Read the introduction if you haven’t done so already to understand the basic concept of the series.
Now let’s get into ways to become more of a Renaissance Man. Rather than give ultra-specific steps, my approach is to give general ways to live that will help you become more of a Renaissance Man in every aspect of your life.
Be Willing to Throw or Take a Punch If Needed
I touched on this in the introduction post. This does not mean to go out looking for fights, or to use fighting as your first resort to solving problems. Part of being a man is knowing when to let things slide and when your pride and self-respect demands physical action. Some drunk guy bumps into you in a bar and is unapologetic? Probably not worth it. Somebody threatens your girlfriend and/or kid in public and is unapologetic? Confrontation is needed. Some chick you haven’t been dating long is trying to get you and another guy to battle over her in a classic case of the mindgame “Let’s You and Him Fight?” Charge her to the game and move on. You’re wife’s ex is calling you out and pushing your buttons to a ridiculous degree as shown in this comment by Private Pigg in the comments section to the previous post? You have no choice but to throw a punch at that point.
Also important is to get a sense of who you’re dealing with. If you’re a middle class professional guy and you are dealing with a lower-class thug who may have been in and out of jail numerous times, you have much more to lose than him and he’s probably willing to take it to a level you don’t want to bring it to, like stabbing or shooting. Also, does he have a group of guys who look willing to jump into the fray?
Like I said, one has to use their judgment, and it should be a last resort, not a first. But you can’t go through life telling yourself it should never, ever be an option at all. Most guys fear fighting for the same reason most guys have anxiety about approaching strange women. Their ego can’t handle the prospect of failing publicly. It brings to mind that scene in Fight Club where one of the assignments Tyler Durden’s disciples must complete is to start a fight with someone else and deliberately lose, and they find that it’s harder than they expect because most people in civilized society will do anything to avoid fighting.
Control Your Apologies and Gratitude
We apologize and show gratitude much too often in our society. From what I hear from foreigners, Americans and the British are actually the worst at this. (If anyone who is well-traveled out there can support or refute this for me, it would be appreciated)
It gets so bad sometimes that you can bump into someone and they’ll reflexively apologize to you before you have a chance to even say anything. We overapologize and overthank to the point that apologies and gratitude become cheap, insincere and meaningless. As an assignment, start keeping track of how many times you and others around you apologize and thank people over the course of a day and you may be surprised by what you notice.
I used to overapologize and overthank all the time. At a restaurant, for every single thing a waiter would do for me, I’d respond with a “Thank you.” Most civilized people on average do this, so I thought nothing of it. One day my friend says to me, “What the fuck are you thanking him for? For doing the bare minimum of his job description?” At first it seemed like an assholish thing to say until I thought about it further and realized he was right. Why was I thanking him for doing the minimum of what I expect, for doing what he was being paid to do? And multiple times for every single task he did?
After that, I only would thank once with any encounter with a service person, and only at the very end of the transaction. Any extra thank yous before the end would only come if the service person was doing something above and beyond what he needed to do. The most important form of thank you, the one that mattered most, was the gratuity I paid at the end of the encounter, and I now realized if I compensated well at that point, that was what really counted.
The same goes for apologies: apologize selectively, and only when sincerely sorry. Don’t apologize for your thoughts, although you may apologize for expressing them tactlessly or at an inappropriate time. Apologize for your actions such as stepping on someone’s toe, but not for your beliefs.
The reason for this rule is because of the messages overapologizing and overthanking send both to yourself and to others. It conveys what you think you deserve. You are telling other people and yourself that they are doing you a favor just for being nice to you and treating you decently. If you work hard for your money and are spending it in someone’s establishment, you deserve good treatment. If you believe something and express it without malice and with tact, you don’t have to apologize. If you slightly bump people in the shoulder in an extremely crowded train where everyone can’t avoid bumping into each other, you don’t have to say “sorry” or “excuse me” every 10 seconds each time it happens. It’s unavoidable, it’s par for the course, it should be expected, and as long as it’s not excessive or painful contact it should be understood. Anyone who can’t get that is an unreasonable dick, which is not your problem.
This is a harder rule to implement than it seems at first glance, because we are unaware of the many covert ways we thank and apologize. It’s bigger than just verbalizing the words “sorry,” “excuse me” and “thank you” less. We often unwittingly thank and apologize with our emotional reactions and our body language.
For example, picture as a single guy you walk into a club and you see a group of women. The average guy will try to innocuously or meekly make his way over to them and maybe open by stammering “I don’t mean to bother you, but…” If he doesn’t get blown out right away, he visibly gets excited and looks elated and continues on. STOP RIGHT THERE AND THINK ABOUT WHAT JUST HAPPENED. His body language and words were apologetic. Before he even opened his mouth, his walk was apologetic, like he was sorry for taking up space and didn’t want to call attention to himself. He had no swagger and no confidence in his physical approach, and swagger and confidence are inherently unapologetic. Then he started with “I don’t mean to bother you..” Openers like this are also apologetic. So are openers like “Excuse me, but..” or “Sorry, but…” He is apologizing for talking to the person, as if a conversation with him is such a bad thing that he must apologize whenever he inflicts the experience on another human being. It sounds harmless, but people pick up on that language on an unconscious level and often respond accordingly. That’s why I used to like opening up with things like “Hey, you know what?” or “You’re not going to believe this” or “What are you guys gossiping about over there? or even just “Hey!” Anything except an pseudo-apologetic setup. Look around at guys around and you and you’ll see that not only do many guys lack swagger, they actually have an apologetic walk to them. Some people are so bad they give off the vibe like they’re apologizing just for existing.
Same goes for that physical reaction that implies gratitude. When someone responds positively to your approach or request, you don’t act pleased, you act like you’re entitled to it, like you expected no less. The message you send when you visibly show gratitude is that you are not used to such good treatment, that you don’t feel like you deserve it, that it’s an anomaly, something special that you only get as an occasional fluke. Since that is the opposite of how an alpha male or renaissance man is used to getting treated, the person reasons you therefore must not be an alpha or renaissance man. Even leaning in too much whenever she speaks to make sure you don’t miss a word is borderline apologetic. Lean back, look relaxed, force her to speak up or lean in to close the physical gap if you can’t hear her. Make her work to please you. If you ask someone out on a date and they say yes, don’t act excited or noticeably happier like she did you a favor, act like she did herself one by accepting. Go as far as saying something cocky like “See, I could tell you were a smart girl.”
The same goes for asking for a raise for your boss or asking your landlord to fix something or sending your food back to the kitchen when it’s subpar. This is bigger than a trick for picking up women, it’s about lifestyle and expectations. Don’t say “Sorry to bother you, but this food is cold.” Why are you sorry for expecting good food. Don’t preface your raise request with complimentary fluff like “I just want you to know I really enjoy working here, but…” That’s an apologetic intro, you are conveying you feel guilty for what you are about to ask, as if you don’t deserve it.”
Don’t take it too far and become an abrasive, unapologetic ingrate. Courtesy and manners are an important part of being a gentleman in a civilized society. The point is that you want to convey what you feel you deserve and how you expect to be treated, and you also don’t want to cheapen your words. Overapologizing and overthanking cheapen your apologies and gratitude. When used sparingly, your apologies and gratitude end up carrying more weight when they do get expressed, and you also train people to work harder to please you.