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I knew an outgoing girl who had a lot of guy friends…or so she thought.

One day I told her, “You realize that most of these guys like you, right?”

She thought that was preposterous. She was almost offended by the idea and adamantly denied it. She said, “They’re just good friends.” When I dug a little deeper, I found out…

These “guy friends” were showing her interest left and right.

They always tried to hang out with her one-on-one. They texted and talked for hours on the phone. They bought her gifts. They bashed other guys she dated.

And they “jokingly” complimented her and got a little handsy with playful touches.

Eventually, these guys tried to make a move or confess their feelings. She had no choice but to reject them in an awkward way. Many of those connections deteriorated or fell apart altogether.

She was taken by surprise and that’s okay — she was young.

But what’s not okay is when I see this scenario play out among mature adults. The signs are obvious and it’s possible to avoid unnecessary pain.

I’ve called out guys for pretending to be a friend when they wanted more. Now I want to address the women who suspect or even know their guy friends are into them and avoid talking about it.

Women, it’s time to tell your guy friends that you see them as only friends.

If you really don’t know how he feels

Think of a guy friend who spends a decent amount of time with you. How are you supposed to figure out if he has feelings for you? Look at the signs.

Does he…

  • Invest massive time and energy in you? Does he message you almost every day? Is he always around you at work? Does he spend time with you instead of trying to meet any other girls? Does he hang out with you more than any other friend?
  • Note: If a straight, single guy spends more time with you than almost anyone else in his life, he’s probably interested! This is especially true if you’re not a long-time friend and he prioritizes you over his existing relationships.

  • Show you romantic interest? Has he touched you in more personal or intimate ways? Does he ever compliment how attractive you are? Does he often invite you to one-on-one activities at night? Has he ever said outright that he likes you?
  • Spend money or go above and beyond to support you? Does he offer to buy you dinner all the time? Does he surprise you with random gifts? Does he offer to take you on vacation together? Is he financially supporting you at all? Is he helping you at work more than anyone else, even at the expense of his time?
  • Get jealous of other men in your life? Does he disapprove of the guys you date? Does he tell you that you should be with someone better? When you start dating someone, does he get upset or stop reaching out for a while?

And for one final check, use your instincts:

Imagine you told him you wanted to go home with him, do you think he’d say yes?

If you’ve answered yes to any of these, your friend may be into you. Of course, this is all speculation. The only way to know for sure is to talk to him about it. And this is what so many women avoid.

If you know the truth but avoid the conversation

In my experience, the signs that a man is interested are quite obvious. I know that’s not always true but I want to be straight with you…

You probably didn’t need me to tell you the above signs. You already knew deep down that this guy wants more.

If that’s the case, you don’t need to keep guessing about his feelings. You need to admit and accept that you’ve been avoiding the conversation.

This isn’t to attack you or make you feel bad. I don’t think you’re a heartless person if you’ve kept things ambiguous. In fact, I believe most women who have been in the situation don’t have any malicious intent.

It’s fucking hard to reject someone. It’s an uncomfortable, emotional conversation. You might worry that you’re going to lose him altogether. Or you might worry that he’ll retaliate.

I also know that it can feel really good to have someone like him around. Society and social media tells women their value is based on how attractive they are to men.

And sometimes, you want emotional support from a guy who listens. Sometimes you want attention and to feel beautiful. Maybe you know this guy’s a good guy and want to have him as a potential backup romantic option.

Or maybe, it feels nice to be pampered by a guy who seems happy to do so.

So in return, you keep your feelings about him unclear. If he doesn’t bring it up, why should you?

The harm in being ambiguous

On the surface, being ambiguous seems like no big deal. But what you don’t realize is that many guys obsess over one girl they like.

They focus on her relentlessly and think of ways to win her over. They’re wracked with anxiety trying to figure out if she likes them back. They dream up an entire life together.

The longer this goes on, the more invested their heart is.

Maybe you think that if you never flirt back, reject his date ideas, and date other people — he’ll get the hint. He won’t.

I talk to so many men who hold onto any glimmer of hope for months or years. They only let go when they’ve heard you say the exact words that it’s not going to happen. Let me repeat — guys don’t take hints. You need to say something. And here’s why:

If the situation were reversed, wouldn’t you want to know the truth? Wouldn’t you want the chance to move on and find someone who likes you back?

The kindest, most considerate thing you can do as a good friend (and as a human being) is to be clear about how you feel. This is also the best route to salvaging the friendship and building trust.

When this topic isn’t addressed…someone’s going to get hurt.

What happens when you don’t face the elephant in the room

Avoiding the tough conversation almost always ends up the same way…

The guy can’t take hiding his feelings any more. Then he finally gets the courage to do something about it.

So he pushes things forward to the point where you have to give him an answer. Maybe he tells you he likes you or tries to make a move.

Now you’re stuck. You have to reject him at his most vulnerable moment. This often results in a tense or heated discussion where both parties feel hurt.

The guy realizes after all this time, his hopes were only a fantasy. He might even blame you for leading him on. He may distance himself and break off the friendship altogether.

This makes you think, “What a jerk! He only cared about trying to get with me, not having a friendship.”

But I would challenge you on that. A friendship can only work when both people truly want a friendship. If you know he’s into you and you let him get his hopes up, are you being a good friend?

When it gets to this point, everyone loses. You both feel used by each other for different reasons. You feel men only see you as a sexual conquest. Men think you used them for emotional or financial support while you secretly desired other guys.

I believe experiences like this are a major cause in the growing animosity between young men and women in dating.

This type of behavior leads to resentment, anger, distrust, and even hate. And when people get into an “us vs them” mentality, it encourages them to treat future partners poorly.

Romantic relationships suffer when everyone is adversarial and manipulative.

Avoid more pain and have the conversation

I’m asking you — communicate how you feel with the men in your life.

I know you might be afraid of the repercussions. That’s why the time is now.

It may be uncomfortable, but it will avoid more misunderstandings and pain later. Doing it early and sincerely gives you the best chance that a guy takes that rejection gracefully.

The longer you delay, the more crushed he will feel. This also increases the chance of fallout. Nip this in the bud and you can almost always resolve things peacefully.

The smoothest way to approach the conversation is when he’s first starting to show subtle signs of interest. Maybe he invites you to drinks alone or touches you lightly when hanging out. This gives you a natural context to share your feelings.

Otherwise, you can always bring it up gently when hanging out. Do it in a public space if that feels better.

Open up to him with something like, “I want you to know how much I care about you as a friend. We’ve never talked about it but I’m not sure how you feel about me. I’m just looking to be friends if that’s okay with you.”

He’s either going to accept the reality or move on.

If he walks away, then you know he never wanted to be your friend.

If he accepts you as a friend, this honesty will only strengthen your connection.

Clear communication is how we create more love for everyone.

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Our surroundings subtly impact our everyday life. Different environments have different effects on our state of mind.

When I write, I like background noise and activity. So sometimes I work at coffee shops because if I’m alone in my house, I can find it difficult to be creative in total silence.

When we get fired up about politics, online environments allow us to be more direct and even insulting than we would be in-person. People say things they’d never say to someone’s face.

When we go to a restaurant, the decor, lighting, and music dictates our mood. We’re more likely to feel intimate with someone in a dim room by candlelight than in a bright, fluorescent strip mall.

When we’re trying to make meaningful romantic connections with new people, the right environment is key.

Think about the most common places for finding new dates – online apps and bars/clubs. They probably feel safe and socially acceptable for meeting new people.

But…are they really the IDEAL environments to meet your future significant other?

To me, I think using these avenues is like setting a video game on the hardest difficulty. You can win with a lot of perseverance and luck. But with your limited time as an adult, is it the most efficient, effective, and enjoyable way to play?

So instead, prioritize environments that work to your advantage. Choosing the right surroundings will boost your romantic chances, help you meet compatible people, and encourage others to open up to you in a real way.

Environments based on commonalities

Finding common ground can make two strangers feel like they’re part of a tribe. It’s why we seek out communities based on similar values or interests.

If we talk to someone at salsa class or on a ski trip, we assume they must be somewhat like us. They spend time thinking and participating in something we feel passionate about – so they can’t be that bad.

We’re more likely to give people with similar interests a chance. The barrier to starting conversation is much lower.

When you have nothing in common with someone, you’re just another one of seven billion strangers to them. They’re less likely to feel immediately drawn to you and will be more hesitant about getting to know you.

I had a client who was frustrated with online dating. He felt many women had little content on their profiles to connect with. So one day he told me about a woman he wanted to message via LinkedIn.

Initially, I was hesitant. LinkedIn is for business and I didn’t want men to start treating it like a romantic playground. But then he told me more about the specific woman he wanted to message.

They were both in a niche science field. They were deeply passionate about it even outside their day job. They wrote papers, attended conferences, and shared content online about their specialty.

I helped him message her and within a week, they met up and started dating. I couldn’t believe it. Since then, I’ve known many couples who met through social media and it’s often because they had something they could immediately connect on.

Examples: alumni events, conferences, music or art festivals, conventions, museum social nights, volunteering or fundraisers for a cause, any niche activities/hobbies/classes like rock climbing, standup comedy, or photography

Environments with your friends or extended social circle

We value the insight and opinions of our friends. I bet there’s a book or show you’re obsessed with that a friend originally recommended.

We also trust our friends’ judgements about other people. If a friend thinks someone is cool, we’ll give that person a chance, too.

