Tag Archives: work

Ask a Grown Man: Vol. XV

24 Jun

Grown Man,

From one grown man to another, can we agree that today’s 20-somethings are ridiculous?  I mean really…hipster, everyone gets a trophy, entitled kids?  C’mon Grown Man, help them out!

Gratefully,
Doug
Seattle, WA

Doug E. Fresh,

I’d like to begin answering your question by focusing on two completely unrelated points:

First point…Seattle is the greatest city ever.  I’ve spent some time there and must implore – nay – beg you to send me a doughnut from Mighty O’s and an espresso from Vivace.  I don’t know how you’ll get either of those to me fresh and warm, but that’s not my problem. ASAP, Doug, A-S-A-P!  My address is:

Grown Man
A House I Built
‘merica,
67650

Second point…Doug, did you realize that the original Space Jam website is still up and active?! This has nothing to do with you or anything you’ve asked, but I needed to tell the world so I randomly threw it into this post. Anyhow, you and the tens of other people reading need to go to this website and remember how amazingingly 8-bit the mid-90s were.

Now that we’ve got all that rigmarole out of the way, let’s finally get to your question. By way of review…

I’m Doug! I hate kids! I’m old and curmudgeonly!
-Doug

Douglas, three years ago, you and I would have been on the same page.  When this blog started, I was on a personal quest to transform every man into some idealized version of masculinity.  I railed against v-necks, skinny jeans, not carrying cash, and basically every fad/fashion that wasn’t timeless.  And while this was, arguably, the greatest, wittiest writing ever done by anyone in the history of the world – I don’t think I was right.

GROWM MAN! Are you saying you were WRONG!?  I thought part of being in an ivory tower was never having to admit you’re wrong!?

I know, and I’m sorry to disappoint you.  But I’ve observed something over the past few years that’s refined my thinking.  [Cue soft, reflective violin music]

The kid I worked with who inspired most of the early posts did something impressive – he grew up.  And as he grew up, some things became more Grown Man-ish. Things like: #13 – Ask a Girl Out (he did, and he married her), #44 – Be a Friend to Your Heartbroken Comrades (at his wedding, all his groomsmen cried and talked about what a loyal friend he is) and #74 – Slow Down (he’s present, he listens, and he has margin in his life).

Conversely, some things haven’t changed at all: #36 – Know the 7 T-Shirt Rules (he wears a shirt or tank-top to every event – and it’s awful),  #61 – Wear a Watch (he checks his iPhone – a lot), which ties in with #67 – Quit Screwing Around on Your Phone (he’ll literally play Candy Crush during a funeral if given the opportunity).

Mustache, check. Fixed gear, check.
Job, not so much.

Here’s the kicker though, the importance of  the things he doesn’t do is pale in comparison to the  value of the things he does do. What compels me to make fun of him in front of his friends and family is the fact that he’s wearing an American Flag tank top.  But what defines him is his character, friendship, and ability to love his wife and community well.  At the end of the day, being a Grown Man isn’t about what you wear, it’s about the trust that people have in you – and I trust this man, tank top and all.

Which, my dear Doug, brings me back to your question.  Yes, I think hipsters are ridiculous, what with their ironic glasses, vinyl copies of Bon Iver, and $200 vintage Chambray shirts.  However, when I was their age I was deep into my Dave Matthews phase, wearing Chaco sandals, and refusing to buy a suit because “Dave doesn’t wear a suit and he wrote #41 – whatever, DAD!”  And guess what? Some mid-30s-anonymous-blogger-guy was probably looking at me saying “grow up” – and he was probably right.  Every incarnation of youth is silly, Doug. Beatle-maniacs, hippies, gen X-ers, hipsters – all of them.  But what we can do is differentiate between what is an adolescent phase and what is real, rooted, and lasting – like a solid handshake, making eye contact, and meaning what you say.

However…we really have to force these kids to stop getting sleeve tattoos.  That junk’s going to haunt them someday.

Until next Monday, ask away.  Thanks for the question, Doug!

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.

listen to music.

15 Sep

On my way to work, I usually listen to news on the radio.  It’s a quick way for me to get the basics of the world on my 15 minute commute. Remember, Grown Men know the news.  However, my news station of choice has been raking me over the coals of guilt and shame this week during their twice a year pledge drive (though I’m starting to suspect it’s MUCH more often than that).  Some well meaning woman whom I’m totally sure is wearing a dog-hair cardigan and sensible khakis is softly berating me with statements like, “We provide quality news and entertainment to you year round – all we’re asking is for you to provide for us once a year. Is that too much to ask?”  Oh geez, I get it, I get it, I’ll give you my 20 bucks — just bring back your soothing and gentle presentation of the economic meltdown and multiple wars!

