Saturday, June 30, 2012

Quit the Bull@$#! 30 Day Challenge

WARNING: This is not a feel good motivation post. It contains explicit language and serious advice.

At the time of this post we are 7 months into the year. That's 181 days since you made that New Years Resolution. By the way, hows that going for you?

Let's cut to the chase, for the last 4344 hours you've been bullshitting. All the tough talk about changing things up and taking charge isn't fooling anyone.
Some of you have even have gone as far as to make you declarations public, not knowing this actually makes you less likely to follow through.

Keep it 100% with yourself. What you've been doing for the last 7 months isn't working.

Now is the time to quit the bullshit.  Let's try something different for a change.

Problem 1: “I have a degree I don’t use and work a job I hate but I heard unemployment for 20-somethings is like 40%, so I could be doing worse.”

Ummm no. Considering the number of resources you've been provided, you should be doing more.

Reality: You’ve been afforded more privileges and opportunity than any of your ancestors. You live in the safest period in the history of civilization. Never has there been so much information so readily available for FREE. You can sit in on lectures from Ivy League schools like Harvard, MIT, Stanford from the comfort of your couch. Not to mention technology has all but removed the six degrees of separation granting you access to great thinkers and trailblazers.

All this at your disposal and the cards stacked in your favor, yet last spring all I saw was this.
A bunch of hipsters with their student loan debt around their neck, complaining about how they were forced to be a philosophy major and take 6 years to complete their degree.

All this victimhood talk from the top 1% of the planet.

Let's be real with ourselves. A large part of our current circumstances are a direct reflection of our choices. Take the economy for an example, a thing that has never been in anyones control,  the economy has never been in your control, it is now blamed  as if its sole purpose is to benefit you.

This self defeating jump in logic neglects one of the key concepts in getting ahead. You must first plan like a successful person before you can begin to act like one. Deflecting blame onto something that has never been in your control, while ignoring the number of tools you have access to is ass backwards.

Part of planning is thinking ahead and strategizing. Put yourself on the stand and cross examine your most recent failures and successes. What could you do differently, what will you do next time.

So often blame is put on something else when we ourselves are at fault. Acknowledging and moving on from the conclusions reached through the self-examination will aide you tremendously in looking ahead and preparing for success.

Problem 2: "This is it! I'm for real this time, I'm gonna try it the exact same way but with like way more enthusiasm and motivation.

Word? Hit me when you see some results.

Reality: Quit being so damn mean! No, not in the traditional definition of the word mean  but in the mathematical sense. You're average. You're a regular dude, with average ambition and drive. Unfortunately you live in a society that values achivement (supposedly) and (symbols of) success. More about these in a future post.

Equally average are your peers. You all talk about average shit and get average results. Small victories make you feel good because you compare yourselves to the lowest common denominator.

Average people don't speak in specifics. They use words like "maybe", "probably" "sometime" and "usually" when describing their goals. It should come as no surprise that they only "sometime" get what they "usually" want but "probably" not. (See how  I did that?)

Solution: Develop a gameplan. Try hacking your habits by creating and tracking a productive one and breaking a non-productive one.

1. Download "Don't Break the Chain" on your iPhone or Android and plan for adopting a new productive habit like waking up 30 minutes earlier each day or spending time reading a book instead of surfing the web before bed.

2. Try breaking a non-productive habit while working on your new productive one. Doing both concurrently will yield superior results. Can you imagine having more time everyday to accomplish stuff that actually matters.

3. Track your progress with the productivity app "Don't Break the Chain" by marking off the days you complete. Try and go 30 days without missing a day. Repetition is the key to making a habit stick. Motivation will only get you so far. The goal is to effect behavioral change by implementing a system. The system will keep you honest when your motivation begins to wane.

3. Set reminders/alarms to keep you accountable and  specific checkpoints to track your progress.

DON'T tell everyone what you plan on doing. STFU and just do it. The proof is in the pudding, not your tweet or Instagram pictures.

The Final Step

You're probably feeling really motivated right now. Some of you may plan on starting the "Quit the Bullshit" 30 day challenge next week. If this is you, don't wait until the right day. Start shaking things up NOW.
Putting things off until the right time is procrastination. It makes you feel good for the moment but nothing beats finishing the real thing so start immediately.

