Letters For My Sons

Month: January 2015

hard-stare

The Exercises I Used To Go From Loser To Winner

Physical attractiveness is born from two things, your genetic heritage, and how you use your body.  You were either born an ugly SOB, or you made yourself that way.  Happily, you can change that smashed crab on your head for the better.

When you were a child, you reacted to many different things.  Pain, joy, disgust, sadness… all these things made an impression on you.  If one of these emotions operated more strongly in your life than others, often there are physical signs.

My brother has extremely high shoulders.  Our father would backhand him at the dinner table, and pretty much anywhere else that took his fancy.  What protective mechanism did my brother as a child use?  He withdrew his head into his turtle shell.

turtle shell shoulders

Not this type of turtle

 

This muscular reaction then became frozen in time from overuse.  It transformed from a semi-conscious reaction into a completely unconscious body state.

Take a moment to think about that.  Extended emotive and mental experience literally transformed this man’s body.  How has your body fared in your lifetime?

I too used to have high shoulders from the same stresses.  But after a decade of working hard I’ve released them and felt the relief of physical and mental relaxation.

Let’s do an exercise.  Think about when you are stressed at work.  You’ve been working hard and the boss has asked a job of you with a tight deadline, and you are struggling to meet it.  How does your body feel?

 

bodywork relaxation

Kinda like this.

 

Maybe you clench your jaw tightly, raise your shoulders slightly, bend your lower back forward, squint your forehead and eyes a little, and tighten your lips.

Now imagine you’re lying in an epsom salt bath.  Which, if you haven’t, you should.  Feel the tension slipping away as the warm water seeps into your tired pores.  Sense the steam floating around your head.  A relaxing scent enter your nostrils.  A sigh of utter abandonment exits your mouth.  How do you feel?

I feel my back and shoulders coming down and sitting on my lats.  My forehead and eyes relax and close.  My buttocks and hip flexors relax.  My jaw starts to come down slightly.  How about you?

 

Mental Links to a Physical State

What’s interesting is your mental state.  In the first instance, you feel stressed, your mind is racing and your body is tense.  In the second, your body is relaxed and your mind is the same.

The question is: Which came first, the body state or the mental state?

Have you seen someone with a completely immobile face?  They are impossible to read, and their face looks frozen.  Do you think they enjoy life, hiding behind a face unable to express itself?  And what made them that way?  What affected that person to the extent they had to prevent any emotion making its way onto their face?  Imagine the control early on, where they told themselves that smiles, frowns, grimaces and surprise faces were forbidden.  What is that person’s mental state like?  I imagine it to be like being locked in a padded room with freedom forbidden, and any expression leads to the wardens entering with batons and syringes.  Utter misery.

keanu-reeves locked face

The childhood he must have had

 

When you look at yourself in the mirror, you see one version of yourself of a potential multitude.  Just as you can change your body through the gym or other body arts, your face can become more relaxed, and thus hotter in both the boardroom and to the ladies at your local, depending on both the mental state you hold, and the muscles you hold in a tonic state.

 

The Physiology of Emotion

In physiology, a tonic state is where muscles are held in chronic tension.  The muscles are locked on.

Trying to alter your character with chronic facial tension is akin to trying to use your phone while it’s locked.  It’s nigh-on impossible.  While the muscles are locked on, certain aspects of your personality are locked in concert.  Free up your face, and your attitude and personality are yours to choose.

Rollo Tomassi (The Rational Male) believes that personality is fluid and that people can change.  I too believe that, but it’s a whole fuckload harder to change behaviour when your body and face are locked.  This is why young guys in the PUA community just cannot change and go back to their old habits and patterns.  If you are carrying in your physicality a link to a vulnerable and painful childhood, you may as well never have grown up.

