Man Up | Ep. 90 • March 21, 2016
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or over a decade, David Tian, Ph.D., has coached tens of thousands of people from over 87 countries to achieve happiness and success in their dating and love lives.
Once a nerdy, skinny professor of Asian philosophy who couldn’t hold a conversation to save his life, David is now director of Aura Transformation Corp., and a world renowned dating and life coach. Dr. Tian has been featured in international media, including AXN, Cosmopolitan, Psychology Today, as well as co-hosting a radio show on national radio and a weekly dating advice column in a national newspaper in Singapore. Formerly a professor at the National University of Singapore, Dr. Tian is actively researching, speaking, and publishing in the areas of philosophy and psychology.
The show, “Man Up: Masculinity for the Intelligent Man,” is David’s way of helping as many people as possible enjoy empowering and fulfilling lives, while contributing to the global understanding of masculinity in modern times. In the show, he takes your questions posed in The Man Up private Facebook group and answers based on his experience Coaching tens of thousands of students around the world for over a decade.
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Hey, it’s David Tian, Ph.D. and welcome to Episode 90 of Man Up. So answering questions from the private Facebook Group and this one comes from 00:30 Eek Boon. The question is, “Hi David. I’ve been following your videos, blogs, and listening to your podcast and interviews elsewhere.
Your experience and insights were really helpful for me in my journey to find my own masculinity. Thank you for your work. I love them. I have a question, how does a man connect with his emotional center?”
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Wow that sounds really, really deep. It’s a long question, I’m going to just pick in some of these sentences to read out. “I’ve always been an intellectual person. Many people said that I’m smart and intelligent. I work in an IT job where it involves sitting in front of the computer.
I read and use the computer a lot. The more I know, the more I need to find out and then more. Recently, I took course to discover and have more awareness of myself to uncover what are the things that are holding me back in life? It’s clear that one thing is holding me back.
It’s that I’m too much on my head and not in my heart whether it’s being completely, emotionally, and socially open, vulnerable, having good social connectedness, ability to make things happen and lead due to procrastinating and action over thinking, etc. Even though it’s obvious to others that I’m intelligent, ambitious, have a powerful presence and leadership potential.
I was asked to connect with my heart but I struggled particularly when stressed even though I was able to connect with myself well and connect deeply with others at times. I’m considering taking up tango and meditation in an effort to get myself more connected within but would also love to hear your thoughts.”
A couple of things here, first of all, the question says really big and it sounds like you’re using these terms without fully comprehending them. You took a course and you said the course’s staff said this. So it sounds like the way you’re using this, the question was how does a man connect with his emotional center? I don’t think you understand what the emotional center is, I mean, that’s a really big question.
As a scientist like, what’s an emotional center? How do you connect with that? It sounds pretty new-agey here but I’m all into that, I’m a big champion of meditation and of course I was a professor of Asian Philosophy. So I’m all down for what other people think of new age but this is really big; however, let’s look at everything else.
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This is Barry telling, he says, “I’ve always been an intellectual person. Many people say I’m smart and intelligent. This is very important.”
So you’re not always an intellectual person. When you were born, you were not an intellectual person. When you were 1-year-old you weren’t an intellectual person. I’m assuming because I can’t think of any intellectual 1-year-olds. When you were two maybe you were protégée at three and was already coding and able to sell a video game or something like that when you were 10 or whatever, but you’ve not always been an intellectual person.
Your identity has ossified around this thing called intellectual person and then other people tell you you’re smart and intelligent. Exactly, that’s how it happens. Other people tell you you’re smart and intelligent. This is very dangerous. Those other people while well meaning actually made it harder for you to grow and progress as a human being. I know because I was told and identified as intellectually-gifted early on as a child.
Not even as early on as many of my friends. Like many of my friends were pulled out of the normal stream and into the gifted stream when I don’t know 4th grade or something like that because I was too passive during the ball test exams, the IQ test exams that run for multiple days where they assessed a certain small percentage of the group, of the class.
I needed to pee during the test, so I said, “Teacher, I need to pee” And they had just started the test and instead of letting me go to the restroom, the teacher just said, “Okay, hold on once you’ve done this 25-minute, 30-minute section the you can go.”
But I have to go. I couldn’t wait. So I’m like, I tried to, I think there maybe 30 questions on the thing and after like question 5, I’m like, “I got to go.” So I just like pick the same or just guess. I didn’t even read the question and then I just got out of there. But in fact, I didn’t even get out there in time. I freaking peed on the floor in 4th grade exam room.
I’m just like, “Fuck and I just,” I didn’t say fuck because I didn’t swear back then but it’s just going out down my pants and then I just walked out and everyone else is on doing the test and no one else noticed until afterwards but even then they didn’t make fun of me, this were all gifted kids so they weren’t like going to bully anybody which is cool. I love going to gifted schools because of that.