Let's finish the year strong by destroying old ways of thinking and developing news of doing. Get to work!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Social Influence Primer: Lessons from the Pros

As LeBron James answered questions from the press about the journey to his first championship I couldn't help but think of  the importance of William Wesley. If his name doesn't sound familiar thats purposelly so. "Worldwide Wes" as he's known in many circles keeps a notoriously low profile.

So low in fact that Henry Abott of True Hoop blog launched a journalist investigation into what he actually does. GQ even went as far as to ask if he is "The Most Powerful Man in Sports?".  One thing that isn't questioned is his ability to penetrate the tight inner circles of NBA superstars and his influence in the world of sports and business. Seemingly working for everyone and no one at the same time Wes represents a new kind of social engieer.

Providing purposeful connections, with no apparent ulterior motive. I highly recommend you read both articles in order to get the most from this particular post.

How does a guy whose name isn't Phil Knight or David Stern manage to be involved in so many deals with elite athletes? Wes' rise to power is an amazing experiment in demonstrating social value, influence and utility. Here's how to leverage your own strengths in a similar fashion.

Infiltrate and Create Value

If there is one thing to know about social groups is that they are always in a state of influx/outflux. Members are constantly being introduced and removed as the group seeks to keep equilibrium with changing norms, values and goals. Many outsiders fail to make it pass the introduction phase because they come off as awkward, desperate and irritating.

Simply put, they don't bring anything new or useful to the table. Being interesting, charming,  or witty won't get you far unless these skills are considered useful to the group dynamic. A great example from Worldwide Wes was his time spent as a sales rep at Pro Shoes, a sneaker store that many college hoop stars frequented for the latest kicks.

Any salesman will tell you the importance of understanding your customer and providing value. Demonstrating value can be done in a number of ways;  niche expertise, connections, discounts, etc.

Developing relationships with soon to be millionaires while they are just hundred-aires and nurturing that relationship was key. Ask yourself this, on your last night out at a dinner party , what value did you actually bring?

-Did you introduce two strangers who share the same interests and passion, ultimately providing a solution through the connection?

-Did you make any new contacts, exchange info and follow-up?

or did you talk to the same people about the same stuff that you always do and post instagram photos of your dish?

Understanding a Powerful Social Concept: Implied Reciprocity
Social groups are alot like balance sheets, meaning there are assets and liabilites. Those deemed as assets get the invites to the parties, trips, job promotions, etc. You can imagine what happens to people who are considered liabilites. Non-returned calls, avoidance and ultimately ex-communication from the group.

One phrase that is repeated from the likes of LeBron and others when asked about their relationship with Wes is, "He never asked for anything".  Let's consider that for a moment.....

Professional athletes for the most part are young, super-rich, famous and are constantly pusued by an army of attorneys, jewelers, family members, friends and women all chomping at the bit for a piece of the action. Naturally they are on guard to any outsiders and keep those outside the core group at arms length. Trust is paramount whenever millions are involved.

Chances are you've been out to a nightclub and have witnessed the long lines at the door. Would be patrons desperately bargain with the promoter or doorman about the entry fee, bottle prices and guest list.

Meanwhile inside the club you witness equally desperate women trying to shimmy their way to the nearest table for a free drink.

Both of these sets are social pariah. Hopelessly looking for a shortcut and hookup while providing nothing in return. Do not let this be you!

The key difference that will prevent you from falling in this group is that you will under promise and over deliver. That's it.

Talk a small game but bring HUGE results.

Taking  a page from the pros, you should be actively downplaying your ability, then unleashing it at the most oppurtune time. You can see this strategy deployed when someone offers that just in time referral that leads to something that benefits all parties involved.

There's an ancient Sicilian motto that goes, "Don't do favors, accumulate debts."  The pessimist will look at it as manipulative, the socially intelligent will recognize it for what it actually suggests.

Be selfless, giving, and unassuming. Expect nothing in return for your efforts but understand that the value you provide others will return to you ten-fold.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Black Table Syndrome

Disclaimer: This post is inspired by How to Rent a Negro, a hilariously satirical book about good intentioned but completely naive people who in an effort to broaden their own horizons, play into stereotypes and prejudice.

First, lets start with taking a look at your Facebook. Click on Friends and then scroll down your friends list starting at A, working all the way down to Z. Notice a pattern emerging? If not, you can stop reading here.

