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Live Better through Snobbism, Rituals, and Elbow Grease

live better through snobism

Mindless consumption has become the name of the game in recent years. We can eat and drink ourselves sick, satisfy nearly every whim and urge with the click of a button, or acquire “stuff” – mounds and heaps of stuff – with the swipe of a card.

But on top of the physical and financial setbacks, there is a secondary problem. Satisfying every single whim quickly desensitizes you to these pleasurable activities, making them seem more and more mundane as time goes on.

And though we often think we hate any kind of deprivation, we truly need the sour to appreciate the sweet.

For example, a feast after a big victory is a celebration but gorging on a daily basis is pure gluttony.

To find balance, I've employed several methods of self-regulation that have improved my enjoyment of these indulgences and don't leave me feeling deprived of the good life.

The first step is to…

1. Become a Snob!

Set aside your negative associations with word “snob” for a moment and consider the finer details of what snobbism entails and what you stand to gain.

What I'm suggesting is that you adopt an overly selective attitude toward your consumption. And you can do this without being a condescending prick who thinks himself above other people who don't share similar tastes or interests.

I think that being a bit snobbish about the things you buy can have a serious impact on your enjoyment of the products you eventually select.

I know if I buy consumables in bulk (the boxed wine from Trader Joe's, for example) I drink mindlessly, forgetting all about the process.

However, if I carefully select a bottle of nicer wine with my wife, I automatically find that I sip a little slower. Unlike boxed wine, I know that a bottle isn't virtually bottomless.

I slow down as a rationing measure. I end up searching for flavors and scents, admiring the color, and enjoying the lazy creep of warm relaxation that a rich red provides.

The slower pace allows me to be in the moment, or more specifically “to be mindful” as my friend Dalton encourages. Being present in your surroundings is ultimately more relaxing and beneficial than absent-minded consumption.

How you can become a snob

Now that we're thinking about the term “snob” from a different perspective, consider about how being more selective in the following categories can add interest, excitement, and value to your life.

Keep in mind, you don't have to pursue every one of these at once. Start in the place that excites you most.

Better clothes

better living clothes

There's certainly a time and place for affordable clothing (i.e., when you're just starting out), which is why I wrote a book on it.

But the end goal is to have a wardrobe stocked almost largely with nearly perfect items. Though, keep in mind, cheap can be the way to go in certain scenarios – think about great thrift store finds and perfect inexpensive basics.

What you should be striving for are higher quality items. Whether you find them for peanuts at a second-hand shop or pay top dollar for them new is up to you.

Ideally, you should be excited to wear your clothes. You should be proud of the selections you've made. But if you own only cheaply made and hastily purchased items, you'll likely to never really have anything you love to wear.

And if your clothes were so cheap in the first place, it doesn't make a lot of sense to pay for alterations or repairs and you're stuck right where you started – with a closet full of nothing you actually want to wear.

Finding high quality pieces is going to take time, patience, and knowledge. Being a sort of expert or connoisseur in an area is another common marker of a snob that will really ramp up your enjoyment of your wardrobe.

Reading reviews and considering alternatives before big purchases, you'll be armed with the knowledge to throw out a little trivia when someone compliments you on your sunglasses (and you will receive compliments when you transform your style).

In addition to graciously accepting their kind words you can say “Oh thanks, Steve McQueen wore these back in 60's” which sounds a little more thoughtful than, “ugh, thanks?”

Always aim to buy better clothing, not simply more clothing.

Better electronics

better living electronics

I don't own a ton of gadgets, nor do I want to. But to avoid frequent replacement and secure the best possible relationship with my electronics, I buy the best I can find for my needs.

From my experience, cheap electronics tend to be buggy, provide limited enjoyment, and simply look and feel flimsy.

I was the first person I knew to buy a flat panel TV. Luckily, I purchased one of the more expensive models on the market back in 2007 (over $1,400) because it still looks and functions perfectly almost a decade later.

Around the same time, I bought my first personal laptop. Again, I aimed to get the best I could afford and picked up an HP for about $1,100. Even though I was completely clueless about anti-virus programs, routine maintenance, and software updates, it gave me almost 8 years of excellent service.

