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On Life, Love and the Pursuit of Happiness

How to Lose 30 Pounds Naturally (And Keep it Off) - Part 1

Robert Manni - Friday, July 18, 2014


Life boils down to a series of decisions.

For Guy’s Guys, it’s no different—each day we’re faced with a number of choices. What we eat and what we elect to put into our mouths impacts our health, looks and waistline. Of course, lifestyle also plays a major role in managing our weight. As the years pass, the choices become more important because our metabolism slows down. If we don’t get a handle on our weight and fitness, well...  Have you seen a lot of fat old people? You get the drift. As we age, weight management becomes a slippery slope, and when we factor in a glut of processed foods and GMOs we’re faced with, we can get in deep doo-doo quickly. My choice was to take action and mark the results.

I hope our guy and gal readers relate to my sojourn and I sincerely hope it provides encouragement for achieving their own personal goals. Part 1 focuses on how I lost the weight. Part 2 chronicles my learning, because without achieving knowledge about yourself, you’re likely to fall back into the same patterns that packed those unwanted pounds on in the first place.

It all started when I stepped onto the scale late last year. I could not believe what I saw. I’d broken through the 200lb barrier for the first time in my life. I have not been “thin” since my college days, but over the years I’ve have stayed in decent shape. But I was mortified when I saw that big two on the scale. Having run three marathons and consistently banged out sets of between fifty and eighty pushups almost every day since my teens, I had never let my weight or level of fitness slip beyond my reach. But that was then.

A few factors must be noted.  Last year I became a new dad and decided to take a left turn on my career and go all in on my Guy’s Guy brand. Talk about stress! Adding to the pressure, I’ve always been a nervous eater. When I get uptight, I munch. I’m sure many readers feel me on that. Bottom lineI had a paunch and needed a plan. So I gave myself six months to lose serious weight and keep it off. Here’s how I did it.

A Vision. The Plan

I knew that to succeed I needed a clear idea of what success would look like, a solid plan, and time to execute it properly. I wanted this to be a fun challenge where positive choices would be their own reward. Although there would be sacrifices, I did not want to constantly punish myself and hear that little voice in my head barking, “I can’t have this. I can’t have that”. That was critical. After hemming and hawing about what was realistic, I decided on dropping thirty pounds over six months. I’d kick off the program with a big move to lose ten pounds and continue in phases of dropping three to five pounds or so every few weeks. I’d maintain the loss for at least a week before adding additional action to ladder down. No crash and burn diet aids, shredders or fat burners were allowed. This was going to be old school.

The Critical First Two Weeks.

I kicked off the program on January 1st by drinking only organic juice for a week. All I consumed was the liquid from organic vegetables and apples. The juicer extracted the fiber and pulp and I drank my meals. I also jumped on the elliptical trainer for an hour followed by a few sets of free weights four times a week. This helped fuel my metabolism. But the down side was that I was always hungry. Like a lot of guys, I’m not huge on veggies and salads, so a diet of carrots, celery, beets, ginger, kale and spinach juice was a major adjustment. Where were my beloved peanut butter, fish tacos, and tequila? Grrr. When I hopped on the scale on January 4th, I had already dropped a four pounds. That made a difference. What did I want¾ mandarin orange vodka or a trim waist? Tough question, but I held my resolve and got through that challenging first week. I was rewarded when I hit the scale on January 8th. I had dropped eight pounds. I considered a quick return to my past eating habits, but that little voice reminded me that I’d pack the weight back on faster than I’d lost it. This was a watershed moment.  I needed to launch the second stage immediately. I read Dr Oz’s quick weight loss plan and modified it so I could stay focused, while getting a little relief. I kept juicing in the morning, but added black beans and rice, grilled fish dinners with a big organic salad. I avoided booze, ice cream, chocolate, dessert, cookies and candy. I was pleasantly surprised when at the end of week two I had dropped fourteen pounds.

The First Four Months.

From January through March I maintained a somewhat strict diet and my cardio workouts. Although I was still juicing for breakfast Monday through Friday, I went back to eating fish tacos and the occasional slice of wheat pizza. I did not eat meat (haven’t for six years), booze, or caffeine. I did slip back into an occasional tab of dark chocolate, an organic cookie, decaf coffee with whipped cream for dessert though.  Once the weather broke, I took to the streets and ran the six-mile loop around Central Park at least once a week. It’s a hilly track that never seems to get any easier. By April 1st I had lost twenty pounds and was holding steady. I felt great, slept like a baby and was fitting into all of the clothes that had become too tight for me in the early stages of the winter. On April 15th I had my first glass of wine and drank in moderation for the next few weeks. But I think this prevented me from getting to the next level. Just as an aside, I did not view what I was doing as a sacrifice. I was having fun learning about my body and habits. I really did not feel that I was missing anything by eliminating so many foods that are really not nutritious. I was rethinking my relationship with food and I liked it better.

Breaking Through.

My weight was down twenty pounds, but it had leveled off. I bounced between a loss of eighteen and twenty pounds for the next month. I still felt great, but I had reached a plateau. No matter what I did, the weight would not come off. I needed to take the program to the next level. So I stepped up my workouts, hitting the gym or road five times a week. But what truly ignited the third stage of the program was cutting carbs, gluten, sweets and salt. I eliminated pizza, bread, added salt, processed foods, sweets, and alcohol. By mid-June I was down twenty-eight pounds and feeling wonderful. By July 4th, I had hit my goal of losing thirty pounds. Two weeks later I’m holding steady at thirty while anticipating that I will whittle away any residual abdominal fat over the remainder of the summer. Again, I feel fantastic and have more energy than ever. The last time I ran the park I finished the loop ten minutes faster than I did during the spring. In fact, my times are the same as they were twenty years ago.

