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

;#90: Testosterone, My Religion

Testosterone-21

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.

testosterone2

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.

the_11_commandments__NO_FAVE_by_NERDFIGHTERS_CLUB

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

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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

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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:

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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.

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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

 

#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

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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

bron2

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.

mj

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

messier

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 (?)

shakespeare-in-love-1

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.

yolo

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:

rick3

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

 

Issue #83: On Willpower and The Hardest Class I’ve Ever Taken

book

The picture above is the cover of the Textbook I’ve been living in for the last seven months. It contains almost 1500 pages of single-spaced, tiny type and weighs more than a bowling ball. It is almost thicker than a clenched fist. I am certain it could stop a large knife and possibly a small-caliber bullet.

I would gladly burn the book in effigy or sell it if I were not sure that I will be referring back to it with frequency in the future. Even if I didn’t need the book as a reference, I would probably keep it as a reminder of an accomplishment I view as a minor miracle: that I passed my EMT Certification Course.

Instead of burning that book in effigy, I keep it as a trophy.

I have no interest in nor any special talent for Emergency Medicine, but to fulfill my goal of becoming a Firefighter, I had to be EMT-B Certified. So, I spent seven months grinding my way through this wretched book. The last leg of the course involved these insane 12-hour class days (Thanks, #Snowpocalypse!) in which I had to sit there for hours on end and feel my body disintegrate while my head continually threatened to explode.

On the day of my Final, I contracted what has come to be known as the “Goddamn Bear Flu” from my roommate. I am part-Navajo, and thanks to 170 years of white people sneezing on my people, I almost never get sick. Ordinarily, I go years between colds or sinus headaches. But my roommate was exposed to some freak who picked up this obnoxiously-virulent strain from a bear, which he regrettably passed onto me at the worst possible time.

As I took my practical final, I was seeing double and doing that awkward shivering/sweating thing people do when they are extremely feverish. I had already thrown up everything I had eaten in the past week. I wish I could attribute some of that to nerves, but in reality I wasn’t nervous at all, except about possibly passing out from hypovolemic shock in the middle of my Scope of Practice. February 28th, 2014 will go down as one of the 10 Most Miserable Days of My Life, unless I move to Canada or Philadelphia for some inexplicable reason.

My Practical Final was what I would call a “Game 7 Overtime” victory. To continue with the Hockey analogy: I got an early lead in the series, then fell behind. At the last possible moment – cold-sweating and shivering thanks to the Goddamn Bear Flu – I managed to eke through with a Passing grade. I have seldom been so relieved as when I saw the words “Adequate” on my Review Sheet.

(“Adequate?” Bet you can’t wait until you see me coming at you with a hypodermic needle and a grin, can you?)

I don’t even remember my Written Final. I literally blacked-out, again thanks to The Goddamn Bear Flu. Apparently, I got a 94, so, uh, good on me.

Afterwards, I was too exhausted, both mentally and physically, to even celebrate. My big celebration involved me forcing myself to stay conscious while I drove home, glaring at my stricken, strung-out-on-NyQuil roommate for passing along the GBF to me on the day of my Final, then crawling into bed and going into a 15-hour coma.

EMT is the Hardest Class I’ve Ever Taken, for reasons I’ve explained and reasons I’ll touch upon below. It’s basically taken my body a full week to recover from the chronic stress of the course, and for me to gather myself enough to write a post about it. The Textbook is my $170 Trophy, reminding me of what I accomplished and how hard I worked to get through. Plus, in the event of a home invasion, the book can double as body armor.

On Jack the Student

I am the definition of a Professional Student. Following a leisurely, Van Wilder-esque five-and-a-half year tour at my beloved Duquesne University, I almost immediately rolled into a nine-month Personal Training Certification course. After working as a Trainer for a few months, I went to a unnamed school I completely despise for about 18 months to get an additional Undergrad in Sport Management.

I worked full-time as a Strength Coach/Personal Trainer for another year or so before I grew dissatisfied. I had an honest conversation with myself, and decided I was wasting time not actively pursuing my dream of becoming a Firefighter. I abruptly quit my job as a Strength Coach (though my employer will tell you I was fired – it was one of those, “You can’t quit! You’re Fired!” deals) to start over again.

I couldn’t get someone to pay for my training, so I paid for my own. I decided to put myself through an EMT-B Certification course, one of the necessary Certifications to being a Firefighter, at significant cost to my own bottom-line, health, and sanity.

As I wrote above, I finally got through the course about a week ago. I have taken almost 250 College Credits and on-going Continuing Education since I was eighteen, and I can say again with no hesitation: EMT-B is the Hardest Class I’ve Ever Taken.

