Subscription Clubs for the Man of Style and Substance

My first subscription was to Boy’s Life magazine.  I got it from the moment I was registered as a Cub Scout back in the 70’s, and I kept it active through my experience in Varsity Scouting into the 80’s.  It came month in and month out, showing me a world that I could scarce imagine, big and exciting and full of amazing things!
To that I added a youth magazine geared at helping me grow in my chosen faith and a comic book subscription to the original Star Wars comic book produced by Marvel comics and the magazine that came as part of being a member of the original Star Wars Fan Club.  (Yes, I’m one of those kind of fans!)  I loved all of those subscriptions, though if I were honest, I think I read the comic books the most devotedly.
Today there are all kinds of subscription services available to the gentleman, more than perhaps ever before.  Shaving clubs, clothing clubs, accessory clubs, grooming clubs, survivalist gear clubs, adventure gear clubs, the list goes on and on.  All of the clubs offer something interesting, sometimes important, to deepening a gentleman’s demonstration of style and substance.  And, as all things, services like these come at a price.
Like many of you, I have to be careful and responsible with my expenditures.  I have spent money frivolously in the past, and those expenditures have left me in financial difficulty.  As a result, I have learned that I must make my money work hard for me, perhaps harder than others.  I must make sure that I don’t find myself hemorrhaging cash.
Unfortunately, unwisely using subscription services is one way that any individual can find himself hemorrhaging cash in short order.
Over the years I have subscribed to many of these services.  In this post, I will share with you my standard for judging a subscription service.  Next week, I will share with you some of the boxes that I have subscribed to, my scoring on the matrix associated with each, and my overall grade for the service.  I will also mention some that I am looking at, what keeps me from joining them, and what I hope to gain from them when I take the plunge!
First, the criteria:  Value, Service and Customization.
Value – This is a perceived cost/benefit relationship.  The higher the cost, the better the value must be to be positive.  A value of 5 is the best, meaning the benefits far surpass the investment.  A Value of 1 is obviously something that should be ended or avoided.  A score of 3 means the costs and benefits are in perfect balance, based on my perception.
Service – do they communicate outside of just sending stuff?  Do they inform their users where they are going or what is coming in the future?  Is it easy to return unwanted items?  What about making it easy to discontinue the service? After all, if the subscription no longer meets the needs of the subscriber, it should be easy to discontinue, yes?  Well, some don’t see it that way.  The best service is represented by a 5, the worst by a 1.  You get the idea.
Customization – Can I tailor the subscription to what I want? Do I fill out a survey and then let a designer take over? What about additional items that can be purchased directly from the service provider?  Customization is the current gold standard of customer service and sales.  The ease of customization gets a higher score, with less customization options and a more difficult process earning a lower score.
Next week, we look at some boxes.  In the meantime, are there dimensions to my evaluation that I should add?  Let me know in the comments!
Go forth and conquer!

A Box, A Bag, and a Sharpie!

Today’s blog post is a little different.  Today’s is interactive.  Today you and I are going to work together to cut the clutter.
I know, you probably have a variety of different reasons for not wanting to engage in this activity.  “I like my knick-knacks and do-dads.”  “They have sentimental value.”  “You never know, I might need this the day after tomorrow.”  All of these are reasons (or excuses) that I have used as well.
And that’s okay!
It really is!
You don’t have to do this project with everything.  But if you are a person who still has spark plugs from your first car kicking around the garage or that t-shirt you were wearing when the high school football team won state,  I am going to encourage you to use the ideas in this little article to de-clutter one part of your living space.
You get to choose.
It could be your top drawer (where I put lots of small things that I want to hold on to but don’t really have any place to put them) your closet (where I have clothes that I bought when the second George Bush was president) or a book case (where I have the hard copies of every document I used for my M.Ed.)  You choose, pick one!  And let’s get started.
For this activity, you are going to need a box, a bag and a sharpie.
 Whatever choice you made regarding where to start, take a good hard look at the items.  There are probably some items there that you haven’t used in a year, maybe longer.  For those items, ask yourself why the item is still there.  Does it connect you with a memory of a person or an event in your life that was uplifting?  Was it a gift, or something that you picked up along the way?  Is it significant in some way?  Does looking at it or wearing it bring you joy?  If the answer to any of these questions is a resounding “Yes!” then immediately set it aside. In the effort to simplify, there is nothing wrong with holding on to things that truly bring us joy.
If the answer was “Kind of…” then set it into the box. The box is a middle ground.  It is for the things that you don’t necessarily want to get rid of, but they don’t necessarily have a place in your life anymore.  That isn’t wrong, it isn’t a reflection on you, it is just an evidence that you, like all people, change in various ways over time.  And sometimes, we aren’t ready to move on yet.
And that’s okay!
If the answer was “Not really,” it’s time to pull out the bag.
Now, because I am a big fan of the “Reduce/Reuse/Repurpose/Recycle” movement, let’s clear something up right now.  The bag is not for garbage.  If the article you are looking at is truly garbage, throw it out.  But if the item is in relatively good repair, or could be made so quickly and easily, it is ready for the bag.  Old T-shirts from movie premiers or SWAG that was given to you at a public event, old items given as white elephant gifts that you have been hanging onto “for the next time,” or clothes that just don’t fit any more are all perfect for the bag.
The bag is for all of those items that you don’t use and that don’t bring you joy.  And believe me, I know it is hard to let go of things that were gifts
Release them!  Send them on their way!   Donate them to an organization that can repurpose them in some way, shape or form, and let them bring joy to someone else.
I know, sometimes it can be hard to do this.  But your efforts to declutter are not just about getting rid of things, it is also about opening up space for new things, things that will bring you joy today!
Remember, letting something go to be repurposed is one of the best things you can do.  After all, if one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, you are sending treasure out into the world to be enjoyed by someone else!
What do you think of this list and this plan?  Try it, and leave me some comments!  Go Forth and Conquer!