I went against my better judgement recently and purchased a cheaper laptop for about $250. My assumption was that technology had come a long way in 8 years, so I was sure to get a better product than my old laptop at less than a quarter of the price.

Oh how naive I was. This budget laptop was HORRIBLE.

The keypad flexed, the battery didn't last, the screen resolution was worse than my old laptop, the hard drive went out one month after the warranty ended, and the motherboard needed to be replaced shortly after that. It required more money in repairs than the initial purchase price!

Following this hard earned lesson, my next purchase was a Macbook Air and I've been so happy with every aspect of it that I don't plan on ever going the cheap route again.

Electronics are such an integral part of our lives now that it's important for our devices to provide a high level of function and enjoyment, with minimal headaches. They shouldn't need to be replaced every 3 months.

Better drinks

Access to high quality coffees and alcohol has never been more widespread than it is today. Capitalize on that.

There's a reason that my favorite coffee shop sells an 8 oz. cup of coffee for $3.50 with no free refills. It truly is that much better than the stuff they pour at chain coffee shops for less than half of that.

Aside from the improved quality, a major benefits of paying double for a product is that it encourages you to SLOW DOWN.

You know it's going to be a great cup of coffee, so you take the time to enjoy it. You smell it before taking a drink, notice the mouthfeel (thin or oily), and search for different flavors.

When you're stocking your home bar, take the time and consideration to select higher quality bottles. Armed with better booze, you'll be more inclined to make interesting cocktails that showcase the pricier spirits rather than trying to hide them.

When you go out for a beer with a friend, try ordering from the craft beer menu if you don't already. In my opinion, one delicious stout is worth six American macro brews any day.

Since alcohol and coffee aren't essential to survival (though I know some may disagree), take the time to treat them as more of a luxury than low grade fuel.

Better food

better living food

Buying quality food seems like the obvious choice for a bodybuilding lifestyle. But when you really think about it you realize that it's also completely contradictory.

Of course we want to put the best possible food into our bodies, but we often need to eat frequently, in large amounts, all while meeting specific macro requirements.

This type of regimented eating often leads purchasing cost effective ingredients in bulk, zapping pre-made meals in the microwave, and the limited use of delicious toppings and condiments.

While most of this is necessary for time and nutrition reasons, you can still sneak some quality and enjoyment in there.

At least on the weekends, aim to have fewer, but larger and more enjoyable meals.

Consider grilling some bright pink salmon fillets with sides of veggie kabobs and a quinoa salad. Save the microwaved chicken breasts for the rest of the week.

To up the enjoyment factor on the weekdays, make dinner the one special meal. Get into the habit of making a giant salad including tons of uncommon veggies. With this routine, grocery shopping can even become fun.

You'll get excited about selecting brightly colored peppers, exotic mushrooms, and hearty greens. Whip up a homemade dressing with a few simple ingredients to take your satisfaction to the next level.

Ideally, you should look forward to prepping and eating your food, and for that you have to be a stickler for quality (at least sometimes).

2. Create a ritual

better living coffee

Remember the scene from the movie Half Baked when the guys go through their pre-smoking ritual?

They debate over which bong or pipe to use, remove their shoes (except for Brian due to his neglected sock laundry), and get into position around the ceremonial coffee table.

They have a ritual.

Creating a ritual, going through the set up, really primes you for enjoyment of your purchases or hobbies.

For example, shaving can be a chore. Unless you make it part of an enjoyable ritual.

When you wake up in the morning and assess your scruffy mug, you can either reach for the aerosol can and disposable blade, or you can whip up a thick lather with your shave brush and pop a new blade in your safety razor.

You can shave in a hurried manner, missing spots and causing irritation, or you can systematically carve away at the cushioning layer of lather to reveal the perfectly smooth skin beneath.

The goal is the same, but the experience can be entirely different based on which products and techniques you use. A ritual allows you to look forward to tasks that might otherwise be mundane obligations.

3. Become a geek

I've always jumped into the deep end with any interest or hobby. To this day, I remember the pros and cons of various skateboard bearings, truck designs, and wheel diameters.

The car audio equipment specs are still stuck in my head from high school.