I can’t speak for anyone else when it comes to weight management, and I’m hoping this does not come across as boastful. But, it’s comforting to know that we all have the internal capacity to change and reach our goals if we focus and do the work. There really are no shortcuts in life and if you do things the right way, it feels a lot better when you succeed. Next week I’ll address the learning I picked up over the past six months.

Are you ready to get a handle on your weight and fitness?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week are all the guys and gals on “The Biggest Loser”. It’s easy to dismiss these folks, but you have to give them credit for going for it. Let’s wish them well.

 

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Vacation

Robert Manni - Thursday, July 10, 2014


It’s defined as a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually for rest, recreation or travel. But vacations can be stressful.

If you want to know who is ultimately responsible for any vacation-related tension, take a look in the mirror. So nowadays people have a hard time enjoying themselves during their precious week off. Back in the day, we’d accrue an annual vacation and actually use the allotted days. But with all the tech and connectivity in our lives, at times it feels like there is no escape. How many times have you or one of your colleagues taken more than a week off at a time or used up all of your vacation time? Not very often. Whether you’re headed to Brazil for the World Cup, the Jersey Shore, or a quiet staycation in the city, you need to plan your invaluable time off wisely. Enter, Guy’s Guy, with a few pointers for making the most of your time off this summer and beyond.

1. Level Set at Work – Face it. No one cares about your new pair of chartreuse board shorts or your upcoming week off in Belmar, New Jersey with your crew. All they care about is that your work gets done without it being dumped it on their lap when you’re out of the office. You still have your cell, iPad or laptop so they can and will find you. That’s why it’s important to sew up all the loose ends on your projects the week prior to your departure. I suggest leaving your boss and colleagues a project status that includes next steps that if necessary can be addressed in your absence. If not, they will email, text or call you. If you are so paranoid that you think you’ll be fired the day you return to the office, you have no one to blame but yourself. Cover your ass and then let go.

2. Unplug – My brother had a great idea when a group of couples vacationed together to Anguilla. After we were settled in, had a quick swim and cracked open that first bottle of rum, he placed a bowl in the center of the dining room table and dropped his wristwatch into it. We all followed and it worked as a reminder that in terms of time, all that mattered that week was either the sun was out or the Caribbean night was lit up with stars. It was a great step for detaching from the grind. Listening to the local reggae station on the jeep radio was about as techie as we got that week, and it made for a great trip. I know that it’s challenging to break the FB, Instagram and email addiction, but if you can do it, you will be a happy camper.

3. Explore – Since you are supposedly off the grid for a week, consider going local and trying some new things. This could include water skiing, snorkeling, drinking the local beer or rum, or just checking out a different type of cuisine than you eat at home— and not a chain, even if the local Mickey D’s offers a specialty burger featuring local flavors and toppings. No chains!

4. Take Stock – Congrats! You made it halfway through another year. While sipping that Planter’s Punch poolside, take a deep breath and think about the good things in your life and how you are probably better off than eighty percent of the people in this crazy world. Think about your dreams and aspirations, and what you’re doing to manifest them. For starters, if you are healthy, you’re way ahead of the game.

5. Read – They don’t call them beach reads for nothing. Summer travel and reading go hand in hand. You can read on the plane, on the beach, on a deck with a cocktail, or in your room. Reading nurtures the mind and it’s a great way to mentally escape and let your imagination take over. If you’re looking for a fun, frothy summer read about love, sex, power and money, consider my first novel, THE GUYS’ GUY’S GUIDE TO LOVE.

Are you ready to rock your vacation?

This week’s Guys’ Guys and Gals of the Week are all the fellas and ladies who leave their problems at the office when they check out for their week off.

Ten Reasons to Love Central Park

Robert Manni - Monday, July 07, 2014


Although it sits smack in the center of Manhattan, many times we're too busy to take notice of one of the greatest parks in the world.

Some people have referred to it as the lungs of the city. For me, it’s been a great place to tap into my inner peace, nature, fitness, and family fun. I really love Central Park. When I moved into New York in the 80’s, Central Park was in many ways a scrub-filled wasteland and dangerous territory to traverse after dark. But thanks to the unflagging efforts of the Central Park Conservatory, things have changed for the better. Although we all have our favorite places inside this great urban oasis, I humbly offer up ten great things that make up my Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Central Park.

1. The Running Paths: Whether you are a weekend warrior or a marathoner, Central Park provides runners with a top shelf training ground. The six-mile outer loop is scenic and challenging with its non-stop rolling hills. There are innumerable cutoffs built into the loop that allow runners to chart shorter courses and avoid the hills. You can’t get lost and you can’t go wrong. Just stay in the running lanes and avoid the bikers who also frequent their lanes inside of the loop.

During business trips and vacations I do my best to find time for a run. It’s a great way to reset the body clock and check out the local terrain. I can honestly say that Central Park offers the premier running experience of any location I’ve run in the world. That includes waterfronts and roadways everywhere from Chicago to Sydney, South Beach, Santa Monica, Honolulu and Jalisco, Mexico. Nothings beats Central Park.

