Reawakening Manners and Morality in Men

What Gets Measured Gets Managed

What Gets Measured Gets Managed

It’s a few days into the new year, have your resolutions already crashed and burned?  I’m working a few new principles this year to see if I can keep my resolutions.  My personal resolutions are fitness related, but these principles can be applied to any number of resolutions, from diet to running a marathon to quiting some bad habit.  Here are 4 simple rules for successfully keeping your resolutions this year.

1) Set Realistic Goals

Do not set out to lose 100 pounds in 6 weeks. You are not the biggest loser and resolutions like that are doomed to failure the first time somebody brings bagels to your office.  Take all quantitative goals out of the running.  If you goal is to lose weight, frame your goals qualitatively with resolutions like, “I will eat less, work out more, and feel better about myself by the end of this year.”  There may be specific quantitative goals that are a part of your resolution, but they are a sub-category of your resolution, not the resolution itself.  Along these lines, never quit anything cold turkey, you have the will power of cooked spaghetti and you know it.  Anything that you have to force yourself to quit is an addicting, be it smoking, drinking, porn, Starbucks, or whatever.  Addictions take time and trying to quit immediately will almost always end in failure.  Instead of quitting on new years and starting again on January 3rd, frame your resolution like this, “I will reduce my cigarettes per day incrementally until I am smoke free.”

2) Measure Anything and Everything

To quote the “Father of Modern Management,” Dr. Peter Drucker, “What gets measured, gets managed.”  This is one of the many modern management principles studied by Dr. Drucker over his long career and it works well for managing anything, including yourself.  I’ve framed my fitness goals this way, “I will write down every thing I eat, and every workout I do this year.”  I do have some weight loss goals and some strength and conditioning goals included there, but instead of making those my aim, my resolution is only to monitor my consumption and activity levels this year.  At the end of each day I can look back and evaluate what I ate and my workouts and decide if I’m on the correct path.  If I find myself veering off the path and no longer heading toward my fitness goals, I can adjust.

If your goal is to run a marathon or a triathlon, log your workouts.  If your goal is to quit something, log your consumption or participation in that thing you want to quit. Writing things down helps to actualize them.  It’s one thing to think of coming home and drinking a 6 pack of beer every night.  It’s another thing entirely when you write it down and realize that’s 63 cups of beer a week.  It helps you realize that a two pack a day cigarette habit equals 280 cigarettes a week.  It helps you realize that a healthy 170lb man has to run for 38 minutes at a 6mph pace to burn of a single McDonald’s Big Mac.

There are as many different ways to accomplish this measurement as there are creative people.  You can use a smart phone application, an excel spreadsheet, a notebook, a whiteboard, or whatever you want.  I wanted something small and pocket size to carry with me so that I can write everything down as I did it, so that I wouldn’t have to remember at the end of the day.  To facilitate this, I created a PocketMod.  These are ingenious little books that are folded out of a single sheet of paper that can be fully customized on the PocketMod website.  The one I created has a cover sheet and 7 days worth of food diary and workout logging.  I have printed out a full years worth of these things and every week I put a new one in my pocket and log everything.  You can download mine, create your own, or use another method entirely, but if you want to manage something in your life, you must measure it.

When you are measuring, make sure to keep your measuring technique the same.  If you are monitoring your Body Mass Index, do not use your bathroom scale one month, then the calipers at the doctors office the next month and expect to be able to get anything useful out of the results.  If you are calculating your calories, use the same source for calorie data and don’t start rounding halfway through the year.  Just keep your methods the same for consistent, track-able results.

3) Celebrate Small Victories

Set many small milestones and celebrate your successes when you reach them.  Do not celebrate by doing something contrary to your goals.  If you have weight loss goals, don’t celebrate by eating an entire cheese pizza the day after you reach your 10lb milestone.  If you have marathon goals, don’t celebrate your first 10k run by taking a week off of running.  Celebrate by treating yourself to something you want, or something you enjoy that is unrelated to your goals.  I have a significant weight loss milestone that will be celebrated with the purchase of a new woodworking tool that I’ve had my eye on.  I have a bible reading milestone that will be celebrated by reading a new book that I haven’t put aside the time to read yet.  I have a push-up milestone that will be celebrated by going on a rock climbing date with my wife.  If you know her, shush, because she doesn’t know that yet.  Don’t punish yourself for minor setbacks, and reward yourself for small victories.  This will help keep you motivated.

4) Have a Partner

Dismissing myself is easy, far too easy.  In order to stay the course, I need to rely on others to help keep me accountable.  I’ve started a new push-up program, and upon completion of each workout I email a friend.  Just knowing that he is expecting that email and knowing that if I don’t I’ll have to face him at church and justify my lack of discipline is enough to encourage me to do the workouts.  Find a friend to hold you accountable to your goals or even better, join you.  I managed to get two friends and two co-workers to come along for the ride on this push-up challenge and we encourage each other.  Ecclesiastes speaks to this in chapter 4. verses 9 and 10.  “Two are better than one, because they have good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”  Find a gym buddy, an addiction support group, or whatever it is that you need to help keep you on track and encourage you when you stumble.

Following those 4 simple rules will help your new years resolutions survive long enough to become life changing habits.  Make attainable, reasonable goals.  Measure anything you want to manage, and write it down. Celebrate small victories.  Have a partner.  It’s 4 days into the new year and I’m holding strong, only 361 days to go.  Care to join me in resolving to keep my resolutions?

