Ego Is The Enemy: An Interview With Ryan Holiday

IG: ryanholiday

IG: ryanholiday

Ryan Holiday hit the real world hard and fast. At 19, he decided to drop out of college because he was offered an opportunity any ambitious would-be writer would pounce on: a job as a research assistant to Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power. This would lead him to working with and advising several bestselling authors and multiplatinum musicians.

He kept the ball rolling from there and became the marketing director of American Apparel, where he put into place a very successful campaign that produced both big profits and heavy criticism. But he grew disgusted with the state of online media and released a book that put his name on the map, Trust Me, I’m Lying. The book detailed how easy it was to manipulate online media because of its lack of source verification and its traffic-driven outrage-porn business model.

After reading that book, I discovered and devoured all of his writings. I studied and applied a lot of his stoic principles about business, life, and writing into my own thought process and actions. He is one of the most unique, practical, and highly respected contemporary thinkers.

In his new book, Ego Is The Enemy, he seeks to advise the reader through the lives of notable and not-so-notable historical and current figures about what havoc an untamed ego can have on a person’s life and how one goes about controlling it.

Raul Felix: Ryan, in this book, you analyze how the ego can have destructive effects on people. You even mentioned seeing one of your mentors transform from someone you aspired to be like to never wanting to be like that person. Egos don’t only exist in people of high achievement or celebrity; it is also quite common in the general population. What common examples do you see today of people with high egos yet little substance to back it up?

Ryan Holiday: Yes, exactly. It is precisely because we see this type of behavior in a lot of prominent public figures that we try to reverse-engineer their success and manufacture the right pose. There are plenty of “wantrepreneurs” out there acting like mini-Steve Jobs and plenty of musicians who think that behaving like Kanye West is acceptable. We falsely assume that ego—manifested in their entitlement, arrogance, braggadocio, and swagger—is what drove success. In fact, it was the talent that compensated for the ridiculous, destructive ego. We don’t think about the survivorship bias that hides from view all the people who’ve failed and flamed out because of their own ego-driven sabotage. What is also hidden is the huge subset of successful people who are not clamoring for the limelight.

We also live in a culture that actively promotes constant self-promotion and grandiosity—all of it magnified by a thousand by social media. It is also hard not to think you’re the greatest if that is the message you’ve been hearing constantly from your parents since you were born. Combine these factors, and you see why we have a downright epidemic of ego.

Part of why I initially wanted to write this book is because I would get a lot of emails from really overconfident and brash young people who would send me all these ridiculous emails. And then at large, you see it for instance with people who are not willing to take entry-level positions—But I went to college! But it was the Ivy League! —or people who are not willing to listen or take any sort of feedback because they think they’ve already figured it all out. You see it with people bragging and boasting about what they’re going to do—their ego craving for validation and applause before the fact.

Raul Felix: A line that really stuck out to me was, “If you start believing in your own greatness it is the death of your creativity.” I’m sure any artist who has produced a piece or two of topnotch work has fallen into that trap—even gloating to themselves or others about their creative genius. I’ve done it a few times when I wrote some really good stuff. How does one avoid falling prey to that part of the ego while keeping the fortitude to drive on?

Ryan Holiday: I love that line, too; it’s actually from Marina Abramović, the performance artist. There is another quote from UFC champion Frank Shamrock that I try to think of on a regular basis: “False ideas about yourself destroy you.”

The second you start gloating and letting success get to your head—that you’ve figured it all out—that’s precisely when you make some critical mistake or miscalculation. In that moment of self-satisfaction, learning grinds to a halt. What I love about writing, actually, is that those feelings are constantly elusive. You can’t get a big head with a craft which requires decades and decades of work before you even begin to approach mastery. There is no “graduation.” If you think like a craftsman, become an eternal student, and adopt a beginner’s mindset, ego is suppressed and you can go on working and working.

The problem is when you start to listen to other people. My last book has started to sell very well, so I could let that puff me up. I’ve gotten some very kind and generous reviews. It would be a mistake to listen to those things too closely. For the next book, you have to continue to approach it with humility and self-awareness. Essentially you have to start from zero.

And in the book I talk about how ego separates us from reality—we start living in our heads. This sort of intoxication with positive feedback and success makes us forget that there are people in our field who are infinitely more successful than we are. Someone recently mentioned that one of the best things about attending TED is how humbling it is to be in a room with all these people. It doesn’t take away what you’ve accomplished, but it puts things into perspective—it grounds you back to reality.

Raul Felix: You also mention the incubation process, that period where you must trudge through a long period of obscurity as you wrestle with a topic or a paradox. What would the incubation process look like for the normal person, who can’t really drop everything and live in a cabin cut away from society as they hone their skills?

Ryan Holiday: I’ve mentioned the incubation process, which is what the strategist John Boyd called his ‘draw-down’ period. It is the time after we’ve had what we think is a brilliant idea and then take the time to process it and think it through before we embark on it.

I do not think it requires you to drop everything and go live in a cabin away from society—I certainly didn’t do that (although living on a ranch helps!). It’s simply the moment after you’ve had the idea, after you’ve put the first round of thinking into the project and then have to step back and say: “OK, what do I really have here?” “Do I actually have something?” “What is this really going to be?”

Otherwise, we have ego telling us that we have the best idea ever and blinds us to all the components that we need to work on. Ego Is the Enemy ended up being different from the initial book proposals precisely because there was time between conception and execution.

