey rink, apparently showing off my gorgeous Bret Hedican-style skating and re-enacting The Cutting Edge.

While my “Mistress” acknowledged that I would have to be unusually-stupid to take my “Girlfriend” to the hockey rink of all places (where my “Mistress” and I met and spend much of our free time), she knows me well enough to know that I’m brazen enough to pull something like that. She also knows that even though I’m crazy and slutty, I’m just not that disrespectful or stupid.

My Mistress pointed out that I am frequently involved in trailer-park dramas and rumors such as this on a regular basis. To cite a few examples, there were widely-circulating rumors that I shortly after moving into town that I was having sex with a pair of 21-year old girls who hated each other (which was traced to the source), that I’m a drug dealer (untraced), that I’m a stripper (partly true – I’m not currently stripping anywhere), and I’ve been linked to a number of women who are known to be unhappily married or recently separated.

trouble

Most recently – even since I started the first draft of this article – much was made of the fact I have a Plenty of Fish account. People, grown men and women no less, are so eager to discredit me that they have been running in droves to my Mistress, basically tattling on me and hoping to drive a wedge between us.

My Mistress of course knows about my POF account, because while I am many things, I am neither a Coward nor a Liar. The Women you tend to see on Internet Dating Sites, especially free ones, are like the options on a cheap buffet: you can have as much as you want, but none of it is very good. I am on POF mainly for entertainment value. The idea of finding quality Women on a free dating website seems remote, at best, and honestly I don’t really need help meeting Women. But I digress.

(UPDATE 8/31/15: For as much grief as I’ve gotten about having a POF account, I’ve gotten ten times that amount for having a Tinder account. Every bitter hag in a 100-mile radius can’t wait to tattle to anyone I’ve dated or potentially would date that I am a huge Tinder whore.

You may ask, if it’s such a big deal, why not just get rid of Tinder? I’ll save most of the reasoning for a future valentine to Tinder, which I adore, but for the moment:

A) I miss Tinder most when I am forced to wait for something, which as you know I despise. Like a recovering cigarette smoker, I reach for Tinder by habit every time I’m standing in line at the bank or waiting for my oil to be changed on my car. If I want to look at some pics of the current dating pool while I wait in line at Trader Joe’s, I feel like that’s a reasonable right as a red-blooded American male.

B) 90% of the women I know under the age of 30 have such retarded social skills that they preferentially communicate via text, Facebook, et al. rather than face-to-face. Younger women find the idea of a Man approaching them in a bookstore or at a coffee shop almost confrontational, as it rapidly exposes their inability to socialize like a normal human being.

In the interest of keeping myself sharp, I make myself meet women “80s-style”, meaning in absence of technology, and my experience has been that I receive a lot of odd looks and resistance. 

By rough estimate, I would say 15-20% of women I approach think it’s shady or sketchy that I don’t have a Facebook account. These women automatically disqualify men from dating consideration because they can’t be easily researched on the internet. We have gotten to the point where your electronic Social Proof surpasses your actual Social Value, apparently except in the case of writing.

Many modern single women pine for traditional romance and wish to be wooed, and many will gleefully send nude photos to complete strangers, but they can’t be competently civil when an unfamliar man approaches them. The mindset of the average modern woman necessitates innovations like Tinder, not the other way around.

C) I have met some really good people via Tinder. That’s not code for “thirsty thots”, but I’ve in fact made female friends that I otherwise would not have met. Again, this is just how people meet each other in 2015 2016: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and yes, Tinder.

D) Lastly and most-importantly, certain people think they’re getting over on me by showing my Tinder account to anyone peripherally interested. It tickles me in an indescribable way to dangle my Tinder account in their collective faces, and dare them to confront me in an adult fashion about it.

As a Bad Boy, I thrive on actual confrontation, rather than the passive-aggressive whispering most whelps are reduced to, so I use Tinder as an invitation to engage me. Predictably, I always hear about this nonsense third-hand, as the craven masses feign “nobility” by “warning women about me”.

In American English, the beta males who can’t compete with me try to undermine my relationships with women, and the unfucked fatties who can’t land a boyfriend cattily try to interfere with otherwise-scintillating interactions between consenting adults. 

In short, I kept a Tinder account after beginning a relationship because what I do doesn’t concern 99.99% of the population. I’m disgusted by how much more people care about my social media activity than my actual feelings and thoughts.

Most people wisely don’t engage me in confrontation, but this is your invitation: if you want to know what I think about social media and dating sites in particular, speak to me in-person like a freaking adult. Otherwise, grow up and keep your mouth shut.)

I could care less about rumors involving me. I’ve always been of the “Let’s give ’em something to talk about” disposition. As my friends say, I crave attention, and any kind will do. However, I do get irritated when rumors that might be potentially disrespectful to my Mistress (who’s a peach) start spreading around.

My Mistress heard this latest rumor about “Endless Love in the Dark” from her roommate, who heard it from her 60-year old grandfather, who I have never really spoken with. I did not realize Gramps knew my name, let alone my personal affairs. Round and round the Rumor Mill churns.

My Mistress acknowledged that while I am frequently involved in rumors such as this, she does not fully understand why my name comes up so frequently. I tried to explain to my Mistress, a sweetheart if one ever existed, why a person like me is so often involved in the Rumor Mill. In my view, it boils down to these reasons, all of which tie into my Bad Boy presentation:

1) I look like the sort of guy who would have sex with someone’s wife or girlfriend. I wear a leather jacket and have bags under my usually-bloodshot eyes. I almost comically resemble Charlie Sheen in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. This makes it convenient for me to be a bit actor in the self-serving, constructed dramas of manipulative, petty people.

2) Equally-relevant is the Bad Boy tendency to run off with the local Princess, which I have a striking tendency to do. Whether it’s Ryan Atwood winning the heart of Marissa Cooper or the street-rat Aladdin catching the eye of Princess Jasmine, there is a long-standing tradition of the guy from “the Wrong Side of the Tracks” ending up with particularly-treasured Women.

My Mistress is no different. She is indisputably the local Princess. As such, there are a large number of people who care about her and perhaps cross the line from Protective to Meddlesome. Rather than tell the Princess not to run around with the Bad Boy (which will only encourage her), the Meddlers go the opposite route and try to discredit the Bad Boy. This has been a subplot in so many Disney Movies, Teen Soaps, Vampire novels, and Shakespearean tragedies that I don’t need to list examples.

3) Misery Loves Company. There are countless people in unhappy marriages or relationships who do not want to see other people experiencing something exciting. The appeal of running around with a Bad Boy is that there is a time-limit on the relationship, due to the Bad Boy’s self-destructive nature. This makes every moment together richer and more cherished.

People who have slogged through fundamentally-flawed relationships for years see two people (or in my case three people – make sure you count my “Mistress”  and my “girlfriend”) happy, and immediately try to tear them apart. Again, this concept has appeared all across the land of Fiction for so long that I don’t need to cite specific examples.

As a Bad Boy, people are going to be extremely-reluctant to engage you directly. Aggression, hostility, and unpredictability are all cornerstone attributes of the standard Bad Boy, and many people are cowardly and passive-aggressive. While most people at least know better than to cross a Bad Boy directly, quite a few will plot-and-scheme for months or years in efforts to discredit and undermine the Bad Boy.

Bad Boys are prepared for this. As I wrote in Article I, Bad Boys are extremely-distrustful of people, for many of the reasons described above. My distrust of other people borders on paranoia. But like all Bad Boys, my lack of trust in other people is often warranted, as my Life Experience as a Bad Boy has involved backstabbing and deception rather than support and warmth.

As a Bad Boy, your name will continuously circulate in the Rumor Mill. If you are a legitimate Bad Boy, you will have much larger and more-pressing concerns than the opinions of the narrow-minded. If you are merely pretending to be a Bad Boy, you may have a problem having your reputation constantly run-down. In either case, be prepared.

Becoming Mean

logan

“…I’m already rough
I’m already lean
I’m already wanting to be obscene
I’m already cursed
I’m already dry
I’m already wonderin’ what am I
I’ve already learned a bit of sin
Enough already, let me in…”

Silversun Pickups, Dots and Dashes

Do you ever watch a movie or TV show and think, ‘I can’t believe he just did that,’ after some anti-hero double-crosses someone or acts in some self-serving way that screws over a lot of other people?

I used to as well. I used to watch Bad Boy archetypes and then imitate them in order to project a Bad Boy image. I did this because it’s really attractive to college girls.

But as I touched upon in the first Bad Boy article, this was a mask that came on and off. As my college roommate once remarked, I ‘took my hat off’ at the end of the day. At one point, it was accurate to say that I was genuinely good-natured.

That seems to have shifted somewhat. While I still Do the Right Thing most of the time, my sensitivity and thought process has changed dramatically.

Most current example: I sold a pair of skates on eBay. The buyer, a whiny malcontent if ever one existed, drove down the price obnoxiously, haggling with me over $5-$10 while claiming that he “absolutely could not pay a dollar more” after I gave him a $50 discount. I gave him a steal on a pair of nearly-new skates because he “just wanted to teach his son how to play hockey”, even though his user name looked like a sporting goods store. But I digress.

Predictably, upon receipt the guy e-mailed me and wanted to return the skates, citing a minor flaw and forgetting that he was shopping at the Internet Flea Market and not Dick’s Sporting Goods.

Also predictably, I sent him a scathing response. I not only belittled him, but I also used the details of the eBay Buyer Agreement to deflate his delusional demand for a return. I had no reason to do this, other than my refusal to accommodate an entitled pussy. It was not enough for me to just win the argument; I had to impart a good deal of shame on some faceless eBay buyer because he tried to make me dote upon him.

Berating some guy on eBay doesn’t make me (or anyone) a Bad Boy. But the mindset, meaning both an unwillingness to acquiesce to a needy person and the desire to extract a Pound of Flesh for being bothered, is a decidedly Bad Boy mentality.

There was a time when I would have talked myself into giving this buyer the benefit of the doubt and returned the guy’s money, albeit angrily. But that time has seemingly come-and-gone.

Becoming Mean is not a recommended way to live, nor is it necessarily a means to an end. It is a consequence of having good-nature exploited too many times.

There have always been people who cut other people in line at the grocery store or dangerously pull out in front of other cars in traffic. Both nice and not-so nice people repeatedly allow this to happen, to differing levels of acceptance. But Bad Boys not only have zero tolerance for inconsiderate or selfish behavior, they actively seek retribution. Not surprisingly, this calloused attitude gets a Bad Boy into a lot of disputes.

Again, being mean does not always correlate with getting results. There are plenty of people who agree that you catch more bees with honey. But a mean streak is an inherent Bad Boy trait, and one that distinguishes the Bad Boy from more well-adjusted types.

High Self-Confidence/Low Self-Control

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For reasons I won’t get into here, I’ve recently taken a number of personality/psychological assessments. Don’t worry, they aren’t shipping me off to the loony bin, at least not yet. These tests were more of a formality for work and school opportunities.

I took three separate tests, all of which were different and administered for different reasons. Surprisingly, the feedback was consistent, useful, and in my view accurate.

On all three tests, I tested high for Intelligence, Leadership, and Self-Confidence (huge surprise). All three tests also described me as “easy going”, but they were obviously not administered while I was playing Hockey or putting my foot in someone’s ass. Meanwhile, I consistently tested low for Openness (VAGUE) and Self-Control, again not a major surprise.

What’s interesting is that despite consistently testing low for Self-Control, I have traditionally been referred to a “Control Freak”, which is true in a sense. I will try to explain how this ties into Being a Bad Boy:

I think a common Bad Boy problem is Low Self-Control. To survive in modern society, people like me have had to learn to restrain ourselves to a great degree. I touched upon this in my article on The Wild Side. Because we Bad Boys have such a difficult time controlling ourselves, perhaps many of us fixate on controlling as many external factors as possible.

To cite one example, Christian Troy of Nip/Tuck fame is an obvious Control Freak. In addition to being a textbook Sadist, Christian has an obsession with money, power, and status – all things that allow him to maintain control over his environment and the people around him. Don Draper of Mad Men has similar predilections.

