Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Real Life Beta: The College Years

By Kyle Slavin

College is a beautiful mess.

From the safe and protected confines of their hometown, the college student is plucked from their life-long friends and their regular home-cooked meals. They are then placed in the most chaotic situation conceivable. Legions of lost strangers surround them in an unfamiliar town, with all of the worst influences now available for consumption. Hormones are flaring, and while these young men and women struggle to feed themselves, sleep and bathe regularly, they are also expected to study for the hardest classes they’ve ever taken.

If they make it out alive, they still have to find a job!

There is a saying in the professional sphere: “It’s like learning to drink from a fire hose.” Like throwing a new swimmer in the deep end, our society shocks our new students with more than they can logically handle, just to see what they’re made of. Sometimes, it is necessary to evolve by force.

College is a time to prepare yourself for the rest of your life. And we believe that there is as much to learn outside the classroom as there is inside. Learn from all your experiences, not just your lectures, and you will prepare yourself far better for your future.

For example, here are some parallels between college and what you can expect from the real world:

Your Professor Is Your Manager

There are few of us who will go on to be our own boss. This means that much of your work life will involve pleasing someone else who has authority over you. This is far easier said than done. Think of your classroom as a department that you work in, and your professor as your manager.  Your ability to stand out and out-perform your coworkers - the other students - is pivotal in your own success.  

To accomplish this, make yourself seen. (This is where office hours come in key.) In your work, don't try to perfect the ordinary - your professor has seen the same assignment and papers handed in a million times.  Instead, attempt the extraordinary. The effort will be unique and noted, resulting in a more memorable student profile and better grades.

Besides, your parents need encouragement to keep those checks coming.

You Are The Company You Keep

College is a unique opportunity to start from scratch socially.  You will be inundated with new people, all of whom are looking for companionship as well. But before you start wearing a funny hat and ad-libbing your own personal history (as I did), there are a few checks to run your new potential besties through.  

First, no matter what their intentions are, make sure that their behavior is in line with yours. Even if they are perfect angles during the day, if they are drunken womanizers at night, you will be painted with the same brush stroke.

Next, make sure that they support you as much as you support them.  You will learn that every relationship should be balanced and fair. If they bail on you once, they will most certainly repeat that behavior.

Finally, be yourself.  The sooner you come to terms with what you like, who you are, and what you want to accomplish in life, the more genuine your friends will be. This will forever be true, even in your eventual business partnerships. It's hard to keep up a front, but it's even harder to keep an entire fake relationship.  

Don't Be Afraid

In college, you are thrust into an excessive amount of unfamiliar scenarios. Guess what - that doesn't change with time. Walking into an exam is like walking into a big business meeting, and impressing "that girl" at the party is just like nailing a really important interview.  

No matter the situation, your own confidence and self-assurance will put you in the advantage.  Even as a college kid, you have the unbelievable potential to talk yourself into - or out of - any pressure situation.  Just roll confidently, trust that you will make the best decisions, and "OWN IT!"

Due Diligence is Worth It

A smarter man than I once spoke of taking pride in nailing the little daily chores. "If you don't have the time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"* This is true in your weekly studying just as it is true for eventually paying your bills and your mortgage. The annoyance is small, the task is minimal, but if you don't put out the fire instantly it will burn into an inferno.  

There is always, ALWAYS something you would rather be doing, and if you get in the practice of procrastinating, it is nearly impossible to break out of it.  Even if you do some extra work that you didn't have to do, you still come out ahead.  And the lack of stress will be a welcomed relief for "Future You".

Everything in Moderation

College is the first time in your life that the training wheels are completely off.  You can eat, drink, study, sleep, party, and work out - or, you can do one of these in excess. It is vitally important, a crucial life lesson, that you don't over-do it on your body.  

There are an infinite amount of coping mechanisms. If you study too much, you may feel like you deserve a big night out. Trust me, this will do you more harm than good. As the stress increases, coping mechanisms become obsessions, and obsessions begin to hamper your mental and physical health.  Even if you believe you can handle a really bad meal or a drink-fest once, it rarely ends after that one time.  