Improve Your Presence

Presence

What is presence?  Before you improve your presence, you must understand presence.  There are several definitions that need to be considered.   First and foremost, presence is the act of being present.  The second definition of presence is the being, carriage, or air of a person, especially stately or distinguished.  And finally presence can be defined as a noteworthy quality of poise and effectiveness.   So what does all that mean?  The guy who walks into a room and everybody turns to look?  He has presence.  The actor that walks on set and immediately commands the scene.  He has presence.  The story teller at the dinner table that controls the mood of the event with his charming tales and anecdotes.  He has presence.  We’ve all known guys that walk into a room and suck the very air out of it. They all have presence, and with some effort you can improve your presence as well.

There are a few things that all men with presence have in common; appealing physical appearance, control of body language, excellent communication, and energy.

Physical Appearance

Physical appearance is not necessarily attractiveness.  And for those guys who are in the upper echelons of comeliness, your looks do not substitute for presence.  You can control many aspects of your appearance, starting with your outfit.  Dress appropriately for the occasion.  If you show up to a baseball game in a tux, you do not look stately.  You look foolish.  Likewise, showing up to a party in jeans and a used gym shirt is also unbecoming.  You want wear an outfit that is as formal as the venue and the host.  This is basic social etiquette.  In order to have presence, you should dress slightly more formal than the event.  If others are in jeans and t-shirts, you should be in a nice polo.  If polo shirts are the norm, wear a button down.  The balance is to be well dressed but not overdressed.  Stick to classic tones and styles.  You want to be remembered for who you are, not what you wore.  If you find yourself wearing an ensemble, go take off some accessories.  Men wear outfits and uniforms.  Flash, flair, and dazzle should not be in your vocabulary, and certainly not be in your wardrobe.

You also need to be tall.  Not everybody has that genetic advantage, but you can add several inches to your stature by standing up straight and not slouching.  Improving your posture is something that requires a little time and effort, but is well worth it.  Studies have shown that people are attracted to taller men, that they get paid more, and have better luck in the romance department.  Do not slouch your shoulders and walk around with your head down like a whipped dog.  Just work on maintaining a natural and erect posture and you’ll do fine.  This is something you should practice beforehand.  You want to have your back straight and your chin up, but you don’t want to overcorrect and have your chest stuck out like Johnny Bravo.  Increasing your stature even a little bit helps to increase your presence.

Another part of improving your physical appearance is to stop hiding. Do not enter a room, lap it once, then head for the nearest shadowy corner.  Men with presence gravitate toward the light.  You need to minimize or eliminate all self-consciousness or self-doubt in order to project a presence.  You need to be comfortable in your own skin, and comfortable in the light.

Body language

Body language says a lot about you, your confidence level, and your comfort with a situation.  You want to face people square and open.  This demonstrates to your audience that you are comfortable and relaxed.  Standing on an angle is a defensive posture, also known as a closed stance to boxers and martial artists.  You are presenting less of yourself as a target, which is a good thing in boxing, but it makes you seem less confident in a social setting.

Eye contact is something you’ve heard harped on over and over.  The reason that everybody says eye contact is good for establishing a rapport is because it works.  You want to look people in the eyes, but don’t do it so much that it becomes creepy or makes the other person uncomfortable.  Do not get into staring contests, it makes you seem petty.  You want to look into your audiences eyes and engage them.  If you do this properly you can make it seem to each individual that you are speaking directly to them as if they were the only person in the room.  A mental trick to help you improve this skill is to attempt to memorize the eye color of each person you meet.  As an added bonus, this can help you remember their name later.

Nervousness can undermine your presence.  You don’t want to appear confident, you want to BE confident.  Two key ingredients to banishing nervousness are breathing and relaxing.  If you can, take a moment prior to going inside, and gather yourself.  Collect your thoughts, banish anything in your mind that isn’t relevant to the event at hand, be it a meeting, a party, a social gathering, an interview, etc.  Take a few deep breaths and clear your mind.  This will calm your nerves and bring the task at hand into focus in your mind.  Like a recent string of Amp energy drink commercials has been telling us, “Before every moment, there is a moment.”  Also, no fidgeting.  No pen clicking, no napkin shredding, nothing but a cool calm and collected demeanor.

In some cases you can make an entrance.  This is the moment most of the other men in the room will size you up.  Depending on the venue, you can almost always walk in with confidence.  You were invited; you are supposed to be there, so act like it.  Don’t slink in quietly.  This, like so many other things, can be overdone.  You do not want to burst into the room so dramatically that you almost fall over like Kramer from the hit show Seinfeld.  Enter with some spring in your step, but don’t bust in the doors and declare yourself to the world.  If I haven’t made this clear yet, allow me to reiterate; being loud, obnoxious, flashy or comical does not give your presence.  If you are entering with more than yourself, hold the door for the others, especially if they are women.  Allow any men to enter before you, but don’t immediately follow them in.  Allow for a little pause before you enter so that you can enter effectively alone.  If you are bringing a lady to the event, enter with her.  Stand in the entrance long enough to take stock of the situation, and notice the room and everyone in it.  Something I like to do is locate the facilities, and the exits.  Both pieces of information will probably be of use at some point during your stay.

Communication

This section probably warrants an article all on its own, or perhaps several.  A vital component of effective communication and presence is this: listen.  You want each person you encounter to feel like they are alone in the room and they have your undivided attention, even in the middle of a group.  This is done by listening.  Not just hearing them, but actually listening to what they have to say.  You should listen at least twice as much as you talk in any engagement.  When you do chose to speak, make sure it is only when you have something to contribute to the conversation.  If you’re busy thinking about your next amusing story, rehearsing it in your mind, then you are not listening.  When you do speak, pause for a second to gather yourself first.  This will help eliminate filler words and stumbling.  A long dramatic pause isn’t needed, just half a heartbeat to shift your brain from active listening to active speaking.  Asking pointed questions and allowing others to answer will let you to lead conversations without dominating them.  Every one you meet should come away thinking that they were important to you and the conversation should reflect that.  Make it about them, not about you.

