How to be a Gentleman

Want to learn how to be a REAL man? Here’s a list of habits and knick-knacks you should equip yourself with in your quest to become a gentleman.

gentelman

Patterns for Perfection

  1. Lose the Ego. A gentleman is someone that’s liked by everyone he meets. Why? Because he respects others and stands out in the crowd without being full of himself. Real show-offs are real turn-offs.
  2. Chivalry Is Not Dead. Hold the door open for people. Stand up when a lady leaves the table. The words, “please” and “thank you”, should be part of your everyday vocabulary regardless of whom you’re speaking with. Cut down on using the word “dude”. Not completely though cuz two men can have an entire conversation with just the word “dude”.
  3. Know Your Meats. This isn’t a throwback to caveman days when men were the hunter and brought home the beef. It’s a matter of how most people freaking love meat and a standup guy will know how to cook it. That topic could really be its own book but I’ll start you off with the tip of pressing your nose, chin, or forehead to know if your steak is rare, medium rare, or well done (FYI: never cook a steak well done or I will make you wear a meat suit in the woods).
  4. Drink Whisky and Smoke Cigars Until You Get Liver Cancer (kidding). Please note the spelling for “whisky”. I’m not trying to be a snob here but it’s good practice to know that “whisky” refers to distilled alcoholic beverages originating from Scotland whereas “whiskey” is reserved for the non-Scottish variety (God bless bourbon and rye). Choice of cigar is up to the individual but you can’t beat a good Montecristo No. 2 with its Connecticut style wrapper and signature torpedo shape. Pairs great with a sherry oak Macallan whisky.
  5. Know How to Work with Your Hands. Get off your lazy ass and learn how to fix a garbage disposal. Change a tire. Build a bookshelf. A real man has a “can do” attitude and doesn’t have to rely on someone else very often. (Unless his cell phone dies and he’s being chased by a serial killer.)

Tools for Your Arsenal

  1. Old-Fashioned Shoe Shine Kit. Ever see the movie, Shawshank Redemption? “How often do you look at a man’s shoes?” Maybe that applies to men in prison but nowadays, the way a man dresses says a lot about his character. A solid pair of shoes and proper upkeep is a good starting place. Also, how good was that movie? Right?
  2. A Stylish Watch. Guys don’t have as many ways to accessorize as women do. Shirt, pants, belt, shoes. That’s pretty much it unless we’re wearing a top hat and monocle (“Do not pass GO“). A good quality watch should do the trick. Get a digital watch and I will slap you.
  3. Quality Drinkware. You should have a decent set of tumblers, snifters, and cocktail glasses to serve your guests. It’s not just about appearance. Choice of glassware can actually affect drink temperature, proper aroma delivery, and taste.
  4. A Pair of Leather Boots. Not cowboy boots (unless you’re a Texan or ranch hand) but legit boots for hiking and working outside.
  5. A good grooming kit. Last but not least, a proper gentleman will have everything from an old-school shaving kit to simple product to help make himself a suave operator. If you’re asking me what you should be grooming, that’s way too personal of a conversation I don’t want to have with you.

“Dapper Dan” anyone?

dapper-dan

Buck the Trend

Perspectives change as we age and for the most part it happens for good reason. Having a family means more responsible thinking, focus on retirement means prudent spending, and not wanting life-threatening diabetes translates to no more “40 McNugget Challenges” (this is an actual thing, look it up). For all other changes, I have one thing to say:

Buck the Trend.

Some people are wired to be low key, anti-social, or homebodies their entire lives and that’s perfectly okay – it’s all you other yahoos I’m talking about here. Once we wrap up school, lots of people go from John Belushi style Animal House to what I like to call “Working Man Syndrome”. There are a lucky few who are constantly challenged by their career and love every second of it (like stuntmen, Scotch tasters, and Chuck Norris). For most, however, work is something that passes the time while it drains the energy to maintain the kind of social life you only see in Dos Equis beer commercials.

