The Best of This Modern Relationship Guide: Keep Alive

Logan Ury’s “How Not to Die Alone” is gold.

Hitting like a freight train, chock full of superb advice, Logan brings their years of learning (Harvard), behavior science (Google), industry know-how (coach and director at dating-app Hinge), and personal relationship-building (and deconstructing) experience without hesitancy. The book is a firehose backed with findings from the likes of psychotherapist Esther Perel and the renowned Gottman Institute.

Having read it multiple times, I now come up for air to share with you the last half of the best I’ve gleamed from this most modern and thorough relationship guide.

  1. Wanna Know What Came Before?
  2. F the Spark
  3. Having “The Talk”
  4. Trouble >_>
  5. Breaking Up
  6. Post Break
  7. Do We Commit?
  8. Bond Better
  9. Bonus: Having Those Tough Convos

Wanna Know What Came Before?

Of course you do. Check out last week’s post on making relationships begin to happen.

So now you have your criteria, your goals set forth, and a few dates lined up. Read on for maintaining what you’ve made:

F the Spark

More colorful language is used in the book 😅

“Spark” is largely useless. The honeymoon infatuation / lust has terrible correlation of what leads to long-term relationships.

Worse yet: contextual anxiety (this situation or person is not OK), i.e. stomach butterflies, can be confused with affection.

Case in point: Recall Juliet and Romeo? Their spark got ’em dead 😐 What would have happened if they had taken some time to get to know each other?

Go for the slow burn contentedness instead. Remember: loyalty, kindness, interested, decently interesting, your own gut feels after the date.

Having “The Talk”

Define the relationship, DTR. Early and often. Often and early.

(Callout again to James Sexton mentioning the same from his divorce practice.)

The infamous “Talk” is the business of relationships: knowing what you want and being explicit in expressing it. Though while The Talk ought be a conversation over a negotiation, it can be awkward because The Talk actively deconstructs fantasies to reveal if there is a foundation to the relationship, which may very well end the relationship along the way.

So it goes.

The author Logan stresses to decide, not slide into the various states of relationships, e.g.

  • Are we still open dating, or are we making this exclusive?
  • What does exclusivity mean to you? For I?
  • How should I introduce you to other people in relation to myself? (Partner, bf/gf, good friend, etc.)
  • What are your values?
  • What are your red flags and musts in relationships?
  • What are your goals for a relationship? Long term, short term, something casual?
  • What does long term look like for you? Why?
  • Should we move in together? What does this mean for us and where we are headed?
  • Where are your fears for us? About yourself? About myself?
  • et. al

Everyone in a relationship has the responsibility to initiate, to be candid, and to assume nothing, but trust that the other person will follow through on what has been explicitly laid down.

Things will evolve, contexts will change. “Talk” early and often, often and early. You have so much to gain by being straightforward, and put so much at risk not respecting your own or your partner’s answers and perspectives.

Trouble >_>

Things have slid into a bad place for the relationship. How this trouble came about might be from your way of handling smaller troubles:

  • Hitching – A person with this tendency sticks around in relationships long after it has already failed. Whether from misaligned trajectories, enduring toxic outcomes, or excusing poor behavior, yesterday came and went and the bad relationship still remains.
    • Growth, The Wardrobe Test: Compare your partner to your wardrobe: quality, comfort, fit. What piece are they? A garment for rain and shine, cold and hot, or something itchy, holey, or not to wear around the parents? “Clothes make the man [sic]” so it might be time to clean out the closet.
    • Growth, Sunk Costs and Loss Aversion: You have spent so much time, energy, and resource into this person; are you afraid to admit it is time to cut off the flow? A feeling of loss is 2-to-7 times more harsh than any gain; are you sticking it out because you feel you lack a support structure or strength to handle the heartache? A yes to anything means you must act now, even if that means asking for help.
      • Growth, Opportunity: Would you date today if you met a stranger who acted like your partner does with you? If “no”, stop wasting time – every moment spent in stagnation is an opportunity to meet better folks, AKA getting those reps in!
      • Ditching – Folks here leave before there is growth in the relationship from conflict. Maximizers (something could be better “out there”) and Romancers (fantasies are unfulfilled) make up a lot of Ditching. There is a danger of attempting to optimize at the beginning dating stages – while this can lead to meeting many folks very quickly, it fails to gain experience maintaining relationships and understanding what healthy long term relationships operate as.
      • Growth, Falling Vs Being: “Falling” into Love is a big thrill; this happens with each new partner. “Being” can seem too chill; the slump after a hot beginning. To keep a relationship alive – of “Being” in Love – focus more on strengths vs. the imaginary or mathematical perceived failings of the partner.
      • Growth, Startup Costs: Remember that every new relationship must be built from the ground-up. Ditching a relationship negates that work, leaving no momentum, no leftover energy, no intimate knowledge that would help sustain the newer partnership.

That may not be enough. Further analysis or a sanity check from a second opinion can help. Check these things about the relationship:

  • Wardrobe Test – Again, check the quality, comfort, and fit of the partner. Is this an all-weather person or only a fair-weather opportunity? Raggedy? Outgrown?
  • Stress – Is the trouble new, seemingly from a temporary stressor? Jobs, medical situations, family, and other contexts can be extreme and take us to the brink – if you can see the light at the end of this tunnel, the relationship may merely need more patience or an ounce of grace.
  • Tried It – If you have been open and honest on where things could improve, have been ready to give positive feedback, yet things are not growing (or, daresay, even getting worse!), you have done your due diligence. It is time to move on.
  • Missed Long-Term Expectations – Make sure the trouble isn’t from a personal pet peeve or surface-level (read: shallow) preference. Being less picky, are long term cues being missed, such as kindness and dedication?
  • Defaults – Have you made sure you haven’t fallen into the negative aspects of your default styles? Ditching too early, pulling away as an avoidant, hesitating to commit?
  • Ask Others – People are unlikely to offer unsolicited advice, so you must be proactive here. Ask those who are unbiased and who you trust their perspectives on the relationship as they see it. Ask if they like who you are when around or with the partner in question. Whatever the advice (which does not need to be acted on), be thankful for it, never begrudging.
  • Best Self – Are you doing 100% of your work to be the most you can be in this relationship? Are you actively showing up? What have you done lately to show your work explicitly to your partner? How can you be kinder? Do you have grace?

And of course, some of the obvious: Do you have resentment? Do they? Have either of you learned something new about yourselves that cannot be accommodated for? Has anyone just given up? The End Times (for the relationship) are upon you!

But of course, if trust is broken, the relationship is broken. Black Lies, deceit, manipulation, a pattern of dropping the ball (whether incompetence or unreliability) – while ending things is the first response, a new relationship might be forged from the ashes of the old. (Shoutout to James Sexton.)

“End it or mend it” – Logan is clear that counseling can help, yet we know it may already be too late if started after trouble brews. Be interesting and interested. Get your space and give it. Be explicit and put in the g-dang work.

Failing any or all of that, it is time to act on breaking up.

Side-additions from my own experience: Warning signs of trouble come from a person not knowing what they want, avoiding speaking candidly about relationship topics or pasts, not making things “Facebook Official” or otherwise public, no pictures or shared posts together, and dramatic changes in communication style.

Breaking Up

The time has come. The grit of it:

  • Plan – Make a plan to execute. When (~2 weeks max) and where (private is optimal; though public is a safe second option). Share your intentions with a friend. Write a letter to yourself if you are going to wait with your reasons of why this is needed now. Have a commitment afterward to get space away.
  • DO IT – Have the talk, make the call, send the text. Delay within reason should things come up. This is not a feedback session – refuse explanations, i.e. answer, “I respect you and do not want to waste your time,” and recall that you ought to have been giving explicit feedback up to this point. 60-90 minutes max before you have to leave for another commitment; later convos are OK, as are breaks during the breakup conversation, yet again they must not detract from the message you are giving.

Be mindful: If the context is wrong (e.g. their parent just died, they have a project due over the weekend, you both have plans for a child’s concert that night), delay. But if the schedule does not have a convenient time, pick the most convenient inconvenient time for you in ~2 weeks.

Regarding shared assets: Marriage, children, and mutual property make this process a whole lot messier. Take care to do what you must to handle this part of the breakup.

How: Dating over months or had the exclusivity talk? Give them the respect of an in-person convo if the reasons of breaking up are safe ones, i.e. no violence involved. Only a few dates? A simple call or text will suffice, such as:

I enjoyed <whatever time, activity, or relationship> with you. I feel we are going in different romantic directions. <Optionally: Can we maintain our friendship?> Giving you my best as you keep accomplishing so much in life.

Whatever or however you do it, be kinder. Be grace.

That said, I say do not burn and balm – you are breaking up with them, do not also be their rescue from or the “nice” support system after the harsh situation you have engendered. Live with what you have done.

Certainly, no breakup sex/intimacy; seek selfcare with others instead! (This can be that get-away commitment planned for before.)

Post Break

Time for recovery:

A huge step for you will be to reframe into a new mental model the situation.

Understanding how much you (and the other person) gain from a breakup helps balm the loss (which will be hitting 2-7 times harder than you might think it ought). An optimistic focus (even about foul events) improves oneself with gratitude and opportunity mindfulness, all great traits to have as a person regardless if in a breakup.