2. The Playgrounds: Now that I am the parent of a toddler, I pay attention to the myriad of playgrounds sprinkled throughout the park. In fact, there are twenty-one playgrounds filled with swings, sprinklers, and things for kids to climb on. The upkeep is top notch and they continually upgrade the facilities. Beyond the official playgrounds there are acres of land where you can let your little ones run free and explore nature. My son loves the park.

3. The Obelisk: Cleopatra’s Needle is 3,500 years old, seventy feet tall and weighs 220 tons. It was brought here over a century ago and sits a top Graywacke Knoll on the park’s east side at 81st Street behind the Museum of Modern Art. It’s covered in hieroglyphic text inscribed in its native Egypt from the time of Thutmosis. Although scaffolding now covers the obelisk as it goes under a sorely needed $500,000 refurbishment, most New Yorkers are unaware of this magnificent structure and its history. Just the story of how it was shipped across the Atlantic and then schlepped it to Central Park is amazing.

4. The Pool: Situated just off of 103rd and Central Park West is one of the park’s most pristine and quiet sanctuaries. Birds, waterfowl and turtles inhabit a crystal clear body of water surrounded by a walking path that is thankfully closed to bicycles. Like most New York celebrities, none of the creatures that live near the pool seem are bothered by the attention of the passersby's.  The moment you step off of CPW onto the path, you can feel the energy change. It doesn't feel like you are in a city, much less NYC. I have pushed my son’s stroller along the path around the pool in all four seasons and it's always serene and visually stunning.

5. The Ball Fields: Guy's Guys love sports, games and Central Park. Central Park houses twenty-six official baseball and softball fields, not including the open space where you can kick a soccer ball, toss a football, or play an ad hoc game of badminton. And there are thirty tennis courts available in the Central Park Tennis Club. So whatever is your preferred sport, I’m sure you can find a place to play it.

6. North Woods: One of the park’s three woodlands (the others are The Ramble and Hallett Nature Sanctuary), the North Woods offers visitors a feeling of hiking through the Adirondacks. That was what they had in mind. Nicely done. This is considered the most remote and woodsy section of the park and also one of the top ten locations for bird watching in the nation. Located just north of the 100-103 Street entrances by The Pool, you enter through the Glen Span Arch and are on your way to The Ravine featuring wildlife and rough terrain you can walk via a system of paths and bridges.

7. The Water: Besides The Pool there are at least half a dozen other significant bodies of water in Central Park including the Harlem Meer- northeastern corner, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir- East Side, Turtle Pond- below the Great Lawn, The Pond- southeastern corner, Conservatory- east seventies, Lasker Pool- near Harlem Meer and used for swimming and hockey, The Lake- west seventies, and The Boathouse which connects with The Lake. So take your pick. You can always find a nice place to enjoy water in any area of the park.

8. The Upkeep: With over 1.317 square miles of land and water, the park could easily fall into a state of ill repair. But, fortunately the opposite is happening. The park’s upkeep keeps getting better. With teams of landscapers constantly canvassing and sprucing up the grounds, you also rarely see any litter. Hats off to the Conservatory.

9. The Events: Whether its Shakespeare, Summer Stage, yoga, Pilates, taekwondo, concerts, movies, and architecture walking tour, or a Swedish puppet show Central Park has an event for everybody. And most of them are free. Just check out their web site www.centralpark.org for constantly updated info.

10. The Zoo: Rebuilt by the Wildlife Conservation Society in 1984, the Zoo and the Children’s Zoo have always been anchor attractions for the park. Study any kid watching the sea lions during feeding time and you’ll see what I mean. Whether you are part of a stroller parade or just waltzing by, the zoos are enchanting. More importantly they serve as reminders of the importance of man’s connection to the animal world.

Are you taking advantage of Central Park?


This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week, for the second time, is Frederick Law Olmsted who designed Central Park along with some of the great parks in Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Montreal, Detroit, Louisville, Rochester, and many other cites.  

The Guys' Guy's 5 Natural Tips for Healthy Living

Robert Manni - Thursday, June 26, 2014


Like taking care of a classic Mustang convertible, your body needs proper care and maintenance to keep it running smoothly.

Although at times this Guy’s Guy has put his body through hell, I’ve also be mindful to always maintain a semblance of fitness and healthy habits to balance out the damage. These include sports, sleep, diet, intellectual stimulation, meditation and a healthy sex life. Overall I’m pleased with how these decisions have impacted my wellbeing.  

As we age, we face new choices concerning how we live. I must admit, giving up meat six years ago was not fun. After a few weeks, I got sick for a few weeks due to my body working overtime to detox itself. As the toxins were releasing from my cells, my immune system struggled as it worked overtime to keep up with the poison floating through my bloodstream. I craved bacon cheeseburgers, porterhouse steaks and my beloved veal parmesan. Then, after a few weeks I forgot about the meat and began feeling energized and clear-headed. My carnivorous cravings have since diminished and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

But a Guy’s Guy doesn’t stand on circumstance, so this year I decided to kick things up a notch. The results have been outstanding, so I hope that you will consider a few of these tips. There are many studies that back up the claims, but I'm not going to do a deep dive on any of them. Instead, I urge you to conduct your own research before deciding if these products are right for you. Here are my five easy tips for healthy living.

