As I may have mentioned before, I’m still pursuing my college degree, mostly out of masochism, but also due to a deeply rooted sense of self-hatred. Due to the fact that I have an actual job (unlike most college students and, apparently, most college graduates from the last few years) this means I have to take night classes. (Online courses? Never heard of them. I go to a school whose motto is “Where crushing innovation is tradition.”) What with the commute from work, parking, and the scheduling of such things, my classes don’t start until after 7PM and run until 10PM. This has given me the opportunity to learn some lessons that I believe would translate well into the business environment, lessons that are more implicit in nature. They won’t show up on any tests, but believe me; they’ll be more valuable than knowing who was the first Roman Emperor.
First, respect my time. This covers a lot of ground, but the first example I’ll give is the guy in class who asks a question (usually at the end of class when everyone wants to go home) that is completely irrelevant to everyone but him. For every minute you are speaking, you are wasting a minute of every single other person’s time in the class. Do that in a meeting in a business environment and you’ll be lucky if you’re politely told to “take it offline”, which is a nice way to say STFU and discuss it later. If you’re unlucky you’ll just be told STFU.
The flip side of this is the professor who keeps the class past the scheduled time. Look, I realize you think your bloviating is the most important thing in the universe, and we’re all paying just for the privilege of hearing it. Let me correct that misperception: we’re paying for the degree. Listening to you drone on is part of the price, not a benefit. In a business environment the guy who drones on like this doesn’t get invited to meetings, which is a great strategy right up until you discover you’re out of the loop, not involved in projects, and oh yeah, no longer necessary at this company and there’s the door.
Second, respect my opinions. I’m not suggesting you have to agree with everything I have to say (lord knows I think 90% of people are idiots), but at least hear me out. And don’t just sit there spending the time planning what you’re going to say when my lips stop moving, actually listen to what I’m saying. Process the information, and form a cogent response. Even more importantly, be aware of whether you are actually adding value to the conversation or if you are only speaking because you feel the need to “get your two cents in”. The guy who has to be heard on every issue is the guy who nobody wants to work with, and believe me when I say that there is nobody who is so highly skilled that they are irreplaceable if they are intolerable.
Third, respect the space. I don’t know what it is about night courses, but people come in with food and drinks all the time (too rushed to grab dinner on the way in, I guess) and then leave their trash lying there when they finish. This kind of disrespect for public space says as much about you as your appearance. Whether or not there’s janitorial staff is irrelevant; that’s the moral equivalent of saying “Mom will pick it up.” Act like an adult and clean up after yourself. There are plenty of public spaces in an office, such as meeting rooms, kitchens, and break rooms, and if you treat them the same way as you treat those classrooms, you’re going to find yourself out on the trash heap next to your trash.
It doesn’t take much, but it makes a big difference. Pay attention to these little details, show a little respect, and you’ll be a better student and a better coworker.
Ladies and gentlemen, despite my vigorous protests to the contrary, My Not So Humble Wife insists on informing you about our most time-honored tradition.
On our first date, I quite matter-of-factly told My Not So Humble Husband that he would fall in love with me and that we would end up getting married. This was really meant more as a warning than an aspiration. I just knew. However, I made this lofty proclamation BEFORE we actually moved in together.
Anyone who has moved in with a boyfriend or girlfriend will know that the honeymoon period soon comes to an end in the face of annoying habits, money problems, chore quarrels, and the long disputed toilet seat position. For a while, I wasn’t sure we going to make it. I thought I might end up suffocating him in his sleep with the dirty socks he habitually left on the carpet; or perhaps that I would die an agonizing death of a thousand dull cuts after shaving my legs with his razor… again.
What helped us finally reach a livable equilibrium was the Dance of Shame. After one particularly bad argument, over something I don’t remember, we had both reached that point where neither one of use wanted to apologize but we didn’t really want to be angry at each other anymore either. Sullenly, My Not So Humble Husband approached me in the kitchen and started rocking back on forth from foot to foot with his hands going up and down in the air in time with his steps. I was so surprised I had to break the after argument silence to ask what in the world he was doing. He replied that he was doing the Dance of Shame. I laughed so hard I cried and nearly peed myself. Thus a new marriage coping mechanism was born.
The thing is, it’s really hard to be angry with someone when they are doing the Dance of Shame. It’s just so ridiculous that you pretty much have to laugh. Also, having been the Dancer of Shame on more than one occasion, I can tell you that it is sometimes easier to submit yourself to the Dance than it might actually be to say the words “I’m sorry”.