Next, self care. A general life reminder: Schedule in your own self care. No one ought be a bigger advocate of you than you.

Finally, get dating again soon (after you up your flirting skills). Going back out to meet folks with romantic intention is the only way to understand if you are emotionally prepared to continue making strides in this part of your life.

Do We Commit?

Survived some trouble? Like who you are with? See a future together? As always, be explicit, even with yourself by writing the answers to these 11 questions that require a bit of meditation:

  1. Are they are Prom Date or a Partner?
  2. What is their Wardrobe Test result?
  3. How will you grow with them?
  4. Do you admire them?
  5. What side of you do they bring out?
  6. Are they one of the first people you want to share good news with?
  7. Am I OK talking-out and -through my hardships with them? (i.e. they are non-judgmental, compassionate, and can think critically)
  8. Do I value their advice?
  9. What do you look towards or envision as milestones in a life together?
  10. Can you both make tough decisions together?
  11. Do they communicate well and fight productively?

Now read the answers above as you would for the relationship a friend is in. (Heck, put a quality friend’s name at the top of the page.) Sit with these feels and answer: does this feel like the relationship is good with these folks together?

If you are feeling good, be happy and confident in the answers. You are in a good place. You can stay where you are too – evolving commitments is no race (again, going for the “slow burn”).

The numbers are in: those that date for 1-2 years have a 20% higher stick-together rate than those that long-term commit (i.e. marriage) after less than a year of dating. Get at least 3 years together, the stick-around rate jumps to 39%!

So how does a couple continue to bond over that time?

Bond Better

In addition to all the communication tips above, another tool for the box is a frequent trifecta of “us” conversations to have with the partner.

Before each conversation, do some joint, connected, romantic activity beforehand and clear your day’s calendar for after.

For the actual Qs, I direct you to a site summarizing Logan Ury’s take on this subject. The resource goes in-depth on ways to talk about the past, present, and future “us.” (I must say that get-to-know-you activities like this are =superb= bonding tools.)

Aside from conversations, labeling is a big deal in building character and appreciation in relationships. Want someone to be strong? Explicitly call out their actions and give them titles of strength. Want to highlight traits that someone feels they have or want to be seen as? Name ’em. Humans will change in response to identity labels and remember titles, even if it is you for yourself.

I am a dater. I am confident. I am X. I want Y.

Contracts: You don’t need to be married or in business to have a contract. Pull something together informally – a shared computer doc, a paper pad, notecards, a kitchen whiteboard, whatever. Envision together what the relationship is and strives to be. List what folks want. Define, define, define, and be explicit. Revisit on occasion to explore expectations together.

Bonus: Having Those Tough Convos

General to all conversations, Logan offers a preemptive planning guide to figuring out what needs to be said and how to say it in those tough convos:

  1. What is the desired goal / outcome / consequence here?
  2. What is the core 1-2 sentence message?
  3. Tone to use? To avoid?
  4. What is the opener to remove guardedness and encourage listening?
  5. What needs to be said no matter what?
  6. What are possible reactions? My concerns over the worst?
  7. What will be the response to the worst reactions?
    • Example: “I understand I have hurt you and you want to hurt me. I want this to be as minimally painful as possible. Please don’t attack me.”
  8. How will the conversation close?

Despite more than 5000 words later, I cannot say enough good things about Logan Ury’s work in “How Not to Die Alone.”

From making to breaking relationships, this book has earned a dedicated spot on my shelf alongside the likes of “If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late,” “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” “Red Queen,” and “The State of Affairs.”

Tell me what else I should be reading. I adore hearing what things stood out to you in this summary blog post – let me know! For now, cheers to you growing and finding your way through your own modern relationships ❤

The Best of This Modern Relationship Guide: Make It Happen

The title in question: Logan Ury’s “How Not to Die Alone.”

Hitting like a freight train chock full of superb advice, Logan brings their years of learning (Harvard), behavior science (Google), industry know-how (coach and director at dating-app Hinge), and personal relationship-building (and deconstructing) experience without hesitancy. The book is a firehose of info backed with findings from the likes of psychotherapist Esther Perel and the renowned Gottman Institute.

Having read it multiple times, I finally come up for air. Now I want to share with you part 1 of the best I’ve gleamed from this modern relationship guide.

  1. You Date 3 Ways
  2. 3 Ways to Attach
  3. Partners Are Better Than Prom Dates
  4. Who Are Your OSOs?
  5. To Date a Stranger IRL
  6. Ask Friends!
  7. Ask Friends IRL ~
  8. For Every Date IRL
  9. How to Keep a Relationship Alive?

You Date 3 Ways

3 tendencies make up how people seek out others in their life:

  • The Romancer – Thinking there is “The One” and only “The One” and “The One” will fall into your lap (sometimes literally in the person’s imagination). The “Disney Romance” fantasy. Preconceived notions of who and how relationships will go, leading to passivity and unfounded bias in life.
    • Growth: Be aggressive and proactive in finding your “One.” Loosen up the dating criteria. Come to terms that “happily ever after” is a lie – the prince/princess will have blemishes, perhaps catastrophic bumps in the road, and ultimately you both are only human.
  • The Maximizer – Knows the optimal, seeking perfection exclusively. The crusade ultimately makes the mathematically perfect (yet imaginary) partner the enemy of the great and real. Things could always be better, so when they are not, quick to ditch or seek to change others.
    • Growth: Become a Sufficer. I (a Maximizer) use this self-created advice in my life which has helped others end and start relationships: “Don’t settle but suffice.” Also helpful:
      • The Secretary Problem: Not the actual name of the mathematical optimal proof, but used in the book. A tool to determine if the “sufficient” and “optimized” choice has been made when you don’t know what options are available and a denial-to-commit cannot be undone. Grants great safety against doubts of “did I settle?”

        Figure out the sample size for dating (say, start dating at age 20, hope to be settled down by 40; 20 years). Figure out what 37% is of that (20 years = 7.4).

        Date as many people and as much as possible in the first 37% of the sample (ages 20~27), making sure not to permanently commit (e.g. marriage, children, houses, face tattoos, etc.) to anyone during that time.

        Explore, discover, and improve. When 37% is past, determine who the best person was who was dated in that time (subjective criteria of positive feels, partnership, similar goals and values, etc.).

        Then keep dating (ages 28~40) – once you find someone who is as quality or greater than the one met in the first 37%, commit and put in the work to make it work.
  • The Hesitater – “I’ll be ready when …” Based in fear, responsibility for action is sidelined in favor of side projects and goalpost moving, meaning relationships do not happen for (ultimately) meager excuses.
    • Growth: START DATING! Make friends! Get out! Now! Begin getting the numbers and experiences in, the reps and xp. Set deadlines and leverage 3rd party accountability (e.g. a friend expects a 15 minute progress report every week, etc.).

3 Ways to Attach

It is understood folks have styles of attachment to other people that come in 3 flavors (though a super-minority fourth – the Fearful – exists that needs a lot more care than a book or blog post can provide):

  • Secure – Confident and competent on their own or with others. Can set boundaries and communicate clearly. Seems nice and put together, but at the chance of seeming boring. About ~50% of the population yet scarce in the dating pool – is readily capable of making relationships (even with other styles) work, so are likely already committed.
  • Avoidant – Pulls back when things get too close. Needs independent space (even if only occasionally) and often takes it without communicating what they are doing. May pretend aloofness.
  • Anxious – Draws close. At times over-communicative, desiring feedback. Seeks care and intimacy at cost. Classically “needy.”

Secure style can bond with any other style and make it work. Avoidant and Anxious folks, however, especially since they are the majority of the dating pool, try to bond (Avoidant+Anxious) only to fall into a cycle of getting close then rubber-banding apart (Avoidant tries to meet Anxious close-space needs, eventually taking space away only to be pursued/chased by the Anxious – a vicious loop).

Attachment styles can change over time (the book says after about 4 years of personal growth or trauma). In my own experience, any style can be learned (though only Secure is worth striving to become), yet acting in it day in and out, the good times and the bad, will be many years of work – e.g. a learned-Secure person may regress to their Anxious or Avoidant tendencies given enough stress.

As another tidbit, I have seen attachment styles in other mammals too. Fascinating stuff.

Partners Are Better Than Prom Dates

“Partners” are the long-term folks who are stable, loyal, caring, and kind. Ride-or-dies through the highs and the lows. Have their s*** together with long-term (6-8 year) timelines minimum.

“Prom Dates” are the short-term folks who optimize for fun now-vs-later, good-vibes-only, go-with-the-flow, and impulsive. Enablers. Live in fantasy, thinking of at most the next few months if not just the next few days. Spicy.

Partners can be observed by their emotional stability, unconditional kindness (think, no uncalled for suffering), dedication (e.g. keeping healthy long-term relationships of any kind), growth, knows how to and does fight well, and repairs damages. They express affection, appreciation, apprehensions, and apologies right away without hesitation.

Prom Dates share important interests or hobbies and will introduce novel and “fun” things to do. They can be identified by great times out, perhaps some intense memories. Ready to go and high-burning.

While many folks say they want a long-term Partner, they almost always in the beginning look for the traits of the Prom Date: Does a potential interest share the same interests in music / movies / food? Have they been to as many countries as I have? What is their job and income? Do they cook or clean or own a home? Not watch daytime TV? Are X height and Y weight?

