The List King: John Hawkins's 5 Greatest Hits of 2012
My good friend John Hawkins has decided to take a few weeks off from his weekly PJ Lifestyle article. So now seemed like the appropriate time to finally do what I'd been meaning to for some time: begin compiling together collections of some of his best articles. For almost two years now John has tackled all kinds of issues -- from self improvement to popular culture to male-female relationships. He's established himself as the section's most popular writer and I've enjoyed watching him explore and experiment. When John comes back we've decided to brainstorm a new direction for him to focus on developing. I'm not sure yet what it should be -- though I don't doubt that John and I could probably come up with something within 15 minutes of brainstorming. The problem is that there are simply too many ideas where John could succeed! As this collection of his 5 most-heavily trafficked articles of 2012 shows he has developed himself into a versatile, witty writer who can craft engaging pieces across a number of subjects. Please leave your suggestions in the comments for the particular direction you'd most like to see John develop his writing in the future.
This is the first of a series of what will become an ongoing collection of The Best of PJ Lifestyle. I have plans for several more John Hawkins's Greatest Hits Collections featuring compilations of his commentaries on Self Improvement, Movies, Entrepreneurship, Humor, Internet Culture, and other subjects. I hope that these collections can showcase the work of a talented writer I'm proud to work with who I'm excited to see continue to grow into one of his generation's most distinct and consequential voices. In the coming months I will release similar compilations celebrating the work of other regular PJ Lifestyle contributors who have made editing this publication such a perpetual joy. It's time to take a retrospective look back at the fantastic work of such frequent PJ Lifestyle contributors as Kathy Shaidle, Walter Hudson, Paula Bolyard, Charlie Martin, Jeanette Pryor, Theodore Dalrymple, Robert Spencer, P. David Hornik, Andrew Klavan, and Bob Owens. (And that's just the beginning!) And as I publish these compilations now is the time to express your views on the directions you'd most like to see these writers take in the future. The ship has its crew; it's time to set sail. Now we just need to chart our destinations.
-David Swindle, PJ Lifestyle Editor
Jump to the article of your choice or read them counting down to John's biggest smash hit:
5. Originally published January 27, 2012: The 7 Most Penetratingly Brilliant Quotes of All Time
4. Originally published May 18, 2012: The 5 Behaviors That Make You Trash
3. Originally published September 29, 2012: The 5 Unique Ways Intelligent People Screw Up Their Lives
2. Originally published September 10, 2012: 5 Simple Mind Hacks That Changed My Life
1. Originally published March 14, 2012: 7 Mistakes Women Make With Men
The 7 Most Penetratingly Brilliant Quotes of All Time
Some people love cats, other people love music, and I love quotes. I mean, I REALLY love quotes. I've compiled more than 100 different collections of quotes, at one time I ran an all quotes website, and I have 5 different brand new Twitter accounts that do nothing but pump out quotes each day -- (@capitalismfacts, @selfhelpquote, @testifyChrist, @masculinequotes, and @rightquotations).
So, when I tell you I know quotes -- I know quotes and I've had my life changed by them. That's what is so extraordinary about quotations to me. You can take a book's worth of wisdom, distill it down into a single quote, and it can endure through the ages impacting lives, perhaps even hundreds of years from now. Here are 7 such profound quotes.
1) "Nothing in life has any real meaning except the meaning you give it." -- Tony Robbins
Many people wave off Tony Robbins because they think of him as the cheesy, overly-excited, big-toothed guy they see doing infomercials on late night TV. This is a mistake because Robbins has a knack for simplifying complex ideas down into easy-to-use concepts that go beyond anything I'd have thought possible before he came onto the scene.
In this case, what he's referring to is the fact that almost everything that happens to you has no intrinsic meaning. Is a funeral a time for celebration because the person who passed has gone on to a better place or a time to be deeply sad? Is the emotion in your stomach before you give a speech fear or your body getting you ready to perform? If you walk up to someone of the opposite sex and she brushes you off, is it because there's something wrong with the situation, something wrong with you, or something wrong with her?
Once you recognize how arbitrary many of the things that happen to you are, you can stop merely reacting to events and start asking a better question, "Which of the possible interpretations of this event best serves me?"
