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be quiet.

30 Jan

One of the phrases that drives me bananas during the course of day-to-day conversationis…  Well, actually I have to set it up properly to have the full effect.  Here’s the setup:

Manager:  Sales are down – way down.  Skippy, we’ve got to come up with some exciting new marketing strategy.  How about hiring a homeless guy to hold a sign? It’ll be perfect!

You (Skippy): Great idea, Mr. Manager.  I’ll head down to the shelter.

Manager: Hazaa!  [HERE COMES THE PHRASE I HATE] So like I said, we’ll hire a homeless guy to hold the sign. It’ll be perfect!

You (Skippy): Right, that’s what we just… anyhow, great.

Here’s the issue gentlemen: you talk too much.  It’s clear when guys use phrases like, “So like I said…” to not only say something, but also introduce the fact that they’re going to say it again.  Unnecessary.  Any man worth his weight in bow-ties needs to have the confidence to know that when they speak, they’re heard.  And they need to have the courage to know that if they don’t have anything to say, the world won’t stop, and they’ll still be significant.  Speaking more doesn’t equate to being more – it equates to lack of temperance.

Be quiet. Here’s why:

1- It gives you time to listen.  The coolest men ever are the ones that lean back, make eye contact, and listen to what you’re saying.  They don’t do that thing where they kind of pre-breathe/start a word as a verbal cue, indicating that it’s time for them to talk.  They just listen, and they communicate your value to you by not stepping over what you’re saying.  Additionally, they are smarter because they up the ratio of importing information to exporting yada yada yada.

2- You’ll have a voice when you do speak. As a man, when you say something, you want to be heard.  It makes you feel valued, and that, in turn, helps out with ye olde pride.  When you talk all the time, people tend to average out the time they listen to you and catch every ninth monologue. You don’t want this.  You want it all to count.  Be disciplined.

3- It’s cool.  Don Draper, Clint Eastwood, 007.

So like I said, be quiet.  I promise you, it’ll work out in your favor.

You’re a Grown Man, be quiet.

mean what you say.

18 Oct

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, his name is Tompkins (100% fake name use to protect the innocent and ensue hilarity).  Tompkins, like many of my friends mentioned in this blog (cool Randy!) has inspired this post by being a great man whom I respect a ton.  Let me tell you about Tompkins…

The great Publix Sub

With this I am well pleased.

He is a brilliant musician.  Man-oh-man, he can create music on an out-of-tune guitar whilst half-in-the-bag that, if I were given 10 years of formal training by Andrés Segovia and 6 months off to write, still puts my G-C-D progressions to shame.  In addition to being a musical phenom, he’s got a razor-sharp sense of humor, a gigantic knowledge of fishing, and the ability to make a sub that will – literally – make you cry the kind of tears usually reserved for new mothers or Butterfly Kisses.  In short, Tompkins is a great dude.

But you know what’s most impressive about Tompkins?  Well, probably the sub thing.  But you know what else is blog-inspiring about him?  The fact that he is well-known for meaning what he says.  For instance, if Tompkins says, “Yeah, I’ll be there” – he’s there.  If he knows he can’t fulfill your request, he says no.  In short, his yes is a yes and his no is a no.

A man’s ability to be able to say something and be fully trusted is paramount. And one of the ways we earn that trust is through the normal, day-to-day, interactions with people.  For instance, if a buddy calls and says, “Hey, wanna get the families together this weekend?” and you say, “Yeah, that might be nice” (knowing full well that Saturday is already booked and that you’re going to call him on Friday and give the brush off), what is that saying?  Well, it’s saying that a) you’re now, officially, an adult who does things like “get the families together” and b) your “yeah” can’t really be taken seriously.  What if, in that same situation, you replied, “You know, we’d like to (a little lie is okay), but we just can’t.”   While saying no may be initially disappointing to your house-arrested friend and unpleasant for you to express, in the long run, that no will speak louder than a retracted yes.

