Grooming Yourself to Be Great, with Khoi Nguyen of The Gentleman Within

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kyle-ingham-distilled-man-interviewIn the Profiles in Confidence series I interview writers, bloggers and other guys who have generously agreed to share their stories, struggles, secrets and tips about using self-improvement to build self-confidence.

The series is designed to let you learn from their struggles, and provide a reminder that you’re not the only guy out there working to improve himself. Quite the opposite, actually: you’re surrounded by like-minded friends and brothers in arms.

For the latest instalment, I talked to Khoi Nguyen, founding editor of the excellent style blog Gentleman Within and author of the I Am a Gentleman Manifesto, both of which he created to help men dress better and feel their best.

Khoi believes that style is worth caring about, and we discussed the ways that style helped him become his best self – and how it can help you do the same.

On a scale of 1 to 10 – 1 being extremely low self-esteem and 10 being a Tony Robbins-level of confidence and self-worth – how would you rate your self-confidence right now?
Gentleman Within Founder Khoi Nguyen

This is hard to quantify in numbers, but if I had to, I’d say I’m somewhere between a 6 and 7 in confidence and self-worth.

There are definitely levels to this and much like emotional and mental state of mind, confidence comes and goes, wavering from time to time. I struggle like anyone else when it comes to self-confidence, and I know that I have a lot of growing to do.

There are times that I still doubt myself. It’s especially easy in a world where so much of our self-worth is predicated on external factors in the form of number of followers on social media or likes that we get.

Having confidence is definitely a mindset and is something that can be groomed. I believe the more you know about a subject and how well prepared you are can shape your level of confidence. For example, I’m more confident in some areas than others.

When it comes to my craft of design and menswear, my confidence grows by the day because I’m so immersed in it. It’s a huge part of my life.

The more you can immerse yourself into something you absolutely love, the higher your levels of confidence can grow.

On the same scale of 1 to 10, what would you your lowest number was? Where and when did your self-confidence bottom out?

I can’t say I’ve ever been a 3 or below just because I’m an optimist at heart and most of the times it’s difficult for an optimist to bottom out on self-confidence.

I’d say I had a pretty low self-confidence after I graduated college. I was accepted into a post-graduate internship at a NYC advertising agency for 3 months.

It was a rigorous program and the selection process was grueling. You’d think my confidence would be through the roof, but in all honesty, I felt like a hack, like I didn’t belong, that everyone else around me was so much more talented.

These were the things I told myself and I actually believed to be true. Everyone plays the comparison game. But yeah, it’s the story we tell ourselves on a daily basis that can dictate our confidence levels.

The years that followed, no matter how well I did, promotions that I got, it didn’t matter, I always had a feeling that I didn’t belong, that the ad world wasn’t for me. And I was right, but more on that later.

How did you get from where you were then to where you are now? What was that journey like for you?

I went from working in the ad world for a handful of years to slowly building a brand I can call my own.

I’ve been laid off twice, so I know the feeling all too well. The last time I was laid off my boss told me that it’s probably the worst day of my life and I was thinking to myself that it’s the best day of my life, because I saw the possibilities and I knew that I was meant for something different.

Something better for me. Something where I can utilize my abilities and experience and create something great, that’s fueled by passion and purpose. Gentleman Within was the best thing that I could have ever started. I want to spread the message that style is worth caring about and that through style you can improve in all areas of life.

For me the journey has been long and slow and it still is. I’m slowly growing and making my way in the industry, but I feel as if the work I’m creating is making a difference and that I am helping people.

My thought is that if I can help just one person, I’m doing a good job. Getting feedback from my followers, knowing that I am helping is what keeps me going. Nothing feels better than to know you’re making a positive difference in people’s lives.

The journey is long, but if I keep going I know I’ll find myself in a place I’m happy with…actually, I’m happy now. I’m having fun through the process and I think if you are having fun and enjoying the ride, that’s ultimately what it’s all about.

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During this period, when you were in the process of going from your lowest level of confidence to your current level, what would you say were your greatest challenges, fears or pitfalls?

Greatest challenges I’d say is consistently putting in the work, especially when I didn’t feel like doing it which can happen more often than you’d think.

I feared being broke, jobless, homeless and nothing to live for. I know, sounds pretty morose, but my mind tends to venture into worst case scenarios so that I know the feeling and do everything in my control to ensure that those things do not happen.

For me, it’s just to stay the course. I know the end game and where I want to go, and now it’s just execution and consistent action to get there.

It takes time…Rome wasn’t built in a day, neither is personal style and neither is going from the bottom to the top in terms of confidence.

How did you work to overcome these obstacles? What do you continue to do to beat back your fears and overcome obstacles?