1. Oil Pulling: It’s getting popular, so you may have read about this.

This is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that is believed to remove toxins and plaque from your oral cavity. In addition, many feel that the benefits are not regulated to the mouth and throat. The elimination of migraines, eczema, toxins and inflammation are but a few of the other benefit claims. There have been scientific studies to back this up. I can honestly state that my teeth are whiter and the inflammation I was experiencing in my elbow for over a year has gone away since I became a puller. Here is how it works.

First, buy organic pressed coconut oil. Take a tablespoon of it on an empty stomach and swish it around your mouth and between your teeth. Do this for twenty minutes, and then spit into the garbage. Gargle with salt water and brush your teeth. That’s it.  Hey, what do you have to lose? Plaque, gingivitis and halitosis, that's what.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar: This is a product of fermentation, so unfortunately it tastes like vinegar.

The main ingredient is acetic acid. Drinking a teaspoon with water on an empty stomach helps set your alkaline PH balance for the day. And it helps neutralize internal inflammation that causes many illnesses. ACV has been cited as a great way to detox your insides, get rid of Candida (caused by too much sugar in the diet), and cleanse the lymphatic system by eliminating mucous. Better yet, it’s been hailed as a way to break down and eliminate tummy fat. Again, do your research before you start drinking this with water as a tonic three times a day. Even cut with honey, it doesn't taste great. But it will kill bad bacteria inside the gut, and that’s where most health problems begin.

3. Lemon: If you can’t handle drinking ACV, consider starting each day with an organic lemon squeezed into warm water.

This is an easy one and it tastes pretty good. Like ACV, the benefits include balancing your internal PH level. Additionally, it flushes out toxins, aids digestion and nourishes brain and nerve cells. It also protects your insides from the growth of unwanted pathogenic bacteria that can cause a variety of infections and diseases.

4. Hydrogen Peroxide: It costs about a buck yet delivers amazing benefits.

Believe it or not your body produces small amounts of this stuff to act as a first line of defense against toxins, harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses and yeast. Although you don’t drink it, there are many ways to use hydrogen peroxide. One of the best is gargling for about ten minutes. It helps eliminate canker sores while whitening your teeth. Since it's anti-viral, anti-fungal and antibacterial, it treats pathogens that cause many problems. Another amazingly effective use is mixing it as a 50/50 solution with water and spraying it on your feet. This kills yucky foot fungus. Again, there’s myriad of other uses.

5. No Caffeine: You’re tired and need a pick me up.

So you chug-a-lug a few coffees and you’re now soaring. And because caffeine stays in your system for up to twelve hours, by the time you hit the sack you’re still wired and can’t sleep. So after tossing and turning all night, the next morning you need a big mug of coffee to get you started, and so the cycle continues. I never tried decaf until this year, but it tastes the same. I've gone this entire year without caffeine, and now I’m relaxed and sleep like a baby. Try it. It really works, and after a few weeks you will not miss the java. I switched to rooibos tea, which tastes pretty good and is chock full of antioxidants and other health benefits.

I realize that changing life-long habits can be challenging, but in my case the sacrifices were minor compared to the benefits. I’m at the top of my game and plan on adding to my regime. A Guy’s Guy is never too old to learn new tricks.

Are you open to changing a few habits and behaviors that no longer serve you?

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is all the people who conducted research and promoted the many natural ways for aiding our health and well being.

The Guys' Guy's Guide to When Guys Get Together

Robert Manni - Friday, June 20, 2014


When the boys get together and hoist a few cold ones, they discuss almost everything under the sun… except their relationships.

As guys congregate, the general topics of conversation are work, money, toys, sports, politics and jokes all around. Is this a bad thing? Let’s discuss. Here are the things men usually discuss when they get together with their best buds.

First round of drinks: Career and Money

Men like to share their business success with their friends. In general, men want their friends to get ahead, but they want to succeed on a bigger scale. There's an unspoken, healthy competition between guys. A lot of guys keep score and measure their lives by who has the biggest job, bank account, house, or hottest wife or girlfriend. Is this America? Is this capitalism? No worries. This is human nature in the alpha kingdom. Men understand this.

Let’s say one guy has recently been overlooked for a promotion. He probably won’t tell his friends because he thinks of it as a fail. So, when one of the other guys at the bar announces he’s landed a huge new job, the first guy is happy for his buddy, but also asking himself, “what’s wrong with me?” That’s how men roll and I'm sure women react the same way to a certain extent.

Fortunately, over time, a Guy’s Guy’s priorities change. They realize that their relationships, family, health, and friends are what make the difference in the quality of their lives. But that’s for another column.

Second round: Toys, Sports, and Politics

We don’t need to spend much time on this. Men love to crow about their cars, vacations, golf clubs and wine collection. They all have their favorite teams and their favored politicians. While the games drone on in the background, the guys argue endlessly about the Red Sox, Yankees, Obama, the Tea Party, or which club they used on the par three at Winged Foot. Of course nothing changes until the next game, golf match, or election.

Round three: Women and Relationships

Even if a guy is having relationship issues, he’s not going to share them with his boys. Whenever I overhear two or more women having drinks, the subject of men invariably comes up. Women seem comfortable discussing personal stuff and emotionally tinged issues with their girlfriends, all the way down to joking or bragging about a man’s size and performance. But regardless of things being good or bad in a relationship, guys don’t share the details, and especially not with a group of friends.  Here’s why.

