What’s Your Identity?

by Frost on July 20, 2011

Two great posts from Delusion Damage: (here and here)

She doesn’t know if she should, since it’s only their third meeting, but she finds herself going home with him. His apartment is a mess of scattered pizza boxes, books and DVDs on the floor, clothes draped over cheap furniture. It looks exactly like you’d imagine the apartment of someone who pursues his passion with such singleness of purpose that he can’t spare ten minutes to clean up would look.

Him: sorry about the mess. I’ve been busy.

He waves his hand at a desk covered in computer printouts. On top of the pile of paper in the center sits a book with a picture of a guy hanging upside down from a sharp cliff. The title is some sort of technical lingo related to rock climbing and the author’s name is… wait, it’s his name!

Her: did you write this?!

She holds the book in her hand and looks at him questioningly.

Him: yeah, I mean, I’m going to. That’s a prototype, the text isn’t finished yet. But that’s what it’s going to look like.

Her: you’re writing a book on rock climbing? You think you’re like an expert or something?

Him: well, there’s always somebody who knows more, but yeah, that’s what the people on my website seem to think.

Her: you have a rock climbing website?

Him: want to see? here…

He sweeps aside a few sheets of paper and flips open the laptop revealed underneath. She looks over his shoulder at a screen half filled with a photo of him hanging off the edge of a cliff with a big smile on his face. The text underneath states the basics: his name, the name of the website, and its mission: to share his love of the climb and help others discovering the joy of rock climbing. Further down, there’s an excerpt from an article titled “10 Necessities For Winter Climbing…” with his signature on it. Then there’s an assortment of links to his training guide, his equipment guide, etc., and an announcement for an upcoming book release.

Her: wow… you do seem to know a lot about this stuff. I guess you are an expert!

Him: as I said, it’s my passion. I intend to climb Everest one day… can’t do that if you don’t know what you’re doing! I just need to train some more and save up the money to do it… working tech support sucks, but I keep my eyes on the prize, and one day I’ll do it.

Her: well I guess if anybody can do it you can!

Scenario 3b:

She doesn’t know if she should, since it’s only their third meeting, but she finds herself going home with him. His apartment is a mess of scattered pizza boxes, books and DVDs on the floor, clothes draped over cheap furniture. It looks exactly like you’d imagine the apartment of someone who has no prospects in life and is too lazy to take ten minutes to clean up would look.

Him: sorry about the mess. I’ve been busy.

Her: with tech support?

Him: well yeah, and, you know, stuff.

Her: what kind of stuff do you do when you’re not tech-supporting?

Him: I’m studying electronic engineering, and between that and work I’m pretty tired so I just watch TV or something.

Her: uh-huh… so do you have like a dream or something?

Him: i dunno, I guess… it’d be cool to make a little more money, and you know what else: I’d like to climb Mount Everest.

She hesitates for a moment, not sure if it’s a joke she should laugh at or if he actually believes in this pipe dream which seems to her mostly like an adolescent fantasy, a way for him to escape the dreary reality of his boring, dead-end life.

Her: like… seriously?

Him: yeah. I always thought that would be cool.

Her: oh, okay… well, maybe. Who knows, right?

What’s the difference?

What separates the first guy (or, really, the first of two versions of what could basically be the exact same guy) from the second? How big is the difference?

Emotionally, it’s huge. From the girl’s perspective, the first guy has an attractive identity: he’s ambitious, he has a dream that he’s passionate about and taking real, visible action steps towards, he has his own world that she can be drawn into. He’s an expert at something and other people follow his lead. He is definitely going somewhere in life. The second guy is regular, bland, boring. He has no direction in life, no drive or ambition, and he doesn’t seem to be doing anything to improve his station in life. His dream seems like a fantasy because his actions aren’t congruent with his words. He’s aimless, shiftless, useless. Unattractive.

Materially, what separates the winner from the loser?
$30 and a few hours of preparation.

It seems like a lot more than that – it seems like his entire life is different – but it could very easily be the exact same life, just presented differently. What makes the huge difference is his attitude towards which parts of his life are important, and the real-world examples that back up his preferred way of viewing his life.”

The human brain likes to think in terms of stories. As a person learns more about you, they’re going to try to piece together the information they have into a coherent narrative spanning your life. Where did this guy come from? Where is he going? What’s he doing right now to get there? If you don’t consciously tell people how they should interpret your story, they will write your narrative for you.

Like many tools of seduction, this applies to non-romantic relationships as well: In a job interview, you need to turn your life into a story where being a great employee at their company is a congruent next chapter; High-value friends will gravitate towards you if they understand and admire the path that you’re on.

