Nobody’s perfect. But everyone can get better. In some cases, a lot better. For you, maybe that means becoming a more attentive father or honing your skills as a manager. Maybe your goals are more specific, and you want to master the fine art of negotiation, learn to give a proper toast, or finally hit a baseball out of the park. Or maybe you want to be a more refined gentleman—the type of guy who can deliver the perfect compliment, craft the perfect letter, or mix the perfect cocktail. Whatever facet of your life you wish to improve, we’ve got the smartest and most effective tips for you—all of which are guaranteed to inch you just a little bit closer to perfection. For more amazing advice on living smarter, looking better, feeling younger, and playing harder—every single day—follow us on Facebook right now!
You didn’t get where you are in life today without learning a few things, but one of the things you’ve learned is never to stop learning—especially from the masters. That’s why you need to…
“You’ve got to make your case in a currency that’s valuable to the other side: the bottom line,” says Deborah Kolb, author of Everyday Negotiations and the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel professor at the Simmons School of Management. Try these strategies:
—One, propose a “contingent agreement” in which a large sum is doled out incrementally as expectations are met. For every 10 new clients you bring to the company, for example, your departmental budget will inflate by $50,000 until you reach your goal of $250,000. “Asking for funds this way makes it easier for them to say yes,” says Kolb. “After all, it presents a low risk. If things don’t work out, their losses are minimal.”
—Two, ask for “in-kind resources.” These are underutilized resources that the company already possesses—half-time employees, for example, or office space or equipment. “The best thing about in-kind resources is that they come out of someone else’s budget,” says Kolb. “Asking for them also shows that you’ve thought about ways to get the job done without the additional funds.” Such creative leadership makes you a valuable resource—and you’ll be even more valuable after you’ve learned the 25 Ways the Smartest Men Get Ahead at Work.
The great Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote his Meditations while at war with the barbarians, and the composure that shines through in his prose is still stirring today. He wrote of the need for moderation and virtuous conduct based on reason. The words were sincere and full of a sense of manly duty.
“Nothing happens to any man which he is not formed by nature to bear,” he wrote. A wiser and more elegant formulation of the current phrase “suck it up.” For more great leadership tips, here are 4 Easy Ways to Be a Better Boss.
The key to any negotiation is building rapport. “If a guy feels like he knows you a little bit, he’s a lot more likely to talk,” says Sergeant Joe Wellington, a 10-year veteran negotiator with the Kansas City, Missouri, police force. “If he doesn’t, he’s going to have his defenses up.”
Establishing that connection requires four skills.
—First, be an active listener. “Make the other party know that you’re listening by repeating some of what he says back to him,” says Wellington. If he believes that you’re listening to his point of view, he’ll be more likely to listen to yours.
—Second, build trust. It’s one of the key requirements for getting to yes, and you want the person you’re dealing with to see that you’re a man of your word. Concede a minor point early in the negotiation to set the right tone for harder-nosed deal making later on.
—Third, foster calm. Negotiations are often about repairing a negative situation. “Allow the other side to blow off some steam,” says Wellington. A calm negotiating partner is less likely to storm off in Robert Novak style.
—Fourth, respect their point of view. “You can’t make people think like you. All you can do is explain your point, listen to theirs, and try to convince them otherwise,” says Wellington. Forget this, and you can appear aggressive or bullish—two of the fastest routes to no. And once you’ve become a better negotiator, move on to the 15 Essential Skills to Master in Your 40s.
If you tell an employee that he can’t have a raise (even though he deserves one) “acknowledge his outstanding performance and provide an honest explanation for why you can’t increase his salary,” says Anne Marie Sabath, author of Courting Business: 101 Ways for Accelerating Business Relationships. Next, outline what he must do in order for you to go to bat for him when your budget loosens. Finally, offer him a compromise—extra vacation days or a modest bonus—to illustrate your good intentions. If you think you’re failing in the management department, take our quiz to know for sure whether or not you’re a bad boss.
A great leader understands that the idea of a toast is to turn attention to the person he is honoring—especially if that person is a bigger fish in the company pool. Unfortunately, most toast givers turn the spotlight on themselves, says John Bridges, a coauthor of A Gentleman Raises His Glass.