As mentioned in The Wild Side, I focus on routines as a way of controlling myself. For example, developing my body, which involves commitment and discipline to both diet and exercise regimens, is a passion of mine. But I’m Lon Chaney, living a simple life of Reps, Sets, and boring meals only to careen off-course and embrace hedonism with growing regularity.

Here is a direct quote from one of my evaluations:

“…As someone who exerts little control over your actions, you may find that you commit social blunders that might offend other people and get yourself in trouble. For example, if you’re given responsibility to work on a project that requires close attention to detail, you may be likely to overlook important details because you have difficulty staying focused. Consequently, you might feel more comfortable delegating such tasks to other people who are more detail-oriented. Being able to recognize such characteristics in yourself and having more detail-oriented people do such tasks could be an effective way to manage your own stress level.

Low self-control may diminish your effectiveness at work. Acting too relaxed can make it difficult for you to focus on projects that require organized sequences of steps or stages. Thus, your ability to accomplish may be inconsistent. Indeed, it’s possible that you might be criticized periodically for being unreliable or unable to “stay within the lines.” Nonetheless, you may still experience many short-lived pleasures and never be thought of as boring.

You may or may not know me personally, but that sounds exactly like two people I know: Don Draper and myself. To illustrate my point, you can check out this clip of Don attempting to work.

I am the same. Many Bad Boys are the same. The inability of a Bad Boy to completely control himself is both infuriating and extremely attractive to the fairer sex.

One of the reasons I so enjoy writing is that there are no lines to stay within. I can write about whatever I want. Rather than be chastised for my inability to think like other people, I am rewarded for it.

The downsides of Low-Self Control are obvious. As noted above, I have extremely-mixed results completing step-by-step tasks. Getting along with others in a professional environment is a chore, to say the least. A Bad Boy is easily provoked, and this leads to an almost-unending parade of interpersonal conflicts and disputes with authority figures.

I try to work on my self-control, but it’s like a Hockey Player trying to become a Golfer. The Good News for me is that I am intelligent and at least cognizant of the Bad Boy condition, and this helps me head off a good number of potential problems. Still, even if I catch 90% of these problems in-advance and map-out responsible courses of action, it still seems like I am frequently pulled into fights and romantic entanglements, which I will talk about more below in “The Drama Elixir”.

If you are a Bad Boy wrestling with self-control issues, or if you know one, weigh the points made in this article and consider adopting some sort of productive lifestyle routine. Body Development, Sports, and Writing have all helped me to a large degree, but Low Self-Control requires constant vigilance and a good deal of foresight.

Married Women and Bad Boys

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Confession: a Wedding Ring has never served as a stop-sign for me.

This isn’t to say that I go around trying to bewitch wives or wreck homes. But if an attractive Married Woman makes me an aggressive offer, I will usually at least consider it.

There are many exceptions to this: I will not consider Military Wives or the wives of Firefighters. I will not consider the wives of my friends or, God forbid, family. I’m not Marty Brodeur.

But as I wrote above, for me a Wedding Ring has always been more of a blinking Yellow Light rather than a stop-sign. The presence of a ring just makes me consider the situation differently. I think this mentality is unique to the Bad Boy breed.

Daniel Craig as James Bond probably said it best:

Bond: You’re not my type.

Vesper: Smart?

Bond: Single.

My view is not that Bad Boys run around trying to steal involved Women. But the willingness to physically-engage an involved Woman is a very common Bad Boy trait.

When it comes down to it, Bad Boys are animals. Bad Boys take the traditional rules of society with a grain of salt, or at least do not consider them as strongly as more-socialized types. This is both extremely-vexing to society-at-large and extremely-attractive to most Women.

Again, it’s not as though I go around trying to drive a wedge between happily-married couples, or for that matter, people in happy relationships. But as one Woman told me when I was 19, “I’m going to (cheat) with someone, and it might as well be you.”

Take a cursory run through Books, Movies, and Television, and you will see a consistent trend of Bad Boys and involved Women gravitating toward each other. As I have written before, the only guide in situations such as this are the Bad Boy’s conscience, however large or small.

Taking the Reins

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Maybe to my own detriment, I have never really lusted for power. In fact, my idea of happiness is being left alone in peace. A book, a comfortable place to sleep, something to exercise with, and something to write with is really all I need to be perfectly content. The brief company of a low-drama lady would be the cherry on the sundae.

My point is that I am not a power-hungry beta nor a would-be cult leader. But ironically, I frequently find myself Taking the Reins in almost every situation I’m involved in. Here is how that ties into Being a Bad Boy:

As I wrote above, I test high for Leadership qualities. This is the direct quote from one of my evaluations:

Perhaps the defining feature that sets you apart from most people is the exceptionally high standards that you set for yourself. Your competence in social gatherings as well as at work should provide ample evidence for this. With these characteristics, it’s very likely that people come to you for advice and generally think of you as someone with leader-like qualities.

This is all true. I don’t want to be in-charge, but I do expect those in-charge to govern fairly, judiciously, and professionally. Typically, I am disappointed because the decision-makers in most cases are crooked and self-serving. Rather than do the French thing and consent to oppression, I do the American thing and fight for Equality and Justice.

Bad Boys are hard-wired like this. While I think Bad Boys are generally loners by-nature, most of us are forced into extended social interaction. I don’t believe most Bad Boys think they are the best and smartest guys for a given job, but I do believe that most Bad Boys think they are better and smarter than the clown in-charge most of the time.

Bad Boys Take the Reins because there is often not a viable alternative. It’s not that a Bad Boy aspires to command, but liars and schemers are frequently those who ascend to authority positions, and most Bad Boys – no matter how rough around the edges – often threaten to trample a House of Cards that a beta social manipulator has carefully constructed.

When combined with a typical Bad Boy’s hair-trigger temper, politicking from a corrupt leadership figure often leads to a conflict. As the politician exposes her or himself as a disingenuous liar, more and more people look to the Bad Boy for guidance and resolve. Bad Boys often take leadership roles if only because they cannot stand the current leader, not because they crave power.

The Drama Elixir

vampire diaries season finale

I had an opening written for this section, but this trumps what I was going to write:

A woman just sat down directly across from me. She caught a glimpse of me from across the restaurant I am writing this article in, and walked across the restaurant to sit directly in front of me even though there is plenty of seating available elsewhere. I am experienced enough to pick up on her coy looks and suggestive posture. She wants me to approach and engage her.

I glance over at her. She smiles coyly, and lingers with eye contact. After a moment, she looks down, then looks back at me. She pulls at her sweater a bit and rubs her neck. My expression does not change, but I hold eye contact. There is no verbal exchange, just looks and non-verbal cues. I know this is not the typical for everyone, but it’s typical for me.

In fact, this happens to me often. I do not meet Women because they start casual, normal conversations with me, or by the conventional means that most of my friends have described to me. I probably wouldn’t know an appropriate, normal interaction with a Woman if it hit me across the face. I meet Women because they either bait me with sexual suggestion (to varying degrees of subtlety), or assign me a personality they crave and desperately throw themselves at me. I do not believe as an adult I have ever dated a Woman who started as a friend or via the traditional dinner-dating route.

You might be thinking, “Here he comes again talking about how Hilarious and Sexy he is, Yawn”. I won’t dispute this, but I am also trying to illustrate a point and stay within the scope of the article:

As a Bad Boy, I have a high Potential for Drama, due in large part to the Low Self-Control issues I described above. Many Women, particularly those in the 16-35 age demographic, readily pick up on this using some kind of advanced formula available only to Women. Leather Jacket + Bruises/Cuts on Neck + Contemptuous Look on Face + Muscles + Plain Black T-Shirt + Standoffish Attitude = Drama Reservoir.

I believe what makes a Bad Boy attractive is not necessarily how he looks physically. At the least, I do not believe Looks play the biggest part in the Female-to-Male attraction process as a Woman assesses a Bad Boy. The smaller cues – the hungry & lean look, the scars, the five-o’clock shadow, the distant look in the eyes – are what attract certain Women to Bad Boys.

Younger Women especially are drawn to this Drama Elixir. For reasons Men will never fully understand, younger Women feel this tremendous need to inject Drama into their lives, and a Bad Boy – with his lack of impulse control, unwillingness to commit, and short temper – is sure to inject Drama into her life in one way or another. I have never been able to explain or qualify it properly, but it’s almost as though many Women are not living unless they are experiencing the Dramatic range of emotions – angst, elation, excitement, jealousy,  joy, and so forth.

For many Women, a high Potential for Drama is like a seductive bombshell for Men. While the mind may protest otherwise, the base instincts want what they want.

As I wrote in the first article, a frequent occurrence is that a Woman will be borderline-rude to me for no reason whatsoever. Again, these are not Women I am trying to pick-up in bars or clubs, but Women in Retail who were hired to be pleasant to customers.  I will stand in line and watch a Woman be overwhelmingly-friendly with other customers, but become defensive and short with me before I even speak to her. I would ask these Women why they act this way for informative purposes, but I do not believe I would get a forthright answer out of most of them.

This also frequently happens between me and Women who are in longer-term relationships or marriages. As I alluded to above, I do not interfere with happy or successful relationships. But a consequence of my Bad Boy presentation is that happily-involved Women almost refuse to be civil to me. I suspect this happens to most Bad Boys.

A common occurrence is that an involved Woman will be a raging bitch to me for no identifiable reason, then get sexually-aggressive the moment after her boyfriend or fiance or husband leaves the room. As a Bad Boy, you are expected to take the heat in the event an angry husband or boyfriend catches you with his Woman. However, too little derision is placed upon the Women who shamelessly flirt or gleefully cheat with Men other than their own.

To tie a bow on the story from the beginning of this section, the Woman who sat next to me while I was writing this article continued to throw a variety of suggestive gestures and glances my way for 15 or 20 minutes, until her boyfriend/husband showed up. At that point, her entire presentation changed, as she switched from flirtatious and sexually-suggestive to bubbly, naive, and sweet. She walked out of the restaurant without so much as a second look in my direction, holding her boyfriend/fiance/husband’s hand.

This has been my continued experience as an adult. When I was a 22-year old bartender and Women treated me this way, I always assumed that it was situational and temporary. But years later Women continue to play this game, still throwing provocative looks behind the backs of their boyfriends and finances and husbands. As I’ve grown and learned more about myself and the world, I realize that I am just a certain type – or at the least, Women assume I am a certain type.

What does the Drama Elixir mean for a Bad Boy?

As I wrote previously, Bad Boys are usually not consciously-manipulating Women. Bad Boys are either distracted by more-pressing matters (like going to jail or having guns shoved in their face), or like me wish to be left alone. But as anyone who owns a cat will tell you: the more you push the cat away, the more the cat will keep trying to climb onto you. The indifference or even contempt a Bad Boy shows toward a Woman will usually only serve to make her more attracted to him, via one mechanism or another.

You will know that you are a Bad Boy when you start pining for a calmer or steadier lifestyle. While a Woman who exaggerates the circumstances of her life for attention is a Drama Queen, a Man who downplays or tries to minimize a litany of legitimate problems is likely a Bad Boy.

My last word of advice for the would-be Bad Boy is to be leery of a sexually-suggestive or aggressive Woman. As I pointed out above, the Woman who sat next to me and tried to bait me with an arsenal of slutty gestures and glances left the restaurant with her boyfriend/husband. Provoking a Bad Boy is a no-lose proposition for most Women, because they can always feign innocence to their devoted partner.

After all, who is an angry boyfriend/husband going to believe most of the time: the Love of his Life, or some shady-looking guy who is seemingly hitting on her?

Many Women come to know that a Bad Boy is not intimidated by approaching her, so Women are often much more forward in their actions toward him. But the Trap is that the Women who are beckoning the Bad Boy, as in the example above, are often in committed relationships. While these Women tend to justify these seductive invitations as “innocent flirting”, they are less likely to consider – or at least take responsibility for -the consequences of these actions.