This seems to be a fairly common view. I’ve spoken with a number of successful Paramedics or even Doctors who have told me that EMT-B is the most difficult course they’ve gone through. Here is my quick overview on why I believe that is:

To be an EMT, you have to know a good chunk of what a Physician has to know. You do not have to be able to practice all of it, but you need to know much of the Anatomy/Physiology, effects of common medications, the ability to understand and identify many medical conditions, and so forth. The catch is that you have to learn all of this information in a relatively-short amount of time.

In my case, EMT-B, AKA, “How to be a Street Doctor”, was crammed into a Semester + Four Weeks of Hell in February. The volume of information is just staggering, especially if you are not used to such an overload.

Beyond that, most EMT students are getting this tsunami of information with little or no background in Medicine. I’ve worked extensively in Preventative Medicine as a Strength Coach/Trainer, and I have an excellent understanding of the Human Body and Orthopedics. I was still drowning at times due to the sheer volume of facts I had to be able to recall and apply at a moment’s notice.

But I got through. By the skin of my teeth and with a number of good people pulling along, but I got through. It may not be a giant accomplishment for some people, but it took every ounce of my effort and Willpower to force myself  through it. It was an extremely-rough seven months, but it’s finally over, and I am one step closer to my dream of pulling people out of  burning buildings.

On Hockey, Golf, and What My Family Doesn’t Know About EMT

happy

I love Hockey. Breaking News, I know.

One of the reasons I love Hockey is that there is a direct correlation between Effort and Results. If you work harder, the vast majority of the time you will get a better outcome. Usually, you can compensate for a lack of talent with courage and determination.

I am the type of person who will punch through a brick wall, if I want something on the other side of it badly enough. My Willpower – my ability to drive myself through duress – is probably my greatest character strength.

Meanwhile, one of my greatest weaknesses is my inability to think like other people. One of the people I recently took the EMT course with noted that I could read the same paragraph as ten other people and take something entirely different away from it.

This is what gives me such a talent as a scoring forward and a purveyor of girls with low self-esteem: I have an uncanny knack for seeing the flaws or holes in something – the negative space, if you will. I can look at a Goaltender and see the 1/100th of the net he or she doesn’t have covered. I can look at a neatly-stacked defense and see how they are slightly misaligned. Many of my gifts lie in Creative Problem Solving and taking an unconventional approach.

And really, that’s Hockey. Unlike Football, in which a Coach draws up a designated play and the players execute it to the letter, Hockey is best-played when it is free-flowing and unscripted. Hockey involves chemistry and constant reaction, but it’s very difficult for anyone to compel a Hockey game to unfold in a step-by-step fashion. Hockey lacks the predictability of Baseball, Football, or Golf, and in my view, that’s one of the things that makes the game so great.

The other way Hockey differs from those other sports, and Golf in-particular, is again that there is direct correlation between Effort and Results. Golf is a game of notorious frustration, one that requires a consistent and methodical approach. You cannot play Golf harder, only better.

I liken EMS to Golf. It doesn’t matter how hard you try – it only matters if you can do a given procedure or if you know the appropriate solution to a given problem. Like Golf, EMS requires an individual to take an extremely-systematic approach, and like Golf, EMS involves a dedication to perfection. You can treat a patient properly in 99/100 ways, but if you mistreat them in even the slightest – for example, if you forget to ask if the patient has taken Sildenafil before you administer Nitroglycerin for his chest pain – you could kill someone. This stress – the knowledge that one wrong move could kill someone – is chronic and constant.

You all know me pretty well – I am not great at following orders. I excel when I am allowed to think creatively and unconventionally, and I struggle mightily when I have to follow protocol. Someone smart wrote this about me:

“…Your overly-relaxed nature 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…”

Guess what? To be an EMT, you have to do exactly that. EMS is predicated on following protocols and sequences to the letter. To use the Golf analogy, you can hit the ball as hard as you want, but it doesn’t matter if you send it slicing into the woods or line-drive it into the water. In Golf and in EMS, you have stay on the course, avoid a litany of traps, and do so with very limited margin-for-error. The difference with EMS is that you must do all of this while a patient is gushing blood and people are screaming at you.

There are people who are simply wired for the error-free, systematic approach. These people often gravitate toward Medicine or Mechanical Engineering at a relatively-young age. These are the people who have the discipline to ensure that parts of our society run like a metronome, and have the ability to completely block out external factors and stress while doing so.

Meanwhile, there’s me, Mister “Artistic Temperament,” who needed the support of an A-Team of confidants and friends as well as a minor Act of God to get through a course that some incredibly-dense people have no problem with.

While acknowledging that I would not have gotten through this course were it not for some exceptional support, I am very proud of myself for sticking with it. EMT was not easy for me, at all. I couldn’t apply my strength, my Willpower, to internalizing the material itself, but I could apply it in how relentlessly I fought through the frustration and stress of the course. I succeeded, which is going to do nothing to rein in my ego.