Your idea of yourself works in concert with how much tension you carry with you.  Those of you who work out and have put on a decent amount of muscle AFTER your early twenties can attest to the changes in personality that come about from muscular relaxation and activation.  Gym-goers not only build muscle, they encourage relaxation of tonic muscles through use.  Tonic musculature is hyper-activated, but when it’s consciously activated through repetitious movement, this chronic tension breaks down.

It’s not only hormonal changes that encourage character change in gym-junkies, it’s also the re-integration of the body with the mind.  Muscles that have been out of the mind’s reach for decades are suddenly able to be used and relaxed, and this frees the restrictive mental pathways that go with them.

Think about working an office job.  Imagine yourself hunched over.  In fact, do it now and test it out.  Hunch over.  Really tighten up your shoulders so they almost touch your ears.  Now, squint your forehead as tightly as you can while squinting your eyes a little.  Are you feeling a little restricted? A little grumpy?  Now imagine holding this physical position for years.  Do you think your mental state will get better or worse?  You could say that this moment that you started holding this position is the emotional state you will carry with you until you can relax that tension.

 

The Benefits of Unlocking Your Face

The goal here is to make facial and bodily appearance a choice rather than a static inheritance.  All men can benefit from relaxing and mobilising their face.  A mobile face is more attractive, and better able to communicate emotion and minutiae of expression.

Some of you might like a solid, unexpressive face because it can be used for intimidatory purposes, or can give the impression of strength.  I too use this face when necessary.  But in my case it is one of many choices, not a mandatory option.

 

hard-stare

Supposedly this is a hard-as-fuck stare. Thanks for nothing Google.

 

All men will benefit from increased attractiveness, increased external perception of empathy through better reflective expression, and more control over facial expressions.  Your face can start to mimic your words.

 

The Exercises

So how do we start releasing this facial tension?  The same way we release body tension, by tensing, relaxing and mobilising.

1. Start with the face as a whole.  I like to just move the entire face for a minute or two as a warm up.  Raise and lower your eyebrows. Lift your nose.  Roll your eyes around in their sockets while opening them wide and squinting them shut.  Open your mouth wide, mobilise your jaw from side to side, then squeeze shut.  Poke your tongue out, make shapes with it them pull it in as far as possible.

2. Make emotion faces.  Sad, happy, angry, contempt, surprised, confused, disgusted.  Here’s a handy list you can work from.  When you have an emotion face, say angry, change slowly to another emotion, sad for example.  Then to another, and another.  The key is to move slowly between faces.  http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_emotions

3. Now make eye movements.  Roll them around.  Move them up and down, side to side.  You have many scripted and automatic eye patterns.  See if you can consciously replicate them, and maybe try some new ones.

These are just a few things to get you started. Try them out in the morning when you get up.  Five to ten minutes is all you need.

You can use a mirror for all of these exercises if you wish.  I find it helps with isolating muscle groups and practicing expressions.  For example I found that, while I thought my big smile was wide and smiley, it really wasn’t at all.  It was rigid and small with no eye squint, and only the left side of my mouth came up (you can read about left side facial dominance here).  I had often wondered why my big smile was not reflected back.  It’s because it was more of a grimace.  So I had to practice smiling wide in the mirror before I could take it outside and scare the neighbours with it.

You may find while doing these exercises that you might feel something.  As in, your feelings might bubble up.  This is all part of the process.  While you are changing your face you are also changing rigid processes that have been a part of you for perhaps decades.  This might cause some anxiety.  Just roll with it.  If the feelings get too much just try again tomorrow.

DO NOT underestimate the power of these exercises.  My character changed over the course of months after I started these.  If done properly they can go a long way toward changing your face, changing YOU, and making your life a whole lot happier and more enjoyable.

rock wall shed

The Art Of The Shed

One of the two main functions of this blog is to show men that self-change is possible.  And not just a little change.  Complete, one-hundred-and-eighty degree change.  Turn your life around, from the bottom to the top kinda change.  This is the kind of change that I have brought about in my own life through years of practice.