Grown Men, it’s not always easy to say what’s true.  In fact, it’s typically easier to give someone a soft answer or, if we’re being really honest with each other, flat-out lie when you have to say something that may be perceived by them as unpleasant.  All of us, to some degree, want to avoid conflict and maximize pleasure in our own lives and the lives of those we interact with.  In the Dr. Phil arena, it’s called being a “people pleaser”.  In reality though, a great lie we tell ourselves is that we please people more if we placate them in the short-run instead of being upfront and honest.  It’s just not true.

In your life, you’re going to want people to trust you and, not for a second, hesitate when you give a response.  Because really, and here’s the secret, if you can be trusted with little things like “Yes, I’ll pick you up from the airport”, you’ll earn the respect, privilege, and honor of being believed when you say big things like “I’d like to work for you” and “I do.”

If you say yes to something — follow through.  Do what you said you’d do.  Be where you said you’d be.  And affirm that you are someone that can be counted on.  If you’ve got to say no, say it and don’t look back.  At the end of the day, a man of his word is valued more than a man of pleasantries.  No?  Yes.

Take it from the sub-machine, Tompkins…

You’re a Grown Man, mean what you say.

slow down.

7 Oct

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Nice to see you again.

I just got back from Greece and I must say that:

-Greek food is of the gods and should be mandatory consumption for all planet Earth.

-Sailing in the Aegean Sea makes even the doughiest and landlocked Grown Men (I might be talking about me) feel like a trident-wielding Poseidon.


self-portrait

-Exploring new places is good for the soul unless you get lost — in which case, Greece doesn’t participate in the popular “street sign” method of navigation. You end up walking forever to get to a place that was one block from where you started.

-Greek people are tremendous.  Well, not the one Greek guy who wouldn’t let us take a picture of him grilling an entire freaking octopus, but everyone but that dude is awesome.

-There’s nothing better than an uninterrupted week with Mrs. Grown Man (my wife).

Anyhow, it’s good to be back in the intensely jet lagged saddle and getting the opportunity to share with you something else that stood out to me whilst gallivanting around Greece — we move really freaking fast in America.

I first noticed my own Gonzales-ness when we sat down for our first Grecian meal.  In Greece, the waiter wanders over at some point, asks if you’d like water, disappears for a bit, comes back with the water, leaves again, asks if you have menu questions, leaves, takes an appetizer order, leaves, brings bread, asks if you’ve decided, leaves… you get it, it’s slow.  And this phenomenon doesn’t just occur at fancy restaurants where they’re trying to separate tourists from Euros, this is the norm.  They just take at least an hour to eat meals, even during the work day.

The second time I noticed that Americans move too fast, or was rather told quite bluntly that we’re on cultural caffeine, was by a local man named Simon who struck up a conversation with me.  By the way, Greek men actually talk to each other and converse quite freely with strangers.  Anyhow, Simon and I were doing the typical vacation chit-chat where I tell him where we’ve been so far and he asks me questions about American life (“No, most of us only know English — and poorly at that.”  “Yes, we have to pay taxes.”  “No, we don’t generally live close to our families.” “Yes, many people work 7 days a week in New York City.”)  Anyhow, he shared with me that his son had recently visited America and was shocked by the pace of our people.  To quote Simon (he’s speaking wonderful English by the way): “My son says you work all the time, talk on the phone all the time, and are always go go go.”  To Simon I replied (in average English), “Yep, that’s us.”

Grown Men, the Greeks have given the world a lot of great advancements over the years — philosophy, art, architecture, and the crossbow. Now they’ve given us, by way of Simon and yours truly, some important advice — we’ve got to slow down. 

Get ready for an old guy statement, here we go… everything we do nowadays is fast.  We multitask, we “grab a quick bite,” we value working 10+ hours at a breakneck pace, and we generally find every possible way to speed up our world.  I know you’re busy, aren’t you?  Yet don’t you feel like the more gadgets you acquire to save time and the more activities you squeeze into the iCal white spaces, the less actual time you have and the less you get done?  In the words of Kenan Thompson, “What’s up with that!?”  Here’s what’s up: going faster and doing more has diminishing returns on living a life of quality and purpose.

