Be Wary of Sheep in Wolf's Clothing

In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself.
Albert Einstein
We've all heard the old adage, "Be wary of sheep in wolf's clothing." If for some reason you haven't, it's a biblical warning about people hiding their true nature. "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." (Matthew 7:15) It's used to describe those playing a role contrary to their real character, one who hides how dangerous they truly are and how they work off other people’s trusting nature, leading them to a certain demise. Today our challenge seems to be quite the opposite, as we praise the wolf and disdain the sheep.

We, in our ego driven need to stand out, try our best to not become sheep. Society tells us that, in order to be successful, we need to become wolves, so we are fed motivational meme after meme relating to the badassery of the noble wolves and wolf packs. Maybe this has been an indirect result of "gritty is cool" or "idealism is for kids," yet the direct result is how people are flocking to become pseudo-rebels who "challenge the establishment." These men and women model themselves to fit the expectations of the crowd as they regurgitate what that same crowd fed them in the first place. We used to see it in people taking actions simply for the amusement and validation of their friends. Today, with social media, it has become increasingly worse. They work off "like" and "share" of complete strangers, where their followers tell the "wolf" what to say and do, as they become little more than another sheep in a flock.

How often, in your attempt to be your own person, are you simply following the crowd? How often are you playing the bad boy just for the approval of others? Is their approval more important than the people you're hurting, so often simply to prove how badass you are? Harder to recognize still, but just as dangerous to yourself, how often you take a contrary stance to the crowd just to play the rebel? Isn't the crowd still telling you what to do? Are you viewing the crowd's reactions of approval or disapproval as a validation of your actions, instead of using the actual repercussions as a true measure?

In your attempt to prove how secure you are, have you become that insecure?

That's why social media is sometimes a dangerous place. Anyone can present themselves as a leader, an influencer, as everyone tries to market themselves as the protagonist of their own novel. In reality they're just rehashing the same thing everyone else is doing. If they don't keep their egos in check, or at least are honest enough with themselves to understand why they're doing something, they'll easily fall prey to the comfort of the approval of the masses as the final goal becomes being "liked" by “friends.”

Consider that person you follow and respect. Are you following them because they have something to contribute to your lives or are you following them simply because they validate your own prejudice? Gravitate to those who can make you grow and open your eyes. Do so, not to follow them, but rather to learn from them, as you become your own person. And above all, be careful that in your desperate need to become a wolf, you don't become a sheep.


It’s Good to Be Bad

The lion doesnt turn around when the small dog barks.
African Proverb
If you’re like me (and if you follow this blog, you probably are), your social media feed keeps getting populated by “Gentleman” articles and memes about how men can be better men. Most of these tend to focus on the honorable development of your Chivalry, as we strive to become the hero of our own saga. In a similar manner, many people view the prototypical gentlemen as being too soft or nice or even delicate to deal with today’s chaotically aggressive society. So, if being a Gentleman is so conducive to being the “good guy” or a KISA (Knight in Shining Armor), why is it that every time Hollywood needs a memorable bad guy, they give us a Gentleman Villain?

When a movie starts, we see just how bad-ass our hero is in that initial sequence, as he spends the first 10 minutes of the film having to prove himself to us as an audience. The villain? He just has to step into frame in his perfectly tailored suit, impeccable eloquence, and overwhelming presence and we buy it, no questions asked. Is it because of their calm superiority? Because they are effortlessly imposing? Their arrogance? Their style? It’s all that and more.

Take a moment and think of the most memorable villains we’ve been served, the ones that become more popular than the hero themselves. From Hans Gruber in the original Die Hard to James Moriarty in the Sherlock Holmes series to John Milton in Devil’s Advocate (in truth any role taken by Al Pacino), we end up more invested in the villain than we do in the hero. If you don’t believe me, just consider how out of the two hours of Silence Of The Lambs, Hannibal Lecter only appears for 16 minutes, and yet that’s all he needed to leave a lasting impression in our social psyche as one of the most memorable villains of all times. It only takes a few cords of the imperial march, to make us gasp in expectation, waiting for Lord Vader to walk into the scene. 

