Book Review: The Sovereign Man by James Maverick

 

I've finished reading The Sovereign Man by James Maverick (of Maverick Made Man and Maverick Traveler) and it warrants a review.

 

But before I get into that, it's worth explaining how I discovered the author and why he's relevant to this blog.

 

I can only describe the time that I found the blog 'Maverick Traveler' as apposite...almost eerily so. I had just quit my job as a copywriter at a modest PR and marketing firm and was seeking change. I had a plan to develop a steady source of location-independent income and move to Latin America. I had it narrowed down to two cities: Mexico City or Rio de Janeiro.

 

Naturally, I hit the Internet.

 

Brazil-related search terms led me to his site, and the first post I read was called 'Random thoughts on Brazil.' I was impressed by his analysis of the country so I read on. My interest was piqued anew upon finding out that he had quit his job to live life on his own terms, did a stint in Mexico City, and that many of his observations and preferences regarding travel aligned with my own.

 

I was an avid reader from the time I started working to bolster my online income, up until the time I left to live in Mexico City. The Maverick Traveler blog was a big reason I stuck to my goals instead of saying 'fuck it'...something that was not easy to do while trying to get by on the $1000-or-less a month I was making when I began this journey.

 

I'd largely forgotten about the blog until recently, when I saw on Twitter that Maverick had published a book.

 

What follows is not a book review in the traditional sense. Instead, I've taken quotes from each section of his book and have described how these quotes relate to my own life and/or have provided me with actionable advice. This is the way I believe book reviews on self-betterment should be approached. It lets people know in very clear terms how the book has benefited you, and an extensive breakdown of the key points lets you as the reader process, implement and refer back to the book's advice more effectively. This is how to maximize the value of the book (more on value later).

 

 

Introduction:

Quote:

The realization that there existed this powerful effect of desire was a watershed moment in my life, forcing me to relentlessly scrutinize and restructure everything I thought I knew about life and relationships. I realized that a lot of my energy was being spent on useless things, things that wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever in anyone’s life.

...I realized that I couldn’t convince people to do something that they didn't want to do in the first place.

He relates the above quotes to (among other things) a girl in the Ukraine that he failed to coordinate a meeting with, despite her being seemingly interested over text message. He experiences frustration and confusion at the time, but upon reflecting on it undergoes a kind of epiphany, realizing that "I was the product and she simply wasn't buying."

 

How It Relates To My Life:

I read the introduction to The Sovereign Man at a time when it was inescapably relevant to a situation I was in with a woman. I had been hooking-up with this nice young gal over the course of a few months when all of a sudden she dropped off the map. Although I didn't want anything serious with her and I was under the impression she was on the same page, we did go on dates and I had met her friends and some members of her family. I sent a few texts over the next week that were either met with no response, or perfunctory, curt replies. Before reading the advice italicized in the above quotes, my first reaction would have been confrontation: What's going on? Why are you being distant? etc.

Instead, I though about what value she was adding to my life and whether or not this was even something I wanted to continue. I quickly determined that she wasn't adding much. Sure, she was a nice girl and the sex was decent. But she was nothing special. I was doing the same with other girls of similar quality, and she was not someone I would consider for a serious relationship. I decided to do what Maverick refers to later on in his book as a 'withdrawal test.' I simply stopped contact. If she wanted to continue, she knew how to reach me. If she didn't, I was suddenly OK with that.

Most men, out of pride or curiosity, need to know why a girl has cut ties with them. This is often regardless of their feelings toward the girl. The truth is, this is not relevant. People have things going on in their lives that you can't possibly know. There are variables you can't anticipate. If you are a good-looking, stable, successful businessman, but the girl you are seeing wants a struggling artist that she has romanticized in her mind, there is not much you can do. You should not try to convince her. Instead, focus on someone who admires and respects the value you bring to the table. She is not buying what you are selling, and you cannot convince someone to do what they do not want to do.