So look for environments where you have a common social connection.

Once a person finds out you’ve got a mutual friend, they will be more open to meeting you. They’ll be warmer and more patient in trying to connect with you.

No one wants to be a jerk to someone in their social circle.

At a public venue like a bar, people don’t have that same consideration. They can be more standoffish and in rarer cases, outright rude, without concern for the consequences.

The strongest form of using social connections is a personal introduction. If you see a friend talking to someone you want to know, ask them to introduce you. A positive, personal referral is worth 5 cold introductions to strangers.

Examples: weddings, birthday/house parties, a friend’s music or art show, a friend’s work party/event, co-working spaces

Environments where you already have value

Social proof is a psychological and social phenomenon wherein people copy the actions of others in an attempt to undertake behavior in a given situation. (Wikipedia)

So just like we trust our friends’ opinions, if groups of people see a stranger as valuable, we’re more likely to admire them, too.

Think about a random singer at a small venue. Nobody knows him. Yet you’ll notice tons of women trying to get his attention and talk to him. If he gets off stage after his set and walks over to the bar, he’ll often get mobbed by people.

He sang songs and gave people a good time. He immediately has status in that room. You can accomplish the same thing in a variety of ways:

  • Become friends with the staff at a place. Greet them and make small talk with them regularly so they get to know you. Then when they’re excited to see you, other people take notice and become curious about who you are.
  • Showcase your existing skills. If you’re good at something, share it with others. Present your art at a small gallery, play a local gig with friends, speak at a conference, or join an outdoor/sports group of something you’re already experienced in.
  • Invite people to an activity and tell them to bring friends. This could be something like bar trivia or axe throwing. If you’re the guy who brought everyone together for a good time, you’re the awesome social connector that people want to know.
  • Host something. Throw a party and get people to invite others. Set up a wine tasting or silent disco. Start a fundraiser. Open a club at your university. The host of any event is the person of the hour. You’re responsible for people having this great experience.
Environments where you’re rare or unique

When we have too many options in life, we can struggle to choose between them. This is called “choice overload”.

Platforms like online dating enable us to rapidly connect with more people than ever before. But, it comes at a cost.

You talk to dozens of people at once. You constantly compare your options. You commit to meeting up with only one foot in, just in case someone else better comes along. And when it’s time to meet, you back out because you know there will be another opportunity around the corner.

But in environments where options are limited, you weigh each option more carefully.

Find avenues where you’re a scarce resource that people want. If you’re one of the few single people or one of two guys in a class of women — you’re a hot commodity. 

I first noticed this at small gatherings like dinner and house parties. Even though there might only be 5-15 people, the conversion rate of the single people who were interested in each other was ridiculously high.

Compare this to a bar in a major city. There might be hundreds of people and some guys will talk to half a dozen groups of girls or more. And yet, only a handful of people will end up getting together. The rate of connection is substantially lower.

This principle works for making friends as well.

I’ve taken classes and group tours around the world. If you and someone else are the only people under 35 there, you always gravitate towards each other. The options to connect with someone of the same age are so limited, you look past differences and make an effort when you maybe wouldn’t otherwise.

Examples: smaller dinner/house parties, classes/hobbies where you’re the rarer sex (salsa, for example, has a high ratio of women to men)

Environments where you’ll see the same people again

Why do some people act cruel to others online when they’re amicable in their daily life? Why do some people go to Vegas, get really shitfaced, and do wild things, when they never would otherwise?

It’s because they know they’ll never have to see those people again. There’s very little social consequences.

So goes the idea, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”

This phenomenon works the other way around, too.

If you’re going to be around the same people for hours or expect to see them again soon, you know you can’t treat them poorly. You can’t be a dick to someone in your three-hour-long cooking class or else things will get real awkward and tense, real fast.

So instead, you try to be cordial and casually engage them. You allow yourself to get a little familiar with them and as we know, familiarity breeds fondness.

I’ve seen this play out in many work environments like restaurants or corporate offices. People see the same co-workers day after day. Even if there’s only a small group, people start getting together.

Anyone who’s worked at a place like TGIFridays will tell you it’s just a who’s who of hookup stories.

I also see this at my retreats. Eight total strangers get together from various walks of life. In normal circumstances, many of these people might never become friends with each other. But because they’re spending four days in the same house working towards a common goal, they find ways to connect and often end up forming tight-knit bonds.

Examples: retreats, work environments, hostels, classes like CrossFit/improv, social/sports clubs, backpacking or traveling groups, school campuses, becoming a regular at a coffee shop or a bar

Don’t make meeting someone unnecessarily hard for yourself. Put yourself in the right places and half the work will be done for you.

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The average American man has only one close friend. In England, 2.5 million men don’t even have that.

Loneliness is the #1 reason people seek counseling. And if we don’t get that help, isolation can increase the risk of premature death up to 32%.

So in the sea of New Year’s resolutions chasing love, sex, money, and the perfect body – I want to propose something different:

Commit to making two real friends this year.

Why two? Because different friends provides unique experiences, perspectives, and relationships. And it’s too easy to use one person as your end-all-be-all source of support.

Also, sometimes one person is out of town and you still want to watch the game with a bro.

As adults, I think of lot of men lose sight of the importance of good friends. And being proactively social isn’t something that always comes naturally to us.

I used to think having a big group of friends was something from my distant childhood. As people moved away for school or work, my social circle dissolved. I figured that was a normal part of becoming an adult.

So in my early to mid-20s, I became a lone wolf (like so many other men).

I built up my career. I networked and partnered with people in business. I focused on meeting women. And when I dated those women, I spent a lot of my time with just them.

Friends were nice to have, but not an absolute priority. I think that’s how a lot of men feel about adult friendships. That is, until you realize how much you actually need those male bonds.

Friends are crucial to our long-term growth and happiness.

When my dad got sick, my buddies took me out to distract me with fun times. When I was feeling socially anxious, my friend pushed me to talk to people with him – which eventually led to meeting my wife.

When I was a naive, straight-laced young man, friends challenged my way of thinking. This lead me to reading hundreds of books that permanently changed my beliefs and notions of what’s possible.

When I was terrified of leaving a job I hated, my friends gave me the courage to quit and pursue my dreams as a coach. And various friends have worked with me to host retreats around the world and launch my first online group coaching program.

Good friends can provide an invaluable support system and motivation. They make you feel loved and connected. They share joy with you. They can push you to become a better version of yourself.

Now looking back, many of the best moments in my past five years were shared with friends.

I got to be best man for the friend who helped me meet my wife. I experienced Mardi Gras in all its glory with a great group of guys. I lived on a remote island with world-class entrepreneurs where we built our own facilities.

I’ve shared incredible meals and taken breathtaking hikes through a dozen countries with adventurous friends. My wife and I just hosted a holiday party where we brought friends together to play music and fight over Super Smash.

Those are some of the happiest moments of my life.

And because of those experiences, I’ve realized how meaningful is it to be there for someone else, too. I find immense fulfillment in supporting the people I care about.

I get it that feels tough to make close friends.

When you’re young, it’s easy to call someone up and hang out. You’re also in environments where social circles are pre-made for you.

When you’re an adult, you’ve got endless responsibilities and a busy schedule. With everyone getting married, having kids, and working full-time jobs, it seems impossible. And if you don’t already have some acquaintances, then you’ve got to talk to random people in new environments.

But it doesn’t have be as complicated or challenging as you think. You just have to invest a little proactive energy to help things along.

Many guys are in the same position as you. They want more friends but feel clueless or nervous about putting themselves out there. So they don’t take the initiative.

But the second you show someone that you’re thinking about them, want to connect, or want to positively influence their life — they will reciprocate. You’ll encourage them to open up, think about you more often, and want to invest back in you.

Think about someone you already know and want to further connect with. Take that first step to reach out. Be curious about what they’re excited about and are looking forward to. Send them an article, book, or album recommendation you know they’d love.

Invite them to join you on a new biking trail or to play soccer with a couple of friends. Host a board or card game night. Introduce them to your new hairdresser to get a stylish cut. Set up happy hour drinks with a couple of co-workers.

Pick one person, hit them up, and show them you’re trying to be a good friend.

If you don’t have someone like that, then take the smallest step possible to meet new friends. That just means showing up.

Show up to a social environment for something you’ve wanted to try. Go to axe throwing, a small music show, or join a class for something you’ve wanted to learn. Then just focus on being present and enjoying the activity for yourself. Remove the expectation of trying to talk to anyone the first few times.

Being in the right place at the right time will lead to natural opportunities. People will talk to you on their own. And as you get more comfortable in those environments, casually introducing yourself to new people becomes infinitely easier.

Creating or maintaining any worthwhile relationship requires some effort. But the return of investment of good friendships is immeasurable.

We all need someone who can be honest with us when we can’t be honest with ourselves.

We all need someone we can trust and rely on, even during our toughest times.

We all need someone we know cares about us when we feel alone in this world.

We all need someone we can be that person for, too.

I believe all this will cultivate more meaning and happiness not only in this New Year, but for many years to come.

Ready to effortlessly meet new friends and women, too? Check out my new live group coaching program. Registration closes January 15th.

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Today’s article is from my close friend, Jason Connell. As a consultant, he’s worked with multi-platinum recording artists, professional athletes, top government officials, and Fortune 500 executives. I also selected Jason to help run my confidence retreat in Austin, TX. Today Jason is in training to become a clinical therapist and meditation teacher.