2) "There's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip." -- Young Guns
I am a planner's planner. I've written articles on planning your life, I make a living analyzing politics, and I love to plan out long term dreams and goals.
And you know what I've learned by doing all of those things? It doesn't matter how smart you are, how much you know, or how completely you think you have everything figured out; life is extraordinarily unpredictable. Granted, life's not random, but polls can be wrong, huge shifts can occur because of a seemingly minor event, and the unthinkable can become thinkable much quicker than most people believe. In other words, most guarantees aren't really guaranteed and if you think you KNOW what's going to happen, think really hard before you bet the house on it because you may end up being wrong.
3) "There are no solutions, only trade-offs." -- Thomas Sowell
One of the weaknesses of human beings is that we tend to pay great attention to the seen and lose sight of the unseen. In other words, we think about the problem that's directly in front of us, but don't consider opportunity costs -- and there's an opportunity cost to EVERYTHING. If you spend your money on one thing, you lose the opportunity to spend your money on something else or even to just save the money for a rainy day. If you decide to go to the beach tomorrow, you lost the opportunity to spend that time watching a movie. If you decide to give a homeless person a five dollar bill, you may be encouraging him to freeload or you may be giving him money that will be used on drugs. On the other hand, by not giving him five dollars, you're losing the opportunity to feel good about being compassionate to another human being and he may use that money to get dinner or even a used blazer at a Salvation Army that he could use to get a job.
Whatever the case may be, just remember, there's always some kind of trade-off involved and you should know what it is before you act. If you don't know what the trade-off is, then you're not capable of making an informed decision.
4) "Find something you love to do so much that you'd do it for free and find a way to make it into a career." -- Anonymous
I used to do Amway in college. Although I can't recommend that people follow in my footsteps, I can tell you that was where I first heard this quote.
It's not advice that everyone can follow, but it's probably the single best piece of advice I ever received in my life. It's what convinced me to try to become a professional blogger, which was something I enjoyed so much that I was happy even when I was doing it for free. If you spend about a third of your life asleep and AT LEAST a third of your life working, finding a way to make a living doing something you love to do can literally transform decades of your life from drudgery to play. If you were trying to come up with a single change in trajectory that could have the biggest impact on your life, it would be hard to top this one.
5) “The last of human freedoms – the ability to choose one’s attitude in a given set of circumstances.” -- Viktor E. Frankl
Frankl came to his philosophy while nearly starving to death under some of the most brutal conditions imaginable in a Nazi concentration camp. In his case, he found that the people who didn't give up, even in that hellhole, tended to be much more likely to make it out alive than the ones who gave up.
The lesson is applicable under much less extreme circumstances as well. You can be frustrated and angry because you're stuck in a traffic jam or you can be patient and nonplussed. You can stew all day over an insult or you can let it roll off your back. You can focus on what you lost in the past instead of what you have to look forward to in the future.
In most cases, your attitude and what you decide to focus on will determine the direction of your life.
6) "It is not the critic who counts, not the one who points out how the strong man stumbled or how the doer of deeds might have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with sweat and dust and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes up short time and time again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself a worthy cause; who if he wins knows the triumph of high achievement; and who, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory or defeat." -- Teddy Roosevelt
It's very easy to forget that making good decisions after the fact, when you know how things turned out, is several orders of magnitude easier than it is when life is coming at you at 90 miles per hour. Along the same lines, if you're not careful, it can escape your attention that most critics are critics because they can't do. It's easier to teach business than to be a businessman, to be a film critic than to make films, or to criticize decisions made by professional coaches than to be a coach. This quote, once you truly understand it, will forever change the way you take criticism, give criticism, and view critics.
7) "Your emotions are nothing but biochemical storms in your brain and you are in control of them at any point in time." -- Tony Robbins
Theoretically, this one is true and there are probably some people who could watch their pet puppy run through a shredder, decide to feel pretty good about it, and then go to Hooters for some wings. Most of us don't have quite that level of control, but -- and this is a huge but -- you do have a great deal of control over your emotions, much more than most people realize.
Robbins, in his extraordinary book Awaken the Giant Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your Mental, Emotional, Physical and Financial Destiny!, illustrated this with a story.
