What are personal values and why are they important in dating, relationships or just life at large? When I was 19 or so, a friend of mine came to me complaining that she was being emotionally bullied by a close friend of mine. I softly persuaded him to stop it, despite him being a close friend of mine. I didn’t like bullies, for I was in a somewhat similar position once.
You could argue that by me standing up to my friend, I was acting out of my values. I stood up for my values regardless of external circumstances, whether he’s my good friend or not. I behaved according to my values and persuaded him otherwise, risking a potential loss of friendship with him.
So, What Are Values?
Values can be said to be internal compasses. They are the judgment about how important something is to us. There are principles that are held internally regardless of external circumstances. Sometimes, they are principles and judgments that you may even sacrifice and die for. They can comprise of intangibles such as authenticity, accountability, empathy and respect.
Why are Values Important?
In modern society, you may find yourself in a constant struggle to stick to your values as opposed to sacrifice them for an extrinsic result.
For example, authenticity and expressing yourself honestly is a value in itself. Honesty, however, sometimes is uncomfortable, especially when expressed negatively to friends or superiors. Your honesty may not be appreciated. It may involve telling your boss something that he might disagree with but might be better for the company. This may put you at risk of offending him (or losing your job). This can be difficult at times, especially so in the Asian culture.
In your relationships, what if your date you’re interested in treats you badly? What if he or she’s a no show for three dates straight and cancels on you last minute every single time? Are you going stick up for yourself and perhaps call them out? Or are you going smile, and pretend nothing happened?
Can you uphold the value of self-respect? Perhaps through calling her out for her negative behaviour, risk upsetting her and losing the potential benefit of dating someone you’re interested in?
What if your friends are always showing up late and disrespectful of your time? What if you valued your time, and made efforts to be on time for meetups? Do you hold back calling the person out to avoid the possibility of not offending him or her?
Values are researched to higher self-esteem, in the long run, makes you more attractive to women, increase work creativity, and make you a happier person. Positive values are also usually ensued by strong boundaries.
In short, they’re awesome.
Ironically, it’s people that do not have any values going for them that are unattractive and mediocre. They don’t stand for anything. They are people pleasers. Their craving for attention, affection from the world around them at the cost of their personal integrity and values. They’ll never build a strong identity. Counter-intuitively, it’s this constant need for a false sense of acceptance is what repels people away.
In our relationships, it’s the sacrifice of their own personal values that drive needy and unattractive behaviour.
So Marcus, without sounding like your high school counsellor, how can you instil this thing called values in your life then?
Ironing Out Your Values
Ironing out your values can be simple as taking out a piece of paper and writing down what you will and will not accept in your life. This can range from business decisions, relationship values to all other areas of your life. The second step is to commit and be disciplined about it. Note, no one is perfect and it’s OKAY to falter and be flexible. However, just like habits, you just go back to work on it.
Your Dating and Relationship Values
So, a couple of years ago, when I started wanting to attract women. The first step was to iron out my dating and relationship values. This means what I will, and will not accept from women, or people in general. This not only helped my self-esteem, but it also made my dating choices much easier.
I stopped texting girls who didn’t want to text me back, I stopped worrying about girls who didn’t want to go out on dates with me. Yeah, I get rejected, however, it saved me the heartache, the smokes and games that people play.
I started out with a couple of simple values. I decided I’ll not hang out with people who don’t want to hang out with me. I’ll not date a girl who doesn’t want to date me. I’ll not text a girl who doesn’t want to text me. I’ll express interest to women only that I’m interested in.
These values played an important role when on a date. Instead of constantly worrying if I match up to her, I’m going to see if there’s a right fit of values. I’m not looking to impress her.
If you’re wondering what I value in women, physical beauty (I can’t lie), empathy, intellectual curiosity, honesty, nurturance and accountability. From personal experience, I’m a lot more motivated, willing to sacrifice a lot more time and effort and to pursue a girl who’s more physically aesthetic If she’s hot but has selfie problem, sure, I’ll be more tolerant of it. If she’s hot but is slightly emotionally erratic, sure, I’ll be patient. I’m willing to give up many superficial nuances that tick me off.
However, I’m not willing to give up my personal boundaries just to pursue someone who is physically attractive. There are values that are non-negotiable. If she constantly disrespects me or is rude, I am going to call her out on it. If she doesn’t alter her behaviour, then I’ll simply drop her.
Note, I hold these values true for all other relationships as well. I also can’t be bothered by people who don’t respect my time or money. If you don’t respect my time or money, there isn’t a friendship in place anymore in the first place.
I once worked for a traditional company in Singapore. Whilst the potential monetary prospects were good, I hated it. Why so? That’s because the way the business was conducted went against my values of providing a competitive and ethical service to society.
The business deals were done over drinks, karaoke pubs and mind games with everyone. Everyone was attempting to look rich, attempting to blow smoke up each other asses, instead of actually discussing rational business.
It forced me to iron out my business values. Through the years I decided that I’ll only make an income through ethical products or service to consumers that don’t hurt society. The systems and products have to work without any overt form of bootlicking. I’m not going to work with or for anyone who uses his network or relationships as a ‘stronghold’. I don’t give two fucks if you tell me your father is a billionaire. I don’t want to rely on ‘Guan Xi’ to do business.
Ironing out these values made a lot of business choices down the road much simpler. Out went the scammy products that prey on delusional or people that are in a bad spot in life, out went the nights of drinking just for the sake of clinching a deal. Since I had these values in place, it freed me up to learn how to do marketing ethically, branding and ethical business practices.
Helpful and UnHelpful Values
It’s said if you pursue negative values such as popularity and fame, it’s ‘negative’. However, I don’t entirely see it this way and I think negative values can be a good motivator for positive values. I didn’t desire to be with hot women, I’ll not have undertaken this self-improvement process. If not for the desire to be financially free, I’ll not have attempted to be an entrepreneur. This blog wouldn’t exist. I also think everyone is motivated by different intrinsic and extrinsic motivators at a certain point of time.
Negative values are superstitious, immediately controllable and socially destructive. If you value popularity or fame, and how much you’re liked or accepted by everyone that’s not immediately controllable. That’s because you can’t control how people think of you.
If you measured yourself and valued a million dollars in a bank, that’s an external value that isn’t controllable. It’s merely going to drive you crazy daily. Negative values are reliant on an external event such as flying in a private jet, getting threesomes or travelling the world in pursuit of a hedonistic lifestyle (guilty).
Arguably, negative values can be good motivators initially. You didn’t get into self-development if you didn’t want to fuck more girls, make more money and look really awesome amongst your friends right? Negative values can give you a good start, however, for long term happiness, you’ll need to prioritize internal values in the long run.
Positive values are reality-based, immediately controllable, self-generated and are socially constructive. Positive values such as innovation, honesty and vulnerability are immediately controllable and can be self-generated right this moment.
For example, instead of valuing popularity or how much I’m liked by people, I can make an internal value of improving my dating/ social life. That way, just by going out to a bar to meet more women is a win for me, regardless of their reaction to me.
Positive values are always internally achieved and there’s no completion to them. They are also process oriented. Honesty and vulnerability are internal values that can be practised right now and in every social interaction for the rest of your life.
How to Establish Your Values Without Being an Asshole?
So the one thing about values that people get confused is that you got to be somewhat of an asshole when expressing your values.
Having strong values doesn’t mean that you go around calling others out on their ‘poor values’ or ‘lack of values’. It just means recognising that you have different values than them and sometimes it’s just a lack of compatibility. The first step to establish your values is to express it in a matured manner. If the girl you’re dating shows up late, you don’t have to scream at her for showing up late. Just making it known and calling her out on it is enough.
You can always say: “Hey, I hope you won’t be this late the next time we meet.”
In a respectful and assertive manner.
I also want to note that your values should be flexible and based on context. If you have an amazing friendship with someone who’s always fucking late who has many other merits, then it’s perfectly fine to just accept that flaw in that person.
What Happens When You Change Your Values?
When you change your values, it’s normal for your old relationships to blow up in your face. This can be demonstrated by calling out certain behaviours from old friends and possibly ticking them off the wrong way.
Through my own personal growth, I started valuing my time and I started being serious about my life purpose and my work. If you cancel on me without letting me know, I’m sorry, that’s non-negotiable. I’m calling you out.
Your friendships you made through your life probably supported and confirmed the values of yours. However, when you begin to shift your values, you’re going to inevitably experience a lot of friction amongst those old relationships.
In my experience, long term relationships and friendships are the hardest. You may find yourself in a place where your closest relationships no longer understand you anymore. However, do these friendships have to have to go? I don’t think necessarily so. There’s no need to cut out a person because of a difference in values, that’s because, despite a difference in values, there may be overlap in values.
However, if you are constantly bickering over petty behaviours. That merely goes to show that you have different fundamental life values and have completely different priorities completely, then perhaps some time off that particular relationship might not be a completely negative thing.
In my experience, I found out the hard way that people around you are going to have different values from you do at the different point of their lives in multiple areas of their life from relationships to careers.
This is true of your relationship with to your parents, your childhood best friends, your boss, your pet goldfish, and your colleagues. You may have a childhood friend that has conflicting values at some point of his or her life and a loss of friendship is inevitable.
It’s values that ultimately bring people together and tear people apart. You’re going to be what you value. Choose your values wisely.
J, Z., S, S., J, C., & Z, Z. (2009). Social networks, personal values, and creativity: Evidence for curvilinear and interaction effects. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(4), 1544-1552.
W, M. M. (2007). Happiness and Virtue in Positive Psychology. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 89-103.
You can argue that the majority of dating and relationship problems are a boundary issue in one way or another. Years ago, I was enrapt in a relationship that felt great at times and just dirt shit other times. It was like a rollercoaster ride. It was only years later after knowing the concept of boundaries, that I realized that my ex-girlfriend and I had piss poor boundaries in our relationship.
So other than sparring yourself from rollercoaster relationships, why are boundaries important?
Firstly, strong boundaries are the cornerstone of attractive behaviour. Secondly, they create emotional health and are created by people with emotional health. They lead to emotional stability and self-esteem. They are also something you can work on right away.
Okay, before you get into deeper details, let’s take a look if you have a boundary issue.
You May Have a Boundary Issue if You:
Constantly feel like people take advantage of you or use your emotions for their own gain?
Feel like you’re constantly having to “save” people close to you and fix their problems all the time?
Find yourself sucked into pointless fighting or debating regularly
Find yourself far more invested or attracted to a person than you should be for how long you’ve known them
In your relationships, you feel like things are always either amazing or horrible with no in-between. Or perhaps you even go through the break-up/reunion pattern every few months?
You tell people how much you hate drama but seem to always be stuck in the middle of it
You spend a lot of time defending yourself for things you believe aren’t your fault?
If you answered “yes” to even a few of the above, then you probably set and maintain poor boundaries in your relationships. If you answered a resounding “yes” to most or all of the items above, you not only have a major boundary problem in your relationships but you also probably have some other personal problems going on in your life.
What are Relationship Boundaries?
There are many reasons why someone may lack boundaries. Psychologically speaking, people with a lack of boundaries may appear may be motivated by an unconscious need to ‘keep the peace’ because of the fear of getting hurt.
So, what are boundaries and how do they look like?