Well for many reasons but that’s one and the vice principal who told me to hold it, he came to find me in the toilet and I was hiding in the bathroom because I didn’t know what to do because now I got urine all over my pants. He came and brought me a new pair of pants from the Lost and Found and apologize for making me wait and that was one of the few times a public school teacher or principal was understanding to me I think and then he said, “None of the other students noticed except the student next to you because then we had the janitor come in and just mop it up.”
So, hey kudos to the vice principal of that school, I can’t remember the school or the principal’s name but anyway, I didn’t do very well. I did okay like 7/10 I think you needed to get a 9 on that test to move up. Most of my friends up, I moved up in the 6th grade I think when retest it again and that time I made sure, freaking hit the restroom before but there was another incident that I still hadn’t learned that lesson. Anyway, I can’t tell you all my piece stories but those were all form of experiences.
Anyway, the point is this. I understand where you’re coming from. People tell you you’re intelligent. People tell you you’re smart. That can be a good thing when you say like you stamped out of the test but you’re like, “No, I’m intelligent I can do this.” But that won’t allow you to fail because it will make it hard for you to fail and it will make hard for you to fall flat on your face, fuck up.
It would make it hard for you to be a beginner again and learn new things. It will make it hard for you to have the beginner’s mindset and always like just watching another Conor McGregor or a clip on YouTube in his interview he was talking about like he’s got the beginner’s mindset. He’s always a beginner, always learning new things, always coming out fresh and I love picking up New Disciplines, I’ve just recently picked up.
I’ve been learning method acting. I’ve been learning like I said in another video BJJ and substriking. Striking is a little easier for me because I have a striking background but like the wrestling and all that is completely new especially the stuff that’s going on with your grip. You guys should do video Jay, this is my first week doing it. I did it every day for a week and like my fingers were shut like it’s taping them all up.
First time I felt that sensation of this set of knuckles getting ripped up like this set you use when you punch, right and this when you’re doing the grip you exercise like this that works a next set but the little ones like first time ever with the key grip, anyway, for those who don’t know you’ll find out when you try some video Jay with key.
Anyway, because I didn’t know shit when I went in there I was like a beginner’s mindset and it was so fresh, so awesome and when I come to learning and then when I speak to a professor, when I speak, I always take the attitude that I don’t know anything about their domain of expertise and so I come to them with full humility wanting to learn and I don’t come in and saying, “Oh I know this. I already know that.”
There’s so many people who do that to professors and professors have the highest bullshit detector because they’re around students all the time. They were bullshitting because they didn’t do the readings. They didn’t prepare it properly and they were too busy partying; so the professors have its use for especially in graduate school where graduate students think they know something out because they’re grad school but they know fuck all and they’re always trying to pretend because they want to look good and the professors sees right through it and I was like for the first three years or so of grad school I was able to maintain that front.
Now, that’s not true like maybe the first year and then one of my senior mentors, he was a senior Ph.D. student way ahead of me in a different discipline but related and he was in the dorm that I was at, the grad student dorm and he said to me, actually, I was an undergrad at this time, 4th year undergrad.
Anyway, he is a Ph.D. student way ahead and he said because I asked him, does a professor know that I don’t really know what I was saying? That I didn’t really know what I was saying? And then he said like…his name is Kyo Sheezus 09:56 but I can’t do the accent and he said like, “You know David you’re like an ant, like a little bug in his hands and all these little things you think you’re hiding intellectually and verbally, he can see everything you’re doing. He knows, he can read you like you’re in his palm and you’re hiding and you’re thinking he doesn’t know.
He knows. He’s 40 years ahead of you.” Like as a senior undergrad, I wasn’t even in the field yet so to speak but you’ve just started versus 40 years and once I’ve realized that that was the case I’m like I dropped all pretense and if I didn’t understand something or if I didn’t understand the use of this word I would ask for clarification or I would not use it or I would just say, “I’m not sure. This is what I know now. This is what I think. Correct me please, that’s why I’m here, right?”
And when you take that mindset then learning happens very easily and it is not good to keep going around and saying you’re intelligent and intellectual to yourself because it stuns you in learning emotional intelligence.
It stuns you in learning fields that are unknown to you and another thing is it stuns you from connecting with other people because if you’re intellectual that means you’re way out of, like if your IQ for instance it was like a 160 and the average is a 100 then you’re not going to be able to relate to most people and actually that’s the problem I just heard this in the Tim Ferris podcast that there’s a TV show called Scorpion and it’s about this guy was like high IQ and he’s managing a team of other high IQ people and he said that there’s a strong correlation between high IQ and low EQ.
So he’s got always a team of high IQ people and then he hires a team of high EQ people to manage those high IQ people rather than settling for somebody who’s in average and everything, medial or both, which is interesting, very interesting.
