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.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part II)

Do you shack up with people or fantasies?

[This is part II of an unknown numbered series.  Part I is here.]

Don’t have sex until you know the person you are having sex with

Revolutionary right?  That you might actually want to know the person you are having sex with.  But I have lots of personal experience having sex on the first, second or, at latest, third date.  I know I’m far from alone.  It’s almost never ended well for me and I’m pretty sure you’re no different.

A friend of mine said, “There is no such thing as casual sex.”  When we have sex, our bodies tell us, “You are now in a relationship.”  Our hearts and minds, on the other hand, haven’t had time to discern their feelings on the matter.  Maybe we’ll like this person, but maybe not.  Who knows?  I’ve jumped this gun many times, finding myself in a relationship with someone I barely knew.  Rather than confess my error, I slog away at relationships with women I have nothing in common with aside from anatomical compatibility, sometimes for years.  This problem would have been avoided had I known the people I was having sex with.

See people for who they are

As Emerson said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”  Pay attention to people’s behavior, not to their words or who we want them to be.

We often can’t see people for who they are because of our ulterior motives.  Most of us think we are broken and believe we are unworthy of being loved.  When a datable girl or guy comes along, we create the fantasy “he/she is going to fix/complete me/make me lovable.”  With this fantastic pot at the end of the relationship rainbow, all of our observations are skewed.  We will believe words and look for actions that affirm the fantasy rather than observing actions that might directly contradict them.

In our fantasy land, our new partner—who might be someone we just met in a bar—can do no wrong.  We overlook her deeply bitten fingernails or his constant looking at other girls.  This is why online dating is problematic.  We literally don’t see anything.  All we have are words that people write about themselves; words that would be negated by 10 seconds of face-time.

These fantasies are often projected in a flash.  You see a guy with a tweed jacket and fantasize about reading books together in bed on Sunday mornings.  You see a girl with a backpack and imagine family expeditions to the Himalayas.  When we set up these kind of fantasies, it’s almost impossible for things to work out because no one ever lives up to our fantasies.

People are mixed bags.  We have healthy and not-so-healthy traits.  Ignoring either side shows us that we are disconnected from reality.  A good test of this is how often we use or think the words “always” or “never” in relationship to someone. “He is always so thoughtful.”  “She never considers my feelings.”  No one always or never does anything.

Healthy relationships and courtships are based on being with someone in reality, not in fantasy—loving and respecting the mixed bag that they are.  If you meet someone and they do something you don’t like, don’t expect that behavior to change.  Accept it or move on.

Don’t talk smack about your prospective partners

“There are no good men.”  “Women are crazy.”  “Gay men can’t commit.”  “Lesbian women are too dominant.”  When we say these things, it creates a lens through which we see the world.  Men cannot be good.  Women cannot be sane.  Gay men cannot be committed.  Lesbian women can’t be agreeable.  We think we have evidence, but the evidence is all collected looking through the lens.  Take off the lens.

The first step is stop saying these things.  It may take some work because we are often surrounded by people who agree with our contentions.  Many women surround themselves with other women who believe there are no good men.  Many men surround themselves with other men who believe women are crazy.  Maybe some time away from these people is in order.  Hang out with people who are in healthy relationships.  Barring that, don’t participate in the conversation.

No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part I)

This could be you.

[This post got a bit long-winded, so I’m splitting it into 2, maybe 3 parts]

The issue of meeting a romantic partner has come up a lot in my life recently.  I talk to countless men who can’t meet good women or men, women who can’t meet good men or women.  Perhaps they are coming to me because I am (somewhat disbelievingly) in a healthy relationship with someone I am connected with emotionally and physically.  They want to know what we’re doing.

I’m no expert, but I know some basic things that do and do not work in relationships.  I was also single for a long time and had a certain facility meeting the opposite sex.  I figured I’d codify what I know.  These principles/guidelines are directed toward single people, but apply equally to people in relationships.

What do you want?

This is a huge issue for for both men and women.  We have no idea what we want.  Without that bearing, what happens is we meet someone and ask, “Does he/she like me?”  Or we settle for someone who likes us rather than going for what we want.

Rarely do we ask, “Is this what
I want?”

