It seems like a lot of [Insert Number Here] Things I Learned By Age [Repeat Number Here] type lists have been floating around the internet lately — to the point that I’m starting to wonder if you’re even allowed to write for the interwebs anymore if you don’t come up with your own variation of said list. I enjoy my writing privileges, so with only a few months left until my next birthday, I’m starting to feel some serious pressure. If I wait until June, I’ll be forced to give 24 pieces of advice. Damn it, I don’t even have 23 solid things to offer right now!
I’m freaking out a little, guys.
Being opposed to the idea of a far-too-long list that just repeats the same generic maxims everyone else is saying, while still wanting to participate in the spirit of the event, I thought I’d do something a little different. As such, let’s boil it down to the basics here for the 10 things every guy should know.
1. People are stupid.
Look, the human race has accomplished some phenomenal things. We’re strong and vulnerable, beautiful and terrifying, all at the same time with a fantastic complexity… But no matter how brilliant any individual is, sooner or later they’re going to act like an idiot. Some ingrained bias will come out. A gut reaction to a childhood insecurity, a blind spot in their logic, or hell, maybe they just have a little too much to drink that night. I don’t care if you’re a Nobel Prize winner, eventually your inner moron is going to come roaring to the surface. It happens to all of us, myself included. Put people in large groups, and it gets even worse. Sometimes all you can do is roll your eyes and say, “Hey, First Rule of Life!”
2. Every rule has an exception.
Including this one! The exception to this rule is Rule #1. The First Rule of Life has no exceptions. Take the rest of these, and every other rule in your life, with a grain of salt.
3. Never be friends with your exes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve dated some absolutely wonderful girls, and I will never speak poorly about any of them. Each one meant something special to me at some point in my life. Regardless of how things ended, they were amazing people who deserve, and have, my respect. HOWEVER, that does not mean they should hold a place in my life anymore. Things ended for a reason, keep the past in the past. Be polite and civil if you run into them, but don’t keep their phone number. De-friend them on Facebook. Not out of spite, but out of recognition that anything less would be hanging on to old baggage. Move on.
4. Never let them see you bleed.
My fellow James Bond enthusiasts will recognize this as one of Desmond Llewelyn’s final lines in his 17-movie run as Q. There are obviously situations and relationships where vulnerability is called for, but overall, you need to be an adult and keep your shit together when other people are watching.
5. Every man is allowed one vice.
This is the one most people disagree with, because they think it’s restrictive. I’ll admit, it is. I’ve found that mixing vices is where things get complicated, though, and I’m a big fan of simplicity. If you’re into gambling, then you can’t smoke cigarettes. If you smoke, then you shouldn’t be drinking. If you enjoy a couple strong drinks (my vice of choice), then you’re not allowed to do any drugs. If cocaine is your thing, then you shouldn’t be a massive womanizer. I know, I know, a lot of vices fit really well together. Sorry. If you must, then find one perfect combo and incorporate Rule #2.
6. If you think with your dick, you’re gonna get screwed.
I mean “screwed” in the figurative sense, though it’s probably true in the literal one as well.
7. It’s not that money makes everything good. It’s that no money makes everything rotten.
Confession: My dad pulled this one straight from a fortune cookie years before I was born. It’s potentially the healthiest approach to money I’ve ever heard.
8. Anyone who isn’t willing to stand up for himself deserves whatever he gets.
Fairly straightforward. Have a backbone.
9. Always hold something back.
There’s a sense of tension, almost mystery, when someone holds their cards close to the chest instead of just laying it all out for the entire world to see. Just because you know every trick in the book doesn’t mean you need to use them all simultaneously. Always hold something in your back pocket. When you finally make a move, make sure it’s a master stroke from a position of strength.
Sidenote: I’m convinced the reason our culture is obsessed with characters like Don Draper and Frank Underwood is because they’re so good at this.
10. Independence over comfort.
This one takes self control, and might be the most important. It means depriving yourself of some of the nicer things in life, in return for the ability to walk away at any moment. Live below your means. A big mortgage, car payments, and credit card debt can provide a luxurious lifestyle… they also chain you to your job and make you a slave to your lenders. A gilded cage is still a cage. Freedom first, every time.
In summation? When in doubt, copy Cary Grant.
Stylistically, level of class, and general sunny attitude toward life (in his movies, at least). Clark Gable and Errol Flynn are also viable options. There is nobody in Hollywood today who can hold a candle to the level of suavity and cool that those guys emulated. If you’re more of a dark brooder than a charmer, then look to Humphrey Bogart.