“Paddle Your Own Canoe” by Nick Offerman

Much of the advice that I found in this book relates to some of the guidelines for being a Man. I say in my own biography that I am a Man. It’s true on many different levels (at least I think it is). A man is a thinker, provider, athlete, cook, and many other things. Phil Robertson describes his concept of what being a man is as well. (See #9 in “Happy, Happy, Happy”). Mr. Offerman’s offerings add so much more to this list of responsibilities and duties that being a “man” might entail. Check out “The Rules of Being a Gentleman”.

  1. When ladies like to wear shoes that are difficult to move around in, or perhaps a foxy skirt that limits their choices of sitting positions, then it’s simply nice to lend them a sympathetic hand. Whatever the adversity, if a man is on hand to provide ease to a lady’s cause. I think he’s a shitheel if he stands idly by when she could use an umbrella, a handkerchief, or a steady arm.
  2. On Manhood: A man’s usefulness depends on his living up to his ideas insofar as he can. It is hard to fail but it is far worse never to have tried to succeed. All daring and courage, all iron endurance of misfortune, make for a nobler, finer type of manhood. Only those are fit to live, who do not fear to die and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life.
  3. On Honor: Have a set of rules, a code of ethics, that you will do your best to uphold and defend, whether you’re on horseback in Cuba in 1898, or at a school board meeting next week, or merely at the water cooler with your co-workers. Pursue decency in all dealings with your fellow man and woman. Simply put? Don’t be an asshole.
  4. The technique is: Let the others go first. At the airport, at the grocery store, at the Pleasure Chest. The calmer I become, the more I enjoy my day. The more I enjoy my day, the more people enjoy me and the more they want to see me in my enjoyment.
  5. Let’s use discipline instead. If you engage in a discipline or do something with your hands instead of kill time on your phone device, then you have something to show for your time when you’re done. When I finish any pursuit, I like to be able to look back at my work and see a tangible result. (See my opening comments to “Autopilot”)
  6. A mustache is a socialized way to say “Okay look, I’ll let you see most of my face, since that’s what your gaze to this thorn bush above my mouth, you’ll be reminded that I am a fucking animal, and I’m ready to reproduce, or rip your throat out if called upon, because I come from nature.”
  7. “Always maintain the attitude of a student.” When a person thinks they have finished learning, that is when bitterness and disappointment can set in, as that person will wake up every day wondering when someone is going to throw a parade in their honor for being so smart.
  8. My first line of defense against this sort of apathy is simply understanding the impact of a little time spent. Even merely writing out a thoughtful/funny card goes a lot further toward signaling your affection than a “cute top” purchased from that popular garment-shopping website.
  9. On Technology: By all means we should use these wonderful new tools in all the wonderful ways that we can, but we should also be wary that they don’t begin to consume us, devouring our time and money that could be better spent on a mouth-watering stack of quarter-sawn oak planks. (See “The Social Animal” and “The Innovators“)
  10. Even the paddle of the canoe can prove to be an immensely satisfying undertaking and a place that I often suggest that beginners choose as their starting point. It’s great training in the block plane and the spokeshave, and there is nothing so gratifying as crafting a handheld tool from wood.
  11. We have no way of knowing what might befall us in the next five minutes, let alone the next thirty years down the road, but the weight of a marriage vow carries is that in the face of that very uncertainty, two people are willing to promise to stick it out together. That’s my favorite part.
  12. John Lennon said, “When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
  13. I don’t achieve my happiness by taking it easy, but instead by using my time and abilities to be productive.

Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living

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