These are aesthetic wants and pet peeves, not what a long term relationship needs. Again: Kindness, caring, long-term timelines, emotionally stable, dedicated, growing, fights well, repairs, generally has s*** together.

While having things to do together can be important, it is not the end-all be-all of a long-term relationship. Tastes change, bodies age, priorities shift, time is finite.

Rather, focus on where more time is spent in relationships: Domestic tasks, minimal wealth thresholds (can they support themselves independently), quality of friends, respect for you and your own activities. Anything occasional could be classified as a want or a self-care/-soothing responsibility.

Tldr; Save the needs, kill the pet peeves. Fix your filters to find yourself a long-term Partner vs. the Prom Dates you have been getting.

Who Are Your OSOs?

No person should have all their wants and needs fulfilled only by a single person – that is a tragedy. Logan suggests an alternative: Other Significant Others (OSOs).

An OSO is a person important things can be shared with. Want to go rock climbing but the Partner has bad knees? Call up the OSO gym buddy. A lifelong gardener but the Partner has really bad allergies? Volunteer or start a community garden. Want to do something but the Partner doesn’t care for it? For incidentals and hobbies, it is OK to seek like-minded friends outside the 1:1 relationship.

To Date a Stranger IRL

This is going to sound a lot like the “Flirtology” post. Go there for more depth on how to meet in-real-life ~

Final chime in here: I remind you that dating is serious business. It ought be treated like a job if you aim and choose to have someone in your life for whatever reason. Be proactive, be consistent, be knowledgeable enough to know what your wants and needs are and capable enough to express them. Put in the time to grow yourself and beat the dating odds since they are in no-one’s favor.

Get off hit-and-miss apps that are designed to keep you guessing and get out IRL.

Go to public events alone (or with a great wing person not looking to hook up themselves) where you 1) enjoy the activity for its own sake, and 2) will be forced to interact with other people. Everything else is a skip in terms of where to spend your seek-a-date time.

Approach who you are interested in: Introduction (“I” statement), comment (about a context or the other person), ask (open-ended opinion question). Or, focus on props, be playful, ensure a follow-up post convo if the feels are there.

Not sure the other is interested? While you ought be gradual in finding this out, you can be upfront in asking “Are you in Love?” (Pauses here might mean they are in open dating or tentatively exclusive, yet have doubts on commitment with who they are with.) Something more casual: “I liked our conversation here and I want to talk it over with you more – how can we follow up after this?”

Still stuck on where to meet people? Get into a line 🙂

Ask Friends!

Simple: Ask your friends to set you up on dates with their friends. What have they done for you recently anyway?

Keep in mind: You must follow up on the date – respond to texts promptly, arrive on time and clean if you get to in-person. Do not let your friend (and theirs) down. Deliver feedback gently through your mutual friend.

Having trouble getting friends to cough up connections? Offer up a bounty – say, a reward for an IRL date (of course, get texting introductions out of the way first), another for 6 dates with the same person, etc. Incentives matter 💯

Ask Friends IRL ~

Maybe the answer to meeting people lies with those you have already met. Sometimes we cannot see the quality trees next to us for the vastness of the forest of possibilities.

After you read this paragraph, stop for a moment to think: Who do you know nearby that you enjoy spending time with? Trust? Can admit is attractive in mind and body to you? Is or may be open to new romantic relationships?

Thought about it? You now may have someone(s) in mind you have already built a relationship with that could be built out in other ways. It could be time to go on a friend-date and have a decidedly fateful conversation.

BEWARE: You have a level of trust with whoever your friend is. You may have shared social groups and routines that will be put at risk in escalating things. So mitigate:

You must act delicately in response to your thoughts and feelings. They are your responsibility, not your friend’s. Should the friend give indirect answers, a change of subject, or outright rejection, you must move on and avoid bringing it up again. Do not make this weird, do not betray your friend this way.

That said, you will only know if you ask something in person something such as:

Have you ever considered us as more?

So what if they say “yes?” Fantastic! Now you can get down to business in defining the relationship (more on this in another section). Something else to add should you have overlapping activities or social groups: How can the romance gracefully end if either party chooses to discontinue to preserve the joys you can still have as platonic friends and with your groups?

Anyway, a quip I often recall: Life is better with friends.

For Every Date IRL

Skipping here the online dating suggestions. Most of it is what you have likely heard before – good photos, thorough bios, initiating, meeting fast, etc. Read the book for more!

For first or thirty-first dates, a few bits of unordered mindful advice:

  1. Go on a “3rd object” (as Jean Smith puts it, a “prop”) date.
  2. See your date interact with others – service folks, randoms on the street, your friends, their friends, attractive people of all sexes and genders and races, etc.
  3. Work together at some point on the date. Collaboration is bond building. Play is a great choice!
  4. Silliness and messiness on a date can be great – it opens up conversation, shows a vulnerable side, and defuses what could otherwise be a tense meetup. While you ought be the initiator on this, go slowly to not go overboard.
  5. Dim the lights. Queue the gentle/upbeat/happy music.
  6. Show the effort being put in. Share the thought you put into choosing the place, making accommodations for the other, work done to make things happen. Effort from the person equates to value in the person.
  7. Go deep. As James Sexton put it, “get to heartbreak faster,” most easily done by acting and asking and telling like you and your date are in the middle of a romantic relationship already. Authenticity is too rare, fantasy kept alive too long.
  8. Listen. LISTEN. Listen to understand.
  9. Make sure you are telling/revealing about yourself, but be comfortable with silence and know when to ask after the other person (i.e. when to shut up when not answering a Q thoroughly yet concisely).
  10. No phones. Not in hand, not on the table, not making sound (vibration can be OK if using discretion). Ignore all texts and non-emergency calls.
  11. End on a high note (a laugh is great for this). Having a semi-flexible deadline to leave (e.g. bedtime, an alarm for 3 hours in, etc.) is a great cue and excuse for looking for that high-point departure.
  12. My additional advice based on psychology: wear red. Red is attractive, winning, and a first among otherwise equal choices.

After the date, Logan suggests taking “The Post-Date Eight” feels review (here @loganury).

How to Keep a Relationship Alive?

Addressing chemistry (i.e. “the spark”), having “the talk,” navigating trouble, recovering from breakups, super-serious committing, and bonding – read now how to do this and more in the last-half of this review.

Now you (hopefully) have a date. To take the relationship to the next step and beyond, I needed to split up >5000 words into two parts (second part here).

I have been constantly recommending “How Not to Die Alone” since it landed on my library loan shelf. I recommend it to you – while I tried to be comprehensive, there is no way, no way to communicate the same impact and influence Logan brings to the page (or audiobook, in my case).

So get started. Go figure yourself out – where you have been, where you are, where you are going, where you want to be. You have the tools, you have the ability, you can make the time.

I am still glad you are here and I want to see you back next week for the final part. Cheers to your personal growth and relationship progress in the meanwhile ~ ❤

The Best of Jean Smith’s “Flirtology”

Psychology is great.

Jean Smith’s “Flirtology” gives some of the best advice on the psychology of flirting and romantic relationship building.

While the book is chockfull of tidbits, here are the parts that ought draw a lot of attention:

  1. Prop Task: I Ask.
  2. No-Gos
  3. Go on the Second Date
  4. Act ASAP
  5. You Too Can Initiate
  6. HOT APE(S)

Prop Task: I Ask.

A reminder for myself of key points in flirting:

  • Prop – Give regard to some 3rd thing. Waiting in line*, a painting, the concert, etc.
  • Task – Don’t flirt or break the ice with others for yourself; do it because it is on your to-do list! So make the approach – it is on your to-do list ~
  • I – Make an observation from your perspective, whether about the prop or your own, positive feelings.
  • Ask – End the opener with an open-ended question (what, how) or inquisitive statement (e.g. “Tell me about …”).

*Lines are great for giving lines – everyone is in a shared activity (the line, waiting), likely bored, and going to be hanging around for a bit. However, people have no escape-routes from lines. This in mind, make a statement about the line to gauge receptivity – only in positive responses might you escalate to introductions and asks! Always be mindful of safety before comfort before joy ~

No-Gos

The book suggests identifying 5 no-gos to get out in the open from low-key texting or the first two dates. (It is OK if you pick between 4 and 7 – that is how most minds work.)

In those no-gos, kill pet peeves, shared activities, and aesthetic pettiness. Height ranges, job type or quality (past being able to support themselves independently), needing to like all the music you do, or enjoy your same sportsball micro-league team will mean little in the long term.

These can be positives (e.g. “the person is kind”) or negatives (e.g. “they aren’t of X political party”) – what matters are the things that will bolster or strain the day-to-day relationship, not the thing that might matter just a few hours a month or such.

But once these few things are found out, go on the first date! Then:

Go on the Second Date

By default, go on the second date.

Unless the person lied, fell out of acceptable No-Gos, or was a generally lousy human being, choose to see them again.

It is too easy for a sense of performance or work or a night’s sleep or yesterday’s lunch to impact how a person acts on the first date. The second gets more data, so save the judgements until then if they are already nifty enough to meet in person. Speaking of:

Act ASAP

The second date can’t happen without the first. The first likely won’t happen if you wait too long.