And wrestling with a topic or a paradox requires you to invest a serious amount of time in a state of what the author Cal Newport calls “deep work”—that place of intense concentration and cognitive focus where real progress is made. Two examples for me are walking and running, during which I wrestle with ideas. I also have an article on this site on how to accomplish more deep work in our lives where I give some other examples that can be helpful.

Raul Felix: You made an a sharp distinction of how the ego affected two Civil War generals: Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. Grant sought the high office of the presidency and chased after big money, causing him to have one of the most corrupt administrations in our nation’s history and going publicly bankrupt, while Sherman chose to be content and lead a private life afterwards. How can a person distinguish if what they’re chasing after is genuine or if it’s their ego yearning for more?

Ryan Holiday: It’s funny because I really admire both of them. This country we live in would not be possible without the personal heroism and bravery of both of them—probably Grant most of all. At the same time, I find the end of his life to be very sad. I wish he could have enjoyed the success he had.

In my view, the main reason doing that is so hard is because we try to have it. We want what we want and what other people have, too. We want to do our own thing but not be left out, either. We want a quiet life but also want to be the center of attention.

It’s our ego telling us to always say yes to more things, more projects, events, meetings. It will also always say yes to more money if given the opportunity. (Ego doesn’t care whether that’s the right decision for us.) Ego rejects trade-offs. It wants it all. It’s incredible how hard it is for us to say no to anything—again, especially money.

The solution? Really ask yourself: Why do I do what I do? What is important to me? What is the one goal or thing I want more than any other? That’s the question you need to answer. Stare at it until you can. It’s not easy by any stretch, and I am telling you that from my personal experience. I’ve had to do so in my own life and it’s why I have an entire chapter dedicated to that idea. Understand what’s important to you and know your priorities.

The goal is to make decisions with clarity and purpose—not ego. Only after spending time alone and asking ourselves these tough questions can we know which way we are swaying.

Raul Felix: Hitting rock bottom, whatever that may be for a person, is one of those humbling experiences that can make or break you depending on how your ego responds to it. I’ve been through a couple of hard times in my life where I needed to fight for every bit of progress while I got back on my feet. Along the way I learned some lessons. Yet I remember being warned that my actions would lead to that. What do you feel it is about our nature that makes it so we don’t always learn from others but have to fuck up big time in order to drive consequences of our actions through our skull?

Ryan Holiday: Nobody gets very far or lives very long without getting their ass kicked a few times. It’s not pleasant at the time when in retrospect we tend to appreciate those experiences—because we learned so much from them. The problem is that those lessons tend to fade over time, because we start to feel like we’ve moved past them—that we’ve got it. When I got Ego Is the Enemy tattooed on my forearm it is exactly this part of human nature that I wanted to warn myself against on a daily basis. It is this part of us that says that we know better, that makes us unwilling to listen to others, to remember to be objective and clear-headed and honest. I have made those mistakes myself, and having a daily reminder is one way to prevent it from happening again.

And it will always be the case that the hardest lessons are learned from direct experience. Plutarch says that we don’t “so much gain the knowledge of things by the words, as words by the experience [we have] of things.” That shouldn’t be an excuse to not study and learn to prevent those from occurring. Reading books—especially biographies—becomes helpful here. Whatever situation you are currently facing, others have gone through that and written about it.

There’s a quote from Bismarck that says, in effect, any fool can learn from experience. The trick is to learn from other people’s experience. It is why the book is full of cautionary tales—so that we see what ego-driven choices and decisions others made in history and how that led to their downfall. Still, though, I understand that we’re often going to need to experience some of that directly. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.

~Raul Felix

Read: Teaching Men How To Mate: An Interview With Tucker Max
Read: Keep Moving, Young Man
Read: An Army Ranger Interviews A Navy SEAL On Resilience

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Two Bros Smoke Weed And Compare Notes About Women

When you spent enough time working alongside someone, you tend to develop a good understanding of them. Sometimes you like them, sometimes you hate them. Usually, it’s a healthy mix of both. Yet when that former coworker who became your friend comes to visit you for a couple of weeks, you can’t help but get back to the old shit-talking routine. When my crabby and grumpy security contractor buddy, “Grumps”, came to visit, that’s exactly what ensued.

Grumps: “That chick from last night won’t text me back, fucking cunt.”

Raul: “That’s because she’s getting a train run on her by a bunch of black dudes.”

Grumps: “No, she’s my little white angel. We had such a deep connection. I’m fucking serious, Raul; I would have married that bitch.”

Raul: “You only talked to her for thirty minutes.”

Grumps: “So? I felt it, man. We were made to be together. Why is she being such a bitch and ignoring my texts?”

Raul: “Because she’s currently getting triple-rodded by Tyron and his buddies.”

Grumps: “Fuck, you’re probably right.”

Raul: “It doesn’t matter. You probably would’ve taken her out on a nice, fancy date and only gotten a peck on the lips as you dropped her off. What was her name again?”

Grumps: “Sammy.”

Raul: “Then Tyron would’ve called her up and been like, ‘Yo Sammy, I’m comin’ over. I’m bringing my boys, too. You better have some good weed this time, not that weak bullshit of full seeds and stems like last time. ’”

Grumps: “That white boy feed you good? You gonna need dat energy.”

Raul: “Speaking of weed, roll us another fucking blunt.”

Grumps: “Goddamn it, hold on.”

Grumps rolls us a nice blunt.

Raul: “These are fucking good days we’re living, Grumps.”

Grumps blows smoke into the air.

Grumps: “Mmmmmhmmmm. Dude, I’m having so much fun. Listening to music, smoking green, drinking, and hanging with my boy Raul.”