In January, Jason and I will be hosting a live online coaching program called Effortless Encounters to help men meet amazing women in their everyday lives. You can sign up here before registration closes on January 15th.

Without further adieu, please welcome Jason….

There used to be a guy in my social circle, A*, who spent years chasing women. His goal: sleep with 40 women. One night I asked him, “Dude, why is sleeping with 40 women so damn important to you? What difference do you think it’ll make?”

He told me, “Well once I do that, I’ll know I’m attractive and desirable. Then I can be happy and confident.”

A few years later A* texted me to tell me he finally did it! I asked, “So did this change you? Are you happy now? Can nothing shake your confidence?”

He replied, “No…I think I need to sleep with 10 more women.”

A lot of guys believe that once they have a girlfriend or sleep with a certain number of women, their self-esteem will magically improve. Consequently, guys spend huge chunks of their lives searching for lines, techniques, and quick hacks that will make them more attractive.

But that’s the wrong path.

This is the male equivalent of wearing heavy makeup, a pushup bra, and high heels. It might make you more appealing but only in a temporary, superficial way. Beneath your lines, fake confidence, and strategies, you’ll still be controlled by the same insecurities.

Until you improve your mental health and heal emotional wounds, you’ll struggle to get the love and sex you deserve.

Investing in your mental health is the most effective way to become more attractive. From there, everything else will start falling into place.

Foster joy within your life

One of the most fun – and attractive – ways to improve your mental health is to increase the amount of joy you experience. Learning to fall in love with life has a magnetic power to it. Without meaning to, you’ll draw great people and opportunities to you.

Here are three of my favorite approaches…

1) Take yourself on a date. You know how you’ve spent a lot of time, energy, and money trying to delight other people? Now it’s time to invest in yourself.

The goal is simple: spend a few hours on your own, with your phone off, doing real-world stuff that makes you happy. For example:

  • Relax with a massage or a session in a flotation tank
  • Wander through a cool neighborhood and check out different shops
  • Go to the movies and order a huge box of popcorn
  • Spend the night reading a great book – I’m loving “The Way of Kings” by Brandon Sanderson
  • Eat all of your favorite foods
  • Go for a drive while listening to your favorite album
  • Play games at the nearest arcade or barcade (I’m a sucker for pinball and guitar hero)
  • Sit in a hip cafe and journal for a while
  • Treat yourself to a nice cigar and scotch

I know the idea of taking yourself on a date sounds strange, but try it.

Many of us have been depriving ourselves of the same compassion we give to others. When we celebrate and enjoy our own company, our lives and self-esteem become notably better (which coincidentally makes you more attractive).

2) See your friends more often and tell them a few secrets. Countless men are dying to have great guy friends but are afraid of taking initiative. Don’t be that guy. Instead, emerge as a leader in your circle by spending time with people you love and organizing engaging activities.

Shoot a quick text to one (or a few) of your friends inviting them to do something like grab a beer after work. In fact, stop reading this right now to text a few people.

If you’re feeling ambitious, organize a larger group. One fun idea: invite 5 or 10 people over, and have everyone bring their favorite six pack. Then you can do a beer tasting together. You can also invite people to a sports event, pool hall, camping or hiking trip, or have people over to play games.

If you have a group of friends you love but you don’t live close to each other, schedule a conference call. Once a month my guy friends from college and I get on the phone to shoot the shit for an hour. Sometimes we just catch up and bust each other’s balls. Other times, we help each other deal with difficulties like heartbreaks, miscarriages, and career hurdles.

Two important things to keep in mind:

First, realize that you’ll probably have to take a leadership role in your social life. This is a good thing. Not only will it position you as the most influential person in your circle, it will improve your love life. As Nick has pointed out many times, being a skilled leader is one of the most attractive qualities in a man.

Second, open up to your friends. Tell them about what you’re proud of and what you’re wrestling with. Ask questions about them, too. Many men struggle with vulnerability and connection. Opening up and being curious about the people in your life will create stronger relationships.

Not only will these steps bring you joy and security, they will also make dating easier because you’re more skilled at forming connections than most guys. I cannot overstate how attractive a vibrant social life is to women.

More on making friends here.

3) Always work to improve yourself. As a man, part of your nature is to continuously conquer things. While our focus tends towards money, strength, status, influence, and women, there’s an even greater achievement: becoming the best version of yourself.

On a simple level, this means finding great hobbies, diving into your interests, and sharpening your existing skills.

On a deeper level, this means improving how you engage with the world. You can do this by healing old wounds, learning new skills, traveling, staying open to compliments and criticisms, developing your spiritual side, sitting with discomfort, taking calculated risks, finding work you love, and giving back to your community.

Eliminate the darkness that has been quietly plaguing you

Countless men wrestle with hopelessness, isolation, desperation, and depression.

Most of us try to ignore those feelings or deny their existence. Bad idea. Doing that only gives them more power.

Instead, we need to learn to defeat our demons. Here are three techniques:

1) Develop a gratitude practice. Our minds have a habit of obsessing over what’s wrong and failing to notice what’s right. This is called the “negativity bias” and it sabotages our self-esteem by making us think we are far worse – and less attractive – than we really are.

Thankfully, we can counterbalance the negativity bias by practicing gratitude.

I suggest something simple to start. Each morning write down three things that you’re grateful for and a quick reason why. This could be both about yourself and your life.

Doing this will help shift your focus and encourage you to notice how amazing you – and your life – actually are. One of my friends said this habit felt like it was rewiring his mind. Research backs this as well.

If you’d like a slightly more involved practice, I’m a fan of the Five Minute Journal.

2) Improve your physical health. In some cases, we can defeat the demons simply by being more healthy and active. If you’re not already exercising and eating well, start small but start now.

A simple approach that will get you 80% of the way there on the diet front: quit drinking soda and other sugary drinks. Then have a smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and something healthy-ish for dinner. If you can build those couple of habits, you’ll end up healthier than most people.

As for exercise, find something you love and then begin doing it even once a week. This can be as simple as a jogging program (I really like Couch to 5K) or as involved as spin, crossfit, or yoga. More on getting in shape while having fun here.

3) Stare your demons straight in the eye. Most of us try to ignore our demons because they’re unpleasant and difficult to deal with. But ignoring parts of ourselves is never a good idea. A much better approach is to acknowledge and investigate the darkness.

In my 20’s, I was extremely insecure about money. When I finally found the courage to admit that I had an unhealthy attitude I asked myself, “Why are you so worried about money, man?”

“Well I’m afraid of running out and going into debt.” Each time I got an answer, I dug deeper by asking myself, “Why do you feel that way?”

Eventually, I got to my core fear. I realized I was afraid that I ran out of money, no one would take care of me, and I’d have to face the unbearable reality that I wasn’t worthy of love or connection.

I know that sounds extreme but many of our surface-level stressors have deep roots. By becoming curious about the thoughts and feelings that distress us, we can better understand and master them.

Note: If you’re looking for an even more effective approach to dealing with complex feelings and emotional mastery, see the PS at the bottom of this article.

Learn to defeat anxiety

Your success in life is largely governed by your ability to handle anxiety.

If you’re afraid to go up to that stunning woman and say hi, then you’ll probably never meet her. On the flipside, if you learn to approach her, strike up a fun conversation, and ask her out, you’ve unlocked a world of potential.

Here are three approaches to overcoming anxiety and making it easier to leave your comfort zone:

1) Meditation. When people envision meditation, they often think of weird hippies and spiritual poseurs. Really, meditation is a form of mental training that positively impacts your happiness, confidence, awareness, and anxiety.

Here’s a simple practice to get started:

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat and your spine straight. You should feel somewhere between relaxed and alert.
  • Set a timer on your phone for two minutes and close your eyes.
  • With your eyes closed, breath in and out through your nose.
  • Attempt to focus on your breath. When you breathe in say, “in” in your head. When you breathe out, say, “out” in your head. When you notice your mind drifting, simply bring your attention back to your breath.
  • At the end of the two minutes stand up and go about your day. As you get more comfortable with meditation, you can add more time.

The goal is not to clear your head of thoughts. That’s not possible. Instead, it’s about resting your attention on a single point of focus. When you notice that your mind has drifted from whatever you’re focused on, gently bring it back.

If you’d like additional instruction on meditation and how it can improve your life, check out the app, “Waking Up“.

2) Progressive desensitization. Nick makes brilliant use of progressive desensitization in his coaching for men.

Progressive desensitization is a simple technique: slowly but steadily expose yourself to the stuff that makes you anxious. Over time, you’ll become more and more comfortable with the things that used to cause discomfort.

The trick is to start small.

If you’re nervous about striking up a conversation with a stranger, don’t worry about it. Instead start with something easier, like making brief eye contact with a waiter or bartender. Once that becomes comfortable, try saying hi.

As that becomes easier ask, “How’s your day going?” From there, consider sharing a bit about how your day has been. Keep moving the needle until you can strike up conversations with random people.

Give yourself a few days, or even a week to get comfortable with each step. If one step is too big, break it down into more manageable pieces.

When you succeed, treat yourself (I like pizza) to celebrate and reinforce good habits.

Approaching your anxiety this way will nudge you out of your comfort zone and put you on the fast track to mastering your nerves.

Note: if this approach to building confidence and mastering anxiety resonates with you, check out Nick’s and my program “Effortless Encounters”. We blend evidence based practices like progressive desentization with real-world experience to help you form amazing relationships with the women you want.

