Are You Trying to Win Someone Else’s Game?

In my late twenties–days long before marriage, babies and persistently creaky joints–my friends and I would go out on weekends to meet chicks.

Around that time, I had returned to school to finish my bachelor’s degree (in the very practical arts of English). I was working as a head waiter for a catering company–technically a “captain” in the self-important language of cater-ese.

When we went out, I dreaded the “what do you do?” question. I lived in New York City, and thought what I did was not very age-appropriate. 27 year-old’s did things like work at branding firms and develop iPhone apps.

When asked, I would say something like, “Well, I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree in English, because I want to be a writer. I dropped out when I was younger. It’s really cool because I appreciate the chance to learn so much more than when I first went to school. And I work as a head waiter–well, a ‘captain’–at a catering company. It allows me to go all over the city and see cool places and go to fascinating events.”

My voice must have acted as a diuretic because women instantly had to go to the bathroom after I started talking.

There were a couple reasons I was exciting bladders:

  1. I was selling myself. Implicit was that who I was had no self-evident value. If it did, I wouldn’t have to sell it.
  2. I was trying to win someone else’s game. I tried to create a compensatory value for who I was in relation to what I thought 27 year-old’s should be doing–making money, having a career, whatever. In other words, my life + lengthy explanation = lawyer.

These oft used-strategies keep us in the middle management of life–sucking up, hoping for a promotion from our boss, who is often someone we don’t want to be anyway.

After a good spell of swinging and missing at the bars, I realized I was losing hard. I realized that if I wanted to start winning, I’d have to play another game. So I picked the only game I was good at: mine. I looked at what was important to me: my personal evolution, relationships, spiritual life, health, etc. With these things, I was valuable. I was a winner.

When women asked what I did, I started talking about my games, inviting them to play. A funny thing happened: women started holding their bladders. They started selling themselves. They tried to get on my team–telling me how much they do yoga or something (of course, I found these things unattractive).

Sure, many women couldn’t give a shit about meditation or the healing I had done with my mom, but those weren’t the women I wanted to play with. I ended up marrying a chick whose values were aligned with mine–one who would have had nothing to do with the self-justifying loser I used to be.

With these thoughts in mind, consider:

  1. Pick an area of your life where you lack power that involves other people. It could be meeting a partner, your work, athletics, etc.
  2. Where do justify your existence in this situation? Where are your explaining your value rather than being valuable?
  3. Is this situation your, or someone else’s game? Where do you lack ownership of the your life? Keep in mind, even if we’re doing things that seem like someone else’s game, e.g. making a family or practicing medicine, we can make these things ours.
  4. For the day, stop justifying yourself. Stop explaining why you’re valuable. Look for and cut out the self-diminishing things you say to yourself and others. Be valuable, don’t explain it.
  5. Focus on winning your games, not others’. Decide what’s important to you and align your life with those things. Talk about and share those things. Look how it changes your interactions with others. Remember, if it’s not your game, you will fail.

Run Like an Antelope (Out of Control)

I apologize from the outset to readers who are not–or were not–Phish fans. This post might be hard to comprehend. It’s mostly directed at people who, at some point in time in their lives, let Phish into their hearts; who know what it feels like to have nothing outside of Phish matter.

For me, this era lasted from 1993-1997, with its climax occurring during the Red Rocks shows in the summer of 1994.

For the show’s first night, I convinced my buddy Aaron to make the drive down to Morrison. We got a little buzzed on tequila and a couple bowls, and entered the largely empty amphitheater. The concert was mostly songs from their just-released album “Hoist”–an album that marked a steady transition into more conventional music-making. The night was great, but it wasn’t life-altering. That would be the duty of the second night.

The second show was an all day affair. I hooked up with a bunch of heads to tailgate. We had a keg of beer in the parking lot, then ate a bunch of liberty cap mushrooms shortly before the show.

It’s impossible to convey what happened that night. The band was in their experimental-tripped-out glory. The expanse of sky overhanging the prairies visible from the Red Rocks’ bleachers was punctuated by isolated thunderstorms; bolts of lightening seemed to crack on queue with Trey’s guitar. When “Tela” was played, huge gusts blew from beyond the mountains.

