Thursday, April 30, 2009

Who is The Modern Renaissance Man?

Recently, I recieved an email from someone who come across the blog, but was kind of surprised that there wasn't an introductory post that they could go to in order to find out more about me. A few weeks late, I've decided it would be good to solve that problem.

I'm going to try and spare you most of the boring details and focus on how I became the Modern Renaissance Man. I grew up in a very small town in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and had a rather sheltered life because of it. My father was a high school history teacher and so education was always a big deal in my family. From a very young age, I had a thirst for knowledge.

The credit for starting me on the path to becoming a Modern Renaissance Man really lies with an ex of mine. I had previously had a decent variety of interests, but nothing out of the ordinary. I have been involved in late model stock car racing since I was thirteen and even had the opportunity to be an over the wall crew member for both the Craftsman Truck and Busch series. Music was already a big part of my life, and I had gone through stages of being a huge fan of most genres in existence. Where it all took a change was when my ex introducted me to art and her father introduced me to other cultures. He traveled the world for work and we often heard stories of India, Taiwan, and Japan.

Since she's my ex, it's pretty obvious that we broke up at some point. It took me a long time to get over the relationship, and in the process stumbled across the work of a man known as David DeAngelo. I got my hands on a copy of his book Double Your Dating and his Interviews with Dating Gurus interview series. Shortly afterward, I came across Pickup Podcast, who was on their second episode at the time. You could say I got in on the ground floor with them. Over the course of time, I learned of more people and theories, and the thing that I noticed was the common thread amongst people whose advice I connected with was a desire to constantly improve yourself. Not just a desire to get good at meeting women, but a desire to become the best person possible.

This realization sent me on a spree of "self help" reading. I've read more books from more viewpoints than I can count. It would take a few hours to make a comprehensive list. So in this press to become the best person I could, I stepped outside of my comfort zone. When I got comfortable, I stepped out again. I strived not to find out what DID work in life, but to find out what DIDN'T work. I began writing for my college's satirical newspaper, I pledged Mu Beta Psi a co-ed music service fraternity, I picked up a minor in Art (while majoring in Mechanical Engineering), and I met and started dating my fiance.

Over the course of a two year period I had completely transformed myself for the better and I wanted to do what I could to help others to do the same. Pickup Podcast started a forum for listeners, and a few months later I was asked to be a moderator. My art professor had me teach some classes for her and asked me to be a bit of a mentor to other students, offering suggestions and advice. I attended LeaderShape and further refined my natural leadership abilities. I brought all of this teaching and leadership together and was elected President of my Fraternity. Somewhere along the line, I ended up becoming somewhat of a life coach for most of my friends and classmates.

Of all the books that I read in this process, there were two that stood out among the others. These will be the topics for book reviews for the next two months. The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida really transformed how I looked at what it means to be a man, to relate to women, and to understand how we communicate. My first introduction to the Yin and Yang essences was in that book. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci brought me several great ways to look at the world in an entirely new light. Additionally, it also got me really into the idea of becoming a Renaissance Man. I even have a tattoo of his sketch The Vitruvian Man between my shoulders.

I wouldn't call myself The Modern Renaissance Man on my own accord. About a year and a half ago, three different people used that term to describe me in the same day. It was then that I really seriously considered that maybe I had reached this achievement that I had worked so hard to attain. The secret is that it couldn't stop there. Just as da Vinci never stopped learning, experimenting, and expanding his knowledge, I realize that I can never cease to expand my knowledge. I'm currently finishing up courses in Eastern Philosophy, Public Speaking, and Spanish. I will soon be picking up Judo and possibly Yoga. When the time is right, I will go back to college and get a second bachelor's degree, this one in social psychology. This is ultimately the base of becoming a Modern Renaissance Man for yourself: never stop learning, experimenting, and expanding your knowledge.

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The Master Plan

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Footprints of the Maestro: The Modern Renaissance Man on Education

Yesterday, I gave the final speech for the public speaking class that I'm taking. We were asked to do a 2-4 minute speech on the topic of "Why College?" To set the stage a bit, we were in a restaurant, with people eating the waitress coming by and the like. All eighteen people in the class were speaking on the same topic. I never like having to speak on the same topic as many other people. By the time the last person is done, you've heard essentially the same boring speech eighteen times. I wanted to present a unique answer to the question. This is the text of that speech:

Throughout this semester, I have spoken on a number of topics ranging from my love of engineering and social dynamics to my passion for art and literature to the power of choice and focus. These topics merely scratch the surface of the myriad of topics which pique my interest. The path of life that I have taken and the variety of fields that I excel in has earned me title of The Modern Renaissance Man from several people.

I smile whenever I hear that title. It brings images of the original Renaissance Man, Leonardo da Vinci. The difference is that the maestro lacked access to the resource that has been most instrumental in my ability to acquire the level of skill and knowledge that I have: a college education. Imagine the discoveries and inventions that would have been possible had da Vinci had access to the college and university system of today.

To become a Modern Renaissance Man, it is not enough to simply go through the actions. Going to classes for two, or four, or six, or nine years does not make one da Vinci’s modern counter part. The maestro specialized in many fields. He was an artist, a scientist, and a diplomat. Most modern colleges and universities don’t have such a wide variety of subjects through the course of a single major. How then, has college played such a large part in my becoming a Modern Renaissance Man? The answer lies in yet another lesson from Leonardo da Vinci.

Though estimates vary, even the largest attribute less than fifteen completed works to da Vinci. Once, a benefactor asked Leonardo to serve as head chef for a dinner. For this, he designed a fully automated kitchen, which caught fire and then flooded the building when the sprinkler system he designed failed to work properly. A vast majority of his work is incomplete, impossible to build, or failed catastrophically. What da Vinci knew is that it is not things we complete that matter, but the lessons we learn, the stories we live, and the people whose lives we touch along the way which define us.