NOT taking responsibility for OTHER people choices, actions and emotions
Taking FULL responsibility for YOUR own choices, actions and emotions
Healthy Boundaries from the outside:
NOT expecting others to be responsible for your choices, actions and emotions
Other people should be responsible for THEIR choices, actions and emotions and NOT responsible for YOUR emotions and choices.
Examples of Poor Boundaries:
Since I’m Asian, I can use a couple examples from the Asian culture, I’ll chime in a few examples.
“If you go out with your friends tonight and not keep me accompany, I’m not going to give you allowance next month.”
“If you don’t study the subjects as I want you to, I’m not going to pay for it.”
“If you don’t do as I say, you’re not being filial to the family. Hence, you’re not a good child.”
This is an example of a parent’s expectation for his or her child to take responsibility for the parent’s choices and emotions.
In this scenario, the person is taking responsibility for actions or emotions that aren’t theirs or are expecting someone to take responsibility for their actions or emotions. When you set boundaries in your relationships, it can be as simple as saying no to someone and letting the chips fall where they may.
You’re NOT responsible for someone’s else emotions.
Flip that around, it’s also the willingness to take a no from someone else. That’s because if you feel crappy about hearing a no, you’re are responsibility for your own mood and not expect or blame anyone else for your emotions and choices. Ultimately, having strong boundaries does not mean that you don’t want your partners or friends to be happy. It just means that you can’t decide if your partners or friends are happy or choose to behave in a certain way.
The Breaker and Fixer Pathology
People with poor boundaries typically come in two flavours:
Those who take too much responsibility for the emotions and actions of others
Those who expect others to take too much responsibility for their own emotions and actions.
They are called the breaker, and the fixer. Interestingly, these two types of people often end up in relationships together. My first relationship was like that, it felt like it was us against the world. However, in hindsight, it was soul-sucking and emotionally tiring. She and I had pathologies of both the victim and saver, oscillating between both roles at different point of times.
If you are someone who tends to feel a need to make their partners happy all the time, you may be playing the role of the saver in the relationship. You have a boundary issue. This is because, at the core of it, you’re attempting to decide/ control how your partner act and feel.
The saver doesn’t save the victim because they actually care about the problem, but because they believe if they fix the problem they will feel loved.
The victim creates problems not because there are real problems, but because they believe it will cause them to feel loved. If you are that someone who is always creating problems, expecting others to take responsibility for your actions and emotions. You are playing the role of the victim.
The saver and victim commonly end up together in relationships and often lead to unstable roller coaster relationships. In such scenarios, the lack of boundaries leads to needy, co-dependent.
From an attachment theory perspective, victims tend to be anxious-attachment types, and savers tend to be avoidant-attachment types. They both push away secure-attachment types. They may also grow up with parents who had poor boundaries in their relationships that led to their model of a relationship that is based on poor boundaries.
You may ask, Marcus, isn’t it cold and cruel to not care about others and fix their problems?
You see, the saver or the victim don’t ACTUALLY care about each other or the relationship, they are behaving in these ways to meet their own need for self-esteem through other people’s problems. The victim needs to create problems to feel loved whilst the saver needs to fix problems to feel loved. There isn’t any real authenticity or genuine emotional connection with these relationships.
Their behaviours are based on their OWN needs to feel loved and not actual unconditional love itself.
If the victim really cares about the saver and the relationship, he or she would say, “Look, this is my problem, you don’t have to fix it for me.” That would be actually caring about the saver.
If the saver really cared for the victim, the saver would say, “Look, you’re blaming others for your own problems, you should be responsible for it yourself.” That would be actually loving the victim.
The hardest thing for a victim to do in the world is to hold themselves accountable for their feelings and their life as opposed to blaming others. They spent their whole life believing they must blame others in order to feel any intimacy or love.
For the saver, the hardest thing to do in the world is to stop fixing other people’s problems and trying to make them feel happy or satisfied. They may have spent their whole lives feeling valued and loved when they were fixing a problem for someone. Hence, letting go of this need is terrifying to them as well. If you see your relationships as economical transactions, only seeing others as beneficial or economical exchanges, not only it’s a form of poor boundaries, it’s also going to tear you apart emotionally eventually.
The Boundary Problem in Modern Culture
Now, I may take some criticism for this, but I’m going to say it anyway. In Asian culture, there’s a cultural belief that children are inherently SUPPOSED to be filial to their parents or grandparents. It’s a common cultural Asian cultural narrative to love, respect and obey your parents JUST because they are your biological parents, not based upon the fact if they are good parents or not.
This often expressed in the value of filial piety.
I had a friend to said that he would give in to demanding/unreasonable requests to his parents just because they are paying for his University fees. His parents are using monetary support as a bargaining tool to get their child to conform.
I’m may piss off some you reading here but listen to me.
That is an unhealthy and toxic relationship dynamic between him and his parents with a lack of boundaries. On one hand, his parents are using money as a means to control their child’s behaviour. Secondly, on his end, he is giving up his self-respect, his honest thoughts, and desires because he’s afraid of not getting the money from his parents.
If your parents only provide for you financially if you give in to their whims and demands. It’s a conditional relationship. The underlying meaning of the relationship would mean: I only love you if you listen to me. I will only provide for you if you listen to me.
Firstly, these are shit poor form of boundaries. Secondly, there isn’t any genuine support or affection in their relationship.
From personal experience in the Singaporean culture, there are many that have this perception that if their parents provide for them financially, it’s a MUST to give in to their parents, against their genuine thoughts, desires and beliefs.
Some of the people reading this might say: Marcus, you’re such an INGRATE for speaking out against the age old values of filial piety. You’re Asian yourself and you SHOULD be filial to your parents.
Okay, shut up.
I AM filial to my parents. However, I act on it as a gift, with no expectations of return, as opposed to an OBLIGATION. There’s a difference.
The act and value of filial piety should be something that’s given unconditionally, rather than demanded or assumed because of cultural or social reasons.
If you’re forced to visit your grandparents every weekend and you secretly hate it. Then you’re not acting out of a genuine desire to see and care for your grandparents. You’re doing it because you don’t want to piss your Mum and Dad off.
As I argued, acts of affection are only genuine if they’re performed without expectations.
Is It Okay to Sacrifice?
You may ask then, Marcus, what about making sacrifices for people you love? What about going the extra mile for best friends? What if my girlfriend wants me to call her daily? What if my pet goldfish requires me to stroke his belly 20 times a day?
I SHOULD make that sacrifice right?
Firstly, sacrifices that are made out of obligation aren’t genuine sacrifices. They are actually your inability to say no.
True sacrifice only comes in the form of unconditionally, as a gift, with no expectations of return.
Sacrifice is only true and genuine when you desire to do it out of no expectations, as a gift, and not because you should feel obligated to or fear the consequences of NOT doing it.
You can simply ask yourself this: If you stopped doing an X behaviour, would it change anything about your relationship with Y? Read: I know, the algebra. I’m Asian, live with it.
If I stopped picking her up form her house or sending her home, will she still love me?
If I stopped agreeing with her on everything she says, will she still love me?
If I told my friend that he should be on time in the future, and being late isn’t cool at all, will we still be friends?
If your answer is NO, it wouldn’t change a damn thing in the relationship, if you stopped doing a certain behaviour, then that’s a good sign.
If YES, then you probably have a boundary issue. You’re making a particular sacrifice or behaving in a certain way because you fear to lose the relationship.
How to Set Strong Boundaries
I started off a YES man. I’d say YES to events, business opportunities, introductions, trips and I was the guy that was flexible and easy to get along. Yes, that helped a lot. However, as I grow, I realized it’s so much better to say NO and truly evaluate how and who you spend your time and effort with.
These days, I’m always evaluating how I feel after spending time with someone. If I feel emotionally recharged, listened to or that I learned something from him or her, I’ll continue pursuing that relationship. If I feel disrespected, be littled or un justly criticized then I’ll stop.
In my business career, I had instances where potential clients waste my time by getting me to draft out long thought out proposals for their digital marketing campaigns and I don’t hear back from them. No, no more. You need to be a good fit to work with me.
I had instances where girls waste my time and don’t show up for a date. That’s on me. That’s MY fault. I didn’t qualify her properly. If I had disqualified and said: ‘You and I are probably not going to get a long because you’re always late’, she’s going to either straighten up or not waste my time by not showing up.
These days, I hold by these standards throughout all my relationships, from friends, family, clients, business partners and life choices. In that sense, I’m valuing my time and myself. Only by valuing your time and yourself, that you can get others to value you and your time.
Here are some of the lines you can use:
‘I prefer not to discuss them as these matters are private to me’
‘I never kiss and tell’
‘I already stated my opinion and I’m not going to argue with you further.’
‘If you keep doing X behaviour, then I’m going to leave.’
‘This is are my values, and I hope you can respect that.’
Setting boundaries by cutting an acquaintance out or an ever unaccountable friend is easy. It’s as simple as cutting them out from your life or seeing them lesser. However, setting boundaries and maybe even cutting family and best friends out are a lot harder. You can dump your girlfriend, you can’t dump a bad family member. Family relationships are the hardest to deal with. Trust me, I’ve been there.
One time, I stopped driving a couple of my friends around. I realized that if I stopped driving them around, they wouldn’t bother hanging out with me. Tough truth to face, but that’s life. When I go out with a girl on a date and she says something offensive, I don’t just play nice and ignore, I call her out on it. That’s a form of my boundaries. I don’t accept rude or offensive behaviours in my life.
Someone with strong boundaries isn’t afraid to say no. He or she isn’t afraid of a temper tantrum or getting into an argument. He or she also understands that he may hurt someone else’s feelings at times and ultimately can’t control how someone else feels.
He or she also understands that a genuine relationship isn’t made up of two people deciding on each other’s actions or emotions, but instead, an unconditional relationship is made up of two people supporting each other, without judgment or expectations.
You see your ideal partner sitting across the table of Starbuck having a quiet cup of coffee. He or she is dressed casually. They don’t look intimidating They are attractive. They are also alone. The hundreds of possibilities run through your head. You want to start a conversation with them. However, you freeze and you don’t know what to say, much less how to say it. Or maybe you’re at a networking session are you see the boss of your ideal company standing beside a booth. You’re thinking of what to say in a situation like this.
How many of us experienced similar situations like this?
Starting a conversation with anyone is a skillset that can be learnt.
How to Talk to Anyone – Conversational Mindsets
Firstly, you need to understand that there are good conversational mindsets that can make or break any conversation.
This can be done by adopting conversational mindsets such as 1) using effective language, 2) learning the art of making statements, 3) creating endless conversation threads by actively listening and 5) understanding the mechanics of how to connect deeply with anyone.
Mindset 1: Lower The Bar For a Conversation
The first step to starting a conversation with a stranger and never running out of words is to lower the bar for conversation. I was notorious for being too witty and lost in abstract arguments in my head. It has single handedly submarined a lot of social, romantic and business opportunities. Purely relying on pure wit or intellect is actually a horrible way to communicate in any relationship
It’s a cultural narrative from movies you watch growing up where the actors and actresses often come up with witty lines and the ‘perfect moment’ to strike up a conversation. In reality, is far from the truth. It’s always a little awkward at first when getting to know someone new, just keep it simple.