Texting is great for finding out if the person is a poorly-masked psychopath and setting the logistics of the date. However, text is too easy to fall into – comfy, convenient, and a terrible way to get to know someone.

So stop texting frivolously. Give a “how do you do” and get a date on the calendar ASAP. Within 2 weeks of first contact should a date be down in the books or you both move on.

You Too Can Initiate

Any sex or gender, no regard to older or younger, no matter if you were the one to break the ice or came second to the party, you too can initiate getting the conversation or date going.

Better yet, you ought be initiating.

This is the 21st century. Get over your shyness, get over your fears of rejection, get over your grandparents’ idea that one must chase or be chased. This isn’t a circus; do not expect to jump or others to jump through imaginary hoops.

Speaking of rejection, one of my fave things to keep in mind for relationships: If one person is doing most/all of the asking/proposing, they are also taking on all the risk of rejection, and there is only so much rejection a person can take before they stop trying.

While secure relationships often end up 60/40 in contributions (vs. the classic 50/50 idea), both sides ought be striving to be that 60. So show up, initiate.

HOT APE(S)

Humor – crack (appropriate) jokes (no matter how corny), laugh. Play, be silly.

Openness – body posture is the big one. I would stress being open about discussing relationship topics, histories, and fundamental human conditions too.

Touch – make contact. Light, innocuous locations (upper back, shoulders, arms – mind that getting closer to hands is getting closer to intimacy), and temporary (taps or brushes).

Attention – give the other person your full attention. Listen. Be there for them. Remember to also hold judgements for later except in the most dire (or boring) of cases!

Proximity – physical closeness. Don’t be in their face, yet don’t be out of arm’s reach either. Helps enable both Touch and Eye contact.

Eye contact – look at them. Just look. Eye contact does wonders for bonding two people. (Remember to blink.)

(Smile) – my addition. Could be part of humor, yet smiling is so important it demands its own recognition. Smile, folks 🙂

“Flirtology” was a quick read for me and will be for you too. Between “Prop Task: I Ask” and “HOT APE(S)”, I feel you will improve your interactions with people, whether hanging out with friends, building professional rapport, or setting up that first date.

What pet peeves or aesthetic nice-to-haves have you been keeping around? Looking forward to your own romantic criteria being cleaned up. Cheers to your self improvement!

What Does It Take To Be Untamed?

Or in other words, how to be brave?

These are the themes in Glennon Doyle’s Untamed, a 2020 memoir of life events, decision conflict, and generally getting s*** in order.

4.6 on Amazon, 4/5 on Goodreads, and 7 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. Objectively rave reviews, clearly doing something right. When the title came recommended my way, imagine how happy this life-long learner felt!

Yet… upon reading, there was… Well, in the face of a few dangers, let’s talk about my feels and thoughts, a seemingly rare perspective. Stick with me here – there are a lot of subjects to iron out:

  1. Preamble: Written With You in Mind*
  2. One More Word on Structure
  3. Perhaps the Most Important Lessons: What Not to Do
  4. What to Do, Re Living Et. Al
  5. A Talk About the Feels
  6. Dynamics of Gender
  7. For the Men: Salt Grains
  8. Take a Deep Breath

Preamble: Written With You in Mind*

* If a woman.

From the onset, Untamed stations itself as a book from a woman for women. It wants to tackle societal, systemic, and psychological impasses the chosen audience is like to face in at least the Western cultural context.

As a cishet male (me), there was a lot to grok. Despite being a highly sensitive empath, at many points I just did not get it.

I let my recommending friend know I was struggling, not even halfway through the book. With the writing being all over the place, blatantly petty and premeditated bad decisions failing to build a protagonist in my mind, and straight-up wrong claims over a couple of concrete topics… Getting that far was a struggle.

Yet I persisted. I am glad I did. The book and I changed.

What I came across in the last-half/-third of the book is what I want to share with you today, specifically my non-audience perspective.

Untamed has been touched on by many readers as can be seen in public reviews and easily google-searched articles. Going over these, I was at once taken aback by the lack of male authors – but perhaps that makes my voice in this article all that more important.

Regardless of having read the book or not, your gender, or other predispositions, my aim is to communicate core relevancies I found in Glennon’s work with you – takeaways I hope you can apply in as much use as I have.

One More Word on Structure

Again, the last-half to last-third is practical advice and thought exercises. Here lies words of affirmation.

When compared to the first part, the last has few recounts of self- and societally-inflicted disaster. Instead, this half elicits calls to action that someone like I – a person biased towards explicit, rational candor – can, well, act on.

If / When you pick up the book for yourself, fast forward to what will most benefit you, be it the anecdotes from Glennon in the first or the prescriptions in the second!

Perhaps the Most Important Lessons: What Not to Do

Glennon’s life up until at least late 30s and 40s was a mess.

So many actions through the 20s and 30s were either negligently – or willfully – destructive to herself and those around her. Tldr; read how convicted I am on the topic of Suffering.

A lot of the trouble comes around Glennon’s relationships. Below are cases in point, but in general, checkout a 2021 post, an analysis of group consensus, or the recently written-about divorce lawyer’s insights on keeping *waves hands at everything* together:

  • Using children to keep a marriage together / having children to avoid addressing the hard discussion of stasis in a relationship.
  • Forgetting to grow with a partner, i.e. stay interested and stay interesting.
  • Knowing things could be better, yet choosing not to improve because the actions / patterns are so-far tolerated. (Lots of words for “taking good things for granted.”)
  • Shutting up and shutting down in the face of conflict.
  • Passive aggressiveness throughout life.
  • Failure to introspect, or if doing so, frequent failure to take responsibility to address and think out the consequences afterwards.
  • Making false claims about child psychology and moral universality.

No one should be recommending a life that shares any of the above without consistent addressing and improvement. These things are what to avoid at all costs. Yet without these experiences, Glennon admits she would not have come to advise what follows:

What to Do, Re Living Et. Al

See those previous relationship posts on this blog for a few of these tidbits. I restate them here as Glennon wrote about because they are so, so important to keep in mind:

  • Be truer to your emotions. Gut feelings matter – try not to overthink impressions.
  • Beware the “shoulds” and avoid directions from those who have never been on the journey to where you are going.
  • Express what you want and (with a grain of grace) what you feel early and often, often and early with those you interact with, especially those you care for.
  • Disappoint as many people as necessary to not disappoint yourself, i.e. your authentic soul.

Here be Glennon’s take on suffering, having suffered and continuing to in her own unique way we humans all share:

  • By trials you are revealed. Then are you able to be known to yourself.
  • As you have gone through and done hard things, so too allow others to witness their own strengths and endurance under duress. Yet, serve as sentinel and guide and safety net as needed for them.
  • Those that have suffered tend to be better people (or at least, more visible monsters). (An image comes to mind that shining light in dark places is virtually always a good thing: it may reveal treasure and ways forward, or reveals the hidden traps and dangers.)

Untamed finishes commentary about the human condition in the way of grace: Ultimately, we are divine and whole unto ourselves. So long as we are alive, we have the chance to make things better through sacrifice or presence. (This is a message of possibility we ought readily get behind!)

Closing note here: I would add that the discovery of our innate godhead is a never-ending journey of revelation. Just as in the Jesus story of a man going to Hell only to return divine with more work to do, so too after trial might we keep striving, and never stop believing in our own immensities.

A Talk About the Feels

Thought we were done talking about relationships? Surprise!

The book aims to both heat up the emotions of the audience while at the same time honing that boost of energy stemming from indignance.

As it applies to emotions, it is the reader’s responsibility to tackle the sharpness of personal feels. Success (or at minimum progress) here enables one to be emotionally vulnerable and available to others. In short, there is no ‘healthy’ relationship until you first have one with yourself!

After working on that part of yourself, show up. Passivity, comfort, coasting-through-the-motions is death in so many ways to so many things.

In the ways of passion, get to heartbreak faster. As a shrooming friend of Glennon’s put it, work towards the step after the ‘high’ of the honeymoon phase; make sure that the essence of a joining of things is just as good if not better after coming off the buzz.

Dynamics of Gender

This section is a combination of Untamed, a resource I came across somewhere, and my own pattern-recognition. Take all of this – none purely from any single author – with a few salt grains.

Equality is not the term to strive for when equity gets to the heart of the matter. This applies to the genders of society – the qualities of context make comparisons of A and B as useful as apples and oranges. To continue this produce metaphor, we have to abstract to the fruit of the matter; in this case, masculine and feminine core competencies. (For ease of writing, I will use the terms “man” and “woman,” as limited as the language is.)

Every person can be gauged on four axes of competencies. Your boss, your partner, yourself. (Use whatever numerical degree you like – 1-to-10-sans-7 is a fine heuristic.)

Between men and women, three axes are for the most part shared:

  • Are they a quality Mother / Father figure? Is this person the person to raise children? Do they have kindness and compassion for all children and those in need of guidance and protection? I.e. not only those of their blood and immediate guardianship?
  • Are they a quality Lover? As it comes to excitement, invocator of lust or envy, and a challenge to stay sharp? Do they remain interesting and drive you to improve so much as to remain interesting?
  • Are they a quality Partner? An equal, stable, there to support your endeavors, a unique asset such that one-plus-one is greater than two and more?