However, when examined closely you’ll probably see that the majority of your friends or co-workers share three or more things in common. Often these things are locale, age and race. I, myself am not immune to this categorization. When doing this exercise the majority of my “friends” on Facebook were of similar background. We can’t all possibly like the same kind of music and the same sports, can we? It’s creepy but true.

How did this happen? Surely, in the age of post-race America (sarcasm), we have progressed further than the “Black Table” in high school to a more collective and diverse peer group. The grim truth is, “The Black Table” still exists, as does the Jock Table, Popular Table and so on. And it isn’t just high school cafeterias where this is prevalent. Examine your own relationships, how diverse is your network, community, or place of employment? If everyone around you looks, sounds and thinks the same it is due time for you to expand your horizons.

Often times we are apprehensive about meeting new groups of people. This is the dilemma and plot in How to Rent a Negro. So frozen by fear and ignorance, people actually answered a fictitious ad that proposed to rent well-spoken African-Americans for parties, business events and social gatherings. Don’t let this fear paralyze you from creating organic relationships with others who don’t share your immediate background. Challenge yourself to try new things. Start by saying yes to the foreign, the strange and unfamiliar. As the old folks say, experience is the best teacher.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Man and His Barber

Having just watched Good Hair, the Chris Rock  documentary on the $9billion black hair care industry, I began to think about my own relationship to this very complex system.  Being a man of color, the need for hair care products is minimal. Shampoo, Sportin' Waves pomade, Luster's Pink Moisturizer, and a brush to keep the waves flowing.  All tools in my grooming arsenal, easily replaceable and cheap. The biggest expense and most valuable is my barber. Whomever it may be at the time; a cousin, neighbor, co-worker, friend (and that one time in 7th grade, my mom), regardless the end result the experience is the same. I always leave the chair feeling better than when I sat down. 

It has been well documented that barbershops are pillars in the black community. Bastions for lively conversation on politics, sports, women, fashion, etc, part debate hall, part sanctuary.  I can't recall ever having a boring time at a barbershop. Where else can you find businessmen, politicians, street hustlers and athletes alongside  common folk on a Saturday morning? More important than the atmosphere of shops are the barbers themselves. 

I've gone through plenty of barbers for a number of reasons, be it money or time restraints, location, or quality of cut. But the one thing that remains the same is that barbers provide more than just grooming services. And today's gentleman can learn a thing or two from todays barbers. Many times barbers act as stand-in therapist, a listening ear for things you'd otherwise keep to yourself. Their non-judgmental insight allows for an exchange of information that we don't readily share with our spouses or friends. Not all barbers possess this trait as some are prone to gossip but you know the ones that are. As a gentleman, discretion is key.

Another trait that is common amongst barbers that should be adopted by todays gentleman is the ability to perform ones craft exceptionally and consistently.  As a barber you can't have an "off day" like an athlete who has a rough game. No, we hold our barbers accountable to provide a superior quality of service regardless of time or energy. And if you've had the same barber for any length of time you take notice that he/she delivers, all the time, every time. The gentleman should hold himself to such standards as well. 

So take a cue from the person you've consulted before every big life moment. You sought out their services prior to the first date with your future wife and before that dream job interview you landed. They haven't let you down yet and as 21st century gentleman you can utilize their traits of discretion and consistency as your own.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Most Charming Man in the World

You've undoubtedly seen the Dos Equis commercials with a grey haired fellow whose lifestyle is so carefree, adventurous, and dangerous that he's been dubbed the Most Interesting Man in the World.
Surrounded by beautiful women, the Dos Equis man ends each commercial with a bit of gentlemanly advice.

What if I told you that such a man once existed. His name, Porfirio Rubirosa and his lifestyle is the stuff of legend.

Some gentlemen are scholars, others warriors, Porfirio Rubirosa was of a different breed. Meet the Playboy Gentleman.

Rubirosa, or Rubi to those in his inner circle, was a notorious playboy, dapper diplomat and nightlife personality. Without having ever held a real job, Rubirosa financed his jet setting lifestyle by seducing and wedding the world's richest women. His other interest included race car driving, treasure hunting and polo (the sport, not the brand).

The exploits of Rubi are plenty, and his charm irresistible to women. Honing his skills in Paris nightclubs while attending school, Porfirio returned to his native Dominican Republic to study law only to drop out soon after. The son of an army general , Porfirio used this connection to familiarize himself with the soon-to-be dictator "El Jefe" aka Rafael Trujillo. Taken by the young man's charisma, El Jefe appointed Rubirosa as a diplomat and ambassador. In a daring move that could have ended  his life Rubi successfully courted and wed Trujillo's daughter. This would be just the first of five wives.

