Getting into this box is what's best for both of us. During your time in the box, you will learn so much, and yet experience so little. It's a wild ride, my friend, one well worth the time spent...and let's face it, you don't have much to do these days anyway.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Work with what you have.

When I was thirteen and in your equivalent of junior high (I think that's right, isn't it?), I scored well enough on my primary school leaving examinations to be admitted to one of the more prestigious independent schools in the nation. The principal was a complete narcissist who ran the school as a vehicle for the primary purpose of making himself look better, and surprisingly that was one of the reasons why the kids who actually enrolled there learned something, because he'd be put to shame otherwise.

I've spoken at length about my time in the Singapore version of the Hitler Jugend; about how my principal's excuse was "I want to make a leader out of everyone. Even if you're on the bottom of the ladder, you are a leader in your own way." Which was bullshit for the four years I wore a uniform as a cadet, and I never ended up being anywhere near a leadership position.

Preferred it that way, too.

Oh, I would like to lead, especially in times when I know I'm capable of it in terms of technical know-how. But coercing people to do what I want when I want is a hugely draining mental and moral effort, and one has to be a fool to believe that coercion isn't required at some level to keep people in line, unless you're dealing with insectoids from the planet Zog. It's not that I won't take it if required to. It's just that it's not sustainable. I just want to be left alone, get my memos as to what to do, and be allowed to complete my job in peace.

Another point: dress.

I'm a t-shirt and shorts man, or polo shirt and jeans if I'm feeling fancy. Oh sure, I can look smart in a blazer, long sleeves and a tie. I've done it before for presentations, interviews and other formal events, but dressing up, like social interaction, takes a conscious effort and I have to step back and recharge; it can't sustained indefinitely.

Now, one of my friends from my navy days loves dressing up any chance he can get, be it in number one (Singapore army code for full ceremonial dress; uniform sets are denoted by numbers. For example, camo fatigues is number four) or a suit and a tie. He doesn't have the money to be able to afford expensive wine, but he can order cheap wine in an expensive way, if you get what I mean.

When I drink wine, as per my sister's disastrous attempt to get me into wine-drinking, I throw up my guts the next morning without fail.

But what I'm getting at is that my friend can convincingly act the part of Sir William Buckley Fainshaw the Third, esquire, to put it in Cappy Cap's words. He's energised by social interactions and dressing up, while I'm not. If not for the wondrous power of the Navy, we'd probably never have met each other in the first place. And as Cappy Cap points out, you don't indebt yourself buying a luxury sports car trying to compete with those folks in the first place. Women who are attracted to such things, they'll smell you out for a fake within moments, and you'll be left with the physical and mental burden of carrying out a persona whom you aren't.

No, Cappy Cap says, what you do is buy a motorcycle instead and play the bad boy dark triad appeal; be Harley McBadboy instead of Sir William Buckley. Sure, you won't attract the women who go after sports cars, but would you really be happy trying to maintain a facade day in, day out? In the end, the whole point of game and avenues of other masculine self-improvement is to serve you. You, yourself, and no one else. If you don't get a net gain out of it, then why are you putting yourself through the wringer trying to prove you're someone you're not?

So I'm looking at what I have: an aversion to dressing up, as well as alcohol and smoke intolerance. Do I do my damndest to change my physical self, or is there any way I can turn these strikes against me into advantages?

Sure I can. Just because I'm a shorts and t-shirt man doesn't mean they have to be sloppy shorts and t-shirts. Polos and tees that show off my shoulders are easy enough to come by, as are shorts that don't end up with creases the moment one sits down. My body can't stand smoke or drink? Fine, I don't go to places or engage in activities that might conceivably end up in me having to do either of those things, or even create the expectation thereof. Head off to the local gym with a bunch of friends, everyone goes shirtless, talk, laugh, show off a little, demonstrate high value and comparative alpha when everyone else has let themselves go soft since navy days.

No one's going to expect that you dress up, drink or smoke in a gym. Or at a pool (in this country, at least). Or at a beach. Or in the middle of the wilderness (as it exists here) climbing up a hill. So you're not born to be Sir William Buckley, and your morals won't let you be Harley McBadboy. Sure, be Rough Rugged Ranger Ralph instead. Will Ralph be as effective as Sir William? He definitely won't be appealing to the same demographic as Sir William will, but he'll be himself, having improved to the fullest of his limits without having betrayed his core.

Double that if you're going to Average Joe's Gym where everyone knows each other, as opposed to Global Gym. (Points for anyone who gets the reference)

People associate Ralph with manly stubble, muscles flexing in interesting ways while chopping wood, kicking the shit out of cute fuzzy woodland animals, fresh air, and clean, rugged manliness. People don't put Ralph in a suit, that's for Sir William.

The difference between eccentric genius and dangerous insanity more often than not is about presentation. Ralph in his cabin can become the rugged, brooding trapper, rough around the edges and with a mysterious past waiting to be discovered by the doe-eyed heroine from the nearby logging town. Not that it won't be an uphill battle, especially if the townsfolk are spreading rumours that he's crazy, but Ralph won't be trying to defy physics by pretending he's Sir William Buckley. Conversely, with bad marketing to the hamster, (such as having the trappings but neither the culture nor core) Sir William can easily be seen as the layabout limp-wristed suck-up daddy's boy who has plenty of money but not much in the way of power.

You can put a monkey in a suit, but at the end of the day the monkey will still be a monkey. Sure, if something is disgustingly anti-game and needs to be changed, then do it. Not all things are twistable with marketing - you can put sprinkles and powdered sugar on a cowpat, but that won't turn it into chocolate ice-cream.

But when you have a spanner, a screwdriver and a saw, might as well do a rain check and see if those are sufficient for the job instead of rushing out to buy a power drill at great cost and drilling a hole through your hand.

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