Don’t Argue About The Tactics, If You Don’t Have A Strategy In Place

Sometimes people argue about the little things, while missing the big picture.

Many people will be familiar with this situation. At work, frequently the time is spent in endless meetings, arguing over things which at the end don’t really matter.

People like to argue over tactics, without actually having an overall strategy in place.

Strategy vs. Tactics

Do you know what you want to achieve in this life and how you will do it? Does the place you work for have a clear vision of what it wants to do and how it wants to achieve it?

Most people don’t. And amazingly neither do most places of work.

Sure, you might spend countless hours arguing with your boss on whether you should do Action A, but no time is spent reflecting how doing Action A is supposed to contribute to whatever the ultimate goal is.

It’s amazing that people or places of work don’t have a clear strategy in place.

Strategy is something that is often misunderstood and rarely spelled out. Yet, having a clearly defined strategy is often the difference between success and muddling along in chaos.

If you were building a house, would you first define what it will look like and how you would build it, or would you first try to decide whether you need shovels and what length they should be?

If you want to build a house, you first need to determine what it will look like and how you will build it. Only then can you decide what types of tools you will build it with.

This is the essence of the strategy vs. tactics debate.

To help you better understand what each of the two terms means, you need to keep in mind that both words originally come from the military sphere.

In every military campaign, the goal is to win the war. However there are different strategies that you can adopt to do that.

You can rely on tanks and the blitzkrieg like the Nazi Germans did at the beginning of WW2 or on guerrilla warfare as many of the resistance groups did under occupation.

This is what falls under the term strategy. Each strategy then implies some tactics.

For example, if you are a guerrilla fighter, your tactics would consist of sabotage and small skirmishes. While if you are a tank commander who is tasked with implementing the blitzkrieg strategy, your tactics would consist of grouping tightly together large numbers of tanks and quickly overwhelming the enemies with them using speed and surprise maneuveurs.

If you are an MMA fighter, and you decide to implement the ground and pound strategy, then your tactics would consist of setting up your opponent with punches and kicks, and then in a surprise moment, bringing them down in order to control them and hit them with a barrage of punches as you sit on top of them.

Military is not the only sphere where the terms strategy and tactics are used.  Today these two concepts are used for example in business. The meaning stays the same, just the domain changes.

In terms of running a business, Alfred Chandler, a management researcher, defined strategy like this:

Strategy is the determination of the basic long-term goals of an enterprise, and the adoption of courses of action and the allocation of resources necessary for carrying out these goals.

Resources are limited and you need focus in order to achieve your goals. Strategy gives you that focus.
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My 3 Year Blogging Anniversary – What Have I Learned?

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Can’t believe it’s been 3 years already since I started my blog. Time flies pretty fast. This wasn’t the first time I started a blog, but it’s the only time I have been consistent and persistent. Before this, I usually gave up pretty fast.

The origin of this blog starts off in September of 2013, when I was recovering from my ACL surgery. I had the idea of starting a fitness blog focusing on gaining weight (since everyone focuses on losing weight and there aren’t too many resources for skinny guys actually trying to gain weight).

Initially, I started a free wordpress.com blog, but then the following month, I decided to get serious and put my money where my mouth is and took the plunge and bought a real domain name. So in October 2013, the Gain Weight Journal was born.

At the same time, I also tried to continue maintaining some other blogs in niches such as language learning. However these were all side activities, which consumed a lot of time. So I decided to unite the different blogs and so the Renaissance Man Journal saw the light of day. The decision behind all this is better covered in a previous post.

What I want to cover now is what I have learned on my 3 year blogging journey. There have been and still are many ups and downs and the journey is still just in its initial stages, but there are already some lessons that I can share.
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Live Your Legend: One Moment You Are Here, The Other You Are Gone

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Your place in this world is not eternal. Your clock is ticking away and it has been ticking ever since you were born.

You never know when this clock will stop ticking, when the countdown will reach zero. Have you been living life the way you wanted to live it? When your moment in this world is up, will you leave a legacy?

I originally did not want to write a post like this. One recent event however shocked me, and made me reflect on life.

