‘Tis The Giving Season

Those of you who have the misfortune of being included in my social networks know that I recently polled folks to gain an understanding of your charitable endeavors.  After all, it is the giving season.  That time of year when we are encouraged to be less self-centered and more giving of our time and resources to others.  ManUp Hominids and take the Joe Lee giving challenge!

Your Responses

A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” ~ Proverbs 11:25. Try not to choke on the fact that I used a biblical quote.  I was encouraged to see diversity among the nonprofits listed in your responses.  They ranged from arts organizations to social service agencies to nonprofit healthcare and research.  And while the size of organizations ranged from small to large, those organizations with national appeal and recognizable brands were most common.  They have the resources to effectively market their services and causes and help shape public policy, while smaller nonprofits struggle for operating funds and recognition.  
The National Center for Charitable Statistics estimates that there are some 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S.. The number is even larger when you consider small organizations that don’t file IRS 990 reports.  Nonprofits are a vital force in our society that serve the public good often where gaps in service exist between the business and government sectors.

The Effects of Giving

“Wait a minute Joe Lee.  I thought your blog was about self-improvement!”  It is!  We’ve all heard that “giving makes you feel good”.  Research and anecdotal information seem to support what many of us thought to be true.  I recently read a study, The Effects of Giving on Givers, by Sara Konrath (Institute For Social Research, University of Michigan and Department of Psychiatry at the University of Rochester Medical Center) and Stephanie Brown (Stony Brook University Medical Center and Institute For Social Research at the University of Michigan) that examines many studies and research work conducted around this subject.  And while they concluded that researchers need to move beyond the simplistic question of whether or not giving has health benefits for the giver, many of the studies examined show consistent correlations between giving and well-being.
Giving time and money to organizations ~ research shows correlational links between making charitable donations and psychological well-being.  Volunteers who donate their time for “other-oriented” reasons like compassion, experience a significant reduction in mortality risk while “self-oriented” giving (those who volunteer to learn a new skill or feel good about themselves) sees no reduction in risk.
Giving social support ~ several correlational studies find that giving social support to others (friends & family) is associated with higher psychological well-being such as more happiness, increased self-esteem and less loneliness.  Giving in this case can include taking care of elderly relatives or a disabled friend.
Compassionate attitudes and traits ~ a number of correlational studies find that people who score high in empathy or compassion have lower stress, anxiety, hopelessness, and depression.  Who can’t use a little less hopelessness, right?
My take-away is that the key to gaining some of these benefits lies in “other-oriented” (e.g. compassion) giving.  That is giving for reasons other than personal gain or obligation. 

  The Joe Lee Challenge

Your next assignment Hominids (should you choose to accept) is to give of your time or resources for causes that you believe in.  Please select one and get to work.
  1. If you currently give to nonprofits, your challenge is to seek out a new, smaller nonprofit that provides services that address issues in your community that you are concerned about or an arts organization that shares your interest and passion for art.
  2. If you don’t currently give, find a nonprofit that provides services that you value, learn about their programs and make a gift.
  3. Teach your children the joys of giving to others.  Have your child assist with writing the check and explain what that nonprofit does, volunteer as a family, have them donate their own funds, etc.
  4. Join a nonprofit board.
  5. Volunteer your time.
These don’t count:
  1. Don’t drop your old funky clothes off at the Rescue Mission to make room in your closet for all the cool holiday gifts you are going to receive.  If that is going to be your charitable donation, make an attempt to understand how the organization benefits from your donation, how it supports programming and whether or not it aligns with your values.
  2. Donating money for a tax write-off.  While the organization will certainly appreciate your gesture, you will forgo the benefits described above.  Give to what you are passionate about.  The tax write-off will be an automatic value-ad.
  3. Count your existing church tithing as meeting your challenge.  It’s has been a while since I have been allowed to enter a church, but, from what I understand, tithing is an obligation and, in using it, you lose the “other-oriented” giving classification.
As we give, we practice gratitude.  Gratitude for service to our community in the name of public good.  We don’t live on islands.  We live in communities.  The kind of work that needs to be done in order to allow humanity to reach a higher level must be done together.