Let’s say a guy is dating a woman who's dynamite in bed. There's no way that he wants the other guys to know this; you never know what they think of her. And we all know that men sometimes poach another guy’s partner (it happens). If the woman he’s dating is bringing him down and he’s not sure what to do, he won’t tell his friends. That’s a fail. So when it comes to finding an objective voice to discuss a relationship issue, it’s not that easy being a guy. Guys will never discuss their relationships in a group unless one guy announces something major like he’s gotten engaged or his wife is having a baby.

Round Four: The Details

If a guy has come to a major decisionmaybe breaking up or divorcing, he’ll probably pull a close buddy aside and spills the beans. He’s not looking for advice. He is looking for support for his decision and to be heard by a trusted friend. The other guy knows this, so he actively listens and does his best to be supportive. If he thinks his friend is using his left-brain to address a right-brain issue or if he’s making a tragic error, the friend will weigh in with a few pointed questions. Again, this is a one-on one private conversation, not group bar talk.

Closing Time

So you see that being a guy can be a lonely experience. In the male culture we don’t often talk about our feelings or relationships. And we rarely discuss what we are thinking with other men before we make our decisions. Even when it comes to relationships, men make their choices independently and then tell their friends. Is this a good thing? I’ll let you decide. One way you can help men out is by being available to any guy who seeks you out with a problem that he wants to discuss. This means you’re a trusted, special person to this guy, and that’s a good thing.

So next time you see a bunch of guys hanging at the bar, they are probably talking about their careers, toys, sports, diversionsanything but their relationships.

Our Guy's Guy of the Week is your neighborhood barkeep, who hears all the chatter from the other side of the bar and focuses on his task at hand while keeping his point of view to himself.

So, do you know what that group of guys across the bar is talking about?    

Why I Live in Harlem

Robert Manni - Friday, June 13, 2014


Growing up in suburban Bergen County, New Jersey, I never thought I’d live in Harlem.

That was then, but this is now. Having migrated to the city back in the eighties, I’ve see our metropolis transform its once tattered landscape into what many refer to as the “capital of the world”.  And as a result, as the years flew by too many Duane Reade, Chase, The Gap, and now even Seven Eleven stores have replaced the quirky independent businesses and local flavor that made up its neighborhoods.

Brooklyn is the latest victim. What was the coolest nabe on the planet just a decade ago has seen its real estate prices go through the roof while its streets got jammed with baby strollers and urban woodsman. We can only hope that the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island can hold back total gentrification for another decade or two. But there is some good news.

Harlem is in Manhattan and it’s become a really cool place to live. The once downtrodden 125th Street now has a Gap outlet, DSW and Joe’s Crab Shack, but thankfully most of the big brands have limited themselves to this main thoroughfare. Most of the Harlem’s sprawling landscape is checkered with brownstones and small independent business that have only recently set up shop. Sounds like Brooklyn circa 2000? Maybe, but Harlem has been a tough nabe to crack. And I’ll say it again—it’s still in Manhattan.

Here are a few reasons why almost four years ago your Guy’s Guy chose to move to Harlem and has never looked back.

Proximity.

Might as well finish this thought first. I live in the Morningside area so all I need to do to get into “the city” is hop on the B or C train and boom; I’m there in ten minutes. That’s a lot better than squeezing in to a G train filled with twenty-somethings in Williamsburg or taking an hour on the F from Park Slope. Bay Ridge? Great place, but it’s a serious commute.  Guy’s Guys like to stay out late so while my friends are either waiting for a train at Port Authority or taking the subway to an outer borough, I’m already home and snuggled in bed. Yes, lots of people still live all over Manhattan, but the rental and purchase prices are now skewed to one-percenters or foreign money.  That’s just the way it is. So if you don’t mind paying $4000 or more to rent a 800 square foot one-bedroom in a walk up or the same for a  studio in a high rise, then you’ll love overcrowded Midtown.

The Parks.

Many Guy’s Guys enjoy sports and exercise, although it’s certainly not a mandatory requirement for the GG moniker. I’m a runner and it’s great if you live in south Harlem. I walk five blocks and I’m in the serenity of Central Park, a respite from urban life that keeps improving with age. And, if I want to stay closer to home, I put my infant son in his stroller and within two minutes we’re walking along the path around a pond in Morningside Park, watching the turtles sun themselves on the rocks. There is also Riverside Park, Marcus Garvey and many other well-maintained parks strategically located throughout Harlem.

The People.

Of course there is always an understandable push back against gentrification, but what I’ve noticed in my nabe is a lot of new jobs and business opportunities for the folks who lived in the area prior to the changes. And for the most part, most of the businesses are independent and privately owned and operated, which is a good thing. Hopefully, that will hold true for the foreseeable future. There is also a diverse mix of race, creed, color, sexual preferences, nationalities, and students.  That is what New York is all about. And from what I’ve seen, everyone seems to see the glass as half full as the communities evolve.

The Culture.

 Harlem has gone through so many changes over the last century that it has authentic culture. We all know the wonderful Apollo Theatre and the jazz clubs, but now there is a growing foodie movement led by hot chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and his always packed Red Rooster. They now refer to Fredrick Douglass Boulevard between 110 and 125 as Harlem’s Restaurant Row. To be honest, it’s happening, but slowly. Using that name is putting the cart in front of the horse. The good news is it’s a reflection of optimism and hope.

The Cost.