The set-apart axis comes in large part from the fundamental differences of men and women:

  • To qualify men: Can they provide? Are they a provider of resources, societal rapport, and economic opportunity? Have they shown they can secure a future?
  • To qualify women: This is the grace of being a woman and gets a full pass. This takes on the form of the pain of being: Discrimination, the dangers of childbirth, etc. These difficulties give women full marks on this axis, 100%.

Aim to keep those that specialize in certain areas around in your life. Glennon did just this with her ex husband Craig for being a superb Father and Provider, yet who went elsewhere for a Lover and was an incompatible Partner to Glennon (e.g. more a friend and sincere caregiver during marriage than fully-meshed counterpart).

As for those that score highly across the board, more than others, and give that positive ‘gut’ reaction, GO GET THEM RIGHT NOW. Do not wait on sharing your affections and appreciations and getting involved in their life!

Falling back on a previous point, if you need to start disappointing others, do it – for Glennon, Abby Wambach did for her just this, leading to a divorce from husband to fulfill a truer calling. (Read Untamed for the deets.)

For the Men: Salt Grains

(Really on this “grain” kick today…)

Glennon advises her audience to get angry, be furious, untame timidness and unshackle reservations and be audacious in getting space and needs and wants met.

Pause now.

Remember the audience: this is a book from a woman for women about the experiences of women. There are but a few paragraphs in regards to men in Untamed, these though only calling out how sons and brothers are left behind by the book, Glennon’s real-life care, and society’s expectations.

Listen up, men: you do not get to do all this unhinged.

Men are more likely to be aggressive and angry. For biological (see more on testosterone) and societal reasons, this is true.

In my own observation, no woman has high regards for the company of an angry man. No matter the trigger or target of the fury, its mere presence is intolerable. A compassionate man then will aim to be aware of these disturbances, thereby not induce suffering into the world because of their baser nature and uncontrolled impulses.

So what? Does this mean “conceal, don’t feel?” What happened to all the talk about emotional expression? Is the advice here to be a limp biscuit, a pushover, self-emasculate?

No.

Nor an answer to these refutations. Yet.

Perhaps in time, another post to answer what is means to be Western men or pointed guidance to those better versed in the mortal issue of men being left behind/unaddressed in Western society’s cultural growth.

While that pends, listen to age-old advice:

[B]eware. Anger, fear, aggression. The Dark Side are they.

Yoda, Star Wars

And do improve as a modern man ought. A lack of improvement is no-one’s excuse.

A few starting points: listen, express feelings, become attractive to yourself, find out what is and always work towards being attractive to others, climb the degrees of the axes above, and ultimately check yourself before you wreck yourself.

The information is out there, the means ready. It is up to you to put yourself into and/or pull yourself out of the trials. You got this.

Take a Deep Breath

That is it. This is the end of the article. Through the advice and the take-aways and the analysis of what is and what is not, thank you for reading this far ❤

Glennon Doyle’s Untamed is a heck-of-a-read. I haven’t come across anything like it, though I hope to find similar in the future. (Recommendations are open!)

Though sometimes clogged with didn’t-sit-well-with-me stories, the work pleasantly reveals itself to be chock full of actionable insights. Over the last 1900 words, I trust you have been reminded of what it takes to be untamed and how to be brave in the face of the world and trials before you.

I say it again: You got this 🔥❤🔥

If you also have suggestions for further reading, comment below or hit me up directly! I am off to rally myself to bravery and audacity (within reason) – cheers to all you get after, being as brave and untamed as you are ~

A Lawyer’s Guide to Keep Relationships Alive

No secret that I have written about what seems to be true about relationships and crowdsourced success stories. While these perspectives are valid in their own way, why not listen to someone on the front line of relationships?

Why not listen to a divorce lawyer?

On my third read-through in as many weeks, James J. Sexton’s book If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late is a gold mine of insight on the land mines to look out for in relationships.

James proclaims there are a bajillion ways to have a happy relationship while the same couple of catastrophes pop up again and again. I want to share with you some of the new, the novel, and the never-grows-old advice I picked up (if you want the James’s nuance and details on relationship infidelity/sex, go the book!).

A short list:

  1. TLDR; Do These Things
  2. Epic Fail: It Takes Two
  3. Give a S***
  4. “Hit Send Now”
  5. Die on Fewer Hills
  6. Change or Die
  7. Forgive but Never Excuse Yourself

TLDR; Do These Things

There will be more, yet failing on any of these is dangerous:

  • Enforce radical communication and open honesty “early and often, often and early.” E.g.
    • Needs, wants, core values, overarching goals
    • History, current feelings, future hopes
    • Exit plans (what would an end / break look like?)
    • The physical relationship
  • Know your own needs and share them explicitly.
  • Give a s*** about your partner, bettering the relationship, and being a better person.
  • Act now on your affections, appreciations, apprehensions, and apologies.
  • Making it work > being right (don’t let the cost of ‘winning’ make losers of you both).
  • Forgive yourself for who you are, but never use who you are as an excuse to be less than excellent to yourself, your partner, society, and the world.

Lots of these have come up in my own experience as they have been shared with you, but let’s explore how any partnership takes two:

Epic Fail: It Takes Two

Relationships dissolve almost always in James’s observation because of two reasons:

  1. Not knowing what you want.
  2. Not appropriately expressing what you want.

Yet, if you feel to know what you want and are being heard, it still falls on you to go find out what the other person wants. Really, you need to:

Give a S***

Simple. Be curious, be observant, be attentive. Do both the big and small things. Do things with and without your partner, solo and social.

Make yourself better and more interesting. Support your partner in how they go about improving. Abhor stagnation (more on that below) and foster growth.

James puts forward many, many ways to do this, yet here is one to remember right now:

Get space from your partner to do your own awesome things. Come back to your partner to share your experiences. Encourage (“insist” might be a bit too strong) others to get away, have their own thing, share the uniqueness of their renewed perspective.

“Hit Send Now”

James goes over how the cancer of resentment kills, how simmering on apprehension is a miasma. His suggestion to overcome this failure?

Hit ‘send’ now.

On the email, on the text, on the call – express the thing that is bothering you (i.e. your problem) right away in “I” and “feel” terms. Get the dirt out in the open between you and another pronto so it can be addressed instead of mold in the dark where your problem becomes a problem for everyone.

Act now on these other alliterations:

  • Affection – do not wait to give and get affection, especially in cases of dedicated partnerships. James points out that when a person’s needs for affection are left to fallow, that person will look to other pastures.
  • Appreciation – do not wait to appreciate the choices another makes. They have chosen to be involved in your life, to have you in theirs, and hopefully are taking the action to make it all better. “Don’t take for granted” and all that!
  • Apprehension – do not wait to air out bad gut feels and needs for clarity. If things might be wrong, say so. Do not be the person who fails to question if there is a fire when they smell smoke.
  • Apologies – do not wait to apologize. Back to “it takes two,” there will always be something you could have done better, even if the ’cause’ of whatever the issue is might objectively be with the other. So apologize for your part, appreciate the other’s understanding and raising of their apprehensions, and remind them of your mutual affections.

Die on Fewer Hills

Jumping off the “apologies” above, being “right” or always getting a win is a lose-lose game. If you are wrong, you are a loser for being stubborn; if you are right, you are now in a relationship with a loser. How is this OK?

James suggests a novel approach: Compromise. Chill. Give fewer s***s about fewer things. Put more work into making the relationship work than flexing your own ego.

Focusing on the few allows you to put your energy into where it really matters: Your partner, your needs, and your fundamental values (pizza-vs-cheeseburger does not count).

So understand which hills are worth fighting for and which few you are ready to die on, and in the process, kill the relationship.

Change or Die

Figuratively, of course. (Really on the morbid topics today 💀 James the divorce lawyer suggests we blame the feels on him.)

If you are holding out on fewer hills, you can remain flexible. Relationships require some flexibility as no relationship remains the same (I have a few posts on how stagnation is death).

As such, “treading water” is a lot of words for “drowning.” James suggests exercising your own tolerance for change, being open to changes offered by and in your partner, and bringing new and novel ideas to the table on your own.

Forgive but Never Excuse Yourself

After hundreds of pages, James reminds us: You are only human. Fallible. Inconsistent. Sometimes tired. Capable of great compassion and great pettiness.

Forgive yourself. If you are putting in the personal- and relationship-labor to keep the partnership alive, cutting yourself slack for a slip or mistake can be tough (though will be made easier by making immediate amends).

But never, ever let “you are only human” be your excuse. You are better than your weaknesses, your base nature.

Get competent and confident. Then get more competent and more humble. Later lend a hand to your partner and others so they may be better sooner too.

As James puts forward, do these things, and you may just keep you relationships alive.

Happy Valentine’s Week!

If You’re In My Office, It’s Already Too Late is going on my bookshelf along with the likes of State of Affairs and the classic Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. (Maybe someday a blogpost of what is on my shelves…)

I hope James J. Sexton’s advice and my own commentary has been a help to you today. As said, I’m on my third but very much not final read of this work and this blog posts covers but a smidgen of the lessons profound.

Always open for more, I very much would like to hear your own suggestions for books, podcasts, and experiences that have taught you a thing or two.

Send an email or comment below – regardless, cheers to all your relationships, big and small!