Hell, some Women may want to see her boyfriend/husband fight for her, and may attempt to draw a Bad Boy into a self-constructed Drama just to reaffirm his commitment to her. Some Women may aim to turn a Bad Boy into a pawn in a kind of emotional game. I can personally attest to this, as it has happened to me numerable – repeat, numerable – times in recent memory.

A Bad Boy concocts the Drama Elixir the same way certain Women have blonde hair and big breasts: by nature, not by choice. Just be cognizant of the fact that as a Bad Boy, you consciously or unconsciously produce the drug of choice for many Women. While it will serve to make you more-attractive, it will also serve to cause you continual headaches and inconveniences.

Closing

These Bad Boy articles will likely be ongoing. As I wrote above, I am constantly getting new material on the topic. I would hope that as an astute reader, you are noticing all the caution flags I am throwing up for younger or would-be Bad Boys. Inexperienced Men will read this and cherry-pick for ways to sleep with more Women, but savvy readers and fellow Bad Boys will know that the Bad Boy lifestyle is pretty aggravating.

Above all, I suggest younger or less-experienced readers continue to learn from my mistakes. There will undoubtedly be more to follow.

Jack

Issue #71: Jack’s Rules

I am constantly considering my personal code of ethics, which regularly replaces or supersedes many of the more clearly-defined rules of modern society. I am also constantly getting into conflicts because I prioritize my personal code over what is common, established, and sometimes what is legal.

My code of ethics is complicated, and frequently contradicts itself, so much so that even I have a hard time putting it into words. As Walt Whitman once wrote, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” What I think today might be drastically different from what I think tomorrow, and like everyone else I am not exempt from biases and moments of hypocrisy.

My personal ethics are kind of like a disorganized office desk: I have a system and I know how it works, but to a random observer it looks like a total mess.

desk

So instead of trying to explain my ethics, I present a much more coherent and entertaining list of Jack’s Rules. There are 11 Rules which I consistently follow but occasionally break, all of which have led to happiness and personal success over time. These Rules are the closest thing I have to a “Plan” or “Morals”. I don’t encourage you to follow Jack’s Rules, but I don’t discourage it either, because I’ve had a lot of success following these Rules. I’m just presenting the information, and what you do with it is your decision.

Throughout the course of the article, I will explain why each Rule is in place, and hopefully explain why one’s personal ethics might sometimes compromise ethics that are more common in society – as well as why this might not be such a bad thing.

1) Hit on Her

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I’m sorry, but I’m Not sorry, John…I’m a Cocksman!

– Vince Vaughn, Wedding Crashers

America has trended in such a way that Men have gotten way too deep inside their own heads when it comes to Women. 50 years of Feminism, Romantic Comedies, and single-parent upbringing have made Men, on the whole, both much-more sensitive and much-more insecure when it comes to the Fairer Sex.

The problem has gotten so pervasive that entire sub-cultures have popped up to help Men learn how to Be Men. A notable, popular book on the subject is The Game by Neil Strauss, in which the author champions Men that have never learned how to interact with Women the natural way.

Regrettably, the majority of Men today seem to fall into this category. This has led to a convoluted American social landscape in which many Men act disinterested in or even hostile toward the Women they are attracted to as a means of winning the affection of Women. It’s insane. Just as prevalent are the Men who have been taught to embrace their feminine side to too strong of a degree, who hesitate throughout every step of the courting process for fear of coming across as insensitive.

To combat this, I have made my #1 Rule as simple as possible, throwing out all of the socially-conditioned Negative Reinforcement that’s been beaten into my head as a 21st Century Man: when in doubt, Hit on Her.

If I stop and think about it, I can find all sorts of reasons why I shouldn’t flirt with a given Woman: she could be married, she could have a boyfriend, she could be totally disinterested, she could have just buried her cat, etc. Without much effort, I can come up with a dozen perfectly-logical reasons why you should not talk to a Woman.

This is an example of being afraid of success. God forbid you hit on a Woman and she responds positively. Many, many Men are overwhelmed with imagery of how the situation could go wrong without considering how the situation could go right. For all you know, you are a Woman’s exact type, and she’s been eye-balling you since you walked in the room. Do not be afraid to be the best thing to happen to her that day.

Not Hitting on a Woman demonstrates poor self-image most of the time, though many Men would have you believe that they are just highly-selective and have a veritable army barrack full of ardent Women waiting for them at a moment’s notice. Most Women also have “a Desire to be Desired”, and your indication of attraction to them only serves to makes You more attractive in their eyes.

There is a great quote from the book “Shit My Dad Says” on the subject:

“That Woman was sexy. . . . Out of your league? Son, let Women figure out why they won’t screw you. Don’t do it for them.”

Sure, many times a Woman is not going to respond positively to you hitting on her. There are countless reasons for this, none of which you as a Man can reasonably anticipate. Frankly, it’s not your job to know all of the little things that could be needling a Woman emotionally at any given time. Your job, as a Man, is to initiate the courtship phase and validate all of the effort a Woman puts into her personal appearance by showing Sexual Interest. It’s easy.

Best-case scenario? She was already scouting you, and thinks you’re a Hunk of Burning Love.

Fair Warning: things can and will go wrong sometimes. To cite a memorable example, I had a girl’s live-in boyfriend stalk me on Facebook because he had a problem with me hitting on his girlfriend. The girl in question had told me that she was single and more than encouraged my flirting, but that did not change the fact that I had made an enemy out of someone I did not know. Had cooler heads not prevailed, this could have ended in a fistfight or worse.

But I could not have reasonably anticipated this. Personally, I would rather make mistakes of ambition such as this one rather than lose out on opportunities because of inaction.

So, my #1 Rule is Hit on Her. This is a Rule, and is thus non-negotiable. If I am standing next to a girl in line at the coffee shop, I flirt with her. I then flirt with the coffee shop girl. I then go and sit down, and if I happen to sit next to a Woman or Women, I flirt with her or them. An easy way to tell that something is wrong with me is if I am not strutting around like a walking hard-on.

Now, there are exceptions to this Rule: for example, if a pregnant Woman is holding her husband’s hand, she probably does not need the self-esteem boost my attention would provide. Unlike Vince Vaughn, I don’t make a habit of hitting on high-school girls. There are lots and lots of exceptions to Rule #1. But the exception is to let a Woman pass without chatting her up, not the other way around.

It’s worth repeating that this is Jack’s Rule. This works for me because I am very old-school. I’m a traditional Man, and that I accept the responsibilities that go with Manhood. A masculine responsibility that has fallen out of popular favor is the responsibility of the Man to take the reins during the courtship phase. Gender Equality is great until a Woman needs a Man, not an asexual gossip pal, and it’s a male responsibility to initiate and carry Women through the courtship phase.

If this Rule does not jibe with your natural personality, I would not expect you to stock up on Drakkar Noir and breath mints and go off like a sailor on shore-leave. But if you spend most of your time silently pining for some satisfaction from the opposite sex, I suggest you ditch the self-doubt and fully embrace Rule #1.

2) ABC/TCB –  Always Be Closing and Take Care of Business

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There is a movie starring one of my favorite actors, the absolutely-ridiculous Alec Baldwin, called Glengary Glen Ross that talks about hardcore cold-selling. One quote in particular is associated with the film: Always Be Closing:

There are two opposite groups of people in the world: Accounts and Creative, both of which are represented on my current-favorite second-favorite television show Mad Men.

If you are Accounts, this basically means that you are good with people, driven, and goals-oriented, but not necessarily innovative. If you are Creative, it likely means you have a complete inability to get along with people on a professional level, but you compensate for this by having 1000 brilliant ideas a minute. You may also have a drinking problem.

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I am textbook Creative. To cite an example, I have over 100 unfinished articles such as this one in my drafts folder. Put a stimulant into me, and I’ll have a torrential downpour of brainstorms. But I also have a remarkable tendency not to see these ideas through to conclusion. I am great at opening, less so at seeing things through to conclusion.

So, one-half of Rule #2 is Always Be Closing. I have to make a conscious effort to outsmart my ADD, and the most-effective way to do that is to force myself to see all tasks to completion, no matter how large or small. I sometimes have to write my tasks down like a grocery list, lest my concentration wane. I also have to avoid time-wasting activities like the plague, as one of my favorite things to do is to engage in a brainless activity that allows me to fully devote my attention to these impressive ideas I have. Most of the time, it’s a fruitless, worthless endeavor.

I also have to close the book on certain  issues and opportunities. My natural optimism encourages me to see the upside in most people and situations, which leads to indesciveness and trouble. ABC means concluding things as strongly as you open them.

The other half of Rule #2 is Take Care of Business, or TCB. This is taken from the six leisurely years I spent in Undergrad.

At my Alma mater, my beloved Duquesne University, there is a brick walkway that stretches the length of Campus called A-Walk. My absolute favorite activity in the world aside from Hockey was to steal coffee from one of our eateries (Off-Ramp) and to engage in Rule #1 for hours on end.

The problem with this was that my pesky Class Schedule was getting in the way of my busy coffee-drinking and flirting schedule. So, at some point either my roommate or I developed the term TCB, which means to go Take Care of “Business”. At the time, my “Business” consisted of sitting through 50 minutes of 100-level Physics or placing a phone call or e-mail to Father Hogan or Bob Arturo in which I abjectly-lied about something my lackeys or I were doing. After these arduous tasks, I was free to engage in my more-important pursuits:

awalk2

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To no one’s surprise, I’m the guy 1) smoking a vanilla cigar and flipping the bird, and 2) wearing the black Hangover Hoodie and holding the stolen coffee. But I digress.

The notion stands: the first thing is to Take Care of Business so you can go back to the things you enjoy doing, whatever those things may be.

3) Focus on the Good News & Expect the Best

thegoodnewsOne of my all-time favorite television shows, as stated above, is Mad Men. I enjoy most episodes of the show, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be the episode The Good News from Season Four. Without barraging you with details, the episode is divided into two-halves: in the first half, Don (pictured above) learns that his best friend Anna is dying of Cancer. It’s bittersweet, as Don knows he is likely seeing Anna for the last time. As a kicker, he’s also getting divorced from his shrew of a wife, Betty. It has not been a banner week for Don.

Don deals with the News about Anna and his impending divorce in the only way he knows how, which is to grab a buddy and go on a mini-bender:

http://www.trailercodes.com/tv/mad-men–the-good-news/boys-night-out

I identify with this because, as usual, I would do the exact same thing. Like Don, I do not wallow by nature. Surprisingly, I am a relentless optimist, and at times this optimism includes a probably-unhealthy repression of the disappointing details in my life in favor of Hedonism.

I do not fully agree with the concepts of Optimism and Pessimism, as I think both are inaccurate distortions of reality. What I do believe in is Focusing on The Good News, whatever that may happen to be.

In Don’s case, the Good News is that he is a good-looking, wealthy businessman who has recently disposed of his nattering shrew of a wife. The Good News is that he has the means to grab a buddy, order a couple of T-Bone steaks, sneak a flask into a movie theater, and then go have unprotected sex with a call girl. It may not always be a long-term solution, but there is usually an upside to a given situation. Like Don, I would prefer to focus on the upside, rather than be overcome by despair.

Rule #3 is two-part, as my personal take is also to Expect the Best. Let me explain how this ties in:

I had a friend who was trying to give me some constructive criticism. As delicately as she could, she told me that I hold myself and others to unreasonably-high standards of behavior.

While I have a horde of unwanted acquaintances, I have relatively few friends, or at least people I consider quality friends. There are dozens if not hundreds of people who will go out to the bar with me or who will beg me to solve their personal problems, but very few that I could count on if I actually needed something in return.

My friend was trying to convince me to be more-accepting of the fact that not everyone has my level of personal integrity, and that I should just appreciate people for being fun-loving or whatever. As sweetly as she could, she told me that I expect too much of people.

I listened to her, and after she finished, I kind of shrugged and said, “Well…yeah.”

Admittedly, while I never judge people on credentials or monetary worth, I am constantly judging people on Character, or lack thereof. My friend is right: I do expect a ton from people, because I expect a ton from myself.

