Category Archives: Inspiration

Stupid Ideas

Many times we come up with what we think is a clever idea only to abandon it later because we are convinced it is stupid. Whether the convincing comes from some negative feedback from someone we talk to, or from our own fears and doubt.

However, we need to stop listening to these negative voices. Too often we later hear or see a similar idea that has really taken off, only to think “I had that idea!” and then “If only…”.

Two blog posts touched on these topics recently, and I wanted to note them.

First from “McDonald’s Theory“:

The next time you have an idea rolling around in your head, find the courage to quiet your inner critic just long enough to get a piece of paper and a pen, then just start sketching it. “But I don’t have a long time for this!” you might think. Or, “The idea is probably stupid,” or, “Maybe I’ll go online and click around for—”

No. Shut up. Stop sabotaging yourself.

The same goes for groups of people at work. The next time a project is being discussed in its early stages, grab a marker, go to the board, and throw something up there. The idea will probably be stupid, but that’s good! McDonald’s Theory teaches us that it will trigger the group into action.

It takes a crazy kind of courage, of focus, of foolhardy perseverance to quiet all those doubts long enough to move forward. But it’s possible, you just have to start. Bust down that first barrier and just get things on the page. It’s not the kind of thing you can do in your head, you have to write something, sketch something, do something, and then revise off it.

Second, from “What A Stupid Idea“:

For some cruel reason, I keep finding myself in the position of being introduced to things in their infancy (often before they are even launched), dismissing them as stupid, and then watching them become unbelievably popular. This has happened to me at least four times. Each time I vow never to call anything stupid again, and then, invariably, it happens again.

Thinking back on those meetings with Ben Silbermann, the founder of Pinterest, and Dom Hoffman, the founder of Vine, I am kind of disgusted by my reactions. Both of those guys are unusually passionate and driven, and you can tell within five seconds of meeting them. They saw the future and they built it. But for some reason, my first reaction to their earliest attempts wasn’t to give them the benefit of the doubt–it was to immediately find problems and then dismiss their ideas.

The future is extremely hard to see through the lens of the present. It’s very easy to unconsciously dismiss the first versions of something as frivolous or useless. Or as stupid ideas.

On Being Not Busy

So the final piece I have been working on is never telling people I am busy. Because no, I am not busy. Yes, I have a lot of stuff to do, but I leave it at the office after work and on the weekends. I have many things I am interested in, but I can always make room for something if it is worth doing.

Rather than say: “I am too busy, I don’t have any time for X.” I realize I can be honest and say I am not interested enough in X to do it.

EVERYONE has a lot of stuff to do because there IS a lot of stuff to do. Some of it is work. Some of it is hanging out with your family. Some of it is just laying on the couch reading a book.

-Andre Torrez

Is this generation “manly” enough?

In fact, I want to tell the modern man that he doesn’t have to look like a gold rush-era carnival worker or brew his own micro whatever to be considered a man in my eyes. No, it’s way easier than that. How about being a good guy, a good person. Just be honest, kind, tolerant, open, intrepid, self-aware, inquisitive, etc. — you know, all the things that have made our greatest men (and greatest anyone) great when we boil it down. Do these things and help others do them too, and you’re a real man as far as I’m concerned.

-LAWRENCE SCHLOSSMAN in response to NYTimes question “Are Modern Men Manly Enough?”

Boys Raising Men

There is a scene in the movie Fight Club, where Brad Pitt’s characters says to Edward Norton’s, “[we are] A generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is the answer we really need.”

I believe his point was that Men are being raised by Women, and thus not learning what it is to be masculine from a male authority and mentor figure. And the turnout is piss poor (in his opinion, and the point of the character in the movie) consumer driven zombies chasing satisfaction in shopping for things.