Most importantly, you need to occasionally take a step back from your own life and ask: Is my current behaviour congruent with the story I want to be living? In the short term, you need a compelling identity to attract women. Beyond that though, you need a compelling identity for yourself. You need to be able to look in the mirror, and respect the person looking back at you.

If a man creates a “rock-climber identity” with $30 and a few hours of prep, he will be more successful with women than the man who doesn’t. Cool. But when he reflects on his own life, he won’t be “rock-climber guy”. He will be “fake-rock-climber guy”. Will he be OK with that? Perhaps. But more likely, once he’s used his rock-climber identity (among other tools) to achieve freedom from the torment of want, his focus will wander elsewhere. He’ll want to create an identity that appeals to him:

“You’re not just some dude who goes to the office every day, another cog in the wheel. At least you aren’t if you ever want anyone to find you special and be attracted to you.

There’s something about you that makes you special – something you’re passionate about, something you’re good at, something that that lets you be the best person you can be, even if just some of the time – and you need to let people see that part. That’s what’s attractive about you. That’s what you want everyone to know and remember about you, not the fact that you wear a suit and tie and work from 9 to 5 with three coffee breaks in between.

What is your dream? Unless your life is so perfect that nothing can be improved upon (in which case, why are you reading this?), you probably have a dream – most people do. The difference is that some people pursue their dreams and others don’t. The people who pursue their dreams are called ambitious, passionate, attractive. The people who don’t are called lazy, dull, losers. Whether you’re likely to actually become a rock guitarist movie star who does secret missions for the government on weekends is not relevant to this – the fact is that pursuing your dream is attractive regardless. The guy who’s in a band that only people walking past his garage ever hear is still pursuing his dream, and that makes him more attractive than the guy who says “yeah, I wish I could be a rock guitarist but I probably can’t.” Maybe more unrealistic, too, but still more attractive.

Your identity, to new people you meet, is mainly formed from just one or two primary things that they remember about you. That’s what they judge you by, and whether you are pursuing your dream is a big part of it. Are you the aspiring rock guitarist who is temporarily working in an office to make ends meet while working on his music, his real passion – or are you the office worker who plays guitar at home sometimes as a hobby? One is cool and the other is boring.

Find your passion. What do you like to do, discuss, teach, or think about? It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as you’re fascinated by it. Anything that you are genuinely interested in will be interesting to girls and pull them into your world because enthusiasm is contagious.

Do you have an idea of what your “thing” could be? Maybe you’ve known it as long as you can remember, but even if you’ve never really given it much thought, I’m sure you can think of at least one thing you’re enthusiastic about in life.

The test for whether it’ll work as an attractive identity for you is this: do you want to be “that guy?” How would you feel if people knew you as “that guitarist guy”, “that rock climber guy”, “that computer hacker guy”, “that guy who makes furniture”, “that guy who’s trying to break the world record for eating hot dogs”, “that stock trader guy” or “that pickup artist guy”? If you want to be that guy, then the identity is right for you, for now, anyway… there will always be new girls and you can always choose a new identity later.

The important thing is to have an identity that you’re excited about. If you think it’s cool, she will too.”

This is good advice for a man who wants to do better with women, but it’s also a good blueprint for how you should live your life. Choose an identity. Invent an ideal version of yourself.  Then, in all aspects of your life, ask yourself: What would my ideal self do right now?

Are you a musician? Then you should probably be creating music, rather than watching TV.

Are you a writer? You should probably be writing, not putting on a tie and catching the 8:25

Are you a rock climber? Then you should probably be getting ready to climb Everest, once the girl you seduced with a fake book leaves your apartment.

*

If you want to create a fake identity – today, immediately, right now – with some props and a bit of preparation, go ahead. You’re not going to be able to fully pursue your dreams anyways, until you’re successful enough with women that they aren’t a constant source of distraction. From a purely practical perspective, I think it will be easier to take a few small steps towards a dream, and spin that into something compelling, rather than make something up from scratch. But it’s up to you. In the meantime, your identity can be “a guy who hasn’t quite figured it all out yet, but knows he wants to get laid with hot women and won’t be able to give anything else much thought until he can do that consistently.”

Someday though, you’ll be successful with women, however you want to define success. When that day comes, it’s time to actually figure out what your dream is – and not because it will help you get laid.

Commentariat: What’s your Identity, in a paragraph? How does your present time and energy use match up with that ideal?

And if you haven’t already, go bookmark Delusion Damage.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Frost July 29, 2011 at 10:59 am

TGOM, thanks for the kind words.

I’m curious: How come you aren’t convinced that eating paleo is an excellent dietary starting point? What’s your current diet like?