Just feel comfortable in your expenditures of energy, time, effort, and comfort.  If you think you've studied too long, take a walk.  If you are tired but your friends are still up and raring to go, feel comfortable in calling it a night.  Don't force yourself into anything, and you'll be far more productive on the tasks you do wish to accomplish.


Remember - college, like life, is chaos.  It is up to you to create order and a system that works for you. No one knows you better than you know yourself.  Do what you enjoy, and do your best at it. It is remarkable how often good fortune happens to those who follow their own path.  College is simply your opportunity to branch out and see what works for you, so you can build on “you” for the rest of your life.

* John Wooden

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Create Your Character: The G-Point Game

By Kyle Slavin

I propose we play a game.

The game is based upon a points system. The only way to play this game is to think about it. As soon as you think about the game, you are an active player, and you begin building points.

You just earned your first point right now.

Every point boosts your character value. Like in some other Role Playing Games, the goal of the G-Point Game is to accumulate the most value possible before time expires. (Gulp!)

To earn points, you must engage in acts of positivity. They come in two forms: externally positive and internally positive. An example of an External Point is opening the door for someone. An example of an Internal Point is dressing yourself tastefully.

Points have varying weight depending on their influence. Loaning your car to someone is worth three external points, and adds a substantial value to your character worth. Training for and running a marathon is worth five internal points, and is also a great value addition.  (A bad tip is a negative external point.)

Once you have built up enough value points, greater missions and responsibilities unlock for you.  

The easy way to tell if you are gaining points is by your overall confidence ability. A character of great value will be able to handle higher levels of conflict, just as Link or  Mario may handle stronger enemies in later levels.  

There are missions in G-Point, but they coincide with life goals rather than arbitrary tasks. Get promoted, and you level up. Find an excellent partner for you, and you level up again. Unlock access into private clubs, hotel room suites, executive offices and huge houses. Just by accumulating these G-Points.

This is the most realistic and lifelike RPG that has ever been created. You can literally FEEL your character getting more powerful as you build him!

You have a health meter, and if you drink or smoke too much it gets low. You have a charisma meter that builds when things are going well for you.

The only drawback is the lack of cheat codes and power-ups. But, then again, they only hinder you in the long run.  

Since you are now playing this game, you realize the obvious power and substantial influence you can have just by building your character, point by point. You will become a greater player in this game: you will be smarter, healthier, more athletic, look better, and have much more attention from the other players in the game. And as they see your success, THEY start to play the game as well!

Eventually, we will have a culture of G-Point players, all helping each other, all bettering themselves through the accumulation of positive points. Imagine a society full of these players, all contributing in a positive way, all aiding their fellow players as they progress through the game.

You can customize your character to your liking, and enable the world for him. And in return, you grow and succeed, one value point at a time.

Why can’t real life be like this?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Gentleman Project

By Kyle Slavin
A movement of value.  This is what we hope to accomplish.  A movement of people who wish to bring value and positivity into a world filled with tactlessness.  Whether it is a kind gesture or a well placed compliment, a held door or a “bless you” after a sneeze, we wish to ignite a passion in the men who follow us.

Just by reading this, you have sparked an interest. You WANT to be a gentleman.  You wish to be the classiest version of yourself possible, and you KNOW the endless amount of possibilites that open for you, as a gentleman.

Why not be better?  Why not look better?  Why not feel empowered in your own skin?

We all have the ability to be superheroes, to walk the streets as men of greatness.  To wear the best outfit we have, and to act as the best we know.  To show empathy, humility, and class, regardless of the situation or stress involved.  And to be the best version of ourselves, no matter what may try to keep us from it.

To move as the Gentlemen move, as the great men before us have done.

There is literally nothing stopping you.  You CAN learn the style and class of a well-trimmed custom suit.  You SHOULD learn how to tie a bow-tie.  And you WILL be able to woo your lady by showing the perfect grace and honor that she deserves, because that is the way it has been passed down to us.  

This is how we learn what to teach our children.  A life of value.  A life of success.  And a life with the constant desire and achievement of our highest capability.  

A Gentleman is made, not born, and it starts with you.

* * *

This week, we are recruiting trainees for the Gentleman Project.  