I am not going to go on and on about this, because it will turn into a Valentine To: Me, From: Me, and given how much I adore myself, it could end up be a lengthy one. But just to cite one example: I drag myself to the gym almost every day and do as many Deadlifts and Weighted Chin-Ups as I possibly can. I do this because, selfish prick that I am, I have a dream of dragging people out of burning buildings to safety. I go to the gym 5% so I can engage in a little Rule #1, and 95% so that I am physically-prepared to help other people, should I need to be.

I get no awards for this, nor do I want any. But every day I strive to be better for other people. You may notice this article is Free of Charge, yet well-written and meticulously-edited. I do this because I can, not because I have to. I don’t expect everyone else to be wired the same way as me, but I do expect some other people to be community-minded and interested in being excellent.

I think it’s perfectly fine to Expect the Best out of life and others. I would argue that we individually need to raise our expectations of other people, rather than lower them.

There are going to be people who completely agree with me, and people who completely disagree with me. Either way is fine. I Expect the Best because it helps make me a better person, which in turn helps me better serve others. If that makes me an elitist or a snob or whatever, I’m cool with it.

4) Do It Natural

sherwood_5030_hockey_wood_stick

I could take this is so many directions (like Bareback?), but let’s stay out of the gutter for the moment….

In short, pick the natural alternative to the synthetic one. Your body can tell the difference between running on a treadmill and running outside, just like it can tell the difference between brown rice and Rice Krispies. The natural approach pays dividends over time.

5) Face Forward

donfuture

Like most people, if you give me some time, I will sit and dwell on the mistakes I’ve made. I’m not one to beat myself up over the past, but there are times when I think “if only I’d done that differently…”

The antidote for this condition is Rule #5, Face Forward. Regret is for losers. While it’s fun to reflect on past successes, it’s more exciting and ultimately more rewarding to focus on your next challenge or conquest. Facing Forward keeps you motivated and out of your own head, which is a boon if you’re prone to being too harsh on yourself.

6) Keep Your Word

mario12

 

Those trips to Kansas City and Vegas and other cities was just to go and have a nice dinner, and come back home.“- Mario Lemieux

http://sports.espn.go.com/nhl/news/story?id=2797778

As they say, a Man’s only as good as his word. I make an effort to follow through on the things I say, and try not to make a bunch of empty promises. Keeping Your Word can range from showing up on time to going to Kansas City for a nice steak dinner before keeping the Penguins in Pittsburgh. No matter how large nor how small, it’s good practice to keep your promises.

7) You are worth more than ______ (or FIGHT)

This is going to come to a huge shock to you, but I rarely have lacked for self-confidence. In fact, shockingly, I have had to spend much more of my energy corralling my natural instinct to treat myself like a King than I have had to spend developing positive self-image.

I do not expect you to hug yourself with both arms and swoon like I do every time I walk in front of a mirror, but there are important reasons why you need to love yourself to a degree. Not to sound like Dr. Phil, but you really cannot help other people until you learn how to take care of yourself. Part of this means understanding your own personal value, and not allowing circumstances or other people to compromise your value.

I have two stories to share on Rule #7, one Funny and one Not Funny. The Funny story helps explain how I have always valued myself, while the Not Funny story is an important lesson on trusting your instincts and not letting others degrade you.

First, the Funny story:

When I was five or six, I wore a Batman costume every day to school until it became such as issue that my teacher and principal asked for a sit-down meeting with my parents. I was not causing trouble or anything – in fact, I was doing the opposite, sitting at my desk with absolute vigilance while my Kindergarten teacher taught the Letters of the Alphabet or whatever – but it was apparently distracting to the other kids that I was showing up as the Dark Knight every day. Lord, do I wish I had a picture.

(UPDATE: my sister found a picture. Yes, that’s me, and I’m Awesome.)

batman

Anyway, my principal told my parents that I was no longer allowed to come to school dressed like Batman. Not that my parents sent me out of the house this way, as I stuffed my homemade cape-and-cowl and $10 drugstore costume into my Batman backpack and changed into it once I got to school. So, my fun-hating teacher, Nazi principal, and father (who, like the Hulk, had issues with Rage Control) very sternly told me that I would no longer be allowed to come to school dressed as Batman. I recall my mother at least finding some humor in it, but she went along with the program. No more Batman costume.

I was pissed. How the hell was I supposed to fight crime and protect the innocent in my doofus white polo shirt and navy slacks?

Refusing to yield to the oppressive fascists at my school but needing to adapt in some way, I came up with an alternate solution: I would wear my Batman pajamas underneath my school clothes. Batman certainly didn’t bow before any totalitarian regime, and neither would I. Both Darkseid and the dream-killers at my elementary school could kiss my skinny white crime-fighting ass: if I wanted to dress as Batman, I was going to dress as Batman.

So, I started showing up for school with my Batman pajamas on underneath my school uniform in my Secret Identity as Kindergarten student. I vividly remember laughing my ass off each day, because all these kids were sitting around not realizing that I was Batman. I’m sure my teacher noticed my grey-and-blue pajamas poking out from under my Jack-boots and Third Reich school polo, but she must have at least been relieved that I was no longer wearing a cape and mask to school every day.

The little kid who refused to compromise is exactly who I am, in a nutshell. To this day, I rub a lot of people the wrong way because I do not back down if I really believe in something.

Flash forward 20 years to the Not Funny, but Important, story:

Most people cannot pinpoint the Biggest Mistake of Their Life. I can not only pinpoint this mistake, but the exact moment the mistake was made.

My first job out of college was working as a Personal Trainer for LA Fitness, a notoriously-unethical gym chain. My line of thought was, “I like working out, so wouldn’t it be great if I got a job teaching other people how to work out?” At the time, it seemed like a good place to start my professional life.

The job paid next-to-nothing, but I chalked this up to paying my dues. I was routinely being lied to and taken advantage of by my employers, but I had basically no professional experience at the time and didn’t know any better. I thought being marginalized and deliberately misled for obscenely-low dollars was a normal part of the “adult” world, barring a few exclusions. I believed that the situation would improve over time if I proved what a diligent worker and professional I was.

The gym was happy to run me ragged, as I frequently worked 50-60 hours per week for an average of $6 Dollars Per Hour. It would take a sub-article to explain why this was allowed to transpire, but for the moment take my word for it.

To add insult to injury, I was given a single, cheap work shirt that I was expected to wear every minute I worked for the company. As you can imagine, working a very physical job 8-10 hours per day will wear out a $3 nylon shirt in short order. Still, I tried my best to be a professional, washing the thing religiously and doing my absolute best to maintain professional decorum, since my clients were paying the gym $30-$50 per half-hour for the privilege of working with me.

(You read that right: the gym was charging people $60-$100 per hour and paying me no more than a taxed $12 per hour, if I was lucky. If you drive past a shiny new LA Fitness gym, now you know how it was paid for.)

I was not consciously aware of it at the time, but being paid and treated like a slave takes a major toll on your psyche and self-esteem. I was used to having girls fight over me and an army of lackeys who reinforced whatever opinion I gave them. I was not used to having to agree with – or at least stifle my contempt for – the often-ridiculous opinions of my clients and co-workers. I was certainly not used to being brow-beaten for $6/Hour, especially coming from bartending jobs in which I would routinely make $300-$400 to get drunk for six hours.

Up to point, while I had taken the work itself seriously, I had not paid too much heed to the asinine rambling from my co-workers and supervisors. My logic was that I was an excellent worker and the job paid dog-shit, so as long as I kept my clients happy, there was really very little any supervisor could say to me. Anyway, the weeks piled up and there was a changeover in management. The new manager sought to establish his authority by giving me a hard time, for whatever reason.

The LA Fitness rule was that I had to wear that God-awful, $3 nylon shirt while working. My former supervisor had at least been cool about it, and didn’t bitch if I showed up in one of my nice-looking Nike or Puma training shirts. This new guy really wanted to needle me, and since he couldn’t complain about the stellar work I was doing, he decided to rake me over the coals over my work shirt, which by now was literally falling apart from overuse.

I showed up for work one Monday morning with a clean, professional-looking Nike shirt on. The supervisor asked where my work shirt was. I calmly explained to him that the shirt was falling apart from overuse, and that I could use another one. I don’t remember his response, but he didn’t jump to get me another shirt.

On Wednesday of the same week, I show up in the work shirt, the collar of which is literally falling off. He gets indignant and asks, “What’s the deal with your shirt?” I remember choking back my considerable rage – I have quite a temper – and reminding him that I had asked for another work shirt two days ago. Again, I don’t remember his response, but he again did not rush to get me another shirt.

On Friday of that week (which I recall because I always trained a lovely cougar named Sophie M-W-F at 8:30 AM), I had a very professional-looking Nike zip-up over-top of my work shirt, which reeked of gym-sweat and was basically torn from neck to sternum like something an oiled-up cowboy would wear on the cover of a romance novel. While I had Sophie on the leg extension or whatever, this supervisor comes up to me – while I’m with a client, which is a big no-no – and starts harping on me about the shirt.

I snapped. I told him, in my most authoritative Sobe Voice, “TO GO GET ME A NEW GODDAMN SHIRT.” I may have said “fucking shirt.” I don’t recall, as the rage had taken hold by that point. He was aghast, because really, who has the balls to tell his boss to fetch him a shirt? Hint: you’re reading his blog. He got visibly red before telling me “go find my shirt”, which was nonsense because I was wearing it.

After I finished training Sophie, who was flustered and teary-eyed because she thought her boy-toy trainer was about to lose his job, I walked over to my supervisor. I was so entitled at the time that I expected him to apologize to me for interrupting a training session to bitch at me about my work shirt. It had barely occurred to me that I was at-all in the wrong.

Meanwhile, my supervisor, who I’ll call “Benji”, was expecting me to give a full and remorseful apology. When I started tearing into him like an irate football coach, things quickly escalated to a boiling point. I suddenly had the choice of going for Benji’s throat at the risk of my job, or backing off in the interest of keeping it.

Remember above when I mentioned making the Biggest Mistake of My Life? I was about to make it.

You have to first understand that I have this complete inability to quit anything, ever. It’s one of my great strengths. But it’s also a weakness, particularly in situations such as this. Quitting to me is an admission of cowardice and low character, which is in direct violation of Rules #4 and #11. Unfortunately, when I was younger, I could not separate “quitting a shitty job or relationship” from “quitting in Mile 7 of an eight-mile run”. Back then, quitting was quitting, no matter what the circumstances were.

What I should have done was calmly taken off my smelly, tattered work shirt, thrown it at Benji, and told him to come outside and fight me like a Man. I had just turned 24 at the time, so it would not have been the most-immature thing I had ever done. Whatever I ended up paying in court costs would have been worth what I gained in dignity and self-esteem, and like I said, I was young enough that I could have survived any financial or legal repercussions.

Instead, I put my clients and my notion of professionalism in front of my own well-being. I pictured poor Sophie, on the verge of tears because her newest boy-toy was about to quit his shitty job, as well as my other 15 or 20 clients. I pictured the indignity of telling people that I was fired from my first “grown-up” job, which was still relatively new. In one moment of poor decision-making, I decided that the desires and impressions of other people were worth more than what I thought of myself.

I did not exactly apologize to Benji, but I did just enough to not get fired. It was a colossal mistake. In exchange for keeping this crap job, I made a huge concession in self-image. I compromised in the face of a nerdy little bully, the sort of person I would have mauled and scraped off my shoe a mere six months ago. Unwittingly, I had pegged my own self-worth at $6/Hour, and that was reflected in most of the interactions I had with clients and co-workers going forward.

As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. Over the next 2-3 years, I continued to work for LA Fitness, again for the insulting rate of $6/Hour while a veritable Rogues’ Gallery of social castoffs ate up all of my ambition and energy. Between being overworked and underpaid, my body began to fall apart, culminating in a severe knee injury that took 18 months to heal properly.

Once Benji realized that I would not cross the line enough to get fired, it was like blood in the water: he spent an inordinate amount of time aggravating me and making me look bad, because he knew that I would not quit. The atmosphere at work was an absolute nightmare, which of course carried over into my personal life.