I like to pay people compliments, genuine ones.  When paying compliments, do it in private, or quiet conversation.  This is much like tithing.  If you tithe loudly for everybody to see, then your reward is only in the praise people give you.  You do not need to tell that lady across the room that you like her dress in earshot of 27 other people.  This falls under the loud obnoxious behavior that we’ve discussed several times before.  Paying someone a compliment in front of everyone is doing it for your benefit, so they can hear your excellently delivered, suavely spoken words.  Compliments given in private actually mean something to the other person.  If you have presence, you do not need to call attention to yourself.

Energy

The energy you bring to an event is important. In order to be engaging, you must first be engaged.  I know, I sound all mystical and kung fu-y but let me explain. If you are worried about filing your taxes, checking your phone for sports updates, planning your next vacation, or any other thought pattern that takes your focus away from the here and now, you are not engaged.  This will register plainly on your face and in your actions.  If you go into autopilot mode, you are not present and therefore have no presence.

If you know you are going to have a late evening, do something vigorous beforehand to liven up.  Don’t be the guy on the couch yawning and trying to stay awake.  Though it wasn’t officially recognized Randy Gardner, a 17 year old high school student, stayed up for 11 straight days during a science project as a bid for the Guinness record.  However tired you are, you can make it through the next few hours without yawning, or tipping over into your soup bowl.

This next point will probably become its own article someday.  No Drinking!  You must be in firm control of your full mental capacity at all times.  While I believe I can make a strong argument for a Christian man to not drink, I realize that I’m probably in the minority on that point.  If you are expected to drink, limit yourself to 1.  You do not want to hear embarrassing stories about your behavior the next morning. You do not need liquid courage, you need actual courage.  If something requires you to drink to accomplish it, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

So let’s recap.

  • Be yourself, only better dressed and groomed
  • Be in total control of your body, your nerves, and your actions
  • Listen more than you talk
  • Make others feel important to you
  • Act like you belong there
  • Be present
  • No drinking!

There is a lot to think about here, but if you pick one thing to work on, like posture, until it becomes second nature and then work on something else you can become a natural presence in any encounter.  It costs you nothing to improve yourself in this way, and the benefits can be quite far reaching.

The Morals of Chess

Chess

This article was written by Benjamin Franklin in 1786, and discusses the virtues of playing chess.  It was held for a long time that this was the first article written by an American about the game, though the famous lost manuscript of Rev. Lewis Rou would predate it, if any copies of it could be found and verified.  It remains to this day one of the most famous chess manuscripts in the world.  Benjamin Franklin was not a man of idle pastimes and used chess as a tool to hone his mind.  This text from his autobiography really shows the character of a man who could turn what others saw as a fun game into something that improved himself in some way.

“I had begun in 1733 to study languages. I soon made myself so much a master of the French as to be able to read the Books with ease. I then undertook the Italian. An acquaintance who was also learning it, used often to tempt me to play Chess with him. Finding this took up too much of the Time I had to spare for study, I at length refused to play any more, unless on this condition, that the victor in every Game, should have the Right to impose a Task, either in parts of the Grammar to be got by heart, or in Translation, which task the vanquish’d was to perform upon honor before our next Meeting. As we played pretty equally we thus beat one another into that Language.”
 
To Ben Franklin, chess was not a game.  It was a tool useful for shaping the mind, for improving the person, and finally, having accomplished some form of self betterment, for enjoyment.  He highlights its virtues and values in the article he wrote for The Columbian Magazine which it subsequently published in the December issue of 1786.  I encourage you to learn chess if you do not know how to play, study chess if you do know how to play, and master it if you already a student of it.  There is room for improvement in each persons game, and by extension, in each person.  Don’t take my word on the values of chess, take Benjamin Franklin’s.

To the Editor of The Columbian Magazine

Sir, Playing at Chess, is the most ancient and the most universal game known among men; for its original is beyond the memory of history, and it has, for numberless ages, been the amusement of all the civilized nations of Asia, the Persians, the Indians, and the Chinese. Europe has had it above 1000 years; the Spaniards have spread it over their part of America, and it begins lately to make its appearance in these northern states. It is so interesting in itself, as not to need the view of gain to induce engaging in it; and thence it is never played for money. Those, therefore, who have leisure for such diversions, cannot find one that is more innocent; and the following piece, written with a view to correct ( among a few young friends) some little improprieties in the practice of it, shows at the same time that it may, in its effects on the mind, be not merely innocent, but advantageous, to the vanquished as well as to the victor.

The Morals of Chess

The game of Chess is not merely an idle amusement. Several very valuable qualities of the mind, useful in the course of human life, are to be acquired or strengthened by it, so as to become habits, ready on all occasions. For life is a kind of chess, in which we have often points to gain, and competitors or adversaries to contend with, and in which there is a vast variety of good and ill events, that are, in some degree, the effects of prudence or the want of it. By playing at chess, then, we may learn:

1. Foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend to an action: for it is continually occurring to the player, “If I move this piece, what will be the advantages of my new situation? What use can my adversary make of it to annoy me? What other moves can I make to support it, and to defend myself from his attacks? “

2. Circumspection, which surveys the whole chess-board, or scene of action, the relations of the several pieces and situations, the dangers they are respectively exposed to, the several possibilities of their aiding each other; the probabilities that the adversary may make this or that move, and attack this or the other piece; and what different means can be used to avoid his stroke, or turn its consequences against him.

3. Caution, not to make our moves too hastily. This habit is best acquired by observing strictly the laws of the game, such as, If you touch a piece, you must move it somewhere; if you set it down, you must let it stand. And it is therefore best that these rules should be observed, as the game thereby becomes more the image of human life, and particularly of war; in which, if you have incautiously put yourself into a bad and dangerous position, you cannot obtain your enemy’s leave to withdraw your troops, and place them more securely; but you must abide by all the consequences of your rashness.

