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Today, I’d like to share with you four social blunders that I used to make with women all the time. I’ve had women not want to go on dates with me specifically because I was doing these.

The worst part about being socially awkward is that when you’re making a social blunder, people tend not to tell you. It’s considered rude or impolite to let someone know that their behavior is coming off as weird. Instead, people will do their best to act like nothing is out of the ordinary and secretly continue to let you come off as weird.

That’s why for a long time, I didn’t even know that I was being socially awkward or weird! Ah, well.

1) Using “umm”, “uh”, and “you know” too much

When I talked to women before, I used to add a lot of filler words to my speech. I would always insert “umm” and “uh” and “you know” too much. And it wasn’t until I recorded myself talking once that I realized how annoying it was to listen to myself speak.

A lot of this was unconscious. I wasn’t intentionally trying to say “umm” all the time. It just came out that way. This is a difficult habit to break, and it’s now going to stop happening or go away overnight. I still let an “um” or “you know” slip out from time to time.

My advice is to practice it. The next time you talk to someone, pay close attention to what you are saying and try to consciously catch yourself if you feel an “um” about to come out. It gets easier over time, and pretty soon you’ll be sounding a lot more confident!

2) Ending my sentences with an upturn

Previously, I used to end my sentences with an upturn whenever I talked to people. Naturally, you end a sentence this way when you’re asking a question. However, I would end my sentences like this all the time.

So, if I was ordering a coffee at Starbucks, I would want to say…

“I’d like a tall caramel latte”

…but it would come out sounding like…

“I’d, um, like a tall caramel lattee??”

And then the barista would look at me all puzzled because she didn’t know if I was asking a question or placing an order.

This was partly because of my highly sensitive nature. I didn’t want to come off as an arrogant or cocky person, so I thought that ending my sentences with an upturn would make me appear humble.

As it turns out, it’s ok to be assertive in your manner of speaking. It’s possible to be polite while still being firm in the way you interact with people Imagine a parent arguing with their rebellious teenage child who wants to stay out past their curfew. Would mom or day talk with an upturn? Of course not! They’d tell their teenager that the rules will not be changed and then they would say…

“End of discussion!”

…with an authoritative falling tone.

If you’re reading this, then you have a lot of strengths and experiences that are uniquely yours. And the world needs what you have to offer. There’s no need to hide any of that behind an unconfident upturn.

As before, if this is something that you currently do then the way to get over it is to practice. Pay attention to your tone of voice when you talk to people and consciously end your sentences with a confident downturn. Over time, this will start to become easier.

3) Not following up after answering questions about myself

This is something that I used to screw up all the time. And it wasn’t until I had a woman tell me that she didn’t want to go on a second date with me specifically because I wasn’t doing this that I realized how bad I was.

Whenever she would ask me a question, I would answer it in one word and then just shut up. For example, if she asked “What do you like to do for fun?”

I might just answer “reading” and then not say anything else.


Later, I learned that it was not just important to answer her questions but to also follow up on them. For example, instead of just “reading” I could answer,

“Reading. I love reading novels such as Harry Potter because when you’re the age that Harry is, you naturally want to believe that magic is real, and the Harry Potter series helps you experience that.”

Another example of a good response might be,

“I love reading. I just finished the book Sapiens by Yuval Harari and one idea that I found really interesting is that…”

Either of those responses adds much more value to the conversation than just saying “I like reading”.

4) Asking her to hang out “sometime”

When it came to interacting with women, I always told myself that I wasn’t going to act like a jerk in order to find love.

Turns out, I went too far in the opposite direction.

I used to think that being direct when talking to her would make me look like…a douchebag. If I was talking to a woman I was interested in, I would ask her if she wanted to “hang out” or if she wanted to “go out, sometime”. On occasion, I’d even get her email or Facebook in lieu of asking her for her phone number.

Don’t do what I did.

If you’re asking a woman out, you want to be direct and either ask her out to a specific time and place or ask for her number.

Being direct with her is a form of honesty. If you’re hoping to go on a date with her then the authentic thing to do is to let her know without pussyfooting around. See, if you just tell her that you want to “hang out sometime” when really you’re hoping to go out with her then you’re being inauthentic.

Finally, it took me years to overcome these social blunders. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find yourself doing one or more of these. Just practice it a little at a time, and you’ll get there!