This mindset shift helped me accept that the connection between us had run its course. I harbour no negative feelings toward the girl. I'm not up at night wondering what happened or what could have been. And I am better off because of it.

 

 

Value:

Quote:

"For any relationship to be worth it, people need to be valuable to each other. As soon as one party feels that they're being cheated out of their time because the other person's value is relatively low, they will substitute that time with someone else."

"...value is highly relative and contextual. For someone to be valuable to you, he or she must be able to do what you need or want." 

In this section, Maverick explains the concept of value and how it functions in relationships (romantic or otherwise). He also lays down some strong guidelines about how to increase one's value in any given context.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

Upon reading this chapter, I immediately thought of someone I met in a hostel shortly after arriving in Mexico City. He introduced himself to me as a photojournalist who works in conflict zones, and explained that he was in Mexico to cover the drug violence. Since I am rather well read about the drug war here and have an interest in journalism (I used to write for an online men's magazine, but have never considered it to be a viable career option for me), I was immediately interested. He was someone who I thought could add value to my life.

However, after a number of conversations about his work, many things didn't add up. His stories and timelines were inconsistent and contradictory. I began to question whether he was really a war photographer.

A google search of his name determined that he wasn't. He had an extremely small body of work in obscure online magazines, none of which had anything to do with combat photography. I went a step further and reversed image searched the photos on his personal website. All of the pictures from war zones were stolen from award winning photographers. He was a fraud.

Nevertheless, I kept him around. I didn't let on that I knew about his lies, and continued to get the occasional drink with him. However, after a few months I stopped contacting him altogether.

This chapter allowed me to realize that our failed friendship was directly related to value. Initially, I was seeking his friendship because I believed that he was valuable to me because of his journalistic experience. But as soon as I realized he was a fraud, that value was diminished and I felt as though I was wasting my time. The value I brought to him was companionship - it was clear that he didn't have many close friends in the city. I imagine this was his motivation for keeping in touch.

My error was keeping him around for a second longer after discovering that he was a liar. I now possess the framework for these situations to not make the same mistake again.

 

 

Time:

Quote:

"By choosing how we manage our time, we communicate our value relative to someone else’s."

"...Once you understand how to skillfully use and manage your own time, you can begin to use it as a weapon to influence others. When you use your time as a weapon, you use it to reward or punish people." 

This section discusses the concept of time, and how it can be used to demonstrate value. This is done by organizing priorities, taking action and by procuring attention.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

I have always struggled with allocating my time; I never feel like I am using it efficiently enough. For instance, when I began working toward earning an online income through copywriting and proofreading, I would often work for what amounted to as little as $12 an hour. And that's in Canadian dollars. I know that we all have to start somewhere, but the truth is that I didn't need to be working for that little, even as an amateur. The problem wasn't so much that I was undercharging or being underpaid, it was simply because I wasn't using my time efficiently. I was taking arbitrary breaks or fucking around on YouTube.

Since reading Maverick's section on time, I impose strict time deadlines on myself that prevent me from working for anything less than about $25 an hour (this may seem too low for some, but we all have our own personal standards). I treat these deadlines as though they were a boss. I act as though if I do not meet my time regulations, I will be fired and out of a job. Since doing this, not only do I have more free time and make more money, but my customer reviews have improved.

I have also applied this time management formula to people. I no longer agree to meet anyone on short notice, and I don't make sacrifices for people that don't respect my time. I was recently seeing a girl who would only ever agree to meet me at times and on days that were convenient for her (usually weekday evenings). After adjusting my schedule a number of times and realizing her utter unwillingness to do the same, I cut her out of my life. Or, like the above quote says, I used my time to 'punish' her. Unsurprisingly, she is now all of a sudden willing to compromise.

 

 

Standards:

Quote:

"Possessing standards is important because they establish you as a high value man in two crucial ways. First, by serving as a filter, standards force you to be more selective with the kind of people and places that you bless with your valuable time and attention. Second, by erecting standards you effectively change how others perceive you."

