Monday, April 30, 2007


If someone sees you on the street, do they see an unkempt appearance: disheveled clothing, lint everywhere, uncombed hair, shoes untied, wrinkled or stained clothing, and a dirty face?

Or do they see attention to detail: meticulously groomed hair, perfectly matched clothing, shined shoes, everything just so?

I’d argue either can be good or bad…depending on the situation. You need to find balance. Now there’s a concept…balance. We’ll hit that one later…

Using the contrasting examples above, what do people see? The slob may convey a lack of desire to achieve, conform or possibly apathy about everything and everyone. Or maybe they’re above the crowd, unafraid to be original and unconcerned with the materialistic or social conventions some people consider mandatory.

The fastidious dresser may come across as self-absorbed, fake, high-maintenance or worse. But then again, maybe they’re a perfectionist, attentive to details and focused on success.

Using the words above implies judgment…and that’s really the heart of the matter, now isn’t it?

People judge you. It’s natural. You judge people as well, and hopefully you are smart enough to keep your comments to yourself.

The thing is…you don’t know what people think. There are social norms, standards or conventions that usually frame our perceptions, but they are anything but set in stone.

Ever see a beautiful girl with the guy you think is a loser?? Why do you think that is? Her standards or desires may not fall in line what you think to be the norm, but that doesn’t mean a thing to her…obviously! Ever have someone catch you in a bad situation that wasn’t your fault and you didn’t get a chance to explain why your underwear ended up falling out of the back of your backpack (don’t ask!)??

These things happen.

So what is important as far as perceptions go?

Your own sense of right and wrong, good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable.

Whether it is a feeling about how you interact with people, style, performance, appearance, or anything else, it belongs to you and you alone.

A few things to consider:

- Be respectful. This means treating EVERYONE with respect. You don’t know the story behind the man dressed in ragged clothes on the side of the road. He deserves your respect as much as the next guy…maybe even more.
- Be kind. Treat people like you want to be treated…or better.
- Be wary. Just because someone can talk a good game doesn’t mean they can play. This doesn’t mean you instantly disregard someone who brags about being good, just don’t believe everything you hear…or even everything you see. The guy wearing the latest golf wear, with $1,000 clubs and talking a lot of crap may be great…he may also be a duffer. Don’t let the clothes fool you.
- Be natural. Don’t get caught up in the latest fashion, fad or trend…you’re a guy. This doesn’t mean you have to dress like I did (did I really just write that???) when I was young, it just means you shouldn’t stress over what to wear. Don’t speak in a foreign language using the latest words you hear on MTV, BET or the like.
- Be confident. I’ve already talked about this one before, but it is important. People sense confidence right away. It isn’t bravado…it isn’t beating your chest and proclaiming yourself the greatest thing since sliced bread. Look people in the eye when you talk to them; it projects confidence and trust. People that don’t look you in the eye are usually shy, timid, afraid or worse, not to be trusted.
- Be yourself. This could’ve been on top. In the end, you have to live with yourself.

Back to balance…

So you’re respectful, kind, wary, natural, confident and are always yourself? Good. Now remember this:

Everything in moderation. Balance is key…to just about everything.

- Be respectful, but not fearful or timid. Respect your opponents, but don’t fear them. Respect your elders, but speak your mind (without being insolent, of course!).
- Be kind, but don’t be a doormat. Don’t just give your money or time away without thinking about it.
- Be wary, but not distrustful. Give people the benefit of the doubt.
- Be natural, but remember social norms and conventions exist for a reason.
- Be confident, but not conceited…remember the guy I always tell you about? The one that you may not have met, but is always out there? Yeah, don’t forget about him!
- Be yourself. Just remember though…if your true self likes being naked all the time…remember there is a time and place for everything. In public may not be the best place to be your “true” self.

I know I’ve used some big words kiddo…you’re smart. If you don’t know what it meant…look it up. Yet more education! Gotta love that!


Sunday, April 29, 2007

Hard time this morning...

I usually write my posts in Word before transferring them over to blogger. Today I've written 3 pages and won't put any of it up...yet.

In attempting to pass more advice to my son, I'm having a hard time maintaining a cohesive line of reasoning. The problem is too many topics emerge as I'm trying to get a point across.

The attempt this morning was going to be "Perception is reality."

Start down this path and you may find yourself talking about first impressions, your appearance, situational awareness in public settings, private conversations and the trouble an offhand remark can produce, planning (or the lack thereof!), etc.