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I was recently talking to one of my mentors, and he asked me a question that caught me off guard. He asked me to identify an area of my life where I’ve been chronically undervaluing myself and why. For example, some ways that people tend to undervalue themselves include,

  • Staying in a hapless job when a promotion is long overdue
  • Doing freelance work and charging less than you’re worth
  • Relationships and staying with someone who makes you miserable

The one about relationships rang true to me. I didn’t get my first girlfriend until I was 20 years old. However, a few weeks into the relationship it became abundantly clear that we were not a good match. She had previously been cheated on by her ex-boyfriend in high school, so she had a lot of trust issues while we were going out. For example, she would sometimes ask me:

“What do you think of [another female classmate]? Huh? Be honest!”

No matter what my response was, she would always just glare daggers at me. There were times when I wouldn’t even know the people that she was asking me about! But even that didn’t satisfy her.

It’s obvious to me now that I was in a bad relationship, but back then I was afraid to break it off with her. And I was afraid of calling her out on her behavior because I was afraid that she would turn around and break it off with me.

Why did I stay with her for as long as I did? Simple. It took me 20 years to find my first girlfriend. I was afraid that getting another girlfriend would take another 20 years.

Here’s what I know today that I wish I knew back then. If I had known this principle back when I first started dating, I would have been much more confident around women.

The “Checkpoint Principle” for being confident

If you’ve played a game like Super Mario Bros., you’ve probably learned to love checkpoints. It sucks to get killed by a Koopa somewhere in World 6-2 and find yourself all the way back at the start. But if you make it to the checkpoint, then you don’t have to go all the way back to the beginning. Your progress is saved. You restart at the checkpoint instead of the Start.

That’s what’s behind the “Checkpoint Principle of Dating”. It goes like this.

Whenever you accomplish something for the first time, you will always be able to accomplish it much faster the second time.

Back when I was dating my first girlfriend I was worried that if I broke up with her (or if I did something that caused her to break up with me) then I’d have to wait another 20 years until I was in another relationship. So, I tolerated her bratty behavior for far too long. This is a classic application of the “scarcity mentality”.

Here’s a reframe as seen through the lens of the Checkpoint Principle.

By finally getting a girlfriend for the first time, I’ve proven that I have what it takes to be desirable to women. Even if I’m no longer in a relationship, I still have the skills and characteristics needed to get into another relationship. And it would take much less than 20 years!

If I had known this back then, I would have been much more confident in my self-worth and I would have broken it off with her much sooner.

By the way, the Checkpoint Principle is true in all areas of life and not just dating. It’s a great way to adopt an “abundance mindset”.

Finally, to help you get that first date with her, I’ve put together an epic 12-page Introvert’s Guide to Talking to Women. Just enter your email below and I’ll send it right over to your inbox!

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I’ve never been a fan of cold approaches. Back when I was single, I always worried that I needed to “get good” at doing cold approaches in the same way that James Bond or Han Solo was if I ever wanted to find love. And I never liked that idea. I never wanted to be that guy who approaches every woman he sees in public places.

Cold approaches can work for those people who are more extroverted or who frequently hang out at bars and clubs. But for introverts, I don’t believe it’s the best way to get a date.

Usually when we think of flirting, we think of innuendos and playful touches with plausible deniability. You know, the kind of things people do when they’re trying to take home someone that they just met for the first time at the club or bar. And that’s fine, but it’s never been my cup of tea.

Instead, I propose my new HSP approach. This is good if you’re an introvert or a Highly Sensitive Person (see what I did there??) It’s inspired by Jeffrey Hall’s book, The Five Flirting Styles. In his book, Hall identifies Sincerity and Politeness as two perfectly valid forms of flirting—especially suited for introverts.

The HSP Approach

The HSP Approach involves three parts…

  • Happy
  • Sincere
  • Polite

Happy: The HSP approach is all about making the other person feel happy. It’s about radiating warmth and positive energy so that she feels glad that you came up and talked to her. You know why we love dogs so much? Because they’re always just about ready to burst with happiness whenever we see them. Show a smile. Pump up your energy. Talk to her with the same level of enthusiasm as you would a friend that you haven’t seen in a while.

Sincere: Flirting sincerely involves taking a genuine interest in who she is. Get curious about her! Try to learn what she enjoys doing. What are her values? What is her personality? What is she interested in? Try to find something that she would enjoy telling you about herself. A great way to do this is by asking open-ended or “why?” questions. When she tells you something about herself, listen to what she has to say. Then, ask some follow-up questions based on what she just told you or relate it to your own experiences.