So one of the big shifts that I have to take as a career academic and academic in the field but this is purely about argumentation and logic and so on, was that I had to see being able to relate to people who were 10 years younger than me in settings that were all about fun was not challenging intellectually and then so I couldn’t do well there like everyone is going like, “You’re the pink power ranger. You’re the purple power ranger.” Whatever, right and I’m like, “What the fuck? How damn are you?” But then I realized these people can be very smart in the bank where they work or in the law firm but right now they’re in a different mindset.
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Their mindset is fun and I wasn’t able to switch to that because I was an intellectual person and I saw it an intellectual challenge. Could I use my brain to relate to them? When you see that as an intellectual challenge to be able to relate to people that you’re not naturally able to relate to then you’re going to be much more open-minded to getting the tools necessarily to do that, to get in the attitude and the frameworks to do that and all of the material that I teach in all of my courses are gear to people like myself who were labeled as intelligent and intellectual and smart, thought of themselves then that way because we internalize what is given to us externally especially when we’re in our formative years and once your identity ossifies around something, around like a character trait it could be dangerous because we’re not ever like one personality, one character trait.
We change all of the time and it can happen just like that actually depending on external stimuli and so on and it’s important to see them now the ability in your character traits, I mean, like that was one of the great lessons of behavioral economics by the way that the environment was able to have a greater effect on our psychology then our supposed personalities and characters or character traits.
So, why you’re having so much difficulty emotionally connecting with people?
Because you’ve thought of yourself as an intellectual person, you probably are an intelligent person and therefore, you have that gap. High IQ people tend to be low EQ people because they can’t relate. They can’t get inside the minds of those others and then now you can see there’s an intellectual challenge to get inside the minds of the others, learn about what they’re thinking.
You can almost do it as an anthropologist. It’s like practicing in the field anthropologists; you need to understand tribal people. So, “Hey a clever 21-year-old chick, she’s a tribal person.” Understand her and relate to her with her language. It’s an intellectual challenge. Can you do it?
And then also like can you have enough self-awareness to get there? But that’s the part about being intellectual but it’s more than that though because he’s identified he has problems, not just being open and vulnerable and socially connecting with people and himself but also the ability to make things happen because he’s procrastinating and over thinking things.
Well, of course that comes from the intellectual part of you and you need to cultivate a bias for action and this is a caveat that you need to like I said conditioned, cultivating yourself, being decisive, taking action.
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So many of the guys that are attracted to what I teach, I mean, like Man Up, the tag line is, “Masculinity for the Intelligent Men.” So many of these guys who self-identify he’s intelligent are really keyboard jockeys who mentally masturbate in lieu of actually acting in the real world, of getting results, of putting themselves out there. They theorized endlessly without taking any action and one of my great intellectual heroes is Wang Yang-ming.
I’ve published three actually coming up four and soon five articles on Wang Yang-ming, maybe more, I can’t even remember. My intellectual hero was also a military general who is all about action and in fact had one of his foundational teachings or doctrines, “The Unity of Knowledge and Action.” Go check it out, look it up, Google it, whatever, and find out about it. True knowledge requires action, anyway I don’t want to teach Chinese philosophy here but you can go and Google it.
Yes, you got to start practicing that. Now you say you bring up tango and meditation. Meditation I can totally recommend. In fact my teacher, Stefan Ravalli @blissandco.co is excellent. He teaches a kind of transcendental meditation that uses a mantra. Go and Google it, don’t ask me about it.
Get a coach, just do it. They usually have a free preview so you can try it out for free. Go and try it out for free. Don’t sit there mentally masturbating and asking endless questions before you take actions, just go and do. So cultivating yourself a bias for action. If you’re not use to it just start doing it, every little thing. The menu comes to you at the restaurant, the first thing you see that’s acceptable just order that.
You go to the bar, you guys are like, “What do you want to order?” Whatever the first thing that’s acceptable just go for it because science has shown that generally if you think too hard about something you might have a marginal increase in results but it depends on how you value your time. Is that marginal increase is it worth your time? Time is more valuable than money and it becomes more valuable, the more money you make actually.
And tango, yes. Well, do tango. Latin dance is good. Any kind of dance is good. What you’re really going after is movement, any kind of physiological change. So exercise, I think, anybody who thinks of themselves as intellectual really needs exercise even more than the average person to get you out of your head all of the time.
So that you just don’t exist up here but you remember that there’s this body that you’re attached to, that your brain is attached to and in fact if your body is not functioning well, your brain is not going to function well because they‘re all connected.
Have you ever tried to do right in an exam while you had to pee? I have and it’s horrible. You can’t fucking concentrate, right because your body is wanting to do something and it has taken all the blood out of the brain or other parts of the brain are being activated. So fight‑or-flight, same thing right, you’re heart rate and your breathing can completely turn off all of the stuff going on the prefrontal cortex.