Your Shoes Are Under Scrutiny

When it comes to decking yourself out from head to toe, I think that the “toe” part of the equation is quite often overlooked by men.  Ellie Krupnik and Rebecca Adams challenge you to Man Up with these 5 tips.

  1. Cover up those toes.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent the previous night using a jackhammer to rid yourself of unsightly corns and bunions.  Toes are not often the most attractive part of a man’s body.  Skip the sandals and wear anything but.
  2. Never wear shiny black dress shoes with jeans.  Do I really need to explain this?
  3. Suede desert boots are man’s best friend!  When you need something nicer than sneakers and less formal than dress shoes, the desert boot adds a touch of class.
  4. Don’t wear white athletic socks unless you are wearing athletic shoes.  Do I really need to explain this? Come on son!!
  5. Match your shoes to your belt.  It’s an old rule but it has been around for good reason.  It’s freaking classy!
If you are interested in reading the entire article complete with photos, click here.
I know I’ve covered shoes in a previous post but it’s worth repeating because some of you are clearly not listening.  I’m still seeing square-toed shoes when I politely asked you to stop.
Your goal for this weekend is to treat yourself to a new pair of shoes.  Now go and make change happen!

You 2.0 Part 3

You 2.0 Part 3 – Fine Tune the Logo

I struggle with writing this final installment of You 2.0 because fashion is often considered a frivolity by many.  Something that only the superficial, self-centered embrace.  An exercise in narcissism if you will.  The old style over substance argument that you’ve heard a million times.  But placed in the context of self-improvement and rebranding, I think it makes sense to give the subject some consideration.  Man up Hominid because it just might be time to elevate your style by concentrating on the basics.

You know the saying, you only have one shot to make a first impression.  What do others think when they are meeting you for the first time?  Positive impressions might include the fact that you look “professional”, “put together”, “organized”, “stylish”, “trendy”, “dapper” etc..  Some not so positives include “unprofessional”, “sloppy”, “out-dated”, “unorganized”, and “oafish”.  We are talking first impressions here so the fact the you are a truly wonderful, bright, witty and insightful human being might get dismissed right off the bat.  It sucks but that’s the society we live in.

This post is not about high fashion.  Rather, it offers basic tips for those who struggle to define and refine their look.  If your gear is tight, then you need not read on.  If you hate buying clothes because you just can’t quite figure out what you should be concentrating on, you are likely to find some helpful hints here.

Why be conscious about your appearance?  For reasons other than first impressions, consider pride in your look, a boost in self-confidence, making a statement, impressing a first date, impressing a hiring manager, building social capital, and giving your partner a good reason to want to be seen with you in public.  If your plan to get healthier and fitter pans out, why put that sexy new body in your tired old clothes?  Here’s a head-to-toe look at what to concentrate on.


Are you clean shaven or sporting facial hair?  Long or short hair cut?  Do you pay attention to skin care?  Eyebrows?  Regardless of your choice to go bare or go hair, keep your look neat, tight and professional.  If you are in your 40’s and 50’s, your daily interactions with others are likely in a professional setting.  The unkempt look is best left for the Hollywood and music industry glitterati.  Whether short cropped or medium length, keep your hair cut, trimmed and styled.  If you aren’t sure what the modern trend is, consult your barber or stylist.  If you’ve been wearing the same hair cut for the past 10-15 years, it might be time for a change.  The same holds true for facial hair.  Whether you embrace facial hair or not, keep it trimmed or freshly shaven each day.  Your face should be the focal point when interacting with someone, not food stuck to your mountain man whiskers.  Avoid having stray hairs pointing in all directions.  Keep your eyebrows trimmed as well.  It shouldn’t look as if a caterpillar is napping on your forehead.
Do you have a skin regimen?  You should. Keep your skin hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day.  Invest in a decent facial cleanser (no body soap on the face) and moisturize before bed and again in the morning for clean, blemish-free skin.  Keep your hands clean and nails trimmed (not chewed).  People notice and judge hands more than you think.  And for goodness sake keep your nose hair trimmed.  There’s nothing worse than being distracted by someone’s dueling nose hairs when you are attempting to concentrate on the conversation.  Add to your tool kit a nose hair trimmer, razor, electric hair clipper (for the tufts of hair attempting to escape the collar of your t-shirt), nail clipper and hand-held mirror.

