1/30/15

Lay Down Your Arms



There comes a time when you must lay down your weapon.
Theresa Byrne
I mention time and time again the importance of keeping the warrior traditions alive within the Gentleman archetype. Without The Warrior-Scholar and the Warrior-Poet we can’t have the a true Gentleman, a man willing to stand when others would rather stay seated, a man willing to fight the good fight that others won’t and dares to do what so many are too frightened to consider. And this is good, and this should never (ever) be abandoned. Way to many people within our society are more than willing to stay seated and quiet when confronted with injustice, yet love to criticizes those trying to make an actual difference. That’s why we need (maybe now more than ever) the Gentleman-Warrior to stay alive.

But there is a down side to being a Warrior, one that we tend to overlook and too often forget to consider; sometimes you don’t have to fight.

During a conversation about memes, quotes, and sayings, fellow author and women-empowerment coach, Theresa Byrne, she shared this wonderful image that got me thinking. (The purpose of these quotes is to get you thinking) So often I speak about our obligation to fight, yet might forget to mention the importance of considering what fights we take on.

The reality is that not always do you need to fight, not always do you need to stand. Sometimes those we might view as our enemies are those who need a helping hand instead of a closed fist. Other times we might be the ones on the wrong side of a fight but our own righteousness blinds us. And it might even be that we don’t need to turn every disagreement into a trial by fire.

We are so often willing to throw ourselves into the heat of battle that we miss the very distinction that defines a warrior. We are so caught up in doing something right and being on the winning side that we forget to ask if what we are fighting for is right or how we fight is right. Way too often we get caught up in fighting to win, that we don’t consider the consequences of our actions.

I will admit its easy to have a sense of glory and pride in wining. It's very easy to forget that it only takes a few seconds to hurt someone but it sometimes takes years to repair the damage. Fighting for what’s right is defined by your character. Fighting to win is defined by vanity. Just consider your past arguments and challenges. Was the price of victory worth it? How much did you lose just to prove you were right? Did you fight because it was the right thing to do, or was it just your ego that needed the victory? There are times in your life when you need to put down your sword, unclench that fist, and offer an open mind . It might take great courage to pick up the sword, but it takes greater courage not to use it.

1/29/15

Why I Can’t Tell You How To Be A Gentleman.



As we get older, it's important for us to help hand back some of what we've gained as we've grown older. It should be one of your responsibilities - it's almost like being a mentor.
Ciara
While in the process of determining whether to self-publish Being Caballero: A Conversation About Gentlemen or go down the path of a Literary Agent, I went ahead and submitted a proposal to a couple of Agents. One Agent actually made a content specific reply explaining why my proposal was denied. They weren’t interested, not because of the topic or the content, but rather the format didn’t fit their publishing style. The fact that I don’t list a series of steps, checklists if you will, on how to become a Gentleman, meant that my book didn’t fit their formula. And this is not the first time I have heard a similar comment.

Many people have actually asked me if I ever plan to write up a step-by-step guide to ‘Gentlemaning, something I have refused to do and will probably avoid doing. You see, a step-by-step guide or a set of rules means that I believe that a gentleman isn’t about his personal values or even his character, but rather about just following a bunch of rules that have worked for me specifically. And assuming that what worked for me will work for every other guy is a pretty arrogant assumption on my part and a true disservice to the cause of Gentlemen and to the men trying to follow the Cammino, the Path. Everyone has to work on their own strengths and weaknesses; not on mine.

If I had any doubt of the damage these kinds of articles and book do, a couple of weeks ago a friend asked some dating advice. He was frustrated because he was doing everything ‘right’, doing the proper steps and social intricacies expected from men, yet found he was getting nowhere in his romantic life. After talking with him for a while, and mulling it over I came to a simple realization. He was trying to socialize and date based on his preconception of what the dating process is and not on what he found comfortable or actually enjoyed. My advice was simple, work on your strengths while understanding your weaknesses. (Ok, it was a bit more than just that, but you get the general idea.)

If checklists work, why am I not seeing any results?

Because checklists worked for the guy who wrote them, for magazine filling content, and as a comfort blanket to the person trying them out. And when it doesn’t work, the author usually blames the reader while the reader blames the author. And in a way both are responsible for the success and failure of the list.

