Keeping it real and imperfect

by GK on June 1, 2010 · 6 comments

Last month, I watched a tour documentary on the White Stripes called “Under Great White Northern Lights.” What stood out to me, other than some blistering live sets and the weird chemistry between Jack and Meg White, is the part where Jack elaborates on the band’s philosophy on imperfection, and on “constriction to force ourselves to create.” I thought it tied in pretty well with all this social-skills stuff.

If you’ve heard the Stripes, you know their garage/blues-rock style is anything but polished. They are spare, spontaneous and cacophonous — they can hurt your ears one moment and delight them the next. Kind of like when I’m making the rounds at a party.

But the Stripes and many other great bands — as radio-friendly as the Rolling Stones and as indie as Modest Mouse — don’t merely survive their flaws; they succeed in part because of them. (I love those bands’ lead singers, but personality got them further than their vocal skills.) Music is perhaps the most subjective taste, but I have a word for a band that sounds designed to get every little detail right and appeal to everyone: Nickelback. And Nickelback sucks. 

If I coached a student who saw a girl or a group of people he wanted to talk to, I might have given him an opening line if he asked for one. But it’ll never be as genuine as what he can come up with if he just goes up there and forces himself to say something. My favorite example was when I pushed a nervous guy to approach a cute girl at the magazine stand with his mind blank, and he blurted out to her, “Have you seen Cat Fancy around here?” She was receptive and they talked for like 15 minutes.

I’ll let Jack take it away:

“Not every day of your life are you going to wake up and the clouds are going to part and the rays from heaven are going to come down and you’re going to write a song from it. Sometimes you just get in there and force yourself to work and maybe something good will come out of it. … Deadlines and things make you creative.” 

As I once was, a lot of guys who are into this stuff are looking to be Mr. Cool from start to finish when they meet someone, they want everything to be easy, and they want to know exactly what to say and do in advance. It’s understandable after a lifetime of frustration and all the marketing that promises to make them a 24-7 ladies’ man.  I’d rather be too cool than too shy.

But there’s a great danger to this mentality. An eye opener for me came days after I took my bootcamp with Charisma Arts, while I was still a chronic perfectionist. I’d been talking to a girl at a club for about 15 minutes, and I didn’t think I was doing very well. She wasn’t laughing much at my jokes, and I’d forgotten to give her a Statement of Intent as the method had taught me to say. So I did what so many guys do when they hit a road bump: I bailed. 

Moments later, my wingman went up to the girl and sang my praises to her. Her response? “Then why didn’t he ask for my number?” So I went back to her, and we had a date after that.

Since then, I’ve cared much less about having perfect game and I’ve embraced my occasional awkwardness. I’ve knocked over drinks, told bad jokes and stuttered through sentences. I dropped one girl while dancing, causing her tooth to fall out. I accidentally head-butted another girl so hard that her mouth bled. But I kept my cool, and I still closed with them.

My former CA mentor, Rob, has said many things that stuck with me, and I’ll paraphrase one of them here: “When you’re too smooth, it tells the girl that you’re working. And that’s not sexy.”

White also talks about intentionally keeping spare guitar picks away from him during a show or using an out-of-tune guitar to make him perform better and build tension. Likewise, I think constraints can bring the best out of us when socializing.

I can’t think of a satisfying encounter I’ve had where everything came easily to me. And if the girl or crowd is eating up everything I say without challenging me, I tend to lose interest. Maybe I’m weird that way, but I like adversity — whether it’s the girl who accuses me of being gay (I get a lot of those) or having no wingman at a party and having to make friends from scratch.

I don’t listen to my favorite bands, such as the Stripes, because of their spotless technique. I listen to them because of the energy and personality they bring, and I’ll defend their flaws to anyone. If you can make dates and friends that way, I’d say you’ll be making some sweet music of your own.


1 Matt June 1, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Just wanna say that was a great post!

2 Richard June 3, 2010 at 4:20 am

I agree, life isn’t perfect (and perfect is boring). Wasn’t that the message of The Birth-Mark (OMG, did I just make a Nathaniel Hawthorne reference? I feel sick)? Heck, it’s the message of Shakespeare’s 130th sonnet, too, and there are probably older references that could be dug up as well. Perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Also, totally agree about The White Stripes. I love them BECAUSE they’re so raw, it’s the same reason I love a lot of the B tracks from Jane’s Addiction (and, now that I think about it, Megadeth’s first album). Polished can sound good, too, but the stuff that really rocks (for me) is raw and pure.

3 Andre June 3, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Hey GK, by any chance do you keep in touch with Rob? I was going to take a camp with him before he left CA. I’d love to shoot him an email if you had it.

4 GK June 4, 2010 at 1:36 am

I do keep in touch with Rob — going to his wedding, in fact. But he’s done with this stuff and wants his privacy, so I don’t want to give away his info without his permission. I hope you’ll understand.

5 Andre June 4, 2010 at 10:08 am

I’m happy for him he’s getting married. Of course I understand, no worries. Thanks anyway.

6 PUA Dating Coach September 12, 2010 at 3:31 pm

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