So, I’ve done what any good NPR listener would do this time of year and plugged in the iPod.  And yesterday, I found myself doing something very un-Morning Edition.  Instead of quietly driving, considering, and reflecting — I sang.  Oh heck yeah, I sang!  It was ugly and comical to those who caught a glimpse of me in the rear-view mirror but man, it felt great.  And the reason it felt great was because music is important and something that Grown Men tend to enjoy less and less of as they become older and more “mature.”

The truth is, music is primal.  We know this by looking at babies.  For example, take your average little fella who’s just learning how to stand.  I guarantee you that a majority of the time, when you turn on Single Ladies or some other classic but terrible dance song, that chap is going to start bouncing.  Then, if the song is particularly, wonderfully, bad (Telephone by Lady Gaga), he’s going to start smiling, clapping, and having a heck of a time.  Does he know the complexities of the lyrics (“Just a second, it’s my favorite song they gonna play. And I cannot text you with a drink in my hand, eh?”)?  No, he has no idea what’s being said.  Does he enjoy the bold vocal arrangements and unique instrumentation found in modern… whatever. No.  All he knows is that this noise makes him feel good and he’s gotta dance his Pampers off.

Grown Men, you’ve got to put down the talk radio and listen to music more often.  Because music, even crappy music that you’re embarrassed to tell people you like (Madonna: The  Immaculate Collection) is one of the great forms of enjoyment we get in this life.  And, in our adult lives, we need as many outlets for pure, non goal oriented, relatively pointless happiness that we can find. The problem is, we get old (or at least, we think we get old) and those purely enjoyable activities get replaced with kinda fun, but sorta purposeful, but “it’s not that bad”, but “a little boring” acts — like email and catching up on the Tivo. 

Listening to music is one of the disciplines of our lives that must be practiced to keep us grounded, creative, peaceful, and well-rounded men.   Taking five minutes to lean back in a comfortable chair with The Beatles is probably more helpful than one more email, one more episode of Entourage, or another call returned.  Even if it’s a crappy artist that only you like (Creed), the fact that you enjoy it and can create space to partake in it is critical for your overall balance.

You’re a Grown Man, listen to music.

One more thing, please don’t assail me in the comments because I listen to NPR. Their political agenda is unimportant to me and they don’t yell, which is key at 8am.

have a hobby.

30 Aug

I brew beer.  Why do I brew beer?  Well, I’m not 100% sure.  Because really, if I stop and work the math (which I hate doing) it doesn’t add up.  You see, the raw ingredients for a batch of beer cost around $40 for two cases (48 bottles).  Now that’s some cheap and tasty beer!  However, here’s what ends up happening:  I walk into my local beer supply store and glaze over.  I begin to realize how screwed I’ve been in the past by not having a $30 device for aiding in the partial mash process — oh the humanity!  Then, I get a feeling that some of the fermentation problems and pronounced notes of hops I had on the last batch were probably due to not cooling the wort (pre-beer mixture) quickly enough — “Yeah, I should probably pick up some supplies for a chiller.” No big deal, just another $50.  You see what’s happening, don’t you?  I’m getting ready to brew my next batch of Cristal.  But man o’ man, do I love brewing beer!  And at the end of the day, the value of sitting in the garage with my friends for three hours and drinking good beer while we create mediocre beer can’t be underestimated.  Grown Men, you need to find a hobby.  Let’s talk it out…

Here’s our working definition of a hobby: A hobby is a way to spend time doing something you enjoy that does not necessarily provide any monetary income and has little discernible, tangible benefit (other than happiness) to you or those around you.  Basically, a hobby IS fun and ISN’T work.  A hobby DOES occupy your brain and DOESN’T stress you out.  A hobby is, in it’s purest form, old school, little kid, OshKosh B’gosh, playing.

Basset hound

Image via Wikipedia

I suppose it started when we were little guys, spending a copious amount of time in the back yard just goofing around with the wagon or constructing a ramp for the Hot Wheels to jump Beau the Basset Hound (actual event).  By the way, what happened to Hot Wheels?  They used to be small versions of regular cars.  Now, they’re all futuristic and messed up.  I want a Hot Wheel of an ‘84 Ford F150.  I’m just sayin’.

Back to the point: gentlemen, you need to have playtime. It’s ingrained in your masculinity and can’t be denied.  There is a part of our psyche that, even in a fulfilling relationship and wonderful job, just longs to mess around, goof off, kill time, build something, wreck something, tinker, or be creative.  All of us need that one thing – we’ll call it a hobby – that gives us a measure of margin in our life where we’re not connected so intensely to the adult world and the expectations thereof. Wow, that was heavy.