Once in my classroom of 8th grade students we were talking about conflict resolution and I made the horrible mistake of telling the students about our Dance of Shame. “Do the Dance of Shame! Do the Dance of Shame!” the adolescent monsters chanted. After making the logical argument that I hadn’t done anything shameful enough to deserve the Dance of Shame, they finally quieted down. Two full weeks later, I made a math error on the board. These same students, who can’t even remember to bring a PENCIL to class on a regular basis, somehow remembered about the Dance of Shame. Eventually I had to perform it for them before we could return to polynomials in peace.
So keep the Dance of Shame in mind the next time you need to break the awkward silence of an argument gone on to long, but also BEWARE ITS POWER.
I used to read a lot of web comics a while ago, back before I had more important and useful things to do with my free time (like writing this fantastic blog for your pleasure and amusement), and inevitably the same scenario would evolve. Whether it took a few months or a few years (and it was usually closer to a few months), the web comic writer would manage to drop a post, miss a deadline, forget to put something up, or just be unable to come up with something, and they would usually substitute some variation on the “sorry, my bad” post.
This post would occasionally be in the form of a quick sketch, although surprisingly often it would take the form of a lengthy written tirade. Sometimes there wouldn’t even be a gesture at an explanation, just an absence where entertainment used to be, and if you were lucky it would appear again the next time there was a scheduled update, with nobody the wiser as to what had happened. The times when an explanation was forthcoming would occasionally be accompanied with promises of making the next deadline (which might or might not happen), and other times there would be the dreaded “indefinite hiatus”.
Almost universally in these instances the artist attempt some sort of justification. The two most common flavors depended on whether the artist in question considered themselves an amateur or a professional, and to be honest I don’t know which one bothered me more. In the case of the amateur, they would usually invoke “real life”. This one goes like this: “Hi everybody, I’m really sorry to do this to you, but the truth is I’m not a professional cartoonist. This isn’t my day job, and I don’t get paid to do this. I do this for fun, as a hobby and as a way to relax, and I just haven’t found it very relaxing lately.”
My special issue with these guys is that in most cases these “amateurs” have a tip jar right there on the front screen of their comic, usually with one of their characters being all cute and begging for money. Now I may not have to pay for content, but the fact is you are asking to get paid for this gig, so to turn around and say you aren’t getting paid is at least a little disingenuous. A lack of success in achieving your goals is not the same thing as not having tried (otherwise “attempted murder” wouldn’t be a crime). Assuming anybody actually did hit the tip jar means now you’re a liar as well.
Which brings me to the “professionals”. This is their day job (or they at least are trying to make it one), and their approach is something like this: “Hey everybody, sorry, I feel really bad about this but I got nothing today. I’, really trying to make a living at this, and I feel really bad about this, and I know I’m really letting my fans down, and I should be doing better, etc.” They then go on to beat themselves up for another few paragraphs. Here’s the hard truth they don’t want to hear: I don’t care. All those lovely “fans” who write nice things like “hey, take the time you need, we just want a good story”, and those lovely things? They are enabling your first world problems.
The next issue I have in both of these cases is the implication that somehow “real life” suddenly “caught up” to them. Sorry, not buying it. Short of jail, hospital, or morgue, there are very few events that you couldn’t have seen coming and planned ahead for. More likely you ran out of inspiration or got lazy, and the sad fact that you spent time writing out a letter justifying that rather than making at least some attempt to put something up speaks volumes about how you feel about your art. Having spent more than a year churning out over 500 words three times a week, I’ve learned something: creating content, even crap content, is hard. Creating QUALITY content? That’s damn near impossible. But it’s the gig we chose, and nobody forced it on us.
Whether you’re doing is as a hobby and you hope other people enjoy it, or you’re trying to make a living at it, it’s your choice. You decided this is what you’re going to do, this is what you’re going to invest your time and your effort in, and that’s what you should do. If you decide to abandon it, at least have the courtesy to leave a note on the door on your way out in case you did have a fan who drops by now and then, but please, no more self-indulgent whining about how you’re just not able to come up with anything today.
If you’re sick or you just don’t have it in you, hey, that’s fine. It happens. Get somebody to fill in for you. Make sure you have a buffer. If nothing else, sometimes you just have to make it up as you go along and hope something comes to you.