In my three written pages this morning I hit every one of those things. Each is worthy of a post, but taken as a whole, too large for a single one. So I'm going to insert this "placeholder" and mull these thoughts over on my ride.

Riding a motorcycle can be therapeutic. Even if you're in the middle of a large group, riding along on your bike is a very personal experience. You can enjoy the scenery, practice your technique, blow off steam, create adrenaline, or just transport yourself from one location to another. I personally find myself doing many of those things...all while paying attention to the road. Today will find me thinking about perceptions...

Should be a good time!

Back tonight...I hope.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I did it!

More to follow...I'm going riding...


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Yet more advice for my son…

The relationship (a word I never particularly liked as a young man…due to its implications!) you have with a woman is rarely a “settled” thing. It changes. It can run from easy and care-free to demanding and maintenance intensive. A couple of pointers to make yours a little easier to handle. (Some of these apply to marriage as well as dating…but dating is a completely separate blog entry!)

Don’t be an ass, be a man.

- Don’t be conceited. Remember that person I told you about? The one that is smarter, faster, better-looking? He may show up in your woman’s life. The only thing keeping her from running off with him is your track record. If it isn’t the best…watch out! If she does run off with him, figure out if you were the cause, or if she just wasn’t the girl for you.
- Don’t take her for granted. See above, but this is also a respect thing. If you’re in a relationship with a woman, there was obviously redeeming value you sought out and desired to continue to learn about. Don’t ever forget that.
- Don’t be taken for granted. This is also a respect thing. You’re not a doormat, you’re a man. Stand up, have a spine, take a stand. Don’t put up with a woman that berates you unnecessarily (we all deserve a dressing down, every once in awhile…just not constantly or for things that don’t deserve it).
- Be affectionate. This is important. Touch her. Hold her hand. Even just in passing and for just a second, never stop doing this. This conveys desire. When you find yourself not wanting to bother, evaluate this relationship…it may be time to leave.
- Have interests and hobbies. Let your passions show. Get charged up about hockey, hiking, NASCAR, astronomy, whatever, but pursue these things. Why? Because it relieves her of the responsibility of having to constantly entertain you, shows you’re not one-dimensional and hopefully your interests let you interact with other guys.
- Hang out with the guys. Men need time to be manly. Our society is quickly becoming too damn PC and tame. Hang out with guys that don’t constantly want to discuss things like antiquing, scrap-booking, or talk about colors you’ve never heard of like taupe, periwinkle or salmon (I had to look those up! And a salmon is a fish for pete’s sake!).
- Have an edge. This could be the lead item in this list. Too many guys fall into the “friend” trap throughout their lives because they are so NICE. They are surrounded by women, yet don’t have a girlfriend/wife. They may be thought of as harmless. God save you from that! You need to be nice to women. You ALWAYS need to be respectful, however, never let a woman forget you’re a man. Doesn’t mean you’re always in charge, making all the decisions, or getting the last word. It simply means you are not to be marginalized, overlooked or disregarded.

So many topics…so little time.

More to follow…

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Advice continued…

I left off with taking care of mom, and a small side discussion of why you shouldn’t be too cocky.

I could go through each stage of life, trying to articulate a man’s responsibilities, but I’m going to digress a bit...

My discussions with my son center around me wanting him to be a better man than I. He’s got all the tools and I want to ensure he understands how tragic it would be to waste them. So we talk and I try to instill in him not only the understanding of what makes a man (IMHO), but also the desire to be that guy.

So the next point is…


Very trite. All encompassing. Yeah, I know, but it begs the question: What is a man? Or What is manly?

Ah…now we’re off and running…

Women like men because they’re men.

- Don’t be a drama queen. If women wanted an emotional, gushing, sensitive man(?) they’d find themselves a gay one (uh-oh…the PC police will be knocking at my door soon!).
- Be tough. Physically, mentally, morally. It is an expectation. When the $hit hits the fan, don’t fall to pieces, Alice! You are supposed to be the rock. You will see her through whatever happens, because you are that guy. You will take care of her above yourself (offer your coat when it is cold, you’ll stand to let her sit, etc) because you are a man and that is your job.
- Hold your emotions in reserve. Everything loses effectiveness if used too much. Maintain an even keel, because too much emotion dilutes the power of a real emotion. Don’t get mad at little things. Don’t cry when you’re hurt, in public.