When I used to conduct private therapies, people would come to see me, sit down in my office and begin to tell me what their problem was. They'd say, "My problem is..." and then they'd burst into tears, out of control. As soon as this happened, I would stand up and shout, "EXCUSE ME!" This would jolt them, and I'd follow up with, "We haven't started yet!" Usually they responded, "Oh, I'm so sorry." And they'd immediately change their emotional state and regain control. It was hysterical to watch! These people who felt they had no control over their lives would prove that they already knew exactly how to change how they felt!
Just thinking about the fact that you have tremendous control over your own emotions can often be enough to allow you to stop being angry or snap out of a mildly depressed state. You don't have to let your emotions control your life because ultimately, you control your emotions.
Next: The 5 Behaviors That Make You Trash
The 5 Behaviors That Make You Trash
People aren't trashy because of who they are, they're trashy because of how they behave. That means the cast of Jersey Shore, Perez Hilton, and the Kardashians didn't pop out of their mamas' wombs wrong. To the contrary, they all had to learn how to be as trashy as a Louisiana landfill. Now trashy people have always been around, but the difference is that in our “any attention is good attention," 15-minutes-of-fame society, a lot of people consider "trashy" to be an asset if it gets more people looking in their direction. Having every eye in the room on you isn't worth it if the word "trash" is going through every head at the same time. The good news is that it's easy to avoid the sort of behavior that gets you labeled as trash.
1) Profanity in Public.
Last time I was in D.C., I was in a cab with a female friend and the cabby was playing rap music. Five minutes into the ride, the music got dirty. A song came on that actually referenced "p*ssy," at which point I, his paying customer, had to actually ask him to change the station. Later that weekend, when we were on the metro, we had someone playing loud music in the back of the train. Of course, since it was D.C., maybe he had just arrived from some country that doesn’t have headphones -- but I doubt it.
It's just as grating when people curse in public or get loud in a restaurant. Are these backwards idiots not aware there are other people in the room? How about a modicum of courtesy to other human beings who are sharing space with you? Nobody wants to hear you rant on your cell phone, yell across the table to your cousin, or hear about how much you hate the F-ing Panthers. Pretend like you weren't raised in a barn and show a little class.
2) Letting Your Brats Run Wild.
Dogs have a natural urge to impose order on other dogs that are misbehaving. If a puppy bites down on an older dog too hard or won't leave him alone, the adult dog will growl and nip at the puppy or force him on his back, not to hurt him, but to teach him some manners. Human beings have the same urges. When I'm around a bratty little kid who's running wild and making noise in a store, instinctively, there's this powerful desire to backhand him out of his shoes. Obviously, you can't get away with that these days, but a lot of people would LOVE to do it.
There's just something extraordinarily aggravating about a kid making an ass of himself and annoying other human beings right in front of his mother, who doesn't have anything to say about it. Inevitably, these are the same sort of trashy moms who end up raising a stink when their wild kids get in trouble. If your rotten brat threw chairs, hit the principal, and got so out-of-control that the police were called and your reaction is to blame the teachers and the cops, you have a problem. Don't blame them; blame yourself. You're the trash that's turning your kid into trash just like you.
Related at PJ Lifestyle: "In Defense of Starting an Argument in Public for Humanity’s Greater Good by" Megan Fox
3) Having a Nasty Yard.
Once I hired a guy to do some basic things around my yard -- rake leaves, cut hedges, etc. He did a reasonably good job and after he was finished, I gave him a ride home. To my great surprise, the same man who had just spent hours getting my yard in fighting trim had piles of rusted junk in his own. This was the strangest thing. What could ever possess anyone to take a pile of metal, old tires, or just trash and drop it in his front yard? At a minimum, you'd think he’d at least stick it in some forgotten corner of the backyard where no one would notice it. No one wants to see a house on the block with waist-high grass, Christmas lights up in March, cars up on blocks, a broken washing machine in the yard, and a half dozen chickens walking around. Clean that crap up and stop being so filthy!
4) Sleeping Around.
Whether it's flashing your vagina to everyone nearby when you get out of a car, screwing your friend's boyfriends, or being on welfare with five different kids by four baby daddies, you can be assured people are judging you. Men tend to get off easier on this one, but they're just as guilty.