A bathroom stop turned into an epic journey in serendipity. In my incapacity, I lost my party and wandered into the upper seats, which were nearly vacant. A shirtless, dreadlocked dude was dancing his ass off with his old woman. Sensing my aimlessness, he said, “Welcome to our lair. Have some of our nectar.” He handed me a jug of fresh pulped strawberry nectar. I have never tasted anything as delicious before or since.

It was a time when anything seemed possible. When oneness with creation was a realistic goal. When 18 minute jams seemed too short. When I knew what they meant when they instructed “Run Like an Antelope, Out of Control.”

Subsequent “adult” experiences have dampened some of my wonder. I bottomed out on drugs and alcohol, oneness was not achieved in relationships, nothing seemed nearly fast enough for me, etc. But I don’t want to dismiss this era as meaningless. While I don’t eat mushrooms or dose anymore (or listen to Phish for that matter), I may have been closer to the truth then than I am now.

For Phishheads and non-Phishheads alike, consider:

  1. What beliefs have you discarded, believing them the products of youthful naivete? 
  2. What ‘adult’ experiences led you to dismiss these beliefs?
  3. Ask yourself: are the adult beliefs any more valid than the youthful ones? Remember, your experience is not an indication of the truth.
  4. Choose one of those beliefs to incorporate into your day.
  5. Take an action around that belief. 
  6. Run like an antelope, out of control.

 

 

What Do You Think of Me?

Self promotion is a funny thing. While most of us are dying for attention and recognition for who we are and what we do, when it comes time to actually show who we are and what we do, we demure. We don’t want to be thought boastful or self-important. We want to wait until our work is ready to put ourselves out there.

The truth is we don’t share ourselves because we don’t want to be judged. We don’t want anyone to question our awesomeness, so we keep it to ourselves, pets and small children. We value maintaining a fragile sense of self–one that cannot withstand scrutiny and judgment–more than contributing something meaningful to the world.

In December, my wife and I got married. We had a novel approach to having a wedding and we wanted to share it. The NY Times covered it and it eventually made its way to Huffington Post and Gawker. The latter website deemed it, “The Most Obnoxious, Do-Good Wedding Ever.”  One Huffpo commenter remarked of the wedding,

It was grotesquely obnoxious. It was taking people who feel socially obliged to attend and shoving your pet ideology down their throats. If you think it was affirming, substitute right-wing fanaticism for this left-wing fanaticism.

You know what? Despite this vitriol, my wife and I are okay. We still got married. The people at the wedding still had a great time. We still believe we helped people rethink weddings and marriage.

Our time on earth is too short to withhold ourselves, guarding ourselves from judgment and scrutiny. The world is going to judge you no matter what. Neither you, nor your work are ready for public display. Fuck it. Show us anyway.

Maybe Someday, Somehow, Someone Will Find Your Treasure

I am at the library, finishing a paper on my laptop when a routine Windows Update pops onto my screen. I am hungry, so I decided to load the update, let it install and reboot while I grab something to eat. I get lunch and when I return the screen is blue–known by many as the “blue screen of death.” Everything was gone: my photos, my paper, my music.

The most devastating thing lost was my creative writing. There was some pretty hot shit on that hard-drive: short stories, personal essays and poems that were very well received on the university workshop circuit. I would submit them one day. Maybe a literary journal would publish them. Collectors would find these early works and see them as the harbingers of literary genius that they were.

But they were never submitted. They were never read outside a classroom. They died a quiet death that day, only the embers of my professors’ praise to indicate their existence.

Some things survived the crash. I had published some stuff for the school’s literary journal and some freelancing jobs. These were the lone records that I had ever written anything. All of my someday-fantasies of being published in the Paris Review were contrasted with the reality of articles published in Exhibit City News, a rag for the trade show industry that my mom had set me up with. It wasn’t glamorous, but it was something.

