Here’s a letter I got today which really got me thinking:
Hello Dr. Alex;
I recently purchased your book, “The Tao of Dating for Men”, and read through the entire book in two days (could not put it down). I am going back now to read it in more depth and do the exercises.
First, I wanted to compliment you on “The Tao of Dating for Men” which I just completed. This superb piece of work is not simply a gimmicky how-to-get-laid-quick guide, but a collection of great insights based on psychology, biology, historical accounts, and sociology.
Second, I was hoping to get your feedback on an issue which complicates my ability to employ some of your strategies. Putting aside all the mistakes I have admittedly made, based on the book, I am more so handicapped by a physical disability which has rendered me legally, but not clinically blind. I do not drive, but moved from a big city to the suburbs because my wife could drive, got divorced and am stuck with no car. Daily living is handled by buses, taxis, friends and family. Dating is a different story – and I find this issue invariably kills me on the first date when I am asked where my car is, and then tell them I took a taxi and then have to admit I don’t drive after the interrogation.
How do I remain in control (‘the buyer’) while being put at such a disadvantage? Even if things were to progress to a second date (assuming I correctly employ your techniques, and get past the driving issue on the first date), how do I not assume a more passive position to these women if I can’t drive them around? If I am not the one in control, how will I ever succeed in the dating world?
I appreciate any insights you would be willing to offer.
Justin F., Rochester, NY
Glad you wrote in, Justin, and thanks for the kind words. “Superb piece of work”, “a soul-lifting book of staggering genius” and “the greatest book, like, ever” are exactly the kind of understated praise I can respect. Keep ’em coming.
Now this one’s a pretty common challenge that comes up. Actually, it’s the most common one that my readers ask me about: “I have a handicap that cannot be overcome.” Heck, come to think of it, it may be the only one.
Here’s a sample list of these perceived handicaps: I’m too young, too old, too short, too tall, too rich, too poor, too inexperienced, too experienced, can’t walk, walk too fast, my town’s too small, my town’s too big, I’m ugly and my momma dresses me funny, etc etc.
And of course, everyone thinks his or her handicap is unique. “Nobody has it as hard as me! My life sucks the most!”
I’ve heard a lot of these stories. The truth is that whatever situation you’re in could be blown up into an insurmountable problem should you choose to do so. Or it could be turned into an asset should you choose to do so.
Which one do you choose?
Sometimes, they’re young, seriously beautiful, well-off women who come to me and say they’re totally handicapped. I love those cases, because all I do is help them rearrange some of their mental furniture and then — kapow! — everything’s fantastic. It’s like I polish the top of the Empire State Building, and then get to take credit for the whole edifice. “Yup, that’s my work over there.” Eeexcellent, Smithers.
Now I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s challenge here. Being legally blind is definitely real. And not being able to drive a car as an able-bodied man may seem like a real blow to the ego.
That part of it you cannot choose, Justin. What you can choose is your reaction to it.
It reminds me of a friend of mine who has a congenital genetic defect that makes his bones very brittle (it’s called osteogenesis imperfecta, for all the science wonks out there, which is just Latin for ‘faulty bone growth’, as if we didn’t already know that). He’s 3 feet tall and will be wheelchair-bound for the rest of his existence. His name is Sean Stephenson.
He’s also a motivational speaker and author. One of his favorite stories to tell is about one Halloween, when he was raring to go out and join all the other kids (on the one night that he could seem ‘normal’) when he whacks his leg against the door and snaps his femur.
At this moment, his mother comes to him, holds him in her arms and says, “Now calm down, honey. And I want you to really think about this: you now have a choice to make this a blessing or a curse. Which one is it going to be?”
This is a pivotal moment, because whatever decision he makes is going to be the one that he keeps for life. It’s not like his bone disease is going to go away. So he has to either be a victim about it, or a victor. Now and forever.
Here’s the idea: you make something a problem to the extent that you focus your attention on it and let it be a problem. Whatever you focus your attention upon tends to expand in your life. Energy flows where attention goes.
So the first step is to re-focus your attention. If you think that your inability to drive is a debilitating, deal-breaking issue, your date is likely to believe you. There will probably be no second date. Ever.