About two weeks ago, I had returned from Tanzania. It was one of the greatest adventures of my life. Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro was something that stretched my limits and shattered the mental boundaries that I previously had. I had also visited the Serengeti, which made me see the grandeur of nature and experience the wild in its raw, naked form.

A few days after having returned, I was back in my ways and my usual routine of work and home. Browsing the net, I stumbled across a blog called “Live Your Legend” run by Scott Dinsmore.

Scott had created a blog many years ago, but it didn’t take off right away. For close to four years, he saw almost no outside traffic and got zero revenue from it. However one day, that all changed and his blog really exploded. Suddenly, Scott could live the life he always wanted, travelling the world and challenging himself.

This energized him and he channelled this energy into trying to inspire people to live their life according to their dreams, to live their passion.

I returned to his blog a few days later and found his latest post. It was about him traveling to Tanzania to go climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and see the Serengeti.

It got me excited. It was exactly the same trip I had just returned from. My memories of it were still really fresh and had left a lingering positive feeling in my head. I wrote a long comment on that post and left. I thougth nothing of it.

I decided to check back on Scott’s blog again two days ago. I was hoping to see a new post detailing all of his adventures in Tanzania. My trip had mesmerized me and I am sure it would do the same thing to other people.

What I felt was utter shock when I read the comments people were leaving: “RIP”. Unfortunately, the post that Scott left about his plans to go to Kilimanjaro was to be his last ever. He died in an accident trying to ascend the mountain.

I am still feeling the same shock right now. I never knew the guy and only discovered his blog very recently. Yet there was a sense of connection that I felt. He was the same age as I am. And his death happened at the same place that I had been at just a few days ago.

What made it more personal is that I had made a comment on his post just a few days before this tragedy. All sorts of thoughts started rushing into my mind.

It made me reflect on how fleeting life really is. You are here one day, and the next you are gone. One moment you are full of life and a second later it is all over.
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What You Can Learn From The Chimps: Traits Of The Alpha Male Leader – Part 3

More lessons from the African Jungle to dominate in the Concrete Jungle. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

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7) Charisma

An alpha is a bigger than life persona. His presence dominates the central stage. He exudes a certain energy and a magnetism that pulls others towards him. This natural aura that an alpha male leader has is called charisma.

By having charisma, others are naturally drawn to him and he gets conferred respect from below. Individuals follow charismatic leaders because they want to, not because they are forced to. A charismatic leader is inspirational in the very essence of his being.

Charisma is the ability to affect the emotions of others in a positive way. Chimps are very emotional creatures and that’s why charisma plays a great role in leadership. It speaks to them deep down on an emotional level. Charismatic leaders inspire trust and obedience just through the way they carry themselves and communicate with others.

Max Weber, in his book “On Charisma and Institution Building” describes charismatic leadership in this way:

The term charisma will be applied to a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, super-human, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities.

The way the alpha carries himself and acts gives him a natural authority over others. He is self-confident and dominant. The alpha sits with his back straight and while walking his every step is done in a powerful way.

This natural authority can be observed by the way other chimps behave when they are in the presence of the alpha. Their entire demeanor changes. They get out of his way as if by instinct and naturally make themselves appear smaller.

There is a chicken and the egg problem however. Do alpha chimps have charisma because they are in a position of power, or are they in a position of power because they have charisma?

Whether one precedes the other, both charisma and power are akin to pheromones. A high status draws others towards that particular individual. Other chimps want to engage with him and copy him. Scientific experiments have shown that chimps when adopting a behavior are more likely to adopt it from someone in a position of power and prestige:

When given opportunities to watch alternative solutions to a foraging problem performed by two different models of their own species, chimpanzees preferentially copy the method shown by the older, higher-ranking individual with a prior track-record of success.

The alpha is a hero to others and everyone wants to be like him. He is admired by the rest of his community and thereby followed by them.

It’s much easier to hold onto power when you are a charismatic individual, well-liked by others, rather than ruling through the use of intimidation and aggression. You build up allies in an easier way and expend much less energy to keep your status.