With an insatiable appetite for new pleasures and thrills Porfirio soon grew bored of his current wife and set his sights on an even bigger catch. Thus came wife Number Two and soon after Number Three. Number Three proved to be the biggest catch of all, Doris Duke, heiress to a $100 million tobacco empire.

Able to speak five languages, fluent in three, and possessing impeccable manners, Rubirosa was a member in many elite circles. How many men can say they chased skirts with the Kennedy's and boozed it up with the Rat Pack?  After one exceptionally wild night out with the The Pack , Sammy Davis Jr., hungover and recovering the next morning saw the ever ready Rubirosa by the hotel bar looking refreshed as ever. When asked how he was still standing after such a crazy night Rubirosa calmly replied, "your job is to be an entertainer, my job is to be a playboy".

Always the opportunist and in need of financing after divorce from tobacco heiress Doris Duke, Rubi quickly wed his 4th wife, another deep pocketed heiress. Although his marriages to super-wealthy women suggest otherwise, Porfirio was not beyond having a rendezvous with a common girl.

His two criteria; she must be beautiful and a good lay.

Many women and even some men secretly hated Rubirosa. The ultimate hedonist, Rubirosa appeared to have it all. He led a decadent life without boundaries or consequences. International playboy or con man? Gentleman or gigolo? How could one man with such a checkered pass seduce, wed and discard women at will? Let's just say he had an "asset" that aided him in his conquest. Or as one of his victims remarked "the guy was hung like a.........

But as if often the case with individuals who live life in the fast lane, Porfirio died much like he lived. After a night of partying in Paris, Rubi took to the road and wrecked his car, dying in the crash. Even in death the guy had style, the car, a Ferrari.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Back to the Basics

One of the most common, if not the most popular New Years Resolution is to get in better shape. The gentleman is not immune to such goal setting as we should all be striving to improve our mind, body and soul. But with so many different workout programs and diets available its easy to get confused and even discouraged from starting a path to fitness.

When looking forward to make changes it is often a wise practice to look back to see what has been effective for others. Whether it be building muscle, losing fat, increasing strength or improving endurance there are some tried-and true methods that have worked for generations. No, these exercises aren't exotic and often don't involve the newest shiny machine in your gym. However, they should be the foundation of any workout program.

Say your New Years goal is to build mass and strength. Nothing beats The Big 3: Bench, Deadlifts and Squats. These 3 exercises release more testosterone than any bicep curl or piece of equipment could ever hope to.

As these old black and white photos of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger show, there's nothing groundbreaking about putting a bar on your shoulders, slapping on some plates and squatting. But that's what worked then and it still works now. The same principles can be applied outside the gym as well. Doing things "the old way" can be rewarding as it often takes practice and skill to master. Technology with all of its advancements has yet to mimmic human determination. The modern gentleman is no technophobe but understands the importance of utilizing lessons from the past in order to accomplish the goals of today.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

What Makes a Gentleman?

There has been much discussion about the appearance of a modern day gentleman on this blog and elsewhere and rightfully so. The dapper appearance and savvy style have garnered much attention and admiration for decades. What isn't nearly discussed are the other facets of the gentleman character. Without any sort of conduct for behavior or purpose in life, a well-dressed man is just that, a well-dressed man, he is not however, a gentleman.

To be a gentleman, in both the historical sense and today, is to aspire to a greater manhood than the average man. Brad Miner in his book Compleat Gentleman: The Modern Man's Guide to Chivalry delves into this philosophy, bringing to light the main components that make up the gentleman.

First, Knights, with their code of honor, can be considered the first gentlemen. Their willingness to defend and if need be, die for the honor of country or fellow citizen is the bedrock of which the rest of gentlemanship is founded upon.

Second, make no mistake, the gentleman is a warrior but he is also a lover. The romantic gentleman was ahead of his time, positioning women as equals not subordinates. The gentleman also has a love of knowledge, which Miner equates to that of a monk. The monk also symbolises restraint, a characteristic that places the gentleman above whims of emotional outburst.

The 21st Century Gentleman isn't only concerned with fashion or style. To be so would be tacky and unbecoming. And while his appearance is the topic of many conversations, it is his deeds that create the most lasting impression.