And lastly, we learn by chess the habit of not being discouraged by present bad appearances in the state of our affairs, the habit of hoping for a favorable change, and that of persevering in the search of resources. The game is so full of events, there is such a variety of turns in it, the fortune of it is so subject to sudden vicissitudes, and one so frequently, after long contemplation, discovers the means of extricating one’s self from a supposed insurmountable difficulty, that one is encouraged to continue the contest to the last, in hopes of victory by our own skill, or, at least, of giving a stale mate, by the negligence of our adversary. And whoever considers, what in chess he often sees instances of, that particular pieces of success are apt to produce presumption, and its consequent, inattention, by which more is afterwards lost than was gained by the preceding advantage; while misfortunes produce more care and attention, by which the loss may be recovered, will learn not to be too much discouraged by the present success of his adversary, nor to despair of final good fortune, upon every little check he receives in the pursuit of it.

That we may, therefore, be induced more frequently to chuse this beneficial amusement, in preference to others which are not attended with the same advantages, every circumstance, that may encrease the pleasure of it, should be regarded; and every action or word that is unfair, disrespectful, or that in any way may give uneasiness, should be avoided, as contrary to the immediate intention of both the players, which is, to pass the time agreeably.

Therefore  1st. If it is agreed to play according the strict rules, then those rules are to be exactly observed by both parties; and should not be insisted on for one side, while deviated from by the other; for this is not equitable.

2. If it is agreed not to observe the rules exactly, but one party demands indulgences, he should be as willing to allow them to the other.

3. No false move should ever be made to extricate yourself out of a difficulty, or to gain advantage. There can be no pleasure in playing with a person once detected in such unfair practice.

4. If your adversary is long in playing, you ought not to hurry him, or express any uneasiness at his delay. You should not sing, or whistle, nor look at your watch, nor take up a book to read, nor make a tapping with your feet on the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do any  thing that may disturb his attention. For all these things displease. And they do not show in playing, but your craftiness or your rudeness.

5. You ought not to endeavour to amuse and deceive your adversary, by pretending to have made bad moves, and saying you have now lost the game, in order to make him secure and careless, and inattentive to your schemes; for this is fraud, and deceit, not skill at the game.

6. You must not, when you have gained a victory, use any triumphing or insulting expression, nor show too much pleasure; but endeavour to console your adversary, and make him less dissatisfied with himself by every kind and civil expression, that may be used with truth; such as, You understand the game better than I, but you are a little inattentive; or, You play too fast; or, You had the best of the game, but something happened to divert your thoughts, and that turned it in my favour.

7. If you are a spectator, while others play, observe the most perfect silence. For if you give advice, you offend both parties; him, against whom you may give it, because it may cause the loss of his game; him, in whose favour you give it, because, tho’ it may be good, and he follows it, he loses the pleasure he might have had, if you had permitted him to think till it occurred to himself. Even after a move or moves, you must not, by replacing the pieces, show how it might have been played better: for that displeases, and may occasion disputes or doubts about their true situation. All talking to the players, lessens or diverts their attention, and is therefore displeasing; nor should you give the least hint to either party, by any kind of noise or motion. – If you do, you are unworthy to be a spectator.-If you have a mind to exercise or show your judgment, do it in playing your own game when you have an opportunity, not in criticizing or meddling with, or counseling, the play of others.

Lastly. If the game is not to be played rigorously, according to the rules above mentioned, then moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with one over yourself. Snatch not eagerly at every advantage offered by his unskillfulness or inattention; but point out to him kindly that by such a move he places or leaves a piece in danger and unsupported; that by another he will put his king in a dangerous situation. By this generous civility (so opposite to the unfairness above forbidden) you may indeed happen to lose the game to your opponent, but you will win what is better, his esteem, his respect, and his affection; together with the silent approbation and good will of impartial spectators.

Troubleshooting a Car That Refuses to Start

Car

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Nick LaPrell from Familyautoguide.com who is doing a series of posts for Godly Gentleman on the basics of vehicle maintenance.

Here is a scenario that has played out in virtually all men’s lives: You’re running late for work, you get into the car, turn the key… And nothing happens. Or even worse, you get out of a movie with your date, ready to go for coffee, you turn the key and. ErrrRRrrrRrrrRrrrrrr. You can’t just call AAA, you have to at least pop the hood and move a few things around. But it is all so foreign (figuratively AND literally). Maybe tighten a wire? There are so many. Perhaps you can check the oil, get a little grease on your hands, and convince your girl that you tried all of the reasonable options before breaking down and calling a tow truck.

Sometimes hiring a mechanic is going to be unavoidable. Other times, hiring a mechanic means paying for a tow, diagnostic, labor, and overpriced parts for a job that might have taken as little as 5 minutes. Knowing how to assess the problem yourself might not keep your car out of the shop, but it will keep you from being taken advantage of or over paying for simple work.

One of the more common car problems is a failure for the engine to start. There are probably near a hundred reasons a vehicle won’t start, but only a handful are common, so we’ll focus on those. As with any car trouble, see if there is an engine code first. If the check engine light is on, rent an ODBII diagnostic device from your local parts store and run a Google search on the make and model of your vehicle along with any codes it throws. This can save a great deal of time troubleshooting the issue and bring up some good articles on the Internet about how to proceed. If you are a techno geek, you can get a cheap blue tooth adapter that connects to your OBDII port and lets your Android or iPhone device read and clear trouble codes (yes, this is on my shopping list).