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Here are some symptoms of Working Man Syndrome

  1. You’re so tired from work you skip exercise more than half the time and pickup beer or wine on your way home.
  2. Rather than planning a night out with friends you often stay in to read a book or watch that trendy show on Netflix or cable. (This brings us to symptom #3 below.)
  3. When you finally do hang out with those friends you haven’t seen in over three months, all you talk about is what happened on the latest episode of that show everyone watches because nobody goes out much and creates fun memories of their own.
  4. The last spontaneous thing you did was order out for dinner to go along with that book or show you’ve been binge watching.
  5. Your idea of keeping in touch with friends is liking their social media posts and commenting on occasion.

The causes of Working Man Syndrome include decreased energy as we age, laziness, and going through the motions of things as a result. What’s the prescription for this?? You guessed it:

Buck the trend.

As I said, some things are meant to change and for good reason. Others just happen out of complacency and those are the things you should smack yourself in the face about. The first thing you need is WILLPOWER. Sure, a lot of that requires having physical energy in order to have mental energy (https://scotchreflections.com/2015/02/14/you-work-out-you-go-out/) but having the attitude to want more fun out of life is key.

But who are we kidding – this is where most people fall short like a kid who packs one pair of underwear for a week long camping trip. The other thing you need is MOMENTUM. Whether that’s a friend or significant other to jump start your coma patient of a social life or blasting your smart phone’s to-do list, you need constant reminders or else you fall back into complacent mode again.

So get out of that boring rhythm and quit being lazy. This goes for single, non-single, parents, and non-parents. I’m not talking about barhopping or clubbing like you did in your early twenties but there are plenty of things you can (and should) be doing that are much more fun than sitting on your couch day after day until all of a sudden you’re eighty years old and regret not having experienced more. Just because everyone else is like that doesn’t mean you have to be too.

Buck the trend and WAKE UP.

The Evolution of Dating As You Age

Dating. One of the most fun and sometimes nerve-racking activities out there. Regardless of whether your end goal is just having a good time or slapping a ring on that finger, strategy is different for each person and changes as they age.

Ever think about YOUR approach to dating? Let’s take a look at how stereotypes change over the years and examples of what not to do.


K-12: “The Wonder Years”

1(If you don’t get “The Wonder Years” reference I should slap you.) This is when kids start to realize they have a thing called “feelings” for other people. Most times, it happens before puberty hits so you may act like an idiot with that special crush but at least you’re not doing it cuz of something in your pants (yet).

Getting a First Date 
Teasing and hair-pulling (yes, this applies to grade school and high school). Impressing the other with brains or brawn (“I don’t know if you heard me counting. I did over a thousand curls.”). Do you remember what you used to do as a kid or teenager?

What NOT To Do
   1) Overdoing it on teasing: In first grade, I sat behind a girl I had a crush on and decided to give her a haircut to get her attention. #Detention #FirstDateFail

   2) Getting too excited: When I was twelve, I finally got assigned the desk next to another crush and ended up puking all over her book bag. I thought it was nerves. Turned out it was flu.

   3) The friendship tip: Became good friends with a girl at another high school and asked her to prom. She excitedly said yes. The night before prom she called sobbing cuz she got back with her boyfriend and couldn’t go with me anymore. #JohnHughesMovieWhat


College to Your Early 30’s: The Real Fun Begins

This is when the playing field really opens up. You’re meeting single people left and right. There are endless parties and barhopping galore. Guys are running around like it’s hunting season and girls are just trying to survive the onslaught. This time of your life is like the attention deficit disorder of dating.

Getting a First Date 
Think about how you started up talking with that interesting someone. Go for the flirty approach? The funny angle? Did you sound like a human Twitter feed spouting off random lines trying to seem cool?

What NOT To Do
   1) Start a conversation by buying them a drink: The one and only time I tried this was epic face-plant. I’m at one end of the bar, she’s at the other. I thought to myself, “What can I lose?” I call the bartender over and ask him to get her another of whatever she’s drinking. Said bartender can be seen walking over to her, serving her another drink, and pointing at me down the way. Said girl leans over the bar, takes one look at me with a blank expression, and proceeds to walk away from the bar. Turns out I lost my pride….oh, and she took the drink with her.