Mindset 2: Statements Versus Questions
Have you ever had someone who you just got to know ask you repetitive questions? I bet you have. It also felt irritating. People feel the same way as well. When you go interview mode on someone, you’re making the conversational flow one sided.
Instead of going down the route of interviewing someone and asking questions. When you make statements, you’re giving your own input and giving her a window to respond to that statement.
The trick here isn’t to just stick to statements. It’s to mix in statements and questions. In Asian culture, if you were just to stick to statements, most people will not know how to respond. From my experience, they’re just too used to guys asking questions all the time, and haven’t built any social skills to share themselves.
It’s a much better conversational habit as compared to asking questions and waiting for her reply. Of course, if you were to make statements, questions and she just doesn’t respond, it means that she’s not ready to talk and isn’t receptive.
Don’t take it personally and move on.
Statements offer more ‘value’ and opportunity for someone to get continue to a conversation than questions. When you’re just going off on questions with someone, you don’t express your identity, and you don’t really put them in a position to express themselves. The other party got to invest in the conversation for the interaction to go well.
Cold reading is a skillset that you can use to make statements. Other simple ones include making observations about the environment or something that catches your eye. It’s possible to turn every question into a statement. For example, instead of asking what someone does for a job, why not make a statement that they looks like they work in creative line or looks like a teacher and etc.
If you get it wrong, they’ll correct you. If you get it right, they’ll be quite surprised at how intuitive you are. There are no loses to making cold reads.
You can also make statements about your day to day life. Instead of worrying what to ask next, you can just go off randomly on your day or events that interest you: ‘I hate my boss, he just made me do two times the work today’.
It’s better to be random and interesting than to be predictable. However, don’t be too random, as it won’t work in an Asian setting.
Statements done right can inspire someone to find out more about yourself. It can inspire someone to ask more questions about you. This way, it’s a two sided conversation.
Caveat: I’d like to add that questions are alright in an Asian setting, most Asian aren’t really equipped with the social skills to lead the interaction, you’ll be required to do a little bit of babysitting by mixing questions with statements.
Mindset 3: Listening Actively
One of the common pitfalls of learning social skills is to only talk about yourself and only showing interest in the topics that you yourself are interested in.
One time, I went out with one of my girl friends. She had relationship woes. For three hours straight, she went on was how shit of their ex-boyfriend treated her. That spanned the whole of three fucking hours. Whilst I’m perfectly cool with lending a listening ear, it just got downright exasperating and I felt like killing myself at the end of the session.
Read: if you want to feel better about yourself it’s better to step outside of yourself and empathise with someone else’s problems. Instead of having a self-defeating loop in your mind, merely focused on your own problems, your own trouble or your own pain. It helps, try it.
If you’re genuinely interested in the world of others. It will lead you to a lot more conversational opportunities than just sticking to your own topics of conversation.
Take a good listen to people around you. Everyone’s attempting to jam their point of view down everyone else’s throat. No one’s truly listening. Communication at the end of the day is a two-way thing. Yes, you get to share your story, once they are done listening to yours, do make a point to listen to their story. Part of being interesting is being genuinely interested remember?
Mindset 4: Use Effective Language
One way to be a great communicator is by using effective language. This means using the shortest number of words possible to in conversation to get your point across. You would rather have 5 minutes of awesome conversation as opposed to 15 minutes of beating around the bush. You will come off as more well spoken and charismatic.
This means removing ‘ahh’ ‘you know’ and ‘erhms’ and other filters when you’re conversing.
This doesn’t mean you speak like a robot either. You can use different tonality and pace to get more emotion across in your conversations. Writing and keeping a journal can help with this skillset.
When there’s nothing to say, don’t feel like a need that you have to say something. That’s part of being grounded in your social interactions. There’s no need to fill every silent gap with something to say. In psychology, it’s said that people who can’t help but ramble on to ‘keep the peace’ may be displaying a form of anxious attachment.
When in doubt, ask yourself, ask yourself, are you saying something because you’re afraid of the silence or the slight confrontation? If the answer is Yes, then it’s OKAY to keep to yourself. Remember, you don’t need permission to speak to anyone, or not speak to anyone.
How to Start a Conversation out of Nothing
Skillset 1: Asking Innocuous Questions
I used to think that simple questions sounded stupid and it’s ‘impractical’ to ask someone on such questions. However, I realised innocuous questions are a mere social tool and conversational starter to get some social juices going when talking to strangers.
No one goes deep into their life story in the first few minutes of getting someone new, and no one expects a life story within the first few minutes either.
Some example of innocuous questions:
“What are you up to here?”
“How’s your day?”
You’ll be surprised how far these innocuous questions can help is starting a conversation with an interesting stranger.
Skillset 2: Making Simple Observations
Secondly, you can also start a conversation with a stranger by making simple observations. You can get creative with this. It can be something in the current environment you’re in, it can be the nicely tailored suit that he’s wearing, or the cute blue toenails she has spent hours on. It can be the weather. It can be the fake tan she has on. (I’m kidding)
“Wow, the weather’s pretty hot today.”
‘Those are nice blue toenails you have on, they are really cute.’
Just like asking innocuous questions, think of it as a conversational starter. Once you get small talks like that going, you can follow these observations up with a question, or a cold read.
Skillset 3: The Art of Cold Reading
Cold reading is the art of making an intelligent guess about something about someone. It doesn’t matter if you’re wrong or right. The point of it is to get the conversation going. It’s one of the most effective and a bread and butter of conversational tools that you should include in your daily life if you’re looking to improve your social and conversational skills.
Cold reading is done by making harmless neutral assumptions with the people you are talking with.
Examples of Cold Reading:
“Hi, you seem to be a really artsy person. Did you take an arts subject in school?”
“You look like you’re a school teacher, you must be a pretty bad one, all the kids must hate you”
The thing about cold reading and guessing is that you never go wrong with it. If you get it wrong, he or she will correct you, and perhaps add onto it. If you’re spot on, they’ll likely to think that you’re quite perceptive and may engage with you in conversation because of that. Just last week I got most of my cold reads right by chance by guessing a girl was half Japanese and was studying at the University of London. She reacted positively and was curious how did I know so much. I followed up by teasing that I stalk her daily on Facebook and Instagram.
Through cold reading, you can keep conversational threads flowing and then relate these threads back to your own life with your own experiences.
I’ve personally used this conversational tool thousands of times to spark new conversations or in the middle of dying conversations threads. It works every time.
How to Keep a Conversation Going Anyone
One of the most commonly asked questions in social skills, dating and relationships advice is how to keep a conversation going with anyone, and how to never run out of words?
In social interactions, you’re going to assume to the burden of taking the lead, to start, to continue and to lead in the conversation. Instead of ending your conversations with one-word answers: Yes or No, try to end it with stories, statements and specifics.
The Art of Improvisation
There’s a misconception in conversation that people pay attention to words and phrases. However, it’s the meaning of the conversation that people are more interested in. If you just pay attention to to phrases and words, it may result in an unnatural conversation. It’ll seem as if you’re trying to keep this conversation going and you’re afraid of silences.
The secret to creating endless conversational topics is to get good at improvisation. You can only get better with this skill by learning from stand up comedians. I started off studying George Carlin and Louis CK, however, their style of comedy can be quite dark and self depreciating. That’s not really good for most situations. One of the good comedians to check out is Russell Brand and Russell Peters.
The best way to get good at this is to gain an appreciation of language.
Penetrate the Ostensible
When you’re penetrating the ostensible, you are take multiple meanings to a word, phrase or intonation and playing around it. This is taking note of little nuances, words that someone says and playfully adding in a tease.
The Art of Story Telling: How to Tell a Story
Ever know someone who went on, and on and on and you can’t help but quietly look away whilst he goes on and on to kind of signal that he’s being too long-winded? Or maybe you know someone who awkwardly tries to fit in a joke in his conversations?
Starting conversations is an important skill. However, learning how to continue them in a dynamic manner is also equally important.
Human beings, by nature, are enrapt by stories. People in power, businessmen, priests (erhem), comedians, and politicians all use the art of storytelling to explain, persuade and influence others to their way of thinking.
In the dating advice community, memorizing stories and routines are popular methods. Whilst this might work in the short run, there’s going to come a point of time where you’re going to run out of words. Hence, I advocate understanding the principles of what makes a dynamic conversation and apply them using your own life stories and experiences.
Learning how to tell a story in a structured, and interesting manner will make you a good conversationalist.
Every great story has a rough three-step process that anyone can use.
The Set Up
The set up gives context to the conflict of the story. It’s the general setting, such as the location and brief details of the story. The set up should be as short as possible. But it’s necessary to give the initial context and foundation for the follow-up of the complete story.
If you don’t set up your stories, you’ll come off to others as random in your conversations.
One simple one lined example of the “set up” would be this:
“I was attending my school orientation the other day. Whilst watching the orientation games, there was this girl that tripped and fell. I was an asshole about it and laughed a little.”
It’s descriptive and gives background to the story.
The conflict is the part where you introduce the majority of the story. This should be the part that causes tension and expectancy. The content of the story needs to be captivating and hook others into wanting to know what will happen next. If there isn’t much conflict in the content of your stories, you will get the feeling that you ramble on a lot and others are not paying attention to you.
To continue to story from the set up:
“One of the most attractive girls in the whole of the camp took me by surprise and gave me a smack on my arm. I actually froze up! I froze up and walked away like an idiot! I should have just said something out of my mouth or smacked her back. But I didn’t. I retardedly froze up and walked away.”
“However, I never really felt right, that’s because I didn’t want myself worth to be judged on how many girls date, or anything like that. I also felt I wasn’t experienced enough to coach guys that might be twice my age.”
The Resolution/ Punchline
The resolution and the punchline are where you insert ‘the moral of the story’, the ‘punchline’ and the ‘joke’ to end off the story, or just closure for a generic story. People who don’t conclude their stories properly will often get blank stares when they’re finished speaking, or people will ask them “Yeah, and…?”
To end off the story with a punchline:
“Lesson learned! Never ever stand beside an attractive woman during orientation games.” (Joke)
“Nonetheless, I’ve decided to give it a shot, as long as I do my research, and stick to my values, and business values, I’m sure it’ll turn out alright.”
These are all true stories by the way.
Learning how to tell stories in a dynamic and interesting manner is a conversational habit has helped me over the years with strangers, sales and persuading others in my business and dating life. Learning how to structure your conversations is going to be helpful for everything from sales presentations, networking events, casual conversations and other forms of social interactions. It can also make or break a romantic interaction when you’re expected to lead in conversation.
Should You Memorize Lines for Conversations?
Some times, I get this question: should you memorize lines for your conversations? Personally, I never felt right memorising lines. It has never turned out well for me. Furthermore, you don’t want to be some robotic person repeating what somebody wrote on the internet.
There’s no need to memorize anything, I’ve sparked conversations with people all over the world with this simple line: “Hi I’m Marcus, I just wanted to say Hi, you look like…”.
I haven’t had a drink splashed on me yet.
You want to understand the principles of conversations, and use your own unique life stories and motivations. This will serve you much better in the long run. Not to mention social interactions has many variables that are out of your control and cannot be completely boxed and quantified like a formula.
However, if you’re starting out you can memorize one line jokes or some of your own life stories as training wheels. They should come naturally out of you after some practice.