In these directionless relationships, a power balance inevitably arises.   As a friend said, “In every relationship there is a junkie and a pusher” (this friend was a relationship nightmare for the record).  The junkies wonder whether the pushers likes them and obsess about the pusher’s every action.  The pusher’s attention is their lifeblood; it’s where they derive their power.  The junkies diminish themselves, lie and generally piss away their lives in order to keep that power coming.

It’s hardly easier for the pusher, who most of us have been at some point.  The pusher’s narrative goes like this:  “I met/am dating/married to someone, but I’m not that into him/her.”  The pushers persist in these relationships, not because they like the other person, but because they derive power from the dependency—a power they likely lack in other domains of their lives.  But it’s a destructive power.  The junkie is in servitude.  The pusher is unfulfilled and neither party has what they want (unless you count not-being-alone as a desire).

A healthy dynamic is to treat meeting someone like making an important purchase.  For example, when we shop for a car, we get the best car based on our needs and budget.  We don’t purchase based on whether the car likes us.  Chances are most people will not be the item we want.  Find out what you want and don’t be afraid to shop around.

Don’t talk poorly about yourself

Don’t talk about your shitty job, fat ass or unfinished associates degree from DeVry.  It’s not funny.  It’s not disarming.  It’s not “real.”  It’s pathetic (I know because I’ve done it a million times).

Some self-effacing jokes are okay, but they have to be jokes, not veiled indictments against ourselves.  Be kind to yourself, or better yet don’t say anything about your character.  Let your behavior demonstrate who you are.

There is a caveat to this:  if you are looking for people who find comfort in mediocrity, by all means talk smack about yourself.

Don’t talk about your past

This is a tricky one because most of us are still embroiled in our pasts.  We have left wakes of physical and psychic damage from past relationships.  We haven’t cleaned things up.  We haven’t looked at our mommy/daddy issues.  If these things are the case, our pasts will inevitably come up in conversation.

Deal with your past.  Until you do, all your relationships will be condemned to a variation on a past-based theme. Continue reading “No Shit Dating and Relationship Advice (Part I)”

Tired is a Story, Stories are Tired

From ages 8 to 23, I was an insomniac.  I would lay in bed for countless hours wishing for sleep.  My body would be exhausted, my eyes heavy and burning, but my mind would be alert and racing.  I usually passed out around daybreak, only to wake a few hours later.

I tried to treat body and mind.  I drank chamomile tea. I took melatonin. I had a white-noise generator.  I went to a therapist.  I played games like “stop thinking for a minute.”  I created elaborate fantasy worlds with serial plot-lines to pass the hours in bed and still my anxiety.  When I was 16, I started smoking weed.  Later, Jim Beam became Mr. Sandman.

When I sobered up at 23, my biggest fear was not how I was going to have fun or what people would think of me.  I feared not sleeping.

Fortunately, that fear was unfounded.  By no longer annihilating myself and addressing my underlying emotional problems, I ended up with pretty normal sleeping patterns.  I fall asleep easily and stay that way the whole night through most nights.

While my difficulties with sleeping are gone, my story about sleeping continues to be an issue.  This became apparent to me the other night.

I was helping some friends out and what we were doing was running longer than I had anticipated.  It was about 10PM and I decided I wanted to go home.  The thought “I’m so tired” entered my mind.  I started to yawn repeatedly.  My eyes started to close and burn.

I told the people around me that I was tired as well.  I wanted everyone to comprehend my situation. Continue reading “Tired is a Story, Stories are Tired”

Guido the Great

The big sexy car that almost killed me.

I was on my cell the other day, pacing down a Cobble Hill, Brooklyn side-street on a lovely Tuesday afternoon.  As I meandered from one side of the street to the other, I heard a V8 engine growl.  A brand-new, black BMW 7-series was barreling straight toward me.

While physics has other ideas, I felt like I could crush this wannabe speed-racer and teach him a lesson about safe driving.  He approached doing about 50 mph.  I stayed in the street and stuck my foot out like I was going to kick his car, asserting my pedestrian power.

Kicking cars is a recurrent act that has resulted in one outright assault and several near-misses.  In truth, I am not that tough.  However my aversion to combat is often overshadowed by my righteousness.

Anyway, seconds after my air-kick, the dude (and you know it’s a dude), screeches to halt, backs up, stops the car, and starts shouting at me out of his window.  I hope he doesn’t have a gun.