Be brief: “Anytime you near a full minute, it’s time to stop,” says Bridges.
Be sincere: Being able to tell a joke is like being able to prepare a gourmet meal: It’s an art that requires practice, timing, and an agreeable audience. In other words, jokes are too risky for most toast givers. You can be amusing simply by being high-spirited and upbeat.
Be nice: “It’s not a roast,” says Bridges. “Think of it as a gift to the person you are toasting.” And remember: giving a killer toast is one of the 30 Life Skills Every Man Should Know.
If you don’t believe in yourself and what you’re doing, your employees won’t either. Give yourself and your employees something to strive towards. And you’ll definitely be able to rally the troops with these 8 Game-Changing Strategies Every Boss Should Know.
The best bosses are models of charisma and business acumen that inspire their sub-ordinates and improve the bottom line. So what kind are you? According to Michael Feiner, former chief people officer at Pepsi-Cola Worldwide, the answer lies in two questions.
—First, are you delivering the bottom line? “Organizations are designed to get results,” says Feiner. “Is your team achieving the results that you’re expected to deliver?”
—Second, what motivates your people to deliver those results? “If you want to keep them, they have to believe in you, they have to be committed to your mission, and they have to know that you are committed to their success.”
At your next meeting, ask your employees to anonymously write down what is working for them, what is not working for them, and what you can do to make their jobs more satisfying.
Due to circadian rhythms, confidence is highest between 7:30 and 11 a.m.
Say you get lost on a corporate retreat in the middle of the Arizona desert, it’s nightfall, and no one knows the way back to the bar. Before you start losing midlevel managers to the coyotes, prove to them that you know precisely where you are in the world, provided there’s a crescent moon. Draw a line from the top point of the crescent through the bottom point to the horizon. That’ll point south.
Also: don’t forget to read our 25 Life-Changing Lessons from Super-Successful Men.
The good news is that your son or daughter is probably very much like you were at his or her age. No, wait—that’s the bad news. But there are ways you can connect better than your own dad did. Here’s how to…
“There are six basic types of cries, and you have to be like a CIA code-breaker to figure them out and administer the proper recourse,” says Gary Greenberg, author of Be Prepared: A Practical Handbook for New Dads. According to Greenberg, those six cries indicate hunger, fatigue, pain, discomfort, boredom, and colic. If a bottle quiets her, you’ve satisfied the “hungry” cry. If not, try this:
—Place your baby on a beach ball: Lay your baby facedown on a large beach ball with your hand placed securely on her back, and begin rolling it around slowly. The gentle rolling will soothe the angst right out of her.
—Hold your baby in front of a mirror: “Your infant will be fascinated by this other baby who’s copying her, and forget about crying,” says Greenberg.
—Startle your baby: Flick the lights on and off a few times, place your baby’s hand or foot under running water, or imitate your baby’s cry. In other words, “mess with her five senses a bit,” says Greenberg. “She’ll become too excited and interested to remember why she was crying.”
—Rock your baby right: “Studies have shown that the most effective method mimics the mom’s walking pattern, approximately 60 rocks per minute,” says Greenberg. For more parenthood advice, don’t miss our handy guide to looking after an infant.
Soak her finger in warm water and Epsom salts. That’ll soften the skin and allow the splinter to surface. Yank it out with tweezers. Or tape a chunk of aloe plant over the splinter with duct tape. Wait an hour and pull off the tape. The splinter will come with it. For more health hacks, check out these 52 Super-Fast Health Boosters.
Sooner or later, unless you send her to a cloister, she is going to find out some things herself. But this is your daughter, man. She deserves an honest heads-up from someone who loves her. Men, you explain, have it in them to be civilized. They don’t act civilly alone, and they don’t do it in packs. But they will do it for the right woman. Like I did for your mother, you say, and like somebody will do for you. Meanwhile, you tell her, men can be a lot of fun, but don’t get careless when they are around. (For more artful inspiration about teaching your daughter about the facts of life, here’s an exclusive short story from author Jay McInerney, titled, “The Wolf Raises a Daughter.”)
