Rethinking How to Network

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The internet is awash with a flurry of articles, seminars, and books about career success targeted at millennials. We’re the “hopeless generation” that inherited a screwed up world full of selfish baby boomers, grossly inflated tuition, and a terrible job market (which actually isn’t relatively terrible as I have previously argued).

Most of these books promote industry buzzwords like “networking”, “connecting”, or “self-branding”. These are all very important things, but the vast majority of these books and articles approach these techniques from a very shallow angle. The authors or other “career development experts” all say the same thing: get out there, network, promote yourself and your brand, and you will be winning at all the sports. Aside from the cult-like use of the word “networking”, these experts never really offer solid advice on the hows, but simply the whats, the wheres, or the whys of networking and building valuable relationships with industry professionals.

We all know the saying: “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. That saying gets tossed around as soon as you start thinking about your career as a student. Unfortunately, what this saying and the general mantra behind networking is lacking is the how to get to know people. If I asked this question to a room full of people, most would answer with: “Go to a networking event, carry business cards, etc…” Wrong. That answer addresses the where to meet people, and honestly, networking events are a terrible place to meet people. That’s like saying that the best place to pick up a girl is at a bar. It’s not.

A networking event.

A typical networking event.

At a networking event, you have two kinds of people: value seekers and value providers. Most millennials are written to and treated as if they are a value seeker. You’re low on the totem pole and you want to seek out the right people who will help advance your career. The value providers are those executives and other well-connected higher ups that can make that happen for you. In essence, they’re the hot girl at the bar. When you go up and introduce yourself with a fake smile and over jubilant handshake, you create the same effect of annoyance that hot girls feel every time they go out. High value providers enjoy the ego stroking, but they’re out there looking for value as well, and 99% of the population isn’t going to provide them with it because they’re approaching things from the wrong angle. The goal of proper networking is hack the interaction so that you become mutual value providers for each other.

 

images-6The industry standard advice for a networking event is to show up, look professional, and have business cards ready to hand out. Everyone and their mother does this, and it’s boring, predictable, and unlikely to get you solid returns on your interactions. If you really want to maximize your networking success, don’t attend networking events. It’s the same reason that you don’t go to the bar to meet your next long term partner; it’s an environment that attracts people who are looking for a quick solution, not quality interactions. I will get into what to do instead of attending networking events later on, but I do realize that some success does come from networking events.

Here’s how to stand out and do it right:

Creating quality interactions in a short amount of time is difficult, and it’s the reason most men fail at picking up women. The same can be said for failing to “pick up” a high-ranking executive; it’s essentially the same type of interaction. You want something from them (whether it be sex or a job), but they aren’t sure if you’re worth giving that up to. In order for your interactions to be successful at a networking event, you need to convince the people you’re interacting with that you’re worth their time.

You don't have to wear a tux, but no one cuts a suit like Tom Ford (above) does. You want to have one that fits like this.

You don’t have to wear a tux, but no one cuts a suit like Tom Ford (above) does. You want to have one that fits like this.

 

1) Dress the part: elevate yourself above your competition and get a tailored suit, a good pair of shoes, and make sure everything goes well together. You don’t have to walk in with a lapel flower and a bespoke double breasted suit, but you should aim to be better dressed than 90% of the people there, both value providers and value seekers. It shows you know how to play the game and that you’re committed to reaching the top. In most client-facing careers, appearance is heavily weighted, and since many of these positions are quite lucrative and sought after, you might as well go the extra mile and invest in looking your best.

 

2) Have something interesting to talk about.

Malcolm Gladwell. While his books may be "pop science", they do offer a great starting point for some cool ideas.

Malcolm Gladwell. While his books may be “pop science”, they do offer a great starting point for some cool ideas.

This is where reading things other than Buzzfeed or the Chive come in handy. If you are well versed in numerous theories or ideas in psychology, sociology, or other easily applicable and explainable subjects, you’ll be well-equipped to carry a conversation and introduce some cool new ideas to high level executives that they may not know already. Whatever you talk about, have an opinion and stand by it.

Avoid talking about business: no one cares what entry level stuff you can regurgitate to try and pretend you know what you’re talking about. These are heavy hitters with decades of industry experience. They wrote the books you had to memorize, so don’t patronize them by trying to sound like you know how the business world works.

Additionally, these people have been at the top of their game for quite some time. Do you really think that after all their years of work, they want to spend an entire evening in an echo chamber? Booooring. Strike up a conversation about their passions. Try to align yourself with what they enjoy and develop a deeper connection that way. Don’t blabber on about how great the company is or how smart and wise they are.

It’s the same reason why you never tell a hot girl that she’s hot. She knows that already, and the executives know that they’re a big deal and that their company is great.  When you’re speaking with an executive, dig a little deeper and show you actually care about what they think and what they enjoy. The best friendships and relationships are founded on passion, so find out what theirs are and build from there.

 

3) Don’t be a kiss ass.

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At networking events, value providers constantly have everyone on their junk. It might seem cool to them at first, but it eventually becomes a blur after an entire evening of meeting hundreds of people who are essentially the same person. When you first introduce yourself, act like you don’t care about a job – it’s the last thing you bring up in person. Talk to them because you noticed something about them, or you overheard something they said. Leave work at work and be observant; talk to them like a real person.

 

4) Do your homework.

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To add to your layers of conversational topics, why not research who your targets for that night are? Before every interview I’ve had, I find out who is doing the interviewing and then I Google and LinkedIn creep them to find out who they really are. Learn about them, their passions, what they’ve achieved, or even what their kids have achieved. Show up to networking events armed with this knowledge and just direct the conversation towards something you know they will feed off of. Take command of the conversation and keep calling the shots: give the people what they want to hear.

 

5) Establish time constraints.