Movies (books, theater, and even video games for that matter) tend to make heroes relatable, so the audience can live vicariously through them. This means that our protagonist will be as generic (read as “bland”) as possible. It’s only through his development that he becomes more, as he is expected to learn and grow through some kind of musical montage. To counter his blandness, writers need to create a colorful antagonist that we can all relate to hating. He must be the guy we envy in our own lives because he dresses better, drives a better car, has the better job, and is more successful than us. They create someone who makes us feel inferior as they’re playing off our insecurities.

Except some of us look at that guy and want to become him! The women in the audience find themselves wondering why the leading lady’s putting up with our hero’s bullshit self-righteousness instead of running into our villain’s hedonistic arms. I mean, the villain is someone who’s driven and committed to achieve success, real a go-getter. His wealth, social standing, and attitude are a testaments to his success. On the other hand, the hero simply waits around to react to the bad guy’s actions. The villain’s passionate about his ambitions and desires as he’s willing to do what most people won’t even consider. His attention to detail, bespoke suit, and razor-sharp wit only serves to show off the lack luster of the hero we’re expected to root for.

Note: I want to clarify that this isn’t limited to the Gentleman Villain, as the Lady Villainess is just as imposing. Just look at Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) in the Devil Wears Prada, Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty or the movie bearing her name, or even Selina Kyle (Catwoman) in the Batman Series. Nothing says “desire me all you want, but don’t even think I won’t kill you if you get in my way” like a well developed “Bitch Face.”

While the hero spends most of the time trying to prove himself, overcome his own flaws and insecurities, while the movie plays off his weaknesses for the audience’s sympathy, the villain doesn’t need our validation or sympathy. They just are, letting US bask in THEIR awesomeness. Playing the victim card? That’s left for heroes and victims to use. They don’t play to the crowd. If anything, they should inspire us to achieve greatness for nothing more than greatness sake. 

They’re powerful and imposing without the need to prove it or remind us. They embrace their passions without the moralist qualms reinforced by hypocritical social standards. If they display restraint, it’s to let us know about their iron will and self-discipline; only unleashing their fury when needed and then only to deal with the incompetence of others. Even John “Jigsaw” Kramer, from the Saw series, keeps a constant and even level tone to his voice. It’s this villain’s calmness that works off our own fear. They are the epitome of the adage “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.” 

Note that the true Gentleman Villain isn’t an abuser or falls for pettiness, as they see these things below their notice. They don’t need to make anyone feel inferior or show off their greatness or even remind anyone of who they are, as that again would be playing to the crowd and needing validation. Sure, they’ll blow up a shelter full of orphaned kittens, but they’ll do it simply because it was in their way. Raul Juliá best exemplifies this mentality in Street Fighter. (Before you judge me for bringing this piece of cinematic crap up, I know this is a good awful movie, but Juliá chews through every scene he’s allowed to cut loose in.)

"For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday."  

The fact that these gentlemen are so determined, so imposing, and so unapologetic makes them “Evil,” or at least that’s what their creator wants us to think. It’s later on, as the writers realize just how popular the villain has become, do they feel the need to “flaw” him so either, we can believe that the hero has at least a chance to defeat them or they can become hero’s themselves in the sequel. Suddenly Vader takes off his mask and stops being James Earl Jones or the Six Fingered man just flee cowardly, as the writers dismantle the well-developed villain in only two seconds worth of bad filmmaking. Why the hell do they think this is a good thing, I don’t know. Personally, I view it as a cheat to try and keep the hero more popular. Besides, we’re expected to root for the hero simply because he’s the hero. We ignore the fact that his only motivation is probably revenge (yet nobody’s motivated to get revenge on the hero for all the faceless minions he kills) or simply because it’s his job (get’s paid to stop the villain). Sure, the villain’s the bad guy of the story, but as long as Red Riding Hood’s telling the story, the Wolf will always be the bad guy. We aren’t shown all the work that went into creating his evil empire, all the personal sacrifices and dedication that went into becoming the powerful men they are.

Let’s make it clear. I’m in no way promoting the idea that Villainy should be viewed as a proper career choice, nor are we romanticizing the extremes that villains go to or the people they hurt. We still need heroes. We still have to understand that blowing up innocent kittens and puppies should always be frowned upon because… they are puppies and kittens, you sick bastard! Because that’s where the villain fails us. They cross the line where their personal passion ignores the people they hurt in the process. That’s the only thing that makes them into villains worth stopping.