Like Brooklyn, Harlem real estate prices are going up, up, up. That said, there are lots of buildings and a massive stretch of blocks between 110th and 165th Street, so depending on where you look, you can find a bargain if you put in a little footwork. If you were fortunate and smart enough to buy between 2008-10, your average cost per square foot has increased by over thirty percent. If you are considering Harlem, my suggestion is to start looking now.

So if you are Guy’s Guy who doesn’t mind living in a quickly evolving area that might still be a little rough around the edges, a “middle class” family that has been priced out of the Upper West Side, or a student or artist who needs to keep their living costs in check, Harlem may be just the place for you. It’s the last affordable outpost in Manhattan and it will keep you close to the action—which is probably why you moved to New York in the first place.

Are you ready to make a move uptown?


This week's Guy’s Guy of the Week is the famed magician, Harry Houdini, who lived in Harlem at 278 West 113th Street for many years. There is still a plaque in front of the brownstone.

5 Ways to Survive a First Date

Robert Manni - Thursday, June 05, 2014


You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

When it comes to dating, truer words have never been spoken. First dates can be exhilarating, anxiety-driven, fun-filled or disastrous affairs. We’ve all been there and we’ve all had some successes and a few massive fails. That’s part of the reason we keep coming back for more—you just never know what’s in that box of chocolates, Forrest. Whether you’re a guy or a lady, there are a number of ways not punch your ticket and move on to the promised land—the second date. Assuming that there’s enough chemistry to make the initial connection, here is my Guy’s Guy list of first date pitfalls to avoid in order to make it to the second date.

Don’t show up late.

A Guy’s Guy shows up first. He never leaves a lady he’s interested in sitting alone at the bar all dressed up, nursing a cocktail. It’s rude, it’s just plain dumb and it’s an invitation for other men to move in on your turf. If you’re a lady, it’s fine to show up to fifteen minutes beyond the anointed time. Anything later and you risk the same fate as the aforementioned guy.

Don’t drink too much.

Alcohol can be a great social lubricant, especially following a hard day at work. A glass of wine, a craft beer, or a cocktail are all fun choices. If the conversation’s flowing and you can handle your booze, it’s okay to call for a refill. But after two drinks, things can go downhill quickly. It’s way too early to start sharing details of your sex life or personal history. One time, on a particularly memorable first date, after two drinks the woman professed her love for oral sex. Take one guess what was on my mind for the remainder of the evening. Yeah. You get the picture.

Have an exit strategy.

Let’s say you finally meet the guy who sent those snappy text messages and he’s less than charming in person. The lack of sparkles prompts you to hatch your escape plan, but it’s if not easy because he’s a nervous chatterbox who won’t shut up. So you make up a lie about having an interview the next morning while reaching for your bag. Awkward. It’s much better to lay the groundwork at the beginning of the date by telling him that you can only stay for one drink. This way you’re having a great time and decide to hang out, he’s going to feel like he’s the man who convinced you to change your plans. Everybody wins.

Don’t talk about your ex.

If you want to start things off on the right foot, avoid droning on about your failed relationships. This goes for guys and gals—nobody you’ve just met wants to hear the gory details of your past. Keep it light and find things to discuss that are all about the “now”. It’s all that matters anyway.

Don’t have sex with him/her.

A Guy’s Guy believes that when it comes to sex, all decisions should always be in the hands of two consenting adults. It’ll happen when it happens. Ladies: it’s perfectly fine to leave something for the imagination, or maybe even the next date. Guys: please demonstrate self-control on that first date. The woman will notice and she’ll secretly thank you for being a gentleman.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture. With a little planning, mindfulness and common sense, you can have a great time on that first date and maybe even turn it into the first step of a new relationship. Good luck.

Think you can make it through that first date like a pro?

The Guys' Guy's Guide to Listening

Robert Manni - Friday, May 30, 2014


How many times have you told a friend or colleague something of importance only to see their eyes glaze over while you pour your heart out?

Don’t worry. It’s not you. It’s them. But we’ve all been “them”. What I mean is, our crazy world and its demands set our minds on overdrive for most of the day. So unfortunately when someone is speaking to us, many times we’re either thinking of our response or what we want for lunch or that we have to pick up the dry cleaning or sex. It’s a sign of the times. Too often people talk at each other. If you don’t believe me, next time you are sitting alone, fiddling with your Samsung Galaxy, eavesdrop on those people at the adjacent table or seated close by on the train. You’ll probably hear one person dominating what is supposed to be a conversation, but is really a download. That fact is, life is tough and we all need to be heard. 

But take heed. It doesn’t have to be this way. You, yes, you, can turn one of these verbal dumping sessions into a positive experience. It takes a little work, but it can be done. Here are my Guy’s Guy tips for active listening. We’ll use the example of two BFF’s here, but the template works in business, also.

1. Take a deep breath.

Let’s say your bestie has just lost her job or she’s having  major love issues with her partner. She probably wants someone to hear her out and empathize with her struggle. She may or may not want your suggestions right now. She simply needs to hurl and you're within range, so you need to prepare yourself. Remember, we all face trouble at one time or another and it is helpful to tell them to a friend. Inhale, exhale, and get hip to the situation. It’s your time to listen.

2. Shut up.

Now that you know what the conversation is all about, you want to clam up and hear her out. If you feel it is necessary to slow her down or if you need a break, ask her something like, “so how do you feel about that?” This may get hear thinking about how to fix her problem. The same holds true in business, especially a service business. You need to find out where the pain points are before you can add value and sell a client a solution. So, do your best to keep your lips zipped and let the other person have their say before adding your two cents. It’s part of being a friend or a good business partner.