"...Standards are a filter of value." 

The discussion in this section centres around how developing standards are crucial in the quest of becoming a high value man. Maverick discusses and gives examples of how his standards have increased over time.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

I can think of many examples of how standards play a role in my life, but upon reading this chapter one recent incident in a nightclub came to mind.

About a month ago, two friends from Canada came to visit me in Mexico City. They aren't particularly close friends of mine, but they are good people and I was looking forward to talking in English and asking them about what was happening in my hometown.

One night after their arrival, they expressed interest in going to a nightclub to meet some girls. I was hesitant. These two have - for lack of a better term - an anti-talent for picking up women. However, I agreed to go, knowing that they would likely never set foot in the city again and should at least get a taste of the nightlife before leaving (the first warning sign came after one of my friends complained when I told him he wouldn't be let into the club dressed in shorts...).

When we arrive, one of my friends immediately starts dancing and talking up the two ugliest and heaviest girls in the venue. Knowing his shortcomings with women paired with the fact that he has only ever had sex with two girls (he's 26), I decided to do him a favour and be his wingman/translator. I do this for a few minutes until he's comfortable before leaving to try my luck with other girls.

Little did I know I had just committed social suicide.

I struck out on each approach. Not a single average or good-looking girl in the club seemed to want anything to do with me.

Normally, I experience great success at this bar. I've probably been there more than a dozen times and I scarcely leave without a number or a girl. However, by ignoring my own standards for the sake of my friend's, I had irreparably diminished my value. That night, we all returned home alone.

If I had read this section prior to going out, I would have made sure to control the environment, and dictate my night. This would have produced better results for me, and better results for my friends. Instead, I dropped my standards and allowed myself to be grouped with low value people. This made me low value by association and, in turn, my evening was wasted.

 

 

Interviewer:

Quote:

"When it comes to interviewing, it’s important that you must be curious about something that’s beyond the actual person; you have to be interested in something that they represent or are associated with."

"...A conversation, like any other human interaction, must be an equal exchange of value." 

Here, Maverick talks about how the purpose of an interview is to bring you closer to a greater goal (professional, personal or relationship goal). This section transitions nicely into his next chapter on entitlement.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

Every interaction in life is an interview. Effectively, life is a series of shit tests. The trick is to be the shit tester instead of the shit tested. I remember coincidently employing the same advice laid down in this chapter well before this book helped me understand it. 

Several months ago, I went on a date with a woman I'd met online. And when I say woman, I mean it: she was a high-powered lawyer for Red Bull, and beautiful with an incredible body. Upon seeing her in person, I'll admit I was intimidated.

We met at a tea house in a fancy part of the city and as soon as I sat down she began grilling me like I was in the witness box: What do you do for work? Why do you do it? Is there a reason you came to live in Mexico? This would have been difficult enough if she hadn't been conducting the entire thing in Spanish, which at the time I was only semi proficient in. For awhile, I struggled with her questions, attempting to justify my reasons for setting foot in her country and my approach to making money.

I could feel it wasn't going well.

So, I decided to flip it on her. I simply began to ignore her test questions and started asking her about herself, her job, her life. Anything. She was sharp and caught on to what I was doing, and for a short time it became a war of attrition. It made for an odd scene, but I remained charming, and she eventually melted when I expressed interest in her home state of Veracruz and got her talking about it.

It's only now that I know what was at play here: as a strong woman likely used to getting what she wants, she was interviewing me to determine if I was worthy of her time. I wasn't selling myself very well in Spanish and it was evident that the date was going downhill fast. So what did I do? I became the interviewer. I stopped allowing her to consider if I was worthy of her time by instead making her prove that she was worthy of mine. We went on three fun dates after that, a result that likely wouldn't have happened if I had allowed the interview to continue (if your curious, I eventually ended it because I wasn't willing to keep up with her expensive lifestyle).

At the time I stumbled on this strategy by luck, and I didn't have any idea what worked or why it worked. Through this chapter, Maverick helped me process exactly why my conduct functioned to my advantage.

