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Find Good Role Models and Study Them
Misery loves company, so people often have a tendency to pick friends who share similar problems, are enables and reinforce their negative traits. Another problem with picking toxic people is that they encourage you to hate successful people. This is poison to your subconscious, because anything you actively hate, you train your subconscious mind to keep out of your grasp. You are telling your subconscious mind to keep you from ever becoming that type of person.
You’ve never seen someone who actively believes money and power are evil ever becoming rich and powerful. Even politicians who rail against the rich and powerful to get votes, if you examine their pasts, have often spent their lives pursuing status and power. Their words are just for rallying votes. But it goes for anything, if you truly grow to hate something, you will never become that thing because your subconscious mind will keep you from that goal. And your subconscious mind will do this because it feels it is doing you a favor.
If you want to be richer, study and learn to admire rich people (but those with good character of course). If you want to be popular, study and learn to admire popular people. If you want to be good with women, study and learn to admire people who are good with women. Petty, bitter whiny people instead tend to surround themselves with other petty, bitter whiny people to use as an ongoing pity party and together they spend their time actively hating the people who are experiencing success. Is it any wonder they stay stuck in a rut?
At the other extreme, don’t take it to worship level either. They’re just people. Worship is another defense mechanism of the weak. By worshiping and being overly reverential of the successful, that is yet another way people put success out of their grasp. They put the successful on a pedestal, which is another way to make them unattainable, as they achieve almost diety-like status. And people get creeped out by those who worship them, which pretty much guarantees they’ll never respect them, much less mentor them.
Find role models, study them, and if possible befriend them. Learn what you can. And don’t be a leech or a user, find something you can offer in return. Bring something of value to the table. For example in high school I had a friend Stan who was the most popular guy in school, the best player on the basketball team with lots of alpha male swagger and swimming in girls. I remember I’d occasionally see him hanging out with this chubby Indian kid who was really nerdy. Sometimes we’d meet up after school and I’d see him parting ways with the guy before coming over to us. Eventually he introduced the guy to us. His name is Marshall. I figured if Marshall was cool with Stan, he must be cool too, so the rest of us occasionally started talking to him as well.
As the months went on, Marshall seemed to get less nerdy. Whenever he did something socially awkward, Stan would immediately check him, firmly but in a reassuring way. Stan would mock him on some of his clothing choices, but in the way male pals bust on each other (that’s how guys constructively criticize, especially at that age). The social proof seemed to help the kid out too, as I started seeing him with more and more friends every month.
One day I remember asking Stan how he even started becoming friends with Marshall in the first place, as he seemed to have nothing in common with our circle of friends. Marshall’s main circle of friends always remained a small group of somewhat geeky but nice guys. Stan told me “He offered to tutored me and helps keep me on the team. He’s a cool guy.” I was surprised because of how they related in public. You’d never know Marshall was tutoring Stan. They seemed totally at ease with each other and acted like equals. At that moment, I understood Marshall’s hustle and really admired the hell out of it. He didn’t just hate on the popular guy from the sidelines, but when he got an in with him, he didn’t kiss his ass either. He got the mentoring and the social proofing, while keeping his dignity and self-respect, and reaped the social benefits from it. He learned a lot and his confidence shot up too.
Now if you can’t find living, breathing role models for whatever reason, use movies, TV, books, autobiographies and interviews as a substitute until you can find some real life ones. Minimize your exposure to any media that saps your testosterone, like an NBC sitcom or a Judd Apatow movie. Don’t cut them out, just don’t make them the bulk of your entertainment. Your mind absorbs that. Don’t immerse yourself in those “nice guys finish first while bad boy jerks always lose” fairytales that movies have become.
Watch as many old movies and TV shows and books as you can. Read biographies and interviews with old school guys. Old movies kept it real. They weren’t obsessed with assuaging the egos of losers. They gave hard life lessons. Although leading men were becoming more sensitive and vulnerable since the 60s, they were still expected to have some swagger as late as the 80s. Even 80s movies like Revenge of the Nerds were funny precisely because they were supposed to be taken as so outlandishly unrealistic. No one was expected to aspire to be a nerd the way movies today try to seriously sell Michael Cera’s characters as someone who goes from hot girl to hot girl just living his life as a socially awkward hipsterish nerd. In the 80s, his counterpart was the lead from The Last American Virgin or Corey Haim in Lucas or Ducky from Pretty in Pink. Painful to watch, yes, but they taught a valuable life lesson: More often than not, life is unfair and the weak, ugly and socially awkward lose more often than they don’t. Being your best is the key, but character and perseverance are also important.