Charismatic alphas don’t need to coerce others into doing what they want, they can just command and inspire. For example, in his book “Demonic Males”, Richard Wrangham describes how an alpha male inspires his troops to go on a border raid:

Sometimes the most dominant male – the alpha male – charged between the small parties, dragging branches, clearly excited. Others would watch and soon catch his mood. After a few minutes they would join him. The alpha male would only have to check back over his shoulder a few times.

Another charismatic leader was Ellington, who ruled the Ngogo community. He had a natural authority that inspired others just by his presence. John D. Gartner in “The Hypomanic Edge” describes a typical scene:

Ellington does not theatrically hoot and drag tree limbs to whip up the crowd. He doesn’t have to. He merely appears in public, sits down – and excitement begins to swirl around him. The other males hoot and jump with pleasure in anticipation of what is to come.

There are some things that charismatic leaders do that give them that natural aura. They are visionaries and have a catchy vision that inspires others. This vision then gets passed onto his subordinates.

A charismatic leader has an incredible ability to communicate and get his message across. Only using body language, facial expressions, a few sounds and without words, a chimp leader captures the attention of the minds of others. The fact that he cannot use words does not diminish his message. Most communication, even by humans, is non-verbal.

Charisma is also demonstrated through actions. Charismatic alphas pay attention to the needs of others within their community. They play with the infants and help out when needed. They don’t refrain from grooming other lower-ranking individuals. An alpha leads by example, actively participating in hunts and leading border patrols.
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What You Can Learn From The Chimps: Traits Of The Alpha Male Leader – Part 2

More lessons from the African Jungle to dominate in the Concrete Jungle. Read Part 1 here:

5) Ruthlessness

When his authority is challenged, an alpha needs to be ruthless and show everyone who is the boss. Christopher Boehm spent considerable time observing chimpanzees in the wild and writes:

I know from my ongoing tutelage that normally the alpha male will not allow other males to display when he does, for their displays are – in chimpanzee political language – challenges to his high status. Jealous of this authority, he carefully dominates everyday group scenes by rushing around furiously while the display tendencies of others are heavily inhibited by fear of an immediate attack from him.

A chimpanzee alpha males has dominance over all other members of his group. He is the boss and has no mercy when it comes to preserving his position and status.

I got your balls in my sack!
I got your balls in my sack!

He has his frame of mind and everyone else lives in his reality. A leader cannot let himself get walked all over by others. Assertiveness is the main way of functioning for an alpha. If he gets too passive, someone else will take his place.

He understands the fact that not everyone in the world is nice and there are many individuals who put themselves first and won’t hesitate to put you down and stab you in the back when it serves their own purpose. Unscrupulous individuals take advantage of the niceness and other weaknesses of others and that’s why an alpha has his own interests at heart first. That is the reality of the jungle.

A leader is not afraid to be feared by others. The threat of coercion and sometimes coercion itself are effective ways of keeping other chimps in line. This passage by Nicolo Machiavelli applies in the chimp world the same way as it does in the human world:

A question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with. Because this is to be asserted in general of men, that they are ungrateful, fickle, false, cowardly, covetous, and as long as you succeed they are yours entirely; they will offer you their blood, property, life, and children, as is said above, when the need is far distant; but when it approaches they turn against you. And that prince who, relying entirely on their promises, has neglected other precautions, is ruined; because friendships that are obtained by payments, and not by greatness or nobility of mind, may indeed be earned, but they are not secured, and in time of need cannot be relied upon; and men have less scruple in offending one who is beloved than one who is feared, for love is preserved by the link of obligation which, owing to the baseness of men, is broken at every opportunity for their advantage; but fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.

There are times when merely being assertive is not enough, and at least a bit of ruthlessness is required. If a threat is in the way, you need to eliminate it without thinking of the feelings of others. You are the one who comes first and a little bit of heartlessness is part of the package.

Ruthlessness takes many forms. One is being able to take hard decisions which might hurt the feelings of others. This is one of the many qualities that a leader needs to have.

However there is another even more controversial form of ruthlessness. This is the manipulation of others to get what you want. Being manipulative is one of the strategies that some chimps, including alphas, use. Even if an alpha himself does not use these techniques himself, he needs to know about them in order to protect himself against them and be ruthless with the guys who use them against him.