While it’s true that I genuinely valued my clients, I should have made the hard choice and put myself and my own well-being in front of them. Because I did not, I let a bunch of lowlifes suck the energy and joy out of me to the point that most of my positive relationships deteriorated.

That’s not a happy-go-lucky story, and it’s not meant to be. But there is an important lesson, and that is that You are Worth More than ________. If you are in a bad relationship or working a bad job, it’s better get out and cut your losses than it is to suffer the gradual erosion of your self-image.

Changing the negative things in your life is one of the key ingredients to True Happiness. Sadly, many people will suffer for months or even years on end in the name of Integrity or Principle or Professionalism or some other gossamer concept. Being so Proud, this is something I have to be very conscious of, lest I let my personal integrity eventually lead to self-destruction. There is no Honor is Being a Martyr, only in Being a Victor.

fightclub

If you’re the type that skims, you can ignore everything I wrote above if you remember one thing: FIGHT.

You know those people who say, “I’m a lover, not a fighter?” I’m the opposite of that.

I’m not the warmest person in the world, but I know how to compete and dominate and win. As I’ve matured, I’ve grown to appreciate the need for cooperation, but for a while I subverted myself a bit too much in the interest of getting along. Thankfully, I think that disappointing time has come and gone.

Very simply, Alpha Males fight. Not necessarily physically all the time, but when someone wrongs you or your cherished ones, you fight for them and for yourself. Again, you do not quit and you do not surrender, especially if you know if your heart that you’re in the right.

Please do not read this as, “Go out and fight everyone all the time.” That’s absolute nonsense. Read this as “Strive for Peace, but Prepare for War.” Expect that there will be a number of disingenuous people in your orbit who will at best attempt to repress or subvert you, and will at worst actively endeavor to discredit and undermine you.

You don’t have to Fight, but you don’t have to win or have anything worthwhile, either. My mistake from the example above was that I opted to yield when I should have stood my ground, and I paid for it dearly. Use discretion, but realize that at times you are going to know better than the opposing party, and that you may in fact represent what is Just and True is a given situation.

If you want to follow Jack’s Rules, sometimes you need to FIGHT. But if you’re going to Fight, you need to do so in a way that protects your opponent to a degree, which I’ll explain next.

8) Mean, But Clean

hipcheck

This is one of my Hockey rules that I’ve transferred to Real Life.

The Hockey Rule “Mean but Clean” is the credit line of viciousness I have established for myself. As a puck-carrier, you get frustrated when people repeatedly take liberties with you while you are busy trying to create goals. Less-skilled or unskilled players will slash you, hook you, knee you, and hit you from behind while you are concentrating on Offense and thus relatively-vulnerable. This gets old really quick, and your instinct becomes to seek immediate retribution.

But I draw the line at “Dirty” play. I think hitting people from behind or trying to blow-out their knees is cowardly, which conflicts Jack’s Rule #11.

This is a textbook example of a “dirty hit”:

Claude Lemieux boards Kris Draper from behind. Draper has no reasonable way of protecting himself. Lemieux could have killed or paralyzed Draper. This play is absolutely craven. Watching it makes me want to fight Claude Lemieux, but thankfully D-Mac did it for me.

And this is a dangerous, dirty play called a Slew-Foot, which is basically kicking out a player’s skates from behind:

The word that occurs to me as I watch both of these plays is Cowardly, which is something I do not abide. I think it’s much Cleaner to hit someone while he has a chance to defend himself, or to fight him Man-to-Man.

To point, I recently had a kid slew-foot me in a pick-up hockey game. If I had fallen in a different way, I could have been injured. I was going to let it go, but then the brat decided to keep chirping at me, so I threw off my gloves and handed him a light beating.

I could have really hurt this kid – I estimate I outweigh him by 40 lbs, I’m a trained boxer with 30 hockey fights on my resume, and unlike him I’m not a massive pussy – but I restrained myself quite a bit. I could have very literally broken this kid’s face – meaning his nose, orbital, etc – but I opted to pull back because even if the kid is a mouthy shit who deserves a beating, there’s no honor in working over someone much smaller than you.

I don’t have a picture or video of the fight, but there’s this:

jacksuspended

I could have chased the kid down and kicked out his skates from behind him, then stepped on him while he was down. But there’s nothing clean or honorable in that. I chose to drop the gloves and at least give him a chance to defend himself, and I got suspended from the facility.

But this is why Mean, But Clean is Jack’s Rule #8. I refuse to sink to certain levels because of what it says about me. I’ll fight, but I refuse to be a dirty player.

So, the restriction I have put on myself is that I can be as malicious as I want, even ruthless, as long as I do not cross the line into spineless, or underhanded. As far as Hockey is concerned, this usually means that I tolerate an amount of insubordination, depending on my mood, before the claws come out.

If I am in my normal state, which is Surly, this is more likely to happen:

 

Pull the Tiger’s tail on the wrong day – such as the night the kid decided to slew-foot me – and you get this:

In both cases, Mean, but Clean. Peter Forsberg puts his shoulder into Vladdy Konstantinov’s chest, not the back of his head. Mario gets fed up and drops the gloves like a Man, rather than trying to slash the guy in the neck or slew-foot him.

This extends into Real Life. Most of the time, I cannot hit or fight someone on the street who offends me, because we live in a lawsuit-happy era. Yet the desire to make someone Accountable for cowardly, disingenuous, and/or inappropriate behavior remains.

In the Real World, Mean, but Clean could involve getting aggressive or confrontational in a very direct manner. What it does not involve is getting back at someone at any cost. You might dislike someone, and it might be satisfying to go key their car or pour sugar in their gas tank, but ultimately you need to establish a level that you will not sink beneath in the name of retribution.

For me, keying or otherwise defacing someone’s car is completely acceptable…if the person in question is watching me do it. Going behind someone’s back is the Real World-equivalent of a Slew-Foot, in my view. Again, the point is that there are levels I will not sink to because of what a given action says about me, not because of my thoughts on a given individual.

9) Pick Your Friends Carefully

batmanjl

“Oh, good, my lackeys have arrived.”

As they say, you are the Sum of the Five People You Spend the Most Time With. In my view, it is crucial that you find and maintain a quality group of friends, but it is equally important that these people be positive influences in your life.

My tendency is to over-invest in people who ask for my help. Like all Disney Princes, I am a sucker for a Damsel in Distress. Shrewd individuals, Women in particular, have spotted this trait and tended to exploit it as much as possible. This has led to Rule #9, Pick Your Friends Carefully.

In choosing friends, I start with people who have personality traits that I respect or admire. I am not going to turn this into an article on how I personally make friends, as long the takeaway message is that it will serve you to be somewhat discerning in who you choose to be friends with.

My litmus test for Friendship is “Would this person cancel all plans and drive 45 minutes to help me change a flat tire in the pouring rain?” I do not expect everyone I socialize with to be this committed, but the willingness to help me when I really need it is what takes someone from “Acquaintance” to “Friend” in my eyes.

This litmus test rules out a lot of married people, who understandably have already committed this level of care to their spouse and/or children. This also rules out most of the under-25 crowd for me, as many younger people tend to be a little too self-preoccupied for my tastes.

(Note: some other time, I’ll explain to you the differences between Self-Love and being Self-Absorbed. Night and day.)

I certainly do not try to be friends with everyone, because a lot of people are worthless vampires who will use your time and resources while offering almost nothing in return. If you are one of those people who wants to be liked by everyone, more power to you, but don’t say that you were not warned.

Again, not trying to make this a mini-article about I pick my pals. It’s my Rule #9 because I tend to be overly-accepting of people when they ask for my help or position themselves as victims. I have wasted a lot of time trying to find value in worthless people; time that could have been spent with positive, worthwhile people. I am also trying to save you the trouble of having selfish or self-centered types leech off of you. As everyone eventually learns, not every smiling stranger out there has your best interests at heart.

10) Rise

rise5

“…’Cause sometimes you just feel tired,
Feel weak, and when you feel weak, you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
And just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
And not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse…”

– Eminem, Til I Collapse

I have written much about this, and I will probably continue to write much about it. Rise is my life philosophy. Let me explain why I made it Rule #10:

Rule #10 was almost “Be True to Yourself”. I think that’s a Rule everyone should follow, not something that is specifically mine. Thankfully, I have never really had any issue being true to myself, so it’s not something I need to reinforce in print.

Rule #10 became Rise because I no longer wanted to have a choice in the matter. Like Jim Carrey in “Yes Man”, I want to be on auto-pilot when it comes to Rising.

If you ask any Football or Hockey Player, they will tell you that if they get knocked down, they pop back up immediately, almost on instinct. There have been a couple of times when I’ve actually been knocked unconscious, but still immediately got back on my feet and finished a shift or whatever. There have been entire minutes after being hit that I have been up and skating around that I can’t recall, kind of like a drinking blackout.

NHL fans might remember this happening to Sami Kapanen:

 

Sami is out cold, but he still manages to get to his feet and get to the bench on instinct. That is so Hockey. Great courage by Kappy. But I digress.

In a similar vein, I want to Rise on instinct. I do not want to consider a daunting task and consciously think, “I probably should try to do _______”. I just want to do it. If I have a kid and he tells me he wants to go to Harvard, I don’t want to think “How the hell am I going to pay for that?” Without thinking, I just want to find a way to do it.

Let me explain something else that older readers understand but younger readers may not:

It’s easy to find motivation and manufacture your own enthusiasm when you are younger. There is always something you want, whether it’s a girl or a car or an internship. You have not let learned how to be completely discouraged with people.

As you age, one of two things happens: you start achieving your goals and become complacent, or you become jaded and bogged down by despair. One way or the other, you begin to lose your motivation to Rise to the challenges life presents you. It becomes easier to just go with program or to acquiesce or relent.

Personally speaking, throughout life I have had a lot of doors slammed in my face. When I was younger, this used to be a major source of motivation for me. For example, if I got cut from a sports team, I would either train like a maniac, come back the next season and dominate, or I would go get some guys, come back, and beat the hell out of the team that cut me. This hyper-competitiveness is called Michael Jordan Disease. I used to feast on the negativity others presented me.

Around the time I graduated high school, I mostly outgrew this mindset. Negative Reinforcement irritated me more than inspired me, and honestly I stopped having so many doors slammed in my face. I have continued to Rise when have I needed to, but as I’ve matured, I’ve been presented with a different problem: a complete, almost disrespectful, lack of appreciation from people.

I wrote above on some of the misadventures I had working as a personal trainer. To use just one example, I would put in these insane 16-hour work days in the interest of accommodating other people who asked for my help. I would Rise to the challenge of every work day turning into an endurance event, but it would be to almost zero thanks or acknowledgment. I did not ask to have my ass kissed for going out of my way to help people, but I did not expect dismissive entitlement, either.

This is not a unique situation. There are plenty of people reading this, yourself likely included, who have been similarly under-appreciated. Most people are selfish by nature, and as you age the selfishness of others begins to enact a toll on you. You want to stay enthusiastic and positive, but you start to become cynical and jaded by the nature of other people.

Over time, you may begin to develop to the unfortunate condition where you start asking yourself, “What’s the Point?” You know you can Rise, because you’ve done it many times in the past – but why should you?

Are they going to appreciate or pay you any more at work if you put in a greater effort? Who really cares if you shave a minute off your 5K time, or hit a new Personal Record on the Bench Press? Is your girlfriend or wife really going to care (or even notice) if you go the extra mile to do something thoughtful? Why should you go out of your way to help out people when they are not likely to reciprocate?

The solution to this corrosive mentality is to take the thinking out of the equation, and to keep finding new challenges for yourself. Rather than choosing to Rise, I have made it a requirement, dismissing all other considerations and factors. That’s how Rise became my Rule #10. Rather than being a choice such as “Who should I vote for?”, I’ve made it an automatic response, like “Red means Stop, Green means Go.”

greengo

11) Don’t Be a Coward

campbell

 

This is my 11th, and probably most important, Rule.

If I had to distill my identity down to a single sentence, it would be: I am not a Coward. People can say many different nasty or negative things about me, but woe be the wretch who dares question my courage. Calling me a coward is like calling Marty McFly “Chicken“.