What You Get Reading “Homo Deus”

Homo Deus – i.e. “Human God,” top-rated book by Dr. Yuval Noah Harari, author of multiple other best-sellers – hit me like a brick when I read it.

I have covered butt-kicking, life-changing books before, so let this be another added to the list. Though, let me give you my personal spark notes – what little they are – for what to expect for what you get by reading Homo Deus:

Humans Are Dividual

We are of many minds in one body, hardly an “individual” by any reasonable expectation of what makes a human a human. Thought, action, and even memory all change based on context internal and external, and changes over time.

Another way to put it would be that people wear many masks for the parts we play in our own lives and the lives of others.

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

Humans try to assume something is known, attempt to take comfort in something certain.

Yet how might that be certain? All the puzzle pieces might seem to be in the box, but until the puzzle is put together, how can one be sure?

The Truth-seeking crusade of science, the firmest field of knowledge towards what might be real, hedges virtually all of its claims with “this may be wrong” and “there is more to know here.” In that way, we humans must always account for our own ignorance in literally every claim we make or piece of knowledge we take stake in, be it ourselves, others, or the world at large.

What Comes Makes All Before Obsolete

Human history took tens- or hundreds-of-millennia to accomplish pottery, baking, and basic plant domestication. Countless generations laid bricks in foundations and fortresses and footpaths for empires. It took one man a lifetime to learn just enough to make a decent shoe if he was gifted, passing that knowledge on to at least one or two sons before his death if lucky.

The works of this species in all recorded history were reproduced and exceeded in the last 100 years. Change and creation have only escalated – what took years, now months; months, now weeks; of weeks, a single tweet can wipe away a week’s efforts.

If change takes as long as a year, we are counted lucky, for everything that comes next makes everything that has come before obsolete.

Question Yourself

Is life just a set of algorithms, our existence only justified by being better data processors for the model?

Is intelligence the greatest benefit? Or does consciousness hold more value?

What is life when algorithms know us better than us?

These questions are vague intentionally, allowing answers for yourself or for considerations about society at large. Whatever the answers end up being to those with the means and opportunity at some future time will decide great changes to come.

Handling Humans

Democracy (a system of distributed power and processing) acts slower, yet is more thorough than other decision-making forms. It works well in high states of change, when idea surpasses implementation.

Autocracy (central processing; efficient, yet emphasizes systemic bias) works when implementation is more important than ideas. ‘Get it done no matter what’ has been the mainstay of all cultures up until the last spit of two centuries, and even yet has widespread adoption.

One or the other is only “good” or “bad” in if it is being used at the most optimal times. Holding onto one method when the other would really do causes unnecessary strife. All of this proves to be yet cyclical as intentions and executions change.

Durant agrees about the cyclical nature of our species. As a renown historian, Durant points out that decision-making in economies and governments repeats over and again as the waves of policy change. (Set aside the observations that autocracy has been the #1 driver for species advancement historically and that the merit of democracy in the last 300 years has yet to be proven more than a coincidence for the astronomical growth thereabouts.)

Not a lot, yet these are the things to keep in mind for what you get reading Homo Deus.

Highly recommend the book, as it humbles oneself towards what unknowable future comes!

4 Ways to Survive: Guns, Germs, and Steel

One of the most highly regarded histories of all time, Guns, Germs, and Steel caught my attention in a big way. How it sets up the dominos of time to bring us to the current era is as clear-cut as the Transitive Property.

The book further levels the genealogical and cultural propagandas so frequent in other lessons about civilizations. Any member of Homo Sapiens is capable of the same outcomes given the same environmental contexts – DNA does not play a factor (as it rightly should not).

Consequences of cultural differences also play out. In a personal eureka moment, I want to share with you the four cultural trends that persevere, usurping any methods that do not conform to one of the four. (Also note that culture drives what a society deems is valuable, thus drives the actions and thoughts of individuals.)

This overview is naïve, of course. Guns, Germs, and Steel does not contend with the question of a 21st-century global culture, the first of its kind. To show these categories of cultural action persist to this day, I’ll outline geo-political, commercial, and biological examples of how society has come to evolve the way it is.

A reminder, in paraphrase, from scholar William Durant: “Good” in history is that which survives. Be it biological, commercial, or cultural, Nature only cares about persisting to the next iteration. All else is a thought exercise at best, moral grandstanding at its most dangerous.

Annihilate

A castle is overcome when it is destroyed and its inhabitants ruined, the besieger then allowed to record only that there was victory for themselves.

First among equals, the primal tenant: an obstacle does not exist if made to not exist.

A culture or action that removes its competitors and predators survives, at least for awhile, and certainly longer than either competitors or predators.

The micro-action of “unfriending” an inflammatory character from Social Media is annihilation. A company that forces the closure of a niche shop is annihilation. A nation that blows-up the economics and utilities of another nation is annihilation. A species that puts to extinction a foe over resources or predation is annihilation.

Annihilation is Zero Sum, meaning that there is no compromise between one entity attempting to annihilate another. Being Zero Sum, once a state of mutually assured destruction is reached by any two entities, those entities must change their cultural attitudes towards each other to survive.

Non-annihilation towards one does not negate actions of annihilation against another. (Why the Cold War was an indirect war.) However, the idea of non-annihilation can assimilate itself into the rest of a culture, ‘pacifying’ a people to use other means of survival.

Assimilate

A castle is overcome when it surrenders and joins the besieger, who then puts to work what is deemed useful at the time.

Apes together strong.” – Rise of the Planet of the Apes

The most mutually beneficial tenant, an obstacle does not exist if it not only agrees to no longer be an obstacle, but joins in overcoming other obstacles.

Mitochondria evolving to give easy energy to a larger cell for protection and care is assimilation. When a new employee goes to a company function regardless of personal preference to socialize with the group is assimilation. Every business that buys other businesses, adapting the enterprise in a minor way to accommodate the other companies, is assimilation. Whether Catholic or Buddhist, missionaries morphing the likenesses of their idols to conform to the dominant traditions is assimilation. A nation teaching its language to the conquered, the refugee, the destitute, and the uneducated young is assimilation.

In short, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.” In that way, a disadvantaged entity survives in at least some part while an advantaged entity grows stronger by the double whammy of removing a rival and adding to its own benefits.

Take note that a disadvantaged entity has no guarantee to be whole and only minorly altered after assimilation. In Nature, niches allow only one entity space to exist therein, otherwise resulting in competition and obstacles. If an obstacle is removed by assimilation, a subpart of what was assimilated may already have its niched filled by the assimilator, meaning the subpart is then annihilated to avoid competition.

If assimilation is yet too costly, a more indirect route of asphyxiation exists.

Asphyxiate

A castle is overcome when it is starved out, the besieger then destroyer or enslaver of any reluctant survivors.

A tenant for the patient or the weak-but-numerous, an obstacle allowed to crumble under its own weight is no longer an obstacle.

A culture that takes no direct action against another entity can still overcome the other. The former does so by cutting off the inputs needed by the latter.

Whether called “asphyxiation,” “denial,” “terminal isolation,” or otherwise, an enclosed system naturally succumbs to its own entropy.

A plant denied adequate water and light, whether given too much or too little, rots and withers. A person not included in a social circle is asphyxiated of attention and leaves. A powerplant cut off from its water coolant overheats by its own reaction. A nation runs out of its fuel and food when an embargo asphyxiates it.

Isolation, which may arrive in the form of inundation (e.g. drowning, the isolation from oxygen), kills – a roundabout annihilation. A system – cultural, commercial, biological, societal – must interact with other systems to survive. It will find its niche otherwise too small to continue without at least severe adaptation and sacrifice.

Some entities have assimilated so many others as to become self sufficient and spared a destruction by asphyxiation. However, should the denial of exchange be parsed farther down (e.g. to a city rather than a country), an entity will collapse under its own wants and waste. To prevent a possible asphyxiator from realizing this, along with avoiding notions of assimilation and annihilation, the disadvantaged entity may agnosticize itself to external awareness.

Agnosticize

A castle is overcome when the inhabitants do not know the besieger is already in the walls, the besieger falling below a level of notice.

The tenant of ignorance and parasitism, an obstacle is no longer so whenever it does not know to act as an obstacle.

A culture beyond the notice of other cultures survives. This is the hardest tenant to exist by, though it is the least destructive to other entities.

Great work must be done to become agnosticized (i.e. unknown) to other cultures. First, the culture, system, or entity wishing to be kept unaware must be self sufficient (immune to needing to interact with outside systems to gather resources or deposit waste). It then must be self regulating (the niche of the system avoids over-consuming what is available). Finally, the system must have complete attraction to its members (nothing must be allowed to leave, and all individuals must cooperate towards maintaining the agnosticized goal).

The first need of an agnosticized culture – self sufficiency – may be circumvented in the case of parasitism. An entity may subsist on the byproducts and rounding-errors of a more advantaged entity. Even greater care is required here to remain under the notice of a destroyer. As far as humans are concerned, we are very jealous creatures, even in the ownership of our refuse.

A mouse whisking away a nibble of cheese or crumb of bread without traps set or cats stalking is agnosticized. A person is spared ridicule by being a no-body without public appearance and so is agnosticized. A local provider is not run out of business by a larger corporation because it is agnosticized from the corporation’s notice. A non-seafaring people left alone on an island is spared disease and enslavement because it is agnosticized. A nation in isolation can slow cultural change because it is agnosticized.