Raul: “Yep. You see how many hot bitches there are out today?”

Grumps: “Yeah, man. It’s like as soon as I stop checking out the ass of one, another fine bitch passes by. Too bad they’re all a bunch of libtards.”

Raul: “Hey, man, liberals ain’t that bad. Sure, they’re annoying as fuck, but they’re pretty cool and nice if you avoid political conversation with them.”

Grumps: “Oh man, don’t fucking get me started on these fucking liberals, you know what the fuck I saw on Fox News…”

Raul: “No, no, no. We’re not getting into your simpleminded Midwest rhetoric. All you do is fucking get on Facebook and hate-read whatever the conservative propaganda machine wants you to be pissed off about that day.”

Grumps: “All right, fine. Oh man, did I tell you about that fight I saw earlier?”

Raul: “No, what happened?”

Grumps: “Oh, fuck, man. It was hilarious. These two fat bitches start yelling at each other in the middle of the street. One of them was pushing a baby stroller, too. Then one of them starts screaming some shit about the other being a gossipy, shit-talking slut. Then they start slapping one another until a few dudes broke them up.”

Raul: “Holy fuck. I wish I would’ve seen that. Did you get it on video?”

Grumps: “No, it happened way too fast for me to record it.”

Raul: “What time did it happen?”

Grumps: “About three or so.”

Raul: “Oh yeah, that’s when all that welfare trash starts walking around town after going to their appointments or picking up their kids or whatever the fuck people on welfare do.”

Grumps: “They did look ratchet as fuck.”

Smoke fills the room as Grumps swipes through his Tinder.

Grumps: “Oh Raul, so many bitches want my cock.”

Raul: “No, they don’t.”

Grumps: “Yes, they do. I got all these hoes I’m working all over the place. I take them on a date to get some good food, then I let in my fucking rags-to-riches life story and their mouth drops.”

Raul: “Bitches only want you for your money, Grumps.”

Grumps: “They ain’t going to get shit. Making them sign a prenup.”

Raul: “That’s good that you think you got some game. Remember, I ain’t no broke piece of shit either, motherfucker. Sure, I ain’t contractor-rich like you, but I do decent.”

Grumps: “Fine, you’re a mini-baller.”

Raul: “Damn straight. Plus, you need money to get bitches. You’re not a fucking artist like me, Grumps, where you can just work a low-paying gig while waiting for genius to surface.”

Grumps: “Raul, your writing sucks. I could write better shit than that without trying.”

Raul: “Like I really respect your opinion regarding literature. What the fuck is the last book you read?”

Grumps: “Hell if I know.”

Raul: “See Grumps, I play the long game. Using my words, stories, and shit to show chicks I’m a deep, thoughtful soul and not just a Latin stud.”

Grumps: “Well, I got a Mercedes SLR and my own house paid for. Bitches’ panties get drenched for that shit. Maybe one day you’ll be rich like me. I hope that for you.”

Raul: “Awwww…you’re sweet. Whatever happened with that one college chick you took out on a date the other night?’

Grumps: “I took her to the mall and bought her some lingerie. Had her little tight twenty-one-year-old ass model it for me. Then I tore that puss up and filled it full of freedom!”

Raul: “Smash that puss! You know she is going to be wearing that lingerie for one of her college boys, right?”

Grumps: “Pfff, I don’t give a fuck. She was just a random piece of pussy to me.”

Silence fills the room for a few minutes as we relax.

Raul: “These are good days we’re living, Grumps.”

Grumps: “Mmmmmhmmmm.”

~Raul Felix

Read: Four Things Only Mexican-Americans Will Understand
Read: Guy Talk: Hot Tranny
Read: 3 Winning PR Strategies For Muslim Extremists

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4 Things That Are Awesome About Riding A Motorcycle

IG raulfelix275

IG: raulfelix275

Despite the possibility of getting killed by an absentminded undergrad who is Snapchatting herself singing along to the latest hit pop song as she makes a left turn while you’re crossing the intersection, causing you to hit the side of her car at 45MPH, riding a motorcycle is pretty damn sweet. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a speed demon going nearly twice the speed limit on a crotch rocket with no intention of pulling over if the cops chase you because if you get one more ticket you’ll get your license suspended…or a grizzled biker covering vast distances on a tight time hack with several of your brothers on cruisers…or a cute liberal chick or skinny gay guy on a Vespa putt-putting about town…the thrill of the ride is incomparable to those who decide to forgo the cage-like safety of the car, even if just for the weekend. Why is that? Because there are many reasons why a rider’s life is way more awesome.

1. Kids Are Crazy About You

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IG: raulfelix275

Remember when you were a kid and you would see a motorcycle passing by on the freeway? Maybe your mom would comment on how dangerous they are. You didn’t care because the cool guys on TV rode the shit out of them, wearing badass leather jackets, jeans, and sticking it to the man. You’ll fantasize about being one of those dudes when you got older as you played with your Hot Wheels and always had the motorcycle do insane stunts that defied the laws of physics as it was shooting its machine gun.

Many years down the line, you are at a red light thinking about how much of a total badass you are ’cause you’re finally on a motorcycle. A car pulls up next to you and out of the corner of your eye you see a hand flailing. You look to your right and in the backseat you see a kid seven or eight years old waving at you with a missing-tooth smile. You wave back at him and he starts laughing. You rev the throttle a bit and he goes ape shit from excitement. The light turns green and you speed away.

Kids love motorcycles, plain and simple. Whenever you make appearances to any family event, all the little kids are going to see your bike and want to sit on it. You will be one of the cool grown-ups, not one of those who drives a soul-crushing minivan.