“You do not kick my fucking car, motherfucker,” followed by additional, threatening oration that more or less built on this initial thesis.

“You were doing 70 mph and could have hit me,” I replied.

He let off a few more expletives and started to drive away.  I took out a pen and paper to write down his license plate number.  He saw this and didn’t like it.  He stopped again, got out of the car, and got in my face.

“You taking down my license motherfucker?”

“Yes, I am.”

“You do not want to fuck with me.”  This comment had more than a whiff of truth.  Here was a guy, one I imagined to be of Italian-American ancestry, who had the diction of a high school dropout yet was driving an $80K car and outfitted with the accoutrement suggesting he bought the car (Persol glasses, Rolex, well-fitting jeans).  I imagined his last name to be Gotti or Gambino.

“You do not want to fuck with me,” he reiterated.  “What you jus’ move to this neighborhood, motherfucker?  I was born and raised here motherfucker.  Get the fuck outta here.”

While I hadn’t ‘just’ moved here, I was indeed relatively new to the neighborhood, and I did not think this was a very nice welcome from a local.  And while I believed he was born and raised here, I wondered why he had a Pennsylvania plate (I assumed because insurance is a lot cheaper in PA.  Smart move).  I decided to table that question.

He got right in my face.  “You do not want to fuck with me. You do not want trouble.”

The Oscar for best portrayal of a tough-guy goes to David Friedlander.  As he stood inches away, I didn’t move.  I had a relaxed stance, with my chest out.  I didn’t move my arms.  My unblinking eyes locked on his.

We were both lucky.  I was in a very clear state that day.  Though I didn’t say it, he was not going to fuck with me.  I wasn’t going to let him put me in a bad mood. Continue reading “Guido the Great”

On Talking Shit

Watch out for empty speech.

When I boozed a lot, I bought a micro-cassette recorder to keep track of all my ideas.  I was certain alcohol was the lubricant that unlocked my genius.  While drunk, I spoke poetry, I ejaculated ideas of earth-shattering import, I was an uncaged, intellectual giant.  And while I couldn’t stay drunk all the time (try as I did) I could record the profusion of profundity my debauches unleashed.

I would listen to the recordings the next day, eager to convert my ideas into gold.  What I invariably heard was horseshit, unless you consider protracted, vowel-heavy emanations the hallmark of genius.  “I aaaaaaaaaamm gooooooaannnn staaaaaaann, aaaaaahhh….”

Meaningless speech is by no means the sole domain of 2AM drunken ramblings:

  • “I’ll call you.”
  • “Maybe see you there tonight.”
  • “I’m going to cut out sugar this month.”
  • “For sure, let’s start a _____ group/business/team.”
  • “Blah, blah, fuckity, blah.”

We say things all the time that we either don’t think through, don’t mean or are irresolute about.  We make plans, conjure up big ideas and declare that we will make them happen—“for sure”—only to forget these things or “change our minds” when we see what it takes to carry them out.

Breaking our word is made easier by peers who let us off the hook because they don’t want to get called out on their broken word.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call last night,” we might say.

“Oh, that’s cool.  Don’t sweat it,” they say, knowing that their excusal is a coupon for their own future transgressions.

What happens over time is that every promise unkept, appointment missed, agreement broken and project abandoned creates a karmic residue.  It’s not only that others learn not to believe what we say.  We don’t believe what we say.  We don’t trust ourselves.  The connection between what we say and do is weakened.  Depending on how far we let it slide, our word can mean nothing, little or, as is the case for majority of people, it’s like a lottery that pays out every now and again.

This whole “be your word” thing is dicey in some circles.  Many think, “Don’t be such a hard-ass.  Take it easy.  They’re just words.”

I would love to take it easy.  I would love it if all the things I said but did not follow through with had no impact on me and didn’t diminish people’s estimation of me.  But my experience is unequivocal:  when I break my word it diminishes my power to make things happen.