Unknown-11The reason why people often get so uncomfortable talking to strangers is because they are not sure when they interaction is going to end, so their mind becomes distracted at trying to find an excuse to end things. Before you get into the meat of the conversation, establish a time constraint. It could be something as simple as: “I was just on my way to the washroom, but…” Keep your conversations brief, to the point, and then gracefully abandon them.  You want to think quickly on your feet, establish a brief connection, and then when the conversation is just starting to slide, get out. You must be the one taking control of the interaction; if you dictate when the conversation is over, it will place you in a dominant position, and it also makes you less annoying since you don’t hover around them and drag the conversation on.

If you establish a time constraint, your value provider target is going to be more at ease because you have established the framework for the duration of your interaction. They will be a more attentive listener and are more likely to remember you since you are the one who leaves them hanging. This is a great chance to leave them a business card. When you hand them your business card, write down the key topic of your conversation so that it jogs their memory.

 

6) Speak slowly

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Nervous people make other people nervous because their actions are quick, jittery, and evoke a sense of unpredictability. This puts your targets on edge and distracts them from the message of your conversation. If you take a deep breath and speak slowly, this will relax you and your audience, and they are more likely to receive your message in a positive, memorable way. Speaking slowly also shows that you’re not intimidated by talking to someone important, and executives will treat you with more respect as a result.

7) Be funny, or at least learn the art of comedy

Louis C.K. should be one of your starting points for studying comedy.

Louis C.K. should be one of your starting points for studying comedy.

Humour is a universally liked trait, and funny people are generally more popular than those who aren’t. If you aren’t naturally funny, start teaching yourself to be. Humour is an intelligent craft that is performed by mastering the abstract relationships between two seemingly unrelated things, manipulating language, or being observant. Study the joke patterns of your favourite comedians, or even read a few books on the basics of humour. Most humour follows basic patterns with interchangeable words and subjects, so once you understand how to construct a joke and work on your timing, humour can come naturally to anyone.

An improv class is also recommended, as it will help you loosen up your nerves and help you think creatively. Humour is a reflection of someone who is emotionally intelligent, observant, and pleasant to be around: who wouldn’t want to hire the person who provides this to their company?

 

Ok, so that covers how to present and conduct yourself at a networking event, but as I mentioned before, these are not the best places to meet value providers. Recall the last sentence of tip # 2: “The best friendships and relationships are founded on passion, so find out what theirs are and build from there.” You want to use context as your aid in maximizing the chance for aligning passions with a value provider, and there are numerous places to do that.

Here are the best 4.

 

1) Volunteer

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Volunteering unites people for a  cause and does not discriminate in terms of wealth or status. It’s an excellent way to meet like-minded people and develop a relationship not based on something superficial like work. Whatever cause you’re volunteering for will take centre stage, and employment will come up later on in conversation. As long as you show that you’re dedicated and hard-working, value providers that are present will recognize the value that you can provide their company and are more likely to help you out with your job search. The fact that you’re volunteering in the first place already cements the fact that you care about more the world than money.

2) Learn to golf or play tennis

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It is said that most big business deals are not made in the boardroom, but on the golf course. Our current North American business model dominated world dictates that high ranking executives play golf together and forge business partnerships in the process. Tennis is also present on the list because it too is associated with the country club crowd, but due to the more intense nature of the sport, it will never be as popular as the much easier-going golf. If you don’t know how to play golf or even tennis, start learning. Even if you’re opposed to the idea of golf because of elitism, the wasteful environmental nature it promotes, or it seems too expensive, these are the rules of the game. You have to play by them or you’ll get left behind.

One other option is to get a part-time position at a high end country club/golf course and use your position there to expand your network. This can really pay off if you’re skilled at golf or tennis, because then you can provide a lot of value to executives who might need a few pointers. They just might return the favour by hooking you up with a job.

3) Join a summer intramural sports league

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Excellent way to meet like-minded people. Get a team together or join one as a free agent. Virtually every executive is competitive in some fashion, so organized sports are a great outlet to foster a sense of healthy competition. It’s another example where everyone is levelled based on their skill and ability, not on their salary.

4) Acquire a second job

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Get a second job for evenings or weekends in a service-related position such as a bartender or a waiter/waitress. Aim for a classier place where you’ll have a better chance to run into higher profile contacts, and then just let the conversations flow naturally. Talk about where you went to school, what you’re currently doing at your job, but don’t hedge the conversation on these points. Make most of it about your contacts, but if you must speak about yourself, talk about your passions. Again, it’s all about finding similar passions with others and aligning them in a way to make a connection.

 

 

Most of your success in networking doesn’t boil down to who you talk to or where you go: it all comes down to who you are and how you apply that to the real world. Sure, your parents might know someone who can give you a job, but it’s up to you to excel at it and not screw everything up. You can go to 50 networking events per year, but if you don’t provide an ounce of value to the people you’re talking to, why would they hire you, let alone remember you? If you want to be serious about career advancement and proper networking, just keep this in mind: your career will never advance unless you advance yourself.

 

 

 

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The Psychology of a Nightclub

 

Nightclubs are a pervasive part of our culture, and no matter where you go around the world, each country has adopted the nightclub as the benchmark of their nightlife. They are an excellent social venue and attractive to both genders, as they offer the promise of a wonderful experience on every visit. For women, nightclubs are a great place to dance with your friends and meet guys. The prospect of meeting attractive women is primarily what drives men to nightclubs, and the atmosphere and experience cultivated by a nightclub is designed with these factors in mind.

Yale Fox.

Yale Fox.

If you’ve seen this TED talk by Yale Fox, then you may have already had some exposure to dissecting the science of a nightclub. The problem with this talk is that it is full of a lot of confounding ideas, the talk itself doesn’t really arrive at a conclusion of any sorts, and a lot of the science isn’t correct. On Yale’s LinkedIn page, he describes himself as an “an expert in evolution at the Biological, Psychological and Sociological level”.