So what do we do? First, we acknowledge the fact that we do live in a fast freaking culture and, though two-hour siestas and evening strolls on the cliffs of Santorini would be ideal, we just don’t live in a society that always allows it.  Second, because we acknowledge that there are demands on our time that are extreme, we must force margins into our life.  Finally, we must guard those margins with all our might.

For example, let’s go back to the Greek (and I’m guessing rest of the world) tradition of taking longer meals: Every time MGM and I were served food, we would take a bite, make those weird mmmmm-ing noises, drink a spot of wine, and intentionally put down our forks.  By habit and culture, we were going to plow through the meal and easily move on to the next activity.  But, because we were doing everything we could to savor the time (and the tzatziki), we made ourselves put just the smallest margin of time around the simple, everyday activity of eating.  What if you started to do the same?  What if power lunches were replaced with just regular old lunches?  What if the morning cup of coffee wasn’t spent in front of CNN, with a newspaper, with the laptop, but rather on the back porch just injecting 20 minutes of silence into the day?  What if those small margins of time were placed strategically throughout every day?  What if I stopped asking questions?

A few weeks ago, I sold my iPhone and got a free, boring one.  Today, I sat with old and new friends for a one hour relaxing lunch.  Tomorrow, I’m going to put away the laptop, go out in the refreshing fall air, and start building a picnic table.  My encouragement to you is to do whatever needs to be done to slow down, create some pockets of free time, and enjoy life.  At the end of the day, it’s not what you’ve done or how much you’ve made, it’s how well you invested in the lives of others and used the time you’ve been given.

You’re a Grown Man, slow down.

Greece is the word

27 Sep
Bringing back the .gif

Bringing back the .gif

Well, my loyal readers and friends, I’m off on a vacation to Greece with my BFF, Mrs. Grown Man.  And, while I thought it might be a great idea to pre-post a bunch before I left and trick you all into thinking I was really here, I decided against it.  For real, because I love the day-to-day comment interaction and Twitter conversations that happen as a result of the good/bad advice I give, I just didn’t want to un-box Grown Man Robot and bring him to life.  Thank you all for being such kind readers.

In the man time, here are a few sites that I really enjoy that, as a whole, may equal the wisdom and humor of yours truly.

About men…

1,001 Rules For My Unborn Son – This guy has an uncanny ability to tap into the deepest thoughts of the male psyche and make us laugh and cry.  Often, he can say in a sentence what takes me 900 words or more — sorry about the “get out of debt” series!

The Art of Manliness – A great site with a number of helpful articles.  Also, they’re one of the few dude sites around that doesn’t use women to get you to read – bravo!

About music…

Play List Play – One awesome song, every day, with a nice dash of writing.  It’s, by far, my favorite way to start a work day.  Well that and coffee, gallons and gallons of delicious coffee.

About writing…

Letters of Note – A brilliant blog that posts letters from famous or influential people.  It’s really a fascinating look at what makes great (and not so great) thinkers think.

So, I’ll see you on Thursday, October 7th, and really look forward to continuing our dialogue about what makes good guys, Grown Men!

get out of debt (part 2).

23 Sep

In case you didn’t read You’re a Grown Man, get out of debt (part 1). Here’s a quick recap — 1960’s Batman TV Show style:

Last time, on Grown Man

We learned that Grandpas are awesome (WOW!!!)

We found out that evil Dr. Debt is probably in YOUR HOME (ZOK!!!)

But just in the nick of time, Grown Man swooped in (WHAMM!!!) to save the day and let you know that your life is worth more than just money and possessions! (OOOOF!!!)

Then, just as you were about to stop reading, Robin came to the rescue and yelled, “What are you worth, and how can you find contentment in that?  It’s a hard question but one that’s really at the heart of our crazy spending!” (OPRAH-ED!!!)