When you “geek out” about something, you unravel a whole new world of possibilities that were previously right in front of you eyes but otherwise invisible. It truly deepens your enjoyment and appreciation of your purchases.

Take iced coffee as an example. How many times have you said or heard said “why the hell do they charge me a dollar more to pour hot coffee over ice?”

I used to think the same thing, but it turns out that (assuming your iced coffee was prepared correctly) there is actually a cold brew process which takes 4-12 hours.

Real iced coffee is more than just hot coffee poured over ice. Who knew?

4. Get your hands dirty

Pop Quiz: What runs better – a car tuned up by the Jiffy Lube guy or the one you tinkered with all Saturday?

When you've invested your time into something, you can't help but have a biased opinion.

My old truck used to run like a top after I changed the oil and spent 6 hours detailing the entire thing (including the wheel wells and under the hood).

I knew in my mind that a vehicle's cleanliness and new engine oil wouldn't make it run better, but in every fiber of my being I could feel how it made that old truck purr.

You can apply this same phenomenon to nearly anything in your life, no matter how mundane it may seem at first glance.

Take the common ingredient of many classic cocktails, aromatic bitters, for example.

Bitters are readily available, inexpensive, and pretty much perfect the way it is.  So why bother with making your own?

Because it's fun and you know it'll taste better because YOU made it.

bespoke post review dash

I'd never even though of trying something so involved until I received my newest box from Bespoke Post (You can check them out here) containing everything you need to make your own cocktail bitters.

Since receiving my box, I've crushed my ingredients to open them up, toasted them to release the aromas, and am now struggling to wait the four weeks until my concoction is ready to become part of an Old Fashioned. I've never looked forward to crafting a cocktail more!

bespoke post review dash

Be even more selective

Now obviously, no one has the desire to become a geek extraordinaire on every possible topic, the time to create elaborate rituals for every aspect of life, or the the resources to buy the best of everything all the time, but that's actually a good thing.

This is just another layer of selection that we have to go through which takes this whole idea to another level.

Since you can't become obsessive about every single task or interest, choose what's most important to you.

Do you love food but couldn't care less about coffee? Great! Put everything you can into learning into learning the culinary arts and perfecting your cooking skills and leave the coffee making to your old automatic pot.

Once you've selected your interest or interests, everything else will have to settle for “good enough.”

All the best,

Nate

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    kiranbjishnu
    June 19, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Hi Mr. Nate,
    I have been reading ironandtweed.com since the very beginning… Your style and writing have improved a lot.
    Among all you create i love the photos you snap the most. They are worth a million.
    This article is a time less content. I can refer this to friend even after a decade.
    Keep doing the good work , keep writing.

  • Reply
    Abdoulaye
    June 19, 2016 at 11:07 am

    Spot on with this article! I used to be all about cheap things, cheap food, cheap electronics, cheap clothes. The things with cheap things, they always end up costing you more in the long run. Now that i’m more interested in quality, things that I own actually last me a long time and cause less headaches.
    I can totally relate on the geeking out with hobbies. Recently started learning how to play a musical instrument and I’m totally immersed in it right now, knowing all kinds of facts about my instrument and becoming aware of things that have always been there but I was totally oblivious to before.

    Great read brother

    • Reply
      Nate
      June 20, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      It’s great to hear that other guys like yourself are on the same page. I’ve gone the cheap route in the past out of necessity, indifference, and plain old being stubborn. Now I’m all about finding that sweet spot of paying a little extra but getting a lot more in return. What instrument do you play?

  • Reply
    Anandit
    June 19, 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Really liked the concept and think that it is more efficient to spend money once rather than buying a product of subpar quality and later spending on its maintenance! But what will you suggest for somebody who just doesn’t have the money to buy the best product at the moment. For example I don’t think a student like me can afford a macbook.

    • Reply
      Nate
      June 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm

      I know exactly where you’re at, Anandit! I left a union construction job to go back to school so I know what it’s like to have money then being back to broke. For electronics, read reviews, ask friends for input, and just but the best you can. Worst case you just need a laptop to last you 4 years until you get a full time job. Hang in there!