A study at Baylor College of Medicine found that conflicts over stepkids are the cause of nearly 60 percent of second-marriage failures. How to be a successful stepdad:
—Be patient: It’ll take a year or two before stepchildren will accept you in a parental role, says family psychologist Mario Alonso, Ph.D., Best Life’s Head Coach columnist. “Your goal should be to develop a relationship of mutual respect, not to become a second father.”
—Show interest in his interests: If he skateboards, ask him to teach you an ollie. Bonds develop as a result of shared experience, says Alonso.
—Never put down his father (even if he’s a jackass), and don’t overstep your bounds: If the biological father and his son have a tradition of going to the ballpark on opening day, respect that and back off. Another important piece of knowledge for Dads is How to Make Sure Your Second Child Doesn’t Feel Second Best.
Have your kid log at least 100 hours of instruction at the wheel, says Phil Berardelli, author of Safe Young Drivers. “The 6 hours most states mandate is inadequate,” he explains. “Take time to expose him to rain, snow, night, fog, highways.” Once he has his license, limit carpooling. A study by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Injury Research and Policy found that teen drivers with two passengers are 86 percent more likely to die in a crash than are teens driving alone. Also restrict night driving. The Connecticut Transportation Institute says drivers ages 16 to 20 are 66 percent more likely to have an accident at night than they are during the day.
Trap a housefly under a cup; then blow some cigar smoke in to knock out the insect. (Vigorous shaking will do the same.) Remove the cup and tie an 18-inch piece of light sewing thread to one of the fly’s legs. Breathe lightly on the fly (or maybe perform a little mouth-to-proboscis?) until it recovers, and poof—you have a live, buzzing, disease-carrying “kite.” Here are some more great tips for being an Excellent Dad to Kids Between 6 and 12.
To give your child the competitive edge, start planning in the ninth grade, says Michele Hernandez, an Ivy League college consultant and author of A Is for Admission. Here’s a quick guide to making the most of ninth grade.
—Freshman year is the time to perfect study skills and work on critical reading and vocabulary. Your teen should try to read for at least an hour per day, including areas outside of her interests.
—It’s important for her to show teachers that she really cares about her classes by going above and beyond what the teachers ask for. Now’s the time for her to become an active participant in class by contributing to discussions and showing initiative.
—Make sure she takes one or two SAT II tests before the end of the year if she is taking advanced science or math. Most top colleges require three of these tests along with the SAT I, and you don’t want to save all until junior year.
—Beef up her academic résumé. Enroll her in college-level classes over the summer.
Don’t freak. “A vein-popping lecture will drive him away and shut down any chance of a meaningful discussion,” says Xenia G. Becher, coauthor of Ten Talks Parents Must Have With Their Children About Drugs. After you’ve cooled down and talked about the issue with your wife, meet in your son’s room; he’ll be more receptive on his own turf. Explain that you’re concerned he’s not making smart decisions. “Reinforce the message that he needs to stay clear-minded and focused in life and that drugs will knock him off those paths,” says Becher. If he asks whether you smoked pot or drank when you were his age (and he will), don’t let him steer the conversation away from himself. “Telling him what you did or didn’t do isn’t important,” says Becher. “This is not a ‘true confessions’ moment. Disclose only if it helps.”
Do unto your children as you would have others do unto them. Too often we speak to our children in ways that would cause us to call a lawyer if we heard others treating them that way. But one thing you definitely don’t want to do is spoil them rotten.
Conventional wisdom says you should bathe the animal with tomato juice. Nice in theory, but what you get is a dog that smells like a really bad Bloody Mary. The better bathing solution is made up of about 8 parts hydrogen peroxide and 1 part baking soda. Add a little dishwashing liquid. Get the kids to bathe the dog and rinse him thoroughly. (It’s their dog, after all, and this is an educational opportunity.) Repeat as necessary.
For more fatherly inspiration, follow all of the Top Instagram Accounts for Dads.
You are an athlete, you know. Even if you haven’t swung a golf club, fired a fastball, or sunk a free throw in 5 years, your body still remembers. So go ahead. It’s time to get back in the game. Here’s how to…
Use the logo on the left breast of your golf shirt to establish proper ball position in reference to your spine, rather than in reference to your feet, as most amateur players do, says top teaching pro Mitchell Spearman, author of A.I.M. of Golf, a book of visual-imagery lessons for improving your game. For a driver, the ball should be left of the logo, in line with your left armpit. For a 5-iron, the ball should be directly in line with the logo; for a 9-iron, just off its right edge.