The secret of becoming a Modern Renaissance Man lies in living your life to the fullest. I have done this by completing a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a minor in art while simultaneously becoming an author, a member of a national music fraternity, and acting as life coach to many friends. Every one of you can do this as well. By joining clubs, actively participating in classes, and studying a variety of subjects, we walk in the footprints of the maestro. By developing an insatiable thirst for knowledge, we (like da Vinci) walk the path of perfection.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Secrets of Effective Dating: Find the RIGHT Person with Less Effort.

"Life will pay whatever price you ask of it" - Tony Robbins

By now it shouldn't surprise any of you that I'm a big Tony Robbins fan. The quote above is an excellent example of his eloquence. I think, however, that there's an important piece missing from that quote. Life will pay whatever price you ask of it, but the secret is that you must ask it intelligently. If you want to make a hundred thousand dollars, you can't simply say "Life, please give me a hundred thousand dollars." It won't happen. But if you ask life "Life, what can I do to make a hundred thousand dollars" and then actually DO those things that life tells you, money will quickly be flowing your way.

I spoke on Tuesday about Taoism and I specifically gave the example of tossing a ball in the stream. One of the excellent things about Taosim is that it can be applied to anything. Things happen in accordance to the tao (read Tuesday's post for more information on this). Now what if you want a specific thing to happen? Say that you just met an excellent member of your preferred sex and want to get their phone number? You can simply ask them, which will have a certain level of effectiveness to it. What happens if you apply the concept of the ball flowing downstream because it is the nature of the stream to flow downward to the situation? You want that person's phone number (the ball in our little analogy) and you know that it's going to be in the river (the fact that the number exists proves that it's in the river). What if you were to position yourself downstream of the ball and simply pick up the ball when it got to you? Would that not be a much more effective way than chasing the ball down the stream in hopes of catching up to it? How, then, do you position yourself to pick up that ball? The easiest way is to simply arrange things such that your desired outcome is most likely to happen. If you want to get that person's phone number, set it up so that them giving you their number is a natural extension of life.

If you're interested in having a high quality dating life and in finding the RIGHT person for you, wouldn't it make sense to ask life "How can I be the most effective in my dating life?" In essence, you'd be asking "Life, how can I position myself downstream from the ball to pick it out of the water?", or in other words "Life, how can I align my dating life with the tao?" I've done that. So have many other people. The people who ask this question and think or meditate on it fully, and then apply what they've learned are the most successful daters that you will ever meet. I've compiled some of the most practical ways to move downstream of the ball that you can apply within the next few hours, before you even step out of the house.

  • Know what you want in a relationship and be honest and upfront about it. Are you looking for a potential long term relationship, or are you looking for some casual fun? Are you looking to date around to find a mate, or are you just looking for a good time? Whatever it is, spend a few minutes deciding exactly what you want from a relationship. When you meet someone, be upfront about it. If they mention that they're looking for something long term and you're not, don't waste your time. If you're open to the idea of something long term, you can say something to the effect of "I'm not specifically looking for something serious right now, but I'm open to the idea if we're a good match for each other." Yes, this will narrow the field. But, that's what we're looking to do here anyways. We want to limit the people that you interact with down to those most likely to be a match for you.

  • Find out what you're looking for in the other person, be specific, and prioritize. Grab a sheet of paper and write down the qualities that you want in the person you're looking to find. Be honest with yourself. Nobody will see this list but you. Focus on the things that you DO want them to have and leave out anything that you DON'T want them to have. When you can't think of anything more, write on a new sheet of paper three headings: MUSTS, PREFERRED, and BONUSES. Go through your list and one item at a time and put each item into one of those three categories. Musts are obviously the things that the person you're looking for must have (for me, they must love music). Preferences are those things you would like, but can live without if need be (for me, between the ages of (.5*My Age + 7) and (2*(My Age-7))). The Bonuses are things that are just icing on the cake (for me, they could kick my butt in a fight). Now make another list. These are the negative things that you refuse to get involved with the person if they have these qualities. Put this list under the heading DEAL BREAKERS. For example, I refuse to get involved with someone who smokes. Compare every potential person to these four lists. Set a goal for yourself. Start out saying "I want a person who meets all of my Musts, 80% of my Preferences, and 50% of my Bonuses." Constantly raise the bar until you get to the point where you refuse to get involved with somebody who doesn't meet all of your standards. NEVER SETTLE. Do not ever accept someone who is not up to your standards as a potential person of interest.

  • Do the "car sticker" exercise. I first heard of this from Carlos Xuma (@carlosxuma on Twitter) in an interview he did with Pickup Podcast a few years ago. Here's the transcript: "Pretend that you're filling out the car sticker that is going to go on the inside window of the car that is you. What do you list as all of the features on that car? Then once you get all of those features down, which is basically the things that you're good at and what's your value in life. There's no guy out there that doesn't have significant value, you just have to dig and find it. What are you good at? Are you funny? Do you play guitar? Are you good at soccer? Are you good at football, or whatever it is, make a list of all of those great things about yourself and really get kind of attached to it, get atuned to it. Don't just write it down and think 'Yeah, well I'm just putting this down as an exercise.' No, you really have to emotionally connect to it. Then, when you're done with all of that, down at the bottom there where they usually put the sticker price, where they have the base price and then the price with all of the features, what is the price that you're willing to put yourself out there for on the market? Now obviously, it's not going to be a dollar figure, it's going to be an ego figure, some sort of confidence figure that says 'You know what, I know what I'm not going to tolerate and what I will tolerate and that's my price when I go out there into the singles world and when somebody wants me, that's the price they've got to pay.'"