3) The deathbed exercise. I use this exercise when I’m struggling to take action on something important to me.

Close your eyes and envision you’re on your deathbed. Now imagine looking back on two versions of your life.

In the first version, fear was your master. You wanted to travel, ask your crushes out, and write a book, but you were too afraid to do any of those things.

Now, imagine a second version where you mastered your fear. This is a vivid life where you travel, go on dates with women you desire, and write books.

Compare and contrast the two possible lives.

The life defined by fear ends up muted, subdued, and under-lived. The life that masters fear is vibrant, wildly alive, and exciting.

Then remind yourself of one more thing: though we know we will die, we don’t know when or what happens next. All we know is that we’re alive now and the decisions we make in this moment have the potential to color everything.

If you’re anything like me, going through this exercise will flood you with the awareness, energy, and motivation to overcome the obstacles holding you back.

Putting it all together to improve your mental health

We’ve covered a lot in this article and I want to leave you with a few ideas:

  • When you think about improving your mental health, think in terms of moving a needle, not flipping a switch. Slow methodical change fosters far better results than trying to do everything all at once.
  • Focus on one thing at a time. Doing so will make a dramatic – and sustainable – difference in your life. Once that thing becomes natural, you can move on to a new change you want to make.
  • You can do all of this in environments where you’re likely to collide with women you’d be interested in. So if you’re getting friends together for happy hour, and you like women who are a bit edgier, choose a grungy dive bar. Likewise, if you’re taking yourself out on a date, and you like nerdy women, browse a used bookstore or go for a walk on a college campus. And as you work on getting your fitness together, keep in mind that dance classes and yoga studios are filled with beautiful, fun women.

I know it’s tempting to click away from this article and try to find another tip to magically boost your confidence, or search for some line that will make your crush fall head over heels for you. But both you and I know that doesn’t work.

Instead, make a meaningful investment in your inner well-being. Everything in life flows from your relationship to yourself. The more connected you are with yourself, the more attractive you will become to amazing women.

PS What if you’re really struggling with your mental health?

I spent two years in therapy. It was the best thing I ever did for myself (and my love life).

Try improving your life on your own. Read, experiment, reflect, work with Nick, etc. But if you’ve been doing this for more than a few months and you’re not making meaningful progress, I urge you to seek the help of a licensed mental health professional.

Mental health problems are almost never your fault, but they are your responsibility.

Take control of your life now and get the help you deserve. No matter how old you are, your life will be better for it.

Besides, why bother dealing with more suffering than necessary? You deserve the best life you can create and if that requires getting help, so be it. You can find detailed instructions on finding a great provider here, and you can read about my experience in therapy here.

==

Hey, Nick here. If you enjoyed this article, consider doing two things:

First, check out “Effortless Encounters”, our live online training program to help men meet great women in their everyday life.

Second, subscribe to Jason’s blog. Jason writes about confidence, social interaction, self-awareness, personal development and more at JasonConnell.co. He’s hand selected a few of his articles that my readers will love.

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In theory, I’m a prime candidate for being a total loner.

I’m an introvert. I work from home and I love to read. I have strong, controversial opinions that often challenge people. And sometimes, I feel like my AirPods are an extension of my body.

Despite all this, I’ve learned to love meeting new people.

I like to assume every stranger has good intentions (until proven otherwise). I like to hear their stories, uncover commonalities, and learn from our differences.

My wife likes to tease me that I’m like our dog — I greet, compliment, or joke with complete strangers in public. (It’s also one of the things she loves most about my personality.)

And lately I’ve been thinking, why do I do this?

I’ve realized: it makes me incredibly happy to brighten other people’s days.

When I go out, I want to put a smile on someone’s face. I know how amazing it feels when someone shows me warmth or compassion, and I want to pay it forward.

In turn, this encourages people to reciprocate that kind of behavior back to me. I get to see the most generous side of people and walk away with a true appreciation for the kindness of strangers.

I believe those experiences play a CRUCIAL role in my day-to-day fulfillment.

Automation is leading to more isolation

This positive outlook on social interaction wasn’t something that came naturally to me. I had to work on it until it became a habit that I genuinely got excited about.

I choose to make a conscious effort because I know how easy it is to feel isolated.

For many of us, we can go through our entire week without talking to any strangers. Or at least in any way more than a quick hello, thank you, and goodbye.

Because of the confidential nature of my business, I take phone and video calls from the comfort of my home. I get Whole Foods groceries delivered straight to my door from Amazon, same day, at no extra cost. If I don’t want to cook, Uber Eats brings me hot food without having to speak to anyone.

And then when I have to venture out to somewhere in-person, everything’s being built to avoid human interaction.

There are self-serve gas stations, ATMs, and checkout machines. There are self-serve fast food kiosks and mobile order pickups in their own far off corner of stores and restaurants. I used to have to meet someone off of Craigslist to sell my used electronics; now I ship them across the country using Swappa.

Soon, I’ll walk into a supermarket, grab stuff off the shelf, and walk out without even needing to make eye contact with another human — thanks to tech like Amazon’s new Go Stores.

These advancements are incredible. They’ve made our life much easier in many ways but they aren’t without their consequences.

Because now, we not only experience less human interaction, but a lot of our encounters with strangers are seen in a negative light. And so every day, we can’t wait to retreat back into our safe digital worlds.

It’s easy to hate when you don’t feel connected

We read emotionally manipulative articles and watch sensationalized videos that make us resent half of the population for being different. We see vitriolic social media comments that bring out the worst in people. We endure ignored messages and cold rejections on dating apps which make us feel worthless, and make others seem heartless.

This creates a negative feedback loop which tells us we should fear and avoid most strangers.

We think they’re mean, hateful, and dumb. That feedback loop convinces us to keep avoiding new people and act coldly towards them.

But we need positive real-world interactions with new people.

And yes, even if you’re an introvert, this is essential to your fulfillment and sense of belonging.

Those casual interactions help us feel connected to one another. They build empathy. They remind us that many people do have good hearts and good intentions.

When we see strangers whose smiles reach their eyes, it destroys all the bullshit we perpetuate about them. We can finally see that it’s possible to get along with many people, despite our differences.

Most of all, these experience forge new connections we never thought possible.

When you isolate yourself, you miss out on all that goodness. You’re stuck telling yourself stories about how shitty and callous everyone is and you might prove yourself right.

We are born to support our fellow humans.

For millennia, we’ve formed tribes and tight-knit communities. We’ve helped our neighbors. We’ve created friendly social gatherings and met people face-to-face.

Today is no different. We’re still on the same path of being social creatures — human evolution takes thousands upon thousands of years to change, not decades.

A little kindness goes a long way

I know reaching out to a random person might seem hard. Maybe you struggle with social anxiety and aren’t used to approaching new people.

But it’s much simpler to get started than you think.

Just wait for a natural opportunity to be kind without any other expectation.

We often feel social anxiety when we’re worried about obtaining a certain external outcome. So if you’re focused on gaining someone’s approval, getting a number, or avoiding rejection — it will terrify you.

I want you to do the exact opposite of all that.

I don’t want you to plan ways to make people laugh. I don’t want you target specific women that you want to impress. I don’t want you to set arbitrary benchmarks of how many people you have to help.

Doing this trains you to always perform for others and worry about being “good enough”. Then, it’s about you rather than about giving to other people.

Instead, I want you to go about your days exactly as you already do. Then when you encounter a situation where you see someone you could help or be kind to — act on that impulse.

Maybe you hold the door for someone or let an older person go ahead of you in line. Maybe you see someone carrying a large box and offer to lend a hand. Maybe you notice a well-spoken classmate and want to let them know you think they’re crushing it. Maybe the cashier’s computer freezes and instead of rolling your eyes, you make a funny comment to ease the tension.

These opportunities should occur organically in the spur-of-the-moment — a true random act of kindness regardless of what you can receive in return.

You have that capability because it’s hard coded in all of us.

If you still need further help to not worry about external validation or being judged, keep it simple…

Be kind to someone who doesn’t intimidate you rather than someone you’re attracted to. Be kind in passing so you aren’t pressured to hold a conversation. Act generous when there’s only a few people around so you don’t stress about unwanted attention.

Soon, you’ll see how many people not only appreciate your kindness, but are excited to return it. You’ll create a positive feedback loop with experiences that motivate you to keep spreading goodness. Before you know it, you’ll be dishing out kindness without even thinking about it.

You’ll make other people happy and feel happier because of it.

Hopefully, you’ll inspire someone else to give a piece of their heart to another stranger. And maybe the world will be a little better for it.

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Effective flirting is an art form. Sometimes it can feel impossible to master. 

If you’re too shy and worried you’re going to upset someone, you hold back. If you’re over-eager and think you’re going to bulldoze your way into getting a girl to like you, you scare her off.

The secret to finding the perfect balance is what I call confident restraint.

That means you shouldn’t hesitate to flirt with a woman you’re interested in. But you should also try to be conscious of her comfort.

You want to try and read her signals as best as possible. You should always respect her boundaries when she expresses them. This also means while you should lead things forward, you shouldn’t just relentlessly make sexual remarks and grope her out of nowhere.

You can come on too strong. That’s where the power of restraint comes in.

Sometimes, the best way to ramp things up, is to slow things down. Dial back the intensity and flirt with a little more subtlety.