Now, as for what My Family Doesn’t Know About EMS:

I have always been academically-gifted. One of my favorite jokes is that the first time I took the SAT (back when it was a 1600-point test), I was sober and well-rested and only got a 1250. The second time, I came in hungover and sweating Black Velvet, and I got a 1390. One of my minor claims-to-fame.

As such, the expectation of me has always been that I will pass any course or test thrown my way with flying colors. One of the reasons I took so long to finally commit to Firefighting was that my family insisted it was not a proper use of my intellectual gifts. From a very young age, I was told, no joke, that I could be a Doctor or a Lawyer.

So when I would occasionally talk to my mother about the course and she would hear that I was struggling, she was stunned. She would ask me questions like “Did you get hit in the head again?” and “Are you drunk, or just retarded?”

There are some people who can barely spell their own name who are very successful EMT/Paramedics, and there are some academic geniuses who cannot get through the course. It’s a fine line between knowing a tidal wave of material, and being able to recall/apply that knowledge instantly and under duress.

Also, one has to take my personal biases into account. As I wrote above, I am probably the last person in the world who should be an EMT. I am a mistake-making, risk-taking free-thinker (WOO!) if ever one existed. It’s hard for people like myself to remember Step #34 in a 100-Step process when we are busy dreaming of Manhattans and ways to seduce the Madame of the Office.

But the bottom-line? EMT is Hard. I would double-underline that if I could. If I could convey one point to my family, it would be that my Hockey-related concussion issues aside, I did not suddenly go from being an academic all-star to being a dolt. Again speaking from the position of a Professional Student, it’s hard to envision a more-demanding course.

So, in Conclusion:

Ask anyone who has completed it: the EMT-B Certification is rough. No matter what happens from here, I can say that I got through it. As someone who lacks the natural attributes that most successful EMTs possess, I can say as a proud Hockey Player that my well-refined Will was what allowed me to get through.

 

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

properhat

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

abc

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.

donpeggy5

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

awalk

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

Gender Psychology: So You Want to be a Bad Boy

So You Want to be a Bad Boy?

elwray

Any guy who has ever watched The New Kid move into town and run off with his girlfriend understands the appeal of being a Bad Boy, as does any girl who has ever gotten involved with a troubled loner. Bad Boys have a special place in cinematic and fictional lure, as they scorch through the even-keeled lives of more-conventional types like shooting stars.

What many Nice Guys, Good Guys, and even some Women do not understand is that Being a Bad Boy is not an easy endeavor. While it would seem to take no larger effort than to be anti-conformist and sullen, the reality is that a number of often-tragic circumstances conspire to create a Bad Boy, much like any monster. This article aims to explain some of the realities of the Bad Boy existence, as well serve as a cautionary tale to those would-be Bad Boys who are considering a turn to the Dark Side.

Who is a Bad Boy?

heath

There are plenty of articles all over the internet dissecting Why Women chase after Bad Boys. Articles within that vein often ask more questions than they answer, since it is very difficult to articulate the allure of the Bad Boy to most women; in fact, the girls themselves can rarely put the appeal of Bad Boys into usable wording.

For the sake of argument, just understand that Women Love Bad Boys as a self-evident Proof. This notion has transcended both cultures and generations at this point, and the captivating nature of the Bad Boy is in fact is one thing that mothers and daughters of disparate ages can agree upon.

Since we can agree for the moment that Women Love Bad Boys, the next questions are, “Am I a Bad Boy?”, followed by “How do I become a Bad Boy?”

To answer the first part: if you have to ask, you are not a Bad Boy. While Bad Boys may be introspective and thoughtful, they are rarely mired in self-doubt or uncertainty.

Speaking as a Bad Boy, people like me are more prone to ask themselves, “Am I a Bad Person?” after a particularly devious action. As in all things, there are progressions, and in this case the progressions are directly tied to your own morals. Does kissing a married woman make you a bad person? Does stealing money out of a woman’s wallet make you a bad person (assuming she owes you, on several levels)? Does having sex with a mother and her daughter in the same calendar month make you a bad person? Does fighting a 55-year old father-of-three make you a Bad Person?

These are not questions normal people ask themselves. These are questions reserved for Bad Boys. Your own conscience will determine if you are Bad Person or not.

To answer the second question, allow me to walk you through one way in which one might become a Bad Boy. You can then decide for yourself if becoming a Bad Boy is an endeavor you wish to pursue.

How Does One Become a Bad Boy?