3. Think about what she is saying.

That’s code for actively listening instead of tuning out or thinking about that cute guy with the long fingers in your yoga class who reminds you of Daniel Day-Lewis. The reality is that your friend is confiding in you for a reason. She needs someone to talk to, and more importantly, she thinks highly enough of you to give you with the honor of dumping her data on you. So be the good friend you signed up to be and deploy some psychic energy so that you can help her out.

4. Ask what she’s going to do.

This will also get her thinking about solutions or what she needs. This is also a good time to ask her if she wants your point of view. If she agrees, you might start out with questions that crystallize the issue what she wants to get out of it.

Let’s say she lost her job and she’s on a rant about her a-hole boss who pushed her out. Maybe ask what would bring her the most joy career wise and the type of work would make her happy. Just your asking her this question may help her realize that she never really liked being in advertising and that she’s always wanted to open up a flower shop.

5. Ask how you can help.

This is what friends do. This is also what smart people in business do. They look for ways to be of service to their friends, colleagues and clients. Yes, I know business always comes down to making money, but business is conducted between people, so you’ve got to sharpen those people skills to get ahead, and better yet, to be of service.

At some point you’ll be the one who needs a shoulder to lean on, so be generous and sympathetic when someone starts downloading on you. Of course if their M. O. is to do this every time you get together, then you might not want to hang with them. Unfortunately, when this happens in business, you’ll either need to suck it up, or find a new client.

Are you a good listener?

This week’s Guys’ Guys of the Week are all the people who work in retail or the customer service field. They listen to people’s problems all day. They probably need someone to talk to when they get off work.

Our Negative Culture

Robert Manni - Thursday, May 22, 2014


Seeing all the videos, parodies and effusive comments on social media about Pharrell’s omnipresent hit song, “Happy” makes me scratch my head.

If everyone is so damn happy, then why do we wallow in a bottomless pool of gory, violent, toxic stories in the movies, on television and in the news? The common denominators on our palette are negativity, human failure, and buckets of blood. Welcome to 2014.

For some reason, studios and networks insist on showcasing deceit, vengefulness, violence, and dishonesty as entertainment. I thought that’s what we have to deal with at work. Who wants to experience this angst again in their free time after hours in HD? Could it be the hypnotic power of that 54” screen dominating our living room and minds? Your Guy’s Guy takes his media medicine in small, detached doses and decries, “Is this the best we can come up with?” Here are a few considerations for consuming content.

Violence

A Guy’s Guy likes a good dust up and action-packed films, but lately, things have gotten out of hand. Even the Hollywood legends have gotten into the act. Stallone’s “Expendables” franchise is really just a bunch of aging action stars shooting, stabbing and punching their way to a paycheck. Sly’s latest endeavor is something called, “Bullet to the Head”. What can I say?

Ah-nold? His recent film comeback includes “Expendables 2” (number three is on the way), “Escape Plan” with Stallone, and “Sabotage” (a B version of an Expendables movie). The poster features the usual cadre of buff guys and gals wielding machine guns of varying sizes. And the next generation of stars is on a similar path of death and destruction. Have you seen the trailer for the new Tom Cruise movie, “Edge of Tomorrow”? Its tagline is, “Live. Die. Repeat.” We see Tom wrapped in futuristic battle amour, toting an assault weapon that appears to be welded to his arm. Didn’t Matt Damon already do that in last year’s futuristic death match, “Elysium”? This is just a sampling of what the big stars are up to. Let’s not forget, “Machete” and “Machete 2013”? Wonderful.

Some say Hollywood is simply giving the people what they want (lots of video game action) and anti-heroes like we had in the seventies. When I think of anti-heroes, Clint Eastwood in “Dirty Harry” and “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” or Charles Bronson in “Death Wish” come to mind. Sure, their movies had selected violent scenes, but the acts were focused on moving the story along.  They didn’t glorify killing and maiming as an art form. With all the hype about Dirty Harry’s Magnum, he rarely used it.

Fast-forward to today and we see blood spurting and mayhem starting from the first scene. Even the once car-based “Fast and Furious” franchise has gone ultra-violent. After seeing the first two “Fast and Furious” movies a few years ago, I recently watched the first fifteen minutes of “Fast and Furious Six”. I was amazed at the non-stop violence. No breaks: just kicking, punching, and fighting amongst all the main characters.

I’m not even going to get into the video games aimed at kids and teens. So many of them are hyper violent and focused on deception, thievery, and war.

Shady Characters

We also are inundated with hit show and films like “Penny Dreadful”, “Scandal,” “Revenge”, “Breaking Bad”, “House of Lies”, “Shameless”, “Wolf of Wall Street”, and “American Hustle” all focused on human failure with main characters lacking in moral fiber. The industry tells us they’re always looking for “interesting and intricate characters”. Yes, I know that conflict drives storylines, but do you have to be an a-hole to be interesting?

For a change of pace there is “True Blood”, “The Walking Dead”, and all the shows about zombies, vampires and creatures bent of exterminating mankind. Want a change of pace? How about those housewives, the slippery realtors in NYC and LA, the backstabbing contestants on “Survivor”, and lying bachelors and bachelorettes? There is little escape from bad behavior and dysfunction unless you turn to the talent shows.