Like I just did.
1. Laugh. No matter how bad your day is, no matter what you are facing, you can always laugh. Even gallows humor is still humor, and laughter can make the best day better or the worst day that slightest bit less awful. If nothing else it might throw people off long enough for you to figure out what to do next.
2. Read. It really doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you read something. While I prefer a good book, a magazine can be an acceptable alternative, and there are some excellent blogs out there that are full of sage wisdom (mine, for example). Even if you only read the ingredients on the back of the package your dinner came in, you’ll learn something. Most likely you’ll learn never to read the ingredients on the back of the package your dinner came in, as well as the number of the nearest Chinese takeout.
3. Think. I know this sounds obvious, and people think they do it every day, but the truth is they don’t. Most people, after reaching a certain age, go through their lives on auto-pilot. It is only in the rare moment of panic and confusion that they wake up for a brief second and actually react to what is going on around them, usually long enough to mutter “I do,” put a ring on someone else’s finger, and go back to sleep for another twenty years. Pause for at least a few minutes every day and actually think about something, anything. Consider what it means, the ramifications of it, and the implications of the ramifications. Chase it as far down the rabbit hole as you can. Then get back to work, the boss is looking.
4. Play. While I generally regard people who use phrases like “the wisdom of a child” as having the intelligence of a child, this is one of the few things I would suggest people should emulate children in, at least to some small degree. When children play, they are fearless; they throw themselves into it with the entirety of their being, no reservations, and no concerns. There is no part of them wondering about the big test tomorrow, they aren’t concerned about the mortgage, they simply give themselves over to the moment and play. Finding that same sense of release is good for the soul. I promise those burdens will still be there waiting for you when you are done.
5. Love. This is the tough one, because I am going to say something completely contrary to everything you have ever heard: do not love unconditionally. Love with conditions. Love with requirements. Put essential demands on your love. I do not mean that you should barter your love for trinkets, but rather that you should only give love where you get love back. Unrequited love is not poetic, it is pathetic. Find someone who loves you, and love them in return. Show your love, share your love, and every single day make sure to let them know you love.
Dear Madame Curie,
I desperately need the advice of a strong woman like you. I have a major crush on this guy at school, and I really want to tell him, but none of my friends like him. I’m also kind of a nerd, and he’s a football player, so I doubt he’d even be interested. Not to mention he probably doesn’t even know I exist. But I really do think he’s great. What should I do?
Unclear in Love
Dear Radiant Love,
Here’s the thing: I can see right through all of your excuses. You’re scared, and that’s understandable. What if he doesn’t feel the same way? What if things don’t work out? What if your parents forbid you to see him? What if, what if, what if…? But you need to take risks for the things you want in this world. Is there a chance you could get hurt? Of course there is, but nothing worthwhile comes without a price. If you truly wish to achieve success in life, regardless of your pursuit, you must commit yourself completely. Only then will you attain the prize you seek.
Dear Dr. Heisenberg,
I have been dating the same girl for a couple months now, and I thought everything was going just fine. Then the other week she started talking marriage. It seemed totally out of the blue to me, but she acted like it was the most natural thing in the world! It’s not that I’m totally against the idea of getting married, but I’m not sure we’re ready for that conversation yet, you know? Which one of us is right?
Uncertainly In Love
Dear Entangled Pair,
I understand your uncertainty, but you need to stand by your principles. You need to figure out where you are in this relationship before you decide how fast you want to move forward with it. While it may feel as if your partner is exerting an irresistible force on you, you need to remain positive and understand that you are not merely a neutral observer in this. You have to take charge and decide for yourself what you want, and then communicate that effectively. The release in tension you feel will be massive.
Dear Mr. Einstein sir,
My name is Jenny and I have a problem and I hope you can help me. I was going stedy with a boy at skool and I thout everything was fine and I really liked him and I thought he really liked me and then one day he really didn’t like me anymore and now Im very sad and I don’t know what to do.
Ach, the ways of love are more mysterious than the ways of the cosmos. It is easier to understand the structure of the universe than the structure of a man’s heart. Sadly, it has been my experience that emotions, much like matter and energy, can never truly be destroyed; they can only be changed from one to another. In this same way it seems as if this young man who once professed to have a deep Liebe for you has now seen it transformed in the crucible of time to its opposite. I can only offer you the solace of knowing that as strong as his passion is now so it was then, and if you can find the source of the change you may be able to turn him back if it is not too late and you are still interested in making the effort.