The second function is to show that this change can happen at any point in your life.  Age is no barrier to change if you want to do it.  All you really need is the patience to negotiate the land-mines of personality disruption.  You need, at minimum, a five to ten year plan to see permanent and visible change.

Self-change has immense potential for surprise.  I have completely surprised myself by finally becoming something I didn’t even know I wanted to be: a handyman.

I almost failed woodwork and metalwork at school.  I had no patience.  My father only wanted me in the shed to hold stuff for him, and had no patience for me to learn the skills I needed.  Most of the tools completely mystified me.

It wasn’t until I was thirty that I started thinking differently about fixing and building.  The great motivator was my father-in-law.  He had (and still has) a fantastic attitude to fixing what’s broke: give it a go, and if it don’t work, take it to the shop.

Once the engine blew up in my Subaru wagon.  Unbeknownst to me, he bought another wagon from the wreckers, called me to his house, and told me that we were gonna swap engines.

I was aghast.

“But that’s a mechanic’s job!  We’re not bloody mechanics!”

His confidence won me over and despite not knowing an alternator from my asshole, I decided to trust him to get it going.  Two days later, we got it running.  I asked him afterwards how many engine swaps he’d done.

“That’s my first one” he replied.

To this day it’s was one of the greatest “fake-it-til-you-make-its” I’ve ever seen.  It educated me to the power of doing stuff yourself, giving things a go, and throwing shit against a wall until it sticks.

Many men reading this will have read Jack Donovan’s The Way Of Men.  As he states, mastery is part of what makes men manly.  The drive to do things over and over again until mastered is innnate to many men.  The great thing about the shed is you don’t have to consciously “practice”.  There’s no need to sit down and practice planing or drilling. You just try stuff out and do things, and the practice comes from that.  I’ve spent years just mucking around here and there, fixing something every couple of weeks, doing something around the house, and I’ve finally reached a confidence level where creativity can happen.  I’ve been learning the rules so I can break them occasionally.

So I’ve been collecting tools and materials and building my shed into a handyman’s paradise.  My goal has been to get to a point where I no longer have to go to the hardware store to complete a job.  It is such a ball-ache to stop halfway through a job to get a pack of screws or oil or some tiny thing.  A one hour job turns into several hours, and your momentum get all screwed up.

I’ve been on holidays for ten days now and I’ve done a bunch of stuff:

I laid a rock wall.

rock wall shed

 

I built a timber box.

I built another box.

I got this motor running and only almost electrocuted myself once.

 

electric motor in the shed

 

I put together an old old table saw and considered running it with the above motor.  I then decided against it when I found the motor runs at 16000 rpm.  Just slightly too fast.

I fabricated a battery-powered cut-off saw from an old grinder and drill-press.

 

fabricated cutoff saw in shed

 

I ran power to my shed (fuck yeah!).

power in shed

I put a new bench top on my bench.

I cleaned and consolidated my tools, only keeping the ones I use most often on the board and shelves.

I planed, sanded and finished some fascia boards.

My compressor that wasn’t building pressure so I broke it down and repaired it.

I fixed the power steering pump in my car.

Power steering in shed

 

I have never enjoyed myself so much.  I’ve spent a couple of hours every day in ecstasy, using my tools, getting better at them, revelling in my own sense of mastery, and watching my property approach the picture in my head.  Those days of frustration in the woodwork shop are gone.

Part of my satisfaction come from rejecting the need to do everything today.  Impatience and the focus on getting immediate results destroys the enjoyment.  The happiness in building comes from the time it takes, the journey rather than the destination.  Patience is required, a lot of it, and as I get older, the more patient I get.  There is no need to rush.  I move one mile at a time.  One step, then another, then another, until the job is done.  It is a truly beautiful and satisfying feeling.

Boys, go get yourself a shed, and experience mastery for yourselves.

shut up

Discretion: The Unwatered Whiskey Of Conversation

I learnt discretion early in life.  My old man didn’t like impertinence.  His actions described how asking pointed questions was frowned upon, though his words said otherwise.  Unfortunately I didn’t put what I had learnt into practice.