  • Reply
    Anon
    June 22, 2016 at 3:44 pm

    I used to go the cheap route from my days working at RadioShack with headphones. Then, after talking with some friends, I took the plunge and got a really nice pair of Sennheisers for about $100 and they are absolutely stunning. Thanks for the article, Nate!

    • Reply
      Nate
      June 25, 2016 at 9:23 am

      I really want to upgrade to some top quality headphones soon. I grew up listening to music on component based stereo systems and this generation of cheap earbuds and compact speakers just doesn’t cut it. I’ll look into the Sennheisers.

      • Reply
        Anon
        June 25, 2016 at 3:14 pm

        If and when you do, if at all possible, give them a test at a store for the fit. An alternative to the Sennheisers are Audio-Technica headphones, which Mike Cernovich has also used.

      • Reply
        Scott
        June 28, 2016 at 6:22 am

        I would also heartily recommend the Backbeat Pro by Plantronics (yes, the company that makes the Bluetooth headsets and other telecom equipment used in every office on the planet). Pros: great noise cancellation, great audio quality, wireless, stupid good battery life (assuming moderate listening volumes), price relative to competition, build quality. Cons: appearance is strictly utilitarian. I researched headphones exhaustively for ~6 months and I settled on these. I really don’t think that a better combination of features can be had at any price, let alone for the ~$200 they’re going for on amazon these days.

        • Reply
          Nate
          June 29, 2016 at 9:07 am

          Thanks for the recommendation, Scott! Those don’t look bad at all. They don’t look great, but not at all bad. I’ve only ever owned earbuds. Do you wear those to the gym?

  • Reply
    EA
    June 27, 2016 at 9:08 am

    As for the electronics: Get an iPad Pro 12″, with Apple pencil (and foldable keyboard since you’re a pro blogger), you’ll stop carrying anything but your iPP and your iPhone. It truly changed my life, especially if combined with powerful apps such as Notability and PDF Expert (check ’em out!). I used to carry a bag with a bunch of stuff, including notepads, books, etc. Now I just carry my iPad Pro, my iPhone, and my faithful TI-84 Plus calculator. No notebooks, no books, no documents (all my paperwork is scanned and made as a PDF using the iPP camera). Give it a try for 10 days, if you don’t like it, just return it.

    (*) I don’t carry a wallet anymore, my iPhone case works as a small wallet.

    • Reply
      Nate
      June 29, 2016 at 9:02 am

      I’ve never really been interested in tablets since I don’t own a desktop and a macbook seems like the perfect fit for me. But I’ll look into it based on your recommendation when my laptop is due for a replacement. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Andrew
    June 30, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    ” I’ve gone the cheap route in the past out of necessity, indifference, and plain old being stubborn. Now I’m all about finding that sweet spot of paying a little extra but getting a lot more in return. ”

    Man, this describes my maturation from 20s to 30s entirely. Nate, I think you’ve struck a vein of wisdom quite rare in today’s culture. In ages past, this was called “virtue”; I wonder aloud what such a thing would be called today.

  • Reply
    Jon
    July 9, 2016 at 4:27 pm

    Was excited to see you start with becoming a “slob” but then you didn’t mention what I think is the most important: being a snob with your time.

    I’ve had to cut people off. That’s just how it goes. They saw me as an asshole at the time, but now thank me for it and we’re both better for the experience.

    • Reply
      Nate
      July 11, 2016 at 8:56 am

      That’s a good point. I guess I’ve always been greedy with my time so I never had to work on improving that aspect of my life, haha.

  • Reply
    AJ
    July 13, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    Thanks for the article Nate. I like how most of your posts, even those dealing with style, essentially condense into elegance in simplicity and being mindful. Please keep it up, they are inspiring.

  • Reply
    Casey
    December 3, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Fantastic article Nate!

  • Reply
    Lee
    January 1, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Fantastic post Nate, I used to be the type of guy that brought everything based on price. However as I’ve got older I now realise the importance of quality over quantity. Love the idea of having rituals too. Just download the my fitness pal app which you mentioned in another post. Thanks again

    • Reply
      Nate
      January 3, 2017 at 7:33 am

      That’s good to hear Lee! Stay consistent with MFP and you’ll learn a ton about your eating habits and how to improve them.

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