   2) Throwing “play hard to get” back in their face: Sure, you don’t want to come on too strong but don’t do the opposite. I met a girl I really liked, tried hard to get her interested in me, got nowhere so just became her friend. The second I turned it off, she started to2 have feelings for me (so she told me years later). Kind of noticing her change in opinion and not wanting to scare her off again, I played hard to get. She ended up dating one of my buddies instead. #ThisHasHappenedTwiceNow #ImAnIdiot


Your Late 30’s and Beyond: The Pond Gets Smaller

A small sense of urgency. This is when all the wedding invites and baby pictures on Facebook really ramp up the pressure. (Side note: Is anyone else tired of friends posting up endless pictures of their kids, pets, or what they ate for dinner? It’s not that we don’t care but it gets old when they’re doing it 10+ times a week…) Standards drop to the point that an oddly placed mole or lazy eye doesn’t bother you as much on a date. The word of the day is “compromise”, right?

Getting a First Date 
Online dating, getting setup by your friends, hanging out at a coffee house pretending to read a book when you’re actually scoping out people to “bump into”. Where do grown-ups hang out, eh?

What NOT To Do
   1) Trying what you did in your 20’s: Meeting people in bars is tough enough when you’re young. Especially since most people don’t go out to get hit on as they get older and just want to hang out with friends. Don’t be that creepy guy or girl who hovers like a starved dog waiting to attack leftovers on the table.

   2) Ask your friends to set you up: While they’re all good intentioned, your non-single friends somehow develop the idea that you’d be a good match with “such and such” based solely on the fact that you’re both single. The only thing you have in common is that you both have ten fingers and ten toes….or in some unfortunate cases, not even.


what’s your end goal???

First, you’ve gotta make sure you’re dating for the right reasons. Don’t be selfish. Don’t get married just cuz everyone else is getting hitched and you don’t want to end up alone. Being with someone makes things better in life but don’t forget that they’re hoping the same thing from you.

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“You’re so money and you don’t even know it!!”

Second, ignore all that “just be yourself” crap. The first ten or so dates should be treated carefully. It’s like doing your impression of Sloth from “The Goonies” on date #1 as opposed to date #15. Let the other person get comfortable before you weird them out.

Lastly, I’m guessing I’m not the only one tired of all the “dating is like a game” malarkey. “Did I call too soon?” “Should I wait two days?” (Swingers movie reference – a must add to your watch list) Over-think stuff and you’ll end up as a 62 year old hermit living with four dogs, two cats, and a turtle.

The game can be fun if you play it right. Just change up your strategy as your priorities change and keep getting back on that horse.

Best of luck!

Holiday Seasons Are Essentially Gut Checks

….and if we’re talking about the day after Thanksgiving, it means that literally. Zing.1
No, what I’m focusing on here is the time of year when everyone takes a pit stop from the highway called life and does an engine check to evaluate where they are with their level of happiness. (That’s four metaphors so far and we’re only two sentences into this blog entry. Don’t worry, I can do more.) By the way, are you still staring at the “GET IN MY BELLY” gif above? Yeah, me too.

Sure, the main idea is to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Ugly Sweater Parties. But when everyone takes time off from work or school to do this they inevitably switch their brains to a time of reflection.

Here’s my take on random thoughts that go through people’s minds every year:

1) Thanksgiving
     “I am NOT going back for seconds cuz then I’ll need to gym it hard for a month afterwards….ah, screw it.”

2) Christmas
     “What should I ask my significant other for this year? Hmm, an MSPCA commercial is on TV right now….”

3) Hanukkah
     “Should I see if I can get my kids to be okay with one medium-sized gift instead of eight separate ones? It really is a pain in the ass.”

4) Ugly Sweater Parties
     “For Pete’s sake, why is this still a thing? The 80’s are oovvveeerr.”

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Did that guy get a toilet seat for a gift? Awesome.

5) New Year’s Eve
The College Kid: “I hope I make out with at least 4 people and don’t wake up naked outside in the quad again.”

     The Young Professional: “Maybe I can get my crush to make out at midnight….all the dang marriage and baby pics on Facebook are driving me nuts.”

     The Parents with Multiple Kids: “Holy crap, the kids are finally asleep! Let’s get wasted off two glasses of wine and try to stay awake til 10:30pm.”