I’ve gotten myself into a pickle and I can’t see a way out. There’s a girl I’ve been with for a couple years, and the truth is we only started dating because nobody else would have either one of us. At the time I was kind of chunky, and she’s… well, she’s kind of plain on a good day. She’s a good friend, and we enjoy a lot of the same things, but there’s no real spark. This summer I started working out a lot and I finally got into shape. I also started getting some real attention from other girls, including a girl I’ve had my eye on for a long time. Would it be wrong of me to break it off with the girl I’m dating to pursue the girl I really want? Does that make me shallow that I’m that concerned about the way she looks?
Dear Muscular Mind,
I would theorize you have found yourself in a love triangle… without the love. It is a shame you do not feel eros for the lady you have, and the theia mania has been granted to you for one you have not, but the gods make fools of us all. Still, if philia is not enough to sustain you, and I have never seen it to be such in any man (and certainly not in a young man), it would be an unkindness bordering on cruelty to continue your current relationship regardless of whether your eye strays or if there are others who suddenly find you appealing. But before you sever the ties you have, consider carefully the value of what you are giving up. As you have changed, so may she; and what you once were you may be again. The alchemy of fitness may have worked wonders on a maiden’s eye, but it will do little to sway her heart, and you may find yourself twice alone and twice bereft before you know it.
I’ve never really been a fan of self-congratulatory blog posts, but hey, as of yesterday My Not So Humble Opinion turned a year older (and by coincidence so did I), so I thought I’d take a little time to look back and reflect on what happened.
First, and I can’t say thank you nearly enough, over 20,000 views. I have to admit I’m more than a lot astounded by this. When I started this blog I expected it to be myself, family, and maybe a few friends reading it occasionally, and that was about it. If I got 500 views I would have considered that a success.
I got Freshly Pressed a few times! I can’t even begin to say what an honor that’s been. Of course I think my writing is great, but to have someone else affirm it is something else entirely. Affirmation, even.
Perhaps the greatest thing of all is that I was endorsed (okay, one blog post was endorsed) by the always amazing Christopher Titus. Yes, you read that right. On his official Facebook page. I tell you, moments like that make it all worthwhile. That and the adulation of my legions of fans.
Oh, didn’t I mention? Over 850 followers so far, and I love each and every one of you in a very deep and personal way. But not in a creepy way. Just a very deep, personal, likely to soon involve a restraining order sort of way.
Of course I can’t forget to mention my fantastic guest bloggers, My Not So Humble Wife Leigh Bonsall and Keri Anderson of Heels First Travel and Keri on Life (both of which are great blogs and if you don’t already follow them you should go check them out now. We’ll wait for you.) Both lovely ladies have been a tremendous help in providing me with fantastic content when I needed it the most.
Most recently I managed to bring Bobapalooza to the masses. This is one of my favorite projects that I’m involved with, and I hope you all enjoyed it as much as I did.
If anyone is interested in my advice for success (such as it is), I would offer three points:
- Always focus on fresh content. Yes, I know, advertising, SEO, game the system any way you can. But here’s the thing: all of that takes time and money you can also (and more easily) spend generating fresh content, which works for you in more ways, like getting you re-posted, Freshly Pressed (why else be on WordPress?), shared, tweeted, and all the free media you can imagine. It also gets people coming back, and that’s worth a lot more than any advertising or SEO in the world.
- Pick a schedule and stick to it. When people know to expect updates from you, they get in the routine of reading you. You want to be a part of their routine. Morning cup of coffee, feed the cat, read your blog. Like clockwork. If you fall off your schedule they stop reading (even if you have a good excuse), so don’t fall off.
- Have a solid buffer. Before I even started I have 2-3 weeks worth of content in the can, and I didn’t even touch most of it for a solid two months because I was always writing fresh stuff. Eventually life caught up to me and I ran out, but I plan to refill it, and I still make sure to hit every update.
- Make friends and line up guest bloggers early. The only thing better than content in the can is good stuff from someone else. It makes your page look fresh, interesting, and expands your appeal.
That’s my thoughts anyway. It’s gotten me this far.
Now for the stats geeks out there, here’s some fun numbers:
- The most frequent search term that brought people to MNSHO was “abe lincoln”. The second most frequent was “abraham lincoln”. The third most frequent was “misogynistic tendencies”. What does that say about me?
