“Can you hear me now? Good….wait, are you still there?”

Which relationships do you put an effort into? What do you expect from others?

These are questions you should think about when evaluating people in your life. Whether you classify them as close, casual, or professional doesn’t matter (unless they broke your Nintendo Gameboy when you were nine, in which case they’re dead to you). It’s common that people lose touch and are closer to some more than others – but did you ever think about why this happens? Because with a little extra you can keep those relationships that fade to black and reap some potentially great benefits.

What I propose is a Machiavellian-like approach to acquiring, maintaining, and increasing personal relationships with others. In the professional world, this is simply networking on a less intense level. Too often, I see people who are Johnny-on-the-spot with returning phone calls and emails at work but when it comes to family or friends, they’re as scarce as a sober Bostonian on Saint Patty’s Day. Why? With their job it’s “important” and they get paid to do it….but why not put forth the same effort in your personal life with people that matter?


Step 1: Acquiring Relationships

Whether you’re looking for new pals to hang out with or a mentor to guide personal goals, this can be a tough one. Picture moving to a new town or wanting to make your circle of friends larger.

Your main obstacle will be that people like comfort and don’t make efforts to break out of their circles.

It’s the same as selling a product in that you’re gonna need to spark enough interest in them that they’ll wanna shoot the breeze with you later. This is where it’s important to focus entirely on the other person. Ask questions. Have a sincere interest in their interests. I hate to say this but in today’s social media centered world that’s fueled by attention-deficit disorder, the level of self-absorption for most people is at an all-time high.


Step 2: Maintaining Communication

Once you’ve got that seed in the ground, you’re gonna need to keep watering it if you want the plant to flourish. This is where a lot of people fail and potential (or even existing) relationships turn into lost encounters.

 Constant communication is key to any good relationship.

It’s understandable that people get overwhelmed by busy lifestyles: long hours at the office, kids(!!!), a boatload of extracurriculars, or just being that guy that has an obsession with Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. But whether people forget or just don’t realize it, it’s important to maintain regular contact with people – you can’t expect them to call, text, or email you all the time when you’re not reciprocating the effort.

Just a few examples/suggestions:

  • Call your parents and siblings every week or two (you should be doing this anyway)
  • Call or email those best friends from college at least a few times a year to catch up
  • Don’t get in touch with someone when it’s convenient for you. Make time. Because often it’s never “convenient”, things fall to the wayside, and you lose touch.

Step 3: Increasing Bonds

“The only way to have friends is to be one” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is the part that depends more on what you want out of the people in your life. You’ll know better if you want intellectual challenges, emotional support, or just some fun times.

 Just remember it’s a two-way street.

Other people are there to be used as resources but you know what? So are you. Whether you’re a good source of advice, a badass basketball player, or a helluva Scotch drinker, you have a contribution to make as well. The second you start relying on others but flake on them is when you start weakening your bond with them. Selflessness, compassion, integrity. Some good guidelines to live by.

…what’s in it for you

If you can follow these three simple steps, you can make yourself ten times happier and take on any obstacle that comes your way. Stress, depression, and anxiety become small puddles to step over when you have reliable people in your life. Even if you don’t have any problems, having a myriad of great relationships can open doors to spectacular things. Careers, a family, whatever you’ve been hoping for since you were a starry-eyed kid.

We’re here on this earth to enjoy each other and spread good vibes.

Advertisements

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.

A

 

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.

3

“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.”

1

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.”

2

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:

7

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.

1