I learned several lessons out of this incident:

  1. Back up. Duh.
  2. There is no right time or opportunity to put yourself out there. Many of the things I wanted to submit were waiting for me to revise or make them just right. They were ready. I was just scared that no one outside the workshop table would like them. I regret not sharing. Also, while Exhibit City News an the Columbia Observer aren’t the New Yorker, they were something. They were what was available at the time and they were fine. If I had taken more such opportunities, perhaps my writing would have developed faster and been read more widely. Sometimes we forsake many small opportunities laid at our feet for big ones that never comes.
  3. If something is precious, we must give it away. The only things I wrote that survived were the things that were published. The only surviving photos were the ones I gave to others. Giving things away extends their lives. Holding onto things results in atrophy and decay.
  4. Use a Mac.

Is Your Life An Untested Theory?

Last May I wrote about how I got a job. I did not, however, say what the job was. It was with a company called LifeEdited, which, despite its literary name, involves little writing outside of countless emails and occasional copy-writing. We are constructing a new breed of American home, meant to breed a new way of American life. The first apartments are designed to test the idea that people can have everything they need from a home with a far smaller spatial and ecological footprint. The first unit, a 420 sq ft Soho apartment dubbed LE1, is extremely energy efficient, will have great indoor air quality, will be able to accommodate sit down dinners for 12 and sleep 4.

I don’t want to say I BS’d my way into the job, but I confess that when I pitched myself, I speculated, rather than pointed to, my abilities. They needed a Project Manager. I figured I had done stuff before, I had opened Excel spreadsheets, I wrote lists. How hard could it be?

It was a lot harder than I had anticipated. Turns out people go to school and get degrees for project management. Compounding this difficulty was my near complete oblivion of the design, architecture and construction industries.

My lack of skills weren’t my only problem. I knew I couldn’t do something I wasn’t aligned with philosophically. I was an under-qualified, idealist snob.

But I was undeterred by my handicaps. I needed a job pretty bad. I was getting married, running out of money and pretty done with the getting-by way of life I had been living.

And here was a job that had it all. It involved skills I believed I could possess in less than 6 months. It had a mission that brought all my literary aspirations–brevity, intelligence, purpose–into the design and architectural realms. It paid.

There was also an unanticipated benefit: it signaled a shift in my life from being an ideas-based person into a results-based one. I had always been able to construct ideas, but results–things you could touch or point to–were conspicuously absent.

I love ideas, theories and philosophies. Today, my ability to think surely exceeds my ability to make shit happen. But I now realize that tangible results are important–mostly because it’s where ideas, theories and philosophies are tested. Untested ideas, theories and philosophies are like trying to live in a blueprint rather than a home. A blueprint can look great, but unless it can be built, it’s useless (and yes, I know people don’t use blueprints nowadays).

9 months after starting LifeEdited, we are about to complete our first apartment. I’m really excited. To be a part of it, to convert an idea into a home, to make errors, to correct, to edit, to construct, has been an amazing experience, one that enriches and beefs up my thought life.

With these thoughts in mind, here are some things to consider:

  1. Where in your life do you linger too long in abstraction? Perhaps it relates to dating, your work, a spiritual/religious conviction, etc.
  2. Where are you avoiding testing your theory? In other words, where are you avoiding taking action surrounding your theory–e.g. actually dating, taking action to save the environment, being kind/sacrificing, etc.
  3. Start building. Take one action right now to test your idea, theory or philosophy.

 

Stop Waiting for Things to Get Better

My total income last year could purchase a late-90’s Chrysler Sebring convertible.  I tempered this lamentable situation with the certainty that financial providence was right around the corner.  My well-thought-out plan was that Oprah would read my blog and say, “holy shit, how did the world ever exist without David’s prophetic prose?  Get him a book deal and TV show stat.”  Money problem solved.

Perhaps Ms. Winfrey has read my blog and is conferring with her people about how to present her generous support.  Or perhaps I am completely deluded.