Polite: Politeness isn’t typically what we think of when we hear the word “flirting”, but it’s a scientifically-proven valid way to flirt. As an introvert or Highly Sensitive Person, there’s no need to come on too strongly or aggressively. Instead, feel free to respect her personal boundaries and keep it as friendly as you like. If you enjoy talking to her, ask her out! (Politeness is a form of flirting, but not everyone who behaves politely is trying to flirt. The one thing that separates Polite Flirting from merely “being polite” is that you ask her out!)

A good HSP approach involves radiating warmth to make the other person feel happy, behaving with sincerity, while also being polite and true to your introverted self. You can try this at the bar-and-club scene if you want, but I’ve always preferred to utilize the HSP approach at introvert-centric places such as parks, libraries, and board game meetups.

The next time you encounter an interesting woman, just try to talk to her in a way that makes her happy. That’s the essence of the HSP approach. Do this enough times and some of those women just might want to see you again.

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Here’s a head-scratcher.

Recently I got an email from one of my readers telling me that some girls he knows are jokingly calling him a “fag” and he was wondering what was going on. Why on Earth would a girl call him a fag? Were they flirting with him by calling him that? Or, were they just being rude and immature?

Here are my thoughts.

She might have been flirting!

This can seem like a weird idea. After all, if you wanted to flirt with a woman you found interesting, calling her a “lesbian” (or whatever the female equivalent of “fag” is) would probably not be your first instinct.

It’s possible that she’s calling him a fag because she either 1) hates his guts or 2) legitimately thinks that he’s gay. I doubt it, though. If she really felt either of those towards him, she would probably just ignore him instead of going out of her way to interact with him. Especially if she’s doing it “jokingly”.

Now, it’s hard for me to make the call without knowing her personally. But, I think that she was actually flirting with him. By calling him a fag, perhaps she was trying to goad him into “proving her wrong”.

Playfulness as a form of flirting

Now, is it rude to call someone a fag? Personally, I think so. But the important thing to remember is that it varies from person to person. Some of the rowdier people I know like to hurl insults at each other such as, “you’re gay” all the time. You know what kinds of people I’m talking about—those guys who are more loud and extroverted and who hang in bars and clubs all the time. They’re not insulting each other to be hurtful, but as a sign of affection.

A woman using some sort of put-down on a man CAN be considered a form of flirting. In his book The Five Flirting Styles: Use the Science of Flirting to Attract the Love You Really Want, Dr. Jeffrey Hall identified five different types of flirting:

  • Playful: Flirting for fun without any expectations that it will lead to sex or a relationship.
  • Physical: Flirting through body language and sexual communication.
  • Polite: Flirting through proper manners and nonsexual communication.
  • Sincere: Displaying sincere interest in the other person to develop an emotional connection.
  • Traditional: Displaying interest through traditional courtship rituals and behaving in ways that are “gentlemanly” or “ladylike”.

In this case, calling someone that you’re romantically interested in a “fag” would be considered a playful or physical flirt.

Of course, you don’t HAVE to flirt in that way if you prefer not to! I’m a warm and gentle person by nature, so I prefer to flirt in a way that’s more polite and sincere. Here’s what Jeffrey Hall says about people who tend toward the polite style of flirting in his book,

“They are concerned about their friends and make sure that they are there in their time of need. They are also a bit introverted. Polite flirts don’t need to be the center of attention. In social interactions, they would prefer things to be a bit more controlled and formal.”

That sounds a lot like me.

Which flirting styles do you tend towards? They’re not mutually exclusive, so you can be a combination of one, two, or even three of the different styles. Some people can look at this list and immediately identify which types of flirting styles suit them. If you’re having trouble figuring it out, then you can take an online test to find out which flirting styles you tend towards here.

How to respond to such a flirt

So, how should you respond to a woman who flirts by jokingly calling you a fag? That depends on one thing:

Are you even interested in her?

I personally would not enjoy it if a woman called me a fag. That would be a turn-off for me. If a woman is flirting with you in a way that you don’t enjoy…then don’t worry about it! Leave her alone and find someone who you do enjoy being around.

On the other hand, some men would see that as a challenge to try and “prove her wrong”. I’m not one of those guys so I can’t offer a lot of experience in that area, but you might try doing what user Ace of Flames suggests in this So Suave forum thread.