This opens up room for one of the most essential parts to creating strong intimate connections — sexual tension. And sexual tension is where the real magic happens.

What is sexual tension anyway?

Sexual tension is when one or both people feel sexual desire but don’t act on it in the moment…if ever.

There’s tension in the air because you’re both kind of aroused. You know what’s really going on. And it feels like there’s a secret hot little game that only the two of you know about.

So how do you create that desire in the first place?

Flirting.

Showing your romantic interest in a girl takes guts. And it’s that confidence that turns a girl on even more.

Flirting sparks sexual interest and builds tension. And there’s a specific type of flirting that I believe does this best: non-verbal flirting.

Showing subtle interest through eye contact, vocal tonality, or touch can create an environment of palpable sexual tension.

So before you become obsessed with having to be a super smooth player with the wittiest banter – remember, the most primal way of flirting is without words! Do you think hunter-gatherers worried about saying the right pickup line?

And most importantly, mixing things up keeps your connections exciting.

One moment, you might compliment her flirtatiously. Next, you’re back having a great conversation for a while. A few minutes later, you give her a bold yet almost imperceptible look that says, “I want you.”

You can get a woman ridiculously turned on without saying anything at all.

Why is sexual tension so important?

When you flirt more casually and slow things down, you…

  • Build anticipation. Humans love mystery and suspense. When we have to wait or work for something, we want it that much more. As you keep stoking the fire with subtle flirting, the mood will feel more and more intimate. Her imagination will keep wandering about just how hot things will get.
  • Show you’re not just desperate and rushing to get laid. She can see that you’re confident in expressing your interest and are attracted to her. But at the same time, you’re not so horny and focused on sex that you’re throwing yourself at her. You’re showing awareness about the situation and having fun flirting…while also getting to know each other at a comfortable pace.
  • Don’t let things feel overwhelming or cheap. Like I said earlier, it is possible to flirt too hard. When a guy aggressively escalates things sexually, it can feel intense. Women can feel like they’re not ready yet and that it’s all moving too fast. It can make women feel ashamed that they’re getting so sexual so soon.
How to create that sweet sweet tension

1. Position yourself closer to her. We naturally stand close to people we feel connected to. We get shoulder to shoulder with our buddies at a bar or sit next to family on a couch.

It also works in reverse, though. We start to feel connected to those who we allow into our physical space. The influence of proxemics has been studied extensively. When we are within four feet of someone, we automatically spark a more personal connection.

The key is that you want to get close to a girl in a non-threatening manner.

If you’ve just met and you’re standing a foot away facing her head-on, that feels intimidating. But position yourself diagonal to her and you can get just as close without it feeling overwhelming.

Take a step to the side of a girl within the first minutes of introducing yourself. You can be almost shoulder to shoulder and face each other at an angle. Get a table with booth seating or chairs that you can pull to her side rather than across from her.

Walk right beside a girl and when you sit down together (at a park, on the couch at your house), sit right next to her. Don’t leave an awkward six foot gap.

Finally, being physically close has many other benefits. In loud environments, it’s easier to hear each other without awkwardly leaning in. People are more likely to open up when they feel they have a private bubble with you. And most of all, you can start touching each other in natural ways rather than trying to clumsily reach across a table.

2. Maintain physical contact a little longer. When you and a woman are getting to know each other, you’ll often casually touch. That may be a quick hand on the arm to emphasize something or on the shoulder while laughing at a joke. But that’s how we also touch our friends. Poking a girl or patting her on the arm isn’t going to get her aroused.

So as you build a connection, your touching should follow along.

Imagine this…

Halfway into a date, you’re fascinated by a story she’s sharing. So you rest your hand on hers for a few extra seconds while listening.

Maybe you’re sitting and your legs keep grazing against each other. At some point, let your leg rest against hers for 5-10 seconds while chatting.

When you say goodbye or see her again for a second time, you might hug her for a tiny bit longer.

Just a few extra seconds can signal your strong romantic intent. She can experience how good it feels to be close to you and desire more of it.

3. Lower the volume of your voice and slow it down. The tone, speed, and inflection of our voice subconsciously communicates a tremendous amount of information. And a single word or sentence can have very different meanings with slight adjustments.

You can apply this principle to create a mood of sensuality and sexuality.

Let’s say you’re with a girl in a more intimate environment, like a dark restaurant, on a walk, or at one of your houses.

Try lowering your speaking volume, even to an almost whisper as you sit or stand closer together. Speak a little slower, too. Doing this coincidentally makes your voice have some roughness or graveliness…which women find irresistible.

She’ll get the vibe you’re feeling more close to her and you want to keep getting more personal. It’ll encourage her to start communicating that way to you and pump up the mutual attraction.

4. Smile at her and hold your gaze. You’ve been chatting with a woman for a while. While she’s talking, smile at her and look deep into her eyes. Try to notice the color of her iris. Maintain eye contact for a few seconds longer than you normally would.

She’s going to start to be curious about what’s got you so captivated and if you’re starting to feel attracted to her. Again, it gets her mind racing about what’s to come.

5. Check out her lips. We often do this subconsciously when we’re attracted to someone or want to kiss them. But some men struggle with a lot of anxiety or shame around showing interest. So they actively avoid checking out those women so they don’t come off as creepy.

But doing this can really show a lot of confidence and have women eagerly waiting for your next move. It drives a lot of women wild.

As things get more personal and flirtatious in conversation, slowly move your gaze down from eyes to her lips for a couple seconds and back up again. It’s a small but bold way to signal you want to kiss her.

6. Take your time for the kiss. The first kiss is that powerful moment when you both act upon your desires. It’s the climax to a great film you created together.

Women want that first time to be special and memorable. Giving her that final dramatic build-up beforehand makes the payoff so much better. A lot of guys are so nervous they go from looking at a girl to kissing her in one second — killing all of that precious tension.

Instead, stop whatever you’re doing. Finish your sentence, pause, and look deep into her eyes. Slowly step towards her or bring her closer by the hand or with your arm around her back. Hold that for a second and then bring yourselves even closer together.

If she’s ready to kiss, that final moment before you embrace is fucking hot. She feels you confidently moving things forward and starts to get aroused imagining what it’s about to be like.

Then kiss her. Don’t just give her a peck, enjoy a solid kiss for a couple of seconds. Gently pull away and return to whatever you were doing or talking about.

7. Pull away from a kiss sometimes. Let’s say you’ve been with a girl for a few hours. Things are heating up and next thing you know, you’re kissing. That kissing turns into full-on making out. You’re excited. This is what you’ve been waiting for and you don’t want it to stop.

But then, things suddenly cool down. When you try to push forward, she hesitates and pulls back. Maybe she even tells you she wants to stop.

You’re left completely clueless about what just happened.

This is a common mistake that kills so many romantic opportunities.

And here’s why: that lead-up to the kiss was filled with sexual tension. By continuing to kiss without a break, you lost the intrigue and mystery.

Instead, you’re MUCH better off kissing for a little while and then pulling away. When you’re the first one to break it off, you show her that you’re not just trying to get laid. A break also gives her time to reflect on how amazing that felt and how excited she is to do it again.

And each time you return to kissing, you can get more and more passionate. Soon enough, things often lead themselves into the bedroom.

8. Don’t rush through foreplay. So you’ve now kissed and are back at one of your places. You know she’s feeling it and it’s on.

Unfortunately, a lot of guys take that for granted. You’re a man, you’re aroused, and you’re good to go. So you figure she’s feeling the same way and you want to get down to business.

You start making out and try to pull off her clothes. She pushes you away and tells you she’s not ready.

And even though you were right that she was into you and ready to hook up, you were wrong to think that sex was immediately guaranteed.

Especially when it’s the first time, having sex stirs up a lot of emotions. Women can feel self-conscious about their bodies, worry about being judged, and even be concerned about their safety with a stranger.

Time and foreplay helps ease women into intimacy. And when I say foreplay, I don’t just mean digital or oral sex. I’m talking about everything that comes before that.

Sit close to her so she can feel your body against hers. Stroke her arm or run your fingers through her hair. Kiss her lips, pull back, then kiss down her neck a little, and pull back again. Gently run your hands over her clothes and tease her with your fingertips.

I could go on…but it’s easier for you to check out my guide to having sex with a woman for the first time.

The point is that most women want at least 10-15 minutes of build-up before having sex. So take your time!

With each touch, each kiss, each undressing — you rev up that tension. You give her time to get comfortable which allows her to get even more aroused. It’ll often get to the point where she can’t take it anymore and she has to have you. Sometimes, women just say “fuck it” and start tearing your clothes off themselves.

Of course, some women will still get cold feet and change their minds. That’s normal. But if you’re consistently encountering women who pump the brakes in the bedroom, you might want to take a more restrained, yet confident approach.

Sometimes finesse is key. You wouldn’t use a sledgehammer to hang up a picture frame, would you?

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The other day, a new client asked me, “You’ve been coaching for a long time. How has your coaching and the advice you give to clients changed?”

This took me by pleasant surprise.

Most people ask about my past or about where I’m at now. They want to know about my self-improvement journey. They want to know about the people I work with and the problems I try to solve.

It’s rare someone wants to know how my approach to all this has changed over the years.

So it got me thinking…

I want to give you all a behind-the-scenes look at the evolution of a dating coach. Specifically, I want to share how I’ve learned to coach people better and become a better coach.