To see guys put these tips into action, here are the 15 Celebrity Golfers Who Are Definitely Better Than You Are.
Wear bright colors, especially yellows and oranges. Your opponent will have a harder time picking up your volleys. Yes, it is cheating.
End every workout like this: Sit on the floor with your right leg straight in front of you. Bend your left leg and put the sole of your left foot on the inside of your right thigh (your legs will look like the number 4). With your right hand, try to touch either your right ankle or your right big toe. Hold for 10 breaths; then switch sides. While you’re at it, be sure to steal these training secrets from Roger Federer, Tom Brady, and other ageless athletes.
Mix 1 ½ cups water with ½ cup rubbing alcohol, seal it in a plastic bag, and place the bag in the freezer for a few hours. The mixture will thicken into a slush that will stay cold for at least 60 minutes and conform to your aching joint to cool it more thoroughly. To avoid frostbite, apply no longer than 15 minutes per hour. And if you’re looking for the simplest and most effective ways to bulletproof your body and extend your life, here the 100 Easiest Ways to Be a Healthier Man Right Now.
When you step into the batter’s box, focus your eyes on the logo on the pitcher’s cap, then focus on a point in center field, then back to the cap. Repeat as many times as you can before the first pitch. This quick exercise will ready your eyes to track the ball better.
“Concentrate on handling the ball,” says LA Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, three-time NBA Sixth Man of the Year. “The most dangerous weapon in my arsenal is the crossover dribble.” Say you’re dribbling with your right hand: Take two steps to the right and stop on your right foot. “Really throw your body into it,” Crawford explains. “You’ve got to sell [the defender] on the fact that you’re traveling in that direction.”
You’ll know your bluff worked if your opponent crosses his right foot over his left to follow you. Quickly switch the ball to your left hand with a low bounce, and drive left to the basket. If you do it correctly, your defender will trip over himself as he spins to follow you, which is why this move is also called an “ankle breaker.”
Also, you can learn more from NBA players than basketball tips. Here are 4 Cutting-Edge Style Lessons from Today’s Top Pros.
“The bumps are the ultimate test of a skier’s skill,” says Don St. Pierre, mogul coach for the U.S. Ski Team. Avoid this beginner’s mistake: sitting back on your heels. “That makes your skis accelerate away from you,” says St. Pierre. To ski bumps like a pro, “focus on pulling your feet underneath your hips and keep your vision three bumps ahead; the skis will always be in a position to work for you.” And control your speed. Finally, follow this amazing tip to Fight Off Your Next-Day, Post-Ski Soreness.
Increase your lactic-acid threshold, the point at which lactic acid builds up in your muscles, with interval training. Intervals are to endurance what weight lifting is to strength: You overload the body to bring it to a higher level. Here’s how Run for 1 minute at 80 to 85 percent of your max heart rate, kick it up to 90 percent for 1 minute, then spend the next 3 minutes at 80 percent. Work up to a 20-minute session. Remember: sprinting is one of the Greatest Cardio Workouts for Men Over 40.
Drink 8 ounces of calcium-fortified orange juice at breakfast. Increasing calcium in your diet can lower your blood pressure. The vitamin C helps as well. According to research from England, people with the most vitamin C in their bloodstreams are 40 percent less likely to die of heart disease. And sign up for a race—you’re almost guaranteed to lose weight, beat stress, and enjoy a very rewarding experience.
You will work muscles harder during weight lifting if you stop short of locking your elbows and knees during presses and squats. Also, be sure to check out The Best Abs Exercise That Isn’t a Situp.
When you get knee pain, stop running and sit down with the affected leg straight in front of you. Tighten your quadriceps for 2 seconds; then release. Repeat five times. This forces your knee to release synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint and reduces pain, says sports podiatrist Rick Braver, D.P.M. Then apply your homemade gel pack (above). Also, don’t miss our guide to the World’s Single Best Stretch.
