A BETTER MAN-IFESTO

Being a Better Man is really just a state of grace -  here’s my  road map for getting there, in this next year of betterment.

A Better Man is…accountable: “Owning your shit” (as one ex-girlfriend so elegantly put it) isn’t easy in a world where issues are lubricated with excuses and half-truths (“I did not have sexual relations with that woman.” “Saddam has WMDs.” “I wasn’t making a pass at that man, I have a wide stance”).  The world needs more disgraced heroes who show character in defeat… not the David Letterman, contrition-is-good-for-ratings type, but the Tiger Woods,  take-a-nine-iron-to-the-head-lose-your-sponsors-and-give-up-the-game-to-be-‘better’-types.  That’s something I hope to find with…

PROJECT “MY BAD”

  • I will retrace my steps and re-visit my mistakes (there are a few), fix what I can, and own what I can’t.
  • I will be harsh and unsentimental in my self-assessment,
  • I will seek counsel from people I KNOW have an opinion on how I could be better: ex-girlfriends, ex-bosses, my mom, etc.

A Better Man…makes the world a better place. This one seems so obvious, but krikey, where to start? Saving the environment, people, penguins, or heading up the “Blonde Girl Anti-Defamation League?” All worthy causes, but my solution is…

PROJECT “DO ME A SOLID”

  • I’ll do a bit of everything, as long as my good deeds can have a DIRECT impact, starting with volunteering
  • I’ll go wherever where my help is needed – down the street, or around the globe, mowing a lawn or working with relief efforts in a disaster zone.
  • I’ll help patch up a relationship…I mean, why not? I’m turning 40, everyone I know is either getting divorced or on the verge of it. How many families or friends have a grudge that needs mending? Maybe I can help.

So help me help others by sending your ideas or your own needs. Real stuff only please.

A better man…knows how to do stuff. It’s called self-possession; knowing exactly what to do in a crisis, and doing it.   Navy SEALs are self-possessed. Jason Bourne is self- possessed. Leonardo Da Vinci was self-possessed.  Me, a man of all things? No, but it could happen.

PROJECT RENAISSANCE MAN

  • I’ll learn to fix my own motorcycle (after I get a new one).
  • I’ll become handy, like learning carpentry. Jesus was a carpenter. So was Harrison Ford (and that dude became Indiana Jones).
  • I’ll learn to dance…the kind of dancing that people watch D-listers do on TV, the kind that helps a handsome spy get out of  a near-lethal jam.
  • Since I’ve spent the last decade devoted to music and living vicariously through its creators, now I’ll take the stage.  I’ll sing in a band (I’m pretty good at karoake) and maybe even write and record a song.
  • I will read. Not just what I like, but books that are actually good for me (ones with fewer pictures) and challenge my ideas.

A Better Man…can fight – because he ain’t nobody’s bitch. He can stand his ground and get what he wants, even if he has to crush someone’s larynx to get it.  Call me a reductionist, but I believe knowing how to throw down can help you stand up. I will kick ass in a variety of ways. And if I get my ass kicked –well, there’s value in that too.

PROJECT IRON FIST/velvet glove

  • I will learn to fight and I will compete in a mixed martial arts bout before the year is out.  Knowing you can doesn’t mean you must – but it helps.
  • I will seek out experts to the learn fine arts of negotiation and persuasion, to have my way, and my way with people.
  • I will discover how to prevail in the psychological mind-fucking that women seem so good at and I usually get shredded by.

A Better Man…gets involved. My righteous indignation at the state of the world sounds great in theory, but my quips on Twitter and Facebook aren’t going to make ANYTHING better. There was a great one liner that this guy named Obama used to get elected to the most powerful position in the world and captivate the planet: “Yes We Can” change for the better. But have we held up our end of the bargain? Perhaps, if “Yes We Can” means buying the big screen TV (on credit) at Best Buy because “it was on sale.”

PROJECT MODEL CITIZEN

  • When it comes to politicians, wouldn’t it be nice to vote for someone who comes across as authentic and not insipid, feckless, or mildly resentful of the very people he claims to represent? That’s why if there’s a federal or provincial election called in the next calendar year, I will run as the candidate I’d want to vote for.
  • In the meantime, I’ll get active; watch for me at the public meetings (Question Period is out, NOW, thanks Prime Minister) the law courts, and maybe some protests.
  • I’ll voice my opinion by writing letters to the editor, posting in forums, being a pundit on panels.
  • I’ll take a stand on issues that matter to me, and try to get interested in those that don’t.
  • I’ll attempt to right some wrongs, like a superhero but without the cape.

