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Becoming a gentleman: Substance over form

Below are five key strategies that I believe you can master throughout your journey of becoming a gentleman of class and panache.

Article contribution by Nazirul Ridzuan

Picture: ©tmski

In my previous article, we’ve covered about setting our priorities right in becoming a bona fide gentleman instead of an empty suit. I believe that the term “gentleman” have evolved over time, to keep up with contemporary settings in relevance to technological advancement and the progress of civilization. In this modern age, a gentleman's way of life may not be entirely about self-gratification and materialism. In many ways, it has metamorphosed into holding oneself to high standards and being the best a man can be in terms of personal, professional, and relational success.

Below are five key strategies that I believe you can master throughout your journey of becoming a gentleman of class and panache.

1. Chasing Noble Pursuits, Not Skirts

First and foremost, as a man, you need to identify your purpose in life or your noble pursuit. In French expression they coined it “Noblesse Oblige” meaning an unwritten obligation of people from a noble ancestry to act honorably and generously to others. This concept can be applied by modern gentlemen regardless of birth and background. Consider having deep and clear understanding of your goals, both personal and professional, and commit all your time and energy to achieve it. I suggest using the classic yet effective S.M.A.R.T technique in setting up your goals.

When you look at some notable gentlemen from the likes of Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, Datuk Jimmy Choo and Raymond Tham, they are either pursuing something extraordinary or have accomplished outstanding achievements in life. Success stories of your noble pursuits will open door to more opportunities and attract people from various social class. Then, it’s up to you to decide which of those people you’d want to welcome into your circle.

2. Level Up Both Hard Skills and Soft Skills

Pursuing personal and professional goals would require mastery of both hard skills and soft skills, which are considered to be an important asset for a gentleman. To simply put, hard skills are teachable skills that can be quantified or measured such as learning foreign languages, financial management and digital marketing etc. Whereas soft skills refer to an individual’s social ability and how they relate to and interact with other people such as emotional intelligence, manners & etiquette, leadership etc.

Furthermore, a gentleman must have a mindset of lifelong learning and continuously educate himself. He should be able to engage with other people confidently and engage in any topic of conversation even though he is not the subject matter expert. Having both extensive general knowledge and mastering the art of communication are crucial in building rapport and networking. A decent fictional example would be James Bond. The famous MI6 spy would display his ability in utilizing both skill types to complete those near-impossible missions and sometimes his side missions, the Bond girls.

Picture: ©finder

3. Become Part of a Gentleman Community

Before you think about surrounding yourself with the ladies, focus on associating yourself with likeminded gentlemen first. This strategy would provide much better results and would benefit you in the long run. If you don’t know this fact already, let me tell you this, the world will never run out of beautiful women. They can wait.

Join a supportive community filled with gentlemen who encourages growth, celebrate each other’s achievements, and participate in knowledge sharing. You should do your part by being actively engage with the community members and regularly contribute ideas. Remember, if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, go together.

4. Develop Strong Financial Literacy

This is crucial yet often overlooked. Financial literacy is an important skill that every gentleman should master, which will lead to financial freedom and access for the best things that life can offer. A steady positive cashflow and profitable investments can put your mind at ease and help you to achieve financial freedom much faster.

Here are some quick-wins in developing strong financial literacy:

  • Conquer the basics: this includes understanding how to create a budget, track your spending, and manage your debt. You can learn these basics, via books, blogs and YouTube.

  • Master your own finances: the more you know about your finances, the better equipped you will be to make informed decisions. You should take some time to understand your bank statements, monitor your credit report, and research different financial products that suit your needs.

  • Talk to a financial advisor: if you're really struggling with your finances, you may consider reaching out to a financial advisor. They are professionals who can help assess your financial situation and develop a plan to reach your financial goals.

  • Subscribe to financial news: the world of finance is constantly changing, therefore it's important to stay up-to-date on the latest news as this will help you make informed decisions and avoid making financial mistakes.

The most valuable commodity I know of is information.

Gordon Gekko

© Wall Street (1987), 20th Century Fox

5. A Gentleman Never Boast

Please remember this rule because you’d want to avoid coming as self-absorbed or a narcissist. Let other people acknowledge you as a gentleman, because then it would be a solid proof and pure testament of their observation and experience towards your behavior, intelligence, and appearance as a refined gentleman.

Being a gentleman is not an entitlement but it’s a privilege that must be earned. It’s also a lifelong journey, not a destination. I’m sure you’ve heard some sayings such as “chivalry is dead’, or “a gentleman is a rare/dying breed” and so on. Gentlemen, it’s our duty to take up this mantle and prove the world wrong. It’s our noblesse oblige to be of service to society and adapt to any circumstances without sacrificing the values and qualities of a refined gentleman.

6. Suit Up, Gentlemen! (Bonus)

Not a key strategy but a bonus indeed, you’re encouraged to always dress up for the occasion and remember that there’s no such thing as being overdressed. A spruced up gentleman will make a positive impression, and people will noticed that he cared about how he present himself to the world. In many cases, your appearance can affect how people perceive you and treat you. For example, if you are trying to get a job, you may have a better chance at nailing the interview by scoring that first impression. It can also help boost your confidence. Because when you look your best, you'll automatically feel your best. This can lead to increased confidence and helped paved the way in all areas of your life.

Nevertheless, I have always emphasize that the appearance of a gentleman is the least important aspect if you’re in it for the long term, because first impressions can only lasts when a gentleman has substance to back it up. An empty suit will get recognized first, but then will soon be forgotten.

Remember this mantra to your dying breath: “SUBSTANCE OVER FORM


Nazirul Ridzuan

I had just finished my tertiary education and was about to embark on a career in the financial industry when these exact words spoken by Harry “Galahad” Hart in Kingsman (2014), hit me with an epiphany. I have always find solitude in writing, most of the time privately, and when crafting assiduous captions on social media. Writing helps stimulate creative thinking and develop the ability to express myself effectively.

Currently, I am enjoying my endeavor at a fund management company in Kuala Lumpur, and having accumulated experience in project management and strategy. Outside my corporate journey, I am an agropreneur specializing in cultivation of the “King of Fruits”.

I aspire to become a CFA charterholder and a business leader. My passion includes networking, travelling, stoicism and lifelong learning.

Instagram: @nzrlrdzn

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