If you have a blister—and if it’s painful and has fluid in it—pop it and squeeze the fluid out. Leave the skin on. Take the sock off your other foot and wear it on the blistered foot for extra protection.
Everything you need to know about sex you learned in the backseat of a Mustang in 1995. But as a grown-up, you know that making love happens all day. A great lover can please her in bed and out. Here’s how to…
A 10-year study of 168 couples by researchers at the University of Texas found that men and women who work out together as a couple have more-satisfying sex. Choose noncompetitive sports, such as hiking, road biking, running, and skiing, suggests Megan Babkes, Ph.D., a professor of social psychology of sport and physical activity at the University of Northern Colorado. Here’s are roundup of Ultimate Adventure Vacations.
Turn off the game. Listen to her. Repeat what she said. Tell her that what she said makes sense. Also, be sure to check out our Secrets of the Best Relationships.
Because women are better communicators in general, we assume they’re good at communicating in the bedroom.
Not so. She may be in the mood for something special but too shy or proper to speak its name. The next time the two of you are getting playful, ask her to help you come up with a secret code word or phrase for a certain sexual act. For example: “Honey, tonight let’s do the ‘Westworld.’”) Don’t have a special someone right now? Have no fear—here are The Best Dating Apps if You’re Over 40.
Lingerie, when given as a gift, should stand out from what she wears every day, but not so much that she feels embarrassed wearing it. “If she doesn’t feel comfortable, you’ll never see it. But if she does feel comfortable and sexy, she’ll be proud to show you her wares,” says Rebecca Apsan, owner of La Petite Coquette (http://thelittleflirt.com), in New York City. A chemise (a thin slip or short, slinky French nightgown) is a safe bet on both accounts. Because it’s loose fitting, it will flatter her figure no matter what her body type—a feat that’s difficult to accomplish with more complicated panty sets.
“Think of massage as a theatrical experience,” says Gordon Inkeles, author of The Art of Sensual Massage. Dim the lights, play soft music, and warm the bedsheets (throw them in the dryer for a couple of minutes beforehand).
—Grease your palms: Light vegetable oils, such as safflower, scented with a few drops of lemon juice work just as well as expensive massage oils. Pour about 2 tablespoons into the palms of your hands and rub them together to warm the oil.
—Knead her: Place one open hand over the other and begin making small circles across her neck and shoulders (that’s where women carry most of their tension). Apply even pressure from your fingertips to the base of your palm. “Be generous,” Inkeles says. “Don’t limit a stroke to two or three repetitions. If you get those nice sighs of recognition, do 20 or 30 repetitions of the same stroke.”
—Touch her in waves: When you’re stroking your partner, don’t move up and down her body in straight lines. If you move your hands in a wavy, irregular pattern, the nerves in her skin are surprised by your touch, and they become more excited.
—Shower her with flower petals: Put flower petals atop the bedroom ceiling fan. Turn it on when she lies down.
For more, here are 4 Secrets to Giving a Mind-Blowing Massage.
She’s still frosty, and a family get-together is coming up. Instead of avoiding her, engage her in conversation, and talk with your hands at waist to mid-chest level—a confident yet non-confrontational posture, says Tom Nicoli, a board-certified hypnotist and the author of A Better You by Hypnosis.
When you’re alone, say in a friendly tone, “I know we got off on the wrong foot. Whatever happens, I want you to know that I love your daughter. I also know that you and I would like to get along, and (pause) I know that we will.”
The pause wakes up her subconscious as you implant this positive suggestion. You’re being sincere while subtly telling her that you’re not going anywhere. You may never win her over, but you will make allies with the rest of the family by trying to thaw out Madame Ice.
Call her more. Your wife’s happiness (and subsequently yours) is directly proportional to the number of times a day you call her. You’d be smart to reel off one of the 13 Sexiest Things You Can Every Say to a Woman.
You forgot her birthday. Immediately make reservations at her favorite restaurant. “Tell her, for example, that you knew her birthday was on Wednesday but that you wanted to take her out on Saturday,” says Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D., author of The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again. If she nailed your forgetfulness, however, the only option is to apologize profusely. Send a handwritten note and flowers to her workplace (that’s key) so her friends notice. “Flowers heal almost anything,” says Tessina. Follow with a romantic gift. For more great relationship advice, here are 15 Ways to Impress Any Woman.