Attention begets change from outside forces, whether on the subatomic level or cultural. To avoid attention, to agnosticize, means survival. Change will certainly come, yet remain internal, free from being targeted for annihilation, assimilation, or asphyxiation by other cultures.

And those are my big “aha!” takeaways from Guns, Germs, and Steel. Looking around the context of things in 2021, we see how these principles continue to play out across geographies, cultures, time, and even between micro-organelles to macro-economies.

To survive is “Good.” How to survive is to annihilate, assimilate, asphyxiate, or be agnosticized against the competition.

For your goals, which of these survival techniques are you leveraging? Help me assimilate your ideas into my own so we both may survive a little longer!

While we strive, cheers ~

Guide to Your Goals: 10 Themes From Lessons of History

William Durant was a foremost student of history and the human condition. His works in the middle of the 20th century survive long past his death, which by his own criteria, “win!”

Durant’s studies led him at times to conclude with some harsh realities, realities that may not conform to things like short-lived modern liberalism, humanism, or most methods of governance, for all these things pass and come back again through history.

The content of this post comes from my notes of Durant’s authorship. They try to reconcile the socio-historical perspectives of Durant with something tangible to a single person (me). As I tried to figure out what Durant was saying, not all that follows necessarily stands for my own conclusions after reading his work.

That said, let me share with you the ways Lessons of History may matter to us today:

1. Means Change, Motives Endure

What are the motives of a people? A person? What are yours? Knowing what drives action gives a means of control over that action. Just opposite to how the motive to find romance endures in humans across millennia, the means have evolved from arranging marriages for life to hook-up phone apps and divorce more common than “to death do us part.”

Figure out your motives for what you do and worry less about the means.

2. Three Tiers of Concern

Care about your objective needs first. Food, shelter, something to contribute, retardation of pain, interpersonal connection. Meeting needs out-prioritizes all other goals.

Next, you will adopt the most convenience you can for yourself (and so will anyone else). Aim not to be an inconvenience to others because they will otherwise be active in being the same to you. Do whatever you can to make achieving your goals convenient!

Lastly comes the acquisition of status symbols. Beware of these: Symbols change, e.g. having large plantations and families has morphed into acquiring ever larger Instagram followings and slick gadgets. And not all peoples admire the same telegraphs of status.

Symbols are largely traps that sway you from your goals (the original sin here being about caring too much about what others think). But keep in mind the power of symbols because status can be used as a form of barter nearly as well as cold, hard cash.

3. 21st Century Values

Gone are the days where generic endeavors that cater to the lowest denominator had value. Durant calls any ideology a “morale,” though through his other words, certain modes of thinking are objectively more valuable than others vs. subjective as morales are.

Simply put, being attached to ideas of nationalism or other dogmas that originated prior to the 21st century is like refusing to get off a horse to get into a Model T.

As it applies to your goals, keep these things in mind:

  1. Picking a single niche to appease a few is more important than attempting to make everyone happy.
  2. Critical thinking your way, or “working smarter not harder,” will give greater returns than mere labor that anyone can do.
  3. Universal empathy for any other person is a novelty. Care first to have another care about what you do.
  4. Keep away from “exclusivity,” i.e. artificially restricting your outreach. Go where the audience is, which in the 21st century is everywhere across the globe.

4. Ideas vs Outcomes

Ideas are all created equal in that they are born worthless. They may develop into hopes and drives like spiritual and national religions do, but it’s the outcomes from those ideas that matter.

The same applies to goals. Goals are worthless unless they lead to an outcome, and there, outcomes only happen with you taking action.

5. Minorities Drive Majorities

Whether it be personal habits, life choices, or intimate groups of passionate people, very few things have a greater share of impact.

A radical student with a gun in Bosnia fires off the first World War. A few tens-of-thousands of eager Bolsheviks gain control of a country of tens-of-millions to redefine the twentieth century. 30 minutes of daily exercise increases life expectancy more than 30 years.

Whenever, wherever there is an active minority given care, changes are made.

Pay attention to the little things and the one-offs, for they drive the gains and the conflicts, while the passive majority reaps the consequences for good or ill. This applies to your time, your business and career, and ultimately any goal you set for yourself.

6. Competition Comes Before Cooperation

Any two sects will only cooperate to overcome a competition. Competition always boils down to overcoming some form of suffering. As the saying goes, “misery loves company.”

Find where the suffering is in a group of people or just a single other, and sympathize with it. Then you will gain allies against whatever the common antagonist is. Further, these sufferers will support your endeavors to overcome that suffering (i.e. your goals).

7. Fertility Wins

Be it with physical genes or abstract ideas, the success of either directly relates to how wide-spread it is. Things only spread when they are put out there and adopted by others.

People will only adopt whatever your goal is after a few steps happen first:

  1. Actively get that idea in front of others.
  2. Apply the idea in some tangible, valuable way where the benefit can be shown.
  3. Evolve that idea to be “same but different,” as in it must be familiar to the audience yet still unique enough to not have been experienced before by that audience.
  4. Return to step 1.

Being prolific is how you win, and you are prolific if you take action to 1) get yourself out there, and 2) cater demonstrable, novel benefit to your audience.

This may not seem “fair” (see the next point on justice). Unless you and your work persist, fairness does not matter in the least. “Good” is that which survives.

8. Justice Is Proving Merit

As most life advice has it, the world owes you nothing. As Durant would amend, a “just” society can at least give one right: the right to unobscured entry into tests of office and power, simply known as proving one’s merit.

Can you prove you have a mighty body? A strong mind? An attractive character? Or clever means? No more, no less – These are the only things you must feel obliged to show in your goals.

9. You Are Your Greatest Hinderance and Help

As Durant puts it, supernatural belief is the strongest protection against your own misdeeds. However, your fantasies about yourself, your actions, or the world can be taken too far, preventing useful consequences from occurring.

Towards this point, seize control of your mind. Be rational about what is legitimate caution versus overzealous fear. To take another quote, “fear is the mind-killer […] the little death that kills me over and over” (Dune) – only after your own terrors are reined will you be able to get out of your own way to accomplish what you set out to do.

10. Discipline Yourself

A person unprepared for success will be weak when they stumble into it but act strong. Being weak while drunk with power is delusional and therefore dangerous for everyone and everything.

Like letting a genie out of a bottle, getting what you want may be the worst thing to happen.

When it comes to goals, you strengthen yourself for success by disciplining yourself in your life. Family, finances, health, goals – everyday and always. Only then will you be prepared to achieve.

But what if you should fail to meet your goals? Discipline reinforces your mind, so such a failure will have much less impact than if you fail while also weak and undisciplined.

Extra Points Worth Note:

  • Revolution (forcible change of a system) comes when the equality of merit or vote is nullified by an inequity of wealth, status, or means. The situation worsens when the strong (in any sense of the word) create monopolies of the tools and means to livelihood status. Revolutions cycle between these states:
    • Wealth Distributes -> Wealth Concentrates -> (repeat)
    • Monarch / Tyranny (one power) -> Aristocracy (few powers) -> Democracy (no powers) -> (repeat)
  • Force (i.e. action by any and every means and effective methods) is the absolute final arbiter of a dispute or conflict. Only by force may an unassailable obstacle be overcome or unattainable attained. All else is a brain exercise for poets and philosophers.
  • Economy is the manager of all things socially, personally, politically, or otherwise.
  • Value floats up, so value injected at as low a level as possible sieves through higher layers, such as socio-economic levels (i.e. castes). Therefore, knowing your current caste, where value is being put into the system, and where you can put in value is of extreme importance.
  • Beware the unsolicited “should.” Whenever a higher power (family, boss, state, divinity) hands-off moral wisdom without invitation, it’s just – if not more likely – that ‘wisdom’ serves an all-too-human agenda not your own.

Wow! That’s a lot! William Durant had a lot to say, which applied to a lot of my own goal-mindedness (hence these notes).

Durant found many patterns throughout history on a macro scale. I’ve tried to apply these to the micro and personal scale. How did I do? Which will you start using and observing in your day to day? Let me know!

Stay warm wherever you are, and cheers!

11 Books of Change in 2020

I have had the privilege to read some great titles this year. They have, simply put, changed the way I understand life.

Any of these books is well worth your time. If just one changes your life half as much as it has mine, this post is worth it 😁

Armor

Taking off from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, this novel by John Steakley builds off of that tone with the memory recordings of a battered and blasted suit of advanced combat armor. Exploring the vulgarities of war for war’s sake, the glorification of violence, and the battle scars that never disappear, Steakley set an example for me on how to write better war stories.

Art Matters

Neil Gaiman is prolific. Maybe it’s because he takes his own advice on why creation and expression is so darn important to the human condition.

Can’t Hurt Me

A man of many titles and accomplishments, David Goggins serves as an example for me in what it means to push through, how not to quit. It’s not enough to want something – a person must first conquer their worst enemy: themselves.

Energy for Future Presidents

Richard Muller gives concise information on physics, chemistry, economics, diplomacy, and sociology that not just provides information on where the world stands in regards to its fuel, but also how to evaluate new forms of energy that arise. I have a better understanding of the future of energy and you will too reading this book.