  • Define your identity. This starts to get into the realm of personal branding. For anybody interested in the field, I highly recommend picking up The Brand YU Life by Hajj Flemings (@hajjflemings on Twitter). This particular exercise is a bit more applicable to this situation, and comes from the Stylelife Challenge. I was one of the original participants in the challenge, set up by Neil Strauss, author of The Game. This was released in a variant form under the title Rules of the Game. Here's the exercise, grab a pen and paper and follow along.

  1. What are your current jobs, hobbies, and/or courses of study? Focus your answers on how you spend your time, not what you think will please a mate.
  2. Select one of the answers to the previous question and write it down again. Given the hobby, job, or course of study, what are the most interesting, adventurous things that you are or will be working on or studying that impact other people most? In what way does or will it affect them? List them all, whether they impact everyone in the world or just a small subset of people.
  3. Imagine that you are a recruiter for that job or hobby and that you want to prepare an advertisement to attract people to that position - people who are not involved in the field and know little or nothing about it. You want to do this by selling them on the importance of the job they will be doing. Keep in mind your answers to the previous question, but state the impact in such a way that it will affect the broadest number of people possible. Make sure, however, that the answer is the truth. Write it in this form: "Become a (select name of job or hobby) where you can (insert sales line)." Here's an example: Become an engineer, where you can design the mobile device of the future.
  4. Examine the sale line you wrote. Take out adjectives, adverbs, and other unnecessary hype words that appeal to emotion rather than fact ("biggest", "best", "most powerful", etc.). If you can, replace the hype word and the noun it modifies with a fact. Now take a look at the verbs and make sure that they are exciting and active (ex. "create" and "launch" instead of "have" or "do"). Restate your sales line as simply, factually, and powerfully and possible, in under ten words.
  5. Rewrite the statement from the previous step, preceeded by the word "I". This is an identity statement. Say it out loud until you are comfortable with it. You may have to tweak the wording to fit you better, but that's fine. Repeat this process until you have an identity statement for up to four of the most interesting jobs, hobbies, or qualities that you listed earlier.
  6. List all of your identity statements in one place, all starting with the word "I".
  7. Look at the list of identity statements, put a star next to the following statements: the statement that is most interesting to people outside of the field, the one that is most interesting to your preferred gender, the one that is most accurate, the one that most reflects the time you spend your time every day, and the one that you are most passionate about. You should have five stars total.
  8. Look at the two statements with the most stars. Combine them in this fashion: "I (statement one), though in my spare time I (statement two)." You can choose which statement fits better where.
    Sometimes, these statements can be boiled down further into a title, in my case "The Modern Renaissance Man". On one version of his business card, Hajj Flemings has the title "Author & Mogul". This statement or title is useful in two ways. First on a social level, you will often be asked who you are or what you're about. Since we're looking to increase your effectiveness in the dating world, expressing who you are and what you're about in a succinct and powerful manner is going to be helpful. The second is on a professional level. Many times you will be introduced to somebody of power, or meet them in an elevator, and have a limited time in which to make an impression. Your identity statement or identity title will grab their attention and make you memorable.
  • Since this is already the longest article yet on The Modern Renaissance Man blog, I promise to keep this short. NEVER SETTLE! Remember this line forever: It is better to be single than to be in a bad relationship. To use the language of Scot McKay, you must deserve what you want. Refuse to get into a relationship just because somebody is the first person to come along. Get over this idea of "they're the only one for me". There are over 6.75 BILLION people in this world. If roughly half of them are your prefered gender (assuming you're not bisexual), and only 15% of those are in the age range that you're looking for, that still leaves just over 508 million people. In the U.S., the same math leaves 22.9 million people. There is no such thing as the one. There are many many potential mates out there. Never settle for second best.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

How Feminists and Chauvinsts got Gender Roles WRONG.

Some of the things that I am going to suggest in this article will anger a few people. So, allow me to begin with a disclaimer: What I'm about to say may not be politically correct, but it's the way that the world is. Nature is not politically correct. Biology is not politically correct. Evolution is not politically correct. Put aside the idea that everything must be politically correct for a little bit and read this article with an open mind.

Men and women are different. They are physically designed to perform different tasks. This doesn't make one any better or worse than the other, just different. Perform a little demonstration for me. Stand up. Drop your arms to your side in the most natural way that you can. Now shake your arms for a few seconds and drop them to your side. The palms of your hands should be facing your thighs or hips. Look for a moment at your elbows. If you're a man, the crook of your elbow probably points either straight forward or a few degrees in either direction. If you're a woman, the crook of your elbow will be pointing much further inward than a man's. Why is this? The answer is evolutionary biology. Let's go back in time and examine. Mankind lived in caves. Women brought up the children, gathered firewood, and small foods like berries and nuts. Having elbows turned inward allowed women to carry things more easily. Men hunted. They did so with a spear. It was better for men to have the elbows turned outward, allowing them to throw spears. Since the gene for men to have an outward elbow allowed men an increased chance of survival, it flourished. The same thing happened for women and an inward elbow. There was no holding women back or sexism involved. It's just the way things happened. Women needed men to provide protection form predators and men needed women to provide wood for heat and berries and nuts to eat. They needed one another for procreation. Without one, the other would not survive. When it came to rearing children, there came a point where the boys would go off with the men and would be taught to do the things that men do. The girls would go with the women and learn to do the things that women did.

Now fast forward several thousand years. The relationship between men and women hasn't changed that much. There's still a pretty well defined role for each sex. Then, there were a pair of world wars. Within the course of two generations, most boys and young men had been raised to adulthood by their mothers because their fathers had been killed in the wars. Very quickly, the traditions of what men would teach their sons were lost. This change played a decently large role in the rise of the sexual revolution and woman's rights movement of the 1960's onward. In the course of less than a hundred years, we've gone from a society where men were expected to go out and make money and women were to stay home and raise the children, to a society where a woman who chooses to stay at home and raise a family is looked down upon for not going out and having a career of her own. Few people recall that it wasn't that long ago when a man who went to a stylist and not a barber or a woman who wore a business suit were considered odd, and were often suspect.