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Okay, that last section pretty much had nothing to do with what I want to say but it sets the stage for introspection a lot of folks can get into.

holidays give you time to think

When people aren’t partying or gorging themselves with food, holidays give them a chance to break from the routine of work or school to think about where they’re at in life. This can be good and bad.

It’s good when it let’s you spend time with family and friends so you appreciate the hell out of them. Good health, a new Ginsu cutlery set, that puppy you got for Christmas cuz you made your significant other watch that MSPCA commercial (seriously, they’re on 5 times a day). These are things you realize you take for granted and are thankful for. Outcome: Smiley Face.

It’s bad when you focus on all the things you don’t have. Kate Beckinsale as your significant other, a 20-bedroom mansion, the ability to dunk without lowering your outdoor basketball hoop. These are things that will get you down so much that you end up chugging Mountain Dew and eating Cheetos until your gums go numb. Outcome: Frowny Sloth Face.

We have few moments to relax and focus on making ourselves happy. Either figure out ways to up the number of these moments (recommended) or if that’s not possible right now, use the best of your free time to turn “sloth face” into “smiley face”.

And when in doubt, remember this credo:

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Don’t Forget To Breathe

1Take a step back to stop what you’re doing, cut out all the noise, and spend a minute to think about where your life’s at right now. Be grateful for your family. Be grateful for your friends. Be grateful for the good things that’ve happened to you. For those who are less fortunate, always know there are people wanting to help. You only have to shout a bit louder and maybe knock twice since we can be hard of hearing.

“The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.”

The gist of this saying is that we’re constantly given opportunities to make our lives better. It’s just a matter of what we do with those open windows and remembering not to take them for granted. Whether you’re trying to get ahead in your career, meet that special someone, or just trying to make ends meet, the key to staying happy is being grateful for what we’ve got and staying positive while we try to get more.

Take a step back to figure out specific ways to do this and remember to do them on a regular basis. It may be as simple as blocking out ten minutes everyday to think about things that happened, calling someone to shoot the breeze, or stepping outside for fresh air breaks to take in what’s around you. Otherwise, you forget to remove yourself every once in awhile and do some plain old thinking.

Just make sure that you’ve got a healthy balance of the happy and the harsh. If you’re constantly stressed out, depressed, or miserable you’ve got to reassess what’s going on. Is there an end goal that’s good? Is it worth the pain you’re going through? Don’t just go through the motions and live the rest of your life like that – talk to people and make a change.

Then remind yourself that periodic challenges are stepping stones to good ones and that help is always around when you need it. Recognizing this fact will help you become grateful for even the tough times and helps you enjoy the good stuff more deeply.

Now take a step forward and add some happy to your life.

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Who’s the stranger in the mirror?

Someone asks you to tell them about yourself.  How do you respond?  “I am a….”

Lawyer1
Teacher
Architect
Student
Insurance Agent
Engineer

Those types of answers may indicate your occupation but they don’t necessarily paint a picture of who you are as an individual.  Too often, people become absorbed by their careers as they morph into the archetypes of their chosen profession.  Corporate execs that develop huge egos and buy overpriced things that they’ll never use.  Professional wine connoisseurs that smooze with rich snobs at overpriced restaurants.  You can pick these kind of people out by how much they talk about their jobs and nothing else.  The only people that should be allowed to do this are stuntmen, Scotch tasters, and the like.  (For the record, I have friends that’re corporate execs and professional wine connoisseurs that are excellent people.  I was just using the unfavorable extreme stereotypes of those two professions to make a point.  Cheers to you lads.)

Sometimes these behaviors are necessary in order to advance, to succeed professionally.  We make sacrifices in order to achieve our career goals.  Other times, however, people change little by little on an unconscious level until they’re unrecognizable to friends and family.

would the “twelve-year old you” beat you up

for what you’ve become today?

Goals and priorities change as we age but every now and then we need to do a gut check to contemplate whether they’re the right ones.  It’s a bit frightening how easy we succumb to popular trends, peer pressure, and the demands of our occupation without realizing the impacts that they have on our personality.