The Gear

Your goal should be to look sharp for all occasions.  That includes the office environment, after work activities, weekends, the kids basketball games etc.  You never know who you are going to run into at the grocery store so why not have a consistent, stylish look for all segments of your life?   Do you work in a formal office environment where the suit is the uniform of choice?  Invest in a couple well made suits with modern lines (there is no substitute for quality).  If you can’t afford multiple suits, choose fabrics that will get you through all seasons.  Invest in shirts with varying collar styles and don’t shy away from color.  If all of your shirts are white or blue, get more adventurous with your color selections.  Regardless of whether you go with short lapels or normal, pinstripes or solids, the key to looking your best in a suit is the fit.  If the suit off the rack does not fit you just right, seek the service of a good tailor.  It’s worth the additional $30 or so to get it right.  A loose fitting suit will make you look sloppy and disheveled.
Whereas a tailored look projects a more stylish image.  One that is neat, organized and professional.
Perhaps your office culture is a bit more relaxed and suits are not necessary.  So trousers, shirts & ties or sweaters are the name of the game.  If that’s the case, load up on trousers.  Mix up the patterns, colors and fabrics.  I spoke with a friend who said that her boyfriend has the one obligatory pair of “dress pants” for special occasions.  Black of course.  Why limit yourself?  Black, blue, earth tones, olive and grey should occupy space in your closet.  Go for flat front whenever you can.  Not every man can pull of pleated trousers.  If you carry a little extra weight, pleated trousers will look like a balloon.  Men like me who suffer from height deficiency often find it difficult to acquire trousers in the proper length.  Bad trouser breaks are a common mistake.  You should have just a small fold at the front of the trouser and reaching halfway down the back of your shoe heel for the perfect length.  If not, spend the $10 bucks and get them hemmed.  The image to the left illustrates the break you want.

Opting for chinos a couple times a week?  Mix it up my friend!  Chinos are available in all kinds of flavors these days.  I snapped this pic of a chino display while shopping.  Skip the khaki color and grab a red, blue or green.  Make it pop!

Put some color in your shirts.  Mix it up a bit by including some patterns (stripes, checkers, plaids).  Don’t be afraid to experiment with mixing patterns.  Afine striped blue shirt with a grey plaid tie makes more sense than you think.  Just don’t mix more than two patterns in any one ensemble.  And tuck your shirt for goodness sake.  An untucked shirt screams “I can’t dress myself!” or “I just don’t give a damn!”

The Feet

You can follow all of the above suggestions and look your sharpest, but it can all go to pot if your shoes are whacked.  THE most common mistake that I see in footwear choice is the square toed shoe.  It’s gone people!  Finished!  Done!  Kaput!  Your toes aren’t square so why should your shoes be?  Choose a round toe shoe please and thank you.  Dusty, scuffed up shoes are equally egregious.  Get a cheap shine kit and polish and, with some care, a good pair of shoes will last you a while.  Invest in a few good pairs appropriate for the season and in different hues.  Grab a couple of lace-up Oxfords and slip-on loafers.  You’ll be able to get through most office and social occasions.  Add a nice pair of boots or two and you’ll be set.  Build your collection slowly with classics and you need not worry about being out of style after having come out of pocket the prior season.

 Final Thought

With so many styles and trends to choose from, you can often neglect the basics.  Stick with the basics described above and you’ll have a good foundation to build on.  Just remember to dress for the occasion, the proper season, go for quality rather than quantity and build your look around one piece that will bring your outfit to life like adding a print tie to a solid suit and solid shirt.  Most of all, have fun.  New body, new look, new attitude.  You 2.0.  Now go get it.