5 ways to bring civility back into civil discourse

In the past several years, I have watched and noticed how polarized we have become. I originally thought it was just the population of my town. But then I saw this polarization happening in my county, in my state, in my country and eventually across the world. I don’t know where it started, or how it became so prevalent. Quite frankly, knowing that would likely not change the situation anyway. It’s just part of the reality of living in a 24 hour news cycle/instant communication of the most sensationalized information world.
We live in a time of immense polarization.

This polarization is particularly easy to see in the arena of politics. Conservatives and progressives, right and left, Republican and Democrat, Socialist or Capitalist, labels come easy. With the labels come a whole host of other factors that follow our polarized mindset. Our opponents are deceived or misled at best, while we ourselves, and those who fall into a similar category, alone claim enlightened thinking and clarity of perception. Of course, the opposition sees the situation completely differently.

As I said, we live in a time of immense polarization.

I don’t mind polarization, per se. I am glad when I see people becoming passionate about issues, about problems they see and actions that they believe contain solutions. Unfortunately, with the polarization often comes an unwillingness to listen, a complete lack of civility. We tend to behave as if our conviction of opinion allows no room for dialogue and discussion. As a result, labels give way to slurs, and slurs to mudslinging and mudslinging to even more destructive and disruptive behaviors.

As a man of Style and Substance, I have been working very hard to be different in the way that I approach the subject of beliefs and the polarization that can occur. I have found 5 practices that have helped to restore some measure of civility in the dialogue I have had with others. I offer them here for your consideration.

1. Never use a term you wouldn’t use to address your Grandmother. If you are like me, you revere your grandmothers. Even when they were difficult to talk to, maybe even difficult to understand, set in their ways and feisty when encouraged to consider a different point of view, you would still be gentle and respectful. No cross words, no name calling, and certainly no effort to degrade her. She was your Grandma, after all, and whether you win an argument or not, nothing would be worth hurting her. Consider that the next time you are tempted to hurl some pithy quote about someone’s mental stature or their level of intellectual strength.

2. Ask yourself, “Would I say this to a parent about their newborn baby?” Is your comment or criticism going to help bring more civility to the conversation? A sure way to tell is to replace the reference to the other individuals opinion or position with the phrase, “your baby.” Do you think that someone could hear you say what you are about to say about their child without being hurt or angry? Then you might be on the right track. If not, then perhaps rethinking the comment is in order.

3. Try this phrase – While I disagree, I genuinely appreciate you sharing your insight. You aren’t agreeing with them. However, you aren’t fighting either. No effort is being made to tear someone else down, nor to convince them of the necessity of changing their current opinion. It is a statement of respectful fact.
4. How about this phrase – What changes would you like to see on a personal or local level? Often we are content talking about big concepts and global situations that we really can’t impact. However, these same ideas have local impacts and consequences as well. Bringing the conversation back to how this might change things locally may bring some perspective to the conversation of what can be changed and what can’t, at least by the two people having the conversation
5. Finally, this phrase might be useful – Have you considered. . . This phrase is not about trying to convince someone to a particular way of thinking. Instead, it is about opening the door to sharing a different perspective. However, it is also far less controversial than starting with phrases like, “I can’t believe how stupid you are,” or some other phrase.
Ultimately, life will be measured by the other lives you and I touch. Whether we touch them in a positive way or a negative way is up to us. And while those touched in a negative way are often more vocal in their opposition and hostility toward us, those we touch in a positive way are likely to remember the touch longer. It’s something to think about. And if you disagree, maybe you can share your thoughts in the comments.
Go forth and conquer!