So step back occasionally and ask yourself if you’re happy with who you’ve become.  If you’re a business manager, be you’re own kind of business manager.  If you’re a salesman, be you’re own kind of salesman.  If you’re the professional caretaker of the Stanley Cup, well sir, you are a badass and should stay that way.

whatever you do in life, make it your own
and don’t sacrifice your values
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New Year Resolutions? Ante up but no bluffing.

photoHappy 2013. With the world predicted to end on 101 different days in the past five years, I’d say a little optimism is in order that we survived. Celebrate what a great year you just had or say goodbye to a bad one and hit the reset button. You don’t need to wait for a new year to start improving yourself but no matter what you do, just keep this in mind:

make realistic goals

All those resolutions are worth half a bag of peanuts if you don’t put forth some genuine effort. It all comes down to self-awareness and willpower. If you’re not willing to make investments in order to be happier then stop reading right here cuz you’re wasting your time. Otherwise, I recommend you check out this 2009 article in The Wall Street Journal that explains why roughly 88 percent of resolutions end up on the back burner year to year. If you’re too lazy to read the whole thing (how ironic), I’ll break it down for you and give you some of my own pearls.

Part 1: Awareness

photo1Awareness is something that everyone has on one level or another. It says why some are great at driving, noticing others’ moods, or picking up a corner blitz on third down. A lack thereof, however, also explains why some people at the market seem like they’re aiming for you with their shopping carts.

Ultimately, a lot of it comes down to mental processing. Genetic makeup may determine how well we see, hear, or smell certain things but a great deal of it has to do with interpretation of those stimuli. There are tens of thousands of bits of information that we absorb on a daily basis but only a handful that grabs our conscious attention.

So if you want to work on fixing a bad habit or start a new project you have to concentrate on your every thought and action. You can say “I need to eat less to lose weight” or “I can finish a marathon if I just run an hour a day for a few months” but you won’t fully accomplish your goal. You need to educate yourself and gather information before you can start the process. Learn about the proper steps. Try to pinpoint what you’re doing wrong. A lot of times, it helps having a friend giving you their observations of what you’re doing. Once you’ve identified your flaws or learned about your new project of interest, you can begin formulating a plan.

Part 2: Willpower

You’ve got a plan now.  Awesome.  That’s half the battle, right?  What’s the other half?  Execution.  I’m talking about mental focus and energy to push you over the edge so you won’t relapse on that diet or promise to quit smoking.

Mental energy is finite and determines how many tasks we can simultaneously execute as well as to what extent.  Ever get that feel of burnout after you’ve been studying or working twelve hours straight?  You can’t focus on anything afterward and just want to head home for shut down.  Stop by the gym on the way home?  HA!  Good luck.

Willpower is dependent on two things: physical health and mental capacity.  Physical health relies on the obvious factors of diet, exercise, and to a certain extent, genetics.  It’ll affect your level of focus and self-awareness (ahem, see section above).  Your brain needs nutrients and energy just like the rest of your body.

Now, mental capacity is something many think is strictly inherent and immalleable.  I beg to differ along with a bunch of nerdy, white coat scientists in the WSJ article that I mentioned.  Let’s say your goal is to memorize a five page, Nobel Prize acceptance speech for inventing a pillow that stays cool on both sides during the summer (When, God, WHEN will this be invented???).  Do you read through the whole thing once, start to finish?  No, Mr. Good Will Hunting.  You divide it up into sections because the mind can only process and hold so many pieces of information at once.

Willpower2

So is what you need to do in order to accomplish major goals that you set out for yourself.  Your brain (and thus your willpower) is similar to a muscle in that it needs exercise in order to build up endurance to maintain focus on difficult and sustained tasks.  As such, one of the reasons that so many New Year resolutions fail is that people try to do everything at once or skip straight to the end.  The key is to take baby steps and gradually lengthen your stride until you hit that finish line.

And, oh yeah.  Avoid distractions. Eliminate temptations.  If your goal is to drop weight, then toss out your junk food and don’t drive past that In-N-Out Burger.  If your goal is to spend more time with your kid, then don’t bring your work laptop with you to the playground.  Depending on what your objective is, a few rewards or exceptions can be made but not if it’s something like smoking a cigar when you’re trying to quit cigarettes.

But if you are up for a stogie, give me a call….just kidding, that was a test.

Did you pass?  Why’s my phone ringing?