A mentor can only be as good as a student willing to think on his own, and a student is only as good as he is willing to question what is taught to him. For that reason, the best I can do is explain why things are done in a certain way, give examples based of experience, and offer the tools available for a person to use. It is the reader’s obligation to understand what tools work for him and how these lessons apply to his own life. That way they become their own Gentleman, and not simply try to act like a clone of my own.


P.S.

In case you are wondering what’s going to be covered in the book, here’s a quick breakdown.


Prolegomenon: A Gentleman Defined
An introduction to the concept of the Gentlemen as a universal archetype of the exceptional man, a concept found in every culture throughout history. It’s meant to address and challenge some of the general myths and misconceptions about what a Gentleman is.
Cammino: Pursuit Of A Better Man Reborn
The first section is lessons and concepts a young man should consider when starting on the path of a Gentleman. The second section is to help men who have strayed refind the Gentleman they lost along the way.
Destino: The Social Gentleman
The last section deals with how a Gentleman interacts with society. It deals with how to handle your role as an example to others and a mentor in the first part. The second part deals with social and romantic relationships based on respect and dignity.

1/28/15

A King On A Budget.



To see a man beaten not by a better opponent but by himself is a tragedy.
Cus D'Amato
As I mentioned in a previous article, not everyone starts well off and not everyone stays well off. Anyone can fall into financial hardship because of any amount of reasons, all of them perfectly valid. What’s not valid is letting that beat you down. And the first tell sign that you are beaten is looking beaten. Truth is that when you stop caring how you see yourself, it’s usually because you stop caring about yourself.

So one of the first things you must consider when picking yourself up is being able to dress yourself up. Yet too often, article after article minimize this effort with the simple advice of “go and buy a proper suit at a proper store.” It’s easy (and pretty arrogant if you ask me) to assume that the only way to look like a million bucks is to spend a million bucks. But way too many men take this advice to heart when they don’t have the means to do so, falling harder into debt, as they will max out their credit cards on clothing they should even try to afford just yet.

Does that mean you should dress ‘poor’ because you are ‘poor’? Not at all, especially when you consider the importance of putting you best foot forward when you are getting up from a downfall. But how do you do this with limited resources? Here are a few tips to look your best without having to break the bank.



Thrift shops are your secret weapon.
This is the first secret I share with anyone who is down on their luck. Thrift shops will have slightly worn, and even new, suits and shoes. Suits are not something that will be worn out, so you are likely to find clothing in excellent conditions for a minimal fraction of the price. Understand that going this path is a treasure hunt. You might end up with nothing worthwhile or you might hit jackpot. 

Fit is critical and a tailor is your friend.
The easiest way to make men’s clothing look better is if it fits better. Buy clothing in your proper size. Learn to hem a pants’ length appropriately or take them to a tailor. As for suits, simply take them to a tailor. Yes, this might seem like a waste of money, to have a suit your size resized for you. A tailor fitted off the rack suit will always look better than an ill fitted expensive suit. Nothing makes a suit look perfect like a perfect fit. 

A suit doesn't have to be a suit.
Unless you are a banker or a high rank executive, you can get away with mixing different pants and jackets. Don’t assume that you have to be suited up to look suited up. When buying clothing, look for things that work well when mixing and matching. Work with solid colors. This will let you repeat the same item in a different combination without looking like you are repeating the same outfit. Buy clothing considering the combinations and options you can get out of them. 

Prioritize the effect, rock the sports coat.
A dress shirt and a tie alone can actually look less classy than a casual shirt and a coat. A coat can turn a t-shirt and jeans into a classy affair. Rock the Coat. 

Minimize the casual effect.
Just as a coat will bring any outfit up, certain things can bring anything back down. Backpacks are for school kids, ski jackets are for skiing, and gym shoes are for the gym. Ironically for the same price of the backpack, the ski jacket, or the gym shoes, you can get a dressier counterpart, so the issue here is not price. 

Clothing are the tools of your trade, treat them accordingly.
If you have to give a presentable image as part of your job, or the job you are trying to get, your clothing is an important tool of your trade. That means you must treat them with care to make them last. When you get home, change into something else. Take off the suit and place it in a proper rack. That includes the pants and dress shirt too! Why risk ruining your clothing with an accidental stain? 