Primatologists have even coined the term “Machiavellian intelligence” when it comes to chimps. Chimps often behave as if they had learned “The Prince” by heart and are applying the principles described in the book. In the context that the primate researchers use the word “Machiavellian”, they mean that chimps are often very manipulative and like to scheme and plot. Their main objective is to get and keep power.
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What You Can Learn From The Chimps: Traits Of The Alpha Male Leader – Part 1

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What does it take to be a leader in today’s society? The way society looks in the modern world might have changed, but the old rules of rising to the top still continue to function in the same way as they did before. It is still a jungle out there and you need to understand the rules of the jungle, if you want to become a leader.

Chimpanzee society is ruled by alpha males. These are the leaders of their groups, the dominant males. We can learn a lot from the way that things function in chimpanzee society and apply it in our own world. In a previous article, I have analyzed some strategies that chimps use to become the alpha males of their groups.

Now I want to delve a bit deeper into the traits of an alpha male. The same traits are needed for a man to become a leader in today’s society and to stay at the top. We can gain a lot of insight into the nature of leadership by looking at our closest cousins.

1) Ambition and the Will to Lead

Mike was a small chimp, who at the beginning of his life spent most of his time on the outskirts of his group. He was the last male to eat and he was not respected by the other males. Yet he still rose to become the alpha male by using his smarts.

Jane Goodall noted that what separated him from the others was his enormous will to lead. He had a huge drive that pushed him to do everything possible to rise to the top. Most of the other males in his group did not have this incredible ambition and the drive to fulfill it. Sure, many of them wanted to be the alpha male as well, but they lacked the willpower and the headstrongness that Mike had.

When he started his bid for power, Mike had this incredible energy about him. He was always coming up with new ways to try to show his dominance. This dominance was not based on physical power, since he was physically small, but on the illusion of power.

He found kerosene cans and used them to make his charging displays more threatening. He was always running around, causing havoc. When the researchers took the cans away from him, he found something else. He did not let obstacles stop him from reaching his goal: the goal of becoming the alpha male of the group.

Alpha status is something that can be won over by the sheer force of willpower. Mike wanted to be the leader, and wanted it more strongly than everyone else in his group. He achieved his goal.

Not all chimpanzees have this ambition and will to lead. Even the biggest males can sometimes be at the bottom of the group due to their mild personalities. One such example is Jomeo.

Jomeo lived in the same group as Mike, although a few years later. At one point he was the biggest male in the group, however he seemed to lack any ambition or drive to be dominant and so was one of the lowest ranking males in the community. Jane Goodall (in her book “Through A Window”) noted:

I have often wondered about Jomeo’s fascinating character, his strange lack of any sort of dominance drive. If he had not been wounded as an adolescent, would he have gone on to become a high-ranking male? Probably not, after all, his brother Sherry showed the same inability to cope with adversity. Was this a genetic, inherited trait? While this is possible, I suppose, it seems far more likely that it stemmed from the personality of their mother, Vodka. It is indeed unfortunate that I did not know Vodka well – she was too shy.

It seems that the drive for dominance could be a factor based on nurture, so it is something that can be changed. When the researchers first saw Mike, he was a social outcast, hanging out on the edges of the group and often being the last male to feed. His behavior did not seem to be that of someone who wants to fight to be the alpha male.

However at one point something changed. Maybe Mike just reached the point where he got tired of living at the edge of the group, being an outcast. He just decided to say “fuck it” and go for it. He set a goal for himself and went on to pursue it with determination and tenacity. Ambition and the will to lead depend on the mindset and so are definitely things that an individual can work on.

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With ambition, one has to watch out though and go about things in a systematic way. Appearing too eager for leadership and rising to the top can backfire. In extreme cases, it can even result in the individual chimp getting eliminated by his rivals.

One such example comes from the Ngogo community at Kibale National Park in Uganda. There, one lower-ranking male had recently risen quickly in rank, which did not sit well with some of the other males. So at an opportune moment, a group of males decided to eliminate one rival for themselves. They formed a coalition, ganged up on him and in the ensuing fight ended up killing him.