Robin always was kind of a buzz kill.  Anyhow, let’s continue on with the reasons why you should get out of debt (KAPOW!!!) Okay, I promise I’m done with those now.  Here we go…

2- Debt destroys relationships. Even great relationships have an impossibly hard time navigating the waters of financial stress.  Research — real research, not like some junky middle school science fair project — has shown that couples are more likely to survive gigantic problems with children, in-laws, or sex than they are with financial issues. Yes, it’s that big of a deal and it a-bombs good couples every day.  If you love that girl, balance the budget.

Me an Ole' Betsy?

3- Men need to dream. They need to be able to entertain thoughts like, “Maybe I’d like to move out west when I retire and open a dairy farm” (and yes, this is a real one I had last week.)  Why do I want to be a dairy farmer when I’m lactose intolerant?  Hell of a question. In any event, being debt free gives us the freedom to entertain crazy thoughts like that or less bovine dreams like, “Maybe I’ll buy my friend dinner tonight” or “What if I gave away some money to good causes?”  We need freedom, it’s in our DNA.  And being shackled by debt locks us into a life that’s void of new horizons.

4- Trust is earned. My grandfather (a.k.a. The Great One) trusted the mailman. Because every time the mailman took five minutes out of his Friday to pay the tab, he was clearing his debt, clearing his name, and looking The Great One in the eye and saying (without saying anything), “What you give to me, I will take care of — even if it’s just a sandwich and nickel Coke.”

And that, Grown Men, is why people trust you.  Because you own what’s yours and take care of what’s others.  If you are in debt, you’ve let the world (and more importantly, yourself) know that you’ll take others’ money and not give it back.  Yes, I know you’re usually borrowing from “the man” who “has plenty of money, so why do I have to pay them back!?”  Because you said you would, and at the end of the day, your word is the only true currency you’ve got.

But Grown Man, I’m in debt for school!  Are you saying that’s wrong? Also, why didn’t you tell me that a degree in LaserDisc Repair wasn’t a good idea?

Let’s talk briefly about the terms “good” and “bad” debt.  Good debt typically refers to a house or an education where there’s a possible, if not likely, positive return on investment.  Conversely, bad debt covers everything else that rarely returns equal or positive numbers.  These bad debts are things like cars, credit cards, and that $200 eBay vintage Glowworm.  None of these things, except maybe the Glowworm, will end up yielding you a profit and are widely understood to be dumb ideas.  However, I want to flip-it-and-reverse it on you…

There is no such thing as good debt.

Oh my, how shocking!  Yes, I’m telling you that you should try desperately to pay off your house as soon as possible and not have school loans.  Yes, I’m saying what you think I’m saying — no debt means no debt. Zero.

Now listen, I’m a reasonable man. I know people can’t usually plop down multiple thousands of dollars for these things. But, I am saying that you should do everything in your power to turn your 30-year mortgage into a 15-year one.  And, if that’s not possible, consider if you’ve got the buying power to be in your home in the first place.  If not, turn your dreams of living some other person’s life into realities of living the life you have. Get a house you can pay for – quickly – and stop leaning on the bank to prop you up for 30 years.

As far as school loans go, do everything in your ability to pay your way through school.  Even if you have to wait a year, live like a pauper, and save a ton for tuition — do it.  It’s only in recent history that school loans became the norm.  It was never common for most people, including the generation before us, to take out money for education. And, because they didn’t, they weren’t handcuffed to interest rates and creditors during the second chorus of Pomp and Circumstance.  You, however, will be.  And trust me on this one, you don’t want that pressure right out of school.

Having said all of this, please know that you can still be a Grown Man and have debt.  In full disclosure, I have a mortgage.  However, you can’t be resigned to it being okay, as you were never designed to live a life playing servant to the lender.  You were meant to do great things, to use your mind, to keep your word, and to own your own life.

Here are a few ways you can start reclaiming your world and get out of debt (none of these suggestions are affiliated with Grown Man or have any clue I exist):

1- Listen, read, ingest, and do everything Dave Ramsey says.  He’s intense and brilliant with money management.  You need him.

2- Start using Mint.com.  It won’t make you not crazy with money, but it’ll show you how crazy you are.

3- Find your friend who is out of debt and trade his/her advice for beer (that you buy with cash!)