 

2. Chicks Dig You, Too

As much as it may frighten them, few things are more effective at drenching the panties of a female than a man who rides a motorcycle well. It’s not as simple as getting your ass on a bike and going to places where girls hang. First, you must prove that you aren’t some idiot who is going to try to impress her by riding dangerously. You must recognize that riding on the backseat is quite intimate. She is signaling: I trust you with my life. Sadly, a lot of men these days aren’t capable of handling that sort of responsibility.

Also, the seat positioning will have her body in constant contact with yours. Most chicks aren’t willing to do that with whatever chode on two wheels, either. Only after gaining her respect and trust will you be able to get her to take a ride with you. As the ride happens, the breeze in her face, the revving of the engine as you twist the throttle, and the utter freedom of it all will make her lady parts tingly. Don’t forget the vibrations of the engine, too. You’ve displayed your competence as a man.

Riding a motorcycle is not something that can be done by any random dude. Thousands of people—even long-time riders—kill themselves each year on bikes. But the fact that you ride one puts you in the niche class of “bad boy” that nearly every woman has a few sultry fantasies about.

 

3. You Instantly Have A Connection With Fellow Riders

 

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IG: raulfelix275

Men form bonds by sharing knowledge and conducting activities together. Riding a motorcycle is one of the manliest hobbies in modern times. A man on a motorcycle represents the images of glory reminiscent of galloping knights and cowboys on horseback—as opposed to the simplicity of driving a cage that requires no more from you other than grabbing your keys and hopping in the driver’s seat.

Mounting your iron steed has the aura of prepping for combat. You look at the weather report and adjust the amount of cold weather gear you’ll need to wear. You put on your vest, grab your helmet, gloves, and glasses. You approach your baby waiting for you in her spot.

“Hello, beautiful,” you say.

You fire her up to warm her up a bit while you don your protective gear. You give her a quick little rev to make sure she purrs all right. She does. Away you go.

If you can relate to this feeling, then you’re a fellow motorcycle rider. You get it; others don’t. That’s why you always have an immediate connection with those who also ride. You’ll make small talk with fellow bikers and make friends with fellow bikers. And at times, you party hard as fuck with fellow bikers.

 

4. There Is No Better Way To Travel

 

MC4

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The world is a gorgeous place. We become immune to the wonder of it all during the routine of our daily lives. Yet when you’re on a motorcycle, you can’t help but notice. You feel everything…the feeling of needles poking your face when you’re riding through rain at 80MPH…the blazing furnace that is Arizona…the smell of countryside…the fresh breeze. Everything, good or bad, is a part of your journey. Back to our primal roots, before the windshield and air-conditioning of the cage shielded us from it all.

I’ve traveled a vast majority the United States at some point or another on my motorcycle. I’ve also ridden it to Mexico and Canada. I rented one for three weeks and traveled the whole of Italy. I had one as my sole means of transportation for a year and half last time I lived in Cali. I ride one now when it’s not snowing or freezing over in Upstate New York.

It’s a wondrous love affair. Every journey feels like an adventure, like that rare lover you can share you life with. Whether to the neighborhood bar to have a beer or across the country, the saddle of a motorcycle puts you closer to the elements and the world.

~Raul Felix

Read:29 Things I Learned By Age 29
Read: The Gay Meth Story
Read: 6 Things I Learned About Israel While Living and Working There

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What Basic Bitches And Bros Think About Dating Profile Pics

Online dating—whether it be Tinder, Plenty of Fish, or OKCupid—appears to be stacked in favor of women because all they have to do is not be ugly, and hordes of men will send them a message consisting of either:

A. An uninspiring “Hey” that showcases his laziness and inability to begin a stimulating conversation.

B. A longwinded first message that has been perfectly crafted to show sincerity, wit, and/or humor to pique her interest. (He has also been carpet-bombing every chick who’s crossed his path with the same message.)

C. Unwarranted, unoriginal, highly sexualized messages referring to BDSM and hyper-aggressive male dominance, because chicks totally dig that Fifty Shades of Grey shit from random guys who have a shirtless bathroom #selfie that shows the toilet in the bottom-right-hand corner.

D. Dick pic ambush!

There are certain types of pictures that highlight a woman’s fine qualities and make a man hope that she’ll take a risk on true lust by swiping right. Others will make him reconsider her a bit, but then he will decide she has a nice rack and swipe right anyway. Here are five types of such pictures:

1. Sticking Her Tongue Out

Basic Bitch Thinks: “This will show that I am a silly person and I don’t take myself too seriously. Look at how much of a goofball and dork I am. LOL!”

Basic Bro Thinks: “That bitch’s mouth looks like it sure know its way around a dick, and I know she’s eager to get sloppy all over mine. She is presenting that sweet tongue as an approved target for ejaculation. I’m going to send her a dick pic.”

2. A Group Picture With Her Besties

Basic Bitch Thinks: “We all looked so hot at Becky’s bachelorette party. A guy will totally notice how sexy and classy I looked in that black dress. I just love how my bangs looked. My boobs look a bit bigger, too. Oh no! I’m holding a lollipop that’s shaped like a penis. I’ll just crop that out. Sorry I have to cut you out, Lindsay #notsorry. Caption: BFFFFFFFFFFFFs<3.”

Basic Bro Thinks: “What the fuck is up with bitches making a group picture their default picture? Now I have to check the rest of her pics to figure out who she is. Oh, fucking great! The next pic is of her and thirteen of closest BFFs. Oh please fucking God, don’t let it be the fat chick I’ve seen in both pictures.”