Side note here: Crying is a special topic. My son used to ask about it a lot when he was younger, but I think he gets it now. Crying is allowed…in certain situations. It is reserved for private, intimate circumstances involving only those closest to you and only for truly significant events.

- Tell the truth. Right along side of Rule #1, this is also a mantra in my son’s life.
o I’ll relay a very short story: As the recently appointed leader of my son’s Webelos den, I received turnover from the outgoing mom. She had brought some candy as prizes for the boys learning the Scout Oath and the Scout Law. As is expected, my son won his prize, but the other boys hadn’t yet mastered those requirements and I took the candy home with the promise of another chance at the next meeting. My lovely wife saw candy on the table at home and ended up eating them. She intended to replace them, but never got around to it. Meeting day comes and the boys learn the oath and laws, but no candy. I proceed to start telling them I forgot to bring the candy when my son announces “Dad, Mom ate them!” I start to say how Mom didn’t know they were the scout’s and he says “Yes she did!” At that point I realized he was already a better man than I, and promised to make amends. He is well on his way!
- Admit failure. Stand up and take responsibility. You’re going to fail. If you never fail, you ain’t trying hard enough! But when you do, admit it, don’t blame anyone and move on. Learn from it but don’t dwell on it.
- Be decisive. You don’t have to make every decision, but in a void you quickly decide on a course of action and proceed.
- Take care of your chores. Consolidate your excrement. Your job is to take care of everything outside the house and the garage. You’re the vehicle guy. You take out the trash and change the filters. You can get help with any of these, but ultimately they are your responsibility.
- Be confident...but not conceited. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman that liked any man at either extreme. Have faith in yourself and your abilities. You’ll get the job done, because it is what you do. You’re that guy!

I realize anyone reading this can quickly say the above points have been made a million times over. You’re right. The reason sayings become trite and overused is because THEY ARE TRUE.

More to follow…

Friday, April 20, 2007

Advice for my son...

I'm constantly trying to infuse my son with what he calls "life lessons."

At certain points in our conversations, he'll look up at me and ask: "Dad, is this a life lesson?"

My usual response is "Yes."

Two reasons: One, because he's pretty bright and quickly catches on when I'm trying to tell him something I think is important and two, because I want him to remember certain things.

It occurred to me on a recent TDY that I should try to organize these thoughts and write them down...3 handwritten pages is the first point in this process.

Small note here...My 10 year-old already knows Rule #1. I've drilled it into his brain for the last 3 years, and if you ever ask him what Rule #1 is, he is very quick to respond appropriately.

So begins "Advice to my son..."

RULE # 1


Plain and simple, it is a man's responsibility to take care of his women. If you are a son, take care of mom and sisters. If you are a husband, take care of your wife. If you are a father, take care of your daughters. Later in life, take care of your mom again.

But what does that mean? Well if you ask me (and he does!), it means your women come FIRST.

Let’s start with mom…

I’ve tried to instill in my son a sense of responsibility. You don’t want mom worrying about you. You want mom to be proud of you!

How do you make these things happen?

Be the model kid.
- Behave. Probably the best way to make mom proud.
- Get good grades. Mom won’t worry about you in school.
- Do your homework. She shouldn’t have to keep up with your school work.
- Pick up after yourself. She cleans the entire house, why would you add to her burden?
- Do what she tells you, when she tells you. This is a respect thing, and isn’t that what this is all about?
- Take care of yourself physically. Moms worry about these things. So brush your teeth, take good showers, eat right, play outside a lot and keep yourself in shape!

The ultimate goal is going to be a recurring one: Be that guy.

That guy is the kid other moms wish they had. Later in life this turns into that guy girls wish they had, that guy is the husband women wish they had, etc. That guy is also the one other guys look to as an example.

You want to be that guy. He’s the one that makes his mom proud. It all starts when you’re a kid.

I’m a very lucky man. My son IS that guy! At this point in his life he’s doing many of the things I talk about above, and it is hard to imagine being any prouder of him.

But complacency is a terrible trap, always right around the corner. So we talk. We revisit these lessons periodically, and I try to let him know certain things…

As good-looking, smart, charming, nice, hard-working, talented, and gifted as you may be, there is always…ALWAYS, someone out there better looking, smarter, more charming, nicer, harder-working, more talented and more gifted than you are! You may not meet them everyday, you may never meet them, they may sit next to you, but they are there. Don’t ever forget that!

Enough for now…

That was the first third of those three handwritten pages…much more to follow!