A Better Man…knows what he believes.  Growing up, my mom was a devout Christian, and perhaps a less-than-ideal example of one; judgmental and intolerant of mistakes.  Dad, on the other hand, was a decent man whose principal deities were crossword puzzles and Hockey Night in Canada. Thanks to their example, I don’t know if I believe in God but I’m still afraid of Him.  I sit on a fence, mad at religion and stymied by faith. Well, this year, I pick a side.

THE GOD PROJECT

  • I will consult with the experts, from Gurus to Wiccans, Richard Gere to Richard Dawkins, to find the essence of their belief.
  • Each Sunday I will make some time for the BIG GUY. I will go to churches, mosques, and synagogues (and not only because I dig the Shebrews).
  • I’ll listen to my mom. sigh.

A Better Man would be good to his family. Mom is a lovely woman today, so no one believes me when I tell them she once had a bit of Joan Crawford in her; quick to anger, impossible to please, rigidly married to a picture of family harmony that was at odds with reality.  Growing up, I was TERRIFIED of her and life with my many siblings was much like Communist Russia – I couldn’t  trust them with anything, because at any time they might rat me out to mom in order to save themselves. This year, I stop pretending to like these people I call blood, and find out if I actually do

PROJECT PRAVDA

  • I will scribble on our family’s picture of harmony by exploring all the dark secrets hidden in the recesses of our history
  • I will confess to all of the shit I’ve done in my life (they can read it here, actually)
  • At the very least, I will remember their birthdays and send everyone a card, on time. We’ll see how it goes from there.

A Better Man would love the right woman right. By all accounts, I have been with the “right” women, in that they were smart, beautiful, talented, compassionate, funny, and agreed to sleep with me more than once. I screwed it up with all of them.  Instead, I’ve obsessed over the wrongs ones; dumb, superficial, self-absorbed, trading on their beauty like it’s their only commodity.  I have zero game with this kind of woman.  Sadly, my inability to bed these ladies lends them an otherworldly mystique not earned in the same way it would be if they had, say, character.  And the right women in my life suffer as a consequence. Of course, this is ridiculous, but  my heart has shit for brains.  I must neuter their power over me, so that I may look at Goddess and know that her wit is more seductive than a boatload of swimsuit models.

PROJECT RUNWAY

  • I suspect this could only be achieved by trying to nail as many of those models as I can, and for that I will consult the biggest douchebags around for tips. The way I see it now, (granted, I am not better yet, just trying) only by making peace with their hotness can I make peace with myself.
  • I will become the ultimate sexual servant. I will check with the ex’s in a potentially emasculating evaluation to discover my areas in need of improvement.  I think I am pretty good right now,  but I am willing to practice. (Kidding. Kinda. Uh…not really.)
  • I will watch Oprah. Can it hurt?

A Better Man would be Master of his Fate. I like having my imagination tested and nothing tests it quite like making television.   I bow to the power of the medium, from shooting to editing, directing to writing — it captivates me. But a lot of TV is dumb, really dumb, and what isn’t dumb is already lousy with talented people. I mean, are they going to recast Californication with me in the lead? Maybe, if Duchovny’s sex addiction finally does him in (man, what a way to go!). Rather than hoping to find the work I love, I will CREATE it instead.

PROJECT DRAPER

  • I’ve always admired those people who start something of their own. NOW I join them… starting with this blog.
  • I will own the room, pitch MY ideas, and go with my gut because I’ve got nothing to lose.
  • I will study from the greats – great successes and even greater failures (failure stalks every successful enterprise, and there is something to be learned from a loser – that’s the whole point of this blog, really)
  • I’ll put in long hours schmoozing and drink whiskey while looking amazing, if necessary.
  • And IF, in the process, lucrative job offers are tendered, book deals are signed, David Mamet casts me in his next thriller, and parades are thrown in my honour…well, so be it.

And JUST IN CASE we’re all wrong about what is BETTER, I have another project…

I’ve spent most of my life being nice, polite, amicable and agreeable and now look where I am. Looking around, I see a lot of guys out for the greater good who have to pull some prick moves to get things done – Simon Cowell, Rahm Emmanuel, Satan.  Maybe the better man…is an Asshole.

PROJECT ARI GOLD

  • I will consult with unapologetic assholes and and learn their principals.
  • I’ll put those lessons into practice (AFTER learning to fight, just in case).
  • I will reflect on my own jagoffness (interviewing friends and ex-lovers) and then accentuate my inner dickface.
  • I will read more Ayn Rand, the patron saint of assholes.