Mr. Fox has a B.Sc. from Queen’s in Biology, and 2 years of education from U of T in Sociology. For now, let’s ignore the the alarming number of red flags raised by someone with an undergrad degree and no further scientific training labelling themselves as an “expert” in evolution. But later in his biography, he goes on to arrogantly state that he “proved” that the state of the economy is linked to what is popular in music. Any self-respecting scientist knows that one study can not “prove” anything and correlation does not equal causation.

His talk does offer some interesting points and observations, but like most TED talks, it is nothing more than a half-baked theory packaged into a pretty powerpoint presentation. Since Mr. Fox’s TED talk is the foremost piece on nightclub psychology, I’m going to break it down, correct his mistakes, and then add a great deal more of my own research to it to form an actual conclusion.

In the first segment of the video, Mr. Fox talks about the effects of alcohol and how they enhance the more primitive drives of our brain: food, water, sex, and aggression. He incorrectly states that alcohol makes us crave greasy food because we evolved to consume carbohydrates in order to survive. As numerous studies have shown, the reason we eat such terrible food after we’ve been drinking is because alcohol inhibits our sense of feeling full, so we naturally are driven to foods that are going to be more filling. Additionally, a person’s past experiences with food also drive their choices, but nowhere to be found in any of the literature is the notion that evolution drives our drunken hunger.

Aside from food, Mr. Fox states that alcohol enhances our desire for sex and aggression, which is no mystery to anyone who’s ever had a drink in their life. Next, Mr. Fox describes music’s role in the production of oxytocin for listeners at a nightclub. While it is true that music elicits positive emotions and the resulting surge of oxytocin that comes along with that, oxytocin can also amplify fear and anxiety, which is what nightclubs simultaneously manufacture for their benefit.

For every elated person dancing in a nightclub, there is someone there who is afraid and anxious. Why would a nightclub want to make its patrons anxious and afraid? Doesn’t that defeat the message of providing a great experience? While it may seem counterintuitive given the advertised purpose of a nightclub, a great deal of their sales and revenue can be attributed to fear, which I’ve spoken about in previous article as being a powerful marketing tool. First let’s examine how nightclubs manufacture fear and anxiety.

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1) Nightclubs are dark.

I don’t know many adults that are afraid of the dark, but this mostly applies to when they’re in their own home. When you put a person into a room packed full of strangers and then turn off most of the lights, you’re going to increase the anxiety and fear of everyone in that room.

(c) Karl Larson, Powers Imagery

2) They’re crowded.

Most nightclubs pack in people as much as fire regulations allow, and the dance floor of a nightclub is prime sexual marketplace real estate, so this is where most of the patrons will be. When you’re in the dark and in a crowded place, your sense of personal comfort decreases and your anxiety increases.

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3) They’re loud.

The third way that nightclubs impact your comfort level. A loud atmosphere where you can’t hear anything but the music and a few random snippets of shouted conversation decreases your personal comfort level and increases your anxiety. The human ear was not designed to live in an environment as loud as a nightclub, so even though you might only be in a club for a few hours, this exposure is enough to put you on edge. A loud environment hampers our ability to communicate, which can frustrate us and cause further discomfort.

So, knowing that darkness, close quarters, and excessive noise contribute to fear for visitors at a nightclub, the question now becomes: why do you manufacture fear?

Alcohol.

Nightclubs create the problem and then sell you the solution.

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Girls go to nightclubs to dance and possibly meet guys. Guys go to nightclubs to meet girls and possibly dance. Since the onus is on guys to approach and meet girls, the pressure on them is much greater. Since alcohol reduces inhibitions, it is the natural choice to boost a guy’s courage towards interactions with the fairer sex.

In a situation where the three major anxiety and fear inducing factors are taken away, say at an outdoor barbecue, a guy may still need a few drinks to muster up the courage to speak to a hot girl. Factor in an environment of increased anxiety and discomfort, and you amplify the need for alcohol, which is why binge drinking has become so commonplace at nightclubs now. I won’t even begin to touch on the influx of MDMA, and now cocaine, in recent years, but essentially, music alone doesn’t produce enough of an emotional high, so many people are now pushing it to the extreme with these drugs.

In addition to providing alcohol, nightclubs first lure in male clientele with the premise of meeting beautiful women there. Promotional photos seen on the nightclub’s website or Facebook page are all filtered: the bulk of them are of attractive girls at the club, with a few pictures of groups of guys having fun or guys posing with the girls there.

Many nightclubs hire  attractive girls to influence male clientele to go to the nightclub and drive drink sales.

Many nightclubs hire attractive girls to influence male clientele to go to the nightclub and drive drink sales.

Higher profile nightclubs even hire attractive girls to simply go to the nightclubs to increase the quality of women there; these women are essentially plants in the crowd working to get guys there to purchase more drinks and drive drink sales by flirting with them. And it works wonders: no motivating factor sells more than sex does, but fear is a close second. Combine the two, and you have a potent combination, so it’s no wonder why the nightclub business is booming.

The reason why nightclubs are so successful is because of an economics principle I spoke of in an earlier article. The Pareto Principle (more commonly known as the 80/20 rule) is a tool that can be applied to a variety of large sample sizes. Essentially it boils down to this: 20% of x is responsible for 80% of y. For example, many businesses find that 20% of their customers are responsible for 80% of their business. Why do you think virtually every major retail or fast food company tries to push a loyalty program? They want to add you to their 20% of regular customers so that they maximize the amount of business they receive from you. This same principle can be applied to a nightclub, and more specifically, hookup culture.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto Principle

Think of your group of friends extended. Let’s say you’re moderately popular at school and have about 50 people you consider friends, or at least drinking buddies. How many of them routinely hook up with girls? How many occasionally do? How many almost never do? If you happen to roll with a group of guys who are all tall, handsome, and confident, your results may be skewed.  Now if you were to increase your sample size to a more statistically relevant level, say, your entire campus, you would actually find that 20% of the guys are responsible for 80% of the hookups. This means that the remaining 80% of guys on campus are left to scrap over 20% of the total hookups that will occur.