Most of us have difficulty owning the results in our lives.  We see the unhealthy relationships, crappy jobs and flabby bodies, and recognize they’re problematic.  But we are certain that something is going to change real soon (read:  Oprah’s intervention).  That dude/chick from OK Cupid with the picture of him/her with his/her dog is going to be our soulmate.  We’re going to leave our job and start an organic cupcake shop.  We are going to get a PX90 Workout System, cut out carbs and be totally lean and ripped by summer.

But what happens?  The date was annoying and couldn’t stop talking about his/her dog.  We made elaborate business plans that collect dust because things got so busy at our jobs.  PX90 and no-carbs are trumped by “Breaking Bad” episodes and organic cupcakes.

The reasons we don’t change are:

  1. We are deluded about who we are and where we are at.  We have distorted views of ourselves and the facts of our lives.  It’s impossible to map a journey before setting one’s bearings.
  2. We believe the problem is out there—that it’s about finding the right person, the right business opportunity, the right workout system and diet, the right whatever. But the problem is never out there, later.  It’s right here, now, and it’s us.  And unless we change now, nothing else will.

My girlfriend and I have been talking about our future—cohabitation, procreation, other -tions.  These are real world plans; ones that require more than dreams for realizing.  You can’t buy diapers with delusion.

Our future will not happen if I wait for Oprah to call.  Our future, if we get this far, will feature two babies, one baby-sized and another 6’3”/170 pounds.

If I want a future where I might be able to take care of someone other than myself, I had to get real.

The first thing I recognized is that I need paid work.  I’ve recognized this for a while , but recognizing and doing are vastly different things.  Until I have a job, my realization is an abstraction—devoid of meaning or reality.

Based on some coaching I received, I was asked, “What is missing, the presence of which would make a difference in this situation?”

What was missing for me was humility.  I wasn’t humble enough to say that I needed and wanted work; I wasn’t humble enough to say I didn’t know what kind of work I wanted; I wasn’t humble enough to say that my resume is pretty shitty for most jobs.

I also saw boldness was missing.  Boldness meant being willing to do whatever was necessary to get a job. It’s a tough market.  I suspect few would say, “Let’s hire that timid guy.  He’s really going to be an asset.”

Out of the “what’s missing,” I generated actions that corresponded with them.  What I came up with was a letter sent to around 100 contacts.  Here it is:

Subject:  Request for Help

Dear Friends,

A few years ago, I had an unexpected, middle-of-the-night move (aka breakup).  At that moment, I needed my friends’ help more than ever, so I spammed you, requesting shelter.  You answered that request with love and generosity, landing me a great place within 12 hours of making it.  Few things are as sublime as genuine dependence.  Having no shame in asking for what you need.

Today, I find myself at a similar crossroads.

I need and want work.  I’ve been plugging along with Lucid [an event I produce] and my blog for a while now, and will continue to do so.  But frankly, I don’t make enough money to support myself, much less the family that’s in my future.  I’m also eager to show up someplace where it’s more than me making the breaks–where I can contribute to a large team.

So I’m making a request:  If any of you have ideas or leads for jobs, I want to hear them.

What I’m looking for:  I’m open.  I see my chief competencies as communication (written and spoken) and relationship forging and maintaining.  I do event stuff obviously, but my main joy is working with people.  I believe these qualities would lend themselves to writing, sales, marketing, HR, PR or advertising positions.

Just as important as what I will do is where.  I want to be in a dynamic, progressive, conscious/non-evil environment (i.e. no big pharma).  I’m open to big and small organizations alike–from Google to start-ups. Regular work is preferred to freelance, though I’m open to the latter.  Some areas I’ve been considering are tech, marketing/branding firms/shops, food (e.g. Whole Foods), conferences/events and media; but again, I’m open to suggestions.

My corporate resume is thin, but I’m not afraid to start at the beginning.  I’m happy to prove myself (a well-placed character reference is always appreciated if you’re inclined to do so).

I will reach out to you personally, but I want to first cast a wide net.  If you have any suggestions or are willing to lend your insights, please let me know.  I look forward to spam-free communication meeting.