We need the KISA to prove to society that men are honorable creatures despite all the bad press we get. But don’t you think it’s time to stop having to prove yourself for other people’s validations or even permission? In a society where you have to start most expositions with trigger word warnings or begging people not to take everything personal, seeing someone being proud of who they are or openly enjoying what they’ve achieved through hard work and dedication (all those sports cars and Italian suits aren’t cheap and building an evil empire isn’t easy) is almost a breath of fresh air. When you get to a point where you no longer have to impress others, that’s when you become free.

Isn’t it time to stop asking for permission to strive for greatness? Isn’t it time to enjoy being the man you are, the unapologetic Gentleman you’ve become? Isn’t it time to prove you've gone past your own insecurities as you no longer walk on eggshells, or feel like a victim, or even have to play to the crowd? Isn’t it time to discipline yourself into the man you’re destined to be?

The world isn’t going to conquer itself.


Stop Fixing Your Weaknesses

Some time ago I read a story Alejandro Jodorowsky that I wanted to share with you. I haven’t found the original again nor do I remember the title, so the best I can do is retell it to the best of my ability.

A father met with his son’s school teacher after the boy brought home his grades. The child had gotten good marks in art class yet wasn’t doing that great in math. The teacher looks at the worried parent and asked what he intended to do about the situation.

“I plan to find him a math tutor as soon as possible; making him do extra work till he gets great at math.”

The professor looked at the parent stunned.

“Instead, why don’t you find him an art tutor for art and develop the talent your son obviously has! We all have talents, but we shouldn’t be forced to all have the same talents.”

We have no problem understanding that we are all different, that we all have some things we’re each good at and some things we’re bad at. The funny thing is that we focus more on fixing “what’s wrong” rather than working on “what’s right.” We’re sold on the idea that there’s only one way to become successful in life, one single little formula that has been proven true. Then, as with that peg that just won’t fit, we try to hammer ourselves into that mold, only to left wondering why we’re neither successful nor happy.

Instead on trying to “fix” what we’re not so great at, why not focus on what we’re actually good at. Instead of pointing at other peoples flaws as reasons why they won’t succeed, why not point at all their abilities as reasons why they will succeed. Maybe then, people will stop seeing their failures and start seeing their potential.

Dress As You Want To Be Addressed

Dressing well is a form of good manners.
Tom Ford
A couple of weeks ago I headed to look over a few car options as my relocation removed my commuter options of daily travel. At the dealership, I have to admit, the sales clerk did an awesome job in how he treated us. They went above and beyond trying to make the sale, and at the end offered us a wonderful deal with numerous extras. While we were being “wined and dined,” at the same time another couple walked into the dealer. The sales clerk wouldn’t even give them the time of day. The difference between us and that other couple? How we were dressed.

You’ve probably seen this situation if you’re into people watching, if not lived it personally. A person walks into a high-end store and is completely ignored because he’s dress in rather casual attire. A moment later, someone well dressed walks in and the sales clerks magically appear, roll out the red carpet and even bring along appetizers. To the other person, the only thing they brought out, if they bring anything at all, are the cops to escort them out of the store.

Sure, we could call this classism, elitism, or might even bring out the race card into the debate. We’ll see online posts calling out boycotts of the place or making status updates as they feel the need to tell the world how a person’s more than their cloth or their appearance. And they’ll do this in the most arrogant, self-righteous manner, as they cite successful entrepreneurs who’ve made their mark while in worn out jeans and sneakers. What they fail to realize is that the world will treat people the same way that they present themselves to the world. Those successful entrepreneurs in question? Those are the exceptions, not the norm.

Ask any bartender, waiter, or sales clerk.  They know that a person willing to spend the time and money to present themselves properly to the world, AND treats others respectfully, will probably will tip better and will definitely treat the server better. If you want to be treated like you can afford something, shouldn’t it be a good idea to dress like you can afford it? If you want to be taken seriously, shouldn’t you dress like they should take you seriously? How you dress says a lot about your potential; be it to spend or to act.