If there is no code, or you are unable to check for it, there are several other things you can check manually. Be sure to pick up a repair manual for your vehicle from the local shop. They run about $25 and are well worth it. This will come in handy for specific test procedures and component locations. All cars have three key systems to get the engine going. Each system should be tested in order:

Starting System

The starting circuitry of your car may be advanced, but thankfully, it is a rare occasion that faulty wires keep your car from starting. A failure of the starting system typically manifests as nothing happening when you turn the key, or often a clicking sound. First most common cause is a dead battery. Did you leave your lights on? Is the battery more than three years old (two years out here in the Arizona heat)?

The first thing to try in this scenario is to jump start the car. Always keep a set of jumper cables with you for a quick resolution, or use a jump start kit if you have 20 – 30 minutes to wait. Follow the instructions included with either and try to start your car.

If this fails, the fix will not be quick, but may still be easy. Disconnect the battery and bring it in to an automotive shop for testing. If it is dead, but still holds a charge after re-charging, your alternator may be bad. If the car starts again with the new charged battery, drive the vehicle into the automotive store and have them test the charging system (this is usually free). If the car still does not start, the most likely cause is the starter or starter solenoid (they usually come together as a single unit). This can be removed and also tested for free before you commit to buying a new one.

Spark

The next think the engine needs to run is a spark to ignite the fuel vapors. The quickest way to test this is by removing the closest spark plug, plug it into the wire, touch the plug to the engine block, and have someone try to start the car. If you see a nice bright blue spark, the system is fine. If not, remove the spark plug from the wire, hold the wire about シ inch from the engine block and try to start it. If you now see a spark, the spark plugs are worn or dirty and need to be cleaned or replaced.

If you still get no spark, you will need to work your way down the system. Open up the distributor cap (usually just a couple of screws or clamps) right where all of the spark plug wires connect. If there is any moisture, dry it out (and buy a new distributor cap). If all looks well, the next suspect is the ignition coil. This can be tested with a cheap ohmmeter as indicated in your repair manual and is easier than it sounds.

Fuel The final component to make the engine go is fuel. Relieve any fuel pressure as instructed in your repair manual and connect a fuel pressure gage (about $30 at the parts store) where the fuel line goes into the engine. This will usually be a thick line that comes from under the car and not the lighter weight hose that comes out of engine at the fuel rail and into other parts (this is the fuel vapor line). When you turn the key into the accessory position, the fuel should pressurize and register on the gage. Attempt to start the engine. The gage should register anywhere between 30 and 50 psi. If not, fuel is not making it into the engine. An alternative method is to pull the fuel hose and place it in a jar while someone attempts to start the car for about 1 second. This is risky as the fuel should come out pretty fast. Use caution and eye protection and be sure to have a proper fire extinguisher handy if you try it.

At this point, you want to hope it is a much cheaper electrical problem. Open up the fuse/relay box (usually near the battery). The relays should be labeled. You are most interested in the one marked as the fuel pump relay and the ASD (automatic Shut Down). If either of these are bad, you will get no fuel pressure. You can test them with an ohmmeter as instructed in your manual. If you have other relays with the same serial number on them, try swapping them out. (For example, if you know the horn is working and it has the same number, switch it with the ADS and/or fuel pump relay and see if the car starts).

If fuel is still not making it to the engine, either the fuel filter is clogged, or the fuel pump is not working right. The fuel filter is MUCH cheaper than the pump, but both are equally difficult to reach in most new vehicles, requiring the gas tank to be lowered or removed. If you feel up to it, try the fuel filter first (about $10 – $30) and the fuel pump next (around $250). Always replace the fuel filter when replacing the fuel pump. For my 99 Dodge minivan, it took about 3 hours on my own. Getting the gas tank back is a lot easier if you have help. You should also drain the tank first with a siphon from an automotive shop (for the purposes of this article, a tube and your mouth are NOT considered a siphon).

In Summary

Hopefully your diagnosis was done several paragraphs back, but if not, now is the time to call in a mechanic. There are several other less common problems that can cause the engine not to start, and a mechanic will be better able to figure it out quickly. If you need to have your vehicle towed, check your local shops for discounts that you may get for having them do the repair work. If you don’t have a mechanic, ask for referrals from friends.

Remember that your time is valuable too. Some repairs become cost ineffective when you factor in the amount of time you are spending doing the diagnosis and work. You can save a great deal of money doing your own work, but some jobs are best left to the professionals.

A Gentleman’s Guide to E-Mail

E-Mail
For many men, email is a daily part of life, both at work and at home.  Some men take their email with them everywhere they go on smart phones, and are literally able to send emails at a moments notice, anywhere, at any time, about anything.  While most men revel in the swiftness that these communications can take place, there are certain challenges in using email as a primary means of communication.  What distinguishes the gentleman from the ordinary man is his ability to retain all social graces in his swift communications.Confidential?
Whenever you send an email, be careful with what you say, even more careful that if you had written a note by hand.  Any thought, sentiment, feeling, idea, or whatever else you sent in confidence can be all too easily forwarded to dozens, or even hundreds, of people.  Before hitting the send button, reread your email and make necessary edits.  Be sure that the recipient will know precisely what you are saying, and the tone with which you are saying it.

Emotionless?

Since email lacks the non-verbal subtleties of a face to face conversation, emails must be carefully constructed to convey the proper emotion.  Sarcasm, for example, is often lost in emails.

Emotional?

While emotion does not convey well in an email, drunkenness, anger, and irrationalityconvey very well, and not in a good way.  Before sitting down to write an email, you must be calm, articulate, and absolutely sober.  Never type an email while in any other state.  You angry drunken ranting lunacy will be forwarded to everybody.  Your follow up apology email the next day will not be.  If you are writing an angry email, let it sit in your draft box for a day, then re-evaluate it.  This will give you a chance to re-read, re-think, re-write, or just simply delete it as necessary.