- The most popular post of the year, not surprisingly, was “Dating Advice from Philosophers” (soon to be a major motion picture starring Brad Pitt). The second most popular (not counting the homepage/archive) was “How To Get What You Want Without Really Trying”, followed by “The War on Christmas” (being Freshly Pressed really pays off). The most popular non-FP post was “Dating Advice From Historical Figures”. Everybody needs love, I guess.
- I’ve gotten the most views from the U.S., followed by the U.K., Canada, and India, with the Philippines and Australia close behind. Hi there!
- I’ve had 170 posts so far, and I have plenty more to come.
Whether you’re a relatively new reader or you’ve been around since day one, I want to thank you again for being here. I’m committed (and some say I should be), and plan to keep going for at least another year.
Let’s enjoy it together, shall we?
As the weather changes, a young man’s fancy turns to love, and My Not So Humble Wife’s fancy turns to… well, I’ll let you decide. But be assured the opinions herein are entirely her own. Especially the ones where she makes me out to be anything less than perfect. Which I am.
This week the annual tradition of putting off mowing the lawn for the first time of the year came to a close as our grass topped out at eight inches and started to go to seed like a field of wheat. Even though I live with My Not So Humble Husband and our two male Not So Humble Roommates, I was the first to break, and had to haul the mower from the stale smelling shed which had become home to hundreds of crickets, all of whom took umbrage to my lawn care intrusion.
As I started the mower and set into my mowing pattern, I realized again why mowing was one of my least favorite chores. Lawn mowing is sweaty, dirty, hard work. I’d put it at a dead heat with cleaning the toilet, but probably not as bad as having to de-clog the sinks and tubs.
But it’s the weird looks I get from my neighbors as they drive, jog, or walk by that I had forgotten about during the cold, hay-fever free months. For all the years I’ve lived in this home, when I mow the lawn I get a variety of looks which are usually some mixture of confusion, surprise, and suspicion.
In the fantastic movie Django (which I saw this weekend) there is a scene where a white German bounty hunter and the freed slave Django ride into a small southern town. When the German asks Django why the locals are staring slack-jawed and wide-eyed he replies, “They ain’t never seen no nigger on a horse before.”
Then it hit me. Maybe a woman mowing the lawn is a just a little bit like a “nigger on a horse”. It makes people a little uncomfortable because it’s unusual and generally a “man-chore”. I never noticed it before because, even though I grew up mowing the lawn on a half-acre lot, we lived in the back of a cul-de-sac away from regular neighborhood traffic.
I’m not pointing this out because I think we need gender equality in lawn mowing; I just think it’s interesting. Next time you’re driving through your neighborhood on a sunny Sunday, see how many of the people that are out mowing their lawns are women.
And for all you lawn mowers out there, be you of either gender, here’s some tips on how to mow the lawn like a girl:
- Get someone else to do it, or at least make them clean the toilet.
- If that fails, dress in jeans, not shorts, to avoid rocks and sticks. Also, apply water resistant bug spray.
- Get a self-propelled mower if you don’t already have one. It’s worth it.
- Mow the most visible part of your yard first, that way if you get tired and decide to pack it in your neighbors won’t complain for a few more days.
- Don’t bag your grass cuttings. If you need a good excuse to justify the laziness, it’s actually more environmentally friendly because it reduces run-off and soil erosion. Take that snotty lawn neighbor!
- If you’ve let your lawn get really long (no judgment) mow in a circular pattern with the blower facing away from the uncut side. If the blower is on the right side of the mower, that will be counter-clockwise. This keeps your mower from getting clogged with cuttings and will save you a lot of time.
- If you ignored my sage advice and your mower gets clogged, don’t tip it to the side with the tank full. This will just flood your air filter with gas and the mower won’t run. Tip the mower to the back at a low angle and remove the excess cuttings from between the blade and the cover.
Finally, if people keep looking at you weird, have some fun with them. You can do something gross like spitting or scratching your butt, look at them with an expression of shock and shake your head in disgust to leave them wondering, or rev the mower engine and challenge them to a race. Be creative!Other posts from My Not So Humble Wife:
Some of the worst advice I have ever heard is “do what you love for a living”, or alternatively “do something you would do even if you weren’t getting paid, and then find a way to get paid doing it.” This advice is generally given either by people who are miserable in their own life choices and wish they had found a way to make this fantasy come true, or else it is the sort of illusory advice given by type-A personality entrepreneurs who would find success in anything they do because they are so driven they WILL succeed, even if they have to grab success by the throat and chokehold it into submission.