Quite a shocking revelation, but when you apply the math and put on your nightclub owner’s hat, it makes perfect sense. Eighty percent of your male clientele are likely lacking with their current sex lives, so 80% of the guys walking the streets at night are actively buying what you’re selling: a chance to hook up with an attractive girl. And due to the Pareto Principle, no amount of alcohol, cologne, or cheesy pick up lines is going to radically shift that, so the majority of the guys walking through your doors will also leave empty handed that night. Many will be bitter because of that, but sex is a powerful motivator, and most guys will be back next week to try again.

If you came here looking for secrets to hooking up with girls at nightclubs, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but that simply is not my place in the world. Due to the explosion of hookup culture and the general acceptance of casual sex in the 18-35 demographic, the pickup artist industry is booming right now. Unfortunately, it’s gotten to the point where any guy who has read The Game now thinks he’s now an expert at picking up girls. Recently, a group of self-proclaimed “pickup-artists” stormed the Eaton Centre and started approaching girls there en masse, which prompted security to remove them from the premises. The industry and movement has become dishonest, abstract, and downright creepy.

The main characters in

The main characters in “The Game”. Neil Strauss, the author, is in the python print suit.

What most people forget is that there are hundreds of factors that go into successfully hooking up with someone, and most are not in your control. No matter what you read on the internet or whatever bro science/pseudo evolutionary biology jargon you come across (just like the aforementioned TED talk by Mr. Fox), remember that the best thing you can do is play the best hand with the cards you’re dealt. Despite what is being pitched to you by a lot of these pickup artist snake oil salesmen, the only thing that you can control is yourself.

There are more important things in life than sleeping with hot girls, and while we may place our sexual experiences on a pedestal when we’re young, over time we should grow to realize that we can find pleasure in simple things in life, too. For now, go out, enjoy your times out at the club, but don’t get drawn into the fear trap that these places create. Focus on having fun for yourself, and stop putting so much pressure on yourself to hook up with somebody. If it happens, great, if not, work to become emotionally mature enough that you can still go to sleep happy that night. Your value as a human should not solely based on your ability to hook up with somebody.

How to Clean Up the Pawn Shop System

Recently, I was walking in downtown London, Ontario in the Adelaide and Dundas area. If you’re not familiar with London, Adelaide and Dundas is one of the rougher parts of town. Homeless dot the streets, countless people chain-smoke and stand around on the sidewalks, and pawn shops populate the stretch from Adelaide and Dundas two blocks east to English St.

Pawn shops are most numerous in areas of lower income and high crime, as they have provided an outlet for stolen goods for over a century. The most frequent pawners are highly likely to have a criminal record as well. For example, a Ft. Lauderdale newspaper conducted a survey of pawn slips from all major pawn shops in the city. A pawn slip is the receipt of a transaction at a pawn shop that keeps track of the pawner’s name and contact information. Of all of the pawn slips counted and categorized, it was determined that 39 out of the top 50 most frequent pawners had a criminal record, specifically relating to crimes such as burglary, theft, or other related offences.

In the past decade, both Canadian and American authorities have enforced stricter regulations on pawnbrokers to help raise security in the interest of reducing crime by supporting repeat offenders. The problem with this system is that it also puts a great deal of pressure on the pawnbrokers, because this cuts into their business, and many brokers may look the other way at a known repeat offender if it means staying afloat.

A recent article in Metro London details that a city councillor is seeking to change bylaws currently enforced on local pawnbrokers and scarp yards. While I agree that stricter bylaws do need to be put in place, recall what I mentioned before pawnbrokers looking the other way if it meant keeping their business afloat. There has yet to be a link determined between enforcing stricter regulations on pawnbrokers and a reduction in crime. This is in the same vein of thought that hiring more police officers will reduce the crime rate in a city, which is an inconclusive hypothesis. Some countries experienced lower crime rate with a rise in the number of police officers, while some experienced rising crime rates with similar increases. Crime is a complex system, and no one factor can hope to govern it.

The pawn shop industry has continued to soar because it provides individuals with something a bank simply cannot do: small loans for short amounts of time, or instant cash for goods. Pawn shops have often been tied not only to crime, but also to the drug trade, as many pawners use the money gained from pawning items to finance their drug habit. More police officers or stricter regulations on pawn shop owners will not deter the level of crime in London, and likely not in other cities where theft is such a rampant issue.

If you tell your child that for every A they get on their report card, you will give them five dollars, they will likely work harder in school. After a few years of high achievement and your wallet thinning, you decide that you will lower the reward to one dollar per A. This still provides incentive, but makes it less appealing. While your child may not work as hard, there is still a reward available, so they continue to achieve high grades, albeit a few less A’s. Eventually, you continue your crude experiment and tell your child that you are no longer giving them a reward for their high grades. The child, although no longer financially motivated to achieve high grades, is still likely to achieve high grades because that is the life and routine they are used to.

Initially, the reward had to be high to provide enough motivation to get them to buy into your system, but over time, you lessened the reward as their mind got used to the benefits of achieving high grades in a sort of Pavlovian response. This same analogy can be applied to the criminals who are frequent pawners. Because they have lived their life accustomed to a system of theft and reward in the form of cash from pawnbrokers, enforcing stricter penalties (analogous to lowering the reward from $5 to $1), will not deter behaviour significantly. What needs to be done is stop the reward process right from the start, so that criminals are not enticed to steal in the first place.