Until then, with great appreciation,

David

The response was amazing.  Within five days, I am contemplating two very attractive job possibilities, not to mention several others.  But none of this would have happened if I had continued to wait for something outside myself to remedy the situation or delude myself to think that things were going to get better.  Who I was being—unrealistic, complacent, timid—would not propel me to the next level.  I had to be something else if I wanted something else.

With this in mind, here are some things to try out:

  1. Name one area of your life you are hoping will get better.
  2. Get honest about what will most likely happen in that area. For example, if you’ve been underemployed your whole adult life, you will probably continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  It’s not guaranteed, but it’s likely.
  3. What is missing, the presence of which would make a difference in this situation? For me, it was humility and boldness.  Other examples include trusting, open, honest, generous, playful, etc.
  4. Name an action that corresponds with the “what’s missing.” For example, my email represented both humility and boldness.
  5. Take that action now. Like, really.

[I’m still looking for dating and relationship questions.  Please email them to me df at davidfriedlander dot com.  All correspondences are confidential.  Thanks.]

Alpha Males and the Women Who Love Them

Want to go out on a date?

Like many children of the 70’s and 80’s, my folks divorced before I was old enough to realize they were married.  When I was two years-old, mom got primary custody and dad got every-other-weekend.  Aside from 4 days per month, mom was both mother and father.

I love my mom.  She did a great job raising me.  But she’s a woman.  And there’s only so much a boy can learn about being a man from a woman.  I was like one of those boys who are raised by a pack of wolves, and think they are a wolf too.  Except I was raised by a woman, and…you know.

Being raised by a woman, I inferred a lot of things about how to behave toward women.  I inferred that men and women are the same thing with different bodies; that I must be polite and respectful; that I mustn’t make women sex objects; that I mustn’t be too assertive or aggressive; that I must listen to what women say.

I abided by these lessons for a long time.  I grew up to be a polite, benign, sexless, ineffectual wuss.  I had almost no relationships throughout my teens—living in a state of frustrated and unrequited sexuality.  I was 20 before I lost my virginity—not by any virtue, but because I was so sexually retarded.

Like many, the cure for my frustrated sexuality was alcohol.  Being drunk afforded me an opportunity to inhabit my masculinity—a state where I didn’t have to be polite or respectful; when it was okay to make women sex objects; when I could be assertive; when I didn’t have to listen to what women said because I could see what they wanted (2 very different things in my experience).

As it would happen, women responded far better to my drunken inappropriateness than my sober wussiness.  As a drunken lout, I had a chance.  As a polite and sober wuss, I had none.

Unfortunately, the more I drank, the more inappropriate and distorted my masculinity became.  I slurred catcalls to women on the street.  I hit on girls who were clearly not interested in me, once earning a black eye from a justifiably angry boyfriend.  I tried to sleep with any woman who’d have me—a population that decreased inversely proportional to my rate of alcohol consumption.

These drunken years gave me a taste of what it meant to inhabit my masculinity, but the consequences of drinking made it an unsustainable formula.

Many years after getting sober, I recognized that my effectiveness with women—and life in general—was still lacking.  I still had trouble attracting women and, I later realized, attracting all sorts of things in my life.

This realization led me to the world of “Pick-Up Arts”—a subculture made popular by Neil Strauss’s book, “The Game.”  I can’t tell you all the things I learned while reading it in this post (it would get too long).  But one of the main points is that women are attracted to alpha males.

What is an alpha male?  An alpha male is a man who leads; he knows where he’s going and what he’s about; he doesn’t apologize for being who he is (including his sexuality); and he doesn’t seek other’s approval (probably the most important attribute).  Alpha status can be established by brute force (hence why a lot of assholes get so much action) or cooperative power (nice guys can and do succeed with women and in life).  Also, alpha status isn’t a hierarchal system; there can be multiple alpha males in a room.

I saw that I failed with woman because I believed what women said they wanted in a man—an open, respectful, caring guy.  It’s not true.  Women want alpha males—men who don’t apologize for who they are; who might want a women, but don’t need them or their approval.  Many of my drunken forays showed me that first hand.

