Four ways to tie a tie

June 18, 2006

Being on the west coast, I don't wear ties very often.  Going to church, weddings, funerals, and the occassional party is about it.  Every time I need to put on a tie, though, I panic because I have this feeling that there is some kind of tie magic that everyone else has and that I don't have.  I tie bad ties.  So, on this quiet Sunday, I decided that I was going to learn how to tie a tie… four ways!

Here's a website that explains the four ways: Learn how to tie a tie.

The four ways are:

  1. Windsor Knot: A thick professional knot.  The one I was taught.
  2. Half Windsor Knot: A modest version of the Windsor… good for thick ties.
  3. Four in Hand Knot: A narrow, more discreet knot.
  4. Pratt Knot (aka the Shelby Knot): A medium knot.

There's a video for sale on his site too.  Seems a little silly.  Here are a few funny videos (with encouraging soundtracks) I found on YouTube that might help… 

You're on your own with the Pratt knot, I guess.


A flask makes you feel old and young at the same time.  One one hand, children rarely carry flasks.  They're reserved more for serious alcoholics and snobs.  On the other hand, you can now sneak alcohol into any event.  It gives you the exhilaration of possibly doing something secret and wrong that reminds me (at least) of younger days.  Carrying a flask around you for a couple weeks (if you don't already) will give you a new perspective on public and private spaces.  If you don't drink alcohol, fill it with apple juice.  It doesn't matter!

What is the difference between being in a rut and being on vacation? Why do the streets seem different in Paris than they do in your current city? Why do people in Paris have to go somewhere else on vacation? It all comes down to what your mind chooses to filter out and what it chooses to let through. Consciousness only registers change… things that stay the same eventually disappear from your consciousness (even if you liked those things and want them to stick around) and a little subconscious robot stands guard next to that unchanging thing and waits for it to move. As soon as it does (BING!) a little message gets sent to your mind telling you that that sign you walk by every day is now a new color (even though you don't remember what color it was before). This is a subtle point: there is no direct way around this. You can't stare at a dot on the wall forever without it disappearing. This is your brain being efficient… it's a tool that we cannot control that helps us have enough resources to pay attention to things that matter right now.

The twist with this tip is that even when you're on vacation, you're still with yourself. How do you see yourself as if you were visiting yourself for the first time? How can you take that feeling of exploring a new city and focus that feeling on yourself in such a way that you notice all those things about yourself that subconscious robots are standing guard at and keeping from your conscious mind?

The first exercise that is an easy one to do (and which future exercises will be more specific about) is to simply find some way of changing your appearance. Shave that beard. Grow a beard. Dye your hair. Paint your fingernails. Lose 10 pounds.  A simple change like this will send ripples of subconscious robots sending messages to you whenever you see yourself in a reflection as you're walking down the street. Hey, that's me! I look different!

A curious side effect is that other people will see you as well. Some people say that doing things like this is "merely for attention" and in a way they're right. Attention is the primary currency of the consciousness… it's more valuable than money and can't be saved in a bank. People who fight for attention are simply addicts for the rush that attention brings… attention is what creates revelation and analysis and change. Most people aren't attention whores… and I would only advise this tip to someone that typically resists or is afraid of attention. But for the right person, mixing up your appearance and getting a little attention could be just the thing that makes you realize that there are a lot of things about yourself that you've stopped noticing. Sweep out those subconscious robots and maybe you'll catch a glimpse of what's actually going on with your appearance, your presentation, your body language, your tone of voice, and your approach to life.

There's no reason anymore to wear a watch other than to complement a fashion choice.  And if you're wearing a watch for appearances, there's no need for the watch to work.  So, wear a watch only if it's broken.

Watches are training wheels for learning how to live within a world demarkated by timed periods.  And yet, they are addictive.  People with watches, when you suggest they stop wearing one, will look longingly at their wrist, perhaps cup the watch and their wrist in their other hand, and say, "But I like wearing a watch."  It's an emotional decision, but if you ask them why they like wearing their watch, most likely they will confabulate a logical reason for their literal attachment.  Usually: I need to know what time it is in order to keep my appointments.

Though I've conducted no scientific studies on the matter, I am fairly confident that there is no correllation between people who wear watches and people who are punctual.  In fact, wearing a watch may give you a false sense of control over time… even if you're going to be late you'll know exactly how late you are when you arrive.  Being punctual is  an important trait to try and adopt, and is much better addressed directly.  In order to be on time, do not get a watch.  Instead, make a conscious effort to be realistic about time.  Study your own time predictions and see where your instinct is off.  Ask your friends if you are punctual and if you aren't then ask them how late you usually are.  I can categorize my friends into buckets based on how late they usually are: people who are on time, people who are 5 minutes late, people who are 15 minutes late, and people who are 30 minutes late.  People become consistent on this metric and subconsciously know how late they usually are and feel pressured to maintain that punctuality because that is what they have trained friends and family to expect from them.  But, one single adjustment of somewhere between 5 and 30 minutes could solve the punctuality problem forever.  It's not a watch thing.

So, I encourage everyone that wears a watch to stop wearing one for 30 days.  Your wrist will adjust.  You will find other ways to figure out the time (for example, you probably already have a cell phone with the time on it).  You will learn that understanding time can become an instinct and precision will not matter as much as the spirit with which you engage the time-driven world.  Ride ahead of it, don't be its bitch.