The reward for most of these individuals is drugs purchased via cash obtained from a pawn shop, but at the very least, the reward for their efforts is cash. What if pawn shops changed their model completely, and instead of providing cash to would-be pawners, they instead provided social assistance vouchers that could provide groceries, housing subsidies, or that could be directly redeemed for other products that contribute to a healthier life? Yes, there would be still be an incentive to steal, as exchanging copper pipes for groceries to feed your family is reason enough for theft, but at least with this system the vicious cycle of theft and drug use could be interrupted.

Recall the scene in Aladdin where he steals bread simply because he is hungry. Aladdin wasn’t stealing bread to sell at a pawn shop and use the cash to buy meth later; he was simply trying to sustain himself, and we felt sympathy for him as a result. I believe that by eliminating the reward of cash and eventually drugs from the pawn shop system, cities will help to improve their overall community structure and health even if theft still persists. This new system will no doubt reduce the incidence of theft, as many individuals who can still provide the basics for themselves will have no desire to steal because they cannot acquire cash or drugs as the end result.

Pawn shops would still be able to generate income, as exchanging goods for vouchers will provide them with a resale inventory influx, and the vouchers can purchased with this income. Partnerships with grocery stores, housing co-ops, and even municipal governments can form. For example, lets say a pawnbroker sells a gold ring for $100. The pawn shop would normally purchase that gold ring from the pawner for $50. The remaining cash is used to pay bills related to the store. Instead of paying the pawner $50, the pawnbroker uses that $50 and purchases a $50 gift card from Loblaws or similar beneficial program.

Additionally, many pawnshops have gone high-tech. In 2009, Todd Hills created Pawngo, an online pawn service. It has recently acquired 13 million dollars in venture capitalist-backed funding, and revenue grew from $1.3 million in 2011 to $6 million in 2012. Online pawn shops provide a simple online estimate, and then the pawned good is sent to the shop via post, and a cheque arrives in the mail for the pawner a few days later. Converting to a more online-focused model will allow more pawn shops to heighten security, as it requires a fixed address and access to the internet. Individuals who possess a low income and resort to theft or burglary are less likely to have access to these amenities, so an online-based model will act as an initial screening process.

Theft has been around as long as their has been people. We have all stolen something at one point or another, whether it was a car or a few fries from your friend at a restaurant. It is something that we simply cannot cure by enforcing a few bylaws or hiring more police officers. What we can do is attack the source of theft related to pawn shops, which is drug addiction and financial needs. Pawn brokers can seek to do some good in the world by partnering with local municipalities and other involved stakeholders and stop “rewarding” criminals with cash that can be used for the very things causing crime. We need to interrupt this cycle and work to providing rewards that can actually improve the lives of those breaking the law, so that it will reduce the likelihood they will do so in the future.

7 Fashion Tips for Guys to Help You Look and Feel Your Best

 

 

1)   Your clothes will look better on you if you’re in good shape

 

If you’re in the middle of a wardrobe overhaul/makeover phase, before you start spending all of your money on clothes, pause for a second. Have a look in the mirror: are you in good shape?

If you’re hesitant or the answer is no, don’t waste your money buying new clothes and spend that money on a gym membership instead. Clothes look better on people who are in shape; that’s how they’re designed. Rick Owens, who, if you’re not familiar, is one of the more influential fashion designers of the last decade, has a great quote that applies here:

“Working out is modern couture. No outfit is going to make feel as good as having a fit body. Buy less clothes and go to the gym instead.”

Rick Owens. Inspired an entire aesthetic dubbed "Goth Ninja". It will look weird to 99% of the population, but the man is a design genius.

Rick Owens. Inspired an entire aesthetic dubbed “Goth Ninja”. It will look weird to 99% of the population, but the man is a design genius.

You don’t have to be jacked, but just make sure that you’re in a position where you feel confident that you’re in good shape. If you feel confident on the inside as a result of being in good shape, then this will project outwards into what you wear, but more importantly, how you carry yourself. Dressing well should be an enjoyable experience, and being in good shape helps to amplify that.

 

2)   Women don’t care about your expensive clothes

Know anyone who got laid strictly because they were wearing this shirt? Didn't think so.

Know anyone who got laid strictly because they were wearing this shirt? Didn’t think so.

 

It’s a lifestyle myth sold by designer clothing companies that women will desire you more if the price tag on your clothes is higher. While it is true that most designer clothing does look better because of the cut, design, and materials used, what really matters is how you carry yourself underneath all that clothing. Clothing with logos that advertise the brand doesn’t telegraph wealth; they broadcast desperation, which is a very unattractive trait.

There’s a saying: “A rich man should never have to tell you he’s rich, and a smart man should never have to tell you he’s smart.” If your clothing is plastered in logos and you’re clearly fishing for a compliment with it, please reconsider your tactics. Needy behaviour is not a desirable trait

Clothes make the man, but clothes should not own the man. Instead, focus on finding clothes that fit and look good on your body type and skin tone. Don’t fall victim to logo-heavy clothing just because it’s “designer”. Besides, all of the most expensive designer clothing rarely has logos, so you are only looking pretentious if everything you wear has a logo on it.

A Rolex Submariner. Might get you some compliments, but it won't make girls fall into your lap.

A Rolex Submariner. Might get you some compliments, but it won’t make girls fall into your lap.