I tell you all the time to get out there and have real-world experiences. Those experiences then challenge you to grow and adapt.

The same goes for me as a coach. Working hands-on with people has transformed my abilities to help others. I couldn’t have gained the insight I possess from only reading books.

I do things a lot differently now than when I first started. My values have changed and my advice has been re-prioritized. I’ve discovered what changes people for the long-term and what should be completely disregarded.

Here’s how I’ve changed and why you should, too….

I aim to listen and understand people as much as possible.

When I started coaching, I felt I already knew the advice people needed. I was eager to provide solutions. I wanted to give immediate answers to help someone right away.

For example, if someone couldn’t introduce themselves to an attractive woman, I believed they just needed to learn what to say. Or they had to experience a rejection to see it wasn’t a big deal.

Now, I’ve realized that while we all face similar hurdles, our struggles and the paths to growth can be very different.

Maybe what that client needed was to distract himself from overthinking in the moment. Or to find social activities where they felt comfortable and more excited to meet people. Maybe they needed to start with simple ways to challenge their comfort zone like making eye contact with strangers.

Without understanding the individual, it’s nearly impossible to give effective, tailored advice that applies to them. So I’ve learned to assume almost nothing.

I ask tons of questions. I dig deeper. I sit back and listen, really listen, when they open up. I want to know their experiences, their struggles, and their goals. I want to know what gets them fired up. Only after that do I consider how I should coach them moving forward.

Because I know if I can truly understand someone, I can figure out the best way to serve them.

I don’t actively sell my services to people anymore.

Well, I mean “selling” in the traditional sense.

I started in sales for real estate, tech, and then the pick-up industry. Throughout each job, co-workers and sales books doled out advice that I felt was manipulative.

I was told to gloat about having a superior product. I was told to pressure people and make them feel like they needed me to get anywhere. I was taught to use scarcity tactics so people felt they had to make a decision in the moment. I was instructed to bash competitors and exaggerate benefits.

Basically, I was told to do whatever it took to close a deal. It didn’t matter if the client felt comfortable or we provided the right solution. 

That type of sales makes my skin crawl.

By the time I started my coaching business, I was sick of shady sales. I vowed to find a healthier process I could stand behind.

Then it hit me. As I’ve already said, I learned that understanding someone on a deeper level helps me coach them better. Coincidentally, seeking to understand someone is also the best way to have people want to do business with you, all on their own.

Now once I get to know someone, I share how I think I can best help them. I show them I understand their current struggles, their goals, and provide my vision for a gameplan that produces real results.

Then I invite them, not sell them, to work together.

When I feel I can’t give someone the value they need, I’m honest about it. I tell them they should seek other services first or that their current situation is out of my scope of expertise.

I only want to work with someone if it’s a great fit for both of us. And in my opinion, that’s the same way you should approach your connections in life.

By conducting sales like this, people trust you have good intentions. They can trust you care most about helping them. They know you aren’t just desperately trying to close a deal.

Because of this, most people I talk to end up working with me then and there.

For those who don’t have the means or time, I tell them it’s no problem and I’d love to help when they’re ready. Those people usually reach back out to me to start coaching once they’re in a better place.

With person-to-person sales, people are buying YOU, not the product.

I’ve realized less is more.

I got into dating advice when it was mostly men trying to be “pick-up artists”. There was an obsession with knowing everything about meeting women, attracting women, developing social skills, learning to flirt, and having sex.

I read books and blogs endlessly. I knew every method, every line, and every tactic. And I loved sharing that meticulous expertise with guys.

I indulged clients’ questions with tons of specific ideas and examples. I’d also try to cram as much advice as possible into a coaching session. I figured the more insight I could provide, the better.

If I took an inexperienced guy out, I’d try to teach him how to introduce himself, how to hold a conversation, how he should ask for a number, and so on.

All this ever did for the client was make him feel overwhelmed. He’d be stuck in his head worrying and scared to take action.

It’s easy to feel like you’re making progress when you have a lot of knowledge. But the truth is, understanding human connection is an emotional process.

You need a general guide, but then also tangible experiences to develop that emotional intelligence. You have to build your own authentic listening skills, wit, leadership, and comfort through practice.

Now, I advocate a deep understanding and commitment to a FEW concepts in each subject such as how to listen well and then relate emotionally, not just with facts. Underlying principles like those make the biggest impact if you can express them genuinely without rehearsed lines.

I challenge people to implement the ideas using their own personality. Then, I narrow a client’s focus into taking one or two small steps to apply those concepts.

I’d rather someone master one or two key factors of emotional intelligence than think about 100 different ways to text a girl.

I tell clients to avoid online dating until they work on their photos.

In 2007, online dating was in its infancy. Sites like Match and OKCupid dominated and anyone could message anyone they wanted. Users were not yet jaded by the never-ending process of swiping, messaging, and possible flaking.

Back then, I helped clients write detailed profiles and craft thoughtful online messages. Pictures were still important but they were just one piece of the puzzle.

Now, I’ve seen how pictures have become EVERYTHING in online dating. Apps have users make split-second decisions to choose someone based on their photos. Profile lengths have dropped to the size of tweets and don’t actually matter much. Intricate messaging is pointless when the most effective messages are 1-2 casual sentences.

Guys will spend months or years swiping in misery when just a few hours of taking decent pictures will provide the most significant improvement in results.

So when guys ask me for online dating help, I ask to see their photos before doing anything else. And if those pictures are mediocre at best, I tell them to fix those first and teach them how to do so.

Because if you can’t commit to taking higher-quality, more flattering photos, you’re wasting your  time with online dating.

I hammer in the importance of making friends and having a fulfilling lifestyle outside of dating women.

I got into the dating industry at 19 years old. Back then, my focus was all about trying to get laid (if I’m being honest here). I had a couple of friends I saw occasionally, but every other moment was spent thinking about women. I didn’t take care of my health, discover hobbies I loved, develop new skills, or enjoy an enriching social circle.

I thought this was absolutely normal. Who cares about anything else when you’ve got hot women in your life? What I didn’t realize is that this lifestyle encouraged me to place my entire self-worth on my ability to get women.

When things didn’t go well, I was crushed. I felt isolated and unhappy when I wasn’t chasing a girl. When I dated someone, I focused all my energy and time trying to be with them. I had no sense of independence or an interesting lifestyle. And therefore, I became less interesting to women once they got to know me.

During my first years of coaching, I’d give clients advice about meeting women even if they had nothing else going on. If they asked me to help with working on their life outside of women I would, but it wasn’t critical to me.

Eleven years later, I’ve realized how dating is just a small part of living a whole, happy life. By building my own lifestyle I’ve traveled the world, fallen in love with all sorts of hobbies, made friendships that will last a lifetime, and become more active and healthy than ever.

And through all of my coaching experience, it’s nearly impossible to find a seduction-focused guy who has a healthy sense of self, maintains mutually-independent relationships, and feels truly fulfilled. You can’t sit on Tinder for hours per week and not expect to feel like shit.

Now I ALWAYS drill into my clients the importance of a balanced, active lifestyle.

I teach men to connect with themselves first.

When my life was all about women, I always tried to figure out what they wanted.

I wanted to learn the best lines to introduce myself to make them like me. I tried to pre-plan conversations and stories that I believed made me attractive. I didn’t share certain parts of myself because I thought women would find them weird.

I had to turn into one of those guys women wanted…because I didn’t like who I was.

After a few years, I grew a lot and started to develop some real self-esteem. But still, the old way of thinking about developing dating skills trickled into my coaching.

I taught men how to come off as witty and interesting to the average woman. I told them what types of conversation topics they typically found engaging. I would hear about their situation with a girl and try to tweak the advice to fit her personality.

It worked…to a degree. They got better results. But I was also inadvertently training these men to perform and mold their personalities around women. I wasn’t reinforcing that they should explore their own personalities and become comfortable expressing their best selves.

What makes someone confident and charismatic comes back to their relationship with themself. It’s about knowing yourself, loving yourself, and having a willingness to show yourself to the world with passion. THAT’S what attracts people who genuinely like you for you.

Currently, I filter most advice to men through the lens of connecting back to themselves. I remind them to:

Think about what they love to discuss with people. Ask questions they would be captivated by. Get onto topics they can talk endlessly about. Lead with their intentions rather than try to read people’s minds and figure out what they want.

Everything in life gets easier when you focus on self-acceptance rather than trying to be accepted by everyone else.

I try to learn about people’s pasts to better understand their current struggles.

I became a coach because I didn’t want to be an armchair psychologist. I believed there was a lot of value in having people talk about their issues, but I wanted to help them take action as well.

Early in my coaching career, I’d mostly listen to people’s current problems. I didn’t want to touch that “tell me about your childhood” routine. Instead I taught them practical ways to build confidence, social, and romantic skills. I thought that would be enough.

This sort of worked as my clients saw more success with women. But they also still struggled with their own worth and made all these improvements often for validation from others.

And it’s because we rarely discussed why they struggled with these issues in the first place. I didn’t address their deep-seated pain. I took a surface-level solution to problems that existed on a much deeper level.

So while I never pretend to be a licensed therapist, I now understand we have to explore clients’ pasts at least a little bit.

Getting them to open up about their baggage helps them start to come to terms with it. I can reassure them they’re not alone because I’ve dealt with many of their struggles, too, and so have my other clients. They can start to forgive themselves, process what happened, and accept that they need to move forward.

Then, I can tweak my advice to better suit their needs and accelerate their growth.