Where this has led us is to a place where everybody seems to be uncomfortable, yet nobody knows what to do about it. Women are now considered equal to men on all accounts. A man can be a stay at home dad while his wife can be the primary breadwinner. This shift in sexual identity has become known as "the wussification of man". It would seem to stand that the counterpart of this shift could be called the "ball-busterfication of woman". Is this shift a positive or negative thing? Hard core feminists would have you believe that it is. Traditional, "chauvinist" men would say that it's a bad thing. The Modern Renaissance Man can go beyond these dualistic viewpoints to understand what's really going on.

I've been studying eastern philosophy recently. While I've always been fascinated by Taoist thought and Taoism as a philosophy for existence (not as a religion as many people assume Taoism to be), I've been able to delve into it more fully. What I have found is that the continuing shift in relationship between the roles of men and women as well as where those roles are ultimately heading can best be described with Taoist terms.

Where the traditionally defined (as well as newly defined) roles of men and women fall apart is in the assumption that as a person who has a specific pair of sex determination genes, you possess a certain set of qualities and that you have an obligation to perform a role based upon those qualities. The truth of the matter is that whether you're XX or XY has very little to do with it. What everything boils down to is Qi, or in the Vendanic tradition, Prana. Every person possesses an inner energy. You can refer to this as a soul or any number of other terms, but I prefer Qi because it has less of a spiritual notion to it and is more related to the essential essence of life. Qi comes in two types, yin and yang. Yin and Yang are two opposite, yet equally important parts of existence. These two opposites are rooted in the same existence, constantly transforming one another, and perpetually balanced. Some people possess a Qi that is primarily Yin and some possess one that is primarily Yang. Some people who are Yin are men and some are women. Likewise, some people who are Yang are men and some are women.

Taoism is very simple. The world, in all of it's wonderful complexities has a natural way that it likes to be. This natural state of existence is called tao. Here's a simple visualization for how it all works. When you toss a ball in a stream, the ball flows downstream. The ball goes downstream because it is the nature of the stream that it flows downward. When you get into the stream there are two ways that you can go. You can choose to swim downstream, with the stream's nature (with tao), or you can choose to swim upstream, against the stream's nature (against tao). Both are perfectly viable, but going against the tao of the stream takes a lot more energy, effort, and is generally a tougher thing to do. Knowing this, it becomes pretty clear the problems that arise when Yin is forced to behave like Yang, and vice versa. You end up with no polarity in relationships, a divorce rate higher than ever, and more people who are unhappy with their lives than those who are happy.
I assume that everybody has seen the above image before. Commonly called the yin-yang symbol in the west, the taijitu is a symbol representing the interaction of the Yin and Yang. Notice how the Yin and the Yang are arranged. They are perfectly balanced. This particular presentation isn't really as accurate as it can be though. I truer representation is the dizzying image below.

The Yin and Yang are really constantly moving, constantly changing positions. Sometimes the Yin on top, other times the Yang, but each perfectly equal to the other. The Yin and the Yang are like magnetic poles. They are attracted to their opposite and repelled by their similar. The Yin contains a small part of a Yang essence and the Yang contains a small portion of the Yin. Just as each contains a small portion of the other, it requires the other to be complete. Just as Yin is the opposite of Yang, right is opposed by left, up by down, East by West, and the positive pole of a magnet by the negative pole.

This is where the roles of men and women are heading. It will won't matter if a characteristic is considered "masculine" or "feminine". It will become that characteristics aren't associated with sex, but with the Qi that they represent. Men will be perfectly ok with being either Yin or Yang as will women. There will not be "men's work" or "woman's work", but "Yin work" and "Yang work". The ideas of "girly men" and "manly men" will become a thing of the past as our understanding of human existence continues to evolve. The fires of passion will return to relationships across the globe as the understanding that different and opposite can be equal is understood.

I want to close with another comment on the taijitu. Though the symbol represents the relationship between Yin and Yang, the two essences combined represent something greater. They represent something that Asiatic societies have understood for thousands of years. They represent the purest existence of all, they represent harmony. Live harmoniously in all that you do. Live harmoniously with nature, with society, with your personal relationships, with yourself. Just because somebody or something is or believes something different from you doesn't make them wrong. It quite simply makes them different from you. It's not a bad thing. It's just the way that it is. Polarity and difference are good. Summer is different from winter, life different from death, hard different from soft, fast different from slow. This is the subtle understanding of the way things are.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Failure is not an option? Failure does not exist!

The other day, I overheard an interesting interaction that I want to share. I was sitting in a local coffee shop reading a book and two teenage boys sat just over my shoulder. A short while later, an rather attractive young woman came in. Over my shoulder, I heard the two boys talking about her. It was pretty obvious that they were both interested in her. One of the boys was trying to convince the other to go over and talk to her. "What if I say something stupid?" he said. This was soon followed by "I can't do it. I'll screw something up. I don't want to look like an idiot." No matter what he said, his friend could not convince him to to make the approach. After getting her drink, the young woman left. The moment was lost.

Over the course of the next hour, I listened in on what these two guys were talking about. I know, eavesdropping is impolite, but I was curious. They talked about a lot of different things, but there was a common theme. In one way or another, they were talking about not trying things that they really wanted to do because they were afraid of failure. Now, they didn't say it nearly as explicitly, or honestly, but it was there.