Timing

While some people respond to all emails within mere seconds of receiving them, this is not necessary.  You do not need to be available at a moments notice in most of life’s occupations and situations.  Do not answer emails in the middle of conversations, private dinners, movies, important meetings, or anywhere else where you know that your attention is requested and required at the task at hand.  No email is ever important enough to be received or replied to while in a moving vehicle, especially if you are the driver.  Likewise, do not expect instantaneous responses from people via email.

Subject Line

The subject line should be as informative as it is brief.  A simple phrase or short sentence is all that is required.  The subject line is akin to a thesis statement, only shorter.

Beginnings

Personal emails should always begin with “Dear Crystal,” rather than “Hi Crystal,” or simply “Crystal,” or “Hey.”  Business emails may be less formal, but the recipients should still be addressed by name.  All emails should contain some form of greeting, instead of diving right into the meat of the text.

Endings

Every email you send should end with a closing, so there is no doubt that the bottom of the email has been reached.  The greeting can be as formal as a “Sincerely, Christian” or as informal as an XOXOXO exchanged between lovers, but there should be a closure.  In business settings, a simple “Thank You” will suffice in most situations.

CAPS LOCK!!!!!

Using multiple exclamation points or all capitol letters are the internet age equivalent of screaming at the top of your lungs.  You should not, under any circumstances, scream at another human being, even via email.

Scope

Use the “Reply To All” button sparingly, if at all.  Invariably, whenever the company sends out a mass email reminding everybody to get their TPS Reports in on time, one idiot will reply to all 5000 employees that he in fact got his done on Tuesday.   The only time to use reply all is if you are responding with vital information that everybody on the list needs to know.  Do not carry on a conversation via email using the “reply all” button.

Grammar

Proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling should beused at all times.  Do not rely on your spell checker.  There are too many words that will auto correct incorrectly.  Do not use text message abbreviations.  Do not rely on a thesaurus.  The word you have to look up is the wrong word.  If you can only define a word by looking it up in a dictionary, you may not use that word in your communication until you have added it to your vocabulary.  If you work in an acronym heavy field like the military or information technology, define your acronyms.  Also, no emoticons.Email Shield

Never say something in an email that you are unwilling or unable to say in person.  Never fire somebody, or break up with somebody with an email.  Some conversations were meant to be held in person, and emotionally charged conversations do not translate well into emails.  A gentleman does not hide behind a computer screen.These rules should serve as a guideline for effective email communication, but they are by no means a comprehensive list.  If you want something even simpler, remember this;  Jesus himself commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves.  This applies to email as well.  Email others as you would have them email you.  Good email etiquette really is that simple.

A Brief History of the Amateur Mechanic

Mechanic

I am one of those guys who does not feel comfortable driving a vehicle who’s operation I do not at least vaguely understand. I am no mechanic, but I like to do as much maintenance and repair work as I can to save money, as well as to earn man points (I like to recount my repair projects, but usually leave out the time spent studying the manual and searching Google). I know several guys who’s understanding of their vehicle is limited to “I turn the key and it goes.” These guys are at the mercy of mechanics who charge up to $120 an hour for labor and admittedly mark up parts by at least 10%.

I am not suggesting you must do all of your own work and maintenance, but I do believe that a failure to understand the basic operation and maintenance of your vehicle will cost you. The operation manual for the 1922 Ford Model-T has this in the forward:

But while it is not imperative, it is, however, altogether desirable that every Ford owner should thoroughly understand his car. With such knowledge at his command he is always master of the situation—he will maintain his car more economically—prolong its usefulness and he will also derive more pleasure from it, for it is a truism that the more one knows about a thing the more one enjoys it.

The entire operation manual is written under the expectation that the driver will know the ins and outs of the vehicle and maintain it himself. What may not be readily apparent is how much more complex this was in the 1920′s.

Operation of the Model-T

While little has changed mechanically over the last 90 years, the actual operation is much less complex today. Here are the basic steps the regular Joe followed to get from A to B in his shiny new Model-T:

· Check oil, fuel, and water levels (every time it is driven)
· Open the throttle control knob about three quarters.
· Advance the spark control knob one notch from max.
· Pull the hand lever all the way back.
· Put the key in the ignition.
· Turn the hand crank towards the car until you hear it engage (don’t do this too fast or it will kick back and hurt you).
· Lift the crank quickly to start the motor (this may take a few tries, especially in hot or cold weather).
· Turn the ignition switch on (select the magneto (called an alternator today) instead of the battery).
· Adjust the spark control knob until the engine revs the fastest, but retard it if the engine starts to knock.
· Hold the clutch pedal half way in (neutral) and engage the hand lever forward.
· Push the clutch pedal all the way in (slow speed) to get the car moving.
· Once momentum is gained, let the clutch out completely (high speed).
· To stop, push the clutch to the middle position, and apply the foot brake. Pull the hand lever all the way back and let off the clutch (the far back position engages brakes).
· To reverse, come to a complete stop and pull the hand brake almost all the way back. Press on the reverse peddle.

There you have it. We haven’t even addressed the routine maintenance, for what Ford called the simplest car ever designed. Maintenance was to be done by the owner and included:

· Checking all fluid levels before operation
· Lubricating the vehicle every 2 – 3 days.
· Regular inspection of the running gear.
· Checking for play in the wheels.
· Re-tightening ALL nuts and bolts.
· Grinding the values when they get dirty.
· Cleaning the spark plugs.
· Adjusting crank shaft bearings.
· And on and on…

If you are one of those guys that finds basic maintenance to be a nuisance, bear in mind that men of your same stature 90 years ago did their own valve jobs and engine rebuilds and considered it maintenance.