The Art of Qualification: Empathy and Appreciation
Mark Twain was quoted saying: “really great people make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
When was the last time someone took notice of something about you and appreciated that aspect of you? You see, appreciation is as aspect that’s left out in our culture and conversations. That’s because it genuine appreciation requires vulnerability.
The secret desire is that everyone desires to be appreciated and to be admired. The art of qualification is the art of appreciating someone for their values or personality. The way to get good at this is to step outside your daily judgments and asking yourself why someone behaves the way they do.
I also don’t mean it in a manner where you compliment someone for the sake of complimenting them. You have to convey your compliments in an authentic manner.
For example: The guy who seems fearless in his entrepreneurial pursuits, selfish with his time, demand and uptight about his schedule, isn’t actually being an asshole. He could be working on a huge project that may help his family financially.
Someone who is extremely financially motivated might not be money minded. He might be doing it because he had a negative experience financially when he was young.
I choose to write about social skills, dating and relationships because I essentially care about this area of my life. Writers make choices. It must obviously mean something to me. So does everyone, with whatever they choose to pursue.
The world is mired in advertising, society, family, friends telling you and everyone else that they aren’t good enough. If you’re able to dig beneath the surface, figure out why people do what they do and appreciate them for that, you’ll stand out from the norm in their lives. It’s only when you find that gold in someone, appreciate them for that, and watch them lit up like a Christmas tree.
How to Build a Deep Emotional Connection
Society often shames us for expressing what you really feel or think. Hence all of us grow up to hold back our thoughts, desires, and feelings, whether be it consciously or subconsciously. However, as humans being, we all have an emotional need for connection and significance in our relationships.
If you’re going to meet someone and merely talk about the weather, gossip on your mutual friends or nerd out about politics, then you aren’t being truly vulnerable. If all you know about someone is merely the superficial facts about someone, then you don’t really know someone at all.
Men tend to converse through information, fact and theories and women through emotions. However, many pay attention to the “WHATs” of life: their job, their cat’s name and where they live. The facts are mere superficial details of the emotions experienced. You want to relate to the underlying emotions behind the facts.
They rarely peer into the WHYs.
Conversing with emotions will not only help you connect to someone in a deeper manner, but it’ll also help you connect on a more meaningful level. Deeper friendships and romantic relationships aren’t just built by the number of experiences two people have together, it’s also built upon opening up to each other.
No matter how different, everyone in the world has gone through some form of success, failure, hurt, disappointment, anger and lost. If you want to connect with someone emotionally, you got to open yourself up and connect on these universal emotions and experiences.
I often tell people that I’m quite a good judge of character and someone else’s motivation. That’s because I pay attention to the undercurrent of what someone is saying, as opposed to the superficial layers of communication. Powerful emotional connection is built upon understanding and relating to each other’s WHYs in life.
You need to pay attention to the motivations behind pursuits and behaviours.
Here’s an example of going into the WHYs:
Her: Wow, what inspired you to be an entrepreneur at such a young age? Me: I pursue business I want to be financially free because I felt financially suffocated during my teenage years as my family went bankrupt for a period of time.
That is a ‘Why’.
Here’s another way to tell a story in a dynamic way:
I was once a competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and currently I’m an entrepreneur. The feeling before a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competition is the same pressure before a giving a business pitch.
They are both some sort of competition in some way. One of them is trying to overcome a physical challenge whilst the other a financial one. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor is risking failure, success, and embarrassment just like how the entrepreneur is.
Never thought how a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu champion can relate to an entrepreneur uh?
Like I mentioned, everyone on this planet shares a handful of universal emotional realities: ambition, shame, alienation, loneliness, achievement, regret, hardship, friendship, love, heartbreak. You and I have all experienced it. The facts change, but the feelings stay the same.
It’s merely how well you’re able to express yours, which will in turn inspire them to share theirs. This requires some degree of vulnerability. It’s true that many carry themselves in a superficial manner in order to fit in with society. However, everybody has it somewhere in them. It’s your job to dig it out and connect with that part of them. That’s where the gold is. That’s where the real magic happens.
Be Aware of Your Own Life Stories and Motivations
The rule of thumb here is to always go first. If you share a vulnerable part of yourself, it’ll inspire them to share about theirs.
However, to do that, you first have to be firstly aware of your own emotions, motivations and life story.
Your passions and favourite things to do
Your dreams, ambitions, life goals
Best/worst thing that has happened to you
Your childhood, family life and upbringing
You can initiate these conversations by a simple cold read: you look like you’re close to your family.
This is where majority of people (especially men) fail at this. Men tend to discuss technical know-hows and superficial details rather than be introspective about their own emotions. The majority of guys suck at talking about themselves. They think it’s ‘weird’ in some ways. Women, on the other hand are super engaged when they are talking about themselves (or each other). This is why women enjoy gossiping, creating drama or people watching.
Here is an example:
I always wanted to be a psychologist growing up because I had a lot of problems growing up as a rebellious teenager. I was always angry, apathetic and under performing. I ended up being hooked onto self development due to a horrible break up with my ex-girlfriend. I was addicted to the fact that I could have a control over my dating life and social interactions.
Through years of failure, today, I feel much more in control of my dating life. I took an interest in psychology that partially inspired my entrepreneurial projects.
However, if you talk about how you FEEL about your experiences, then you can relate to how she FEELS about her experiences. It’s never the experiences themselves that make the difference, it’s the similar underlying emotions of those experiences that you relate to someone that makes a difference.
Here are some examples:
She studies really hard to get into law school because she was brought up by a single Mum and she wants to be self-reliant and independent. That’s driving her. You can relate to her by saying that you had a distant upbringing with your family and you always had to rely on yourself emotionally to get by.
When you open up about yourself and can relate to each other’s emotions and experience, you’ll elicit them to to open up about themselves. The more this goes on, the more personal stories become and the deeper the emotions you connect with. The harder it is to talk about it as a subject, the more genuine and attractive it potentially can be. For example, topics such as childhood, upbringing and family life are often hard for someone to express, especially so in Asian culture.
Here’s a reframe: by being alright with sharing any part of yourself with anyone, you’re truly confident. Emotional connection occurs only through exposing yourself to a certain degree. It cannot be faked.
Confrontation and Boundaries
Lastly, confrontation is necessary to build a deeper emotional connection. Think of it as a parent who sits you down, says something that you don’t want to hear, but know that you should hear. You hate it at first, however, you appreciate that after awhile because deep down you know they are saying so because they care for you.
Confrontation can be painful and vulnerable. The majority of people avoid confrontation in the fear of imploding the relationship. However, it is necessary. Confrontation was something I started to get more comfortable with as I grew older. This is especially so with close relationships.
Recently, I confronted two good friends. I was feeling really upset for their unreliability and a host of other issues. I kept it in for months. However, it finally felt inauthentic to be around them without expressing those issues. It didn’t feel like a genuine friendship anymore. It felt like I was holding back my thoughts and desires in fear of losing the relationship.
Confrontation from a dating and relationships aspect can be as simple as calling a girl out for being half an hour late into a date to confronting your boyfriend about those weird late night calls to his ex. These conversations are almost often downright uncomfortable, but necessary. However, that’s how an authentic and deeper relationship is formed over time.
Putting it all Together
When you combine these conversational skillsets of cold reading, making statements over questions, storytelling, improvisation, deep emotional connection, you’ll eventually find yourself in being able to direct and control the flow of any conversation. This is actually easier than it sounds. You probably already are using different parts of these skillsets time to time. Now, you just got to do it consistently with anyone you are intending to converse with.
When I was 17, and I was the biggest countercultural hippie. I listened to John Lennon, proclaimed that all you need is love and just felt that life was all too short to be worried about you know the practical stuff. I sat at the playground near my house I was with my ex girlfriend who I was dating at that point in time. I sat and both of us chatted for hours.
I went off about how societal expectations were ridiculous and gave a mini-lecture if the universe existed or not. I told her how amazing was to exist as a tiny speck of the universe. I ranted passionately for a good hour. She listened. She listened well.
I then caught myself rambling and stared into her eyes.
I said: “Were you even listening, did you understand what I just said?”
She said: “No, I don’t, but I just love the way you say it.”
I got annoyed because I wanted her to understand all of that hippie stuff. She didn’t. However, years later, looking back, she probably loved how I expressed it. It my passion, my values and story telling at it’s finest. That was because those stories demonstrated my vulnerability, my authenticity.
Fast forward years later and I found myself dating this other girl at this bar near my home. That point of time, I was also a competitive martial artist and was preparing for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament. I ended ranting off on about how Jiu Jitsu is similar to the game of human chess. I told her Brazilian Jiu Jitsu was akin to facing death.
I explained to her that by being submitted in a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match, it is the equivalent of dying. You’re either choked out, or risk suffering a major limb broken, which will lead you to a huge disability continuing the fight. I then went on about how Brazilian Jiu Jitsu teaches everyone to be humble because getting into a physical altercation in reality always pans out differently.
Guess what? She loved it. She just stared at me like my ex girlfriend did, mesmerised at how I went on passionately about something I cared about.
Complete different people, and completely different stories. Nonetheless, the same universal emotions.
The facts often get shifted around, however, the feelings are always same.
I remembered one of my most traumatic experiences as a young 21-year-old. That was when I started studying social dynamics, personality development, and self-help. One tenet of attraction is courage and standing up for yourself (and others).
Two of my friends were squabbling and told one of them to stop emotionally abusing her.
He told me: ‘why didn’t you take my side’.
He also happened the main social connector in the social group I was part of. He suddenly stopped inviting me out for all events. The rest of the group didn’t care or asked why I stopped showing up for group events. Life just went on.
That’s the story of how I lost touch with 90% of my social group at that point in time.
Losing friends and being excluded from social events is one of the most difficult things a young man has to deal with when you’re in your twenties. Especially when you’re standing up for your values. However, I took all that pain and put it into improving my dating life. Fast forward 6 years later, I’ve had a dating life equivalent to a Chinese lord in ancient China (not an Emperor yet). (Read: Okay, I think I outperformed the Chinese lord.) The Chinese lord’s access was only limited to Chinese women and I’ve dated women from different cultures.
In a similar period, I made a couple of friends in the Singapore military and kept them as bosom friends throughout my early to middle twenties. I also made a group of friends during my early twenties that were into digital entrepreneurship.
Fast forward two years later, I progressively began doing better than these peers around me in terms of multiple aspects of my life: academic performance, dating life, personal finances, and business. I became well-traveled, well-spoken and had my first taste of business success. I was a lot more reliable and accountable than my teenage days.
Fundamentally, I understood human politics on a deeper level. I understood that people do not merely exchange bodily fluids, money with each other, but also self-esteem.
I knew my success, drive and no-nonsense approach to keep myself and others accountable is going to rub some the wrong way. Some times, I’ll be enthusiastically yacking off about business plans, strategies, and information that I paid tens of thousands for. I never understood why people around me perceived it as being arrogant instead of being inspired and appreciative that I was sharing it for free.
More often than not, the social reactions and consequences weren’t ideal.
I’m also not a fan of tacit approval. I dislike passively nodding my head to topics that I believe (with research) are wrong. I’ll often say: I disagree. You have no idea just by disagreeing, it drives people crazy.
Slowly, in another repeated process, these so-called ‘friends’ started falling off.