And this isn’t limited to the service industry. Any situation where you have to deal with others in a social environment, how you present yourself to others will define in what direction the interaction takes. Be it a random conversation, be it a date, or be it an interview.  Clothes might not make the man, but I can guarantee they have gotten many a man a good job. You can achieve anything if you dress properly for it.

The Millennial Man and the Generation Gap

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.
John F. Kennedy
While I was in college in the early 90’s, I was part of a small group of architecture students who dove right into the idea of using computers to produce our drawings. This wasn’t viewed very favorable by most of our professors who still viewed hand drafting as an art form and constantly dismissed the validity of computers as a valid tool of the profession. “A computer will never replace a good drafter” or “guess you can’t work if the lights go out” were repeated over and over as a way to put down our little clique. We would try to argue that the computer was simply a tool or if the lights go out, you wouldn’t be able to work anyway, but those replies fell constantly on deaf ears as the professors refused to listen to anyone else’s opinions on the matter.

The irony of the story was that as soon as I graduated, the government required that all construction plans had to be submitted in digital format. Now suddenly, the same professors who would constantly be putting us down were now in a bidding war to hire as soon as we graduated. The reality of why so many of those old professors kept trying to dismiss us had less to do with the purity of the art form and more to do with a fear of becoming obsolete with the changing times as their own insecurities were getting the better of them.

Why do I bring this story up in a blog about gentlemen culture and modern men? Because I am seeing a very similar situation happening between the Old Guard and the New Guard within the Modern Gentlemen Movement. Every once in a while, a meme pops up stating how these modern gentlemen don’t know how to change a tire, or hunt, or chop wood, or use a firearm, or rebuild an engine, or some other “manly” activity. Others state how these men must be condemned for either their hairstyle, their beards, or their fashion sense. The penalty for their inability to do any of the previously mentioned hobbies or their fascination for certain trends is the disdain of the more traditional minded gentlemen out there.

To the Old Guard, as a member of that generation, I ask for a simple favor. Stop being such insecure little brats. Most of those things you mention only work if someone grew up within your own personal little world. I’ve been a city dweller my entire life, so I have never had any interest or even need to develop any kind of “survival skills.” The closest I get to “roughing it in the great outdoors” is driving with my top down. It’s funny to read post criticizing someone’s style or fashion sense done by someone with no fashion identity. As for some of the other “life skills” needed to be a man, they are actually more like “life skills” to be an adult. Not only men, but women as well, should have some basic mechanical knowledge if they every plan to own a car. I actually see no need to force anyone to validate their manhood to play to my insecurities.

If anything we should be applauding these young Gentlemen for helping revive what was once a dying art, as they took up the torch of chivalry and masculinity to light their way through life. Sure, the torch is no longer an actual flame but rather a flashlight app within their smart phone, but at the core, it’s still the same thing. The only thing that has changed is the tools at their disposal.

Yes, we must keep the old arts and the old traditions alive, but never at the expense of evolution and progress. Progress is impossible without change, and this isn’t the first time that Chivalry has changed. If anything, it’s constantly changing and evolving. That’s why, after over 500 years, we are still honoring the Code of Chevaliers and calling each other Gentlemen.

Social Activism and The Zombie Apocalypse

Listen, smile, agree, and then do whatever the fuck you were going to do anyway.
Robert Downey Jr.
Thanks to movies and TV, we are all familiar with the zombie apocalypse to the point where we have fantasized about how we would handle ourselves within that improbable eventuality. There is some morbid attractiveness to the idea of being able to handle hordes of mindless monsters without owing them even the slightest pity or consideration as even the most heinous acts are viewed as heroism in support of the greater good. Such have been our fantasies that even the Pentagon has developed a national contingency plan in case Zombies try to take over.

The sad part of this fantasy is how we’ve embraced this mentality within our society, not against zombies, but rather against each other. We grouped together into little cliques of survivors as we set off to fight our own “zombie hordes.” We stopped looking at each other as humans with the capability of having different points of views and different perspectives within the same topic, as we embraced an “Us vs. Them” attitude where “Us” are right and “Them” deserve whatever we can throw at them.