The worst of the bunch, of course, are the ones who get women pregnant and then run for the hills, but the pick-up artist culture is creating a whole new wave of douches. It's not that there's anything wrong with men who want to learn how to get better with women. It's the misogynistic “find 'em, F ‘em, and flee” mentality that so many of these jerks live by that's so greasy and low class.
5) Dress for Failure.
Ever seen a slut walk? The whole "idea" behind it is supposed to be that dressing like a slut doesn't mean you "asked for it" if you get raped. That's very true. But it does mean that you're asking to be looked at as trash. If you're a woman walking out of the house in an outfit that would fit right in at a Hollywood Halloween party -- or if you were to stand on the corner for five minutes, the odds are high that some guy will stop and offer you money for sex -- then you're dressed trashy.
On the other hand, men tend to go in a different, but possibly even more disturbing, direction. When I was a couple of years out of college, I worked at a group home and was highly amused that some of the kids there complained that security always seemed to follow them when they walked through a store. Well, they were juvenile delinquents. If security was following them, they had their eyes on the right people. This gets into the whole Trayvon Martin "hoodie" controversy. If you dress like a thug, people will treat you like you're potentially dangerous. If you want your neck tattoo, your hoodie pulled up over your head, and your pants sagging down below your behind, expect people to get nervous when you get in line behind them at the ATM machine. It's not a race thing. If you're a white guy dressed like a punk extra from Mad Max, you're going to get judged just as harshly. People pay attention to the messages you send them with the way you dress. If that message says "slut," "thug," or even just I would fit right in at the people of Wal-Mart website, expect to be treated that way by people around you.
Next: The 5 Unique Ways Intelligent People Screw Up Their Lives
The 5 Unique Ways Intelligent People Screw Up Their Lives
"There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs." -- Thomas Sowell
1) They may believe that learning about something is the same as doing it.
When you've gone to school for years, read hundreds of books, and talked to "experts" about a subject, there's a tendency to believe that you can learn everything you possibly need to know about something without ever doing it. Unfortunately, there are some things in life you can just never understand without personally experiencing them, as this quote from Good Will Hunting explains.
Sean: So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. If I ask you about women, you'd probably give me a syllabus about your personal favorites. You may have even been laid a few times. But you can't tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy. You're a tough kid. And I'd ask you about war, you'd probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, "once more unto the breach dear friends." But you've never been near one. You've never held your best friend's head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help. I'd ask you about love, you'd probably quote me a sonnet. But you've never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable. Known someone that could level you with her eyes, feeling like God put an angel on earth just for you. Who could rescue you from the depths of hell. And you wouldn't know what it's like to be her angel, to have that love for her, be there forever, through anything, through cancer. And you wouldn't know about sleeping sitting up in the hospital room for two months, holding her hand, because the doctors could see in your eyes, that the terms "visiting hours" don't apply to you. You don't know about real loss, 'cause it only occurs when you've loved something more than you love yourself. And I doubt you've ever dared to love anybody that much. And look at you.... I don't see an intelligent, confident man.... I see a cocky, scared sh*tless kid. But you're a genius Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine, and you ripped my f*cking life apart. You're an orphan right?... You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you? Personally... I don't give a sh*t about all that, because you know what, I can't learn anything from you, I can't read in some f*ckin' book. Unless you want to talk about you, who you are. Then I'm fascinated. I'm in. But you don't want to do that do you sport? You're terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief.
Additionally, as Thomas Sowell has noted, "experience trumps brilliance." If you had a restaurant, whom would you rather have running it for the next year? A seasoned veteran of a restaurant business with a decade of experience and an average IQ or Nikola Tesla, one of the most brilliant scientists who ever lived? Keep in mind that Tesla used to falsely claim that he had created a death ray, never married because he thought great inventors should remain celibate, and spent the last decade of his life obsessing over pigeons. Yeah, that's what I thought.
2) They can be really good at coming up with excuses for failure.
Just as you can use a gun for target practice or a robbery and a knife to cut a steak or slash a tire, intelligence is a tool that can be used many different ways. One of the most common ways brilliant people hurt themselves is by using their intellect to devise excuses for why they've failed instead of coming up with new ways to succeed. People who are really good at this can come up with a theory about life, see it fail every test, and still be just as convinced they were right as when they started. These are the sort of people Talleyrand once described as having "learned nothing and forgotten nothing."