And Now To The News

Adding to this Gatling gun of toxicity, is our news industry. Regardless of which network we watch or what newspaper or major website we follow it spits the same selected, fear-inducing stories at us.  If you don’t believe me; just turn on any local or national news network and you’ll see the same stories rolled out and read to you in almost the same order by a different talking head. Fire in the Bronx kills three, measles on the rise, the world economy on the brink of collapse, voter fraud, and on and on. Until you reach to the last two minutes, it’s all bad news and human failure. During the breaks, most of the ads are for cars we can’t afford, fast food that makes us obese, and from pharmaceutical companies selling us medication for all of our diseases. Your Guy’s Guy is getting a stomachache.

The Solution

We live in a culture that requires connectivity, so it’s almost impossible to simply tune out. We need to be mindful of our media consumption and make the effort to unplug whenever possible. The folks running the networks and studios need to make a buck, so they are not going to change unless we stop consuming what they push our way. Here are three suggestions: Don’t watch the news or violent shows before going to bed. Do not keep your TV in your bedroom.  I know we all need to check email and do our jobs, but each morning, see how long you can go without tapping into mass media. Your mind will become more peaceful and quiet, and you’ll get to know that wonderful person hidden inside you a lot better.

This week’s Guy’s Guy of the Week is George Clooney. No, it’s not because he’s getting married. It’s because he chooses to make movies that are well-told stories that are never ultra-violent.

The Guys' Guy's Introduction to Reiki

Robert Manni - Friday, May 16, 2014


It all started when I hurt my leg while training for my first marathon. It was two weeks before the race, when one Sunday I limped my way through a street fair. I stopped to rest at small stand. I saw a man placing his hands on another man’s shoulders. I didn’t know that he was performing Reiki. I watched and skimmed through a leaflet on the table. Then I stuffed it into my pocket and waited my turn. I told the man I was experiencing cramps in my right calf. I took a seat and he placed his hands a few inches from my calf. I could feel currents of energy around my leg. Amazingly, in a short period of time the muscle loosened up. I handed the man $10 and moved on, feeling a lot better. I had never seen a Reiki practitioner at a street fair before and haven't since then. Maybe it was a dream. That night I researched this amazingly gentle, yet powerful holistic healing art. And because Guy’s Guys believe in giving back and passing on good things, I decided to take the plunge. 

That was fourteen years ago. I’ve studied and graduated the prerequisite levels to become a Reiki Master Teacher. I don’t practice full time, but it has been a gift and important part of my life. So what is Reiki? Simply put, according to Master/Teacher William Lee Rand, Reiki is a Japanese form of stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. Some say a Reiki attunement brings us closer to the Source while providing a clearer form of guidance from the universal consciousness. In a nutshell, Reiki helps break down and remove blockages along the body’s energy meridians. Think of a flowing river dislodging a pebble and moving it down stream. Once attuned, a practitioner visualizes a series of symbols while intending energy through the top of his crown and out through the hands. This pure energy is intended to the subject. The practitioner can either touch or hold his hands a few inches away from the subject and have the same effect. Although there are a variety of hand positions to learn, the Reiki energy knows where to go. Amazing. 

A full session lasts about forty-five minutes to an hour, although you can also benefit from short sessions as I did with my calf. From a historical standpoint, the practice began in India. It became a lost healing art until about one hundred years ago when a Japanese man named Dr. Usui re-imagined Reiki while in deep meditation. He began passing attunements to others that continue on to this day. In fact, my attunement comes from Dr. Usui’s lineage.

The benefits of learning Reiki are many. First, Reiki practitioners are encouraged to practice on themselves. We receive the same benefits from self-Reiki that we’d get from another practitioner. It’s like giving yourself a great massage. Secondly, although there are set attunements by virtue of the level of study you have reached— one, two, three, Master, or Teacher— a practitioner can continue to receive attunements at any time. And the attunements are permanent. Once you are attuned at the Master Teacher level, you can attune others and your physical and spiritual perspective changes. I literally see the world differently now. Additionally, I can send healing energy to past, present, and future situations, and also send Reiki to people across the globe by visualizing the appropriate symbol and the right intention. It truly is a gift and an amazing practice to learn.

A person receiving Reiki feels relaxed and refreshed. The energy flow is gentle, but it clears the paths and blockages that cause disease and discomfort. Frequently, there is also an emotional release accompanying a treatment. I have witnessed many subjects crying or needing the use the bathroom after a session. Sometimes, people call me later and tell me they cried it out on their drive home. I’m not going to get defensive about the science of how Reiki works, but the proof is in the pudding. Many hospital and traditional medical practices now offer and encourage their nurses and doctors to learn this healing art as a way to promote wellness and comfort their patients.

If you are interested in learning more and studying Reiki with the goal of attunement and practicing, I suggest a thorough Google or You Tube search and reading a book or two on the subject. I’d also recommend that if you do decide to follow this path that you take it slow and not skip from level to level. Although you can learn the basic symbols and get attuned for level one during a weekend workshop, I suggest extending your studies of the levels and attunements over the course of at least five years. Reiki is not something you rush into. It is a life-altering practice that requires love and your spiritual attention.

Think you have a basic idea of Reiki now?

Our Guy’s Guy of the Week is who else, but Dr. Usui, who rebirthed this lost healing art and began the spread of this wonderful practice around the world.


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