I remind myself daily why it is that I’m doing what I’m doing. The hows and the whats are cool, but it’s the why that will get you to take action day in and day out.

Like Tony Robbins says, if you can get a big enough why, you can do anything. And everything really is ‘figureoutable’ and so when I’m confronted with something I don’t know about, I educate myself.

We have endless technology and knowledge at our fingertips, there really is no excuse not to learn whatever it is that we’re seeking to do. It’s a matter of getting off our asses and doing something about it.

Entrepreneur Gary Vee says that people complain way too much and what comes out of their mouths doesn’t align with their actions. He’s so right, I see it first hand with many of my friends and acquaintances.

People who say a lot, but in the end don’t put in the necessary work to get there. I myself was in that position for the longest time and it wasn’t until I found my why that I had this unquenchable thirst to keep pushing. Find your why, and the game changes.

On your blog Gentleman Within, you’ve written that, “Style is a foundation that can help you reach your greatest achievements.” What role has style played in the development of your confidence and your ability to achieve?

To me style served as a conduit. Simply put, ss I started caring about my appearance, the world around me began to change.

My eyes finally opened. I became confident. I went on more quality dates, I excelled at work, I earned more money, I quickly paid off all of my student debt, I learned to manage my money, and I achieved a level of happiness that money can’t buy.

Essentially I improved in all areas of my life. And I owe it to a simple shift in thinking. Learning how to dress well taught me how to see and it really did change my life.

But as I said before, there are levels to confidence and gaining high levels of confidence comes from so much more than how you dress.

If you could go back and make the journey again, what would you do differently?

If I could go back and do it all again, I would get started sooner.

Easy to say now, but time is our most valuable asset and I can honestly say I wasted so many years doing something I didn’t truly love.

Besides starting sooner, I wouldn’t take anything back, because as cliche as it is, everything that I am today is because of where I’ve been and so, it’s a process and I’m still in process.

It’s lifelong learning, experimenting and not knowing because when you can admit that that you’ll never know everything, that’s the key. To humble yourself and let go of the ego.

The state of unknowing and that every single day is an opportunity for growth, that’s how we get better and become more confident day by day.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get from a low level of self-confidence to high one?

This is a long one. For me confidence is something that comes with preparation and the more you know.

For example, if I were to give a presentation to a room of hundreds, on a topic that I know very little about, or that I am not passionate about, then I wouldn’t feel confident that I could deliver a rousing talk. A little bit of preparation goes a long way.

I think confidence comes over time, and when you become great at something, the more confident you become in yourself and your abilities and the less you care about external factors and learn to trust and believe in yourself regardless of others’ opinions.

You become self motivated and that confidence is cultivated in a way that no one can take it away from you.

You can always fake it till ya make it. But I like the idea of making it till you make it. By that I mean to create.

Instead of spending your days consuming content (TV, reading blogs, endlessly scrolling through various social media feeds, etc…) take the time to figure out what it is that drives you. When you go all in on your passions, the whole game changes.

A world of opportunities begins to open up that you never realized were even possible. I say this from experience with deciding to go all-in on my blog, Gentleman Within, and growing my brand with genuine patience.

It’s been one of the best decisions of my life and I think that anyone is capable of creating. As humans we’re all meant for so much more than coming home after a long day’s work and bingeing one tv show to the next, hopping from one app to the next.

If you’re always reading self-help material, I’d say implement what you consume immediately. It’s been said that we tend to forget more than 95% of the things that we don’t implement right away.

It’s not worth it to waste time reading about doing better, being better and not taking actions to actually get better. And finally, it’s been said many times, but try to spend more time creating than consuming.

That’s the key.

Anything else related to self-confidence or self-improvement you’d like to share with our readers?

Sure. I’d say that self-confidence, self-worth or any other type of mood or feelings that we as humans can feel is something that can be worked on.

We can groom ourselves to be great. I think confidence comes with mastery of a given topic. The more you can immerse yourself into something you love, the greater your chances of becoming the most self-assured, confident and best version of yourself possible.

Connect with Khoi:

Instagram: @thegentwithin

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About Dave Bowden

Dave Bowden

Irreverent Gent founder Dave Bowden is a style blogger whose advice on how to look good and live well has been featured in some of the world’s most trusted publications, including New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider and more.

When not obsessing over style and self-improvement, he can usually be found spending time with his wonderful wife and sons, indulging in a hoppy craft beer, or sobbing over the woeful state of Toronto's sports teams.

Check out Dave's Style Story to find out how a chance encounter with his friend's step-dad taught him the value of looking good and living well. (Don't worry—it's less creepy than it sounds!)

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