If you’re finding it tough to keep you word, or you feel like you can’t get shit moving in your life, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Keep track of what you say. Whether it’s a planner, notebook or phone, have someplace where you keep track of what you say you’ll do (this includes old stuff).  Let your unkept words burn a hole in your head until you follow through with and complete them.
  2. Honor your word, even when you don’t keep it. There are times when you are compelled to break your word for whatever reason—sickness, injury, death, some unmissable opportunity arises.  If that’s the case, honor your word and do your best to clean it up.  If it’s a broken appointment, reschedule.  If it’s a project or goal you set out to do by a certain time, renegotiate the time.  This caveat can be abused.  We can become known as a cleanup crew for broken words.  Honoring your word in the face of a broken one is plan B.  It’s easier to stick with plan A wherever possible and keep your word.
  3. Shut up. Really, stop talking shit.  Stop saying things you don’t mean or have no intention of following through with.  It’s better to not make an appointment than make one and miss it.  I heard somewhere, “A good man does what he says.  A wise man doesn’t say much.”

I’ll Do It, But I’m Not Going to Like It

Dan and the cart in warmer days.
Dan and the cart in warmer days.

Yesterday, I was playing Battleship with my cousin’s 5 year-old son. The game started well enough but as soon as I started getting ahead (I’ve got 29 years of strategic thinking on him), he started whining.  He wanted to play, but apparently didn’t want to do it if it meant losing.  His whining got me thinking about my own recent behavior.

My friend Dan Paluska started an art/media project called “Brooklyn Mobile.”  It’s a cart he takes around downtown Brooklyn, asking people if they would like to make Youtube videos.  The intention of the project is to create a case-study in democratized news; the cart allows people on the street to be news-creators as opposed to the questionably motivated Fox News, CNN, CNBC and others.  The reality of Brooklyn Mobile is a lot of teenagers giving shout-outs to their peeps.

I often help Dan schlep the cart around Brooklyn.  The two of us hawk passerby’s asking, “Would you like to make a free Youtube video?”  We make a funny pair:  two tall white dudes with a ramshackle cart asking a primarily black and latino downtown Brooklyn population is they’d like to be on the internet.  It’s a blast.

Anyway, a film company took interest in Brooklyn Mobile and wanted to film it as part of some lame public relations campaign for a behemoth multinational corporation.  Dan is in Costa Rica, so he asked me if I wanted to do it.  Because working the cart is fun and I’m vain, I said I would. Continue reading “I’ll Do It, But I’m Not Going to Like It”

Practicum: Stop, Like, Castrating Your Words, You Know? Like, Today!

I wouldn't recommend Google Image searching "castration." Image via flickr.

Each day, there was an ominous sign at the front of the room:  “What are you pretending not to know?”  Each day it got bigger.  “What are you pretending not to know?”  Until, on the last day, it was an enormous poster.  “What are you pretending not to know?”

The place was one of those “large group awareness trainings” I’ve mentioned here before.  In this case, something called Personal Dynamics here in NYC.  It was many years ago, but the question lingers:  What am I pretending not to know about my life?

Most of our lives depend on not owning or accepting certain facts we know full well.  To our thinking, if we acknowledge and accept these facts, it would necessitate action, which we fear taking for whatever reason.  So we either don’t talk about these things, shoving them into our psyche the best we can, or we buffet their impact with noncommittal language.

For example, I was in a relationship a few years ago with someone I knew I was incompatible with.  I attempted to reconcile it with myself and with her for some time, but became convinced that it was dead long before it died.  The principle way I stayed in it was by refusing to talk about it.  Speak no evil….

The other way I avoided addressing my woes—a way that still works quite well—was with a smokescreen of irresolute language, fraught with “hedge words.”

One definition I found calls hedge words “any device that qualifies the writer’s [or speaker’s] commitment to the truth of what is being communicated.”  Traditionally, hedge words are words like “might,” “could,” “I don’t think,” etc.  They’re a way people can say something without committing to the statement’s veracity.  For example, “I am not sure if I feel satisfied with this relationship” versus “I am dissatisfied with this relationship.”  The former, hedging statement permits wiggle room, because of all the qualifications that lessen its impact.  Another reading of the first statement is, “I am not sure I am not happy with this relationship.”  The latter, declarative statement issues a fact.  Facts are objectively what is so (even when the fact is my opinion).  In this case, dissatisfaction is a fact (it certainly was for me).

The most pernicious and ubiquitous hedge words are “like” and “you know.”  These three words are responsible for castrating the thoughts and speech of several generations of English speakers. Continue reading “Practicum: Stop, Like, Castrating Your Words, You Know? Like, Today!”