3) They sometimes become overconfident about their intellect.
If dumb people have a tendency to ask too many questions and move too slowly, their more clever brethren can make the mistake of asking too few questions and plunging in too quickly. This can often backfire because brain power is not applied equally across all facets of a human mind. You can be brilliant at math, but average at English; have a knack for dealing with people, but be unable to understand computers; be a marketing wizard, but a relationship disaster.
Many smart people make the incorrect assumption that because they're smart in one area, they'll be just as smart in every area once they "figure it out." Napoleon was sure he would "figure out" how to deal with the Russian winter; Bernie Madoff thought he would "figure out" a way to get away with fraud; and William James Sidis, who may have been the most intelligent man who ever lived, was probably shocked to end up in a sanatorium for a year because of his decision to participate in a socialist riot. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as too smart to fail.
4) They're used to being right so much that they stop listening to other people.
When you're a genius, you get used to being right when everyone else around you is wrong. You outsmart other people, you out-test them, you outmaneuver them, and you get very used to moving forward even when other people are telling you that you're wrong. This is not a bad thing. It just goes with the territory. However, whether you're talking about you, me, Einstein -- it doesn't matter, everybody makes mistakes. The problem the smartest person in the room has when he screws up is that he may assume that this is one of those many, many times when he's gotten it right and everyone else has blown it. Next thing you know, you're Mike Markkula pushing Steve Jobs out at Apple or Lyndon Johnson dramatically ramping up our forces in Vietnam while simultaneously making decisions from Washington that made it completely impossible to ever win the war. No amount of intellect will ever replace the value of wise counsel.
5) They may try to show how "uncommon" they are.
Common sense doesn't appeal to many intellectuals simply because it's common. That may seem counter-intuitive, but think about it from their perspective: If they're ever so much smarter than the average person, why are they doing the same things that average people do? Why would they believe the same things that average people believe? How can they be unique, special, and smarter than everyone else when they believe the same things as "average Alvin" and "dumb Dave"? If they're so much smarter, shouldn't they know better?
What you hear referred to as "anti-intellectualism" is often really just a reaction to this attitude. It's why William F. Buckley once said,
I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.
It's also why Morgan Freeberg has noted that "intellectualism has become the readiness, willingness and ability to call dangerous things safe, and safe things dangerous." When smart people feel compelled to take stupid positions to prove how smart they are, they can turn their own lives and the lives of everyone around them into a train wreck in the process.
Next: 5 Simple Mind Hacks That Changed My Life
5 Simple Mind Hacks That Changed My Life
Ever had a single moment that changed your entire life? One event, one mental tweak, one epiphany that made everything better?
Granted, we're not talking about something as huge as turning into a masked crimefighter because my parents were murdered in front of me -- but that's a good thing. Only so many people have experiences like that. I'm talking about relatively small modifications that have had an outsized positive impact on my life. Not only can these mind hacks do the same thing for you, but you can adopt every one of them by the end of this article if you choose to do so.
1) Making yourself impervious to criticism.
When you write about politics for a living, you get called every nasty thing in the book. There's not a single feature on my body that hasn't been thoroughly critiqued. I've been called ugly, fat, stupid, inbred, retarded, a fascist, a Nazi, a racist, and dozens of other terms that I'm not allowed to write on PJM. I get smeared and lied about. I receive death threats. There's not a day that goes by in my life where I don't either get hate mail or get attacked in the comments of articles that I write. After reading that, ponder the fact that when I started writing for a living, not only was I sensitive to criticism, but conflict with other people made me uncomfortable. So how did I go from that to retweeting hate aimed at me on Twitter, laughing off death threats, and taking on four liberals at a time on HuffPostLive?
It started with adopting a quote from Frederick Douglas as a motto.
A gentleman will not insult me, and no man not a gentleman can insult me.
As a practical matter, what does that mean? That anyone who insults is -- by virtue of the fact that he is insulting -- unworthy of my time, attention, or serious consideration. Some people might argue that someone who's deliberately insulting you might also have a legitimate point too. Setting aside the fact that happens about as often as Lady Gaga turns down a chance to wear a weird dress, if the point is worth making, someone else will surely come along and make it as well and then I can respond to it. Once you internalize this sort of thinking, insults no longer have any impact because the very fact that someone is treating you in a deliberately insulting manner makes his opinion irrelevant.