There are two inherent flaws with this advice as I see it, and I’ll break them down one at a time. The first is the fallacy of “do what you would even if you weren’t getting paid”. I honestly don’t know many people who have a passion for something that extends far enough to cover a career. Sure, plenty of people think they do, but that’s because they don’t have the time to really see it through, or else they don’t really make an honest effort at it. I’ll give you a couple examples: My Dad loved golf; I love video games. If he had the time, I think Dad could have played golf for a good four days a week, at least for a month or so. Then he would have started cutting back, because golf is tiring. As for video games, at my peak I was playing World of Warcraft like it was a second job – a part-time job. I played, I kid you not, at least twenty hours a week (after I quit I found time to start blogging. Not a coincidence.) When I would take a staycation from time to time, I would play upwards of forty hours a week in a single binge… and then lay off for a few days, because I needed a break. I then went back to my original routine.
The problem wasn’t that either Dad or I stopped loving what we did, it’s just that at some point most people can’t sustain the passion for something sufficiently to make a career of it. Those who can often do, or else they dedicate their lives to finding ways to incorporate that something into their lives in other ways, either though volunteer work or hobbies. Notice how at no point in that entire set of examples did I mention skill or demand; those would be elements of problem numero dos.
My biggest aggravation with the breezy advice “do something you would do even if you weren’t getting paid, and then find a way to get paid doing it” is the “then find a way to get paid doing it” part. As if it was that simple. In many cases, the things people love to do people are already getting paid to do. Let’s go back to my previous examples. There are already people getting paid to play golf. They’re called professional golfers. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them (Tiger Woods, anyone?). There are even, to the best of my knowledge, golf pros at pretty much every country club in the nation, and every one of them is a much better golfer than my father was on his best day. Believe it or not, there are even professional video game players. Any one of them could romp me without paying attention. In the face of this, how does a simple person come along and just “find a way to get paid doing it”, especially when so many others want to?
Here’s my take on work: work is what you do to make the money you need to enable you to do the things you love. That doesn’t mean you have to hate your job; in fact, if you do hate your job (not just had a bad day, but actively hate your job and dread going in each day), seriously, quit. Find another job first if you must, but you might actually find being unemployed better for your mental and physical health. I did. But if your job is tolerable often that’s as good as it gets, and there’s nothing wrong with that; chasing the rainbows that someone else is offering will only make you miserable when you have no need to be.
If you can make money doing the things you love, hey, bonus. If you are one of the lucky few who gets paid doing what you love, do yourself and the rest of us a favor, keep your mouth shut about it, because nobody wants to hear it.
Just recently, I wrote about how to address a customer service situation from the customer’s perspective. As luck would have it, I ran into just such a situation these past few days, and I wanted to share it with you all.
I bought a new custom build computer from Microcenter in Fairfax, VA, and there were issues with my order. I won’t go into the gritty details, because this is actually meant to be a positive story. First, let me say that I discovered just how hard it is to follow my own advice. I was angry. I might even go so far as to say livid. So polite and patient were hard come by. I have to give complete respect to almost everyone I dealt with (one technician was a little surly on the phone, but then I was a little surly as well; you get what you give). When I finally went in to pick up my computer, everyone was very polite, and I definitely appreciate that. I did manage to keep my cool, and followed my own rules.
The manager I spoke with, Abdul, was very accommodating, very patient, and very helpful. He listened to my story, he apologized for the inconvenience, and he made things right for me. Let me point out I was very close to never shopping there again after having not one but two computers in a row built there, and he salvaged everything. That’s the power of good customer service right there.
Let me also say this: my old system is going to my wife. I’ve had it for seven years and it still works great. The only reason I’m giving it up is because she needs a new computer. I look forward to my new one. If you need a new computer, or just want new components or anything else and are in the Northern VA area, I suggest you check them out.
Yeah, that’s right. I’m telling everyone I know. Because that’s how happy I am. That’s the power of good customer service, too.