Has this ever happened to you? Have you wanted to approach a woman (or a man for that matter) and held back because you were afraid of making a fool of yourself? Have you ever wanted to pick up a martial art, or painting, or a new sport, or any other hobby, but didn't because you were afraid that beginner mistakes would make you look silly? Have you ever not applied to graduate school or to an ivy league school for fear of not getting in? Have you ever wanted to perform or audition for something but held back because you thought you weren't talented enough? All of these things, all of these questions, all of these fears all boil down to a simple fear of failure.

Few people would disagree that the Leonardo da Vinci was a genius. In fact, the maestro was the first, the original Renaissance Man. He is the standard to whom all that come after are compared. What not many people realize though, is that a great deal of da Vinci's inventions and works are complete and utter failures. Da Vinci attempted to develop a new method for affixing paint to a wall for his work The Battle of Anghiari and a similar method for The Last Supper. Both attempts were failures. The Battle of Anghiari was never completed and only his initial study sketches remain. The Last Supper started to crumble shortly after its completion and has been almost nearly constant repair ever since.

Of course, the greatest of Leonardo's failures was Sforza's kitchen. Leonardo's patron Ludovico Sforza was to host a large banquet for over two hundred guests and he requested that the maestro serve as head chef for the event (cooking being one of Leonardo's many talents). Wanting to make a good impression, Leonardo went to work. Each course was elaborately designed and each plate served was to be a work of art in its own right. To aid the process, Leonardo designed a system of conveyor belts to move plates around, built a bigger stove, and (being the safety conscious guy that he was) installed a gigantic automatic sprinkler system that he had designed. Had it all worked, Leonardo would have been assured of patronage for the rest of his career. However, Murphy's Law struck. Sforza's regular kitchen staff weren't trained to create the elaborate dishes that Leonardo had designed. So, the maestro invited a few of his artist buddies to help out. When those friends informed others of the need for assistance, they came as well. Before long, there were well over a hundred people crammed into the kitchen. The conveyor system malfunctioned. The stove created too much heat. When the stove caused a small fire, Leonardo's sprinkler system worked better than he expected. It put out the fire alright, but it also flooded the kitchen! The entire event was a disaster.

Thomas Edison (a Renaissance Man in his own right) also had a number of great failures. Contrary to popular belief, he didn't invent the light bulb. That honor goes to Sir Humphrey Davy, over a half century earlier. What Mr. Edison did do was to invent a more practical, commercially manufacturable incandescent light bulb. The process wasn't easy. After over two hundred unsuccessful attempts, Edison finally found one that worked. When asked about how long it took, Edison famously responded that he didn't fail two hundred times, what he did was to invent two hundred ways not to make a light bulb.

What kept these two brilliant men going despite all of these perceived "failures"? While nobody can say for sure, there is something that stands out as being the most likely reason. Both da Vinci and Edison knew that failure does not exist. Read it again. FAILURE DOES NOT EXIST. How can that be? Da Vinci nearly burned down his patron's kitchen and flooded it. Edison took years of unsuccessful attempts to develop his light bulb. Don't those things count as failures? It all depends on the frame from which you look at it. In any situation, there are any number of possible outcomes, but they all fall into one of two categories: success and not success. What happens when you don't succeed? Conventional wisdom is that you fail. The conventional wisdom is wrong. When you don't succeed, you learn. Then, when you apply what you've learned, you are more likely to succeed the next time around. That's how Edison did it. When one design didn't work, he tried something else. Sometimes he tweaked one of the variables and sometimes he had to do a complete overhaul of the system. Each attempt ultimately led him closer to success.

Looking back to the gentleman in the coffee shop, what's the worst that could have happened to him? She could have looked at him and said "I don't think so." She could have walked off without saying anything. Most likely though, (if she responded negatively) she would have politely dismissed him and possibly blushed a little. Would the young man have looked like a fool? In his eyes, he may, but anybody else who saw would commend him for the courage to even approach her.

You are capable of nearly anything that you put your mind to. You can approach the woman in the coffee shop. You can pick up a martial art. You can become a painter. Imagine where we would be today had da Vinci considered himself a failure after flooding Sforza's kitchen. Imagine where we would be today if Edison had given up his quest after one, or ten, or a hundred, or even two hundred unsuccessful attempts. The road to excellence is paved with unsuccessful attempts, lessons learned, and adjustments made. Saying "Failure is not an option," is far too simple. Failure does not exist.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Guest Article: Nice Guys vs. Good Men

As a special treat, today we have a guest article from Scot McKay. Without further ado:

We know that "Nice Guys" tend to end up in the dreaded "Just Be Friends Zone". But that doesn't stop women everywhere from claiming that's what they really want in a man. So what's the deal here?

As often seems to be the case, the true answer is a disarmingly simple one. "Nice" behavior by a man in and of itself is not what differentiates "keepers" from the "rejects" in the minds of women. To the contrary, it's all about HOW the man presents himself.

Make no mistake, it's not necessarily the I/Js (Idiot/Jerks) who get women-ESPECIALLY the highest echelon of women. Being "good" or "bad" in and of itself is NOT the key, despite what you may have heard elsewhere. In fact, being a "bad boy" is at best a quick-fix for getting some women…any women who'll take him, as long as she's "hot".

Whether they are "good" or "bad", it is my informed and therefore strong opinion that guys rarely if ever get tossed into the "friendship" pile if they have succeeded in any way, shape or form at creating ATTRACTION. Sure, there's the rare instance when a truly sharp woman recognizes that a guy is flat-out no good for her despite her overpowering desire for him, but let's face it-that wasn't a GOOD MAN she was dealing with anyway. And you know by now that we LOVE truly sharp women around here.