2) How to make a final decision.
I have many flaws, but one of them isn't a lack of decisiveness. I'm good at making decisions. However, like a lot of people, I used to do too much rehashing. Did I make the right call? Should I reconsider? Then, when things did go wrong, I used to kick myself because I'd obviously made the wrong decision... ehr, right?
Often, there is no obviously correct decision. You have two almost equally attractive options and you must choose between them knowing that ultimately it may be the wrong call. So how do you deal with that? I adopted a rule that I learned from reading billionaire Richard Branson: "When you have to make a decision, think carefully about it, pick the best option, and then don't revisit it again unless you receive new information."
This rule allowed me to stop over-thinking decisions and quit second guessing myself so that I could make the best possible call and live with it. If it works for a corporate genius like Branson, it'll work for the rest of us, too.
3) The key to getting over mistakes.
In my high school days, I used to obsess over mistakes that I'd made. I'd kick myself again and again. Why did I say that? Why didn't I do this instead? How could I have done that so badly?
Like many people, I believed that kind of self-flagellation was motivational. How, if I didn't beat up on myself, could I get inspired to move forward?
Unfortunately, again like many people, I was 100% wrong. Beating up on yourself is counter-productive. It lowers your esteem, makes you feel bad, and discourages you from trying to improve yourself. That's very problematic because the only way to get better at anything is to try, fail, get up, brush yourself off, and try again. Then you repeat until you succeed. The most successful people do correct their course, but they don't spend much time kicking themselves in the behind because they were off course to begin with.
So how do you get to that point in your life? For me, it began with accepting a subtle truth: "You always do the best you can right now."
At first glance, that statement appears to be OBVIOUSLY incorrect. Does a bright student who fails a test because she didn't study do the best that she can? Does a boxer who loses a fight because he showed up out of shape do the best that he can? The correct answer is, "Yes, they did do the best that they could at that moment."
What this does is set off a chain of productive questions.
Take the student, for example. If she's bright, how can it be that she got a "D" doing her "best"? Could she do better than that? Absolutely. How? By studying. Why hasn't she been studying? Because she puts it off until late at night, gets tired, and doesn't bother. So how could she improve her "best"? By setting an earlier, regular study time.
What's more productive? Slapping yourself around for failing, or recognizing that your "best" wasn't even as close to as good as you could be and trying to figure out how to improve?
4) How to stop overreacting to minor issues.
As I mentioned before, I used to be very uncomfortable with conflict. One little remark or flare-up could bother me. I was also a worrier. What if this person gets mad at me? What if I look foolish in front of the class when I give a speech? What if I don't do well on the test? What if I don't know the answer?
Now? In an average week, I do two to three radio show appearances. Often, I have almost no idea what the hosts will want to talk about other than that it will involve politics and I have to be knowledgeable, entertaining, and informative in front of their audience. I've been grabbed walking to the bathroom and sent out to make impromptu remarks in front of a crowd. In just one day last week, not only did I do the work of two people, but I also had to deal with web developers who are behind on a new website, my current website being down for hours, and a contractor who didn't deliver what he promised to me. None of this worries me, makes me anxious, or gives me any pause.
Because once someone told me that if something was bothering me I should ask myself a simple question, "Will this matter in five years?" Ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer was "no." So slowly but surely, I worried less and less. I also learned something wonderful: Mental habits are like muscles. The more you use those muscles, the more powerful they become. Now, I don't even have to ask the question. I just assume that if something comes up, I'll be able to handle it. Guess what? I'm almost always right and when I'm not, I learn something from it.
5) How to have a more active life.
Although I enjoy being around other people, I also don't have any qualms about going to the movies or a restaurant alone. Additionally, I don't enjoy travel and tend to be a bit of a homebody. Sitting around the house watching a rented movie sounds like a perfectly enjoyable Friday night to me. So when I get a chance to do something fun, go out with friends, or speak at a conference, there's a bit of hesitation there. I'm not anti-social, but I don't feed off a crowd and I'm generally just as content to talk to friends via instant messenger as I am to talk to them in person.