“Give us brilliant boys that we wanna fuck, man
Full of ecstasy, hard drugs, and bad luck
Yeah yeah yeah

Turn the lights back on
You burn so hard
But you won’t burn long…”

Hole, Mono

No one looking at a smiling baby boy ever thinks, “One day, this kid is going to be an absolute bastard.” Contrary to what George Thorogood will tell you, it’s very difficult to make the argument that children are born contemptuous of others or with inherent malice, even if you want to argue that some children are born with a much-greater potential to be Bad. Most often, the circumstances of a boy’s life need to conspire to turn him “Bad”.

One commonality I see among Bad Boys of various cultural or socioeconomic backgrounds is Isolation. Bad Boys do not properly acclimate to Social Norms because they generally lack the foundational support of a loving family, be it the Flesh-and-Blood variety or the Close-Knit Friends version. Bad Boys become simultaneously self-reliant and suspicious of others, leading to this vicious cycle in which they become further and further detached from the Social Mean.

This leads the Bad Boy to develop Trust Issues, which manifest in a number of ways that are bizarrely-attractive to Women. For example, most Women are well-acquainted with the idea that some Men are reluctant to commit to a relationship. While this becomes irritating in most cases for Women, in the case of the Bad Boy, this makes him more-attractive because the inability to commit is out of his control; it is a consequence of prior abuse or a lack of loving support during his formative years. This frequently leads many Women to fall into patterns in which they desperately chase Bad Boys, which of course makes the Bad Boy in question pull further away.

Contrary to belief, Bad Boys actually have very little Game, and most are not actively manipulating Women. What happens in actuality is that Bad Boys start to grow comfortable with Women, rewarding their patience with sweet behavior, until something triggers an underlying Trust Issue within the Bad Boy. At this point, he pulls away strongly, which makes the shell-shocked Woman start questioning what she did to scare him off. Again, this causes desperation in certain Women, leading to the aforementioned cycle in which she chases after the Bad Boy despite the emotional turmoil he is causing her.

Speaking personally, I was not vehemently anti-social growing up; I just managed to make it to adulthood without really finding that “Second Family” or tight group of friends that most people find in childhood or High School or College. Whereas most well-adjusted types manage to find acceptance in a Family System of some sort, Bad Boys are often kept at Arm’s Length from people until they start to prefer it that way.

Bad Boys learn to become extremely independent because there is never the sense of unconditional loyalty from a Family System. Life becomes a high-wire tightrope act without the emotional safety net of supportive Family and Friends. As a result, a Bad Boy becomes increasingly more capable of relying upon himself while hesitating (and later refusing) to count on others.

Another area Bad Boys specialize in is Loss. Bad Boys often go through entire lifetimes of attrition at a relatively-early age, which consequently makes people more replaceable to them later in life. This is frequently seen in popular culture. One prominent example is in the James Bond films, in which Bond’s beloved Vesper is killed in the film Casino Royale. After incurring this Loss, Bond becomes irretrievably-hardened, and other people (especially Women) become completely interchangeable to him.

Bad Boys often deal with Losses so profound and at such a young age that their character is entirely changed. While this does not necessarily have to be the death of a loved one, often a major event or series of events occur that drive a Bad Boy on a divergent path from the rest of society. This uniqueness may likely serve to increase his attractiveness, as both his mindset and his ability to cope with tragedy are greatly different than those of more-socialized Men.

To offset the lack of emotional support and social protection, a Bad Boy learns to cultivate a very specific set of skills, most of them survival-based, that appeal to Women on a profound, sexual level. Speaking in Darwinian terms, a Bad Boy is attractive to most Women because in a theoretical “Survival Situation” (such as Prehistoric Man foraging for food), they have an Internal Locus of Control that allows them to surmount odds that would cower other Men. This is basically the same thing as Willpower, which I have written about elsewhere extensively.

Darwinists like myself can easily see why Women Love Bad Boys, but more-domesticated and socially well-adjusted types may have trouble making the logical connection. In short, Bad Boys appeal to most Women because they are better at both surviving and protecting her potential offspring than less-malicious types. Many Women unconsciously hope this instinct of self-preservation would eventually transfer to herself and her potential children.

The Mask

As they say, “No Man is an Island”, and no Boy is Born Bad. The decision to consciously embrace moral ambiguity or even Nihilism is a common Bad Boy ritual in which someone rejects the comforts and support of a loving family in lieu of Power and Self-Sufficiency. This amorality is often  in fact a protective Mask that separates the Bad Boy from would-be social persecutors.

The World is Cruel, and to cope with this the typical Bad Boy takes extraordinary measures to protect himself from it. After all, he has reached adulthood or near-adulthood without the feeling of familial protection and support that more well-adjusted Men experience. A ferocious social Mask serves the same function as a scarecrow, chasing away many of those who would potentially injure the Bad Boy emotionally or physically.

Bad Boys are frequently preoccupied with Money and Power. These two things allow a Bad Boy to live in what a Bad Boy considers to be Relative Comfort: the freedom to be emotionally-indifferent and independent. Nothing vexes a Bad Boy more than having to rely upon someone else, and large amounts of Money and Power keep a protective bubble around him.