That particular individual that was killed had been showing a lot of ambition to lead, however he did not back it up through coalition building, intelligence or strength. Instead, he was a loner who associated with very few other chimpanzees. This made him a prime target for other ambitious males who decided to gang up and eliminate him, in order to have one less rival for the top positions. The particular lesson here is that you need to back up your ambition in some way and especially have powerful allies to defend you.
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Insights On Leadership From Chimp Alpha Male Behavior

Many aspects of today’s world are often referred to as “jungles”. We have the concrete jungle in reference to large cities full of tall concrete buildings with hardly a patch of green in sight. We also have the corporate jungle, which many of us have to face daily in our jobs. While modern man has evolved from his former state of nature, it seems as if the laws of the jungle still apply in the modern world.

In order to survive in the modern jungle, it might be worthwhile to take some lessons from the real jungle. The chimpanzees (together with the bonobos) are our closest relatives and share about 97% of the same DNA with humans. They live in societies led by alpha males. These alpha males dominate all the other members of the group and use different types of strategies in order to attain and keep their rank. These strategies could be quite illuminating for the potential human alpha males as well.

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The Rise of Mike

In 1960, Jane Goodall started studying a small group of chimpanzees living in the Gombe National Park near Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania. At the time, the alpha male of the group was Goliath, a huge chimpanzee who could intimidate other chimps with his size.

However in 1964, a remarkable thing happened. Goliath was deposed from his position by Mike, a physically much smaller chimpanzee, who until then was probably one of the lowest ranking males in the community, usually spending his time on the outskirts of the group, and often getting physically attacked by other males. He was usually the last one to get access to food, eating only after all the other males have eaten.

This changed almost from one day to the next. On one of those hot, sultry days that often happen in the African jungle, Mike walked over to the camp of the researchers and took two empty kerosene cans by their handles. Then, while carrying those two cans, he walked over to the place at which he was sitting previously, close to the other chimps.

He started to rock back and forth, at first only slightly, but then more and more vigorously. The other chimps noticed this and started to watch him intently. Mike began to make hooting sounds and then suddenly charged towards the place where the other males were sitting, running fast and hitting the two cans in front of him. When he approached them, the other males ran out of his way.

Mike ran a bit into the jungle and disappeared from sight, but in a few minutes he was back again, making a lot of noise and hitting the cans. He once again charged the other males. They once again ran away from him.

Then at that moment, he made a fateful decision. Goliath was sitting a bit away from the group, but Mike decided to charge him as well. He ran towards him, hitting the cans and hooting so loud, that even Goliath got out of his way.

Male chimpanzees show their submission to more powerful members of the group by grunting and reaching out their hands. The display persuaded all the other members of the group of Mike’s superiority. At that moment, all the other chimp males came up to Mike, grunting and reaching out their hands, and then grooming him. The last male chimp to come to him was David Greybeard, until then Goliath’s staunchest ally in the group. Only Goliath remained apart.

Mike vs. Goliath: The Showdown

The match was now set for a showdown: Mike vs. Goliath. Whoever would win this epic showdown would become the alpha male of the group.

The final showdown came one time after Goliath returned from a two week patrol in the southern parts of the group’s territory. One of the main roles of the alpha and the other males, was to protect their group’s territory and so they would often go off on patrols.

This day was the culmination of a period of fierce displays between Goliath, the incumbent alpha male and Mike, the challenger. Their displays grew more and more fierce, with both Goliath and Mike trying to outdo each other. Mike managed to learn how to keep three empty kerosene cans in motion and so his charging displays were very noisy and messy. Goliath would often charge and beat up some of the young chimps in order to show who the boss around there was.

That day, as he was returning from his patrol, Goliath grabbed a huge branch and dragged it towards Mike. Mike was sitting in a tree, ready for what was to come next.

Goliath, then leapt into a tree that was very close to the tree in which Mike was sitting. At first they starred at each other intently, motionless. Then Mike started his display. He started swinging wildly on the branches, jumped down to the ground and started hurling rocks at Goliath. Then he leapt into Goliath’s tree and started swinging the branches there.