For those of you who’ve read this far, you may be making fun of me at this point.  It’s very likely I could fail, and not even fail spectacularly, but recede into complete obscurity and life as a Starbucks barista.  But the way I see it, the only wrong thing to do is nothing.  So why not join me in pursuit of betterment? When we’re wrong we’ll laugh it off and when we’re right, we’ll just know. Because  a better man doesn’t have to think about the kind of man he wants to be, he simply is THAT MAN.

And so it begins…

Filed Under: The Beginning
  • 28 Comments

    • Don


      Recommended reading “The Saint, The Surfer and The CEO” Robin Sharma

      “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Gandhi

      • Chris


        I have nothing to add, except to say that’s feels absolutely right.

        Thanks for the book suggestion, Don. Hope you’re planning to come along for the trip….

    • Shannon


      In my opinion, having interacted with & observed men for 39 years, the kind of men that I admire are well rounded, gracious, modest and NOT assholes. It’s easy to be an asshole or a bitch then it is to be a decent, compassionate & empathetic individual. Nor is raising your fists to prove dominance or resolve a conflict. The men that I love are reformed assholes & fighters, who use pragmatic wisdom & wit to resolve conflict and only resort to phyiscal violence when all other means have been exhausted. One element missing from your list, the Better Man has COURAGE; to face all adversity, take his lumps, own up to his mistakes, own them and move on. Courage is in part, honour, doing the right thing not for the praise it will garner, but because it’s the right thing to do. A better man is also trustworthy & has integrity. If he has the balls to stand up for what he believes, it’s the single most attractive quality he could hope to possess, believe me.

      • Chris


        Shan, you are absolutely right…COURAGE is a crucial aspect of the Better Man and I missed mentioning it here. Same with honour…but I suppose I lump it with confidence, in that they are wonderful by-products of the traits I described. IF they’re not stated explicitly, it’s only because I can think of many ways I can demonstrate my accountability, or improve my competence. However, there are few ways to discern the true measure of your integrity or confidence or trustworthiness EXCEPT to have it tested in a moment that you can neither predict nor contrive (Tiger might know something about this). A part of me has faced those moments (you might know of one, in fact) and the best I can tell you is that sometimes I showed character, and other times I didn’t.

        But the whole point of this exercise is trying to do better, partly because it’s necessary, and partly because it’s the right thing to do. I think what makes the men you love interesting is that they experienced things I haven’t, and based on those experiences found a path (It also makes them more well-rounded than I am). All I’m doing is perhaps approaching the same conclusion, but from the other end of things….I can’t say, because I’m not attaching an expectation to the outcome.

        You may read this for the next year and cringe at some of things I choose to do, perhaps because you think it’s unnecessary, that I’m already that pragmatic, witty guy you describe. Suppose I am…has it necessarily made my life any better? is it ill-advised or open-minded to consider other options? You tell me.

        Nonetheless, I’m glad you’re reading, and I hope you continue to do so….

    • Peter Krpan


      Yes, the only wrong thing is to do nothing. Self betterment, self discovery and goals to get it going… awesome.

      • Chris


        PK, thanks for the props, but my wish for you is that the closest you ever get to this kind of stark realization is having to read about from me. I think you’ve been to your crossroads and made a hard choice…it’s unlikely, but lets hope that the last time you have to do that.

    • Shannon


      Chris,

      I find this experiment utterly fascinating & terribly brave. I wish you only the very best in achieving your quest and sense of comfort in the world. I already think you’re a remarkable person, it’s true. Nonetheless, rest assured that I’ll continue to read and offer whatever support I can. You’ve already inspired me to look at my own shit more closely. I kept a journal from the age of twelve until the age of thirty- four; then I put it aside. I’m writing in it again finally. xxoo

      • Chris


        Thank you Shannon. However, I don’t know if you can call it brave if you feel like you’ve got no other choice.

    • Leah


      On a sunday at Synagogue, you’ll just find religious school and PTA meetings. Try a Friday night or Saturday morning if you’re making time for the Gee Oh Dee.

      • Chris


        Oh right….please forgive my Gentile presumption. It’s not like faith takes the other six days off.

        • Leah


          I guess I left off a winking emoticon on that one… if you come through Chicago on Shabbat, you have an invitation to my synagogue.

    • Beverley


      That’s an awfully long list, there, CN.

      Go easy on yourself if you can’t do it all in one year.

      I think I should be up there as counsel in Project “My Bad.” I’ll be very happy to tell you straight. ;-)

      • Chris


        I can think of few people who would be happier to call me on my bullshit. You’re in!