It is now pertinent to bring up the Nature-versus-Nurture argument: while some Bad Boys have a natural predilection toward anti-social behavior, others are “Good Boys” who make a conscious effort to be “Bad” in order to acquire the aforementioned Money and Power.

The Heel Turn

anakin

Some well-adjusted “Good Boys” will force themselves to do out-of-character “Bad Things” as a means of accruing Power or coping with the cold cruelties of the world. A result of this “Fake It ‘Til You make It” mentality is that a Good Boy eventually becomes a true Bad Boy by pushing his personal envelope of ethics too far. This fall-from-grace is known as a Heel Turn.

A Heel Turn occurs when a good-natured person decides that they are going to stop acting ethically and with the good of the community in mind. A Heel Turn involves a dedication to personal selfishness and anti-social behavior, typically in a way that is extremely out-of-character for the person in-question.

One example from popular culture is seen in the Star Wars movies, as Anakin Skywalker forces himself to commit acts of malice until his entire character changes:

In the opposing fashion, some kids who are raised in a loving environment are so deeply anti-social that no amount of familial support can prevent them from submitting to their dark, even psychopathic urges. This theme is well-covered in the 50 Shades of Grey novels.

One thing that inspires logical Women to persist in their efforts to “Fix” a Bad Boy is the idea that underneath a mound of social refuse is a gentle, kind-hearted soul crying for help. While this can be true in some situations, in other situations a Bad Boy is “too far gone” for any reasonable Woman to salvage him.

Common Traits

The term “Bad Boy” is not well-defined, but there are some traits that repeatedly appear:

Lack of Self-Doubt: A very attractive trait in most Bad Boys is their absence of Self-Doubt. While more-socialized Men are likely to confer with their group before taking action, the loner Bad Boy is accustomed to relying upon his sole judgement in making decisions. This lack of insecurity is like cat-nip to younger females, many of whom are trapped in their own heads with paralyzing self-doubt.

Lack of Socialization: By definition, a Bad Boy displays a high number of Anti-Social Behaviors. These can vary in how enticing they respectively are to Women, from intriguing to extremely attractive. As I have written in my article on the Wild Side, almost all Women are forced into stronger standards of social decorum than Men are, at least in Western society. A Bad Boy’s willingness to not only act upon but embrace the anti-social aspects of his personality is completely enticing to a Woman who has to go around being Miss Sunshine all day long.

This Lack of Socialization can range from borderline-feral to borderline-criminal to ill-tempered. The common characteristic is that the Bad Boy swims against the social current in almost all situations, or at least conforms very reluctantly.

Preoccupation: Another key way in which Bad Boys separate themselves from more-socialized Men is their chronic inattentiveness and emotional distance. Whereas many Men are prepared to make a given Woman or Women the center of their universe, Bad Boys are preoccupied with their drugs, guns, hockey teams, motorcycles, etc. Furthermore, this Preoccupation is typically of the aggressive or anti-social nature; a Bad Boy would be much less-likely to be preoccupied with video games than he would be getting into fights outside strip clubs.

Substance Abuse: Bad Boys have two options: they can engage in violence (the end result of their ASPD), or they can attempt to suppress their anti-social rage with alcohol and/or drugs. This leads to a brutal cycle in which the Bad Boy tries to corral his aggressive instincts with booze or drugs, which of course is horribly ineffective. The persistent Substance Abuse is one of the justifications Women tend to make when defending or excusing the sociopathic behavior of a Bad Boy.

Swagger: A Bad Boy is a natural survivor, and thus projects a menace and self-confidence that could be collectively defined as “Swagger.” A Bad Boy is not concerned with getting into physical altercations because he has proven to himself time and time again that he can endure them. This again makes a Bad Boy very attractive to many Women on a Darwinian level.

Throw-down: Bad Boys have a special power called “Throw-Down”, which worldly Women will agree can be defined as the ability to seize the moment. Bad Boys, for example, may not be concerned with getting intimate in public because they are more-focused on taking advantage of a given opportunity; in this case, a Woman who is primed and ready for physical contact. This ability, to act irrespective of outside conditions, is called Throw-Down, and Bad Boys have it in spades.

Trust Issues: Bad Boys have become extremely self-reliant because they have likely not experienced the support of a loving family, or have had repeated traumatic events occur that compromised their ability to trust other people.  This leads to Bad Boys preferring people at arms-length, and developing an array of skills meant to prevent people from injuring them emotionally or physically. To protect themselves, Bad Boys often display large amounts of financial or physical power, again as a means of self-protection.

The Club

Here is a group of Bad Boys, taken from both Fiction and Real Life. Try to identify the common traits that unite them.