Today though, and I think it started with John Cusack movies but hit critical mass in the late 90s onward, we got the glorification of the slacker, the geek, the wuss and the shlub. And they aren’t even losers who are good, hardworking people with character. They’re losers who are immature, petty, lazy slackers with zero ambition. We are supposed to root for them to win against the bad boy and get the girl simply because they’re losers, as if that is their redeeming factor. Is it any wonder we have so many twentysomething whimpsters who feel entitled to a girl whose out of their league and filling up websites like this one? Nice Guy Entitlement Syndrome is out of control with young men now, who feel they deserve a 9 or a 10 just for having never been an ax murderer.
So what old movies. Go to your DVR and check out the offerings from American Movie Classics, Fox Movie Channel and Turner Classic Movies and start recording right away. Don’t just look for movies you still currently hear a lot about, go for movies you never heard of in your life with names you don’t recognize. In fact, don’t even read the synopsis for some of them, just go by what has a title that grabs you. Just start recording random movies, and when you watch them, note the years they were made. Then note how the men act, how the women act, what generates attraction, what inspires men to follow other men, who the role models are supposed to be, what are held up as good male values and bad male values. Look at how the alpha males and the beta males are portrayed, and how things turn out for them. Engage it critically, not slavishly. What do you think works? What do you think doesn’t? Also, as you watch more and more of these movies, always keep in mind the years they were made and try to form an overall cultural narrative in order to trace the evolution of gender roles in media portrayals. I’ve found, in my opinion, the first very dramatic shift occurred in the 70s.
The primary purpose of this exercise is to develop more role models. Also, it’s to expand your definitions of what men can be besides just the archetype of today’s post-feminist man, and to figure out the strengths and weaknesses of each era’s male expectations. And finally, it helps you realize how so many of our current culture’s mindsets that you take for granted are very, very recent developments…ongoing experiments actually that we still don’t know the results of.
It also works with old books, like those by Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Chandler and Henry Miller.
This old movie and old book assignment was something I discovered by accident. I started watching old movies because I wanted to try a new hobby, and all my favorite series like The Wire and The Shield were ending. And after immersing myself in these movies for months I started noticing all types of things. For example, if you think I’m exaggerating about the state of men, ask yourself this: who is a current American actor under the age of 35, not including black/ethnic guys, athletes or rappers, who can convincingly pull off a tough guy role? The only guy I can think of right now is that new actor Channing Tatum. The rest are just prettyboys or wusses. Even the ones with muscles aren’t convincing tough guys, they just look like vain pampered gym rats. Deniro and Pacino for example never had huge muscles but came off way tougher than some of today’s musclebound actors. My friends and I have been rattling off names and every guy we think of turns out to be over 35 or foreign. It’s reached the point where we’re using Matt Damon as our generation’s ultimate action hero. Shia LeBeouf is being groomed to take over the Indiana Jones franchise. Shia LeBeouf, the Disney guy! We import most of our tough guys now, like Jason Statham and Christian Bale.
Is it any wonder that we’re action-hero starved to the point where we’ve seen the likes of Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis, and Sylvester Stallone brought out of storage to resurrect old franchises like Indian Jones, Die Hard, Rocky and Rambo. Or Clint Eastwood in the recent Gran Torino. And for the two of those movies that did have young guy sidekicks, who were they? Justin Long, the smug, hipster douche from Mac commercials and Shia LeBeouf, the nebbish kid who became famous from a Disney Channel knockoff of the old sitcom Boy Meets World called Even Stevens.
You get the point by now, but in closing, let me link to two brief, great interviews with older men that are very inspiring. First is an article of quotes from Clint Eastwood where he describes what he’s learned in his life. Next is one from Michael J. Fox where he does the same. I highly suggest reading both in their entirety, they’re quick and worthwhile reads.