The big problem with having this kind of mentality is that if you're not careful, it can make you REALLY boring. You can turn into the guy who's always sitting at home, comfortable -- instead of actually getting out in the world and doing things -- and ultimately, isn't that what it's all about? When you tell people stories about your life, aren't they stories about doing something as opposed to the time you watched five straight episodes of House while you ate popcorn on the couch?
There's a rule I learned and adopted a few years ago that helped get me out, about, and in the middle of life. It was, "If you have to choose between two roughly equal options, always take the one that leads to you doing something." If your friends invite you to go to a movie and you're kind of torn about whether to do it, you go. If you have a chance to go to a conference and you want to go, but you'd also be just as happy spending the weekend at home, you go. Ultimately, most of the great stories in my life and fun pictures on my Facebook page were created as a result of following this rule.
Next: 7 Mistakes Women Make With Men
7 Mistakes Women Make With Men
Women are complicated because they have: A) a layer of logic, B) laid across that a mood, and C) on top of that an ever-fluctuating stream of emotion. If men are like checkers, then women are like chess -- except the pieces are all kittens hopped up on catnip with broken glass taped to their paws.
I'm puzzled listening to my female friends tell me they don't understand men. This is like a rocket scientist telling you she can't figure out how a flush toilet works. Men are fairly simple; so how can we be so confusing to such comparatively complex creatures? How can women not already know these things?
1) Sleep with him too soon.
Setting aside moral concerns for the moment, let's talk about when a woman should have sex with a man she views as long-term relationship material. There's actually no wrong answer per se. If the guy is really clicking well enough with you, he's probably going to stick around regardless of whether it happens on the first date or your wedding day.
However, women should understand that after just 3-4 dates, they probably don't really have much of an idea of what's going on in a guy's head. He may be a player who's saying what you want to hear in hopes of getting laid. Alternately, he may be perfectly sincere, but he's just a lot more on the fence than you realize because he's weighing that he thinks you're really hot and sweet against that when you yelled at him last week, it reminded him of his ex -- and he's bored to death with you monotonously reciting to him what you did today. Of course, he's probably not going to come out and just say that and after just a few dates, you won't know him well enough to tell something's wrong.
So, if he flees the relationship like you just contracted Ebola after you sleep with him and that's going to upset you, well then, you should probably wait a little longer to make sure he intends to hang around. It's also worth keeping in mind that to you, going out with a man three times, sleeping with him, and never hearing from him again may be a disaster, but to him it's probably going to be viewed as a win. Not saying anyone's right or anyone's wrong with that, just noting a big mentality difference.
2) Hit below the belt.
Men and women have very different gender-related soft spots and if you're going to hit one of them, it's wise to be VERY careful. Now with men, if you study cultures around the world, contrary to what you hear about gender being a "social construct," you'll find that "masculinity" revolves around the same basic traits everywhere. Yes, they may express themselves a little differently here and there, but the themes are universal:
A) Being productive or having a lot of resources
B) Being capable of fighting
C) Being courageous and tough
D) Being able to attract women
E) Having status
Whether you're talking about Americans, Afghan tribesmen, Aborigines, or the Chinese, males measure themselves as men against these basic standards.
So, if a woman rips on a guy for not having money, being a wimp, being a coward, not being able to get women or please her in bed, or if she suggests he's a nobody -- expect it to be a BIG HAIRY DEAL. It's the equivalent of telling a woman that she's a hideously ugly whore who's a terrible mother to her children. If you do have to bring up this stuff, you need to handle it with the sensitivity of a surgeon removing a blockage from his wife's heart.
3) Treat men like the enemy.
Listen, I don't know what they told you in women's studies classes in college, but most men don't view themselves as part of a patriarchy, they don't want to oppress women, and they are more likely to think the world is slanted AGAINST THEM. If you think a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, then the non-masochistic members of a male population are going to need you the way a bird needs scuba gear. Besides, it's not like men are as tough on females as women are on each other. Have you ever heard women go after other women? Scratch, scratch, ROWR!
Moreover, do you know what a man thinks when he hears a woman make jokes like this?
How many men does it take to screw in a light bulb? ONE. ... He just holds it up there and waits for the world to revolve around him.
Bitter, man-hating women aren't any more attractive to the opposite sex than angry misogynistic men are to women.