This is not to say an alpha male cannot be open, respectful or caring.  My opinion is that real alpha males are inherently those things.  But an alpha male doesn’t do those things to please others.  He does them because that’s who he is.

With all this in mind, here are some things to think about today:

Men, stop being wusses! Stop being inoffensive.  It’s offensive.  It’s better to elicit a strong feeling, even if it’s a negative one, than no feeling (important note:  I’m assuming that I’m addressing responsible men, who know how to respect boundaries and know the difference between right and wrong).  Own your life.  If you don’t, anyone and everyone else will.

Also keep in mind that wussiness with women shows up in other areas of your life.  Where else do you bend yourself in the face of something you want?

Women, stop trying to out-alpha the men in your life! Stop trying to prove you are as strong as they are.  Doing this leaves no space for men to be strong for you, which is what men want to be for you.  And it’s what you secretly want to be done for you.  What many women end up doing is proving their strength, but doing so alone or surrounded by their commiserating women friends.  Neither situation is desirable.

How To Get Anything You Want

Answer:  Ask for it.

Before we get into how to ask, we should review what we want.  Last week I talked about how challenging that is for many of us.  We are so bogged down by our past experiences that we can’t even admit we want something, much less ask for it.

For example, my past experiences would have limited what I want from a romantic partner to someone I could screw and watch movies with (I wouldn’t even ask that we like similar movies).  I had previously not believed that healthy relationships were possible, so I never said I wanted one nor did I ask how to create one.

I have subsequently explored where my ideas about relationships came from, as well as surrounded myself with positive female role-models.  I started to believe that a healthy relationship was possible for me.  I then took actions and asked questions that corresponded with that belief.  Hence why I’m in a great relationship now.

If you don’t think something is possible, you will not say you want it and you won’t ask for it.  You will not fly to Chicago if you don’t believe Chicago exists, and you certainly won’t ask for a plane ticket.

The best way to ask is by making direct requests.  A request is, “will you please pass the salt?” Most of us say, “I would like the salt,” hoping someone will pick up on our desires.  Or some of us bully people with commands like, “pass the salt.”

A request can be answered one of 3 ways:  yes, no or maybe.  Yes is pretty clear.  No at least let’s us know where we stand.  Maybes can swing to yes, no or a negotiated settlement.  For example, “Will you give me your ice-cream cone?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Will you give me 3 licks of the cone?”

“Yes.”

Most of us avoid making requests because we fear any one of these 3 answers.  A yes might force us into the unknown territories of the next step or phase.  A no might affirm that we are the losers we think we are.  A maybe might leave us in limbo, neither here nor there.

Instead of making direct requests, we mutter plaintive cries into the ether.  We say “I wish I could meet someone,” instead of requesting of someone who is in a relationship, “will you share with me how you met your partner” or asking “will you go out with me” of a possible partner.

What if someone doesn’t give us straight answers?  We keep asking until we they do.  For example:

“Will you help me draw up a business plan?”

“Well I’m not sure if I can do that?”

“What are you not sure about?”

“I’m not sure if I have the time.”

“I would appreciate any time you can give.  What amount of time do you have to offer?”

“I can probably give you an hour a week.”

“Can you talk with me every Sunday afternoon at 2PM for that hour?”

“Yes [or other time].”

“Will you help me draw up a business plan” is a lot different than “I would really appreciate if you helped me with my business plan.”  The former empowers both the asker and asked, creating specific directives for each.  The latter leaves the asker at the mercy of the asked, who may be willing to help, but is not given a framework for how.

Some of our requests will not be answered affirmatively.  Let’s say I want a car.  I can request that a car dealership give me one for free, but it’s unlikely they will say yes.  If this be the case, perhaps I start making different requests of different people.  Maybe asking a car expert where’s he thinks the best place to buy is, or a loan officer how to secure a loan to buy one.