(Note: most of the Bad Boys in “The Club” are square-looking white guys. I am a square-looking white guy. I feel it would be insincere of me to put up a bunch of African-American and Latino “Bad Boys” just to appear racially-nonpartisan. When Women attribute “Bad Boy” traits to me personally, they are usually not the mannerisms of Denzel Washington in “Training Day” or Antonio Banderas in “Desperado”; instead, I am saddled with stereotypes put forth by other square-looking white guys. The Square-White-Guy role has been my personal experience, and I cannot apologize for it.)

Casanova

Giacoma Casanova is a very interesting cat, and probably the only Italian I respect. He lived a positively absurd, syphilis-ridden lifestyle, mooching off rich guys and sleeping with their wives and daughters.

James Dean

James Dean is “The Original Bad Boy.” He remains, “a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment,” so much so that Rebel Without a Cause posters can still be found in the bedrooms of 16-year old girls. He died in the ultimate Bad Boy fashion, i.e. a “Blaze of Glory” fiery car wreck.

Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash was the original Bad Boy of Rock N’ Roll. When he was not writing songs about cocaine, murder, and running from the police, he was battling substance addiction and playing sold-out shows at prisons.

Steve McQueen

I live for myself and I answer to nobody.” – Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen was a Bad Ass. He personified Bad Boy-cool for an entire generation of film-goers. While some of his exploits may have been exaggerated, McQueen certainly set an example for aspiring Bad Boys everywhere by being difficult to work with, but so in-demand and popular that directors and producers were forced to deal with him.

Bruce Wayne

Bruce Wayne best represents the idea of the Bad Boy caricature. In all media, “Bruce Wayne” is this figurative mask that Batman (the dominant personality) slips on to fool the weak-minded.

For his part, Batman really turns up the volume on the “Bad Boy” ruse that is Bruce Wayne by playing the part of the drunken, entitled buffoon to perfection. He makes womanizing more of a game than anything else,  or even a chore, which obviously is in stark contrast to the control-freak characteristics that the Batman personality represents.

Mr. Big

The ladies know Mr. Big as the one-man wrecking crew who tormented horrid social bane Carrie Bradshaw for 10 years before consenting to take one for the team and finally marry the bitch before she could spawn. While some Women will acknowledge that Big was emotionally-abusive and even nihilistic in his dealings with bulimic Mayan terror Bradshaw, the 50-60% of Women who blindly identify with Carrie will adamantly defend him under Bad Boy 101 logic, like, “His old relationships made him reluctant to commit,” or “You don’t know what it’s like when it’s just the two of them.”

George Clooney

George Clooney is the real-life representation of a Bad Boy. He is the sterling example of what separates a Bad Boy from a “Player”, the key difference being that he does not need to deceive or lie to women in order for them to clamor after him. He stubbornly insists upon remaining a bachelor, much to the frustration and arousal of red-blooded American girls in 50 states. He makes cool movies.

Christian Troy

Here is Christian at work:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ja8OD0AbCZ8&feature=related

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NOUaGKZVsng

Christian gets bonus points for being extra manipulative and morally-vacant. Note: Do not try to keep up with Nip/Tuck if you are not a fan; it’s just ridiculous.

Tommy Gavin

Tommy is an alcoholic Fire-Fighter. He has less-than-zero Impulse Control, the thread that commonly links most criminals. He would be a complete social outcast if not for his role as a Fire-Fighter. His alcoholism, fearlessness, rage, and unwillingness to temper himself all make him ridiculously attractive to the Women on the TV show Rescue Me.

Don Draper

Don Draper is an alcoholic womanizer, albeit a very successful one. He is an excellent case-study in the “Bad Boy Mask” theory proposed above, engaging in Bad Boy antics in order to maintain the facade of his character. Don, alias Dick Whitman, consistently acts in power-hungry, self-indulgent ways that may oppose his natural character, but are essential for re-enforcing the Bad Boy Mask that he has decided to wear.

Christian Grey

I used Matt Bomer because I think he represents the character well for most Women.

Without recounting the details of the novels, Christian Grey is of course the protagonist of the 50 Shades novels. If you are a Woman reading this, you obviously know who he is and what he does that makes him such a Bad Boy.

The Ways Women Treat Bad Boys

Being a Bad Boy is an All-or-Nothing proposition, but it is one that most Men would not trade for the more-moderate role Women assign to the majority of Men.

Bad Boys seem to have it made, as they get Women at their most sexually-ardent while not having to deal Women during times of emotional turbulence or vulnerability. What Man wouldn’t take that package deal?

The trade-off is that Women completely objectify Bad Boys, and have almost no use for them outside of their role as a sexual interest. Bad Boys are objectified in much the same way as Pin-Up models and strippers are, even if the process is gender-specific.