Masters of War: History’s Greatest Strategic Thinkers

The Great Courses does it again, delivering top-notch educational course material in audiobook form. I grew into greater appreciation of some of humanity’s shapers. Further, this course outlines some strategic methodologies that can be applied to everyday obstacles and decisions.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

John Grey has given me language to express what I’ve felt and have observed in others. MAFMWAFV uses archaic terms by today’s more nuanced world, yet through its teachings I can point out the reasons behind how relationships have ended, what others have done, and why anyone reacts the way they do. The book isn’t everything there is to relationships and gendered self-expression, but it’s a lot!

The New Human Rights Movement

Like a punch in the gut, Peter Joseph hits hard with the ails of society. Unlike how some philosophers and dictators will say a thing is a problem and throw out solutions, Joseph defines terms, assumes a common goal (i.e. eliminate unnecessary suffering; minimize/optimize what’s left), details problems in opposition to that goal, and outlines seemingly obvious solutions.

I’m a big fan of this book, though give due caution: It’s depressing to see how much trouble society has wedged itself into. I have great hopes in a mass correction of ills, yet it will only occur on a macro scale. (Market dynamics trump individual performance always.)

A Plea for the Animals

Matthieu Ricard has made me a full vegetarian now. Hope that’s enough said about their work 🤷‍♂️

Revelation Space

Here I refer to the series whose first book is of the same name. Alastair Reynolds shoots for the moon in this sci-fi epic saga that spans tens-of-thousands of years, and he goes farther. Revelation Space has changed how I think about spaceship shapes and travel, as well as how short stories pump great energy into the rest of the fictional universe.

The Truth

Very controversial Neil Strauss, author of the more famous book The Game, explores here the consequences of a hedonistic life. At times verging on the soft-core, The Truth concludes that the tools to become confident, meet people, and become intimate must ultimately serve to find the relationship that is worth burying those tools for.

The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains

Neil Gaiman again here! This short story is… magical. Dark. Suspenseful. And of a kind of primal justice for which the characters (and we, readers) must journey towards. Not much of life lesson, but heck-of-a-fine read ~

These are the new works that most impacted me this year. A note that this does not include repeat reads, such as the graphic novel series Monstress or the advice found in Tribe of Mentors. Regardless, I am a better person for them all.

How many of these have you read? Which books would you suggest I pick up in 2021? Keep me posted and keep on improving! Cheers~

Guide to Your Goals: 10 Themes From Tribe of Mentors

  1. 1. Simplify
  2. 2. Long-Term Yeses and Nos
  3. 3. Act
  4. 4. Sleep
  5. 5. No (Added) Sugars
  6. 6. Meditate
  7. 7. Exercise
  8. 8. Zoom Out, Slow Down
  9. 9. (Gratitude) Journal
  10. 10. Fats and Proteins

The (in)famous Timothy Ferriss got me started on self-improvement with his breakout The 4-Hour Work Week. The book had me seriously scrutinizing my work and effort in ways that made me who I am today.

However, not just one of the best books by Tim, but one of the best books I’ve ever come across (I, who consume some 20 or so books a month [audiobooks FTW]) is the “short life advice” in Tribe of Mentors. Having gathered dozens of top performers, gurus, experts, and objectively pinnacles of humanity, these folks provide advice for goals and life.

What would this look like if it were easy?

Timothy Ferriss

The book is well worth a read (it’s one of the few I keep in hardcopy and also loan to friends), the above being the first highlight I made in the tome. Though filled with wisdom throughout, there are ten themes that come up again and again. Don’t take it from me that getting after these will change your life – really work them out, say, over two weeks each. The results will help what is an ultimate goal of life: Wellbeing.

The following are in a suggested order I came up with in my own experience, in which the latter build off of the former for a positively escalating domino effect.

1. Simplify

A [person] is rich in proportion to the number of things [they] can leave alone.

Henry David Thoreau, Renown Natural Philosopher

Decluttering, reducing, trimming, following the edge of Occam’s Razor – however it is called, simplicity reduces noise that distracts, confounds, induces anxiety and worry, and makes a person objectively weaker.

Going without the unimportant is the hallmark of greatness. This doesn’t mean taking the things found to be important for granted. Challenge those things. It is up to them to prove useful to you and the world.

Simplicity is the first suggestion for you to try as it makes all else easier. It is also the hardest thing to do, as you will strive to simplify and stay simplified forever.

2. Long-Term Yeses and Nos

Say “yes” to long-term activities and people who are of benefit to you, say “no” to everything else.

This echoes the first principle of simplicity, and it will require as great of courage and discipline to follow.

You must be selfish enough on behalf of your future self. Simply put: Practice delayed gratification.

Doing the leveraged, compounding move instead of the emotional ‘feels good right now’ commitment, even if that’s helping other people, is the smarter, kinder thing to do for yourself. It’s putting the cart before the horse, attempting fix the future of others or the world without first having done the hard work to make yourself an avatar worthy of emulation.

Not sure what is useful long-term? Tim and other minds offer strategies to figure this out, such as doing a Pareto evaluation of the best/worst people and activities, or as I would simply suggest: If you don’t feel it’s a “hell yes,” then it’s a hard “no.”

3. Act

You must act, you must do. Now.

Nothing Good will occur from stagnation. The very universe itself through entropy would rip your very atoms apart, let alone other living things that realize they must act so would take your lifeblood. And that is a natural justice.

So start. Use your head and hands to make something of yourself and the world.

(Need a place to start? Psychologist Jordan Peterson has this advice: “Clean up your room.”)

4. Sleep

Sleep, or rest in general, makes you a better person.

Sleep cleanses toxins, balances biological systems, and allows your body to repair and grow and prepare for the day to come. Before diet, before exercise, having quality sleep (this does not specify quantity) comes first.

Keep in mind that this is not ‘doing nothing.’ Conscious, purposeful, prepared for rest is an act admirable to the principle above, if not more so in today’s workaholic, masochistic-labor-enthroning world (said as a recovering workaholic myself).

Quality suggestions: Cold room, no light, no work/surfing/lounging in bed.

5. No (Added) Sugars

A still raging obesity and diabetic epidemic requires this to be iterated again: Cut the sugars.

This recurring theme in Tribe of Mentors is less about adding to your abilities and more of removing the cap on your wellness and potential. Removing excess sugar will immediately improve your weight, acne, hunger, cardiovascular ability, bodily energy, and mental clarity, to name a few benefits.

A word of warning: A quick reduction in sweetness may give withdrawals, since sugar seems to have a more addictive effect on the brain than cocaine.

6. Meditate

Also put as ‘reflection,’ taking the time to be at peace inside your own head both refreshes, clarifies, calms, and readies you with the means to tackle your goals.

7. Exercise

It’s about being a stronger version of you. If [it] gets real, you know you could kill and eat everyone in the room which will make you feel more confident.

Scott Galloway, Economist and Professor

Your body is the only one you have and is the only thing you may rely on in the moment. It will also be the last thing to fail before you die.

You know the benefits of exercise: you become faster, stronger, longer lasting, more attractive, more confident, better. So do it and improve at it.

Side note: Exercise may also prove to be an avenue of meditation for you, so the sixth and seventh principles roll into one!

8. Zoom Out, Slow Down

Life punishes the vague wish and rewards the specific ask.

Timothy Ferriss

Forgo being ‘busy.’ You cannot know your destination or if your direction is correct if you do not pause, breath, look around where you are, and look up ahead to where you want to be.

If you don’t know where you need to go, or don’t care where you’ve been or are, going carelessly, blindly, may be especially disastrous! My request would be for you to at least stay out of the way.

Analogies:

      • Swimming from a sinking boat without first knowing where land is.
      • Running the wrong way in the wrong race at the wrong time.
      • Walking in circles.
      • Trying the same thing, expecting different results.

9. (Gratitude) Journal

It’s important to give credit where credit is due, especially when you and I live in objectively the best times in history ever.

We as humans have a hard time recognizing that, since a negative experience has more than three times the impact on our psyche.

Though important, gratitude is only a part of this theme. There’s an effect called “Rubber Ducking” that helps you fix your problems and gain insight without needing someone around. If you talk to a thing, even if it’s to your journal, and you’re allowed to work through the situation, a solution or next step is much more likely to appear!

So record the Good things. Appreciate. Go back to find patterns of things you can replicate (or negatives you can avoid). Recall the Good times in the darkest times. And figure out your problems.

10. Fats and Proteins

That ‘fat is bad’ is bunk. Your brain is fat and works better with more of it. You also require proteins for your cells to operate, more so if you’ve been exercising.

This last theme in Tribe of Mentors holds to it that fats and proteins are the key in your diet to increase thinking and performance while maximizing health benefits.

After you make sure you have enough fat and protein, hit the veggies (though you already know that 😁).

These ten recurring themes that come up again and again from top performers craft those that follow the principles into better people. So start here if you’ve yet to get after what you want or need help figuring it out.

If you’re already on the path to accomplishment, may these be a friendly reminder of the tools you have at your disposal for optimal performance. Share with your fellows so they might improve themselves should they be so inclined.

What has worked for you? What would you add to a beginner’s guide to life? I’m listening.

Cheers~