Today, controls are different and simpler. Parts last longer and there is less to maintain. The computer scares many of us (myself included), but all the computer does is puts a sensor on each of the various parts to help you diagnose a problem. Our vehicles are easy to understand and diagnose.

Here is your assignment: Go purchase the repair manual for your vehicle. They run about $25 and will save you more than that after your first minor repair project. Read the first chapter in the manual. This goes over basic maintenance that will, at the very least, save some of your money from the mechanic. I am not suggesting that you learn to rebuild your transmission, nor am I suggesting you have to change your own oil (it doesn’t actually save you much money to do this). What I am suggesting is that next time your battery goes dead, you don’t pay for a tow to the shop, diagnostics fees, and a marked up battery. And when you do choose to use a mechanic, you won’t find yourself paying to have blinker fluid added or the whackadewy tightened.

The Code of the West

Cowboys

The Code of the West is not a set of rules. Rules can be broken. There are not enough rules in the world to make people do what is right. The Code of the West is a set of principles, which speak to the character of the man who owns them. They cannot be broken.  Therein lies the difference between rules and principles.  Rules define what you do, whereas principles define who you are.

Here are the principles that defined life on the open range.  I challenge any man to find at least one of these that needs some improvement in his life, and then work on improving it.

Live each day with courage

Courage was not something spoken about amongst cowboys except to notice its absence.  Courage was a job requirement when dialy facing stampedes, quicksand, indians, blizzards, bandits and herds of cattle that weigh over a ton a head.  A cowboy without courage would not be a cowboy for long.  His hesitation and fear could cost those he rode with their lives and he would not long find himself employed.  A cowboy is said to be “a man with courage and a horse,” and the virtues of fortitude and courage were as basic a requirement as breathing and having a pulse in order to do their jobs.

Modern application of the code:  Having courage is not just jumping into a pool to save someone’s life.  It is also being willing to speak up and say that something isn’t right, even against your friends, colleagues, partners, and bosses.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. ~1 Corinthians 16:13

Take pride in your work

Cowboys did not see themselves as simply  hired hands, but thought of themselves as knights of the planes sitting tall in their saddles.  Their pride growing from their skills in riding and roping, their capacity for hard work and their indifference to danger or hard living on the range.  Cowboys certainly did not enjoy all aspects of their job, but they did everything to the best of their abilities.  Digging fence posts is not glamorous work and no cowboy ever enjoyed it, but they all did it.  They dug deep and straight so that the fence was solid and straight, they took pride in riding by the fence the next time through and thinking “I built that.”

Modern application of the code: There are a great many jobs that nobody enjoys doing, but still need to be done.  If you sweep the floor, do it so that it shines.  If you flip burgers, cook them in such a way that you would enjoy eating them.  Whatever you do, do it well.  If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing it right.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving. ~ Colossians 3:23-24

Always finish what you start

If a cowboy signed on for a ride or a season, you knew that he would see it through to the end.  Cowboys hated quitters, whiners, and complainers.  In the movie Red River some cowboys have to make a hard journey that is known to be perilous, and John Wayne delivers a speech at the onset of the ride.  “Nobody has to come along.  We’ll still have a job for you when we get back.  But remember this: Every man who signs on for the drive agrees to finish it.  There’ll be no quitting along the way ~ not by me, not by you.”

Modern application of the code: If you begin a job, finish it.  If you start a project, see it through to the end.  Whatever it is that currently has your attention, stay the course.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.  ~2 Timothy 4:7

Do what has to be done

Cowboys stand up for what is right.  They deal with injustice and exact retribution when due.  To do anything less would be down right uncivil.  A cowboy was honor bound to do the right thing, even when the odds were stacked against him.  The test of a cowboy’s honor was in how much he would risk to keep it untarnished.  Standing up for the little guy, or just for the principles in which he believes are stock and trade for a cowboy.

Modern application of the code:  Every boy growing up dreams of being a hero, and standing up for truth and justice, but somewhere along the way we lose the action that goes along with the ideal.  Have you ever witnessed an accident where everybody is just standing around and nobody called 911?  Dozens of observers all assumed somebody else was doing it, and it didn’t happen.  Has the phrase “somebody should do something about that” ever crossed your mind?  Take personal responsibility for your life and the lives of others around you.  Do not merely strive to not be a part of the problem but actively seek to be a part of the solution, wherever you find yourself.  Help your neighbors with their groceries, do good deeds, leave the campsite cleaner than when you got there.  Make a positive impact on every life you touch.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. ~ Galatians 6:9

Be tough, but fair

The toughness of a cowboy is not to be disputed.  They are depicted as hard men, tough as nail in all modern media both print and on screen.  They had to be to survive hard times, hard lands, and the many aspects of their job that wanted to kill them; beasts, bandits, Indians, and the like.  The cowboys toughness, while legendary, was also tempered by his fairness.  Cowboys would share their last scraps of food with a stranger before turning them away, and would not cheat in business dealings.  Every cowboy had a turn at being down on his luck and in need of assistance from someone, and they in turn would not fail to help someone in need.

Modern application of the code:  The golden rule used to be a way of life, but has been regulated to nothing more than a Sunday School teaching for suckers.  It needs to be the very core of your moral compass if you truly want to be known as fair in your dealings.  It is simple to apply.  In any situation you can simply ask yourself “How would I want to be treated?” and this should provide you an excellent guide to what is a fair deal.  This can be applied to dealing with customers, business partners, spouses, children and strangers alike.  If you truly treat others the way you want to be treated yourself, you will find that you strike a “square deal” much more easily.

“So in everything, do unto others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” ~ Matthew 7:12

When you make a promise, keep it

Cowboys come from a time when a handshake was a binding contract between men, and reneging on a debt was unheard of.  No man would ride with a cowboy that couldn’t be trusted.  They came from a time when honor was a key to life, and failing to keep your word was akin to lying and cheating, both hangable offences on the open range.  If a cowboy said he’d do a thing, then there was no question that he would.