4) Manipulate his emotions.
Men are not as comfortable with their emotions as women. Typically, we don't use our emotions as often or as fully as women, we don't get in as many emotional situations, and we feel extremely uncomfortable with the idea of crying or getting choked up.
So, ramped-up drama can take a much harder toll on men than women. For example, men have it drilled into them from the time they're young that they're supposed to protect women. So, if a man says something that makes a woman cry, it may be no big deal for her. Depending on their mental state, there are a lot of women who can break into tears if a waiter brings them the wrong kind of salad dressing. But to a man, a woman crying over something he did means that he FAILED as a man to protect her and worse yet, he did the opposite and inflicted pain on someone he cares about.
This is why men tend to have such a strong reaction to tears. It's also why men tend to do something else that women really hate: just disappearing instead of ending a relationship properly. The very last thing any man wants is to get into an emotional discussion where the woman is crying and he gets emotional, too, in her presence, which he views as a sign of weakness.
Women, who are much more comfortable with emotion, have a tendency to create or even enjoy relationship drama. Men get burnt out on that.
5) Change him.
This is a funny one because the entire romance industry relies on this concept. The woman meets the pirate, rakish lord, cruel businessman, dangerous stranger, etc., etc., wins him over with her charms, and next thing you know, he's blathering on about his emotions, wearing a cardigan, and looking forward to driving their future brood of kids to soccer practice in a minivan.
Now, do women sometimes change men? Absolutely. Haven't you seen Unforgiven?
The thing is, most men are the way they are for a reason. It's going to be tough to change them. Even if it doesn't SEEM tough and they do make a lot of changes, don't be surprised if the man eventually feels emasculated and backslides, or worse yet, you're no longer as attracted to him. In my experience, no matter how strong they may be, women eventually get bored playing mama to a man who lets her boss him around all the time. So, instead of looking for a man you want to change into the ideal mate, find a man you can live with as is, be open to things getting even better, and make the best of it.
6) Give up hope that good men exist.
There are lots of good men out there and if you don't seem to run across any of them then you're probably doing something wrong. Maybe you're just looking in the wrong place -- like your living room. On the other hand, the local bar probably isn't the best place to run into a guy looking for a long-term relationship either unless you consider "waiting until morning to get dressed" long term.
Then there's always the possibility that you want a "nice guy," but in practice you ignore men like that and chase good looking, arrogant jerks with high-paying jobs. You'd be surprised at how many genuinely decent guys complain that women blow them off to chase men who treat them like rental cars. The idea that women like jerks is, in my experience, a lot of crap, but the nice guys do have a point. Many women will just discount them right off the bat because they think they're weak, boring, fake, etc. So maybe you are meeting good guys and you're not giving them a real chance to impress you.
There is also an unhappier possibility. If you can't find a "good guy," maybe you're making the same mistake that men do when they want a woman who "likes me for ME!" Translation: He wants a supermodel who likes him despite the fact he's boring and unattractive. If all else fails, it's always worth asking if the man of your dreams came along tomorrow and wanted to date, would you be the kind of woman he'd want to date?
Women tend to focus on details more than men and pick up a lot of subtle cues that we miss. Things that are SCREAMINGLY OBVIOUS for a woman may blow past a man like a frisbee in a hurricane. The man you're talking to probably doesn't know what color your eyes or fingernails are, whether your belt matches your shoes, or that some other woman in the room is wearing the same outfit as you. Also, although men do think about relationships and the women they're dating, they don't spend as much time doing it as women. So, they're probably not wondering if the slight pause after your ex-boyfriend's name means you still like him or whether their general disinterest in your story about the lady in accounting who doesn't like your purse will give you the wrong signals about the relationship.
Put another way, there's nothing wrong with analyzing a relationship or making a few leaps based on some limited data. Some people are extraordinarily good at it. However, even those who have an uncanny level of intuition get a lot wrong. This applies not only in relationships, but for meeting people. Men have a well-earned reputation for superficiality when it comes to looks, but women tend to be every bit as superficial about other things. You'll probably never see a man write off a woman as not even worth having a conversation with because she had scuffed shoes or because she doesn’t have a lot of money. A little more judging men on their actions and taking them at their word, as opposed to guesswork, could serve a lot of women well.