3. Picture Of Her In A Bathing Suit

Basic Bitch Thinks: “I so love the beach, biaaaatch. All that working out has paid off. Even so, I hope boys will like me for my brains and not just how good I look.”

Basic Bro Thinks: “I want to skull-fuck her until her brains spill out of her ears.”

4. Picture With Her Holding An N64 Controller

Basic Bitch Thinks: “I’m such a nerddddddd!”

Basic Bro Thinks: “Who the fuck still plays N64?”

5. Picture From An Extremely High Angle While Pressing Her Boobs Together To Make Them Look Bigger While Concealing Her Protruding Gut

Basic Bitch Thinks: “I really have let myself go. Goddamn lack of exercise since college and Netflix marathons where I eat all the ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s solves all wounds—even broken hearts. I’ll just show off my huge breasts and no guy will ever notice.”

Basic Bro Thinks: “While I want to use those boobs as pillows, I know she is hiding a gut underneath them because chicks are shady like that. More than likely, I’m going to take her out and be horribly disappointed, but since I’m already committed to the date I’ll let it go on. Then I’ll drink until I don’t really care about the gut anymore and fuck her without a condom because condoms fucking suck. Then the next day I realize I made a mistake and buy her a Plan B because there is no way I’m going to fucking let this fat fuck produce dream-crushing offspring with my DNA. Goddamn it, that shit costs $50! Fuck. I’m going to send her a dick pic to make sure she’s DTF. Bitches love unsolicited dick pics.”

~Raul Felix

Read: The Pick-Up Follies: Taqueria Hottie
Read: Guy Talk: Animal Love

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Teaching Men How To Mate: An Interview With Tucker Max

The name Tucker Max inspires either approving smirks or rolling eyes. Tucker is (in)famous for his hilariously written stories of drunken debauchery and philandering, graphically depicting both his epic failures and towering successes. He has amused many a man and woman who possess a raunchy sense of humor. Feminazis scorn him because of his supposed misogyny.

Whether you love or hate him, Tucker—along with Maddox—pioneered the literary genre of “fratire.” After having his three books— I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell, Assholes Finish First, and Hilarity Ensues—simultaneously on The New York Times bestsellers list, he retired from fratire.

He is one of my influences as a writer. In his retirement essay, he said something that got the juices in my mind flowing:

I’m the Dr. Dre of fratire. Which means that the Eminem and the Biggie and the Tupac and Jay-Z are all still out there, and I’m just as excited as anyone to read their stuff when they come along.

I read that and was like, “Fuck yeah.”

Tucker Max has moved on from the entertainment realm to the self-help genre. In conjunction with the academic expertise of Dr. Geoff Miller, an Evolutionary Psychology Professor at the University of New Mexico and author of The Mating Mind, Tucker has written Mate: Become The Man Women Want. He says he hopes to teach men through science and empirical data—as opposed to biased religious, cultural, and political agendas—what traits women find attractive.

Raul Felix: Tucker, your new book started off from a conversation over dinner with Dr. Geoff Miller after you learned his nephews saw your books as some sort of manifesto with how to get women to sleep with them, then began mimicking your asshole behavior with probably lackluster results. I personally remember reading your books when I was nineteen and thinking that I needed to act like a dickhead in order to slay bitches also. Regardless, you still got laid. What things did young Tucker Max do right and what things did young Tucker Max do wrong that align with some of the things you teach in Mate?

Tucker Max: What young guys never understand is that my books were only a small slice of my life. I only put in the funny and ridiculous stuff, without a whole lot of other context, because that was the stuff that was entertaining to read. They were NEVER intended as instructions or even a guide at all. That’s absurd.

The reason young guys took them that way is because our culture does a terrible job honestly teaching young men how to effectively attract women, so in the void of instruction, they just use the only honest thing they see working—which was my writing. But they missed all the context.

First off, I failed at getting women A LOT. Go actually read the books. I fail far more often than I succeed, and in most cases, I fail spectacularly. They never really thought about that, because it takes experience to understand that. They only focused on the successes.

But make no mistake, I was successful with a certain type of woman. The problem was that young guys didn’t even understand why. They thought it was BECAUSE I was a drunken asshole. That’s ridiculous. If anything, I succeeded IN SPITE of being a drunken asshole. No guy has ever been successful with women by JUST being a drunken asshole.

They were missing all the other things I was doing well, because they didn’t know what to look for, and I didn’t talk about them in the book—things like my humor, my extraversion, my quick wit, my body language, my social intelligence, my singular focus on certain types of women looking for the same things as me (short-term relationships)—these things are invisible to inexperienced young guys, because no one explained them.

That’s what Mate is about: making invisible into the visible so that guys can understand what works and what doesn’t, and then focus on doing the things that work for them. It’s not about acting like I did in my books. No way. It’s about understanding the core fundamentals of attraction, and then improving them so you can have the success you want with women.

Raul Felix: Yeah, I remember you saying in an interview that no one wants to hear about a time you saved a puppy because that isn’t funny. You said time and again that your books are for entertainment. A consistently recurring theme in Mate is the need to be physically fit as a display of masculinity, health, willpower, etc. As a man who has been consistently in shape my entire life, I can attest that women love how strong I am. Yet there is a point of diminishing returns with how in-shape you have to be, like bodybuilder status. Why do you believe that stereotypically, being buff equals brainless meathead and being book-smart is correlated with being fragile and weak?