People fashioned themselves as activists, posting their protest about one issue or another, were online media sites desperately scurried to fine the new offensive material to condemn or the new scandal to criticize. Everyone desperately seeks to became a victim or a champion of victims, as we unfriended, trolled, or attacked anyone who thought differently from us. And we all rejoiced at what great people we became as we dove head first into justifiable assholism. If we stop and looked at what happened, we would realize just how horrible of a society we are creating in our need to find enemies to fight or victims to defend.

There is an advantage of having enemies or of being a victim that we refuse to admit. As we define an enemy and refuse to view them as equal to us, we can assign all the evil and badness of the world to these people while viewing ourselves as having ownership of all the goodness and moral high ground. This allows us to wallow in our own anger and resentment, as we are given free rein to abuse people. We feel that we can’t be held accountable for our own actions as the label of victimhood absolves us from doing any evil, no matter what we are doing, as our actions are justifiable. We keep telling ourselves how we would be good natured and caring if it wasn’t for those “enemies” who deserve our attacks.

And that feels good. Real good. Just as with the zombie apocalypse, we can now be as drastic as we want while being a hero working for the greater good. To justify this mentality and fanatism, we post up memes calling out the evils of indifference or even the virtues of having enemies, as we troll, harass, lie, stretch the truth, threaten, and even physically assault anyone who disagrees with us. And we do this all while calling out those same actions from our counterparts.

We see this in both Conservatives and Liberals. We see this in both Feminists and Men’s Rights Activists. We see this in both #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter. We see this within the religious and even in those fighting class warfare. In reality, we see this in any groups who fashion themselves as fighting for a “cause.” Ironically, if you sit down and have an open minded conversation with anyone within these different groups, you realize that each hold some shard of truth and from each you could learn. Believe it or not, you can actually find some knowledge, or at the very least some understanding and empathy, even within the bigot, the racist, the sexist, and even the homophobe.

Keep in mind that in no way I’m promoting any kind of discrimination or abuse, but rather calling out the socially acceptable discrimination and abuse disguised as social justice. The problem with calling out this kind of oppression is that we refuse to acknowledge when we do it, as we find it justified as we have turned the world into black and white ideologies, were you are either with me or an enemy.

We have polished this mentality so cleverly that we even created a concept to condemn anyone who criticizes our actions or exposing our hypocrisy. To avoid the possibility discussion brought up by others that we are doing something wrong, we call out their “privilege,” as we try to silence them through shame or guilt. We’ve gone so far with the “privilege” guilt trip discourse that some are made to feel that the only way to remove the shame of their gender, race, social class or any other personal situation is through the purgatory of combating their own. It’s amazing how we see nothing wrong with condemning someone over the personal situation, often one that they can’t control, as we use guilt and shame as little more than a tool for oppression.

So what can you do?

You can win by refusing to play this game. You have to realize that these hypocrites find their position validated with every share of online posts. You have to understand that social media sites profit from every controversial article as their hit counters pile up. All you have to do is sit back and stop playing their game as you realize the only power something has over you is the one you give it. Understand that the protest du jeur will be forgotten within a couple of weeks, as the moralist vultures move on to the next cause.

Work on yourself and on bettering yourself, and stop measuring your worth based on what group you belong. You can believe in gender equality without putting down anyone else. You can be a conservative on some topics, while being a liberal on others. You can be a traditionalist and a modernist at the same time. One ideology doesn’t trump the other. Disagreeing with someone doesn’t make you better than them. How you treat them in spite of disagreeing with them does.


Refining a Rebellion

What is a rebel? A man who says no: but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation.
Albert Camus
As a young man, I fancied myself a social rebel, a non-conformist with a mean streak. I was that outspoken student who would look for even the simplest excuse to challenge authority. I refused to follow the norms and rules, as I bulldozed my way across life. I hung out with the wrong people and did the wrong things. I wanted to change the world, so I set off to questioned society and its moral rules with every action and every comment I made, as I was convinced that this would give me some kind of power over how my life would turn out. Life doesn’t work like that.

As I look back, I have come to realize how alike everyone within that social crowd dressed, acted, spoke, and thought of themselves as rebellious independents. Makes me reconsider just how much of a rebel I actually was? It also makes me thankful that all of this happened before all social mishaps end up in YouTube. It also makes me think about all those social activists who go from one protest to another, were protesting takes center stage over actually making a difference.