Here is an Overview of What Women Expect and Do Not Expect from Bad Boys:

What Women Expect

The Goods:

Women expect Bad Boys to rock their world in the bedroom, and if a Bad Boy turns out to be underwhelming or even average in bed, much of his mystique is lost. Since the typical Bad Boy provides little or none of the emotional solace that more sensitive men might, it is imperative that a legitimate Bad Boy demonstrate outstanding sexual skill almost every time things get physical.

This can include the aforementioned Throw-Down (spur-of-the moment sex, often in semi-public or other potentially-compromising situations), exceptional size and/or stamina, high degrees of animalism and creativity, and no evidence of clinging or emotional investment. The Bad Boy is the sexual convenience store for a longing woman, and she expects to get The Goods with minimal complication or investment.

Adventure and Excitement:

The Bad Boy, with his secretive past, is the alluring alternative to the more-transparent boyfriend or husband in a Woman’s life. A Woman is attracted to a Bad Boy because his lifestyle is seemingly a mash-up of affairs and bar-fights, which stands in exotic contrast to her daily ritual of laundry and television-watching with her dutiful boyfriend or spouse.

Women expect their lives to become much-more interesting with the introduction of a Bad Boy, even if they do not explicitly say so. After all, a Woman yearning for stability will have a much-easier time finding a substance-over-style type of Man in her daily orbit; the Bad Boy represents something novel by being so relatively unpredictable.

Drama:

Younger Women, especially, love Drama because it puts them at the center of attention. The Bad Boy induces Drama into a Woman’s life by compelling her loyal friends to be distrustful of and possibly aggressive toward him. A Woman can become a fixation within the lives of her friends and other potential love interests by playing the role of the victim and taking up with a detestable Bad Boy.

It goes beyond the scope of this already-long article to delve into the need some Women have to inject Drama into their lives. Taking this Proof again as self-evident, it should be obvious that a Bad Boy is a drama reservoir, and immature or needy Women are going to crave the attention that co-mingling with a standard-issue Bad Boy can produce.

What Women Do Not Expect

Commitment:

A very appealing Bad Boy trait is his unwillingness to commit. This works very well for a Woman who is similarly-unwilling to commit, due to emotional unavailability or pragmatic reasons. This also works for Women who are in committed relationships who are seeking to stray.

A Bad Boy ceases to be a Bad Boy when he outs himself as another Nice Boy looking for love. This will be like nails-on-a-chalkboard to a Woman who is seeking to keep emotional distance between herself and her sexual partners.

Affection:

Most Women have an array of Men within their life that constantly dote upon them, tending to their various emotional and psychological problems with a soft touch. While there are some Women in unfortunate positions who have no one like this, most Women are actually besieged by considerate, courteous sorts who Women believe (rightly or wrongly) are trying to incur favor in order to bed them. The stereotype of the dutiful friend tending to a Woman’s emotional needs while she runs around with a parade of bikers and jocks has become a contemporary classic.

Most young girls are actually overwhelmed by the affection bestowed upon them, and come to not only take it for granted, but to become irritated with it. The fascinating contrast to the Men who hold open doors and pull out chairs for her is the irritable loner who barely can glance her way.

Predictability:

The appeal of the Bad Boy is that he is wildly unpredictable. Once again, this injects excitement into a Woman’s otherwise ho-hum life. A Bad Boy can be like a great novel, as the reader anxiously awaits what lies on the next page and is desperate to find out what comes next. Just as no one wants to read a predictable story, no Woman wants her Bad Boy to be easily-figured out.

Bad Boy/Good Man

saints

It is very possible to be a Bad Boy yet be highly-ethical; the ethics of a Bad Boy are simply much different than most.

At some point, Conventional Laws and Morality become constraints that prohibit certain types of Righteous Men from acting decisively and truly. The evolved Bad Boy is much-more preoccupied with The Greater Good than he is with following more-traditional rules. This is something Women astutely observe, and begin to find intrigue in a Bad Boy’s motives when his actions indicate that he is ethically-conflicted.

The “Good” Bad Boy will Break a Nose to Save a Life. While some Bad Boys are simply sadistic and self-preoccupied, there is a certain segment of Bad Boys that have noble intentions at the root of their malicious actions. Again, Women tend to see issues in degrees while Men tend to segment issues into Black and White. Combined with their higher levels of Empathy, the ability of Women to see through a Bad Boy’s grim veneer only serves to make him more attractive to them.

Bad Boys vs. Assholes

”Do you think this is who I am? I am a professional thief, I don’t run around killing people I don’t have to.”

– Seth Gecko (George Clooney), From Dusk Til Dawn

I have written much about Assholes, Dicks, and other constituents of the Brotherhood of Men is this rather-popular article. A common misconception is that all Bad Boys are Assholes, when this is certainly not the case.