Like a flash-mob of chivalry and etiquette, we are descending on high-populous areas and simply being the best we can be.  We are opening doors, greeting strangers, smiling, helping folks across the street, picking up litter, and doing all the honorable acts that our ideal selves should be doing.  

We are the strongest.  We are the most honorable.  We are the Gentleman Project.

We hope that our acts and good graces will elicit a change in the mentality of the Modern Men around us.  No longer will selfish acts and egotism rule the day.  

We believe that the only way to raise the value of society is as one Gentleman at a time.  Join us in our vision of a better and tasteful lifestyle.  What can YOU do to be a Gentleman today?

You are now a part of this movement.  In a time of chaos and tumult, vulgarity and bad taste, the American Gentleman wishes to begin the greatest movement of value.  

Will you join us, Gentlemen?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Color Commentary: A Complimentary Blog

By Kyle Slavin
It is time to discuss the most important, most abstract, and most objective aspect of a gentleman’s attire - accent colors.

We have spoken at lengths about the quality of fabric, the importance of tailoring, the style, the fit, and the history behind dressing well and looking good. (For example, our contributors could write the detailed lifeline of a high-quality suit, from sheep to shoulders. We just won’t let them.)

But what of color? Matching a man’s palette to their suit tone, pairing their primary color with accents and flair - there are an endless amount of possible missteps that a gentleman can make just by getting dressed in the morning.

Essentially, your overall appearance is a gauge by which others take “you” in. Bland color choices denote a bland character, and bold color choices mirror similar personality traits. For example, a purple tie and kerchief on a slate gray suit can project daring and liveliness in its wearer, but it only “works” if the guy wearing it is in fact lively and daring.

You are what you project. Bold choices denote a bold character, and the stronger the statement means the longer your image lasts.

Let’s get some basics down:

(Disclaimer: NEVER put pattern on pattern, no matter what the color may be. Checkered ties primarily pair with single-color shirts. And make sure stripes never attempt to complement stripes. It won’t work!)

THE BLACK SUIT - A staple of our business culture, this is the staunchest “frame” there is. Color-wise, black is the ultimate base and stands to contrast any bold complimentary color. (Yes, you can get away with a fuchsia or a bright red accent, but you better have a big personality.) And as the suit softens into a slate or metal gray, so too can your shirt and tie soften in hue.

BLUE - Traditionally a calming and soothing color that reflects intelligence and safety. Hence, many corporations’ logos involve blue, as do the clothing choices of those who work there. A safe choice in any environment, blue pairs well with a gray suit, and can be easily accented with a yellow tie (or vice versa). So, you have a big interview lined up? Be safe, wear blue.

PURPLE AND GREEN - These are the classic colors of royalty. They represent power and nobility, as they did back in Ancient Rome. Elegantly understated if worn correctly, the purple must air on the violet/softer side, and the green must be a vibrant and dark Emerald shade. As for suit accompaniment, purple tends to look better with a slate or pinstripe gray suit, whereas the green can be worn with either a blue or black suit. Both colors pair with a deep gold tie, as Rolex and the L.A. Laker uniforms exemplify. Go LA!

RED - Want to live dangerously? Try red - this color projects liveliness, fire, unpredictability, and emotion. It is instantly the most bold shade in the room, and it must be worn by someone who must instantly be noticed (think Jessica Rabbit). As the color red brings such a strong statement, it is difficult to pair with any color but black or white. No other color can hold up.

YELLOW AND ORANGE - As a primary color, stay away from yellow. Yellow elicits anxiety, frustration, and anger. Of all the colors of the spectrum, yellow is the brightest and most difficult for the eye to absorb. Yellows work well as an accent to a variety of blues and greens (see above), but there’s a reason that this color is a synonym for “cowardly”.

As for orange, unless it is late October, we would recommend against it as well. Our sources describe orange as “spontaneous and uplifting”, but it comes across as a weak and reserved color choice. Pairing horribly with most accompanying hues, it is our professional suggestion to steer clear of the citrus.

IN CLOSING, take the time to consider your pairings. Assemble your ensemble. Configure your display. For every man exists the right colors, creating an image that issues a statement long before any words are spoken.