However by this time I knew I could generate acquaintances and surface-level friendships in almost any social setting. Contrary to possible conclusions you may come up after reading this far, I do get along with the majority of the human population.
Boundary Issues in The Asian Culture
I’ve NEVER had issues going dutch with women on dates.
However, I’ve ALWAYS had issues going dutch with friends when going out to social events. There’s something perverse about the Asian culture that you’re expected to buy someone a meal or a drink, and then he/she treats you back a week later and the cycle repeats itself.
To give you an example: you’re ‘supposed’ to just share drinks on the table because some asshole decides to order an expensive bottle and you just happened to want to go to the club with friends to chill. If you don’t fit in socially into that particular situation, you’re considered an asshole.
Isn’t being accountable for what you spend and keeping others accountable for what they spend a rational behavior? Or is it a social norm to let minor purchases slight in the name of ‘friendship’.
There was once I almost started a physical fistfight with a football player that I had a conflict with. It’s only after a week that I found out that many other players were also upset with him, they just kept it quiet. I was the only one with enough courage (or lack of patience) to tell him off. However, because he’s a doctor and plays relatively good football, the players that voiced out to me privately continue to defer to him.
This is a perverse Asian phenomenon where people defer to people with social status, power, authority, and monetary influence despite their behavior. When I was growing up, everyone deferred to the rich kid that pays for bottles at the club with his Daddy’s credit card. Secondly, I don’t think it’s solely an Asian problem, however, it’s more prevalent in Asian cultures.
How Does this Relate to Dating?
If you do desire a dating life like a Chinese Emperor (or Chinese lord), you’re going to have to individuate from the collectivistic Asian culture. Mike, a dating coach from PickUpAlpha wrote about the importance of smaller social groups and the meaningless of the big Asian social group that permeates Asian culture.
I’m also not a fan of following blindly in social groups. I like hanging out. However, if one of them decides to take some expensive party bus that costs a bomb, I’m not for it.
To quote Mike on another statement: he sees many Asian acting betas in order to fit into a social group. I often tell clients that they are supposed to go through an identity flux if they desired mastery in this area. If you start stepping up, not many people are going to like it. Especially if you weren’t the popular or cool popular guy in your earlier years.
Lastly, there’s no need to defer to some asshole just because he has a big house and uses his Dad’s credit card to pay for bottles at the club. I’m not saying you need to burn bridges either. However, play it smart and don’t be an orbiter.
Okay, this is my god to honest account on an arduous but fulfilling process if you undertake.
I haven’t really written a personal ‘live infield’ post for some time now because I don’t really see a need to reveal my personal life online anymore. I started blogging documenting my personal experiences 6 years ago and it helped a lot in my own ‘game’.
Through this process, I met some friends in the PUA community in Singapore, I kept some and ditched many.
This year, I find myself distancing myself even more from people in the community, even the ones I consider ‘more socially attuned’.
Here are the reasons why:
PUAs tend to come from a ‘value leech’ standpoint. One example is that many desire to get into clubs for free and aren’t willing to pay for entry. They use underhanded tactics to get in for free. Even when I had no money, I’ll try to get into clubs by paying or through a legitimate manner, like a guestlist or getting to know the club promoter. I didn’t like sneaking around. That’s socially retarded. It also doesn’t cast a good light socially.
Secondly, it’s a ‘cheap mentality’. As an entrepreneur, I believe in the price paid for value creation. The club created value in exchange for cash, so I have no problems paying for it. Your beliefs are going to largely influenced by the people you surround yourself with. If I’m around with cheap people, I’m going to devolve into a ‘cheap mentality’. Not really good.
Lastly, it’s the manner most pick up artists approach their dating life. I haven’t met a pick up artist that is actually cool. The way the treat going out with me is purely from a pickup lens. ‘Let’s meet at 11 pm outside the club.’ No catching up, no chilling out, no real human connection. This cycle repeats week in week and out.
This also comes off in their ‘game’ as well. Its usually gamey, overtly aggressive and dependent on gimmicks. The type of game that only works on 5 – 7s. Yet they define their success based on lowering their standards. It’ll never work on quality women. Their style also ruins my own interactions. Through observations from micro-body language, I can some times tell that girls are thinking: ‘why are they so different from each other?’.
The difference between crappy game and good game is how grounded, calm looking your interactions are.
I once told my coach (Bradicus, check him out on Instagram) that I’m already one of the better ones (if not the best) in Singapore and I can’t really find peers of a similar level of social/dating skills in Singapore. I don’t think I’m too far from this statement. This is why I’ll like to further distance myself from the childish, non-effective PUA community in Singapore.
Secondly, I used to be closed off about the idea of building and maintaining a social circle. The entire social circle thing isn’t my priority when I was a student and was traveling a lot. I also couldn’t be arsed about making everyone happy and following up with relationships.
However, let’s face it, real friendships are important and they determine a lot of your emotional sanity and social success. These days, I’m a lot more open-minded about cultivating and building a social circle that 1) keeps me accountable to my business, personal goals 2) I can discuss and share ideas with.
This also came into need when I tightened up my personal values. I just can’t deal with people who aren’t accountable for their personal finances. Sorry, I’m just not the type to ‘buy you drinks, and then later you buy me a round of more expensive drinks in the name of bromance and this cycle never ends’. It’s a stupid old school Asian cultural narrative.
A couple of months ago I called out a friend who short-changed everyone in the drinks department. He created an entire hoo-hah, and the rest of the group members simply kept their mouth shut so as to not rock the boat. This is no wonder Asian men are perceived to be unmasculine, unattractive and pushovers.
I also realized that unconditional friendships are determined largely by values. My personal life took a hit as I got more successful in business. Not to sound like an arrogant prick, you really get to who your real friends are when you become more successful than them. There are friends that claim honor and brotherhood but can’t even make time for a simple birthday meet up. I can go on a philosophical rant on friendships, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Even though I don’t claim to have purely, 100% good or noble intentions, I’ll like to claim moral freedom to say that I’ve mostly have had good intentions. However, the reality is that people sometimes don’t respond to critical (but truthful) perspectives.
I also find myself in a weird space where I experienced a lot more than the average 27-year-old. As I mentioned, I wasn’t known to be the successful kid from secondary school onwards. I was at most the rebellious student that skipped half his classes and partied a lot.
This new identity creates a social pressure around the people that knew me before because they are uncomfortable with my new identity. I guess success has its own price tag.
The coaching program has grown despite without paid advertising. I aim to transit to a purely online coaching model in the next 12 months. So if you’re reading this and looking to get coached by me in person, then stop waiting.
Our decision making in all areas of life comes from unconscious aspects of our minds. If there’s something you are overly anxious or numb about, there may be an underlying emotion that you’ve repressed or are unconscious about. If you’re constantly unhappy, or constantly in toxic relationships with your friends and family members, then perhaps there’s something there as well.
Or perhaps, you may be facing some form of depression.
Struggling with Depression
I once completely flunked my examinations and got dumped by my ex girlfriend over a text message in a timeframe of a couple of weeks. I was due for military enlistment in a couple of weeks and needless to say those chain of events lead to a minor depressive period.
I looked to friends and family for advice but mostly they ended up giving me superficial or judgmental advice:
‘Just don’t think too much’ ‘It’ll need to be more spiritual. That’s the problem with you Marcus’ ‘You’re over thinking it’.
I read the research on psychotherapy, I knew the benefits and I jumped straight. I didn’t really cared about what others would think. Stigma? Good. Unconventionality? Even better. I never bought all that unscientific NLP, superficial self help advice, in fact, I hated it. I need something more concrete, something that is based on the scientific method. Okay, psychology isn’t a hard science. I’m aware of that. However, it’s the closest bet.
I checked myself into psychotherapy at the age of 21. However, in hindsight, I didn’t take the benefits of psychotherapy seriously until my third year into it. That was because I went into my sessions with the Mr Know It all attitude:
‘Yeah, I’ve read the research behind it. I know my issues.’
However, intellectualising and/ or verbalising your issues are one thing, but processing them and grieving through them are a different other ball game.
Do You Need Therapy?
Now, if you’re wondering if you need therapy, here is a simple, helpful checklist I stole from Mark Manson’s article.
You have emotional or sexual impulses you don’t have control over angry outbursts, fear of intimacy, sexual anxiety, bouts of depression, etc.
You come from a difficult childhood, had absent parents or a poor relationship with your parents.
You’ve suffered some major traumas in your life (death of loved ones, abuse, major health problems, etc.).
You have compulsive behaviors which interfere with other areas of your life: i.e., drug/alcohol abuse, etc.
The majority of your relationships in your life are dysfunctional and/or unhealthy (always fighting, lots of blame/guilt, etc.). This includes friendships, significant others, family members.
You are overly pre-occupied with one aspect of your life. Common examples include an obsession with being “cool” or popular, obsession with impressing others, a constant need for approval from others, even obsessing about improving yourself (feeling like you’re never good enough), etc.
How to Get out of Depression: The Benefits of Psychotherapy
I’ll argue that many people struggling in different areas of their lives from relationships to personal finance have emotional stories that are out of touch with from their past. They often experienced past traumas, difficult childhoods and negative experiences that they themselves have not confronted and/or are completely unaware of. Yet, they go on years after years of chasing superficial fixes and are oblivious to their own emotional realities.
For example, through the years, I could always be charismatic with girls that I wasn’t emotionally invested in. It didn’t matter if she was hot or not, as long as I wasn’t emotionally invested, I could ‘perform’. However, when it came to a woman I actually felt something for, I would screw it up in the multitude of ways possible.
Through therapy, you’re forced ask better questions:
Why do you get nervous around that attractive person who is a complete stranger?
Why are you so invested in what others think of you?
Why are you avoidant of commitment?
Why do you feel unworthy of dating someone you’re genuinely attracted to, but feel completely worthy of dating someone you feel so so about?
Why do you measure yourself and base your self-esteem with certain achievements/ sexual conquests?
There’s also a catch 22: If you’re constantly wanting to better yourself, doesn’t that stem from the belief that you aren’t already good enough?
Psychotherapy can help you:
Understand how past traumatic events determine your attachment style, that determine the quality of your relationships
Why you may be overtly critical or judgment of yourself (could it be because you had an overly critical parent?)
The root of your lack of motivation, your anger or apathy in life
Help you be aware of your subconscious negative beliefs, the subconscious ways you measure yourself with others, and other unconscious drives
How you self sabotage yourself (not studying for exams and partying the night before) This might be rooted in a fear of failure from childhood
There are tons of other benefits, however, these are the main ones that helped me in my life.
Through therapy, you start digging into your past, your emotional development, your childhood. Perhaps you always find yourself in toxic romantic relationships in your life or get uncontrollably angry when someone criticises you on something minor, then perhaps there’s an unresolved emotion or belief there that you aren’t conscious about.
Perhaps, you had an absent father, and you’ve been resentful against him for all these years. That unconscious resentment causes you to be lack in sexual confidence with the opposite sex. Maybe, you’ve avoided commitment throughout your life because your ex girlfriend committed suicide. Maybe you lack confidence in your social life because you’ve been teased and bullied growing up.
There are multiple connected reasons and our psyche doesn’t work like an algorithm, but you get the rough idea.