To summarize: almost NO problem is only surface-level.

I seek out other people to partner with.

I worked really hard on myself and my coaching for years. I wanted to be the best coach this industry had ever seen.

By then, I had worked for other companies filled with con-artist coaches. I saw incompetent coaches with no real deeper understanding of their work. I witnessed internet marketers posing as coaches focused only on getting sales.

When I did find a few people I respected enough to collaborate with, things didn’t work out. We had different values or visions for the long-term.

I decided that the only person I could trust to deliver was myself.

So I started my own company. My site and business took off. Hundreds of thousands of people started reading my work and gave me the chance to help countless amazing clients.

I continued doing everything myself until I hit roadblocks and burnout. I didn’t have enough time. I couldn’t expand into different avenues I thought would further help people. I reached my limits on the value I could provide to others.

Then people like Julian and Krissi from LoveLifeSolved reached out to me. Through them I met Sarah Katharina, a world-class photographer. Jason Connell, a coach and public speaker on leadership at the time, emailed me and became a very close friend.

I’ve grown and served others infinitely better because of colleagues like them.

We’ve hosted life-changing confidence retreats around the world. My clients rapidly honed their social skills by practicing with Krissi, an insightful female coach. Men have gotten engaged and my credibility has skyrocketed because of Sarah’s photos. And together, we’ve generated endless new content ideas, approaches to coaching, and values we want to share with the world.

Now, we’ve got group remote coaching programs and online courses in the works.

I’ve learned that you can’t do everything alone, nor should you try to. It’s naive to think you’ve got all the answers. And if you’re helping others, you’re doing a disservice to them by not bringing in other people who complement your strengths and weaknesses.

I’m a better coach now than I was eleven years ago. But I was only able to improve because I accepted that I had room to grow.

And a decade from now, I hope to grow in ways I can’t even imagine today. Because as the French poet Anatole France said, 

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”

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Sometimes we carry scars from past relationships for years. Those experiences can be traumatic and leave a permanent mark on us.

If you’ve ever been hurt in a relationship, you probably want to avoid getting trapped in a similar situation ever again. It’s a normal response to try and stop yourself from feeling future pain.

But that automatic response can also be dangerous. Often in the process of trying to protect yourself, you carry around your emotional baggage and crush your future relationships under that massive weight.

So instead, I want to show you how you can do your best avoid future pain without poisoning your relationships along the way.

How emotional baggage manifests in new relationships

When you cautiously begin new relationships, your underlying fears influence those connections. You’re worried those new people will inevitably hurt you, too. You feel you have to protect yourself at all costs.

You might be worried your new partner will…

  • Use you for sex. So you decide to withhold sex and use it as a weapon. You make your partner wait just to prove a point or hold it over their head with strings attached. You go hot and cold with intimacy. You constantly stop intimacy from happening, even if you want it, in case you might get hurt.
  • Cheat on you. Therefore, you don’t let them see their friends, especially those of the opposite sex. You try to prevent them from having their own independent lifestyle. Or you guilt them while they are independent and make them feel bad for not always being with you.
  • Eventually leave you. As a result, you constantly test their commitment. You make them reassure you all the time about how they feel about you. You seek sweeping promises proving their devotion. Or you play games and distance yourself to see if they’ll still pursue you.
  • Lie to you. You’re always suspicious of their motives and doubt their integrity. You accuse them of being dishonest. You set them up for failure and then try to catch them in a lie. And because you don’t trust them, you always hold back on giving your real self to them.

These can all feel like valid self-protection mechanisms. But I promise you, they are destructive and will only sabotage any chance of creating a healthy relationship.

You can never really protect yourself

You might engage in the actions above because you think you can somehow prevent yourself from being hurt again.

Well…you can’t.

It’s impossible. An inevitable consequence of love and lust is emotional pain along the way.

You can try to predict or control someone else’s behavior but that’s pointless, too. If someone wants to be a jerk, cheat, or hide something from you — they can find a way.

I know a girl who waited months to share any kind of intimacy with her new partner. She thought it would make her more valuable in his eyes. She thought he’d have to appreciate her for more than sex. She made him “work for it” all the time. Once they started having sex, he broke up with her soon after because of her emotional unavailability.

A friend of mine dated a girl who wasn’t really into him. After she finally broke up with him, he started dating another girl who was crazy about him. But he was so worried and insecure from his previous girlfriend that he needed constant validation. He needed to hear how much she cared about him on a daily basis. He panicked when she didn’t reply to his texts right away. His neediness soon became too much for his new girlfriend and she left him for it.

When I was a teenager, I was terrified my girlfriend at the time would leave me or cheat on me. I acted jealous when she saw other friends. I didn’t want her hanging around male coworkers or classmates. I wanted her to spend every single minute with me.

She indulged me initially and acted happy on the surface. On the inside, she was miserable and waiting to run. The moment she got the courage, she broke it off with me and started seeing someone else within a week.

My worst fears came true even though I tried everything in my power to stop that from happening.

I’ve watched countless people try to protect themselves in relationships. And usually, they incur more pain because of it.

Building a wall keeps all the good out

The law of attraction states, “like attracts like”.

So when you push your emotional baggage onto others, you attract people who often struggle with those same issues.

You’ll attract people who are also jealous and controlling. You’ll connect with people who need to test you and play games due to their insecurities. Or you’ll find people who think it’s fine to tolerate this type of dynamic in a relationship.

Whatever the combination, when two people project and take on each other’s emotional baggage, it only leads to one thing…

Toxic relationships.

Toxic relationships are not healthy or sustainable.

And if you happen to find a great person, you’ll only sabotage your chances at a fulfilling relationship with them. Someone who is secure and mature won’t tolerate unnecessary drama.

Your unrealistic expectations and mind games will overwhelm a potential partner. You will scare away the people you’re so desperately trying to keep.

In turn, their rejection will reinforce your fear of getting hurt — even though you’re the one who pushed them to leave in the first place. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Moreover, when you treat people like they’re a suspect, they’ll starting acting like one.

Your partner wants someone they feel truly connected to. They want to feel how much you care, trust, and respect them.

When you mess with their heads or treat them poorly, that bond is broken. They feel abandoned when you go cold on them. They feel like they have to walk on eggshells or prove themselves to you.

They’re being treated like a criminal by the person who’s supposed be there for them. And it fucking hurts.

When we feel hurt by those closest to us, it can lead to resentment and even the desire to inflict pain in return. Even the kindest animal will lash out when it’s hurting.

Again, you’ll prove yourself right that people can’t be trusted, even when it was you who pushed your partner too far.

The only solution to move past your baggage

The truth is, caring about someone ALWAYS means you’re going to feel hurt about something, eventually. That’s the risk you take by being a part of a deep, vulnerable connection.

So unless you plan on having no meaningful relationships in your life, you need a better strategy.

And that comes down to two points:

First, as hard as it may seem, you need to enter relationships with openness.

You need to stop assuming the worst in people. You need to see them as individuals and not the inevitable next person to repeat your process of pain.

You need to give the people you date opportunities to show you their integrity and how they could care for you.

You need to lead with an open heart.

You have to let those people in. You have to show them warmth in order to receive it. You have to be real with them and let your guard down.

Second, you need to communicate your feelings and expectations with your partners.

If you struggle with trust issues, let them know and tell them that you’re trying to work through it. Ask them for help if you need it.

Reassure your partner that you value their independence, but sometimes you feel challenged by it. Tell them if tension ever arises on these subjects, you want to deal with them together.

If you value honesty above everything, share that with them, too. Tell them you would rather face an uncomfortable truth than hide or tiptoe around things. Reinforce you want them to feel comfortable coming to you with anything.

Openness and communication give your partners the chance to prove they could be a perfect fit for you. The people who value and respect you will invest in making the relationship flourish. And for those who don’t, you’ll find out soon enough and can move onto someone else who does.

THAT’S how you filter out the right people for you.

Remember, the heart is mainly muscle. If you close yourself off and never use it — it will atrophy.

The only way to strengthen a muscle is to engage it regularly. Sometimes that means we have to risk being hurt to come out stronger and find the love we want.

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I was NOT an athletic kid.

In little league, they put me in right field, where they thought I’d do as little damage as possible. Even then, I got yelled at for daydreaming and playing in the dirt as the rare ball whizzed by me.

I never played school sports again.

While I did ride my bike around town and climb trees in the woods, that was the hardest physical activity I endured until about 21 years old.

I was the chubby nerd growing up.

I messed around in gym class. I never lifted weights. I drank sugary juice drinks with silly faces on the bottles and devoured potato chips.

Eventually, I graduated to multiple daily Mountain Dews with steak and cheese sandwiches from my dad’s restaurant. (Damn, they were good though.)

I spent a lot of time indoors — at my house, at friends’ houses, or at the movies. I had no interest in unnecessary physicality. My youth was often spent running around digitally in video games instead.

Then one day everything changed.

At 21 years old, I was diagnosed with hypoglycemia. My family had a history of diabetes and I couldn’t believe I was already on that path. I decided I had to start eating right and being active.

I lost 60lbs and have stayed at a healthy weight for ten years. About six years ago, I started taking cardio seriously. Then three years ago, I started strength training and building muscle.

Now, I’ve gone from hating sports to loving them. I can’t wait to get outdoors. I’ve built habits that keep me working out every week.