While I’m not the fashion horse my father was (I don’t think even Prince is the fashion horse my father was), and I’m privileged now to work in an environment where I don’t need to be, I have been working in and around a lot of companies over the years, and in that time I’ve developed a fairly good sense of what professional attire should be. Sad to say, what I have been noticing over the past twenty years is a distinct decline not in what is considered professional attire (sorry, can’t blame it on Casual Friday), but rather in the knowledge and understanding among so-called professionals of what is professional attire.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer the following modest suggestions to men both young and old about what they might want to consider for their professional wardrobe.
First, own at least two suits. By this I mean actual suits, not a pair of slacks and a blazer or sport coat. The kind of suit that you buy as a complete set, coat and jacket (vests are optional and not particularly necessary). Not that there’s anything wrong with a pair of slacks and a sports coat, and in fact I do believe you should own at least a few pairs of slacks and a couple of sports coats that you can mix and match between them as well, but there’s just something about a suit that makes a comprehensive statement you just don’t get any other way.
Also, I’m not speaking about a hand-me-down suit or a suit you purchased at Discount Suit Warehouse. I mean a high quality suit, the kind that comes from a high end retailer or specialty shop. Save up your nickels and dimes and get them on sale if you can, because these kinds of suits are not cheap (trust me, I know this). Many retailers will have sales once or twice a year, and they will offer good discounts on the outgoing styles. Why do you care that they’re last season’s (or even last year’s) fashions? Ideally you will have these suits for years anyway.
While you’re there, make sure to get the suit tailored to you so it fits properly (if you have a favorite tailor elsewhere you can go there, but I have yet to find one who does the job better for less). Don’t let them bully you into wearing the suit the way they say it “should” be worn. I wear the waist of my pants much lower than any tailor seems to think is “right”, and for years my pants didn’t fit right. Then I finally insisted they simply let me wear the pants the same way while them hemmed them as I did when I got them home, and suddenly my pants fit well. Did they look as good as they could? No, but they looked better than they did, because they were tailored for me.
Pick up a lint brush, preferably two. Keep one in your desk drawer at work and one close to the door at home. Use them. Even if you don’t have long hair or a pet, someone else does; your wife, your husband, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your roommate, the person in the elevator next to you with the five corgis. Hair, lint, and all kinds of other stuff transfers very easily, and you won’t notice you need a lint brush until you don’t have one; if nothing else, you can be the hero of the day for someone else. If you don’t have one handy when you need it you can fake it by rolling some tape (sticky side out) around your hand and running it gently over your suit. It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing, and people will appreciate that you took a little time for your appearance.
Second, I’ve heard more than one person say that if you want to get attention at work you should dress better than your position (or better than the other people at your level). This fascinates me, since I’ve always found that the best way to get attention at work is to be good at your job. Dressing “for the job you want to have” as they say is a good way to annoy the people around you, as it does make you stand out, but not in a good way. If you are good at your job and you’re not getting attention for it, you need to find another job.
What I do recommend is dressing better, worse, or just the same as the people around you, if that’s who you are. What people will respond to is confidence: are you comfortable in your own skin? Are you showing up as the person you believe you are, or are you putting on a show? That’s not to say you should dress inappropriately for the work environment, and if you are completely uncomfortable wearing anything acceptable in that workplace, then again maybe you need to think about getting a different job.
Third, make sure you own at least two nice pairs of shoes. Note that there is a difference between “nice” shoes and “dress” shoes. Any kind of shoes can be nice, and even “dress” shoes can be cheap. Don’t buy cheap dress shoes. As I mentioned earlier, every major retailer has sales, and there’s nothing wrong with them. Make sure to get quality shoes that fit comfortably, because hopefully you’ll be wearing them a lot (because you have a good job to wear them at).
Here’s the thing: if you buy cheap shoes, you will spend a lot of time and money replacing them, and you will have to break them in over and over again (which is not fun), and in the long run you will spend as much money on multiple pairs of cheap shoes as you do on one pair of quality shoes. But there’s more: people notice a man’s shoes, especially if he’s wearing a nice suit (like the one I told you to buy earlier). If you wear cheap shoes with a nice suit, people will laugh at you. Women will laugh at you. Maybe not to your face, but I have heard it. And gentlemen, they are not nice about it. Better a slightly worn pair of quality shoes than a brand new pair of cheap shoes.
Once you have your nice shoes, please be sure to take care of them. Don’t stomp through the mud in them, avoid puddles, don’t walk across the grass in them, and please be sure to polish them. Take care of your shoes, because they are quality, and people notice these things.
That’s not everything you need to know, but it should at least get you started.
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