“Haha omg dude, I just talked to my girl about this.

This was the convo:

Me- *something funny, probably teasing her*
Her- *giggle* Loser!
Me- You know what?
Her- What?
Me- Everytime you call me ‘loser’, in my head, I always switch the s with a v.
Her- *pause* …Really??
Me- Mm hmm. Girls always say one thing and mean another, so I’m just switching what you say, with what I think you mean.
Her- *Awww*
Me- So, wanna be my loser? S = V
Her- Hehe, sure.
Me- *smile* I knew you’d say yes.
Her- Of course.

Oh yea.”

(BTW, please take things you read on internet forums with a grain of salt.)

At the end of the day, you should flirt in the way that feels authentic to your unique personality. Whether that’s polite…sincere…playful, or anywhere in between, always stay true to yourself. And when you’re choosing a romantic partner, you should be around someone who’s flirting style makes you feel good as well.

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Back when I was first looking for love, I often heard a lot of dating advice that made me feel uncomfortable. I always heard that “nice guys finish last” and that in order to be attractive you needed to act like a jerk or an “alpha”. Supposedly, women secretly love men who mistreat them even if they tell you otherwise. To get her attention, you should “neg” her by giving her an insult disguised as a compliment. And then after the first date you should wait…um, how long was it…three days before you call her? That way she won’t think you’re needy and she’ll start to miss you. Or something like that.

Hearing this really terrified me. I did not want to act that way in order to make myself more attractive. I could never intentionally act in a way to hurt someone else. And I was scared because I was afraid that that was the type of person I would have to become if I wanted to find love.

It’s not true, is it? Do women really prefer to date jerks? Do nice guys finish last?

Self-proclaimed nice guys tend not to actually be nice

You might hear men complain “I’m a nice guy but women don’t like me because they prefer to date jerks.” The reality is that self-proclaimed nice guys tend to not actually be very nice. Nobody thinks that they’re not a nice person. If you were to ask 10 random people on the street whether or not they considered themselves nice, they would all probably say yes. However, someone who is genuinely nice doesn’t need to go around telling people that. If someone calls themselves “nice” then you ought to take that with a grain of salt.

What’s does it really mean when someone proclaims that they are nice? They see themselves as heroes and think that life is like a video game, where if you do a certain set of actions then you will always get a certain result. If you hit the “?” Blocks in Super Mario Bros. then you’ll always get a coin or a mushroom because that’s pow the game is programmed, and if you defeat Bowser in the final level then the Princess Peach is going to give you a kiss. Similarly, they think that if they pander to her every whim then eventually she should give herself to him and that he deserves to have her as a reward. And then if she doesn’t, then he complains that he’s in the “friend zone” and that women prefer to date jerks. Because he’s a nice guy. Or, at least he thinks he is.

Of course, relationships don’t really work that way. Just because you’re friends with a woman doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s eventually going to be interested in you romantically. If you do find yourself falling for someone that you’re close to, let her know! Hopefully she’ll reciprocate, but you should be open to the possibility that she won’t and be strong enough to accept that.

She might not be looking for anything long-term

If you’re looking for a relationship, you probably have some qualities that you hope to find in your ideal match. For example, Brenda Knowles wrote that her ideal partner would be intelligent, have a willingness to help and support, be respectful and validating, have deep emotional intimacy, understand the need for space and connection, and be both sensual and kind. Those are all great qualities for someone that you’re hoping to be in a long-term relationship with.

On the other hand, how much of that matters if you’re just looking for someone to have a one night stand with or a casual fling? None of it! It wouldn’t matter whether or not she can connect with you emotionally or be willing to support you. It doesn’t matter how kind or sensual she is. Really, all that matters is whether or not both the two of you feel like doing it with each other.

Imagine that you are a man who’s just looking for a one-night romance. That scantily-clad woman at the bar who’s flirting with all the other guys there might catch your eye. Now imagine that you’re looking for a girlfriend or a lifetime partner. Does she still seem like the kind of woman you’d want to introduce to your mom and dad? Probably not.

For women, it’s actually pretty similar. If she’s just looking for a hookup or short term fling then she might be into that aloof guy at the bar who acts dominant toward all the other men there and seems full of himself. However, if she’s looking for someone who’s boyfriend-material or husband-material then those same characteristics might be a turn-off.