So here it is: The difference between a genuinely good man who ATTRACTS women and one who ultimately does not is centered around from what position he is coming from in performing his "good guy" behavior. Men who act "nice" from a position of WEAKNESS end up rejected. Men who are in a position of STRENGTH, yet who treat women well often make women so crazy for them that they have more options than they can handle.

As always, I'm happy to break it down for you. Here are some key differentiators between "nice guys" who finish first and those who…well…don't.

THE NICE GUY WHO FINISHES LAST (Having Come From A Position Of Weakness)…

1) …Capitulates To Women's Whims. "Yes Dear." "Whatever you want, honey". Men only say this to avoid conflict (at best) or (at worst) because they pathetically think that their efforts will somehow impress a woman. Women smell insincerity a mile away. Sorry.

2) …Is Afraid To Lose The Woman He Is With. Therefore, they literally bend over backwards not to "upset" her or say the wrong thing. Despite the obvious desperation involved here, arguably the most unattractive aspect of all this to a woman is how BORING it is.

3) …Has Zero Leadership Ability. Guys often hear that "if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy". So the thought process is geared toward letting them make decisions and letting them get what they want. Unfortunately, women have a level of respect for a man that correlates to his level of leadership in a relationship. Zero leadership equals zero respect…which, logically, equals zero second dates.

4) …Lacks Confidence. If you are worried she won't like you she probably won't. And similarly, if you act "nice" because you haven't the courage to stand up for yourself, she'll likely walk all over you…disgusted by every second of it.

5) …Has Thinly-Veiled Ulterior Motives. Nobody likes to be "brown nosed" or "buttered up". There is no more blatant display of viewing a woman as a purely sexual object than to go overboard being "nice". She knows, you know and the rest of the world knows you wouldn't be so "nice" if she wasn't so sexy. Consider how weak this appears to a woman. End of story.


THE GOOD MAN WHO WINS (Having Come From A Position Of Strength)…

1) …Treats ALL WOMEN Well, Regardless Of Sexual Attractiveness. Guys, take this test for yourself: Do you open doors for ALL women, or only for the ones who look good. If the latter, don't be so shocked that your dates slot you in the JBF zone so much. Your "nice" behavior is all about manipulating women into giving you what you need. Start appreciating women more genuinely, and you will begin to be more genuinely appreciated. Is this really so difficult to get?

2) …Is Not Focused On "Getting Some". Sex-starved men stay hungry. Men without pressing sexual needs cause women to feel more comfortable in their presence. Ironically, women who are comfortable around a man are more attracted…and ultimately more sexual. So the pattern operates.

3) …Takes Charge. Such a man does not sheepishly ask a woman her preference and thereby let her dictate the flow of a date. A Good Man has paid attention and learned what makes the woman tick. When the date comes, he has the plan completely handled. At the end of the evening, the woman is often flabbergasted at how "perfect" her evening full of surprises was. But the Good Man with leadership ability knows it was all no accident.

4) …Has Options. Therefore, he succeeds in causing the woman he is with feel to particularly valuable and special. She views herself as the "winner", and rightly so. Other women want this guy, but she is with him. That feeling is a good one to have. If a man can inspire a woman to feel valuable OR special he's on the right track, but getting both right is an unbeatable combination. By the way, contrast this scenario with the weak man's cavalcade of compliments and/or gifts designed to help him somehow manipulate a woman's attraction.

5) …Has High Standards. This means the man is EVALUATING the woman he is with rather than attempting to impress her. He has complete control over his dating life, and as a good man is confident enough in his character to realize that women worth his time and effort will recognize that and be impressed without his having to press the issue.

Once again, men have been brainwashed in this culture into believing that all male behavior is bad behavior. Yet, women continue to seek out real men. The tragedy is that most men have either given up on being good men entirely and gone to the I/J "dark side", or they wallow around in an asexual virtual mudpit of being too "nice". Either way, the casualty is that magically gallant true masculinity that women STARVE for.

Come on, guys…get it figured out and go get the amazing woman you deserve. Ladies, keep the candle burning. We're busy around here building the population of real men for you. Will you be ready when you finally meet one?

Scot McKay's dating strategies for those who refuse to settle for anything less than the ULTIMATE relationship are found at: Stop by right now and grab a FREE e-book ($20 value) when you sign up for the X & Y Communications Newsletter, which is always packed with unique and practical dating tips.

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Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Technology has Affected the English Language

We live in a society where communication happens faster and in a greater variety of forms than any previous generation could have ever imagined. Twitter, text messaging, email, Facebook, MySpace, instant messaging, and cell phones didn't exist as few as twenty-five years ago. Though Mandarin Chinese is the most widely spoken language in the world (an estimated 1.1 billion speakers), English is both the second most widely spoken (estimated 480 million speakers) as well as the fastest growing language. The combination of this rapid, short communication and a growing number of English speakers begs the question, how is the language affected by this?

Do know know what BTWITIAILW/U means? How about STPPYNOZGTW? What about my personal favorite SSEWBA? This is what limited character communication has forced the English language to become. Is this a bad thing, or is it just a natural extension of our times?

Up until a few weeks ago, I would have said that text messaging is causing a degradation of the language into this Bollywood version of the real thing. I would lambaste it for hours and think of all sorts of great insults to hurl at what is happening to my native tongue. Then I thought to myself: "Why am I being so negative about this? Certainly there has to be some positive thing that is happening here, and I'm just not prepared for it or understanding it fully." See, when I was still in college I spent a year being a TA. I got to know my students pretty well, and one of the things that shocked me was how poorly a decent number of them understood English. Proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure weren't a part of their writing. For some unexplainable reason, this really angered me. I felt insulted. How dare these kids think they can get away with such poor writing? Didn't they learn any better from their teachers? Didn't they learn better from their parents? At the time, I just let it go and forgot about it.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I started to try looking at the change of English in a positive light. A good friend of mine sent me a link to this TED talk from Erin McKean on the purpose and changing definition of the dictionary. It really changed how I looked at the dictionary as well as how I looked at the English language as a whole. What I came to realize is that I was creating a ham butt problem. For those unfamiliar with the analogy, allow me to explain.