 

Backhand Slap

Ya know?

 

My school days were filled with faux pas.  I fucked up so many times, got so many people in trouble, tried to be funny and failed.  You know that cool guy at school who says the giggly-girl one liner?  That was exactly what I wasn’t.  I was the loser that even the losers didn’t hang out with.

I had a real issue with getting other people in the shit by saying stuff I shouldn’t have.  That’s not a good way to make friends.  I would just talk too much and blab on without realising I was giving stuff away.

I got so little positive attention as a youngster that making people people laugh became my go-to.  If people weren’t laughing they weren’t paying attention.  Problem was, as I found out midway through primary school, I just wasn’t funny.

Now, if you ain’t funny, you should really shut the fuck up.  Not me.  I didn’t learn.  At one point some classmates wrote a joke book, with all the stupid shit I’d said in it.  It was a horrendous blow to my already fragile self-esteem.  I had no-one else to blame for my inability to shut up, which was a cry for attention and ultimately friendship.

 

Seriously painful shit right there

Seriously painful shit right there

 

By the time I left school I was learning, but hideously slowly.  In my first job I pissed off my boss with my incessant talking.  Trying to be funny I would say whatever came into my head, and it earned me a dressing-down or two.

It wasn’t til my early twenties when I woke up to the fact that my social life was at the bottom of the barrel.  I had no idea how to make friends, and when I did find someone cool, I would fuck it up by saying too much.  Quality male friendships were completely beyond me because I would game the guy like a girl.  I honestly thought that that was how you made friends, by playing a chess game of who can be the coolest, which I thought meant talking a dude’s ear off.  Authenticity is difficult when you are nothing but a shell of other people’s ideas.

That’s when discretion came to the fore.  I founded one of my principles:

 

It’s better to say too little than too much.

 

If what I have to say doesn’t add to the conversation, that is, if there is no information (that is, doesn’t educate the listener with something they didn’t know), or no real humour, then I’d rather not say it.

There is a corollary to the above.  If you don’t NEED to say it, don’t say it.  There are plenty of tossbags out there letting everybody know that they know it all.  There are lots of dickheads who think that they are funny.

The goal of discretion is to keep information where you want it, and use information for social advantage.  Being discrete means being a good listener, taking data in, being someone people can trust. It means keeping people on a need-to-know basis.

Discretion ties into charisma.  Part of charisma is a sense of mystery.  Leaving your mouth open like a hooker’s vagwa leaves no mystery for your poor innocent listeners.  Don’t explain jokes, or say “here’s a funny story…” Don’t explain how you did something cool.

 

shut up

 

I caught a wild rabbit once with my bare hands, and took it to show my classmates.  The first question I got?

“How did you do that?”

Think I told them?  Of course not!  I just smirked and shrugged my shoulders.  Let them fill in the blanks!  It became one more building block in my reputation, the guy who’s so good he can run down a rabbit.

If your social life is failing in someway, it’s important to examine your sub-conscious goals for conversation.  Why do you need to talk all the time?  Is being seen as funny an external keystone to your character?  Does your self-esteem revolve around proving other people wrong or having people laugh at your jokes?  Do you require such constant re-affirmation of your status that you need to be the centre of attention at all times?

Remember that people are thinking more of what they say than of what you say.  Ninety percent of what you say will be forgotten within a few seconds.  Is it worth wasting your breath to be right?  Or to be sort of funny?  Or to prove some insignificant point?

If you have the self-awareness, you will find that these conversational moments are nothing but petty ego reinforcements that people use to maintain hierarchy and self-image.  If you can step away from that and see that real class comes from what you do rather than what you say, and thus say less and do more, you will be many steps ahead.

Be a strong man with a strong voice.  You conversation is like water into whiskey; too much talk dilutes what you say.

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