She might have issues

Finally, there actually are some women who will go for jerks. I used to have a female acquaintance who was just like that. Even though she wanted a boyfriend, she mostly went out with jerks or “bad boys” who end up treating her poorly. Invariably, she ends up getting hurt and eventually breaks it off with him only to find another jerk to go out with. What gives??

As the saying goes, “water seeks its own level.” The people she surrounds herself with reflect her own personality flaws, and the men that she dated were usually just as self-centered as she was. She wasn’t self-aware enough to realize that she can be very self-centered, nor is she able to see this in the men she goes out with until after they end up hurting her.

Some women do seem to prefer dating jerks. Maybe she enjoys having drama in her relationships. Maybe she believes that she can make him change. Or, maybe she reads too much into fiction such as Twilight or 50 Shades of Grey and she believes that’s how relationships actually work. If she does enjoy dating jerks then she’s not coming from a place of feeling whole or grounded within. In other words, she’s not worth your time or energy (or heartbreak).

Women who truly love and respect themselves won’t put up with men who don’t treat them well. Don’t worry about those people who only date others who mistreat them. Instead, look for someone who loves you for the type of person you truly are.

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I’m just going to come out and say this straight…2019 has basically been the worst year of my life. Whenever I say something along the lines of “God, this day sucks” or “This is the worst day ever,” it’s usually an exaggeration.

This time I really mean it.

My little sister passed away after battling cancer this year. And that honest-to-goodness sucks. You never figure that you’re going to bury family members who are younger than you. It’s been a rough few months for the rest of my family, and this whole experience has me rethinking several of the things I used to think were true.

You don’t always have more time

We never honestly believe that our number’s going to be up tomorrow. Sure, we know “intellectually” that we probably won’t live forever, but we never think that our last day is going to be this day. Or the next day. Or next month. Or even next year.

To many of us, death is an abstract thing that we believe is so far in the future that it’s not even worth thinking about.

Maybe it’s worth thinking about it.

After all, when it comes to the things we want to accomplish, we might say that “I’ll figure it out someday”. We’ll put it off and leave it for our future selves to accomplish. Unfortunately, you never know how many “somedays” you really have. I’d wager most people who died today thought they had at least a few more “somedays”. If there’s something that you want to get done, then make it a priority or it may never get done.

For example, my wife and I always wanted to go to Disneyworld. For years we’ve never taken the time to sit down and make it happen. Maybe I always figured that it would somehow get done on its own. I finally realized that it wouldn’t happen unless I made it happen. So, in the beginning of 2018 my wife and I sat down and the two of us sketched out a plan to go to Disneyworld this summer.

As @stevenmuff puts it…


(BTW, that isn’t me. But it did make my jaw drop in awe when I read it.)

Some things absolutely do matter…

So, we’ve established that we have a limited amount of “somedays” ahead of us…and that number might be lower than we think. That being said, it’s important to get clear on the things that absolutely do matter. Otherwise you might find yourself waking up one day wondering where all the time went and regretting all the things you never got done.

One of those things that absolutely matter is your human connections with others. No man is an island, and your relationships are one of those few things that truly matter in this world. Give your family and friends a call. Mom, dad, brother, sister, even that one friend you haven’t seen in a while but used to hang out with.

Because you never know when it’s your last chance to talk to them.

We live in a world where being overworked is almost like a badge of honor. In the end, though, no one ever regretted not putting in more hours at the office or felt that they didn’t work enough overtime. It’s the other way around. People regret working so hard that they missed out on all their relationships, just like that old song “Cat’s in the Cradle”.

One of the few other things that matter is what you stand for in this world. How is the world going to be different because you were in it? Do you exist merely to deprive other people of oxygen? Or, are you going to leave the world a better place than you found it? And how?

(By the way, if you couldn’t answer those questions right off the top of your head…don’t worry about it. What you stand for in this world isn’t something you decide overnight. It can take years or even decades to find your life’s purpose. I’m in my late 20’s and I only kinda sorta know what impact I want to make in this world.)

…and some other things absolutely don’t matter

Fame, money, fortune…having it all doesn’t make you immortal. Nor will it fill a hole on the inside where your relationships should be. I learned this when my wife and I took a trip and lived for a week on only what we could fit in a car trunk.

To me, money is a means to an end rather than the end itself. Once you start to have a vague idea of what you want your life’s purpose to be, earning more money can be a great way to help you get there. Earning money just for the sake of earning money, on the other hand, is an endless treadmill that will get you nowhere.

