Becoming a Renaissance Man, Part 4

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Today I’m going to discuss two areas I still have problems with occasionally:

Raise Your Bragging Threshold and Stop Fishing for Compliments

A lot of guys brag and fish for compliments about the flimsiest things. It broadcasts horrible insecurity. No one likes that guy who looks for an excuse to brag about the same story every time you see him.

The level of events you’re willing to brag about or fish for compliments about also becomes the level at which you being to feel disappointment when things go wrong. For example, say you brag when your boss gives you a compliment about your work. By bragging about something so insignificant, you have given that event a strong value in your mind. So now, if that event doesn’t happen, or worse the opposite of the event happens and your boss makes a negative comment about your work, you’ll play it over and over in your head and become despondent. If you fish for compliments about your looks or brag every time someone compliments your looks, you have made such physical recognition a major event in your mind. Now if someone doesn’t compliment your looks, or worse says something negative about your looks, you make a big deal about it and get depressed. If you fish for compliments about your car, you’ll feel like a loser when no one notices your car. If you brag about every time you get a girl’s number, you’ll be depressed whenever you don’t get a number. If you brag about your job title, you’ll get flustered, embarrassed and erratic whenever someone gets it wrong. The lower and more insignificant your bragging threshold, the easier it will be to shake you and throw you off your A-game.

The other thing bragging does is create sticking points. When you brag about an occurrence, you give your subconscious mind the message that something significant and noteworthy has just happened. And as a consequence, you are training yourself to become satisfied with that occurrence whenever it repeats itself. You won’t feel much of a drive to surpass it. For example, when I was young, I would brag about getting numbers. I’d get a phone number and I’d act like I just scored a threesome with Raquel Welch and young Mia Farrow in their prime. I was creating a mindset in myself that phone numbers were a big deal, to the point they subconsciously became my endgame. As a result, once I got a number or two, I’d start to slow down because I already accomplished bragging rights. I subconsciously felt like I did all I needed to do. It wasn’t until I stopped bragging about such silly things and started treating phone numbers as no big deal that my game moved up to the next level.

The Patrick Ewing Knicks were the same way. They’d celebrate after every single basket they made. Patrick Ewing would do a layup and he’d literally be doing pirouettes down the court. Someone would dunk and the whole team would run around like idiots doing chest bumps in the first quarter. As a NY Knicks fan, I found it embarrassing. And unsurprisingly, they’d never win championships. They’d choke a lot. Michael Jordan and Bulls were different. He rarely stopped to celebrate prematurely. A basket was just a basket. He’d make it, maybe smile at most and just move on. He just treated it like the norm and it became commonplace. After a while, he even made championships seem commonplace.

What you are willing to brag about reveals the limits of your past accomplishments, you current ambitions and future expectations. So broadcast that all three of those things are high by raising your bragging threshold accordingly.

Avoid Screening Your Calls As Much As You Can

Society and technology makes it easier than ever to postpone or avoid confrontation. First the answering machine made it easy to screen calls. Then Caller ID made it even easier, as you knew who was calling from the moment the phone started ringing. This was huge for me, and I would screen all my calls for no reason. I would especially screen calls from numbers I didn’t recognize.

What I grew to realize is that the extent to which you screen phone calls is the extent to which things in your life are incongruent and out of whack. When every aspect of your life is in place, from your job performance to your personal finances to your love life to your friendships, you don’t have to screen calls. Think of the times in your life when you were most obsessed with screening phone calls. You were probably juggling multiple women and pretending you weren’t. You were probably bad about paying your bills and had a lot of creditors and collection agencies calling you. You were routinely overpromising and undelivering to friends and employers and as a result had to dodge them until you caught up on the things you promised them. And so on.

Routinely resorting to call screening puts you in a comfort zone where you allow these dysfunctions to never get fixed, or even worsen. That’s why you have to set a goal for yourself to never screen calls again. Now of course there are times when you won’t pick up your phone, like in a public library or a business meeting, but this is not the same as call screening as you would avoid that call no matter who was calling, because the timing is inconvenient and it would be offensive to people around you if you picked up at that moment. That’s fine. It’s the selective avoidance of phone calls you want to eliminate.

When you resolve to not screen phone calls anymore, this is what happens: You find yourself making sure your bills are paid, because if your creditors call, you’re going to be forced to speak to them. You start being honest about what you want from relationships, and you tell women you want to break up with them honestly rather than just avoid their calls until you hope they get a hint. Dodging them is no longer an option. Or you start honestly telling them you don’t want to be exclusive to one woman rather than secretly juggle multiple women. You start underpromising and overdelivering with your personal and professional obligations, because you know you aren’t planning to avoid the consequences later on. You start living with integrity and realizing a lot of people are more understanding than you think. When you take away from yourself the option of dodging future consequences, you suddenly find yourself acting with more character and foresight in your current transactions.

In the old days, avoiding people was harder. Especially because people lived in small towns where everyone knew everyone else, life was much less anonymous, people knew when you were home and would call on you, and people ran into each other more because of engagement in public and civic life (bowling leagues, church, etc.) We have so many elements in our life to create distance, anonymity, isolation and screening that personal accountability has gone out the window. But not for you. Not anymore.

8 Responses to “Becoming a Renaissance Man, Part 4”

  1. Good stuff once again. Raising my threshold for bragging is something I’ve been working on lately, come to think of it.

    Martin Regnens last blog post..Don’t Be Racist In the Spaceship

  2. rawdog billionaire on February 20th, 2009 at 6:26 AM

    I can’t compliment you enough on this BARM series, T. I decided to “change my life” back in late November and the BARM series has been extremely beneficial. Thanks again for the insight and keep up the good work.

  3. I get the bragging threshold – it’s self limiting. And fishing for compliments never nets you much – you’re just advertising yourself as fish offal.
    But I see no point in wasting my time for every ‘unknown caller’ trying to pull a slick one.
    If the number’s legit, I’ll answer – if they need to hide who they are, I don’t need to deal with them.

  4. You start underpromising and overdelivering with your personal and professional obligations, because you know you aren?t planning to avoid the consequences later on. You start living with integrity and realizing a lot of people are more understanding than you think. When you take away from yourself the option of dodging future consequences, you suddenly find yourself acting with more character and foresight in your current transactions.

    Sage Advice.

    This has been my manifesto for as long as I can remember. I always portray myself in my worst light when I meet a woman which ensures she is delighted when I exceed her expectations. Far too few people do this at the beginning of a relationship, particularly women from my experience. They do everything for you in the beginning but once they start to feel confident in the relationship they can’t be bothered. This is a foolish approach and has ensured that I don’t go down the marriage path as I got with them for who they seemed to be at the time. Change that and I’m out.

    alphadominances last blog post..Sept. 18th, 2008 The day the world stood still: What the fuck do we do now?

  5. The screening calls analysis is dead on accurate. It’s a way to hide and ignore the frayed edges of your life. I’ve been doing this sort of thing for years and it’s real hard to stop. Maybe now that I recognize the problem I can deal with it.

  6. Funny how it’s all right there in front of us. I’m getting a new cellphone this week, my first in 3 years. I’ll have to put my ass to the test.

    Johns last blog post..Here I Go Marking Out Again

  7. I don’t have anything to add to this, but I am enjoying the way you are shining a spotlight on some neglected nooks and crannies of alphadom. Keep up the good work.