Way too many people want to challenge the world, rebel against authority, prove just how independent they are. So they set up to do exactly what the rest of the “rebellious” crowd does. They lay in wait, as their social media feed tells them what to be offended off or what social justice bandwagon to get onboard. And as if pre-coordinated and pre-orchestrated, we see how profile pics change as the massive “injustice” du jour taints everyone’s face. What was once acts of rebellion are currently the norm. What was once viewed as challenges to the establishment have now become the social establishment?

So this leaves us with a rather interesting question; what is a modern rebel? It still is the person who’s willing to stand against the social paradigm, so a simpler question should be “what is the social paradigm?” Well, based on social media, it’s to protest simply to be cool, were insults and judgmentalism are more important that making a difference, as “look at me” overtook “let me take a hard look at myself.”

Ironically, when you start looking at the word “rebel” from that perspective, the result is rather amusing.

In a society that tells you to be selfish, being loyal is rebellion.
In a society that tells you to hate everyone else, being kind is rebellion.
In a society that tells you to conform to mediocrity, giving that extra mile is rebellion.
In a society that tells you to follow viral videos and consume media, getting off your ass and living life is rebellion.
In a society that tells you to call out everything wrong in everyone else, working to fix what’s wrong within yourself first is rebellion.

When you thing about it, society has now become this angst obsessed judgmental hypocrite child who refuses to grow up and take accountability for itself. With that in mind, it’s amazing how being a rebel can now be summed up in a simple manner.

Taking care of yourself and those around you
Treating others with respect
Expecting more from yourself
Being a decent human being

Funny how much of this can be defined with one simple term.

The Worst Relationship Advice We Believe

Dear Men,
If you’re going to criticize a woman’s figure or any other aspect of her appearance, please make sure that you are either Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp.
Every once in a while someone will come along to provide some wonderful insight to those seeking a meaningful relationship. They will remind those of you that are single that out there, in the vastness of this wonderful world, is that special someone who will make you understand why it never worked out with anyone else. This person will understand you and love you just as you are. They will embrace your faults as beautiful, your flaws as the things that make you special, and love you unconditionally. They will have everything you would want in a partner as they will be smart, independent, strong, sensitive, supportive, and attractive. They won’t have any of those deal-braking bad habits that have ruined so many of your previous relationships as you two are simply one soul that got split in two during creation…

And that’s a beautiful thought, until you realize it’s one of the most self-centered and selfish attitudes anyone can have and the reason why you’ve been so miserable in love. When you remove all the romantic literacy from that mentality and read it for what it is; you realize that you’re expecting someone who’s amazing, yet isn’t looking for someone amazing. You want someone who’s willing to happily put up with your crap without giving you any crap at all.

More amazing still is our hypocrisy; as we set the highest standards for others yet refuse to live up to those same standards ourselves. You expect someone to love you for who you are, yet you refuse to show any kind of self-love as you don’t have the slightest demonstration of developing for yourself since they have to love you “just as you are.” You expect them to put up with your “worse” as a price to enjoy you at your “best,” as if suffering was an acceptable toll for your company.

All this happens while you scrutinize the other person for any flaw or fault that will excuse you from feeling guilty of all they have to put up with. It’s to the point where instead of looking at what wonderful qualities someone might have, you focus on what flaws you’re unwilling to put up with. No wonder we keep hearing phrases like “all women are crazy” and “all guys are the same.” That’s what people look for when they look at someone, proof that the woman is “crazy” or the guy is just like the “rest.” It’s an easy way to avoid being accountable for our responsibility of every failed relationship we’ve ever been in.

If you want a relationship with an incredible person, you’d better be ready to work your ass off to become an incredible person yourself. Instead of looking for someone willing to settle for you, look for someone worth polishing who you are for them. Look for someone who pushes you to become better and worth growing for.

Don’t keep saying you want someone amazing when you only focus on the flaws people might have. What you focus on demonstrate what’s important to you. Everyone comes with baggage, but they also come with some wonderful qualities. Stop looking for excuses to treat people badly and start looking for reasons to cherish them.

Relationships aren’t about what the other person has to offer you, but rather what you both are willing to do for each other. Don’t expect to find a Leading Lady if you aren’t willing to be a Leading Man.