Rowan, I’ll have more to write on my identity in future posts. Short version: I’m going to save the world. But one step at a time…

TGOM July 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm

The reason I never got into paleo is that my identity is that of a long distance runner, or atleast it was. Thus I was having to consume 5000 calories a day which is quite hard to do on meat alone plus carbo loading helps increase the amount of glycogen readily available–super important if you plan on burning a ton of calories at a high intensity.

My diet can be summed up as trying to avoid processed food as much as possible and drinking a lot of water.

Back when I was running on the order of 120-150 miles a week I would eat one large meal a day (for instance zucchini, broccoli, carrots, red and green peppers and tomatoes sauteed in olive oil on top of a box of spagehetti with two pounds of ground beef in spaghetti sauce) with lots of meat, vegetables (beans) and a starch with the rest of the meals consisting of fruit i.e. a pint of blueberries, blackberries or a quart of strawberries. Plus atleast two gallons of water a day. My opinion is that drinking an excessive amount of water each day is the most important part of my diet (based mostly off of the fact that I feel much better if I drink a ton of water than if I don’t).

Paleo isn’t necessarily a bad place to start with diet (cutting out lots of sugars and fats and adding lots of healthy food like meat and vegetables), but avoiding complex carbs (i.e. wheat, couscous, and other whole grains) doesn’t seem to be the solution to me either.

Frost July 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm

I respect that. Endurance sports aren’t ideal for your health, but it’s better than the couch. Some people are just wired enjoy long distance running, and as long as you’re doing it for YOU and not for your health, by all means keep it up.

Here’s a relevant MDA article (also check out the link in the first sentence):

http://www.marksdailyapple.com/jonas-colting/

And I also recommend you check out the chapters on endurance sports in Tim Ferriss’s 4HB.

Cheers!

Frost

Rowan July 25, 2011 at 2:40 am

I’ve been trying to decide what I’m going to write since the day you posted this. So far this is what I’ve come up with:

“I want to be self-employed and location independent”

I love travelling, I hate my cube, I love freedom, I hate having a boss, I love independence, I hate corporate life, I love software.

At the moment I’m working on my own software, it would be my dream to run a software company on the road as it were, pay the bills with my mad programming skillz. Is that enough though? Can my identity be Independent Software Developer? Freelance Programmer? Free Hacker? The Travelling Developer? Hobo Coder?

I feel I need something bigger to strive for. Perhaps Adventuring CEO of a Major Software Company?

I like adventure and business. I’ve been considering going to China and bootstrapping a company.

Frost July 26, 2011 at 10:44 am

Sounds like a mindset I can relate to.

Writing software is something you can pretty much do anywhere. Have you read the four-hour work week?

Rowan July 27, 2011 at 3:13 am

I certainly have read it, he makes some good points.

Since no one has asked, how do you view your identity Frost?

TGOM July 28, 2011 at 4:32 pm

Rowan, I would suggest you figure out a project you want to work on (preferably one that can sell). Personally I find the idea of computer code fascinating but I know so little about programming (anything other than numerical stuff and I get lost fast) that when I get down and try to write anything at all get frustrated.

To Frost (since I assume you’ll read this too) I must say I have enjoyed much of your blog and although I don’t agree with some of the stuff you talk about (paleo for example) you seem to have your head on your shoulders and it is an interesting read. Also you’ve reconvinced me that I need to start doing yoga (it was something that I had wanted to start but never got around to it)

Cheers Mates
TGOM

Rowan July 28, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Thanks TGOM, I am working on something now and have over a dozen customers line up, just need to push forward and register my company.

Also, I can highly recommend Yoga, it has almost instantly improved my swimming length and times.

Wald July 24, 2011 at 9:35 pm

My identity: I want to be the man that makes his own small country on an island where he can be whoever he wants free of other people’s meddling in his own affairs. When World War III (or IV) starts, I’ll be fidling away as major countries are at each other’s throats, and my country is too small to worth taking into consideration.

At present, I am in the university system (military) of the U.S. and I plan to get as much training and experience as I can before I set upon the next stage of my life. I’ve always wanted to be in the military, and with the friends I’ve acrrued and the experience I will get, I believe I can get the next stage of things.

cem July 24, 2011 at 3:52 am

Not horrible, rather: very appropriate to our shared goals here. Pretty much the story of my life.
There is a lot of truth in these posts by DD. Thank you, Frost, for recognizing this.

anon July 22, 2011 at 4:50 pm

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

I think you know the author of that quote.

Horrible article by delusion/damage, horrible re posting by you.

If you want to be something, start doing it. Faking that you do it means little.

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