A woman is cooking a ham for her family. As she's preparing it, she cuts off butt end of the ham and tosses it, just as her mother taught her to do. Her kids ask her why she cuts off and throws away the ham. She replies that it's what her mother taught her to do, so she calls up her mother and asks why she cut off the piece of ham and threw it away. The woman's mother says that her mother cut off the ham butt and threw it away. So the mother calls up the grandmother to inquire. The grandmother says "I had to cut off the ham butt so that it would fit in the pan that we had to cook it in!". So here is a woman, two generations down the road cutting off and throwing away a perfectly good piece of ham because her grandmother's pan was too small! It wasn't that there was a problem with the ham, the problem lied in the size of the pan.

As the English language grows and new words are created (look at the entirety of Twitter lingo as an example) our pan needs to grow to accommodate it. The secret here for those of us grammar nerds is that while new words are constantly invented and defined, grammar, sentence structure, and spelling do not change. The word "you" is now, and will forever be spelled with three letters. Is it acceptable to use "u" as a replacement? I suppose it's ok in context. In a text message where you must convey a lot of information in few characters, it's acceptable. However, a problem arises when people are unable to distinguish between situations where textspeak is appropriate and those when full and proper English should be used. As a TA, I came across a number of papers that looked more like logs of text messages than an academic endeavor. This all leads up to the story that inspired this post in the first place.

My fiance's older sister recently decided to try out online dating. Some people may scoff, but I don't. Online dating is a perfectly legitimate method through which to meet new people for the potential of starting a relationship. Here's the really interesting part: in her profile, she specifically states "If you are incapable of spelling the word "you" with more than one letter, please don't contact me, you're wasting your time." Now this is primarily just an example of a great lack of observance on the part of the guys, but it's also a great example of how our every day language has been impacted by text messaging. Here's a pretty typical example of some of the responses she's received: "ey r ya ...since i dont want to wait for long time, i made the first move ....i liked ur profile ...congrats on getting new job". What type of image does that type of writing give to the woman on the other end? Certainly not that of a man who is well educated and has a functioning knowledge of the English language. My initial impression was that he sounded like a fourteen year old girl.

It's about time that I offer some advice. In any interaction, start with full and proper English and then follow the lead of the woman. Even in text messages (which I advocate using only to convey facts such as "I'm running late") do your best to avoid over using acronyms and shortened words. While this may sound somewhat contrary to the idea of the Renaissance Man, the the Modern Renaissance Man understands that we live in a time where the total volume of human knowledge doubles every few years. The pan must continue to expand to fit the ham, but we must simultaneously refuse to allow the English language to degrade rather than to expand.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Man Cycle: Tips to Getting Back to Peak Performance.

Trying to find a guy who was unaware of the sinusoidal nature of women's hormones and the dreaded "week where every day is Monday" is a pretty difficult task. It's just a part of reality and anybody who doesn't accept it as such is nothing less than ignorant. The important question though is this: "Are men and women so different that men don't experience a similar rises and drops in emotions?"

While I'll never say that men have the slightest idea what it's like to be a woman, we are much more alike than most people give us credit for. If you were to plot out the emotional levels of both men and women, there's one thing that you'd notice right away. Nobody is immune to nature. Zoom in to a month-long span of time and it's pretty clear that a man's plot looks just as much like an EKG as a woman's does. Why is this? Well, unlike women, a man's emotional level is more tied to things like Michigan State's performance in the NCAA Championship Game or an unfortunate stubbing of the big toe while drunkenly stumbling across the living room than to hormonal cycles.

Sometimes when you're up, you're up. We've all had those times where we feel like we can't be beat. You can speed for days and not see a single police car. You catch a straight flush on the river. Women approach you at the bar and every light is green. This is the time to go double or nothing on the sports bets with friends, buy a scratch lotto ticket, and go for the big promotion. The wise man recognizes that this won't last forever though, and doesn't bet his kid's college fund on the long shot pony to win.

Sometimes when you're down, you're down. It never fails that sometime after the unbeatable feeling comes one of being unable to win. The ketchup packet explodes over your favorite shirt and tie. You get a ticket after running a light you could have sworn was yellow. Grocery carts are magnetically attracted to the fender of your new car. You can't find the words to even say your name to a woman you're attracted to, less likely try to set up a date with her. Again, the wise man knows this won't last forever, and doesn't let it get to him. But the question on everybody's mind is: how do we get out of the slump when we're there?

Just acknowledging that a slump happens and not doing anything to get out of it is accepting defeat. While there's nothing that can be done to instantly come out of a slump, there are a number of things that you can do to help turn the tides in the other direction. So here's a list of my top five Slump Breakers to do the next time that you're having one of those days.