In my experience, I always thought psychotherapy is a process where you cry it all out on a couch. However, I eventually found out that uncovering and working through negative emotions such as disgust, shame, anger, rage, ice cold bitterness, contempt and hatred is part of the therapeutic process as well. Psychotherapy helps you process the anger and the hurt in a safe environment. When you become more aware of those emotions, you are able to exert a great control over your behaviour.
Psychotherapy and the Stigma in Modern Culture
From personal experience and research, especially in the Asian culture, mental illness, depression is still stigmatized in culture in general. Modern culture stifles open conversations on emotions, depression, isolation, sex and relationships.
Ironically, the things that matter in life.
In fact, the word ‘client’ is often used by psychologists who think of psychological disorders not as illnesses but as problems in living.
Unfortunately, our culture stigmatises getting help from a clinical professional. I’d even go as far to argue that if I had access to therapy earlier on in my teens, it would do so much better than those boring counselling sessions from the school counsellor (who no one gave a real fuck about her advice anyway).
Whenever I openly discuss therapy with my Asian friends, it gets kind of touchy. I know they’re afraid of how it’s perceived.
If you think about it, it’s similar to getting a personal trainer if you’re serious about getting really good at bodybuilding. You’re just getting one for your mind and emotions. I also have adviced some of my friends and clients who face repeated problems and patterns in their life. The majority of them ignored my advice due to the stigma surrounding it. However, if you look at me, I’m probably a pretty alright individual. I travel regularly, write kickass awesome articles like this. Yet, I work with a psychologist and intend to continue doing so.
Celebrities, multi-millionaires, successful entrepreneurs, athletes, top performing people, musicians, artists and people who are influential in society have used psychotherapy to help them in their lives.
Secondly, if you really are strong, then if you can’t discuss a ‘touchy topic’, that would merely imply that you’re actually weak.
I’ve used therapy for years already in my own life and it’s has helped me in all areas of my life from taking steps towards building a business, bettering my academic performance, fostering better relationships with my parents and to building better self awareness.
There’s no shame about it. If you need it, consult one.
The Different Forms of Psychotherapy
Okay, now let’s get to the different forms of psychotherapy.
When most people think of therapy, they think of going into a room, lying on a couch and crying your heart out after some sort of hypnosis. That’s entirely untrue. The majority of therapies don’t involve hypnosis and it’s often a two-way interaction between the therapist and the client.
Here are the basic forms of therapy that’s most commonly practiced:
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
(CBT) is primarily a short term treat that takes involves you challenging your own unhelpful thoughts and beliefs when facing a difficult problem in our day to day life. This is more surface level and it’s often focused on changing the way you think in a situation.
Acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) is a branch off CBT. It’s focused on being mindful, being accepting of your negative thoughts. It does not attempt to directly change or stop unwanted thoughts or feelings but instead encourages you to develop a new compassionate relationship with your negative thoughts and feelings.
However, psychodynamic therapy is an insight style of therapy. The focus of it is to reveal unconscious content of your psyche in an effort to alleviate psychological tension. Psychodynamic therapies focus on the client’s motivation, either conscious or unconscious.
Whilst psychodynamic therapy focuses on conflicting motives. The humanistic therapy model believe that mental issues arise from low self esteem, misguided goals and unfulfilling relationships.
College students who seek therapy showed symptoms such as feeling of alienation, failure to achieve all they feel they should, difficult relationships and general dissatisfaction with their lives. Psychologists often refer to these problems as existential crises.
In the view of humanists, someone is motivated by growth and psychological well being. This differed from Freud’s assumption that a personality is divided into conflicting parts, dominated by a selfish id, driven by hedonistic instincts and pressed conflicts.
EMDR is a form of therapy that emphasize the role of distressing memories in some mental health disorders, particularly (PTSD). The goals of EMDR is to engage the brain’s natural adaptive information processing mechanisms, hence reliving present systems. It’s used to treat both PTSD and trauma.
There are many other form of psychotherapy, however, I’m pointing out the general ones that most psychologists use.
The Limitations of Psychotherapy
Okay, is hiring a therapist a cure all for all of your life problems? No, psychotherapy, isn’t a cure-all. Ultimately, you have to be responsible for your life and problems.
Like all life improvement tools, you still have to take full responsibility for our own issues and problems.
Showing up to a psychologist and expecting him or her to just fix your life is not going to work out. Psychotherapy should be seen as a supplement, as opposed to a crutch.
The more people are leaving therapy, the better it is. That means that it’s working. I would also add that your therapy sessions should be challenging and not fall into a comfortable pattern. There was a period where I found myself repeating myself in 2-3 sessions and I requested for a switch of topics just to mix things up.
If you’re looking to better other aspects of your life, then learning conversational skills such as cold reading, making statements and actually taking action are equally if not more important. There isn’t any therapy in the world can get rid of your social or romantic anxiety. You’ll still have to put in the work, go out and take action.
Treat it Like Hiring a Trainer
You got to treat hiring a therapist like hiring a trainer for you. He or she is there to spot you, however, you need to do the heavy lifting yourself. They are not there to be your friends or validate your problems. They are for a professional service: to help you better your emotions.
Therapy should challenge you, it should feel uncomfortable.
Finally, there’s research suggesting that the majority of people come out better from therapy. There’s also research suggesting that people that commit to therapy for a longer period of time, 5 years, come out better.
There are influential reads that led me to take psychotherapy a lot more seriously: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Volk, and Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. They are written by clinical psychologists. These books both give me insights into how psychoanalytic repercussions can run deep.
It might sound far fetch, but no one is perfect, and I believe everyone, rich famous or successful should get some form of therapy of another. You may be good at academics but shit poor in your relationships. You may be good at fitness but overspend your pay on the weekends. There’s always a behaviour that you can seek to be more in control of. I personally belief that hiring a therapist and using it as a tool is going to be a norm half a century from now. It’s going to be where everybody shows up, work through their issues and get more control over individual behaviour.
In my own life, I’ve seen considerable improvements and I consider myself a successful client.
I’ve been on both ends of human performance. I’ve been last in class and first in class, in multiple disciplines in my life, from academics, martial arts, business, relationships and pursuits. Through the years, I always wondered what are the key principles of high performance. Is it motivation, is it discipline or is it willpower?
Secondly, I also wanted some research behind it. I didn’t want to be one of those self help writers that write another cheesy post on ’10 Steps to feel better about yourself today’.
How is genuine self-esteem is actually generated? Why do some people feel like fraud and why some people feel like a king? Why some people feel deserving of things in their life, and some people struggle with it? Why do some people boast of things they never did accomplish, and are perfectly fine with not doing so?
Initially, I bought the idea of willpower, after all, with psychological studies that showed that the environment shapes behavior, as opposed to willpower. However, I, later on, bought into the argument of childhood development: The Freudian approach.
I’ll argue that high performance boils down to multiple variables, from the environment and your childhood experiences. I’ll also argue that self-esteem is a key fundamental of all high-performance behavior. Your behaviour boils down to one’s self-esteem. How much you believe you’re worth, deep down. Self-esteem leads to courage and eventually leads to an expanded life.
If you believe you’re worth it, you’ll have higher expectations of both of yourself, and others, you’ll have high boundaries, you do not take shit from anybody, including yourself.
The student who believes he’s smart is going to put in the work, whether he’s really actually smart or not. I found that to be true in my short Summer stint at Berkeley. I traditionally wasn’t a good student in Singapore. However, for someone reason, because I had the freedom to flex my identity in another culture. I ended up performing academically.
In my entrepreneurial career, I quadrupled my price overnight, that’s because I believed that my product and service is worth that price. Yet, it sold. Of course. However, a higher price comes higher pressure, intensity and a willingness to make it work. It goes to show that a of our decisions and success in life is based on self-esteem.
The Freudian Idea: Self Esteem Derived from Childhood
I also buy the idea that your parents fucked you up. It’s as simple as that.
It’s hard not to notice the parallels between self-esteem and childhood experiences. It’s also not uncommon to find people with problematic childhoods growing up with self esteem issues: self-sabotaging in academics, career, and relationships.
The issues also come often in two main spectrums: you either had it too tough or had it too easy. Hence, you lack true self esteem.
It’s also hard not to notice that most parents have high expectations for their children, yet, they didn’t and are unable to replicate similar expectations and behaviours in themselves in the past or present. To quote Dan Pena: ‘children don’t see what you tell them to do, they see what you do.’
This is the similar of leadership, your troops only follow you when you’re able and willing to execute upon similar tasks. If a sales manager isn’t able to make a sales call and only makes his employees do it, he’s not going to be a manager for long!
One of the best things an upwardly mobile individual can do is to leave home. To detach himself from his family and strike out on his own. One can take that rite of passage as building true self esteem.
Love and Friendship
I remembered 8 months ago in my formal employment where I borrowed a couple of books from the little office library and finished it overnight. My superior thought I was bullshitting him. That I couldn’t have possibly finished it in one-night right? Yet on the other hand, in one of my last projects for them, they demanded that I finished 2000 words sales page for them in a short period of time. I managed to produce it within a day.
Other than a couple of quips that they wouldn’t give in to my requests for a more flexible working arrangement, I knew deep down that they didn’t see me the way I perceived myself. Every day that I stayed there was a detriment to my self-esteem.
In an idealistic world, your employers, friends, and family are going to recognize the best virtues in you. However, in the real-world these often pans out in the opposite.
I’m not going to bore you on the cliche that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. However, it’s true.
To give you an example, your self esteem is going to be compromised if you’re attempting to lose weight and the people around you don’t believe that you are capable of that.
Yet, these are the exact people that you define as ‘friends’. It’s weird that some loosely define friendships as people that subtlety put you down. If you studied the philosophers from Plato to Socrates, friendship to them is defined as a constant open debate, growth and an introspect discussion into their lives.
Over the last couple of years, I have been increasingly ‘tough’ on the people around me. My Mum says I’m too tough on people. Some of my friends say I am too tough on myself. However, let me tell you something about having a sense of self esteem and keeping yourself and others accountable: it works.
Self esteem or the lack of can also be expressed in our romantic life. If you choose to be someone because he or she makes you feel confidence, a confidence that you can’t internally generate on your own, then you obviously have a lack of self esteem.
However, if you choose a heroine, a woman who has values that you admire, of intelligence, confidence, and strength, then that says about your security as a man, of a feeling of your own self worth.
The Meaning of Self Esteem
Self esteem is the judgment you pass on yourself, and by the standards by which you judge yourself. If someone lacks self esteem, they will feel driven to fake it, to create the illusion of self esteem.
It has two interrelated aspects: it entails a sense of personal efficacy and a sense of personal worth. It is the conviction that one is competent to live, and worth of living.
The sense of efficacy is defined by an individual choosing his goals and action. That one has to be right in the conclusions one draws and choices and make. However, not demanding or expecting omniscience or infallibility.
What he needs is that which is within his power, the conviction that his method of choosing and making decisions is right in principle.
This can come in the form of sharp mental focus, seeking to bring one’s understanding to an optimal level of precision and clarity as opposed to a focus on the level of blurred approximation, in a state of passive, goalless mental drifting.
This is also through the performance of an independent thinking, independent judgment. You weigh the truth or falsehood of any claim or the right or wrong of any issue with the ability to accept in uncritical passivity and assertions of others.