Bad Boys are frequently Men of ethics who have decided that certain ends justify the means. For example, a Bad Boy may decide that dealing methamphetamine is an acceptable recourse if it means providing for his family. There are noble, praise-worthy, and selfless elements to this type of behavior, all of which distinguish a ruthless-but-devoted Bad Boy from a garden-variety Asshole.

As Asshole is a landmine of non-discriminating obnoxiousness. There is frequently little rhyme-or-reason to the behavior of an Asshole, aside from the continuing need for the Asshole to entertain and indulge her or himself. Bad Boys can be extremely-decent Men, which can greatly contribute to their attractiveness to Women, but Bad Boys are often willing to go to lengths that Assholes or Nice Guys are not in order to protect or provide for their loved ones.

The Trade-Off

Here is a list of concessions a Man makes when he becomes a legitimate Bad Boy:

* Unless a Woman is desperately attracted to you, she will barely acknowledge you during non-carnal situations. A fair question to ask yourself is, “Would I be crushed if I saw the girl I was with eight hours ago holding hands with her boyfriend/husband and refusing to look at me?” This is your life, future Bad Boy. Again, if the girl is desperately attracted to you, she will fall all over herself to get your attention, but if you are just a fling or a sexual surrogate then she will spend most of her time avoiding you like the plague.

* In a similar fashion, Women who are both emotionally and sexually-satisfied will have absolutely no use for a Bad Boy. Something I frequently have encountered is a scenario in which some Women will not even be civil to me because I am an obvious Bad Boy. I am not speaking about disaffected ex-girlfriends, but grocery-store clerks, neighbors, random acquaintances, etc.

A common event will be one of these Women being very friendly and outgoing with others, then immediately becoming hostile or otherwise rude to an obvious Bad Boy. This might be a self-protective reaction, or this could be the projection of prior rage toward a Bad Boy onto someone who embodies the stereotype. Regardless, as a Bad Boy, a lot of the Women in your orbit will be surprisingly venomous toward you, if they acknowledge you at all.

* Are you comfortable having no one really know or care who you are? Are you ready to be nothing more than a fantasy, or an image? In fact, most Women are going to get annoyed when you try telling them that you used to care for sick puppies or play fantasy football or whatever. As a Bad Boy, the only personality traits you are allowed to display while retaining your attractiveness are the ones a Woman assigns you.

* Can you stand the idea of lots and lots of people hating you? Even if they have never spoken with you or been in your company for any length of time?

As a Bad Boy, you are going to draw the attention of the female community, and at some point the Women are certain to force this line of conversation upon the Men. Your intentions, mannerisms, and personality are going to be dissected at-length by a bunch of people who barely know you. This would be fine, except that this dissection is going to be done by a number of people with a vested interest in making you look bad or “protecting” the attracted Women from you for purely self-serving reasons.

This type of scorn will know no bounds; some people may become so simultaneously disgusted and intrigued by you that they will put up webpages dedicated to attacking your character. Bad Boys are ready to handle this because they already mistrust people and almost completely rely upon themselves, but most people trying to become Bad Boys are going to have a real hard time walking into a chorus of derision on a regular basis.

* Are you ready to spend a major holiday, like Christmas or New Year’s Eve, alone? Because it can and will happen. Women want to be with family and friends during major holidays, and you are neither. If you want the Bad Boy perks, you had better be ready for the cold and discomfort that comes in tandem with them.

* What are you going to do the first time an angry husband takes your phone number (or address) out of a Woman’s phone and confronts you? Are you ready for an incredibly-awkward e-mail or Facebook message in which some guy verbally assaults you for bewitching his wife? Can you look another Man in the eye and admit that you are banging his spouse? Will you apologize? Get confrontational? Possessive? Answer these questions for yourself now, because your mind will go blank if your bang-buddy’s husband starts walking toward you with a gun.

Closing Remarks

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GbWk–Cv0Q

Aspiring Bad Boys should be warned that great personal sacrifices are traded off in Becoming Bad: mainly the comforts and unconditional support of Family and Friends. While it may seem like a sweet deal to be able to swoop in with only a bad attitude and walk away with a Woman on each arm, the reality is that Being a Bad Boy is a lonely walk down a dark road. There are benefits, to be sure, but there are also a number of compromises that most Men are simply not emotionally-capable of making.

As a Bad Boy, you get a lot of flirtatious smiles from strange Women. I got one just as I was typing this. But those smiles are empty and fleeting. The reality is that almost all Women want to take a Man and make him her family, not run around with some preoccupied loner living on borrowed time. The Nice Guy may fantasize about having Women lust after him, but the Bad Boy fantasizes about one Woman who will truly care for him. As they say, the grass is always greener on the other side.

BK

MSS

JF