Here’s a final thought about having a hobby.  I’ve clearly been avoiding naming actual hobbies because there are about one zillion options for how to have big boy play time.  I brew beer. In the past, I’ve done wood block carving, biking (that lasted for about 5 minutes), blogging, and a ton of other random things.

Grown Man, don’t you blog now?  I mean, wait, I’m reading the blog.  So yes, you do blog.

Good point, Mr. Observant.  Here’s what’s important to remember, I started blogging as a way to make my friends laugh.  Now, I’m on more of a mission with this site and must do adult things like pace myself, maintain boundaries, and sometimes even not write in order to enjoy writing again.  In short, this blog has crossed out of the hobby realm and into the something I like to do a lot realm (sorta like a job).  It’s a fine but distinct line.  When you find a hobby, make sure you know when it’s a pure hobby and when it’s a mini-job.  Because a mini-job is great, but the little boy in you still needs some mindless Hot Wheel time.

You’re a Grown Man, have a hobby.

quit screwing around on your phone.

26 Aug

This is the first post I’ve ever written where two of my close friends are going to read it and realize, “Hold on, wait, is he talking specifically about me?”  Yes, Zanzibar and Casey, I am.  Because you see, kind readers, Zanzibar and Casey have a problem. One tiny, entire-Internet-in-your-hand, Words With Friends, iProblem.  And, they’re not alone.

Gentlemen, we are on the precipice of a cultural shift. One that finds us teetering between connecting with the world around us, or choosing the red pill and disappearing into a sea of games, email, social networking, texting, et cetera, et cetera.  In short, guys are using their iDroidBerrys when they shouldn’t be — and it’s ungentlemanly.  Zanzibar, Casey, and all the other good men with a bad habit, allow me to give you the rules:

1- If you’re in a room with other people who could possible interact with you (social event, meeting), your amazing phone is stripped away of all cool features and is now only to be used for receipt of calls and text messages.

2- Should you receive a call or text during one of these social times, you need to know when it’s okay to even look at the phone and when it’s not.  While there are many exceptions to the rule, in general, you shouldn’t acknowledge the phone unless you’re expecting an important call.  In which case, you should forewarn the group that “The Blue Men might be calling at 8pm for me to fill in as their understudy” or something similar.  Barring that call from The Blue Men, you’ll need to pretend the phone doesn’t exist.

3- If you are talking face-to-face with a small group or single person, there is absolutely no reason on the planet why the phone shouldn’t be on silent and completely void of your attention.  If, and only if, there’s something important happening (like The Blue Men), you can preface your conversation with the “I might need to be rude…” disclaimer.

4- Use the Rubik’s Cube rule.  What’s the Rubik’s Cube rule, you ask? Here we go:  If it would be appropriate for you to pull out a Rubik’s Cube and start playing with it, it would be acceptable for you to screw around with the apps, games, texting, and other trappings of your ComputerPhone 5000.  Having stated that rule, is it appropriate to hop on and launch penguins during a staff meeting? Think about it…picture it…everybody is watching you play with a Rubik’s Cube, how odd!…ok, no, it’s not appropriate to launch penguins during the staff meeting.   Let’s try another one:  You’re standing in front of me and you get a Push notification that your 5th grade friend just “liked” your link about the newest Lego Starwars Game.  Should you check it?  Huh, let’s visualize the moment… “Hey, why in the hell are you playing Rubik’s Cube while I’m talking to you!”  So no, it’s not okay.

It is okay, however, to pop out the Rubik’s Cube while you’re walking around, sitting in a park, at home with nothing to do, or during other times of general leisure.  Don’t worry, you’ll still have plenty of time (if not too much time) to waste hours in front of your 4G god.

5- I’m going to blow through this rule quickly because it makes me kinda sick and hacky.  Here we go…  Do not use your phone (oh god, I’m feeling queasy), okay, do not use your phone in the (here comes the bile)…in the bathroom!  For reasons of hygiene, personal space, and overall weirdness, your iPhone can no longer be your crap-paddle.  I gotta move on, sorry…this is gross.

Zanzibar, Casey, and if I’m being honest, the Grown Man writing this post — we’ve got to keep the balance of relationships being paramount, and technology being novel.  Because, and this is the reality, cool technology will never stop being attractive to ADD guys who love shiny/noisy things.  From the wheel to The Terminator, all of our history and future will be marked with advances that make life easier but that also need to be met with temperance.  So go and enjoy your iDroidBerry, it really is okay.  But also make sure you put it away and make eye contact.

You’re a Grown Man, quit screwing around on your phone.

Ironically, this post is also formatted for viewing on a mobile device.  Please, please, please though — don’t read this in the bathroom.

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