It isn’t the conviction that one can never make an error. It is the conviction that one is competent to think to, to judge and to know and to correct one’s errors.
One Must Place Values Above Emotions
The need to be good. That contributes to one’s sense of self esteem. Your character is the sum of the principles and values that guide his actions in the face of moral choices.
If you default on the responsibility of thought and reason, hence undercutting your competence to live, you’ll feel unworthy. If you betray your moral convictions, you will not retain your sense of confidence. You can never excuse yourself from making judgments and choosing your behavior.
If you don’t respect yourself, you’ll never be able to respect others. These are the people that constantly show up late, say something, and do otherwise. I once told a friend that if he couldn’t respect a dollar from my pocket, I didn’t give a fuck, I told him I wouldn’t lend it to him. It’s non-negotiable I didn’t. He kicked up a fuss and today we aren’t on speaking terms. Today he’s broke, and I am in a much better financial position.
We have an innate sense to understand to the best of our intellectual capabilities. Some times, this is defaulted in childhood through irrational parents, authority figures and societal norms.
If a person develops healthily, and acquires a set of values, his mind and emotions achieving harmony, he won’t be chronically torn between knowledge and desires.
The difference between a well adjusted individual and avoidance is that one is fleeing from reality, and the other is taking proper cognisance over it.
It feels good to be drunk. They can be said the same for our emotions. However, being drunk on emotions is often followed by the misery of a hangover. When you place values above emotions, emotions are your reward, and not your nemesis.
When you not no values or standards of your own, you accept whatever your values are offered to you by society.
Through setting standards and values of your own, you’re rejecting some values and standards of friends, family, and society around you. You’re building your own personal boundaries and values.
Self esteem is also ostensibly tied to one’s purpose. It is the desire to grow in knowledge and skills, in understanding and control. The opposite is stagnant passivity.
On any level of intelligence or ability, one the characteristics of self esteem is a man’s eagerness for the new and the challenging, for which he’s allowed to use his abilities to the fullest extent.
In the realm of his work, the primary desire of an individual of self confidence is to face challenges, to achieve and grow.
The desire to be ‘safe’ is also the man who lacks self confidence. Productive achievement is the cause and not the result of healthy self esteem. People who based their self esteem on existential achievements don’t really have self esteem at all.
The lack of self esteem is often expressed by people who wish to escape consciousness and the ability/need to form rational thought. This is often expressed through sexual pleasure, money for the sake of money and the common vices in our society. It is the pleasure received from temporarily feeling helpless. This pleasure is different from the man who uses his faculties properly, and of actual values in reality.
Self esteem is confidence is one’s ability to achieve values, and not the external achievement of it. One is ‘I Can’, and the other is ‘I Have’.
The rational, self confident man, on the other hand, is motivated by a love of values and a desire to achieve them.
Pseudo Self Esteem
Pseudo self esteem, is an irrational pretense at self value. It is an avoidance of anxiety and it provides a temporary sense of security. To the man of authentic self esteem, there is no clash between his recognition of the facts of reality and the preservation of his self esteem, since he basis his self esteem as his ability to act accordingly with the facts of reality as he understands them.
However, to the man of no self esteem, reality appears to be a threat, as an enemy. It’s always a choice between reality or his self esteem.
The determinant of a man’s self esteem is the motivation between fear and love. You can be motivated by confidence, or you can be motivated by terror. To a man that lacks self esteem, he lives negatively, defensively and extensively.
To the man who devoid of genuine self esteem, his life is always in psychological danger. He is always in anger, psychologically. He never reaches normality.
He takes on the values and judgment of others, and never takes ownership of his own life. He has always counted on others to solve the problem of his own survival and chooses values appropriate to this manner of existence.
The terror of a man who assumes ownership of his own life is because he’s had pseudo self esteem. He has always counted on others to solve the problem of his own survival and chooses values appropriate to this manner of existence.
This can take the form of:
The man who never makes independent thought or judgment on his own
The man who obsessed with being popular, who feels driven to win the approval of everyone he meets
The woman who has no sense of personal identity, and who seeks to lose her inner emptiness in the role of a sacrificial martyr for her children, demanding that her children do the same for her.
The man who works at being aggressively masculine, whose concerns are entirely subordinated to his role as a woman chaser, who derives less pleasure from the act of sex, as opposed to boasting about it to other men
People That Experience a Crisis of Self Esteem
People experience pathological self esteem crisis’s when their values clash internally. There are often absolutes in this equation: ‘I must not’ and ‘I am willing to’ Hence, this engages your sense (or lack of) self esteem. Thus, one experiences a crisis of self esteem.
This can come in the form of a girl who has been brought up in an over religious childhood. She then finds herself engaging in overtly sexual activities. There’s a clash in values. On one hand, sex feels good. Yet, one the other, she was brought up to feel otherwise.
Freud, in one of his final theories, maintained that anxiety is triggered by forbidden sexual desire that breaks through the barrier of repression and causes the ego to feel overwhelmed and threatened. The unblocking of one anxiety is also known to unblock stir up other conflicts, which are anxiety-provoking.
How to Have A Positive Sense of Self Esteem
Ultimately, a positive sense of self esteem is the product of two things: the ability to form independent judgment and thoughts, and the cultivation of an integrated set of values.
For everyone, the responsibility of thought and judgment is different for everyone. The responsibility and judgment required from a child are different from one of an adult. One has to accept one’s responsibility to choose a set at values, pass judgment, define goals, at some point in his life.
The acceptance of responsibility is a choice, and it’s not automatic nor wired into one’s brain by nature. It is a challenge to which you how you can respond, with acceptance or rejection. To be motivated by terror or love.
The result of being motivated by love and challenge is a positive sense of self esteem. The result of running away from responsibility, thought and judgment will be a sense of pain and a lack of self esteem.
It’s a man’s values that determine his values as an extension of himself, as an integral part of his identity.
Your self is a cumulative result of year and years of irrationalities, failures, successes, actions, values and etc. When you have self esteem or the lack of it is the reputation a man acquires with himself.
There’s No Such thing as ‘High Self Esteem’ or ‘High Confidence’
One other idea I got out of the research is that there’s no such thing as ‘high self esteem’ or ‘high confidence’.
Self-esteem is basically an opinion about the person you are. Ultimately, self esteem is a mere bunch of thoughts about whether or not you’re a ‘good person’. It’s NOT a fact, it’s just an opinion.
The problem comes in is when you constantly have to justify and prove to yourself that you’re a good person or that you have high self esteem. You constantly have to justify the ‘you’re good enough’ opinion. All these proving and justifying of these takes a huge amount of time and effort.
If you stopped exercising for a few days, your mind says: See? I know you wouldn’t last. If you lose your temper with a friend or make a slight mistake at work, there goes your ‘high self esteem’.
During my early, immature pick up artist days, I was constantly worried about how confident I was on a day to day basis. The truth is that some days I feel confident, and some days I don’t. It’s just human to do so.
The more you try to justify your high self esteem, the need for perfection. The more it kills you inside. The better approach is to let go of the idea of high self esteem altogether. You don’t need high self esteem.
What you need is merely: Self esteem. Plain, and simple. That’s all.
How to Build Self Esteem: Closing Thoughts
Ultimately, competence and feeling in control of your life have a lot to do with feeling good about yourself.
Your expectations and standards for yourself are going to largely fall to the quality of people around you. In simple terms, a lot of your self esteem and self image is going to be determined by the people around you. For a lot of us, you spend most of your time with your family and close friends.
You may find that your friendships come and go in accordance with the current 1) social setting and your 2) current self-image.
If you feel like you ‘lack self esteem’ here may be why: 1) you probably lack standards for yourself 2) the people around probably lack standards and expectations in themselves and standards and expectations for you.
This is why mentoring can be a possible solution. Some that you look up to and potentially a role model. This can come in the form of a formal paid relationship, a friend, an older brother or perhaps your boss.
Self-esteem is the foundation of all success, and also for one to become a better human being. He or she first must respect him or herself, build fundamental self-esteem, which leads to personal integrity and accountability.
Branden, N. The Psychology of Self Esteem – a Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding That Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology.
One of the biggest things that people do not talk about is peer group, community and support. For someone that values constant improvement in all aspects of my life from business, fitness and relationships… it can get quite isolating to the outside world.
I was having a midnight movie just a couple of days ago with an old friend I knew 7-8 years a go. Back then I was an army enlistee and we would go out, hang out late and break some rules like walk into places we should not be walking into.
Friendship and Personal Growth
Since then, I have changed from a counter cultural individual to a pretty much well adjusted individual. I no longer spend too much time hanging out late. I don’t smoke as much as I did before (just a little if there’s whiskey involved). I am well travelled, read a gazillion books from philosophy to literature, created revenue in my business as a dating coach and multiple industries… the list goes on.
I was looking forward to hang out, discuss our lives and goals looking forward. However, we ended up breaking the rules as much as we did 7-8 years ago. If you asked the 20-year-old me, I’ll gleefully took pride in my actions, however, this time, I instantly felt a disconnect. I instantly knew that we’re on different ‘wavelengths’. He was still trying to break the rules as much as he did 7-8 years ago. Trying to ‘get by’ or ‘cheat’ society.
Everyone that I know of that is obsessed with growth has almost always said that is a somewhat lonely journey.
When I was hitting the clubs weekly 6-7 years ago as a mentee to a dating coach in Singapore at that point of time, all my friends thought I was being weird.
When I started treated my business seriously, started having a lot more personal boundaries after leaving my last formal job, my around me reacted negatively.
Birds of the Same Feather Flock Together
Interestingly, it was the people who were more successful than I was that wasn’t just more empathetic, but also more encouraging to the process.
When I hit my first $10,000 net profit in my business in a month, it was my business coach at that point of time that was doing $20,000 a month that reached out to me and said: ‘good job’ Marcus. He and I continued hanging out and today we’re friends.
It’s interesting how our relationships with the outside world evolves as we grow.
7 years ago, I was an arrogant, rebellious and angry NSF. My friends who around me were also arrogant, rebellious and angry.
I started on my self development journey and met a couple of friends that were also attempting to improve their dating lives with women. Some of them are still friends with me today.
When I took a couple of gap years to dip my toes in business. There wasn’t a single friend in University that could resonate with what I was attempting to do. Their values were different. Nothing against them, it was just different values.
I am 27 years of age as I write this blog post. The majority of my friends are in the corporate world. Unfortunately, that was my peer group. I always half jokingly say that I am the weirdest JC kid. The majority of entrepreneurs I meet didn’t take the JC route.
I’ve been to multiple parts of the world, created revenue in multiple industries, had a dating life that an average man can dream of, and of course some of these values aren’t exactly adopted by the average person out there, much less my peers.
How to Build Your Ideal Lifestyle?
Even though I am pretty damned good at doing things by myself, and I haven’t had a business partner for years. However, it can be quite isolating at times.
These days, I find myself asking myself, who are the people I’ll like to hang out with at this point of my life?
Here are some ideas:
Young and driven entrepreneurs
Young and driven professionals
People that dress well and carry themselves well.
How can I connect with people from such demographics? Where do these people spend their time hanging out? They aren’t certainly hanging out at heartland malls at 12am on a Sunday night (which was what I was doing with a long time friend of mine).