4- Talk to The Great One, he’ll straighten you out — and give you a Werther’s Original.

You’re a Grown Man, get out of debt.

get out of debt. (part 1)

21 Sep

Not my mom, but you get the point

In the 60’s, my grandfather (and Grown Man Grand Poobah) owned a drug store.  It was a perfect slice of Americana and exactly what you’re picturing in your mind.  Just look around — there’s my mom, then a quiet teenager, working the soda fountain and daydreaming about The Monkees. Standing behind a raised counter with a warm smile, perfect tie, and white coat is my grandfather.  He knows the name, story, and prescription of every patron that’s walked through his door.  He is proud to own a business where relationships are valued and quality is a given.

Every time I see The Great One (my grandpa’s actual nickname), we chat about how it used to be.  And, inevitably, he tells me the story of the mailman.  The mailman (who actually had a name that I don’t remember because I’m not as awesome as The Great One) came into the store everyday for lunch. Of course, The Great One still remembers his order.  Anyhow, the mailman would give my mom the mail, grab a seat at the counter, chit chat with the patrons, enjoy his sandwich and nickel Coke, and leave.  No money changed hands, nothing was said about payment, he just came and went about his day delivering the mail on time.  However, this wasn’t odd. This was something that used to happen all the time back in the day — my grandfather put him on a tab.  Except, and here’s the big except, there wasn’t actually a tab.  The Great One just knew and trusted that every Friday, the mailman would take an extra moment and settle up for the week. Why?  Because “…the mailman was a good man, he always paid his debts.  Every Friday, right on time – just like the US Mail.” (Grown Men use the postal service).

Here’s the truth bomb: If you walked into my grandfather’s store and enjoyed your sandwich and nickel Coke on good faith, you’d probably owe The Great One thousands of dollars and have to get yourself corrected – greatest generation style.  Why?  Because if you’re like most of the country, you spend without thinking, rack up credit, seek fulfillment in having more, and end up being a slave to the lender.  You, my Grown Man, are probably in debt and – what’s worse – you likely don’t care.

Here’s why you need to care:

1- You are worth something. And that something is made up of your character, your beliefs, how you invest in the world around you, the work that you do, and your resources.  All of those factors, taken as a whole, equal you – a Grown Man.

So what does it say for us if we’re given an amount for our wages, but we try to live the life of a person that makes many times that amount?  It means that somewhere, the things we value – really value – are off.  It means that we think that having the life of those people is better then the crappy old lot of our measly existence.  This is a lie that we tell ourselves because we assume that our worth as men has something to do with money.  The truth is, money is just a measurement of the perceived value of your work.  The real value of a man is the fruit of his labor.  His labor as a friend, a spouse, an employee, and a person.

OKAY, DAD!  Geez, I’m important and special. Great. But still, I want a freaking jet ski!


This could be you

I know you do, buddy, I know you do. Jet skis really are the best.  The key is, what’s the jet ski really about? And do you make jet ski money?  If it’s about just having fun and straddling a rocket as it rips through the lakes and rivers of your state, then you’ve got the right (but dangerous) mindset.  If it’s about making you feel better about your perceived position in life by showing the coworkers your new Water Rocket 9000 pictures — you don’t want a jet ski, you want happiness and acceptance.  And that, my friend, can’t be purchased.

Debt is stealing from yourself.  Stealing from a life that you’re not living and banking on the fact that your current desires will be fulfilled by your future earnings.  You’re willing to say, “Hey, I think I should be having this life, so I’m going to sign a crappy loan or register for another credit card to get it.”  What’s happening though, is that you’re not content with what you’re worth now, today, at this moment in time – so you steal from your future.

The question is this: What are you worth, and how can you find contentment in that?  It’s a hard question but one that’s really at the heart of our crazy spending.

Dear lord…for real, I hate your Oprah posts.

I know you do.  But guess what, this is only the half of it.  Tomorrow, we’ll look at reasons 2-4 as well as some practical ways to climb out of debt.  Here’s a hint: stop spending money you don’t have.

You’re a Grown Man, get out of debt.

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