Modern application of the code:  The code is simple, only make promises that you can and will keep.  The trick is not in keeping promises, but in taking more care with what you promise.  Do not promise things that are out of your control.  This applies especially to your children, and spouse, but equally so to business partners.  Only make promises that you can keep, and then be sure to keep them.  We need to turn away from our legalistic, 1,000 page binding contracts and get back to a time when men would shake hands and mean it.

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your “No,’ ‘No.’ ~ Matthew 5:37

Ride for the brand

Once a cowboy signed on with an outfit, he was obliged to put its needs before his own.  Loyalty was forged quickly among men that needed each other for survival on the open range.  This loyalty was not a blind unquestioning allegiance to the boss simply because he was the one that paid them, but was given only if deserved and returned.

Modern application of the code:  Be loyal to your outfit.  If you hire on at a job, do not badmouth them on facebook.  If they are not worthy of your loyalty, find another place to earn your keep.  Be loyal to your family.  So many men today speak poorly of their wives and complain about their kids with their friends.  If you cannot say good things about them, then keep your mouth shut.  You would punch another man for disrespecting your wife, you should hold yourself to an equally high standard.

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. ~ Proverbs 18:24

Talk less and say more

Cowboys are often viewed as men of little words, the strong silent type.  It might have been the isolation of his work, or the grandeur of a life in open places beneath a big sky that rendered small talk useless, but cowboys were doers, not talkers.  Cowboys often said what needed to be said,  and they were straight to the point about it.  They understood the importance of words and used them with great care.  Many cowboys were uneducated and thus not bound by the rules of grammar or polite discourse, but instead pulled their words from their experience, giving them powerful imagery and a blunt directness in their conversations.

Modern application of the code:  If something you said can be interpreted in more than one way, you didn’t say it clearly enough.  Say what you mean, avoid ambiguity, and mean what you say.  If you find yourself talking more than listening in any conversation, you need to practice this principle more.

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. ~ Proverbs 10:19

Remember that some things aren’t for sale

Often the best things in life are not things, and there are things that money cannot and should not buy.  Many of the previous aspects of the code are things a cowboys would not compromise for money; honor, integrity, pride, or his word.  Many a cowboy lost everything of material value in order to keep a firm grip on the things that truly mattered to them.

Modern application of the code: If you have to sell your principals as part of a deal, you made a very bad bargain.  Know what you believe in, then stand up for those things.  Like the mastercard commercials often tell us, there are some things that that money can’t buy.  Figure out what matters to you more than money, then be sure not to sell them.

The righteous who walks in his integrity – blessed are his children after him!  Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright. ~ Proverbs 20:7,11

Know where to draw the line

A cowboy knew his principles and would not cross them.  He knew where to draw the line.  This aspect of the code is simply a reminder that there is a code, and that it matters.

Modern application of the code:
If you have a code, be it the Code of the West or something of your own creation, live by it.  Draw the hard line, and do not cross it.

Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall. ~ Proverbs 28:18

Further study can be done with the excellent books by James P. Owen titled Cowboy Ethics, Cowboy Wisdom, and Cowboy Values. They are excellent resources, can each be read in a short sitting, and have amazing photography. They make great conversation starters if left on a coffee table, and I have referenced them more than a few times over the years.

Surviving Undulation – Recognizing Peaks and Valleys

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines undulation in these simple terms, a rising and falling in waves.  Undulation occurs in many mediums, including life itself.  Your moods, feelings, spirituality, job satisfaction, and for some, even the desire to remain living rises and falls in peaks and valleys, high points and low points, crests and troughs.  The trick to surviving the crests and troughs of life’s undulations comes simply from recognizing them for what they are, crests and troughs.

If you haven’t read The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, you should.  The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, a junior “tempter” named Wormwood, so as to advise him on methods of securing the damnation of a British man, known only as “the Patient”.  The 8th letter from Screwtape covers the Law of Undulation.

VIII
MY DEAR WORMWOOD,

So you “have great hopes that the patient’s religious phase is dying away”, have you? I  always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it. To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily good; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of self-hood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing. One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself—creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to his. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct. And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. For His ignoble idea is to eat the cake and have it; the creatures are to be one with Him, but yet themselves; merely to cancel them, or assimilate them, will not serve. He is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual tempting, because we design them only for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot “tempt” to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there He is leased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger, than when a human, no longer desiring, but intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys. But of course the troughs afford opportunities to our side also. Next week I will give you some hints on how to exploit them.

Your affectionate uncle

Screwtape

So there you have it.  Recognize that your high points and low points are transient, like all things in this life and you can enjoy the good times and endure the bad.  Do you have a challenging boss?  This too shall pass.  Do you own a troublesome puppy?  This too shall pass.  Does your teenager know everything and has no problem telling you how stupid and old you are?  This too shall pass.  If you plan for the worst (valleys) and hope for the best (peaks) then life will usually land somewhere in the middle.

If you are riding high on a mountain peak, recognize it for what it is, so you don’t get all bummed out and dejected when it doesn’t last.  Men take it especially hard when they crash off the top of a mountain. Have you ever gone to a men’s conference where you were all on fire about something, only to have reality hit you hard in the guts when you got home? If you can accept that the almighty creator of the universe really does have a plan for you, both riding high and lying low, it can make this whole undulating roller coaster much more fun to ride.

If you’ve managed to read this far, I’ll leave you with two inspirational verses to chew on, one for peaks and one for valleys.  I’ll leave it to you to decide which one is appropriate to your current state of mind.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. ~ James 1:2-3