They are probably attending business events, doing Yoga classes, doing martial arts classes or partying at the hottest parties on the weekend. They aren’t 19 year old pick up artists trying to get a free entry into clubs.
So as I teach my clients: draft out the characteristics of the people you’ll like to connect with, find out where they spend their time, invest my time in these demographics, and then connect with them.
Connecting with someone can be as easy as listen to their stories. Successful people often have untold stories that’ll like to share. You can learn a lot from sitting for 1 hour over coffee with someone. Or even so, just connect as a human being. This is how you ‘be of value’ in a social sense.
If your current peer group isn’t ‘resonating’ with you, then you have to be proactive about making steps to connect with new people. Admittedly, I have been pretty lazy in this area. ‘Tiny success’ can get into your head. I started thinking I was ‘too good’ for others after making some headway into my business and my own dating life.
Valu-ing Community and Support
Quality relationships contribute a lot to our happiness and emotional health. I can’t stress this enough. Take this from someone that enjoys working alone and is quite a lone wolf in how he works.
This is why I value community and support. This is why I also created an in person monthly support meet up group for all my clients not only for them, but also myself. The majority of my clients become my friends after awhile (if they continually show up for the meet up sessions).
Since I teach social skills, I should really take my own advice sometimes. Community and like minded peers are PRICELESS. It’s no wonder that a huge part of my clientele are skewed towards people who also entrepreneurial, looking to better their dating and relationship lives.
Question is, how are you going to construct your ideal life? Who are the people you’ll like to spend time with, what are they characteristics and where do they spend their time? How are you going to connect with them?
I flirted with pick up artist techniques when I chanced upon the book ‘The Game Neil Strauss’ off the local bookstore when I was 19 years old. I had just broke up with my ex girlfriend I was reeling in depression and self-victimization.
It was as if I picked up the bible. I was hooked on the idea that you could do something about your chances with girls. I was hooked on the idea that as long as you did certain things, you could get a girl in bed. It’s like a formula to sex. I would then go on to spend all the free time I had in the military reading up all the dating advice material after another.
I remembered that I “negged” a girl and she laughed, it was exhilarating at first. Girls are actually finally finding me funny now! If a girl is laughing meant she was interested in you right? Well, she stopped texting me on the phone in a few days later. Months passed, I still wasn’t getting kisses or sex or anything of that sort, however, I just felt more empowered socially.
I eventually got desperate and emptied half my savings as a 19 years old and hired a dating coach that promised a “Singaporean method” to pick up, and finally get the girl.
The Truth about Pick Up Artist Techniques
Eventually, after a lot more trial and error, I got my first taste of success. I started dating more girls and slept with some of them, my notch count was getting higher. I prided myself knowing these little secrets that nobody knew.
I didn’t really go around telling my friends what I was on to either, cause I tried and some of them will just laugh it off. Eventually, after repeated success with girls after a couple of months it was “proof” that these pick up artist techniques and theories worked.
Okay, after years of doing this all over the world, I’m going to let you in on a couple of secrets. There’s a lot of marketing and fluff in the dating advice industry, let me break it down for you.
Pick up artist techniques and lines can be helpful, but only as a structure and framework
Pick up artist techniques such as lines and routines can be used as a crutch initially to get you started, however, you’ll eventually need to learn how to connect emotionally with others, and pursue women from a standpoint of sexual assertiveness.
The Pick Up Artist Techniques That Do Not Work
There’s nothing inherently wrong and bad about learning how and talk to an attractive stranger. However, it’s another whole different issue when you’re identifying yourself as a pick up artist.
The Idea of a ‘Pick Up Artist’ Self
Firstly, the idea that you have to adopt a seperate identity (a pick up artist) in order to be cool, be liked or get girls to like you is in itself, telling yourself that you as a human being, you’re not worthy of affection, attention from the opposite sex.
Of course, I’m not unrealistic and saying that there is nothing to done and only to be. I’m referring to a more identity level and self-image thing. Pick up artists tend to fall into the pure “pick up artist” self and isolate themselves from the world around them. The interactions that I had that turned out great over the years with me were often myself being a relaxed state and feeling not like a need to remember some line or technique.
Where are you coming from when you want to get good with women? Are you coming from a place of inferiority or a place or security?
The fact that you need to ‘demonstrate higher value’ or ‘neg her’ just means you see yourself as someone who is inferior to her. Someone with true confidence doesn’t need to go about demonstrating higher value or actively look for derogatory insults to bring her ‘value’ down. Here’s another catch-22: if you need to constantly demonstrate yourself as someone superior, then subtley demonstrates you’re inferior. Your actions and intentions will bleed through.
Pick Up Artist Techniques
‘You Need to Isolate Her’
I always hear pick up guys saying: ‘You got to isolate and distract their friends whilst being in the nightclub.’
I don’t agree with this. Firstly, on a technical level, your intentions will bleed through and the girls your approaching is going to get defensive. Secondly, if you’re in Asian culture, she’s going to get worried about her friends (and her friends are going get worried about her) when she gets separated from her.
‘You Can’t Go Direct. Expressing yourself directly only Works if You’re Tall and Good Looking.’
That’s utter rubbish. You can express yourself directly regardless of looks or height. In fact, you might even come off as more polarizing if you’re not exactly that good looking or tall, and you’re willing to be completely authentic and honest with her.
I also get some feedback that I’m considered ‘good looking’, hence it might be my good looks that helps me with my ‘game’.
Just to give you some insight, my first year in ‘game’ was spent dolling myself up with nice-looking clothes, hitting the gym, and ‘looking good’. I still didn’t get laid.
In fact, I’d argue that good looks may even work against you. Girls may call you out for being a player and she’s going to project all sort of stereotypes onto you.
‘It’s a Numbers Game’
It’s not uncommon to see people from the pick up artist community swearing by the game, going out 6-7 times a week, dedicating a huge portion of their life to this area of their life. I’m partly guilty of this, well, imagine the women and the respect from the guys. Which young male in his 20s doesn’t desire that?
It was a metric of success that I measured myself by for years. If I wasn’t off making new friends, I was off chasing some girl. Or either that, I should be travelling to some new country to explore the world, in the name of ‘self development’.
When I was hanging some of the guys from the pick up artist community, it’s not long before you hear them discuss their sex lives in a quantified manner. “I’ve slept with 13 girls so far, how about you?”.
You could had slept with 13 fat girls that you weren’t even interested in, and I choose to be with a plain Jane girlfriend who loves me, have mindblowing sex with and don’t drive me crazy. Who would have been the better man? Who would have had the better ‘Game’?
You’re only as good as the quality of girl you date, not the number of girls you date.
The Objectification of Your Emotional Life
Secondly, as much as learning social skills has helped me in various aspects of my life. Your emotional life is not one to be studied or to researched like a mathematical equation where quality, meaning and significance of social interactions are traded for objectified metrics such as hook close ratios and all of that un-needed metrics.
In the short run, these behaviours might actually seem to be working, but in the long run, you’ll find out that you’re the same low self-esteem person that relied on those lines and theories to get you anywhere in your social life.
Entering the pick up artist community, I went through the whole mystery method thing. It always about said: X + Y = Z. You may have had some success in the short run.
However, it it works not because of those lines or behaviours. But rather, those lines or behaviours allowed you to hit on a girl openly for the first time in your life.
If you’ve always relied on lines and theories to get you anywhere in your social life, you’re not going to be happy in the long run. Relationships, friendships, and romance aren’t built upon lines or half-baked theories. You’re still reinforcing the fact that you are not enough as you are. You’re still putting on a character in your social interactions instead of engaging your true self. They are borne out of a genuine emotional connection with another individual.
You can read a brilliant article done up by The Rawness. He talks about psychological terms such as codependency, narcissism, self loathing issues, childhood dynamics with parents and how all of them intertwine with the pick up artist persona.
Here’s an insightful quote from the article:
“Or you decide to learn as many manipulation techniques as humanly possible by reading a ton of strategy books like those of Machiavelli, Sun Tzu and Robert Greene. What this all boils down to is one thing: fear of rejection and trying to protect one’s ego by mastering the outcome in your head beforehand.”
Letter to the Singapore Pick Up Artist Community
Over the years I had the fortune of meeting some of the people from the Singapore pick up artist community. The common theme I come across them are teens and people in their early twenties trying to get into clubs for FREE to hit on women. They over use the term ‘game’ and don’t really have any other thing going on in other aspects of their life.
Some of them come in the form of herd mentality where the relationships amongst each other are toxic. This is why I try to distant myself from the community as much as possible. Note, I’m not saying that picking up or approaching a girl isn’t part of the entire dating and relationship process. I’m just saying there’s a sofit minority in Singapore that I don’t resonate with.
The Pick Up Artist Community
Safe, Secure and Non Manipulative Relationships
You’re never going to really improve your life circumstances if you don’t have safe relationships in your life you can rely upon. When you mix a bunch of pick up artists (who suck at relationships that’s why they are in it) who sees you as an object, a ‘wing’ to go out with and not a real fucking human being, you’re highly likely going to end up in toxic friendships.
I can’t stress this enough, but you’re going to end up like the person you hang around with the most. His or her beliefs and worldviews are going to have a huge influence on you. This is heavily researched in psychology.
Look no one wants to hang out with a loser, it’s a selfish world.
However, do you want to constantly be around some ‘pick up artist’ who not only sees women as objects, but also sees all of his relationships (including you) as something that can be manipulated. Or do you want to be around with friends that doesn’t fuck with your emotions?
I know there are idiots who prefer the former, cause deep down, they don’t relationships as something that can be safe and supportive. They see relationships as something to be earned, bargained or traded.
Your Real Issues
Looking back, I passed up tons of dating opportunities because deep down I still felt I wasn’t good enough. I was still not going for girls that I’m genuinely attracted to, and second guessing my interactions with girls that I was actually attracted to who were giving me obvious signs.
I realized I couldn’t be physically intimate with a girl, without thinking of a technique to touch her.
I figured because pursuing a girl I am genuinely sexually or emotionally attracted to, rubs against my emotional maps of rejection and abandonment. It’s not a sure win anymore, as opposed to going for girls that I’m less invested in and wouldn’t sting from being rejected.
These are the real issues: social acceptance, abandonment and your emotional maps. These are the real issues that guys getting into this dating advice thing should confronting and look into in the long run. These the issues that they avoid, focusing their time and effort on lines, techniques and routines.
However, what the PUA community did right was to introduce the idea of self-reliance. Yes, it started out with tricks and lines and the ability to ‘manipulate’ girls. It was the wrong material, however, the fundamental idea that you could do change and influence your dating life was helpful.
There’s a reason why the pick up artist community is much smaller in Asian cultures compared to Westernized cultures. The ideas that come along pick up isn’t exactly traditional Asian values oriented. Asian culture is stereotyped to be more group-ish, cliquish/ introverted. Well, that’s true to a certain extent.
What inspired you to get into this in the first place? These questions are extremely difficult questions to ask. They often lead back to past traumatic experiences, childhood and upbringing. Some of them maybe emotional abuse, physical abuse, financial difficulties or strict religious upbringing. It took me years to confront some of these issues. It took me years to be self-aware that I had faulty coping mechanisms all the way up to my early adult life.
The majority of the people coming into this are looking for a quick fix. You may think, Marcus, that’s not me.