 

 3)   Don’t buy all your clothes at the mall

ThriftShop

 

This is an abridged version of a previous article. One of the reasons guys tend to avoid caring about how they look is because shopping can be a stressful or boring experience. Whether it’s overwhelmingly large stores, pushy sales associates who do a poor job of relating to their clients, or the exhausting atmosphere of most malls, shopping for a new wardrobe can be taxing on your system. For a change, why not try shopping at a thrift store or searching for clothes online using applications like eBay? Experiences are said to have more profound psychological effects on our happiness than purchasing products do, but what if the two were linked?

By searching at a thrift store or on eBay, you throw in an element of unpredictability to your clothing purchases, and the “treasure hunting” effect can leave you feeling much more satisfied with your purchase. If you are more satisfied with your purchase, you’ll likely be tied to that particular item more, and if that’s the case, you’ll probably enjoy wearing it more. It’s the same feeling you get from wearing your lucky hoodie from college when you go out for a run or toss the football around. If you feel happier about the clothes you’re wearing, that will translate to more confidence, and you’ll look and feel great as a result.

After you purchase something that’s new, the novelty of it being in pristine condition wears off quickly when it gets used, worn, or dirty. Buying clothing second hand is also beneficial because you won’t experience that same feeling of depreciation; your clothes are already used and a little worn, so there’s nothing to worry about if they get a little dirty or look worn.

 

 4)   Context is everything: just because you’re dressed up doesn’t mean you’re dressed well

Just because you're wearing a suit doesn't mean it's always the best choice; especially if it fits like the guy's on the right.

Just because you’re wearing a suit doesn’t mean you’ll be the best dressed guy in the room; especially if it fits like the guy’s on the left

 

For those of you who took business in school: did you ever have that kid who wore a suit to class in freshman year because he was trying to act “professional”?

This guy would be a classic example of failing to understand context when it comes to wearing clothes. Dress for the situation or else you’ll look like a clown. If you really want to try going outside the spectrum, that’s fine, but you had better have a lot of charisma and self-confidence.

Here’s what you do to look your best based on context. Figure out what the accepted dress code is for whatever situation you’ll be in that day: work, class, wedding, whatever. Figure out the acceptable spectrum that you can dress within, and then always aim for the high end of it.

Are jeans and a sweatshirt the most common thing on your campus? That would be an example of what the middle of the spectrum is, so wear a great fitting pair of jeans and a nicer crewneck sweater to place you near the top end of the spectrum.

Are you going to a semi formal event and everyone is wearing khakis with a dress shirt and tie? Wear a suit without a tie and a dress shirt. This is still semi formal, but you look a lot more put together. The absence of a tie tones down the formality so you don’t dress outside the spectrum. Plus, ties without a jacket always look worse than a jacket and shirt with no tie. Just make sure everything fits properly.

 

5)   Take fashion advice from women with a grain of salt

Educate yourself so your girlfriend/wife isn't always telling you what to wear.

Educate yourself so your girlfriend/wife isn’t always telling you what to wear.

 

The old adage is that all women know how to dress well and whatever advice they give their husband/boyfriend on what to wear should be taken as gospel. Not even remotely true; it’s a myth that women are all knowledgeable about this sort of thing. As men, we’ve been forced to believe that caring about how we look is a feminine character trait and should repress it for fear of appearing like a sissy or acting “gay”.

As a man, you should at least have a working knowledge of what clothes look good on you and which ones don’t. Learn what looks good on your body type and skin tone. Declining a woman’s suggestion on what to wear can actually make you appear more attractive, because it will demonstrate your independence and assertiveness. Having a women order you around all the time when you’re rummaging through your closet is not attractive to her or you.

Women are traditionally more gifted in art and other visual-based things, so it does make sense that they are generally better at dressing themselves. That being said, there are many men on the planet who are also very visual-based, and there are many women who aren’t that visual-based. This is not to say that you should completely ignore a woman’s opinion; a second opinion on what you’re wearing may yield a new perspective, but you should at least have the basics down to argue your side of the case.

 

 6)   Dressing well means that you’ll look “gay” or feminine

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Another stupid stereotype and myth that needs to die. There is zero correlation between being a homosexual male and being well dressed. Yes, there are some well-dressed gay men on the planet, but there are just as many, if not more, well-dressed straight men.

This stereotype stems from the whole argument mentioned in the previous lesson that caring about your appearance means that you will come across as more feminine. Your clothes should not dictate who you are; your actions should, so if you think that you’ll be seen as feminine if you dress fashionably, you won’t, unless you act in a stereotypically feminine manner.

In fact, caring about your appearance and acting like a normal, confident guy, will make you look more attractive. By dressing better than the norm and standing out from the crowd, even if it’s ever so slightly, you take a calculated social risk. This risk makes you vulnerable, both to potential criticism and increased attention. Despite the notion of the word, vulnerability is actually something that men should express more often. I’ll explain: as long as you carry yourself well and don’t act needy or desperate for attention, your vulnerability of dressing will be seen as an attractive trait, and your risk will pay off.

This can backfire, though, so this is why your body language needs to mirror the appearance you wish to personify. Recall the risk of dressing well I mentioned previously. If you dress well but act needy and annoying, you’ll make people dislike more than if you didn’t put in an effort to look good. You may have dressed the part, but because your actions aren’t attractive, the fact that you went out of your way to look good compounds with your unattractive behaviour and makes you look worse overall. In this case, your risk backfired, and this is where the stereotype of men who dress well are seen as high maintenance and overly feminine comes from.

These guys are dressed well, and there's not a shred of doubt that they're two manly dudes.

These guys are dressed well, and there’s not a shred of doubt that they’re two manly dudes.

Men are not scrutinized for their physical attractiveness to the same degree that women are; we are judged more on our actions and personality. Even though one of the goals of dressing well is to increase your attraction to others, men need to remember that their clothing is not the single most important factor in the equation. Your clothes will be the first thing people notice about you since appearance. This is the brain’s first step in assessing somebody, but your staying power is rooted in what do say and do after that initial assessment phase.