Tucker Max: Yes, definitely. We say this in the book: You need to be in shape, but you do NOT need to be an elite athlete. In fact, being too in shape—think of a bodybuilder, for example—can often be a negative sign to women and hurt you. Most women look at guys who focus an extreme amount of time on appearance as being narcissistic and self-involved. This is very unattractive. The best bet is being in good shape—think of the body of a swimmer, or a CrossFitter, or decathlete.

The question you ask about perceptions of men is a complicated one. The idea that strong = dumb, and smart = weak is very modern. If you look at ancient Greeks and Romans, or Mongolians, or almost any preindustrial culture, strength and intelligence were not seen as conflicting. In fact, they were seen as helping each other.

I think this split happened in the higher social classes in the industrial age. Essentially, if you were rich, you could afford to not do manual labor and [to not] be brawny. For a while, it was seen as a marker of high status. This is an old idea and has shifted, though. There are very, very few women under 50 who like scrawny men.

Raul Felix: One of the most enlightening things I read in the book was the need to see it from a woman’s perspective. I honestly never thought of that before. Some huge guy trying to get into her panties that could easily overpower and have her way with her if he wanted. The fact that she’s been dealing with creepers, losers, stalkers, and potential rapists ever since she took on real feminine features. How can a man show he is not a threat, but still sexually attracted to a woman without give off those negative vibes she’s used to getting from window-licking mouth-breathers?

Tucker Max: A lot of guys have said this—that they never thought about looking at dating from a woman’s perspective. Think about how absurd that is! I was the same way too for a long time. It just goes to show how broken our dating notions are—we don’t even think about the most important thing to think about—the perspective of the other person!

The most important thing a guy needs to understand is that women see men as a threat, because they are. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person; it means that she’s had to deal with awful men her whole life, and until she knows you aren’t one of those guys, she doesn’t know. This does not mean you should be an apologetic coward. It means you need to be respectful and not aggressive at first, and not do things that set off her danger alarms. We go into this in-depth in the book; it’s actually very simple. In short, it boils down to, “Approach her like a human and not a sex object.”

Raul Felix: A big limiting factor for men is their Mating Market. I saw this a lot while I was in the Army. The local community would have an overabundance of young, in-shape men with a steady paycheck—more than there were women of equal quality. Many a Joe will get have to settle for sloppy seconds on subpar women because that’s all there really was. In my hometown of Huntington Beach, CA, it was tough to stand out even as in-shape guy because people take having a beach body very seriously and Latinos are everywhere. Now that I live in Central New York, where both my buffness and my ethnicity is way more rare, I have more options than I’ve ever had in my life. What are some of the key things a young man needs to know about Mating Markets and what are some of the best places to be a single man in the US?

Tucker Max: This is possibly the MOST important thing in mating, and very few people have any idea about it. This is a stark fact we hope to drill into the head of every man: If you don’t live in a place where there are a lot of single women, you are drastically hurting your chances of dating success. This is very simple math that economists and biologists have understood for years, yet no one gets it when applied to dating.

Think of it this way: There are two bars next door to each other, each with 100 people in them. Bar #1 has 60 women (and thus 40 men), and Bar 2 has 40 women in it (and thus 60 men). Which do you go in? OF COURSE you go in Bar #1, because your odds are way better.

Well, you should apply this logic to EVERYTHING in life. How you pick your school, your job, what city you live in, where you live in that city, what activities you do, and where you spend your time. But very few guys do this.

Raul Felix: Thanks, Tucker. Any last bit of random advice for your typical male who really hasn’t accomplished much but wants to get started?

Tucker Max: The big thing is to not see this as a big hard thing. Start with what you want, then figure out what you have to offer, then work through how to show that what you want is what you have to offer. We walk our readers through this process and break it down into simple and actionable steps. You can do this. Every guy can find at least some success with women if he works the process.

~Raul Felix

Read: Influences: Maddox, Tucker Max, APB, TC Luoma
Read: An Army Ranger Interviews A Navy SEAL On Resilience.
Read: Why Men Look Up To Tony Montana

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An Army Ranger Interviews A Navy SEAL On Resilience

What is resilience? It’s not something you can buy off the shelf. You can’t pout until it’s given to you, either. You acquire it by doing the most human of things: struggling. In this struggle, it’s essential that you keep fighting through and driving on, whether you have succeeded or failed in your goals. Each time you go through the process, you become a bit more resilient.

Eric Greitens is a former Navy SEAL, Rhodes scholar, and founder of veterans organization The Mission Continues. He has written a book on the subject: Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living A Better Life. In a series of letters to his SEAL comrade who struggles with depression, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress disorder, Eric seeks to break down the elements that make for a resilient life so he can help out his friend and, in turn, others.

Raul Felix:
Eric, your organization, The Mission Continues, puts post-9/11 veterans to purposeful work by leveraging their already established experiences, skills, and giving them additional training. This is a bit contrary to what other organizations have done, which focused on giving veterans goodies with no long-term value. When did this idea come about and what does your organization do?

Eric Greitens:
Our wounded and disabled veterans had lost a lot. Some had lost their eyesight. Some their hearing. Some had lost limbs. All of that they would recover from. If they lost their sense of purpose, however, that would be deadly. I also knew that no one was going to be able to give them hope; they were going to have to create hope through action.

I wanted to welcome returning and disabled veterans not just with charity, but with a challenge.

So I donated my combat pay to begin a different kind of veterans’ organization, and two friends contributed money from their disability checks. My plan with The Mission Continues was to offer fellowship for veterans to serve at nonprofit, charitable, and public benefit organizations. We would provide veterans with a stipend to offset cost-of-living expenses and with mentors to help them build plans for their post-fellowship life. Most importantly, we would provide them with the challenge and the opportunity to rebuild a meaningful life by serving again in communities here at home.