I’m not in perfect shape but I’m more active, strong, and healthy than I’ve ever been. And I have a ton of fun being this way.

While getting to this point required real effort, I believe it’s completely possible for anyone. I’ve found ways to make the process easier and build a more sustainable mindset. If my unathletic ass can do it, so can you.

You don’t need to become an immediate workout junkie

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends a minimum of at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week. They also recommend strength training for each muscle group at least twice a week (let’s say 30 minutes each session).

So when a lot of people start trying to exercise, they believe they have to fully commit right away.

They think they need to go running for hours every week. They think they need to lift grueling weights until they almost puke. They think they need to commit to long workouts to hit those quotas. Or else, they’re failing.

Ironically, it’s this mentality that sets people up for failure.

If you haven’t been regularly active, this is asking too much of you, too soon. You’re don’t even have the right habits, tools, or willpower in place yet.

All this seems overwhelming and terrifying. It’s why so many people give up.

Let go of the BS idea you have to be doing X amount of exercises for X amount of time.

Healthy standards are guidelines to work towards, but you should start with small steps on the road to get there. Your body is still getting healthier even if you do the tiniest bit of activity!

Use the 10% healthier rule.

Pick an amount of weekly exercise that’s doable for you. Maybe that’s just 9 minutes right now. Let’s make it even easier by splitting it into 3 minutes a day, 3 times a week.

Each week, try to increase your time by 10%. So next week, go for 10 minutes. The following week for 11 and so on.

(Note: This is just an example. You don’t have to obsess over each minute if you’re making any kind of progress.)

With compounding growth, you’ll get to the 210 minutes of recommended exercise in 33 weeks. The great thing is that the challenge will increase naturally. The first 18 weeks you’ll be adding just a few minutes per week.

After that, the weeks will get progressively more challenging. But by then, you’ll have built up more endurance, self-confidence, motivation, and overall fitness to still keep things manageable.

Most importantly, you’ll use those initial weeks to discover creative ways to play and have fun while being active.

Yes, it’s possible to love working out

Most of my life, I thought there were “correct” ways to work out. You were supposed to do certain activities or exercises for designated amounts of time to get fit.

For example, this meant long runs on the treadmill to lose weight or 100 pushups a day.

This sounded horrible and stopped me from wanting to exercise.

Eventually, I realized that I didn’t have to work out in misery. I realized there is no exact right way to exercise. It’s all preconceived notions and limiting beliefs in our head.

If you move your body around or use physical strength for any reason, you are improving your health and fitness. That’s all that matters.

Once I accepted this, I saw a world of possibilities.

I could exercise in endless ways to keep things fresh. I could do fun activities I enjoyed that also made me healthier. I didn’t have to spent hours in the gym…in fact I could exercise in my underwear sometimes. I could even do bursts of 5-10 minutes rather than always long commitments at once.

So now, I exercise in countless ways I love:

  • Play basketball/tennis at the YMCA and at free outdoor courts in my town.
  • Swim at the YMCA, public pools, and at the beach. Then I jump through the waves like a madman and practice boxing underwater.
  • Throw Frisbees and footballs with friends while running around.
  • Hike and mountain bike in New England and around the world.
  • Do yoga in my living room with YouTube videos like Yoga with Adriene.
  • Row a boat vigorously on the Derwentwater Lake in England.
  • Dance or do bodyweight exercises while watching TV or listening to music.
  • Use resistance bands for strength training while chilling on my couch.
  • Take my dog out on daily walks and sprint randomly with him.
  • Do boxing or dance games like Audioshield in my Virtual Reality setup.
  • Build a power rack in my basement to do compound lifts, pull-ups, and dips.
  • Have foot races with friends on the beach at night.
  • Play disc golf in Austria for the first time with Julian and Krissi at LoveLifeSolved. I jog to get my discs.
  • Do random spurts of interval training (4 minutes for example) with exercises like burpees.

This variety helps me stay excited about exercising. But again, this is what works for me. You can experiment with different ideas until you find a few that you love, and then keep those in rotation.

If you don’t have much money to spend, many ideas are free or require little investment.

If you hate working out for long periods, break it up over days or in short chunks within a day.

If you don’t have time for the gym, there are unlimited bodyweight exercises, resistance bands, and free weights you can do while watching TV in your living room.

Forget what anyone else says — make exercise as fun and doable as possible. Then you’ll learn to look forward to working out.

Success is about more than just your appearance

We all want to look better. It’s maybe the most common reason why people initially start exercising.

Marketers know this. So they hammer us with before and after pictures to show off that “perfect beach body, just in time for summer!”

But if the way you look is your primary reason for working out, I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to stay on track. Because inherently, it’s a losing battle when so much of how your body looks is out of your control.

Because if you’re really skinny or overweight, it takes time to see major changes.

As a novice in strength training, you might be able to put on two pounds of muscle per month if you work really hard. That’s without time factored in for weight cutting cycles.

For losing weight, you might be able to drop two pounds a week. But that will fluctuate and obsessively checking your scale will only discourage you.

Moreso, your progress will be dictated by your age and genetics. It may take you much longer to get to where you want to be compared to a 20 year old with awesome genes.

Remember, the progress pictures you measure yourself against are often manipulated (lighting, exaggeration, photoshop) or impossible without the use of steroids or performance-enhancing drugs.

So working towards your ideal body often becomes an unattainable chase. Once you lose some weight or look a certain way, you’ll want more. You’ll always want to be leaner, more toned, or bigger.

Instead, measure your success on your efforts and let everything else you gain in the process fuel you.

When your reasons for exercising goes beyond aesthetics, you’ll find a well of motivation waiting to be tapped into. For me, I’ve found that drive in:

  • Developing my skills at sports like basketball or tennis.
  • Being more competitive against others within those sports.
  • Increasing the amount of weight I can lift or improving my overall endurance.
  • Improving my sex drive and stamina.
  • Feeling my mood and energy improve drastically after workouts and in general.
  • Getting better rest at night and gaining more mental clarity during the day.
  • Seeing my blood sugar problems resolve themselves.
  • Looking forward to being a father who can be active with his kids.

I’ve fallen in love with all the other amazing benefits exercise has to offer.

This focus has helped me become more patient with getting into shape and being okay with not having a perfect, idealized body. I know that regardless of my appearance, I’m crushing it in so many other ways. And no matter what, I’m still healthier than I was before.

Don’t go after this alone

Everyone knows a workout partner makes things easier. However, it’s not always straightforward to find someone who’s willing to commit with you.

So instead, many people start out trying to do things themselves. They attempt to pump themselves up and muster the motivation to exercise.

But just telling yourself that you need to work out is almost never a viable solution. It’s too easy to make excuses or conveniently “forget” that you’re supposed to exercise.

You need some other resource or person to keep you accountable.

That could be some third-party tool that actively reminds you. Or a visual reminder of some sort that you can’t help but see every day.

I’ve written a lot about setting active calendar reminders, using commitment sites like Stickk, or gamifying your goals with smartphone apps such as Habitica. I’ve recommended putting goals on your phone/computer wallpaper, using sticky notes around your house, or even writing goals on the back of your hand to be randomly reminded throughout the day.

But for something like working out, I really believe having people along the journey is important for long-term accountability. If you’ve struggled to find someone before, this is where we get creative:

  • Join a Meetup.com rock climbing/kayaking/volleyball/soccer/etc group near you.
  • Google “yourcityhere social sports” and sign up for some local social sports or recreational leagues.
  • Walk onto a game of pickup basketball at public courts or at a gym like the YMCA.
  • Ask someone in the gym to spot you. Then do the same for them. Everyone can use a spotter or someone to form check. Then it becomes natural to keep supporting each other when you’re at the gym.
  • Go play paintball. You’re going to be pushed onto one of the teams and encouraged to talk to your teammates.
  • Take a MMA, boxing, or dancing class where people partner up and comradery is encouraged.
  • Invite friends to play disc golf or go on a trail biking adventure.
  • Hire a professional trainer or coach from somewhere like CoachUp.
  • Compete in a short, manageable race like a 5K where you’re surrounded by other people.
  • Go hike on some popular trails using AllTrails. At rest points, introduce yourself to a group of people. Hikers tend to be some of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. You can say you’re new and ask if it’s okay to join them on the way up.

There are unlimited ways to find people to workout with, you just need to think outside the box.

You don’t always need an existing friend to exercise with. You don’t even need one consistent person, you can have a few different people who provide the consistency you need.

The most significant hurdle to begin exercising is often a mental one.

We try to take on too much at once. We choose activities we don’t love. We unfairly obsess over our appearance or weight. We don’t find people to share the journey with and then feel lonely and disheartened.

We have all these self-imposed restrictions and beliefs that make the process boring and miserable.

Everything in this article is designed to help you let go of that mental BS. There are no set rules. You can and SHOULD focus on making this as easy and fun as possible.

So for your final lesson…I want you to forgive yourself.

It’s fine to miss a day. It’s fine to cheat once in a while. It’s fine to be out of breath and not have the endurance you want right now. It’s fine not to beat your previous best every week and take another week to get there.

Those things are not the problem. The problem is shaming yourself and therefore again, taking all the potential fun out of this.

You can take a couple of days off (which you should). You’re not going to suddenly lose all progress– In fact, it takes about 2-3 weeks of doing nothing to even begin losing previous strength gains! You can take your time making progress, however slowly that may be.

You can always try again tomorrow. That’s an attitude you can stick to.

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