When it comes to relationships, many of those petty disagreements just don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. One of my friends is extremely outspoken when it comes to politics and his views clash with mine. A lot. And I’ve tried to calmly and rationally explain my point of view to him. But to him, his belief in the rationality of his beliefs is just as strong as my belief in the rationality of my beliefs. And that’s just something I’ve come to accept.

He’s not a bad person. He’s just someone doing the best with what he has and who’s just trying to do right by the people he cares about.

(Also…and I can’t tell you exactly why I think this…but I’m pretty sure he has ED. Just saying.)

On the other hand, sometimes you’ll find a relationship that’s just not worth saving. I’ve had a few of these. Over the years, I’ve been backstabbed by several people who I thought were my friends. And—out of some misplaced and naïve optimism—I tried to reach out and repair those relationships…only to receive a bigger knife in the exact same spot. I’ve learned my lesson.

Finally, always remember that many of our problems aren’t as bad as we think they are. Especially when they revolve around those unimportant things such as money, fame, and fortune. I’ve had many bad days at my job…and sure, they feel absolutely terrible in the moment…but I’m sure my late sister would love being able to experience those problems again.

Living an honest life

This year has been terrible so far, and I think it’s safe for me to say that it’s been the worst I’ve ever experienced. It’s also made me rethink a lot of my life. After all, we don’t always have as much time as we think we do. Because of that, it’s important to ignore all the things that don’t matter and get clear on the things that do.

If you’re not 100% sure on what matters or what you want your life to stand for…that’s okay. I’m not completely there either. Getting to that point takes years and years. Decades even.

And that makes today a great day to start moving in that direction.

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Let’s talk about the difference between real confidence and fake confidence.

Fake confidence is about pretending to be indifferent. It’s about going up to a woman and just acting like you don’t care. Like she doesn’t even matter to you. This is what a lot of “nice guys” do. I’m not talking about guys who are genuinely kind and wholesome. I’m talking about guys who strut and act as if they’re so cool while they talk to her, pretending to be indifferent…and then suddenly becoming all angry if they get turned down for sex.

Just like a petulant toddler who’s sad because he can’t eat ice cream for dinner.

That’s what fake confidence looks like.

Real confidence is different. It isn’t about “not caring” or being indifferent when you talk to her. It’s about knowing that getting turned down by a woman sucks—and being okay with that! Sure, getting rejected stings. A lot. But you know that even if you get rejected, everything is going to be just fine.

There isn’t a magic switch that you flip to create this type of confidence overnight.

Instead, you develop this confidence over time by filling your cup of life. With fulfilling hobbies. With good friends. With something that makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning.

What if you don’t have these things?

Then, just get started. I certainly don’t have a lot of those things. Sure, I could have a bigger social group. Or more hobbies. But as I’ve always told myself, life is a work in progress. There’s never truly an “end” to filling the cup of life. Find something you would like to fill it with and just get started.

After all, women don’t want a man whose cup of life is half-empty and that she has to fill. Instead, she wants to find someone who’s also working on filling their cup so the two of you can go down the journey of life so you both have two full cups to share with each other.

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Well, the bad news is that Netflix has officially run out of Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero flicks for me to watch. The good news is that while I’m waiting for Avengers Endgame to finally hit theaters next month, I’ve had some time to catch up on my reading.

When “Netflix & chill” meets “Kindle & cuddle”

You ever have that moment when you’re playing a video game and suddenly you’re like “I bet the next room has like 50 enemies/a boss so I better stock up on items and/or save”? Maybe it wasn’t immediately obvious at the time why you were feeling that way…but in hindsight it was probably the random save point or the lack of music or that random stash of ammo that tipped you off?

That’s the power of listening to your intuition.

Recently, I finished reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, a security specialist who did a lot of cool stuff including designing a system to screen threats to US Supreme Court Justices! He writes that your intuition is a tool that is often overlooked in today’s world but is also invaluable when you learn to listen to it.

(By the way, I’m not affiliated with the author in any way. Just wanted to share interesting stuff from books I read. As far as I’m aware, he doesn’t know I’m writing this…although he’s pretty good at his job, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he does know!)

The power of trusting your intuition

Imagine this.

It’s late in the afternoon and you’ve just finished your grocery shopping. You’re loading the food in the back of your car, and the sun is starting to go down so you’re anxious to go home. Suddenly, someone you don’t know walks up to you and tries to hand you a pamphlet. He’s acting all super friendly and nice, and he’s using sentences such as “Both of us…” and “How are we going to handle this?”