If you take it in stride and instead focus on her story of growing up in rural Wyoming, or how she gets two cute dimples when she smiles, or the uplifiting beauty of John Keats’ poems, then she’ll be charmed and delighted and want to come back for more.
So whoever’s reading out there: figure out what your strengths are and focus on those instead. When you focus on that strength, people will gravitate to you because of that.
And then something very strange happens.
It’s not just that people will stop holding your imperfections against you. It’s not just that they’ll overlook it. No, it’s much stranger than that.
They will come to love you because of your imperfections.
If you don’t believe me, let’s just do a quick little thought experiment here. Do you have a favorite pet? Or stuffed animal? Or blanket? Or ex? Does that particular object of affection have a defect — like a mangled ear, a threadbare patch, or a personality quirk? And does that make the object more endearing or less so?
Interesting, huh. It’s like the defect makes it custom-made for you– adds a little crag for affection to nest on.
People will start liking you because of your strengths. That includes being fully accepting of who you are. Then, they will come to love you because of your defects.
Now a debilitating bone disease is a serious and real handicap. However, Sean has chosen to have a successful career as a motivational speaker and author in spite of it. Or is it because of it? He’s mining his own experiences with that so-called handicap to inspire and help others. And, incidentally, he does fine with the ladies.
Re-arranging your mental furniture so you can see the blessing in disguise is called re-framing. It’s one of the most mature adaptations to life’s challenges, and one of the most versatile.
It’s the second step after you choose to refocus your attention. Now you have the opportunity to change the mental dross into gold — real alchemy. “How can I change this perceived shortcoming into an unfair advantage?” Or, as my teacher Satyen Raja likes to put it, “How do I make art out of this?”
If you think Sean’s story’s impressive, let me present to you the story of Matthias Buchinger, ‘The Little Man of Nuremberg.’ This guy is one of my all-time heroes. According to the site TheHumanMarvels.com:
…Buchinger was born in Anspach, Germany in 1674 and was one of the most well known performers of his day. He played over a dozen musical instruments, danced the hornpipe, and was an expert calligrapher, magician, and bowler, built magnificent ships in bottles, and stunning marksman with a pistol. All of those accomplishments are even more impressive when you realize that he had no arms or legs and stood only 28 inches high.
And the Wikipedia entry on Matthias Buchinger reads:
Buchinger was married four times and had at least fourteen children (by eight different women). He is also rumored to have children by as many as seventy mistresses.
Well then. So much for lack of transportation being an impediment to getting around.
So let’s take Justin’s particular case. How can we rearrange his focus and make this an unfair advantage? Because that’s how other guys feel when Sean is in the room: he’s in a wheelchair, which means that he automatically gets all the attention. An unfair advantage.
Well, it turns out that one of the advanced techniques for setting up a date is to have a woman meet you at your place before you go out. And an even more advanced technique is to have her pick you up. I’m not going to go into the psychological reasons why this is effective — for argument’s sake, let’s just say it is.
Well, guess what — Justin is in a perfect position to ask that from his date, right out the gate: “Well, if you really, really want to hang out with me, you’re going to have to pick me up. If you do, I promise I won’t hold it against you that you’re enlarging your carbon footprint and contributing to global warming and probably making New York go underwater in 5 years.” Unfair advantage #1.
And she also has to drop you off back home at the end of the date. Unfair advantage #2 (and a very big one).
Of course, if he wants to be super-crafty, he can arrange things such that the first date happens at his place. He doesn’t have a car! What could be a more plausible excuse. That’s a chance for him to showcase his home, his life, his talents, his cooking ability and anything else he wishes. Unfair advantage #3.
Yes, it’s nice to be able to drive your girl around. But remember — the most powerful men in the world get driven around. They just tell the driver where to go. You don’t have to be holding the steering wheel in order to be in the driver’s seat. Unfair advantage #4.
I could go on with this particular case, but I’d rather hear from you, my readers: what do you think is your shortcoming right now? And how can you turn that into an unfair advantage? I throw down the challenge that whatever it is that you think is holding you back, you can come up with the mental alchemy to make it work for you, not against you.
Hell yeah the power is within you,