We are all superheroes, and our outfits have power. What should your power be?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Not All Savings are Equal: The Importance of Spending on Things That Matter

By Kyle Slavin
Let’s be honest for a second. We’ve all taken a hit over the last few years, and that hit was focused directly on our wallets. Target acquired: bank account eliminated, ramen noodles for a month. Even the most lavish of folks are cutting back on their expenditures, thinking out their financial plans well in advance, and adjusting accordingly to this awful economy. But remember: there is a difference between the frugal and the fiscally anemic, the spendthrift and the downright broke. 

The difference lies in the planning and research behind your purchases.

Use this moment to understand the usability and value in your spending – believe it or not, this affects you every single day of your life. Is it more valuable to save $50 at the grocery store, or to save $50 on a pair of jeans? To eat at a high-end restaurant on one fancy night, or to overspend on drinks every weekend? And when is it prudent to pay more for something of value?

Let’s start in a simple “dos and don’ts” format:

DO map out your monthly payments, and compare them to your incoming funds. This sounds like the simplest advice ever, but you would be surprised at how many folks don’t make a balance sheet. If you bring in $3500 a month, you may think you can afford to buy the satellite cable package on first glance.  (“But it has HBO for free!” No, it doesn’t.)  Tally up those bills, and you may realize that after rent, car payment, gym membership, and your custom laser hair removal, you only have $200 to work with. And you haven’t even eaten yet! Be smart – plan ahead.

DON’T buy out of want, but rather out of need. For example, a certain American Gentleman writer is an avid basketball player. He finds himself with five or six pairs of basketball shoes at any given time, and he knows they each cost $70 or more.  For someone so fiscally responsible, how could this happen?

Well, between sly corporate advertising and our own personal dependences, most of us have a weak spot somewhere. His just happened to be basketball shoes.

To combat this, he first realized his weakness and addressed it: no more shoes until the previous pair were a liability. That means no matter what sales there were, no matter what brands were offered, he  had to stick to his guns. With time and wear, those six pairs of shoes whittled down to two pairs, a much more manageable number, and he ended up saving around $70 every couple months. 

So, whats YOUR weakness?

DO spend more on something that will last longer, or get more use. In the long run, this will save you money.  Do you wear jeans every day? From a fashion standpoint, you shouldn’t, but that’s not the point. If you utilize those jeans regularly, it is worth it to get the costlier brand-name pair rather than the discount pair. Yes, it is more expensive. But they will last longer, look better, and be more reliable in hems, buttons, and inseams than the alternative. What’s the point of saving a couple bucks if you are going to wear them out sooner, and have to buy jeans again?

This same mentality applies to anything you use every day. If you put on cologne every time you step out of the shower (as you should), make your purchase on the right scent and not the right price. If you find yourself constantly in a suit and tie, spend the extra $200 to make sure that the fabric will not wear, and will fit you fashionably. You will feel better, act more confident, and end up saving money in the long run.

DON’T make purchases based on your ideal behaviors, but on your actions. We all have tennis rackets, surf boards, jewelry, musical instruments, and bicycles that only exist to collect dust. We frown at them, wasting away in a corner, never to see the light of day.  Why did we buy that!?

If you want to start a new hobby or a new look, don’t purchase everything first. Try it out for a month, and see if it is something that will realistically enter into your life. If that means borrowing a friend’s trombone for a little while to make sure your neighbors are okay with it first, then go borrow it! The marching band can wait!

DO treat yourself, but make sure it’s something worth the treat! In Los Angeles, we have recently found that a casual night of drinks and appetizers can hit the $100 threshold with lightning speed. And that’s on happy hour!

What we realized is that a night at Mastro’s at $175 is a much more economic and worthwhile expenditure than several nights at Pink Taco at $100.  You are allowed to splurge! Just make sure that it’s not every week, and that it’s something worth splurging upon. 

*             *             *

Spending money to save money may seem counterintuitive, but it is a smart practice. If you are wise in your purchases, you will enjoy them for a longer duration – and look good doing it.

This behavior is available to men in any income bracket, and worth considering. To be his best, the Gentleman must feel his best, and that means taking pride in the clothes, style, and accessories with which he surrounds himself.

Be smart. Buy smarter. And good luck with those trombone lessons.