I’m not going to examine that. However, I do agree to an extent the Father figure in society has not been holding up his end of the bargain. What stirred this up is Julia Allison pointing to a new book from the TED organization, discussing the “Demise of Guys”. She summed it up, as one can only do on Twitter:

The TED article puts it this way:

In their provocative ebook The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It, celebrated psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo and Nikita Duncan say that an addiction to video games and online porn have created a generation of shy, socially awkward, emotionally removed, and risk-adverse young men who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school, and employment. Taking a critical look at a problem which is tearing at families and societies everywhere, The Demise of Guys suggests that our young men are suffering from a new form of “arousal addiction,” and introduce a bold new plan for getting them back on track. The book is based on a popular TED Talk which Zimbardo did in 2011, and includes extensive research as well as a TED-exclusive survey that drew responses from more than 20,000 men. We recently spoke with Zimbardo and Duncan about their ideas.

And of course, my first recollection of this crisis of Men idea originated from a great article in The Atlantic, “The End of Men“:

Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences.

So, women are doing better. Men are doing worse. Is it because society has evolved, and modern culture favors the gentle, team based, communicative methods of the feminine? Does this in fact end up hurting women because Men aren’t able to function properly in this world and end up escaping to a world of fantasy video games and needing extreme arousal in order to interact?

Unlike the characters of Fight Club, I don’t blame the other gender. The problem is that we are raising ourselves. Father figures are either absent or failing. New methods of communication and community has enabled us to seek out substitutes. The only problem is that for various reasons, our mentors end up being other people in similar situations. So you get a cultural echo chamber where we trade advice like characters in American Pie trading sex moves. And the results are just as terrible, and less comical.

Divorce rates are increasing. Single parent households are on the rise. And while it is great that women don’t feel shunned from a community for raising a family alone, it certainly doesn’t lead to a situation where boys have great role models. Often, even if there is a father figure in the home, he isn’t the shining 50s nuclear family pillar of the community Don Draper (in his public life) type. He probably got laid off because his manufacturing job got exported. He sits around the house depressed. He takes more style tips from reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond” than the pages of GQ. There is a reason every television ad you see portrays Dad as the dumb oaf in the family who learns a valuable life lesson from whatever product is being hawked.

Understandably, Men of my generation aren’t seeing great role models. But we live in the information age! We have a valuable tool available to us all the time. We can use the internet to learn all those lessons we didn’t get, right? Well, yeah, if someone would post them. But, your Dad isn’t posting life lessons. He can barely upload a photo to Facebook. Instead, we talk to our peers and try to trade things we pick up along the way. I believe this is part of the proliferation of things like Lifehacker, Reddit, fashion blogs, and one of my favorites The Art of Manliness. These are digital textbooks, trying to pass on the lessons our Fathers didn’t pass on to us.

[On a side note, I’m not attacking any of these sites. In fact, I subscribe to Art of Manliness on RSS. I think the author Brett kind of taps into the same sentiment I am going all Andy Rooney on. See his “about” page:

And as I looked around at the men my age, it seemed to me that many were shirking responsibility and refusing to grow up. They had lost the confidence, focus, skills, and virtues that men of the past had embodied and were a little lost. The feminism movement did some great things, but it also made men confused about their role and no longer proud of the virtues of manliness. This, coupled with the fact that many men were raised without the influence of a good father, has left a generation adrift as to what it means to be an honorable, well-rounded man.

Talking about honorable manliness was to me a niche seemingly not covered on the web or elsewhere, and I decided to start The Art of Manliness to talk about all things manly- both the serious and the fun, but with the ultimate eye toward encouraging readers to be better husbands, fathers, brothers, men.

I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I claim that I’m an expert on all things manly. I started this blog not because I had all the answers to being a man, but because I wanted to explore the questions with other men. Thankfully, I’ve found a whole community of men who wish to discover the lost art of manliness too.

This is great! Ingenuity of boys to solve a problem! However, the problem is that its a cheat-sheet. The quick and dirty method instead of the underlying lessons. We’re learning to get by with duct tape and string instead of building strong foundations. We get “10 tips on how to have a great interview to land that job” instead of learning lessons about building relationships, integrity, and the pride in your work that really lead to great careers. There is a world of difference between following a bullet point list of things to do on a date, and knowing how to be a gentleman. Are we really creating great men, or actors who can play the part?