With this is mind, here are some practices:

  1. What do you want? Check out my last week’s post if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.
  2. Are you asking for what you want? Note where you use indirect communication, perhaps stating what you want rather than making specific requests to get it.
  3. Write out 3 specific requests that will lead to what you want. If you want a raise, write “Will you give me a raise,” not “I want a raise.”  If you are not clear on what you want, make a request to find out.  Ask a friend, “Will you tell me what you think I should do?”
  4. List the people you need to make the request to? If you want a raise, it’s probably your boss.  If you want to get married, it’s probably your girlfriend.  If you want the dishes cleaned, it’s probably your roommate.  And so on.
  5. Make one of those requests to one of those people now.

The Best Excuse Ever Told

I heard it once said, “Most people consider a good excuse and no result to be a result.”  Some examples of this adage:

  1. I was late because the subway was down (late + difficulty = I’m reliable)
  2. I didn’t talk to that girl because the bar was loud (no phone # + loud bar = I’m bold)
  3. I didn’t finish that painting because work got in the way (no painting + busy job = I’m an artist)
  4. I’m single because there are no good men/women out there (alone + lack of suitable partners = I’m a good partner)
  5. I didn’t lose that weight because of the holidays (fat body + social eating = I’m healthy).

A well-thought out excuse makes otherwise crappy results acceptable.  It maintains a peace—however uneasy, with whatever impact—between what we do and what we say we want and are committed to.  We say we want to be reliable, bold, creative, in a relationship, healthy, but because of subway delays and Stovetop Stuffing it’s okay that we behave differently.  The impact of the excuses is that friends and colleagues wait (or tire from doing so), we live afraid of talking to women, we feel creatively unexpressed, we live cut off from prospective mates and inhabit unhealthy bodies.  But it’s okay, we have a good excuse.

Excuses obscure a dark truth:  that we might not be committed to the things we say or think we we are.  A person who is committed to being punctual will be on time regardless of train repairs; he’ll get out of the train station and take a cab if he needs to.  A person who is committed to being in a healthy relationship will figure out what’s in her way of achieving that.  She will not blame a sparse dating pool.

Assuming we want to line up our commitments with our actions, we have to stop excusing our behavior.  We have to acknowledge results as they are:  that we were late; that we didn’t talk to the girl; that we didn’t finish the painting; that we are alone; that we are fat.  It’s not that these results are bad.  It’s that they don’t accord with what we want and are committed to.  In fact, the excuses verify that our results are not want we want.  If they were those things, we wouldn’t need to excuse our behavior; it and our commitments would line up.

All of this came into relief for me after a frank talk last night.  My friend bludgeoned me with the contradictions between what I say I want and am committed to and what I’m doing.  I say that I want and am committed to being a personal development author and speaker and that I want to make my living doing it—a living that could support a family.  What I’m doing is writing away without clear direction, much less remuneration.  I’ve been pitching a book idea to literary agents, but even that has been only half-thought out.  I didn’t do market research.  I didn’t run it by the people in my life.  I didn’t do the things necessary to make sure I fulfilled on my commitment.

My excuse has been confusion:  that I don’t know how to do the things I want to do.  I’ve reasoned that I will figure it out soon.  This excuse doesn’t not ameliorate my rapidly emptying pockets.

This leaves me with a pit in my stomach.  The pit is the turd of commitment, wondering whether it’s going to be released or if I’m going to get off the can upon which I sit.  Will I act now (the only time a committed person can act) or salve these contradictions with another, more elaborate excuse?  (I’m leaning toward the former route).

With this in mind, here are some things to contemplate for your life:

  1. What do you say you want or are committed to that you are not doing?
  2. What is the impact of not fulfilling on this commitment? Wasted time, dejected friends, unexpressed desires, poor health, etc.
  3. What excuses make your lack of results surrounding your commitments acceptable? Lack of money, time, a tough childhood, a rough time in your life, an unsupportive environment, etc.
  4. What are your excuses hiding? For example, that you are not in fact committed to the things you say you are, that you are afraid you won’t be able to fulfill on them, etc.
  5. Write out a list of the results in your life that contradict your desires and commitments. Write them undiluted by excuses.
  6. Commit to one thing for next week to fulfill on a desire or commitment.  For example, commit to meditating 10 minutes every morning without fail.  Note your excuses when you don’t want to fulfill.  See how these excuses stop you in every area of your life.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part III)

Love makes you strong apparently.

