Friday, September 23, 2016

Self Discipline: Shaving, Life and Attention to Details

Self-discipline is an act of cultivation. It requires you to connect today's actions to tomorrow's results. There's a season for sowing, a season for reaping. Self-discipline helps you know which is which. - Gary Ryan Blair

In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves... self-discipline with all of them came first. - Harry S Truman

Never neglect details. When everyone's mind is dulled or distracted, the leader must be doubly vigilant. - Colin Powell

I was relaxing during a break in a meeting recently when I noticed that one of the attendees was staring at my face intently.

Assuming that I had food or something stuck to my face, I asked him what he was looking at and he replied, “I’m sorry for staring, but I know you have a thick, coarse beard and yet your face is always shaved so clean and smooth.  How do you do that?”

I thought this was a prelude to a joke and so I stared at him for a moment before he realized he had said something potentially awkward and he quickly followed up with, “I’m serious.  How do you get your shave so close?”

While guys aren’t generally ones to share the intimate details of their personal grooming routines, I shared my shaving regimen with him.  Here it is – bear with me a moment:

  1. As I shower, my shaving brush soaks in distilled water in my shaving mug (the local city water is too hard for a nice shave) while a wet towel cools down in the freezer.
  2. After my shower, I choose a double edge razor / blade combination or my straight razor for the particular type of shave I want and how aggressive (close) I want the the shave to be.
  3. I apply pre-shave oil or lotion to my beard.
  4. While the pre-shave oil softens my beard, I choose a shaving cream that matches my need for the morning (level of closeness, fragrance, etc.) and I whip up a batch in my shaving mug.  I don’t use stuff that comes in a can – it is not effective or healthy.
  5. I shave in three passes, with the beard grain, across the grain and against the grain, applying shaving cream for each pass.
  6. I rinse off the shaving cream residue left on my face and apply the ice cold towel to my face for a couple of minutes.
  7. I remove the towel and clean my shaving mug, brush and razor carefully.  If this is the third shave on a particular blade, I disassemble the razor, dispose of the blade in a sharps container and polish the razor before putting it back in its stand.
  8. I wet my face again and apply alum block, a form of salt that closes pores and reduces potential for ingrown hairs.
  9. After a few minutes, I wash off the salt, reapply the cold towel for a couple of minutes and then apply a high quality, alcohol free, aftershave balm.

After I finished explaining my morning routine, he said “Wow, that is WAY too much effort for a shave.  Give me my Mach 3 cartridge and a can of Barbasol any day.  Five minutes is all I need.”

“That may be so”, I replied, “but the quality of my result caught your attention enough for you to ask me how I accomplished it.  My morning routine is alone time for me – I reflect on my day, I focus on what I need to do and I pamper myself.  In short, I am honoring who I am and what I can create today ….. and I am worth it.  It sets a tone for attention to detail and effort that will matter at different times during the day.”

“That’s true”, he said, acknowledging the point.  A couple of weeks later, he sent me a picture of his new double-edge razor, shaving brush and all the other accoutrements necessary for a quality shave.

“I’m worth it”, read the caption underneath the photo with a smiley that followed it.

A shave that takes 20-30 minutes to take is not for everyone.  Some may even say it is over-indulgent.  To them, it’s like taking 15 minutes to figure out who makes the best kind of baked beans when they are mostly the same in content, flavor and quality.

I would posit that this is different.  I don’t get caught up in the minutiae of everything in Life.  In fact, in a lot of things, the details of something don’t matter to me as long as I know competent people are creating solutions and results.  I don’t micromanage people nor do I spent time, energy and money on what doesn’t matter or doesn’t warrant extra resources on my part.

But some things are worth slowing down for, savoring and doing right if you’re going to bother doing it at all.  Things like career choices, partner choices, election choices, business choices, etc., are things that too many people make cavalierly as if they are buying a can of baked beans

These are the things that have the potential to change lives and the world and so attention to details for such things that matter is worth it.

My shave sets the tempo for my day and therefore influences how my day will flow.

And if how my day starts determines the quality of my result for the day, why wouldn’t I want that start to be of the highest quality possible?

After all, my results are worth it …. the results for myself and the results for the people who rely on me or who are influenced by me.

The Bottom Line

Attention to excellence and self-discipline is a habit.

So is failure and mediocrity.

If we think of excellence and self-discipline as a muscle, we realize we need to work it every day for it to get stronger.

Every choice not to make our results stronger has the potential to make our results weaker.  If we accept mediocrity in the little things, we eventually accept it in all things.

Who amongst us actually sets out to create a lousy day for ourselves and others?

Do you?

I didn’t think so.

Now, how do your actions demonstrate your words and intentions to creating the best result possible in your day?

I think the little things add up to the big things.

What do you think?

In service and servanthood,


PS Just for fun, here is what my preferred shaving stuff looks like (I’ve tried a lot of stuff that I won’t bother mentioning):

One doesn’t just go grab a pile of stuff from Amazon unless you are experienced in the space.  One needs expert advice – when I need such advice, I turn to Nathan, Doug and the great folks at Kent of Inglewood in Calgary.

Preferred shaving creams / soaps:

  • Castle Forbes Cedar / Sandalwood Cream
  • DR Harris Arlington Cream
  • Truefitt and Hill 1805 Shaving Soap (the official soap of the British Royal Family)
  • L’Occitane CADE Cream
  • eShave Orange Sandlewood Cream
  • Kiehl's Lite Flite Shaving Cream (smell won't appeal to everyone)
  • Pro Raso Soap (Red and Green varieties - surprisingly good for the price)

Preferred Preshave Oils / Lotions

  • Castle Forbes Preshave Lotion
  • Taylor Aromatherapy Oil
  • L’Occitane CADE Preshave Oil
  • Pro Raso Preshave Cream (again, surprisingly good for the price)
  • eShave Orange Sandlewood Oil
  • DR Harris Arlington Preshave Splash

Preferred After Shave Balms:

  • Castle Forbes Lavender Balm
  • eShave Orange Sandlewood Balm
  • Kiehl's Close-Shavers Squadron Post-Shave Repair Gel
  • Pro Raso Preshave Cream (yup - as a post-shave)
  • L’Occitane CADE Balm

Preferred Razors and Blades

  • Edwin Jagger Briarwood Razor
  • Merkur 38C (HD) Razor
  • Merkur 46C Travel Razor
  • Merkur Futur
  • IKON X3 Slant
  • Feather DX Folding Wood Handle Razor (straight razor – not for the faint of heart, the shaky of hand or where kids are likely to bump your arm or find it while you are out of the house)
  • Blades – Feather, Kai, Personna and Shark are my favorites but I’ve tried a bazillion.

Preferred Brushes

  • Muhle Edition No. 1
  • Edwin Jagger Travel Brush in Chrome Case

And yes ... I do match my cologne to my shave scent (I won't get into that here)!  And no ... I'm not high maintenance - I pay attention to details!

A New Entry to My Favorite Product List - Midnight and Two

A company that came to my attention after I wrote this post is a company called Midnight and Two in Calgary, Alberta.  I met with Tim Gutwald, founder and owner, and found his approach to creating high quality grooming products to be innovative and intelligent.  While I haven't tried all of their products, this smart company has produced one of the most intriguing shaving products I have ever tried.  The 4-in-1 line of shaving creams, which can be used as a pre-shave, a shaving cream, a post-shave and a moisturizer, provides me with the closest shave I have ever had.  I would highly recommend these products as products that hold their own against any of the larger, older, international brands!

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