This has been a constant theme in my life. Here’s just one example:

In college, my girlfriend claimed to be pregnant. I would later find out that she told me this just to keep me from breaking up with her (awful story), but for two or three months she had me convinced that she was carrying my child. I was 22 and had basically no life experience, so I took her at her word.

I was still in college when this happened. I worked as a bartender, and had no interest in having a child, particularly with this train-wreck of a girl. I spent a lot of nights not sleeping, trying to think about what to do.

As I’ve written before, I have this insane ability to get calmer as the situation requires: I will chase someone like a maniac for blocks if he or she cuts me off in traffic, but a pregnancy scare barely fazed me. I remember this sense of acceptance and peace coming over me, as I plotted out a checklist of things I had to prepare in the next seven or eight months.

Here is what I did not do: run crying to my family, demand that she get an abortion, or even blame her for not properly using her Birth Control. Again, this was a girl whose drinking/drug use/self-mutilation was so excessive that I hated being around her, yet I was stoically prepared to give up all of my other plans to be her Baby Daddy. This was not because I cared much for her, but because I thought it was cowardly to get a girl pregnant and then try to run away.

Fast forward a few months, and of course this girl was not pregnant. This was a desperate, elaborate lie she cooked up to keep me from leaving her. Lord knows I give Women a hard time, but one of those reasons is that Women are capable of some truly despicable things. Faking a pregnancy for the purposes of trapping someone in a flawed relationship is one of those things. It’s a miserable story that I wouldn’t mind forgetting, but I am extremely proud of the fact that I was prepared to stand by this girl and accept responsibility for my actions.

Rule #11 may be macho and even senseless, but it’s my most-important Rule. Whether it’s falling to block a shot in Hockey, admitting to the police that I was hosting an underage drinking party/orgy, or taking financial responsibility for a group of irresponsible people, time and time again I have not turned into a worm when the going got tough.

According to my Family Crest, I come from a family of Lions. While Lions might be ill-tempered, indifferent, lazy, and proud, they are certainly not cowards (usually). Courage is probably my most-integral personality trait, which is why my lips curl into a contemptuous snarl when I see people try to dodge responsibility or run-and-hide.

farrell

If you want to follow Jack’s Rules, the most-important of those is Don’t Be a Coward. Be an Asshole, be a stubborn prick, even be vindictive or ruthless, but Do Not Be a Coward.

Closing Remarks

These are my Rules, and I certainly do not expect you to follow them to the letter. But as our morality as a civilization declines and you being to lose understanding of what’s truly Right and Wrong, it’s important that you have a Code of Honor that you seldom deviate from.

Having an Ethical Code is far more important than the Rules themselves. The world is moving in such a way that almost anything can be justifiable. People are rapidly losing their identities because they can no longer distinguish between Good and Evil, or even Good and Bad. Having a Personal Code, or a list of Rules, takes much of the guesswork out of 21st Century morality.

Use My Rules, use my template, or make your own Rules, but make sure you have something to guide you during times of uncertainty.

Jack, Rule-Breaker/Maker

#65: The Sidekick Manifesto

It apparently has to be stated that this is largely a satire. If anything herein offends you for some reason, reevaluate your life.

Given the rash of incompetent Sidekick behavior I have had to endure recently, the Time has Come to write The Sidekick Manifesto, which is a detailed guide on How to be a Better Sidekick. This Manifesto will clearly detail all of the responsibilities a Sidekick is expected to undertake while under the direction of a trusted Mentor, as well as delve into the Sidekick-Mentor Dynamic.

Who is a Sidekick?

A Sidekick is an apprentice or protege who is serving under the tutelage of an experienced and wise Mentor. Usually, the Sidekick voluntarily elects to undergo this internship, but in some situations the role of Sidekick is forced upon an unwilling participant.

A Sidekick serves under a Mentor for an indeterminate amount of time, much like a squire serving under a knight. Continuing with this analogy, a Sidekick pledges allegiance and loyalty to a Mentor in exchange for an education of sorts, as well as a degree of social and possibly physical protection.

Once a Sidekick has reached a degree of relative maturity – and take note, this could mean emotional maturity just as easily as physical maturity – it is the obligation of the Mentor to release the Sidekick from her or his contract of service. It is then the obligation of the now-former Sidekick to continue this Circle of Life by one day taking on a Sidekick or her or his own and imparting the same lessons and wisdom that she or he was once taught.

Who Has Sidekicks?

Alpha Males

A major male status symbol is being adored and followed by other Men. A concept as old as the wheel is that of the less-experienced or younger Man following the Alpha Male in the middle of his prime.

There are great demands on the time of an Alpha Male, as he likely means many things to many people. A Sidekick acts as a bit of an agent or press secretary for the Alpha Male, representing the Alpha’s interests when he is not able to do so himself. In exchange, the Sidekick receives a one-of-a-kind education on How to Be an Alpha Male, which will in turn one day allow the Sidekick to be equally beloved and respected.

The Fringe Benefits of serving as the Sidekick to an Alpha are extremely diverse. To cite Matt Damon as an example, his decision to sign up as George Clooney’s Sidekick has legitimized him as a box-office star and increased his earning power immeasurably. Meanwhile, the Fringe Benefits of serving as the Sidekick to the high-school quarterback could include the Sidekick’s pick of the women the Quarterback does not want. It greatly varies situation-to-situation.

Bad Boys

Bad Boys need Sidekicks as “Social Liaisons”, since they tend to have a litany of ASPDs (Anti-Social Personality Disorders), not to be confused with the burning-crotch thing you got from that sailor last July. While Bad Boys generally project the image of the toughened loner, as they say, “No Man is an Island.” The Sidekick, usually a younger female, is the boat that goes between this “island” and the rest of the world.

From the perspective of a potential female Sidekick, a Bad Boy is of course very attractive, as he is to most women. This attraction to the Bad Boy rarely fades (as long as he retains his edge), even as the Sidekick approaches Womanhood.

While the Sidekick may pledge her allegiance and stay with the Bad Boy due to her attraction to him, the Fringe Benefit she receives is adventure and drama (which I am told women enjoy to a small degree). The Sidekick’s life will get at least 100% more interesting by tagging along with a Bad Boy. While the Sidekick may at times chafe because she is again being forced to run from the cops or finish a fifth of 1800 Silver, secretly she is thrilled because she is no longer spending her Saturday nights cat-sitting or playing Jenga with a bunch of married couples.

Captains

Captains are designated leaders. They are not hired. They are appointed due to their competence. This theme is most prominent in Hockey, in which every team designates one player as its Captain. Peer appointment is a much-greater honor than being named Commander, in which a designated leader is chosen by some kind of hierarchy.

Real Captains lead, regardless of who follows them. They are seldom Sidekicks because they tend to jump head-first into all things, consequences be damned. Captains are fearless, and this inspires others to follow them.

The Sidekick of a Captain should note that she or he no longer has the ability to think, as a Captain does not think about any of her or his actions until the moment of action or truth. Even if a Captain has a Secret Evil Plan, there is a strong chance the Captain is going to be extremely VAGUE about the details. The Sidekick of a Captain needs to be very flexible and “read-and-react” rather than thoughtful. The Fringe Benefit is that Captains are constantly seeking Glory, which they are certain to revel in and share with their Sidekick.

Charismatics

Charismatics are principled on making others believe in their doctrine. The Sidekick in this case is the first disciple of the Charismatic, one who believes in the message of the Charismatic almost as vehemently as the Charismatic himself.

The loyalty of the Sidekick in this case is predicated on Faith, i.e. the belief that one day the Sidekick’s loyalty will be rewarded. This does not have to apply exclusively to religion, as this could also be belief in the artistic, musical, or writing talent of the Charismatic. The belief is that one day, many others will recognize the Charismatic for having the same talent that the Sidekick him or herself sees, and the Sidekick’s belief will be vindicated.

I have written more on Building a Charismatic here, to reinforce the concept.

Cougars

Cougars are women of sophistication and status who prefer the company of younger Men due to their firmer bodies and lighter emotional baggage. By nature, Cougars are decisive bordering on cutthroat, and their focus on their respective goals often necessitates a Sidekick in order to juggle a Cougar’s ever-growing list of business and personal ventures.

While the tone of the article may have suggested that “Mentor” was a Man-only position, nothing could be further from the truth. Many women can become outstanding Mentors, if they accept the duty willingly. Cougars, for example, embody all five necessary traits of a quality Mentor: Confidence, Dignity, Experience, Poise, and Self-Respect. In the same way as an Alpha Male, having a Sidekick is a major status symbol, and we all know how Cougars love those.

A Cougar may have particular value in that she can bring a wealth of female-specific skills to the Mentor-Sidekick dynamic. Whereas the above-listed traits of a Mentor are gender-neutral, a Cougar such as Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada” has a veritable arsenal of womanly charms that a female Sidekick could really benefit from cultivating.

The one thing a Sidekick must remember in this instance is that a Cougar, by definition, is someone who is making up for lost time. As such, a Cougar is going to be business-like bordering-on-salty, so it will behoove the Sidekick to be not only attentive to details, but also to develop unusually-thick skin.

Creators

Don Draper: [Holding up an empty bottle, vexed] Why is this empty?
Allison: [Exasperated] Because you drank it all!

Creators are visionaries. They are innovative, but their abilities to both lead and see the future are somewhat offset by their laundry-list of personal short-comings and inability to take care of themselves.

The Sidekick of a Creator fills the standard supporting role, with the Fringe Benefit of learning to think like her or his avant-garde Mentor. The downside is that a Creator is dangerously close to being an artist or even a bit of a diva, meaning that there is a direct inversion between his or her talent and his or her ability to cope with it. A Creator is more apt to be a bit of a drinker or even a drug-user, meaning that her or his Sidekick must be extra-vigilant and prepared to deal with the Mentor’s bouts of Drunken Inappropriateness.

Commanders

A Commander is a whimsical leader who is forced to retain his or her authority through the use of coercion or power. There is an excellent chance you work under a Commander, i.e. someone who you would have little to no respect for if he or she did not have the power to fire you.

Commanders need Sidekicks because, like most Mentors, they have immense ambition but limited ability or desire to dig their own ditches. Commanders frequently take on the role of “Bad Cop”, so they compel or solicit the services of a Sidekick to play the role of “Good Cop”.

The Sidekick of a Commander is usually someone with integrity who takes the outrageous demands of a Commander with a grain of salt. While most Mentors are bossy to some degree or another, Commanders tend to go overboard in both their requests and the tone in which they issue these “requests”. A Sidekick working under a Commander should expect their relationship to be Short-and-Sweet, as it is a Mentorship of mutual convenience (and often monetary or social considerations) rather than one built on affinity or personal growth.

Egomaniacs

Egomaniacs are people who have an inability to think beyond themselves and their own personal wants. As with Charismatics, there is a certain magnetism to the brazen confidence an Egomaniac tends to display, and someone who is less-certain of her or himself may find that she or he is drawn to the bullhorn personality of the standard-issue Egomaniac.

The Fringe Benefit is that the Sidekick is forced to be considerably less self-conscious, because all of the focus is constantly placed on the Egomaniac. While this does not seem like much of a benefit at all, for a person is who is constantly doubting her or himself, tending to the self-appeasing whims of an Egomaniac actually comes as a welcome relief. Beyond that, the Egomaniac is inadvertently teaching the Sidekick self-confidence, which is of course invaluable.

Heroes

The opposite of the Egomaniac is the Hero, who thinks constantly about the well-being of others. This need to put others before her or himself can become an obsession, taken to such a degree that the Hero needs to bring in a Sidekick to assist him or her with whatever mission the Hero has set for her or himself.

The Sidekick could be drawn to the Hero for any number of reasons: perhaps, for example, the Sidekick has a similarly-ardent desire to protect others, but does not have the means to do so on a large scale. Aligning oneself with a Hero enables the Sidekick to perform acts of heroism her or himself.

The Fringe Benefit is the self-satisfaction that heroic-types feel after helping others. This is something a person either experiences, or they do not. Choosing a Hero as a Mentor allows a Sidekick to experience this feeling with much-greater regularity and often on a much larger scale.