Raul Felix:
In your book, you mention three forms of happiness: Happiness of Pleasure, Happiness of Grace, and Happiness of Excellence. All three are needed. Many veterans, especially the ones who get out in their early or mid-twenties, fall into the trap of overindulging in pleasure with alcohol, drugs, unscrupulous sex, and other whims in order to get that emotional high they experienced while on mission. I know I did and still do. Why does focusing more on excellence, which is way harder, lead to a richer form of happiness?

Eric Greitens:
I think that—most simply—the happiness of excellence leads to a richer form of happiness because it involves growth. When we push ourselves and engage in activity that leads to excellence, we exercise our power—and this leads to growth, to mastery, and—in time—to achievement. All of that deep engagement with the world creates joy along the way.

In addition, part of what makes this happiness richer is that, often times, our efforts actually make others happy along the way. You, for example, know that it takes a lot of effort to write a good piece. As you write more, you become better at your craft. At the same time, your writing offers something to others. And if this is true for you, you’ve got a great combination—inner growth and outer service.

Finally, I think that the happiness of excellence is often richer because it helps to provide us with a sense of direction and, over time, a sense of purpose. When I think, for example, about the kind of happiness that’s available to the man in your poem, “Keep Moving, Young Man,” we both know that the happiness of pleasure might offer a moment of relief, but afterwards a guy like this might plunge even deeper still. If, however, he had a sense of direction…if, however, he felt himself getting better…if, however, he felt like he was making a contribution to others…that might—over time and with lots of hard work—lead him to a different place altogether. And that’s the great promise of the happiness of excellence.

Raul Felix:
You mentioned that “The naive mind imagines effortless success, the cowardly mind imagines hardship and freezes, the resilient mind imagines hardships and prepares.” We were taught in the military that you have to have a contingency plan in case things do go wrong. When you acquire a veteran fellowship, what do you do in order to ensure they are prepared and do succeed?

Eric Greitens:
That’s a great question. We try to apply all of the lessons in the Resilience book to make sure that they have the best chance of success. So, for example, we make sure that they have mentors to learn from, models to follow. We create counselors to guide them, friends to aid them, and there is a curriculum that they complete, all designed to help them to build the mental toughness and to develop the sense of purpose that are necessary to make it through a tough time.

Raul Felix:
You have a whole letter dedicated to friendship. I agree that having good friends is one of the great things that makes life worth living. My friends have been there for me and have bailed me out of physical and legal trouble more times than I can recall. Also, real friends will call you out when you’re messing up your life, business, or just plain being an asshole. Can you give us a recent example of when your friends have helped you out?

Eric Greitens:
Of course. I run a small business—I started it when I came home from Iraq, and I’m proud of it. It provides a good living for my family and for the people on the team. A few months back I had a guy who worked for me—a guy I’d given a lot of opportunities to—who lied to me and stole from me. That’s a gut punch. I called a friend [to replace him] the next day. He was at my house two hours later, and he’s been with me now every day for over seven months. My company is so much stronger than it was before—and we got there because of my friend and the incredible people on my team. It’s a classic Resilience case: I never would have wanted it to happen, but in retrospect, I’m actually grateful that it did because it made us so much stronger.

Raul Felix:
Part of the allure the military, especially Special Operations Units, has to young men is that whole transformative process. It pushes you to your physical, mental, and emotional limits. It has the power to test you and make something more out of you than you were before. If not the military, what other rites of passage do you think would a young person need to go through in order to earn the same amount of pride and sureness of oneself?

Eric Greitens:
A rite of passage usually marks a transition from one phase of life to the next. When you join the military, you literally step off of the bus, and *bang*, you’ve got a drill instructor yelling in your ear and you’re in a whole new world. You’ve come to a place that is meant to transition you from a citizen into a citizen-soldier/sailor/airman/Marine who is built to serve others.

Going to college usually marks a transition, as does entering a monastery, getting married, or having a child. You move, in each case, from one phase of life to the next. You become a husband or wife, a father or mother.

For young people looking to develop pride and confidence, there is only one path: self-created success. You will know you are good and strong when you have done things that are good. Achievement can take place in the art room, on the athletic field, in an auto body shop, in your business, on a farm—and achievement can take many many different forms. But true confidence comes when we grow, when we learn, when we master new skills. Almost everything new can be frightening at first, but with the right kinds of experience, we grow in courage.

That’s why resilience is an essential virtue; you can’t grow without it.

Raul Felix:
You’ve done quite a bit with your life. You’ve been a Rhodes scholar, humanitarian volunteer, Navy SEAL, and you’ve started a great non-profit organization. A lot of people would look at what you’ve accomplished and think they can’t hope to reach that level of excellence and may be even intimidated by it. Obviously, everything you’ve accomplished was a result of your own hard work and resilience. What last bit of advice would you give to someone who is young but hasn’t really done much with their life in order to get moving toward the right path for them?

Eric Greitens:
Well, thank you, Raul. That’s very kind of you. I’ve been fortunate to work with wonderful people along the way.

What I say to young people is this: You have a contribution to make. You have something to offer. And to develop your own sense of purpose, do two things. One, stay humble. It’s important that we remember that every person is better than us in some way. Every person has something to teach us. So learn from people around you. At the same time, be bold. Try new things. Attack hard problems. Do the tough stuff. Push yourself. If you can be humble and bold at the same time, you’ll create something beautiful.