 

7)   Invest more in things that you wear more often

 

Makes sense, right? You should invest the most per item in the following order: outerwear, suit (if applicable), shoes, sweaters, jeans/pants (ideally only 1 or 2 pairs of each), dress shirts, casual shirts, activewear.

 

A pair of Edward Green shoes. They will set you back almost a grand, but the finish on the leather and the quality of the construction will outshine and outlast 3 or 4 pairs of cheaper shoes.

A pair of Edward Green shoes. They will set you back almost a grand, but the finish on the leather and the quality of the construction will outshine and outlast 3 or 4 pairs of cheaper shoes.

The reasoning behind this order is that since you will only need 1 or 2 nice jackets, 1 or 2 suits, and 2-3 nice pairs of shoes, you should spend more per item on them. It doesn’t make sense to spend the bulk of your disposable income on t-shirts or gym shorts if you’re just going to ruin them faster by sweating through them day after day. If you’re only purchasing 1 or 2 pairs of jeans, it makes sense to invest in a few nice pairs to last you longer. Your shoes are in constant contact with the ground, but a nice pair will last much longer as long as you take care of them.

 

Invest more in your coat than you would dress shirts or t-shirts.

Invest more in your coat than you would dress shirts or t-shirts. Pictured is the Stephan Schneider Alpaca Long Coat from FW ’11

You can also look at it this way: the more direct contact on your skin the item has, the less you should spend on it proportionally. Guys sweat a decent amount, so things like t-shirts and even dress shirts wear out the quickest. Your coat, your suit, and your sweaters don’t have the same level of contact with your skin and the sweat it produces as the layers directly against your skin like t-shirts, dress shirts, and undergarments. As a result, they’re likely to last a lot longer, so it makes sense to invest in something nicer, especially considering a nice coat, suit, or sweater adds a lot more statement to an outfit when compared to a nice t-shirt or dress shirt (provided you control for context).

Fashion is a highly subjective field, but I believe these 7 philosophies and guiding principles are universal. I believe that we should all take pride in our appearance the best we can because it demonstrates a great deal of self-respect to the world. These 7 philosophies will help you feel great and feel your best, and hopefully make getting dressed in the morning that much more enjoyable.

 

 

Isolation and the Dangers of The One Man Wolf Pack: Why Men Need Other Men

Unknown-2When Justin Bourque murdered 3 RCMP officers and wounded two more on June 4th, 2014, he was acting out of anger and hatred towards police and authority as a whole. He had a history of drug use, unemployment, and he spent a great deal of his time playing violent video games, but despite how the media spins it, these were not the causes of his outburst. This tragic event comes hot on the heels of the Isla Vista shootings perpetrated by Elliot Rodger. Similar to Mr. Rodger, who received accusations of being a mentally ill mysogynist, Mr. Bourque was accused of being gun-crazy, police-hating man who obsessed with violent video games and influenced by heavy metal bands such as Megadeth.

Megadeth: not the cause of a shooting rampage

Megadeth: not the cause of a shooting rampage

In situations of terror, which all mass shootings in essence are, we love to point the finger at surface problems. Hatred of women, hatred of police, violent video games, angry music, and mental health are frequently used as explanations for the behaviour of these individuals. These factors are not the cause of the main problem with the shooters: they are a result of the problem. People aren’t born hating women or police, they aren’t born being drawn to violent video games or angry music, and while they may be born with mental health issues, you cannot blame these individuals’ behaviour solely on the fact that they are mentally unwell.

This would attach an awful stereotype to those with Asperger’s, other forms of Autism, depression, and other mental health issues. Many people live healthy, violence-free lives with mental health disorders, and just because someone is mentally unwell, does not mean they have psychopathic, violent tendencies. Most violent crime is committed by people who are simply angry, in a compromised situation, or who have other issues completely unrelated to the chemistry imbalance in their brain.

When a terrorist attack occurs in the Middle East, why do we not immediately think these individuals performing these attacks are mentally unwell, violent video game playing psychopaths? Aside from being overtly racist or ignorant, we fail to understand what an act of terror is at its core: acts of terrorism are a cry for attention; for glory, even if the individual will forever live on in infamy. But what is the root of all of this violent behaviour?

Steven Pinker: violence has declined

Steven Pinker: violence has declined

We have, as a whole, become increasingly less violent as a species. Even since the end of the Cold War in 1989, there have been marked decreases in violence worldwide, despite what the news will lead you to believe. Ancient times were full of torture, murder, rape, and other violent acts, and many of these are present in the most published book of all time: The Bible. Despite the reverence and immense reach that The Bible has worldwide, humans are not heavily influenced by the violent chapters of the Old Testament. Human societies changed to prize commerce, cosmopolitanism, and we have embraced ideals that are more respectful of the female viewpoint. We have grown to value a more civilized world over millennia, but with our increasingly connected society, one new cause of violent behaviour has reared its head: isolation.

If you examine the personal histories of each major public shooter, you will find a trend of loneliness and isolation among these individuals. Isolation could be caused by a multitude of factors: Justin Bourque was from a large family that was home-schooled, so socially he was lacking in basic skills. Elliot Rodger did have Asperger’s, but his youth was plagued with issues of isolation, loneliness, and bullying. Seung-Hui Cho, the student who carried out the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre, was isolated from a very young age due to selective mutism, a social anxiety disorder that hindered his speech. Cho was also bullied repeatedly during high school, furthering his isolation.

This is not to say that home-schooling breeds psychopathic killers, or everyone with Asperger’s is a lonely, misogynistic killer in the making, but these factors all created a situation of extreme loneliness and mental anguish for the perpetrators. The one factor that ties all these examples and more together is isolation. Even if you consider the case of many suicide bombers and other terrorists, many are alone, isolated, and afraid. When you are in this situation, you are more prone to influence, especially from a source that promises security and glory. This does not mean that these individuals are stupid – quite the opposite, in fact.

