Radical Modesty

“How I Was a Loser, and Other Lies.”

I have an idea for a short novel based on my experiences and those of people closely related to me while I was learning about meeting and attracting beautiful women. The working title is “How I Was a Loser, and Other Lies.”

I woke up to a great email from a friend of mine this morning called “Radical Modesty.” The last post was actually inspired by a conversation we had about using pseudonyms, which I disagree with because they’re not entirely honest. To me, it’s like you’re not sure if people are going to like you or hate you for your actions or thoughts, so you hide your identity until you’re sure they like you, and then there’s a big reveal.

The thing about not hiding your identity is that you get all of that feedback personally–it’s not a comment on Superman23, it’s a comment on you. You have to address it.

There were two main points in the email that I really like and want to think about in writing.

First, the idea that modesty is being concerned with the number of times you repeat the story of a specific accomplishment, e.g. You won the Superbowl in ’87 but that’s all we ever hear about. I kind of like this idea, because it means that you have to constantly be doing new and interesting things in order to, in this framework, be proud. I think the implication might be, though, that you should feel guilty any time you repeat a story that involves an accomplishment. Maybe just increased sensitivity to the emotions of others, as one person’s pride can make someone else feel weak.

Either way, I kind of like this point: not telling those stories makes them more interesting if they ever come up, and it forces you to make new ones to be proud of in the moment. I’ve always liked talking about the accomplishments of others, and honestly the value dynamic[1] is better using examples of my friends. Sure, it’s easier for me to tell a story about my personal experiences in order to demonstrate a point, but I like the idea of telling a story about one of my friends’ accomplishments significantly more. Hmm.

[1] To clarify with math, value given to friend from me telling story about him = 10. Value given to me from telling same story about myself = 2. I have a friend who changed his choice in university to move in with his sister and help her care for her kid after the father ran out on them. I like to add that you read about people like that all the time, but it’s so rare to actually meet them. Enter stage let, my buddy, everyone swoons.

Getting into the second point, that, since I aspire to help others down the same path I follow, I should, rather than portraying some impossible idol, show weaknesses and modesty such that others can see that what I can do, they can do.

This might be true. Some you could actually conceive of being might make a solid idol. I wouldn’t know, my idols have all been completely fictional or portray their lives like a comic book: Tucker Max, Aaron Karo, James Bond, Casanova and a hoard of fantasy characters from novels such as Dune and The Sword of Truth, in no specific order.

Every time I see a weakness in my idol, it worries me. Tucker Max and Aaron Karo are hilarious, but there’s something missing morally. James Bond is suave and self-assured, but he’s not actually entertaining: like the guys in perfume commercials who look at you very seriously amidst their flapping open shirts; sure, that’s great, but we’re talking about beer and camping and you keep making that stupid duck face at me. And close your damn shirt. Casanova is in love with everything and very honest and dedicated to that love–but he’s bonkers. Paul, from Dune, knows and can control every aspect of his body and mind, and can also predict the future, but he comes off as overbearing and over-serious.

The more I seek a better idol, or a better characteristic to add to my perfect self, the better I feel. Maybe it’s unattainable. Maybe. I’m going to find out.

On the point of weaknesses, I completely disagree. My favourite Sifu is a short French-Canadian guy who hit a 100lb punching bag so hard that it flew back a meter and a half and shattered a mirror–with a one-inch punch. My favourite pick up artist is a balding academic who stopped the two most beautiful girls I had ever seen in London on the street, had them laughing and leaning into him for fifteen minutes, and left with digits. Both of their digits. Farmer is awesome. Short and balding aren’t weaknesses to these guys. They’re facts.

Is it my responsibility to portray my own weaknesses, then? Maybe, but I feel dirty doing it on a blog which is, by definition, supposed to offer value.

There’s a girl back home who I really like. She’s fun, adventurous, smart, and sexy. We spent a couple days just hanging out, and I was happy to just be her friend, since she had a boyfriend. She showed up at my going-away party, where I was completely hammered, and after the night was over she walked home with me and came up to my room. She was sober, and she told me the next day that she had done it with the full knowledge that she would cheat on her boyfriend with me. I, however, was hammered. Normally I have very, very specific rules about girls who have boyfriends. They have to be sober. They have to make that first move across the line. They have to tell me, explicitly, that they are cheating on their boyfriend. It has to be first-degree cheating, which is a choice and not a spur-of-the-moment thing, or it doesn’t happen. But I was really drunk, I broke my own rule, and when she was still conflicted I made a move. She didn’t cheat on her boyfriend, but I hurt her feelings. And now she doesn’t talk to me anymore.

The reason I don’t tell stories like that is because, on some level, people derive pleasure from them. We can’t help it. It’s like watching gladiators swinging swords at each other. It’s like dog fighting. It’s disgusting. I got drunk, made a mistake, and hurt someone I cared about, but it’s a story that people enjoy? I’ll stick to stories that are demonstrations of skill, power, pride, adventure, strength of character, or at least stories where the only person hurt is me. When I fuck up or I get hurt, I’ll tell you. E.g., when I had to run out of that hotel in Bao’anqu in the middle of the night, or whenever I bomb my next big-scale marketing campaign.

The problem is that the way I tell myself these stories, and this is part of the “Happiness” chapter of Instant Coffee, involves seeing the positive side of it. I’ll probably add in the twist that I’m proud that I, at least, dared to run a big-scale marketing campaign or stay at a sleazy hotel behind a sweatshop in China. Instead of complaining that riding in a taxi in China is insanely dangerous, I laugh and enjoy it because it’s a roller-coaster, a once in a lifetime experience, and the driver is amazing at what he does.

Life is a Comic Book.

Enjoy irresponsibly.

PS: The take-away, to use a board-room buzz-word, is that I’m contemplating the way I use my stories in examples. I think people enjoy my stories, especially the ones with a twist where I get screwed over somehow, but not my one-liner examples. Leave some comments, people, I’m not psychic. Yet.

1 thought on “Radical Modesty”

  1. Pingback: If I had One Piece of Dating Advice for a Loser... » Troy Fawkes

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