Goliath reciprocated by doing a display very similar to Mike’s, swinging around and leaping to the ground in order to throw rocks at Mike. Then Mike came down again as well and they continued their charging displays on the ground. However they never even touched each other. Each tried to overcome the other just through a sheer display of intimidation.

Then the final moment came. They both stopped, and nervously eyed each other sitting down. Then suddenly Goliath ran up to Mike, and doing the chimpanzee sign of submission, began grunting and grooming Mike. Mike savored this for a moment, but then turned around and reciprocated. He was now the undisputed alpha male of the group.

This entire story, which was described in vivid detail in Jane Goodall’s book “In the Shadow of Man”, makes for a riveting and illuminating reading.

3 Strategies

There are 3 main strategies that the male chimps use to gain alpha status.
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The End Of The World Is Near, The Selfie Stick Is Here!

Sometimes you get a rare glimpse of the future in a single fleeting moment. It is at this instant that you lose your innocence, your distorted vision of reality shatters and you wake up to the hard realization of what the truth is. Years afterwards, you remember this momentous occassion as one of those defining moments: “What were you doing when…” The date remains etched in your memory. Forever will you split your life into two periods, the one before the juncture and the one after.

At last it all becomes clear and you gain a deep insight into the state of civilization and its future direction. You have finally seen the object that defines the era that you will live in, the single item that stands above the rest.

A moment like this happened to me last weekend. Forever will I remember the day when I became aware of this wondrous gadget, the day when I learned of the existence of the greatest invention of the modern age, the selfie-stick!

How My Shocking New Discovery Came About

My world will never be the same ever again. It all started off so innocently…

As for most people, Friday night is the first night of my weekend. Work finally ended and I tried to make plans with people to go out. I learned that a few of my friends were sitting outside of a bar on a square close to where I live. I decided to join them.

I came a bit later, after they have already had a few beers and so the mood when I arrived was festive. I quickly joined into the conversations. We ordered a few beers and went on to order some more. As it got later in the night we turned to discussing more cultural topics. We discussed work, politics, and other things. Little did I know that this conversation was going to forever change my view of the world.

I have never understood why people have a need to take selfies, update their facebook status or check-in at places. One of my friends was about to do a “check-in” on Facebook at the bar and I made a short comment on that.

This started off a small discussion on selfies, status updates and checking-in.

That is also the first time I heard the “word” mentioned for the first time. There was a girl sitting to my right and she volunteered that one of the friends sitting to my left had gotten a selfie-stick for his birthday.

What?” I was puzzled. “A selfie stick? What is a selfie-stick?

The friend to my left reached into his bag and took out something that looked like a handle and a thing at the end for grabbing. He proceeded to mount his camera on it, extend the handle and with the camera facing him, snapped a few pictures of his head.

I was dumbfounded. It was as if all thoughts in my brain had been erased and I was left with only one question floating around in my head: “Why?

Why would you do that? Why would you take a selfie, but more importantly why would you buy a device to better enable you to take selfies?

Who are the people who do this? What has possessed them to do this? I was feeling a total disconnect from what we call “civilization” these days. Is this what it has come down to? All progress from the invention of the wheel, to the printing press, to Copernicus and Galileo fighting for the truth, to science making great discoveries has led to this… to the selfie-stick? Is this the pinnacle of modern civilization?

I had finally lost my innocence.

The Dawn Of A New Economy

Time magazine has recently published a list of the greatest inventions of the year 2014. It includes wireless electricity, the fusion reactor, and the selfie-stick…

What we are doing now is creating a whole economy centered around narcissism and self-vanity. There is a huge ecosystem to sustain the entire lifecycle of human attention whoring. You have the Facebook status update, Foursquare, Instagram; you even have an app to help you send nude pics of yourself, Snapchat. We have finally discovered the Holy Grail of life, sexting.

As a society, we have taken attention whoring and instant gratification to a whole new level.

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According to statistics, the past two days produced more information, than all the information that has ever been produced between the dawn of civilization and the year 2013!

That is a staggering number, one that is almost impossible to comprehend. It would be great if this was real knowledge. Sadly it is not so. Most of that information is not “information” in the sense of knowledge obtained from investigation, but instead user-generated content, things like pictures, instant messages, or status updates.