    • Curt


      How about PROJECT BREVITY

      Be concise
      Less flower, more power

      • Chris


        Thanks.

    • Jake


      Civic elections are this year… curious why you built in a loophole to your manifesto to get out of running for mayor. Why don’t you do it?

      • Chris


        Jake, that’s very un-Bachelor of you, calling me out in front your ladies. It’s something I’d expect from jock twats in nerd revenge comedies, but not you.

        However you are right – I did not consider a mayoralty race. I am completely unqualified. Mind you, that didn’t stop Mel Lastman, right? I’m bad with rejection, but that didn’t stop John Tory either (until it finally did). Tell you what? Quit the Bachelor RIGHT NOW to be my campaign manager, and I’ll do it. I know you’re keen to get married, but already you’re so famous, women in TO will be throwing themselves at you. Unlike the program, they have legs AND brains.

        Oh shit….just remembered…gotta skip your show tonight dude. Going to meet my MP. Tell me how it goes though….

    • Skylor


      I wish you luck with all this. It seems like an awful lot to accomplish in one year. And I hope you can stick with it too. Last year I started something similar in my own life but after a while it just kinda faded away. Don’t make the same mistake!

      • Chris


        Ah, the slow fade….Neil Young was right when he said it’s better to burn out.

        I think the fade comes from feeling as though you’re not meeting your goals. So perhaps you need to change either your goals or your relationship to them. For example, I’ve set out some big ones for myself, but I know I can’t guarantee that I will achieve everything. I will achieve as much as I can, but keep a mind open to the small victories along the way.

        This is a terrible example, but Stalin imposed many “Five Year Plans” when he was in power. The goals he set for his people were practically impossible, but in setting about to achieve them they nonetheless accomplished some incredible things. Too bad Stalin had them killed afterwards…bit of a demotivator there. \

    • Wes


      Chris! Looks like a great project. I’ve actually been going through pretty much this exact same process for a year and a half(i’m 26) and life couldn’t be better. I’m having more fun, getting more done, getting promotions, etc.

      I had a moment of clarity just like you(after failing miserably w/ a girl I thought was perfect). You’re on the right track!

      One thing: something that I put into my project was LEADERSHIP. A Better Man leads other men. He realizes the strengths and passions of those around him to BUILD things bigger than himself. This is having a profound effect on my career, social life, calling, etc. It helps everything you do.

      • Chris


        Leadership – that’s an excellent project. Obama himself once said that the happiest people he ever met were the ones who felt connected to something greater than themselves, something that gave their life a narrative arc. Inspiring people to part of that is a noble enterprise.

        Personally, I’ve never possessed a burning to desire to lead anyone. If people choose to follow me, I would hope it’s by virtue of the example I set…I have just to go about setting one. A politician I just interviewed said, quite simply, you always get back what you put in. I’m glad you’re proving his point yo…

    • Robert


      Your “Project Draper” leads me to suggest reading
      the classic “The Art of Worldly Wisdom” by
      Baltasar Gracian. Another read that might apply to all your projects is “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Robert Glover.

      To help with the Hot Babes, look to David Shade and
      Alex Allman for Rock Solid insights galore.

      Have FUN!

      Cheers!
      Robert

      • Chris


        Robert, Thanks for the book suggestions – I look forward to reading them. Please don’t hesitate to share again if you think I might benefit from it.

    • OneTamad


      This is great stuff. I’m glad I found this through AoM.

      • Chris


        AoM is one of my absolutely one of my favorite sites. I admire the taste of anyone who appreciates it, so thanks!

    • Kia


      Hi Chris,
      This is interesting and really, really great (the blog design is fantastic, too). Strangely enough, I found you through AoM, and happened upon them while researching men’s lifestyle/fashion blogs. I am a jewelry designer embarking upon a men’s fine jewelry line, and wanted to learn more about how men really feel about fashion, their lifestyles, etc. It’s been quite an experience learning about men from this perspective (and I thought I knew you guys!), so thank you for your honesty and willingness to share. I’m looking forward to following your adventures (and successes).

      • Chris


        Kia, thanks for the props. If you’re looking for amazing graphic design, go to my homeboy Mark at http://www.stormdesigninc.com, and for web design try Judith Shakespeare Designs. Phenomenal people both…

        I’m always happy to share. Should you require anything, please don’t hesitate to ask – I’m deluded enough to think I have some informed opinions on the subjects you mentioned. And hey – thanks for reading! I can only hope there are more successes than failures….

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