[I’m still going and probably have a few more things to say.  I might just take out the “part” part.]

Focus on being happy and having a good time

Men and women act ridiculous when trying to attract a partner.  Men act serious and/or predatory.  Women act aloof and humorless.  If you want to attract someone and keep him or her attracted, stop fronting.  It’s unattractive.  Fun, happy people are attracted to fun, happy people.  Fronting, insecure people are attracted to fun, happy people too (but not vice versa).

Back in my single days, I was reasonably adept at meeting women.  My guy friends asked me how I did it and I said, “smile and give yourself reasons to smile all the time.”  It’s was a win-win.  I was happy, and I attracted people—men, women, happy and unhappy alike.  Humans want to be happy.  When someone seems to have that trait, we gravitate toward it.

There are some who are drawn toward darkness and sadness.  If that’s what these folks want their lives to look like, then they should move toward that moody dude or that sad-eyed girl.  Maybe their love will fix them.

The rest of us want to be happy.  And happy-loving people rarely see someone and think, “Man, who’s that anxious guy/girl over there?  I want to get to know him/her.”  Don’t be one of those anxious/fearful/angry/sad guys or girls.

Give yourself reasons to smile.  Hang out with fun friends.  Do things that interest you.  This principle holds true whether you’re single, dating or married.

If you really can’t create reasons to smile, you probably shouldn’t be concerned with dating and relationships.  Take yourself off the market until you address your needs.  Do yourself and the dating pool a favor.  Seriously.

Make your romantic intentions known

For men, this means taking risks.  The reason men don’t risk and let their romantic intentions be known is they fear being rejected.  They think that if they make their intentions known, it’ll scare women away before they know the great guys they are.  So these men act as though they are only interested in being friends, hoping the girls will come around.  These guys rarely get as far as friendship, having to content themselves with indifferent stares and fake phone numbers.  If they do make friendship inroads, it usually ends in bitterness because the woman shacked up with some guy who had the balls to be straight about how he feels.

Don’t be an asexual lump.  It’s better to go down swinging.  And relax, not every woman is going to think you’re hot.  You don’t find every woman hot, right?  Be bold.

It’s prudent to clarify what I mean by taking risks, letting your intentions be known and being bold.  It does not mean groping or harassing or any other form of forceful behavior.  It means clearly offering your intentions to the other party for consideration.  She can take or leave this offering—this part is out of the man’s control.

For women, this means taking risks too.  She has to be vulnerable enough to admit she is interested in a guy romantically.  Women do the “just friends” thing too, hanging on far too long with men they are attracted to in order to avoid what they probably already know:  that the attraction is not shared.  Most women know this from the get-go but are afraid of admitting it.  They’ll endure a purgatorial vagueness in the relationship rather than knowing one way or the other.

You might be thinking, “What if a woman is attracted to an asexual lump who doesn’t know how to make his intentions known?”  To which I answer, few woman are attracted to asexual lumps.

Men who have experience with women—men women are attracted to—tend to make their intentions clear from the outset, be they romantic or not.

Some men and women send mixed signals, making their intentions unclear.  If this is the case, at some point you will have to ask what their intentions are and deal with the consequences.  Whether the answer is that they are attracted, not or uncertain, you’ll have an answer (and yes, “uncertain” is an answer).  Better to know sooner than later.

I don’t have personal experience with how this plays out in gay relationships, though I imagine it’s much the same as straight ones.  Be clear about your intentions.  If they are not reciprocated, accept it or move on.

There is the chance that two people are just friends and romantic feeling develop over time.  This is ideal.  Romance combined with friendship endures.  Romance without friendship crashes.  Who I am speaking to are people who know how they feel but are afraid of expressing those feelings.