A high level of intelligence often equates to a strong desire to search for answers and new information. This is normally a very positive thing; curiosity fostered by high levels of intellect is a fantastic thing to harness. In a situation of isolation, individuals possessing a high level of intelligence and a great degree of curiosity can be lead down a dangerous path. Their brain is constantly problem-solving and searching for answers to their problems. Because of their lack of social IQ,  violence is often the only logical solution they can think of.

These attacks are not planned by dumb people: Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (of Columbine infamy) were both straight-A students,Cho was an exceptionally talented student in mathematics, and Rodger’s manifesto, although disturbing and twisted, was eloquent and well-written. These individuals knew what they were doing: months and even years of planning went into these attacks. All that these violent outbursts were was a dramatic cry for attention; unfortunately, no one listened.

Isolation can warp even the brightest minds, and a great deal psychological research has detailed the dangers of being alone in the world. Many adverse health conditions such as cardiac disease, chronic anxiety, and stress occur at increased levels if an individual leads an isolated life.

Elliot Rodger thought very highly of himself, but he was still depressed.

Elliot Rodger thought very highly of himself, but he was still depressed.

Relationship status is paramount for men in the world, and it was reported that a man’s self-esteem is more heavily influenced by his relationship status than a woman’s, yet men do not stake as much energy in their self-worth when it comes to relationships. So while a single man can think very highly of himself, he may still be depressed. Look no further than Elliot Rodger for an example of this. He thought very highly of himself, was a pathological narcissist, yet he was miserable. Depression is chronically underreported by men, as a result of the view men hold that seeking help is a form of weakness. Even men in relationships were less likely than their female counterparts to share their feelings.

If isolation and loneliness is the problem, what is the solution? There are many factors to control for when trying to assess and repair the damage many of these individuals have suffered, but I believe at the core, it comes down reconnecting with the world, specifically with the company of other men.

alan-hangover2

If you’ll recall a famous example, in the movie The Hangover, Alan makes his famous “Wolfpack” speech, to the surprise of Doug, Stu, and Phil. Alan is clearly socially inept and lonely, but he is overjoyed that he gets to spend a weekend in Las Vegas with 3 regular guys. It gives him a sense of belonging and confidence he had never felt before, and it is what makes his transformation over the trilogy believable. If these gunmen had a more supportive network and friends and were themselves motivated to connect with others, their stress, anxiety, and resulting violent behaviour could have been reduced.

A group of guys look out for one another, help each other with their problems, and above all, are brutally honest with each one another. Honesty is a powerful tool in addressing problems, as it can often hurt in the short term, but in the long term in can help a man recognize his problems and correct them, knowing in his heart that his friends are simply looking out for his best interests. Men challenge each other: in sport, on opinions, or with competing for the attention of women. We feed off each other’s strengths, and address each other’s weaknesses.

Many men today are isolated and alone, although they may not think that. Due to more careers being isolating desk jobs rather than farm or factory work, humans in general are less able to interact on the job. As a result, many humans resort to the Internet as a source of social interaction, but this can be harmful.

As I spoke of in a previous article, escapism is a damaging habit if not controlled. It can give the illusion of community through online forums, of which almost every infamous gunmen was a prominent member. These fora provide a place for discussion with like-minded individuals, and while many are excellent resources for information as well as sources of community, some forums exist and propagate angry, harmful ideas. Real human interaction is what was lacking, but due to the presence of these online communities, the gunmen felt that they belonged somewhere and were accepted, despite the fact that none of the “friends” they were interacting with had ever seen them face-to-face.

A study of Swedish teenagers in 2008 reported that male teenagers placed a higher value in same-gender relationships; hanging out with the guys was really important to their self-esteem and well-being. Despite the belief that the world was evil and everyone deserved to be hated that was shared by many of these gunmen, what they failed to realize was that people were precisely what they needed to heal themselves.

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Bullying will continue to be a problem as long as humans continue to be born different from one another, but that doesn’t mean that we cannot halt this isolation that is increasing for both boys and girls. One of the best gifts someone can give a child is confidence in themselves, and it is paramount that we do not abandon children at an early age because they are different. As a former camp counsellor, I personally witnessed the growth and development of hundreds of children, many of whom first walked in looking terrified of their new environment.

What we need to remember is that people never stop growing. High school and university are especially critical periods of growth, but adulthood can be just as precarious for a human. For those of you who are still in university, don’t cut ties with your group of friends even if you move far away for a job. Plan reunions, stay in touch, and keep that contact with each other as a regular part of your life. For those of you who fear they may be isolated: reach out in your community, volunteer, approach your co-workers about going out together. Find a source of human interaction available to you that is comfortable, but try to push beyond that level of comfort bit by bit.

For those of you who are fortunate to have a core group of friends close by: hang on to them, they provide more value to your life than you can ever know. Do not be afraid to reach out to those who may be feeling isolated. You could make a profound difference in their life and change their path forever.

It is impossible to predict these events with perfect certainty, but what we should be striving for is to reduce the chance that they ever occur again. It won’t end with stricter gun control, it won’t end by banning violent video games, and it won’t end by stricter policies on bullying. It ends with identifying those who are isolated and helping them connect with others as a fellow human being.

camp-counsellor-jobs-at-US-summer-camps2-626x245

When I was a camp counsellor, we had an acronym to remember when were greeting our campers, especially first-timers, on the opening day of a session: WESTI.

W – Wide Smile
E – Eye Contact
S – Stoop to their level
T – Tell them about yourself
I – Introduce them to others

No anti-gun law can stand to achieve what a simple introduction can.