Knowing the proper etiquette of dining, dating and all other social situations is essential for impressing women, colleagues, and friends. So make sure you…
Remember “BMW,” from left to right—Bread plate, Meal, Water glass. For more advice on how to dine like a gentleman, here are The 7 Biggest Mistakes You’re Making at Fine-Dining Restaurants.
It is not to be mashed into your bowl of soy sauce. Instead, apply a bit of wasabi directly to the sushi. Then dip the fish (never the rice) into the sauce. Also, know that the whole piece of sushi goes into the mouth (never bite it in half), fish side toward the tongue.
And the general color of your belt to your shoes. (It needn’t be exact.) For more style do’s and don’ts, here are the 20 Definitive Style Rules for Men Over 40.
Share some personal, affectionate memory of the deceased. Such recollections go a lot further than abstract adjectives about the departed’s great qualities. But remember, it is not about you. Once you’ve said that you were shocked or saddened, let it go. Your grief is not the reason for the letter. Finally, don’t offer to “help in any way I can.” Make a specific offer. “When the time is right, perhaps we can have dinner together.” Or, “We’d be delighted to look after your kids for a couple of days if you could use a little time away.” Above all, be sincere.
“The sophistication that is implied by someone who can expertly make a cocktail is unmatched,” says Dale DeGroff, author of The Craft of the Cocktail. Here’s a classic that’s perfect for the season.
—2 ounces blended or straight whiskey
—1 ounce Italian sweet vermouth
—2 dashes of angostura bitters
—Cherry, for garnish
Prepare as you would a martini and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the cherry. Tip: “A Manhattan contains much more vermouth than a martini does,” says DeGroff. “Some recipes call for 3 parts whiskey to 1 part vermouth, but you’ll find that most people will respond positively to 2 parts whiskey and 1 part vermouth.” Once you’ve mastered the art of making a Manhattan, here are more Cocktails Every Man Should Know How to Make.
A memorable compliment is sincere, brief, original, and sparingly deployed. Prune the commonplace flattery, and what remains will bloom in the recipient’s ear for months. “That’s a lovely engagement ring” is passable, but “On behalf of all bachelors, we hate to lose you” has resonance.
Always carry no less than $50 on you so you can pick up the cocktail tab and toss some bills on the bar for the bartender. But here’s an extremely compelling case for carrying even more on you at all times: Why Real Men Carry Cash.
“There are two basic reasons to decant: to aerate younger wines that need to open up, and to avoid pouring a glass full of sediment from an older wine,” says Master Sommelier Andrea Robinson. Decant full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux from France, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon from California, and Barolo from Italy to soften tannins and enhance the bouquet. To find sediment, hold the bottle up to a bright light and look for sediment at the bottom. If you spot heavy sediment, decant. If time allows, stand the bottle upright for a day to settle the sediment; decant before serving. For more great wine coverage, here’s The World’s Number One Wine Expert’s Advice for Starting a Wine Collection.
Clasp your hands behind your back and listen attentively, nodding in agreement. Then move your hands in front of you and clasp them. Experts say the simple act of putting something between the two of you will often cause the talker to wrap it up. Also, here is our handy guide on How to Escape the Office Gab-Master.
Stand behind her and to her right with the jacket just below her shoulder. Let her raise her arm, but guide the sleeve to her hand rather than have her flail and become ensnared. Once her arm is safely through, slide the jacket across her back and repeat on the port side, says Peter Post, author of Essential Manners for Men.
Despite your best efforts to avoid it, you know some opera and classical music already: Bizet’s Carmen (“The Bad News Bears”), Rossini’s The Barber of Seville (“Bugs Bunny”), Ravel’s Boléro (“Bo Derek”). When listening to opera, remember that it’s essentially a guy talking about problems with a woman, says Scott Speck, Artistic Director of the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra. Play the bartender and see if you can decipher the problem. If you go to a performance, buy balcony seats. They’re cheaper, and the sound is better there.
The note is brief and handwritten in black ink on a personalized note card.
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