Stop being afraid of the ironing board and the shoe polish.
Nothing makes clothing look cheaper than wrinkles and nothing make clothing look expensive as being ironed. The same can be said with shined shoes. Take the time to iron out your shirts and pants (unless they have to be dry cleaned), and make them look their best. You don’t want to be a slave to the ironing board, consider the comment above and change out of your clothing when you get home.

Work with the seasons, specially the end of the season.
As each season comes to an end, almost everything is placed on clearance. Sure, you might not be able to use it during this season and will have to put it away till next year, but the savings are worth it. These sales actually start during mid season as they need to open up space for the new merchandise.

Just because you are not doing well, do you have to treat yourself badly? Dress up and get out there. Make it happen. When heading out into the world, always dress ready to run into your next business opportunity, the love of your life, or the person who wants to keep you down. Remember that the first step to being respected is looking respectable.  

1/27/15

The Gentlemen Rebel And Unlearning The Mook



(I want to thank the rest of the Charisma.Expert group as our conversations helped develop this post, with a shout out to Jedadiah Walls, our resident Media Psychologist, for providing some of the key pieces missing in the puzzle.)


Manhood is the defeat of childhood narcissism.
David Gilmore
You might have heard me mention how Gentlemen are the modern rebels, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized to what extent this is true. But before we go on promoting the idea of the Gentlemen Rebel, there are a couple of things we should understand first, starting with defining what a social rebel is.

A rebel is a person who opposes a group in authority and challenges acceptable standards of behavior, dress, etc. And this is why so many men refuse to follow the path of the Gentlemen. They view themselves as rebels, as challenging the ‘acceptable standards of behavior, dress, etc.’ of a Gentleman where ‘Gentlemen’ becomes the ‘acceptable standard’ to challenge. But is it?

When you consider how often you hear ladies mentioning how hard it is to find a Gentleman or the comment of how rare manners are today, you are left wondering if Gentlemen are actually the ‘standard.’ We have to understand that social ‘standard’ is most common and promoted practices within society. So what is the ‘standard’? What does society expect men to be?

This is where I’m going to step on a few toes and some men might become offended. To others this will make absolutely perfect sense. When you look at what we expected from men today, it’s not the gentleman or even a good man, but rather the Mook; the narcissist man-child or the entitled snark, usually coupled with the the incompetent or absentee dad. Sure, this is not what is told that men should be, but it’s what’s expected for them to become as they are bombarded with this image time and time again in the media.

Back in the 90’s, Viacom, a mass media conglomerate, hired the international advertisement agency Saachi and Saachi to develop a series of archetypes that could be branded and ‘sold’ to the public. Their response to the new male trope was the ‘Mook’, the typical 12 year old boy’s image of what masculinity should be to make it cool, a parody of a manhood who defends his laziness with sarcasm and angst, while at the same time dealing with an incompetent father figure and a sense of a vilifying society trying to force on them unnecessary responsibilities. And for any media company, this would be perfect, a demographic who did little more than consume their product, who would rebel against anyone who asked them to get off the couch, and would never realize they had become exactly what the corporations wanted them to become. Ladies and Gentlemen, that is social manipulation and programing at its best.

And the Mook was shoved down our throats in every single Adam Sandler style movie and Jackass clone MTV put out to the public. After seeing its success on MTV, Viacom started phasing the Mook into their other channels, as they became responsible for the next 20 years of male slacker glorification. Our culture was raised on hundreds of mook inspired characters, as the archetype was redefining and refining to a point where the parody of masculinity became the definition of manhood.

That went unchallenged, until those who grew up as the Mooks where now forced to see themselves in the role of the incompetent father, and they woke up. They refused to accept their role in this game and started an open challenge. And this open challenge started to slowly spread as more men refused to walk down the path of the man-child so many other men embrace. They realized that they could be more if they were just willing to be more.

Are all of these men Gentlemen? Not necessarily, as each man walks his own path. Are all Gentlemen Rebels? He’s certainly not willing to accept the social ‘standard’ of the mook, so yes. I think that a better question is why would you want to be a Mook?