 

 

Entitlement:

Quote:

"One thing I always noticed about high value men is that they possess this inherent sense of entitlement to everything, most commonly information, money, and women."

"....Unlike some of the other self-improvements that can take months and even years to master, getting comfortable with entitlement is like flipping a mental switch." 

Entitlement is about feeling as though you deserve what you want. In this section, Maverick explains how it is often a lack of entitlement that prevents men from getting what they truly seek from life.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

This chapter causes me to think about work. Particularly, my journey to earning an online income. The biggest hurdle for me when I started freelancing was setting my rate of pay. Having never worked exclusively as a freelancer, I had no idea what my work was worth. Reading Maverick's section on entitlement has allowed me to approach this problem with a different mindset.

I used to think in terms of what other people might think my work was worth, and I would often try to adjust my rate with that in mind. However, I now realize that my work is worth whatever I deem appropriate based on my own standards (assuming there is a market that will pay for it, of course). This new found sense of entitlement didn't arise from some grand compliment I received from a client or advice from someone else. Rather, it came from within. I now earn more because of this, and am no longer perceived as an amateur. As the above quote says, "getting comfortable with entitlement is like flipping a mental switch." All it takes is confidence, which is, conveniently, discussed in the next chapter of the book.

 

 

Confidence:

Quote:

"An excellent way to alleviate both internal and external doubts is by being busy."

"...Experience is the father of confidence...."

Confidence is about plunging into unknown environments and situations. It is about taking action and seizing what you desire. Maverick explains that the long road to developing confidence can only be completed by ameliorating internal and external doubt. And he's absolutely right.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

I'm introverted and antisocial by nature. For this reason, I've always had trouble cold approaching women at bars. Only within the past two years or so have I started to be a bit bolder, but even now I tend to mainly approach women who are giving me indicators of interest.

In this chapter, Maverick's commentary regarding eliminating internal and external doubts resonated with me in an important way. It allowed me to understand that the fear and hesitation I have before starting a conversation with a beautiful woman stems from factors that are out of control, i.e. her reaction. It is a waste of time to let variables you can't control dictate actions that you can control (talking to the girl in the first place). Of course, this doesn't apply cleanly to every area of life - you wouldn't ignore the possible consequences of walking into oncoming traffic simply because you might not get hit by a car.

But when you think about the 'consequences' of approaching a cute girl, there are none. Rejection only means your no worse off than where you started. Since internalizing this, I am much more confident in my interactions with women. I'm still not where I'd like to be, but each day I am growing my confidence through experience.

 

 

Confrontation:

Quote:

"There's really no such thing as having a comfortable, stress-free life, and at the same time having freedom to live on your own terms."

"...The only limitations that should prevent you from getting what you want should be either legal or physical in nature."

Here, Maverick discusses how progress comes from embracing conflict, and how the experience from one confrontation or stressful incident can translate into productivity in other areas of life.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

I only gained confidence in myself after embracing conflict. Quitting my job was confrontational. Subsequently pursuing clients was confrontational. Approaching women is confrontational. It's only relatively recently that I have started doing any of these things, and it is only recently that I have felt more self-assured and have gained more control over my life.

This chapter has encouraged me not only to stop avoiding conflict, but to actively seek it. Growth is birthed in struggle. Now, this doesn't mean that I'm going to pick a fight with a narco - that's a different kind of confrontation that I want nothing to do with. However, it does mean that I am not going to let the potential of being embarrassed or turned down prevent me from accomplishing my goals. These are not legitimate excuses.

 

 

Presence:

Quote:

"The owner mentality is about having complete control of any environment."

"...The owner mentality is also about having options and alternatives."

This section discusses the importance of having a strong presence in controlling your situation, and getting what you want out of any environment.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

This chapter made me think about how I can increase my presence. Since I'm not large in stature (6'0, 175 lb.), I'm not immediately noticed when I enter a room. I found that, for me, my presence increased naturally as long as I maintained my sense of entitlement. 