How do you react?

As a society, we’re taught not to be rude or impolite to people. We’re told that it would be rude to ignore what this stranger is telling us. Even as that little voice in the back of your head starts asking, “Well, what does this guy want? What is he up to?”

Maybe it’s worth giving that little voice a listen.

The overarching moral of The Gift of Fear is to trust your intuition. Sometimes, you’ll get that “gut feeling” or hear a little voice in your head telling you that something is off. It’s probably worth listening to! Even if it feels illogical to do so.

As a society, we value decisions based on cold, hard logic. It might seem wrong to make a choice because it “feels right”. But if your gut is telling you something that you can’t logically explain, it’s probably better to listen to that voice. As Gavin de Becker puts it, “Trust that what causes alarm probably should, because when it comes to danger, intuition is always right in at least two important ways: 1) It is always in response to something [and] 2) It always has your best interest at heart”

Survival signals

To help illustrate this, The Gift of Fear identifies several signals that should be cause for alarm. These include,

  • Forced teaming
    • When someone attempts to establish premature trust with their victim by acting as if they’re on the same team, “Both of us” or “How are we going to handle this?”
  • Charm and niceness
    • Feigning niceness and kindness toward a victim to ward off their distrust
  • Too many details
    • Adding excessive detail to a lie to make it sound credible (when people are telling the truth, they don’t need to add details)
  • Typecasting
    • Insulting the victim to try and get them to prove it wrong, such as a pickup-artist telling a woman “I bet you’re too stuck-up to even talk to me”
  • Loan sharking
    • When someone offers unsolicited “help” to a victim to make them feel in their debt
  • The unsolicited promise
    • Look, if someone comes out-of-the-blue and says that they’re not going to hurt you…you should probably not believe them
  • Discounting the word “no”
    • When someone refuses to accept “no” as an answer

The worst part is that it seems “rude” to rebuff these advances. After all, if a nice and charming stranger selflessly offers to help with your groceries, it’d be impolite to shut him down…right? You probably should. Listen to those alarm bells in your head! Your intuition has your best interest at heart, and that stranger who’s using these advances on you probably doesn’t.

People who turn toward violence are more like us than we like to believe

When we hear of acts of violence on the news, they always make it seem as if nobody could have seen it coming. “He was such a good kid” or “He was always a good neighbor. I had no idea that this could happen”. And the dark truth is that most of the time, we–could–have seen it coming. People who turn toward violence are more like us that we realize…or like to believe. But that’s why our intuition works!

The media always makes it out as if an otherwise ordinary person just “snapped”, but that’s almost never the case. Rarely do people just “snap”. Instead, what happens is that someone who feels that violence is justified, who has the ability to commit violence, and who feels that committing violence will have positive consequences, ends up seeing fewer and fewer alternatives to committing violence (Gavin de Becker calls this JACA).

And unfortunately, this also drives a lot of hate crimes against women by frustrated men. As much as I hate saying it, I do have an idea of the hopelessness that these losers must have been feeling when they decided to pick up a weapon and turn it against their fellow humans.

Don’t get me wrong. What I’m NOT doing is 1) condoning violence against women and 2) saying that any man who harms a woman is anything other than a total LOSER. However, I do know what it feels like to be romantically frustrated as a late bloomer. In that way, I do know what many of those losers who commit violence against women must have been feeling. I have an idea of what must have finally pushed them over the edge.

That’s why Quietly Romantic exists. It’s my way of coping with the abyss and trying to drive out the darkness that I know all too well.

Thanos isn’t the only one cursed with knowledge.

Welp, that’s what I’ve been reading. Hope you enjoyed!

P.S. Let me know if there’s other books you’d like me to pick up and take a look at. I’ve still got plenty of time to kill until Avengers Endgame hits theaters.

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A little while ago, I was talking to a friend of mine and he told me about a problem he was struggling with. I asked him,

“Okay, so what do you think you could try doing?”

And his response was simply…

“…well, I guess I could try harder?”

At this point, alarm bells started going off in my head. I’ve often heard people say that they just need to “try harder” when they have a problem they’re struggling to solve. Heck, I’ve even said it myself!

  • I’m having trouble writing? I’ll try harder!
  • I can’t seem to get in shape? I’ll try harder!
  • I’m not getting enough work done? Looks like I have to try harder!