Superstars

Van: Do you know why I made you my assistant?”

Taj: So you could teach me how to muff dive?

Van: No. Well, yeah. But also because you have the potential to be great.”

-Van Wilder to Taj, Van Wilder

Much like Alpha Males, Superstars need Sidekicks because there are tremendous demands placed on their time. Whether we are talking about Lady Gaga or LeBron James, the fact remains that a barrage of people are always clamoring after Superstars in an effort to eat up their attention and time.

In this case, a Sidekick differentiates her or himself from the rest of a Superstar’s entourage by having the Potential to one day be great in their own right. While a Superstar is guaranteed to have plenty of hangers-on who are otherwise devoid of talent, a Sidekick is someone who reminds the Superstar of him or herself, in some fashion. The Superstar takes a special interest in helping the Sidekick cultivate her or his unique talents to the height of their abilities.

As with the Alpha Male, the Fringe Benefits a Superstar can extend are myriad. In the case of the above-pictured Mario Lemieux, Fringe Benefits may include all-you-can-drink ’66 Beaujolais, a room in his swank mansion, choice seating at Consol Energy Center, lap dances, Stanley Cups, etc. It really depends on the personal preferences of the Superstar.

What are the Responsibilities of a Sidekick?

You know the expression, ‘a Man’s Man’? A Man’s Man is the leader of the pack, the kind of Man other Men look up to, admire, and emulate.”

– Lauren Holly, What Women Want

What are the Responsibilities of a Sidekick? Glad you asked. Here is an overview of the general responsibilities of a quality Sidekick:

* Unquestioned Devotion and Obedience – the Sidekick has pledged her or his allegiance to the Mentor. It should be a given that the Sidekick will never backtalk or question the Mentor, but like a frisky puppy, some Sidekicks just love to test boundaries under the guise of “being playful”. It is the duty of the Mentor to properly punish the Sidekick whenever this Acting-Out rears its ugly head, lest this behavior prompt an eventual Wingman Rebellion or other undesirable carrying-on.

* Unwavering Support of the Mentor – as a Mentor is very likely to be a polarizing figure, it is imperative that the Sidekick be feverishly loyal to the Mentor. The Mentor will be apt to make plenty of enemies, and it is the duty of the Sidekick to not only watch the Mentor’s back, but to refute any malicious lies or other attempts of social espionage people may attempt against the Mentor.

* Handling the Details – Mentors are typically inconsiderate, or at the very least preoccupied with more-important matters. Because Mentors are so valuable, it is the role of the Sidekick to handle any secretarial-type duties that may arise. These can include: booking hotels, event planning, social media management, taking the Mentor’s car to get washed, answering the phone, and limiting the Mentor’s drinking if the Mentor appears to have a problem. Basically, anything you can picture an intern or a personal assistant doing within the realm of appropriateness and reason.

* Always Be Learning – Enlisting as a Sidekick is like going to College: you are permitted to be something of a bane on both the Mentor and society-at-large because you are ideally developing into a better human being. Bouts of incompetence will be accepted from the Sidekick because a long-term investment in making the Sidekick a more-effective person is being made. The Sidekick needs to always remember that the primary goal of taking on a Mentor is to learn, and thus a Sidekick should be hanging on the Mentor’s every action and word, even if the Sidekick is incredibly drunk (and especially if the Mentor is incredibly drunk).

* Helping the Mentor achieve her or his Goals – while the role of the Mentor is to make the Sidekick a better and more complete person, the role of the Sidekick is to help the Mentor achieve her or his goals, whatever those goals might be. If the Mentor, for example, desperately wants to have Awesome sex with Dara Torres, the Sidekick should be writing her hand-written letters once a week gently persuading Dara to think about it.

(Note: Let’s be honest – Dara Torres is a perfect woman)

While this list may seem outlandish, remember that the Mentor is investing much of her or his time and energy into making the Sidekick a better person – probably without taking money for it. Just as it would be unreasonable to expect a Chiropractor or Psychologist to work on someone for months or years without any compensation, it is unreasonable for someone to expect free Mentoring with no repayment. The very least a Sidekick can do is to facilitate the whims of the Mentor (and make no mistake – more often than not, they will be whims).

Why Be a Sidekick/Why Be a Mentor?

I have covered the concept of the Circle of Life in previous posts. The Circle of Life is the concept that a father or father-figure passes along the lessons of Life to his son from generation-to-generation. This concept of progress is how we evolve as a species, and is prominently displayed in the film The Lion King.

I implore you to seek out both a Mentor and a Sidekick. It will make Life much more rewarding. Even if you are like me and think you know everything, adopting a Mentor can really help iron out some of your most-glaring character deficiencies.

While my current preference is to take on a field of relative experts in a diverse range of skills (such as music, medicine, art, aka the GI Joe Model), I would not be averse to taking on a Mentor more similar to myself if I could find one.

Lastly, it should be noted that a Sidekick’s Sidekick is subject to the commands of a “Grandfather” Mentor under the same line of thought as military chain of command. If your Mentor’s Mentor tells you something, you should take it in with the same level of respect as you would if your own grandfather said it.

Animal Sidekicks

Animal Sidekicks have the same responsibilities outlined above. In addition, they should be adorable, so as to attract as much attention from the opposite sex as possible. Animals in fact make ideal Sidekicks, assuming they can be trained properly.

Sidekicks vs. Friends

A Sidekick is both more and less than a standard-issue Friend. In fact, as a Sidekick you should view yourself as an unpaid intern working for a very demanding boss rather than a social equal.

While it is implied that a Sidekick is not the same as a Friend based upon the divergent ways in which a Mentor treats the two, there are plenty of benefits a Sidekick receives that a more typical “Friend” may not be privy to. These Fringe Benefits, or special treatments that a Mentor might not otherwise bestow upon a “Friend” can be diverse, ranging from Footing the Bar Tabs to Taxi Service to World Domination. Every Mentor-Sidekick relationship is different, and will thus be subject to differences in Compensation.

Sidekicks vs. Wingmen/Wingwomen

A Sidekick may be eventually promoted to “Wingman” or “Wingwoman” after an appropriate term of service. While “Sidekick” is a deferential position relative to “Mentor”, a Wingman or Wingwoman is more-or-less regarded as an equal and a peer.

The goal of the Mentor is to make the Sidekick self-sufficient and reasonably cool, rounding out the deficiencies in character or skill that a Sidekick might possess. This is commonly seen in parenting: at some point, a son or daughter stops being a child (in the strict sense) and can proceed to have a more adult relationship with her or his parents. The same concept applies in Mentoring, assuming the Sidekick achieves a reasonable degree of competence and self-sufficiency in the Mentored fields.

Not every Sidekick gets promoted to Wingman or Wingwoman; as written above, the promotion to Wingperson is based on Merit, not time served. A quick learner might be promoted from Sidekick to Wingperson within a single Summer; a more obtuse Sidekick might take years or even decades of tutelage before a promotion is in order, if ever.

Like other employees, a Sidekick who is not promoted within a reasonable term is quite likely to turn on her or his Mentor. This is an unfortunate situation known as …

The Wingman (or Wingwoman) Rebellion

The Wingman Rebellion is an ugly scenario in which the Sidekick wants to be released from her or his apprenticeship, but due to social circumstances cannot shake the image of being a Sidekick. This leads to a vicious cycle in which the Sidekick projects her or his frustration onto the Mentor, regardless of how warranted these frustrations might be.

If that explanation was unclear, here is a real-world example: picture two friends (let’s call them Maverick and Goose). While Maverick and Goose consider each other equals, Maverick is much better-looking and much more popular. Goose is decent-looking, goofy, and likable, but every time a girl comes over to talk to the twosome, she flirts shamelessly with Maverick and mostly ignores Goose. When she does talk to Goose, all she does is ask him questions about Maverick.

The same thing happens no matter where Goose and Maverick go. Goose tries not to get mad at Maverick, because Maverick is constantly supportive and respectful of him, but everyone else treats Maverick like the second coming of Jesus Christ while barely acknowledging Goose. Worse, the only time anyone does give Goose the time of day, they are consciously or unconsciously condescending to him. No one takes Goose seriously, except maybe Maverick.

This happens for weeks or months or years, until one day Goose snaps and lashes out at Maverick with unreasonable anger. Maverick is confused and a little hurt, because really, he has been nothing but a loyal and supportive friend to Goose.

Maverick never went to Goose and said, “You are my Sidekick,” but due to Maverick’s Alpha Male status, both men and women alike started viewing Goose as subservient to Maverick. This is galling to the male ego. While women are generally assigned social status based upon their looks, men are assigned status based upon how other people treat them. When a man starts to be seen as a Beta Male (or in this case, a Sidekick), a negative feedback loop is created in which the Sidekick must work ten times harder to get 10% of the respect that the Alpha Male gets. One can see where this would get very frustrating.

This clip from “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days” illustrates the difference between an Alpha Male (who is assigned the role of “Mentor”, whether he wants it or not) and Beta Males (who are assigned the roles of “Sidekick”, even though they would likely rather be “Mentors”:)

You are nuts if you do not think the other two dudes in the clip aside from Matthew McConaughey want to fuck Kate Hudson. Of course they do. They also realize they have no shot with her, so the closest they can get to being with a woman like that is to co-mingle with a “Maverick” like Matt McConaughey’s character. They have unwillingly, or at least unknowingly, elected to be Sidekicks.

The Wingman Rebellion is not always a male Sidekick rebelling against a male Mentor. For example, if a woman elects to be the “Sidekick” of a man she is very attracted to as a way of incurring his favor, she is likely going to get frustrated after years of her “Mentor” ignoring her sexually and making her do his laundry and help him chat up other girls. She will “rebel” by either angrily cutting him completely out of her life (similar to the male Wingman Rebellion), or by making one last desperation pass at him. The second scenario usually ends up being only slightly less embarrassing than having your mom walk in on you having sex.

Having said that, female Sidekicks seem to rebel against male Mentors less frequently. I attribute this to the natural male instinct to dominate, but really, who knows. I cannot speak to the tendency of female Sidekicks to rebel against female Mentors, as I have been neither.

Opposite-Sex Sidekicks

“…Like the naked leads the blind.
I know I’m selfish, I’m unkind.
Sucker love I always find,
Someone to bruise and leave behind…”

Placebo, Every Me Every You

Some less-ethical Mentors will use their physical attractiveness or Charisma to pigeon-hole a member of the opposite-sex into being her or his Sidekick. Perhaps the term “Lackey” should be used rather than Sidekick, as this type of Mentoring is rarely reciprocal.

This is distinct from a Bad Boy Mentor electing to take on a female Sidekick, despite her attraction to him. An ethical Mentor, such as a Bad Boy, will understand the situation and do his best to ensure that the Sidekick is receiving a proper education, and thus preserves the integrity of the Mentor-Sidekick dynamic. Even if the Mentor never verbally addresses the situation, the subtext is that the Mentor is in fact looking out for the interests and well-being of the Sidekick.

On the other end of the spectrum, you have unethical Users who control opposite-sex (or homosexual same-sex) Sidekicks through the power of attraction. The difference between the two types is the Lack of Reciprocation from the User. An unethical User will turn an attracted party into a Cuddle Bitch or Foot-Stool rather than a respected Sidekick.

This is neither a predominately male or female tendency. Users, indiscriminate of gender, will have lengthy histories of manipulating those attracted to them. While the discriminating and tasteful Mentor may have a preference regarding the gender of his Sidekick, there are usually logical reasons why the Mentor elects for one gender over the other, even if the only reason is social chemistry.

Has Jack Ever Been a Sidekick?

I have always had an excellent understanding of people and the world, and even at a young age demonstrated the confidence of a born Narcissist. Furthermore, you have to play to your skill-set; if you display the ability to throw a football well at a young age, it usually makes sense for you to play Quarterback rather than Receiver.

As such, I have traditionally taken on the role of Mentor, even to people considerably older than me. This is not always intentional, as my college Sidekick clamped onto me with the tenacity of a bear trap, despite my efforts to shake him long enough to get to third base with one or two of the girls in my dorm. While I do not claim to be competent in all fields, I generally play to my strengths (hockey, drinking, etc), and thus tend to serve in more of an instructional or leadership capacity.