We get bombarded everyday with notifications of check-ins, selfies, and pointless status updates.

This is a symptom of the values that are held dear today and the morals of society. And all this just drives itself, the more status updates and selfies are produced, the more people create an internal need to produce them. This ends up feeding a never ending loop, which keeps on growing bigger and more pointless.
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The Original PUA: Learn To Pick Up Chicks The Way The Ancient Romans Did

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Way before Mystery, Style and Tyler Durden, even millenia before Don Juan and Casanova, there was Ovid and his “Ars Amatoria”, which could be translated into English as “The Art of Love”. This was the premier textbook of Ancient Rome on how to pick up women.

It’s jam packed with such golden nuggets of wisdom as: “take care that your breath is sweet, and don’t go about reeking like a billy-goat” and “Don’t judge a woman by candle-light, it’s deceptive.

The manual consists of 3 books, the first dealing with how to pick up a chick, the second deals with how to keep a chick, while the third one reverses the tables a bit and gives tips to women on how to seduce guys. Even though the third book is meant as a guide for chicks, it can also give guys a pretty good idea on the different tricks that women use to play with guys.

The 3 book manual proved so popular that Ovid even wrote a sequel to it, titled “Remedia Amoris” or in English translation “The Cure for Love”. The sequel gives strategies and advice on how to fall out of love and avoid being hurt by a broken heart, which can be applied in different types of situations, whether in a divorce or in trying to forget a oneitis.

It turns out that Roman guys were quite horny and Roman women were huge promiscuous teases, so the books addressed a huge hole on the market and proved to be a bestseller. Guys have been hungry for the latest, greatest tools in the arsenal since time immemorial and handwritten copies of “Ars Amatoria” were being snapped up faster than hot cakes.

Finally, guys who didn’t have the muscles and fame of Hercules, the sex appeal of a gladiator, or the riches and power of the Roman Emperors could get their share of the fun. The manual was meant for the average guy on the street and the tips were practical and to the point. 🙂

On a more serious note, the books also caused quite a controversy in Roman circles. While they were popular, they also precipitated a bit of an outrage in the more conservative parts of society. Emperor Augustus was in the midst of a campaign to try to uphold the morals of Roman society and a few years before the publishing of the “Ars Amatoria”, he had promulgated a set of laws meant to strengthen families, outlaw polygamy and punish adultery.

While written in a fun, light-hearted way, Ovid’s books also had an underlying political message and were also meant as a protest against this official uptightedness in the matters of love and family.

This slight poking fun of society can exemplify the internal character of Ovid himself. He came from the upper segments of Roman society and was originally destined for the path of a public official, but instead rebelled a bit and became a poet. He was also quite the ladies man and was married and divorced three times by the time he was thirty.

Written in a poetic style (elegiac couplets), the “Ars Amatoria” (completed by 2 AD) was just one of his works. Ovid was a prolific writer and poet, with the most famous work being called “Metamorphoses”. This is a huge book also written in poetic style and describes the most important stories of Greek and Roman mythology, spanning a long timeline from the creation of the Earth by the Gods to the times of Gaius Julius Caesar.

In 8 AD, Ovid was exiled to Tomis, a city on the Black Sea, which is now the modern city of Constanta in Romania. This was done on the direct orders of Emperor Augustus. According to Ovid, it was due to “a poem and a mistake”. It has been speculated that this poem could have been the “Ars Amatoria”, however the most likely explanation was that he was involved in some political intrigue against the Emperor and that was the main reason why he was exiled.

So let’s examine the timeless wisdom ( 🙂 ) of Ovid (the ultimate Roman PUA) in the matters of picking up chicks. Maybe you too can learn something. 🙂

Ovid compared the art of seducing a woman as being akin to war and listed the different steps that need to be taken: “You, who for the first time are taking up arms beneath the standard of Venus, find out, in the first place, the woman you are fain to love. Your next task will be to bend her to your will; your third to safeguard that your love shall endure. This is my plan, my syllabus. This is the course my chariot will pursue; such is the goal that it will endeavour to attain.

Here are the different phases of seducing a woman (taken from various parts of the manual):
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