  • Do your "million dollar man" routine. If you woke up one morning knowing that you would get a promotion, win the lottery, and meet the woman of your dreams all in one day, how would you prepare? You most certainly wouldn't throw on a pair of sweat pants and a hockey jersey and head out without bothering to shower or shave. Get up with your alarm. Don't hit snooze. A man performing at his best doesn't burn daylight by hitting snooze. Turn on lights as soon as you step out of bed, it will help you to wake up. Take a nice hot shower. Clean every inch of your body. Shave. Clip your finger and toenails. Brush your teeth. Put on something that makes you feel great. I've worn a great shirt and a tie on days that I don't have a single thing planned for no other reason than it allowed me to wear cashmere over it, and I love how a good cashmere sweater makes me feel. If you insist on checking your email before you leave the house, do it now. Make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and sit in a comfortable chair while drinking it. Don't turn on the TV or fire up your computer or cell phone. The only things you're allowed to do while having your beverage are breathe, enjoy the sun if it happens to be out, relax, and savor your tea. Only once you've finished are you allowed to leave the house for the day.
  • Treat yourself. There's a reason why women generally like to shop. Acquiring new things feels great. Now don't go buying a new BMW, but how about that new DVD or video game that you've been looking at? Splurge and get the double mocha at Starbucks instead of the single.
  • Exercise. It's been proven more times than I can count that physical exercise releases all kinds of good chemicals in the brain. While you're at it, give somebody a hug, another thing proven to release the happy chemicals. But please, wait until after the post-workout shower to hug someone. Nobody wants to hug a guy who's smelly and sweaty.
  • Take in a movie alone. Every guy needs some time alone once in a while. Don't worry about thinking you look silly sitting there alone. Go to a matinee. Most early shows have few people in the theatre, and in a small town, you may even come across the holy grail of movie spectatorship: the empty theatre.
  • Fake it. Your body programs your mind just as much as your mind programs your body. Even if it's uncomfortable at first, lift your head and chest. How do you carry yourself when you're at peak performance? Duplicate that. By replicating the posture and poise of a person who's at the top of their game, you can trick your brain into releasing those ever important positive chemicals and into feeling like you're the best there is.

The Modern Renaissance Man is tuned in to his Man Cycle. He can tell a slump before it hits, and can pick out a crest on the rise. The secret is that by doing these things, we can make our adjustments early and spend more time enjoying the ride of life and less time trying to stay above water.

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Every Modern Renaissance Man is a Modern Gentleman

Today, let's do something different.

I'm debuting a new feature here on the Ponderous Pontifications blog.

Every so often (looking at the first Thursday of every month) there will be a book review posted. While I could make this easy on myself and review common fiction like Twilight, we will be reviewing books that will provide some kind of use for you in your quest to become the best person that you can.

Originally, I was planning on using some contrived rating system where I would rate the book in several categories, and calculate an aggregate score, but that wouldn't be nearly as useful as a more in depth analysis on why the book is worth your time.

Enough with the explaination. Let's begin.

I've already mentioned the first book to be reviewed in a previous post. The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy, & Vice is co-authored by Phineas Mollod and Jason Tesauro and is available from 10 Speed Press.

I'll spare you the standard review material and head straight for more substantial material. Though, I can't move on without commenting on how well designed the book is. It looks like a worn, fabric covered handbook that you'd expect to see covered in dust in your grandfather's attic, complete with detailed pictures with the classic labeling of [fig. a] etc.

Written as a true handbook, you can open it to any page and begin reading. Unlike most etiquette books that have to be read from cover to cover, you can read a few pages of The Modern Gentleman between meetings or classes, or even leave it in the restroom for some reading material for those...personal moments.

The book begins: "A man may possess expensive duds, slick wheels, and a tongue to match, but these are not the prerequisites of a gentleman. ... A student of the classics and a pilot of the new, he recommends sizzling reads, pays his gambling debts, mans the grill, and curbs his dog." Though this is no tome, the roughly novel lengthed book contains twelve chapters all tying back to this main theme and leaves no stone unturned.

Collectively, the first three chapters deal with social events and include a number of great pieces of advice. How much is enough or too much to tip? Chapter 1 explains the protocol for tipping in every possible occasion "Not sure what to tip the sommelier? Wouldn't a steward with shrewd recommendations also like a small taste?" What's the proper mix of personalities for a night on the town with the guys? Let Chapter 2 take care of it for you. How do proper gentlemen woo the women in their lives? What's the best way to arrange guests for s small dinner party? Both of these questions are answered in depth in Chapter 3.

Part Two of the book (The Inner Gentleman) deals with the internal factors of becoming a modern gentleman. With advice on topics ranging from Literature, Profanity & Vulgarity, and the infamous Man Cycle (more on that later) to Tattoos, Hygiene, and The Gentleman's Bedroom, this section is where the modern gentleman really shines. While the outward actions of the first section and the private matters of the later sections are a great foundation and icing on the cake, the meat of the issue is contained in these eighty-three pages.

If The Modern Gentleman were published when I was a child, Part Three would be what I read under the sheets late at night via flashlight. Though they discuss topics no man should be ashamed to address, these are the topics for your pre-pubescent younger brother. Chapter 7 focuses on the vices of a manly existance, from Spirits and Working With a Hangover to Drugs and Card Playing, every aspect of a guy's night out is addressed. The remaining two chapters of this section address all things sex and how the modern gentleman handles himself when trouble arises.

Parts Four and Five while relevent to all men, really stick their heads in things once you've hit a level of savvy worthy of GQ magazine. Part Four addresses all issues regarding travel (including the magic formula of how many items of clothing to pack) and Part Five brings the Ceremonial Gentleman to the forefront, beginning with answering machine etiquette and ending up with tips on being a good husband.

To quote the end of the introduction: "The Modern Gentleman is an attainable character, not larger than life, but exactly the size of it. ... However, there is a plateau more desirable than Hollywood perfection, a level of gallantry that makes you stand out, even in the elevator. Perhaps it's as simple as remembering first names or including the shy in on a conversation for a change. So knot up your ascot, pour a glass of cherry, and dim the lights: your Man Cycle is peaking."

The most important, life-altering concept that I picked up from reading The Modern Gentleman is the Man Cycle. Come back Tuesday for a full post about it, and what it means to you.

Overall, The Modern Gentleman is a great read and should adorn the bookshelf of anyone who aspires to be The Modern Renaissance Man. Swing on over to Amazon and pick up a copy.