However, there is one particular time in which I served as a Sidekick: in college, I worked for about 10 months at a strip club as a bartender. The club’s owner, whose name I do not dare write, took a particular shine to me; he memorably once said I was “so good-looking he wanted to fuck my mouth,” before taking two of the club’s young ladies back into his “office” to do hard drugs and fill-in-the-blank.

The club’s owner, who I will refer to as “Dirk”, was about 30 years older than me, and unarguably the most psychotic man I have ever met in my life. For example, he not only pulled a gun on one of his employees, but fired it at him. A routine internet search should bring up the details of the man and that incident, especially if you use the term “tax evasion”. He did not “believe in computers”, instead keeping the financial records of a $10,000-a-night cash business written on Post-Its and gas-station receipts. I am fully convinced the man tried to burn down his own club and collect the insurance money, which again a creative internet search could yield the details of.

Anyway, “Dirk” really liked me for some reason, and made every effort to take me under his wing. While I did not “party” much compared to “Dirk” (meaning I did not snort random powders off the unwashed stomachs of strippers), not once did I interact with the man without him going on some rambling tirade about God-knows-what. He was constantly dispensing advice on where I should get my haircut and what toothpaste I should use, and though he was keenly interested in how I behaved, he rarely asked questions and instead gave strict directions such as “if you leave your car windows cracked again, I am going to fucking stab you. There are all kinds of untrustworthy people around this neighborhood.” You don’t say, “Dirk”.

This certifiably-insane man does demonstrate what I sometimes fail to bring to a Mentor-Sidekick relationship: Experience. I might have an innate understanding of anatomy and the human body, but I have zero reps performing surgery on someone. Experience, regardless of the field of participation, is incalculably more valuable than all of the fancy book-learning you could hope to have. More than anything else, Experience is the trait you should look for in a Mentor.

As such, I have generally looked to people much older than me for Mentoring, such as my grandfather. Even when I was 8 years old, I thought I knew better than people my parents’ age and considered myself more or less their intellectual peer; but many older people project a sage wisdom that a 40-year old usually does not. A price tag cannot be put on the Lifetime of Experience a 65 or 70-year old can acquire. As people get into their 60s, they have seen and done it all a few times over, and can be extremely insightful. You would do well to be less dismissive and more attentive the next time some crazy old guy starts barking about economics or war, because there is a good chance he has first-hand Experience dealing in the matter at hand.

Closing Remarks

I have a great deal of experience as a Mentor, and thus thought it was my duty to write The Sidekick Manifesto before I get the bill for all of my years of repetitive head trauma from contact sports.

Additionally, my current Sidekick has gotten a little fussy and has started to test her boundaries on a regular basis. Since Negative Reinforcement seems to have run its course, I believe now is the time to appeal to her rational side and thoroughly explain the necessity of the Mentor-Sidekick dynamic, lest her petulant streak continue to bite me in the ass.

I believe this article nicely outlines the responsibilities of the Sidekick, as well as completely delves into the logic behind enforcement of the Mentor-Sidekick Dynamic. A good Mentor does not bop his Sidekick on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper just to be a prick, but as a way of maintaining the respect necessary to preserve the Mentor-Sidekick Dynamic. As long as Respect is maintained, the Mentor-Sidekick relationship can be fun and relaxed.

As for you, if you have acquired a good deal of Life Experience, perhaps the time has come for you to take on an adrift, eager-to-learn Sidekick. In the same vein, if you lack guidance or are otherwise lost, it may be time for you to seek out a learned Mentor to help right your ship. Both sides of the Mentor-Sidekick relationship can be extremely gratifying, if both sides properly accept their respective roles and heed the lessons passed along in this article.

BK

JF

The Only Help is Self-Help

Bruce Lee adorns the cover of April’s Muscle and Fitness, which makes it a must-buy for me. I manage to learn something new every time I read even a small amount of Lee’s writing. As a writer, I strive to one day be similarly impactful; as a Man, I find myself coming to many of the same conclusions that Lee did, which helps give me the Confidence to continue living and writing the way I despite fair amounts of criticism.

As always, even a small sample of Lee’s writing manages to reinforce an idea that I inherently know to be true, but had not yet put into words or even conscious thought:

The Only Help is Self-Help

If you’ve read much of what I’ve written, such as Building a Charismatic (https://jackhasspoken.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/building-a-charismatic/), you’re aware of the appreciation I have for Bruce Lee and the Eastern philosophical perspective in general. While many if not most people respect Lee for his physique, my repsect stems from his musings on life and writing – much of which is contained in his first book, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

Not to get all New Age on you, because I thoroughly love America, but Eastern philosophy has always rung true to me in a way that Western philosophy has not. Western culture is defined by borders and clocks; you work from this hour until this hour, you meet at exactly this time, you do this and than this and than this. Frankly, the Western way of doing things seems like living in a cage to me, and while I do what I have to do, I’ve always been a square peg in a round hole as far as social conformity is concerned.

In my never-ending battle with modern living, I’ve become something of a philosopher and a writer myself. While in small part I write to entertain people and to be heard, I largely write because I come to Conclusions that I Believe are very important, and much like Bruce Lee, I have a need to share these Conclusions with anyone willing to hear me out.

Most satisfying to me is that I am coming to the same Conclusions at Bruce Lee with increased frequency; there are times when I think we might be on somewhat-similar paths. I have no aspirations to be an actor or create my own martial art (…yet), but it’s very reassuring to me that I have developed a similar mindset to someone as innovative as Lee.

This brings us to Today’s Lesson, which is that Only Help is Self-Help.

How to Help Yourself

This has been said many times and many ways, but Lee’s interpretation is that the responsibility for saving yourself ultimately falls on You.

Have you ever been asked to give someone advice on their love life? Maybe your naive younger cousin or sibling, who is nervous about interacting with the opposite sex?

Being a wise Mentor (more on this later), you can give them all sorts of tactics and tips to make their experience with a potential boyfriend or girlfriend run more smoothly, but ultimately it’s up to every individual person to figure out how to kiss the boy or girl they like. Even if someone holds your hand 95% of the way, at some point you have to step up and cross the finish line by yourself. Good advice and guidance can be very helpful, but it ultimately falls to you to Do whatever it is that you set out to accomplish.

This concept is one of the things that I found irreconcilable with being a fitness trainer: while I have no problem presenting information to people and helping them with program design and technique, in the end a coach or trainer cannot give somone the motivation they need to achieve their Physique and Performance goals. That can only come from within.

While I have had some clients who possessed the self-motivation to achieve the Physique and Performance goals they sought, for every properly-motivated client, I probably had three or four who wanted me to hand-hold them to six-pack abs or run their half-marathon for them. In most cases, it wasn’t an issue of lacking work ethic in the gym, but lacking the Internal Drive to see their goals through to completion.

Chris Shugart, an Editor at my favorite fitness website T-Nation.Com, covers the idea at length his article, “Phoenix Theory”. His assertion, which I completely agree with, is that You Have to Set Yourself on Fire. His article can here found here: (http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sex_news_sports_funny_grok/phoenix_theory).

If the notion of Self-Help is true for Achieving Goals, it’s doubly true for those time when you need to pull yourself up.

Consider the notion of mourning a loved one: while your friends and family can provide all of the support in the world, it’s ultimately You that needs to come to accept the passing. This is not to devalue or undermine the role of a good Support Network, but to illustrate that other people can only take you so far; there are some things in life that only you will  truly understand about yourself, and there are questions in life that only you will be able to answer for yourself.

Self-Reliance and Self-Sufficiency are not synonymous with isolating yourself from other people, which is a mistake some will make when interpreting this lesson. I am not encouraging your to take this adolescent stance of “everyone is against me, and you can’t rely on anyone but yourself”. That’s a view emo kids, teenagers, and other victims of arrested development take when their roulette-wheel hormones are convincing them that the entire world is against them.

I am suggesting that you empower yourself by realizing that Change, Self-Improvement, and especially Salvation lie within. If you hate your shitty job, shitty perosnal situation, or your shitty life, You are the only person who can really pull yourself out of the hole you’ve fallen into.

This idea is covered well in the movie Bridesmaids:

Anyone recovered from an addiction (with the possible exception of Charlie Sheen), while quick to credit all the support given to them by their friends and family, will tell you that the decision to kick a habit is a battle that a person fight by her or himself. While fortunate people have healthy amounts of support, there comes a point in time where everyone must make a lonely walk by her or himself, and must be prepared for the trial and tribulations that they will come across.

On Being a Captain

My Dad, using Sports as his model for everything, has always said I was a born coach. He meant this in a complimentary way, meaning that I have a great mind for sports and natural leadership abilities, but it was always kind of a back-handed compliment.

He was half-right. The hitch was that my Dad only played baseball, basketball, and football. I’m a hockey player.

There aren’t Captains in other sports, not like in hockey. Sure, I realize Derek Jeter struts around with a “C” on his uniform, which was the Steinbrenner family’s way of apologizing to him for signing Alex Rodriguez (that, and $23 million dollars per year), but the Captaincy isn’t a baseball tradition in the same way bench-clearing brawls and tobacco-spitting is. In football, the Quarterback is the designated Alpha Male and the presumptive locker-room leader; while there are Offensive and Defensive Captains, I don’t think they bear the same burdens of responsibility as Hockey Captains. I mean no disrespect to a middle linebacker who calls the plays for the Defense, but it’s not the same as everyone in the room or on the ice looking at you during times of indecision or turmoil.

This clip from Mystery, Alaska is the best way I know to differentiate between a Coach and a Captain:

The idea of the Captaincy is something I can’t really explain to non-hockey players. There’s no higher honor. It’s your friends and teammates telling you that you’re their Leader, and even if you aren’t the most talented, you represent the best of what the Team has to offer.

No sport undervalues the contributions of the Coach like hockey, which is why I always gave my Dad a wan look when he offered up the “born coach” assessment. But no sport reveres the contributions of the Captain, which is why I’ve been so honored on the occasion I’ve been asked to take the Captaincy.

The carryover lesson from hockey to life is to Be a Captain. You can best represent your family or group and serve the world by Being the Best of what your group has to offer. Leading by example, and partaking in the world like a Captain on the ice, rather than like a Coach on the bench, is my suggestion for improving the lives of yourself and others.

This ties in with Bruce Lee’s notion of Self-Help in that you cannot help others if you cannot help yourself. In both Lee’s view as well as my own, you ultimately serve the greater good by keeping or making yourself as prepared as possible, both mentally and physically, as well as investing a certain amount of time in yourself. While it’s extremely noble to run yourself into the ground for the betterment of others, it’s inevitably futile if you do so at the expense of yourself. Working for exclusively for others with no thought of oneself will lead you to fray and eventually collaspse, at which point you will be unable to help anyone at all.

This doesn’t even speak to the idea that a selfless person will constantly be taken advantage of and looked down upon, even under the pretense of appreciation.

Conclusions

Even if you aren’t a martial arts or fitness enthusiast, you can learn a ton from Bruce Lee. The Man had head screwed on as tightly as anyone you’ll ever meet, despite claims to the contrary.

Here is a link to a sample of his philosophy, cleaned up with interpretation:

http://www.positivityblog.com/index.php/2008/03/07/bruce-lees-top-7-fundamentals-for-getting-your-life-in-shape/

His first book, The Tao of Jeet Kune Do, comes highly recommended. You can find bits of his philosophy all over the internet.

My final thought is this:

If you’re struggling, like someone stranded in the middle of the ocean, you have three choices:

1) You can give up, accept the hopelessness of the situation, and let yourself drown

2) You can tread water and hope for help that may or may not come, or

3) You can start swimming

The conclusion that Bruce Lee and I came to is that we would rather swim than drown or wait for a phantom life-line. While there is no shame in accepting help from others, waiting for others to help you is an induction to victimhood. “Self-Help” is not a book or seminar topic, but a skill a complete person should be actively striving to cultivate.

BK

JF