I decided to condition myself in an effort to engage this entitlement. I would go to a cafe and order a coffee. When the waiter brought it to me, I would ask him or her for cream. Awhile later, I would flag them down and ask for more sugar. And then napkins. It didn't matter what I asked for. The point was to get comfortable with being served, and be aware of the fact that, as a paying customer, I was entitled to a certain level of service.

This translates to bars and nightclubs as well. Now, as soon as I enter a crowded club. I walk straight to the bar to get a drink. I don't fuck around with checking out the 'scene' or girl to guy ratio or any of that. If people are sitting by the bar and preventing me from gaining access, I look them straight in the eyes and say 'excuse me' (eye contact is also a good way of increasing presence). In this case, knowing what I'm entitled to allows me more control over my environment.

I also now make sure that, wherever I am, all of my actions are deliberate. I never wander aimlessly around a nightclub or even a supermarket. If I don't like a bar or a club, I will leave instead of waiting to see if it will improve. I make a point of never appearing uncertain of my actions. I've noticed that people have started respecting my space much more since doing this.

 

 

Nonchalant:

Quote:

"It's easier to find someone who's excited about an idea than to spend lots of time convincing someone who is merely lukewarm or completely apathetic, the same way it's easier to seduce a new girl than to convince a girl who has rejected you to give you another chance."

"...The test of withdrawal is. . . your way of answering the following question: “If I remove myself from the situation and nothing changes, then how much did my presence really contribute?"

This is my favourite section of the book. Maverick describes being nonchalant as focusing on actions that are likely to yield results, and not wasting your time on things that aren't likely to work out.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

Sometimes, less is more. This chapter introduces a brilliantly simple concept that has saved me a great deal of time and energy: the withdrawal test.

As I mentioned earlier, I conducted a withdrawal test to see if the girl I was seeing wanted to continue our relationship. Instead of expending unnecessary effort to figure out what was going through her head, I simply dropped out of the conversation to get the only answer I needed. I've since been conducting subtle withdrawal tests on girls that I have text message conversations with, and it's proved to be a highly efficient filtering method. In the context of dating, men often wonder if a girl is interested in them. I'm finding that a withdrawal test conducted at the appropriate time is often all you need to determine this.

This chapter also brought to mind political debates that I have had with my Canadian roommate here in Mexico City. On most issues, I tend to be right wing (conservative) whereas he is staunchly left. In the past, we used to get into arguments that would sometimes last more than an hour, and usually end up with him attacking me personally or claiming that all conservatives are 'stupid' or 'racists.' I now refuse to engage in these debates with him. They are a waste of my time because I know I will never change his views, nor do I care to. I realize that my energy is better focused on other things. By adopting a 'nonchalant' attitude, I can select only the confrontations that I will grow from and ignore all the other nonsense.

 

 

Kingdom:

Quote:

"The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I’d spent a lot of time in other people’s kingdoms instead of building my own."

In his final section, Maverick talks about building your own kingdom to gain freedom and begin to live a life on your own terms.

 

How It Relates To My Life:

This chapter took me right back to the beginning, when I decided to quit my job and move to Latin America. The Maverick Traveler's blog helped me get started, and his book "The Sovereign Man" has provided me with motivation to persevere.

 

 

Conclusion:

You may have noticed that I haven't spent a great deal of time discussing things like the structure or quality of writing of this book, instead choosing to focus on my own experiences. If this came off as self-indulgent, forgive me - it wasn't my intent. My goal in writing this review was simply to provide concrete examples of how this book has added value to my life and, by extension, how it may be able to add value to yours. Trust me when I say I'm not the kind of person who would dedicate this many words to a review unless I received the same or more value from the book.

If you want to become a man of high value and live life on your own terms, there is no better place to start than with James Maverick's The Sovereign Man.

 

5/5

 

*To buy the book, visit his website at: https://maverickmademan.com/