I mean, it sounds logical, right? If I’m trying to solve a problem and I have an issue that I can’t seem to get past, then shouldn’t trying…harder…make a difference? Over time, I’ve come to realize that…

“Trying harder” is usually not the answer

Looking back, I realize that very few of my problems were solved by simply “trying harder”. Some time ago, I used to be a really skinny nerd with stick-figure arms. Of course, I would have liked to bulk up, but I didn’t really know how to go about doing that.

Good at N64. Not so good at P90X.

I set out to get myself in shape, but it turned out that I had no idea how to do a workout routine or what you should eat in order to bulk up. So, I floundered about for a while using all the machines in the gym wrong and eating all the wrong foods.

After a few weeks, it was clear that I wasn’t getting any results. I still wanted to get in shape, though. What did I do? I buckled down and “tried harder”.

And by “trying harder”, I mean that I pretty much floundered about even more. That problem was eventually solved when my wife (yes, my wife of all people) eventually showed me that my nutrition plan + workout schedule was all off. By fixing that, I was finally able to start getting into shape.

It wasn’t solved by simply “trying harder”.

What “trying harder” really means

In my experience, whenever I tell myself that “I just need to try harder”, it actually means “I’m not sure what to do.” It’s a code phrase. It means that we intend to continue throwing ourselves at the problem because doing so feels productive, but we don’t actually know what we are doing.

After all, it doesn’t feel good to say “I have a problem and I’m not sure what the solution is”. It doesn’t feel good to look at what you have been doing in the past and acknowledge that you may have been doing it wrong. It feels a lot better to say that “I just need to try harder”. That feels more productive, and it give us a sense of false hope that the solution will come if we just keep doing what we’re doing.

Also, beware of similar phrases such as “I just need to figure it out”. That’s in the same vein as “I just need to try harder”.

What to do instead of “trying harder”

Earlier, I mentioned that my friend was struggling with a problem and asked me for help. His problem was that he had been single for a long time and was having a hard time getting a date. When he told me that he probably just needed to “try harder”, I realized that what we really needed to do was take a look at what he had been doing and see what needed fixing. After taking some time to dig deep into his issue, we discovered that…

  • He wasn’t meeting a lot of women. To overcome this, we brainstormed several local places where he could meet women and also have a good time.
  • The way he talked to women was coming off a little weird. I role-played being a woman and had him practice a few times with me.

And that was the first step on solving his problem. Maybe someday I’ll even look back on being a woman and laugh. Someday. Maybe

If you have a problem and you catch yourself saying something along the lines of “I just need to try harder” or “I just need to figure it out”, then take a moment and hit the pause button on your life. You might feel tempted to continue throwing yourself at the problem. Instead, it may time to do some introspection. What is it you’re trying to accomplish? What have you been doing in the past? Why hasn’t that been working?

Finally, what’s the first step you can take to begin solving your problem? Once you know the first step, go get on it!

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Once upon a time, I used to look like this:

Oh my God, did I really think this was cool??

That was in high school, back when I was too dumb to realize how dumb I looked. I mean, jeez! Did I seriously go outside looking like this??

Give me a second to bury my face in my hands until I get that picture out of my head…

…okay, I’m back.

Here’s what I look like now:

Hey, that’s a lot better!

So, how do you go from having hair that looks like a helmet, to looking presentable in public? I have absolutely zero fashion sense and, honestly, I just have someone do it for me. It’s easy! Just find a good hair salon or barbershop near you and let them know you’d like their professional judgment in getting a haircut.

This is the important part: if you’re like me and don’t know what makes a good haircut, just let them cut it for you! Don’t tell them how you would like your hair done if you have no idea what looks good on you. Leave it to the professionals.

Of course, it helps if you check the reviews beforehand and make sure it’s a good place. It also helps if you research the barbers and pick a good one. Personally, I have the owner of my local hair salon do my hair because I know he’s skilled. It’s easy to tell who the owner is because his own name is in the name of the salon.

After getting a haircut, how do you know if it looks good? By the way your friends react. Do they say things such as, “Nice haircut! It suits you.” Or are they like “Hey…you got a haircut.” If your haircut turned out less-than-stellar, try getting a different barber or going to a different salon altogether.

Getting a professional haircut is a quick and simple way that I improved my appearance (and boosted my confidence) with little to no effort!

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