~Raul Felix

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2 Stupid Pieces of Dating Advice That Women Always Give Me

I’m no dating expert, despite the fact that I’ve been on tons of dates and have hooked up with a lot of women who won’t return my texts. I have a competitive edge over most guys in the dating scene because I have cojones grandes. I’m not scared to talk to any girl in any situation, and I probably hit on and get rejected by more chicks in a week than the average American male will in his lifetime.

My balls-to-the-wall attitude regarding women and sex, coupled with the extensive human sexual evolution and psychology literature I’ve read over the years, have led me to the conclusion a lot of the advice you chicks give us men regarding women is bullshit. A lot of their advice operates on the premise on “how it ought to be” rather than “how it is.”

Well, I don’t live the utopian future where all of society’s ills regarding gender inequality and communication issues between the sexes don’t exist anymore. I live in the present, where chicks are flaky and have contradictory notions of what they want. Most girls these days are doing the whole “Eat, Pray, Love” shit while they bitch about not having Dreamy McDreamerson galloping in on a white horse to save them from themselves. They also demand that he respect the fact that she is an independent woman with a past, a heart that loved too much, and herpes she contracted from that one guy she fucked in the bathroom of Baja Sharkeez.

As if my bitter words weren’t enough of an indicator, I often get frustrated dealing with the opposite sex—sometimes enough to want to throw in the towel and swear off the she-devils for a while. During those turbulent times, I reach out to the few female friends I have and ask for their advice, only to be given this sort of useless claptrap:

1. “Just wait: Someone special will come along.”

This sets up the advisor to be right, no matter what. You can “just be waiting” for a week or ten years, but regardless, they’ll be right. When a lovely lady finally comes into your life, your advisor will smugly say, “Told you I was right” as if it was her advice that brought this person into your life in the first place.

It makes sense from the female perspective, because dating for a chick comes down to chance encounter with a charming, dashing gentleman. If he doesn’t meet the aesthetic requirements on her checklist, not to worry—another dashing gentleman will come around in a few minutes.

If you’re an assertive male who grabs life by the balls, this type of advice makes zero sense. Why, if you truly want something, would you sit around with your thumb up your ass waiting for some mystical force in the universe to deliver it to you? Wouldn’t you want to figure out how to meet pretty girls and where they congregate? Wouldn’t you want to figure out how to best increase your chances of meeting one who fits you and your personality? Wouldn’t you want to learn what you can and can’t accept in a partner? Merely waiting won’t accomplish any of that.

It may come as a shocker to you girls, but most of you are cowards. Chicks rarely, if ever, hit on us directly. The closest that most of us guys get to being directly hit on is when a chick looks at us while we’re looking away and then looks away when we look at her. We’re left having to read the fact that she is twirling her hair or playing with the straw in her cup as a subtle clue that she into us. Then, hoping we read the hints correctly, we go up to her and try to avoid saying anything too stupid. We’re the man; we make the first move. It’s part of the game. But that can’t happen if we are “just waiting.”

2. “You’re not going to meet a good girl at a bar.”

This advice is spewed out with zero irony by chicks that just posted Instagram pictures of themselves hosting drinks at the bar. Yeah, every girl at the bar is a fucking wretched whore—except you and your friends, right? While I agree that the women who frequent bars are trashier per capita, there are also a lot of girls who go to bars that aren’t.

Let’s say I was to follow this advice and not try to meet chicks at bars. Where should I meet them, then? What other places have a consistently fresh supply of females that a man can approach?

Coffee shops? It sounds good in theory. Sophisticated chicks love coffee, especially if it’s expensive. You order something at random because you don’t know shit about coffee and sit down at a chair that gives you a good vantage point of the room. After waiting for an hour for a chick to appear who is clearly alone, you sit next to her and strike up a conversation. It all goes well until you ask her what university she goes to, and then she tells you she is 17 and wants to go to UCLA. You realize that it’s best to leave the conversation there, wish her well, and be on your way. I’ve found that females at coffee shops are typically 70% high-schoolers, 20% old bags, 15% chicks who already have boyfriends, and 5% chicks who are talking on their phone the whole fucking time so you can’t even make a move.

Meeting girls at church? I’m a godless, heathen bastard.

Gym? Of course! That has the built-in benefit that the chick is far less likely to be a useless fat sack of shit. You go to the gym and are getting your swole on, trying to scout for potential targets. You notice that those chicks who wear those revealing, skimpy outfits for you to ogle all seem have a big rock on their finger that is worth more than your annual salary, or she’s with her man working out because that’s what healthy couples do. The one chick that is truly alone is wearing a baseball cap, has her headphones in, and is wearing a loose T-shirt. She’s basically stating, “I’m here to work out. Leave me the fuck alone.” If you foolishly attempt to hit on her, you’ll get shut down quickly—not only that, you’ll have to avoid her piercing, judgmental stares every time you go to the gym afterward.

Fuck. I wish there was a place where men and women could casually gather to meet other men and women in an atmosphere that encourages you to meet new people. If only such a place existed.

You ought to be able to be yourself and have a wonderful woman come into your life, but that shit doesn’t happen. You have to be proactive and take the hits of rejection and failure until you meet one that makes all the bullshit you dealt with worth it. You ought to be able to meet girls casually in a non-alcohol-induced daze, but the reality is that if you’re no longer in college or don’t have a work environment that allows fraternization, an alcohol-induced daze is probably how you’re going to meet your next lover. It’s the dirty, filthy reality.

~Raul Felix

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