The Bar, the Blonde, and You
There’s a scene in the movie A Beautiful Mind, when the John Nash character explains the best way for he and his colleagues to get laid.
A blonde walks into the bar with a group of brunette friends. Nash’s colleagues start ogling her and making stupid comments.
Have you remembered nothing?
Recall the lessons of Adam Smith,
father of modern economics.
In competition, individual ambition
serves the common good.
Every man for himself gentleman.
Those who strike out
are stuck with her friends.
Nash stares at the blonde and Hollywood jumps in with voiceovers and special effects as Nash makes a breakthrough and starts monologuing.
Adam Smith needs revision.
If we all go for the blonde . . .
We block each other.
Not a single one of us is going to get her.
So then we go for her friends,
but they will all give us the cold
shoulder, because nobody likes to be
What if none of us go for the blonde?
We don’t get in each other’s way
and we don’t insult the other girls.
That’s the only way we win. That’s
the only way we all get laid.
Adam Smith said the best result
comes from everyone in the group
doing what’s best for himself.
Incomplete . . . Incomplete . . .
The best result will come from
everyone in the group doing what’s
best for himself and the group.
However, this only applies to Nash’s colleagues. There are four of them and four brunettes. If their goal is to get laid they can’t help other men in the bar, because they’d lower the odds, with a greater man to woman ratio (all off this living under the assumption that the women even give a crap about men whose maturity levels are as low as their IQ’s are high).
We see this outside the bar, too. There are certain circles in which I often see the same authors endorse each other. By supporting each other’s work, the idea is that they help grow the success of each individual and the group.
Yes and no.
This can help grow an audience if that’s the goal. If the goal is selling a book or anything else that requires monetary transaction, then it isn’t as simple.
Let’s go back to Nash’s bar.
Instead of pulling apart the women, let’s look at the men.
Maybe one of the men is egotistical, another is lazy, another a slob, and yet another a bully—and all are disrespectful.
The four men make comments that get other men in the bar laughing and joking.
Now our four guys helped each other out, and in doing so helped garner a larger following of the group. The other guys at the bar love them and can’t wait for them to come back. But the women… They’ve moved on to more mature pastures.
So have our guys really succeeded?
No. It’s a false positive.
They think they’ve found success, but it isn’t really success. It becomes what they accept instead of what they need. They can hang with the same like-minded group all day, but what they need is to expand. Unfortunately for them, that audience isn’t interested in buying their B.S. They’re investing in short-term followers instead of long-term buyers.
Now let’s look at all the extras in the bar—and let’s assume they are viewing the movie example, when the guys get the girls.
If they’re paying attention, they can see what the main group has going on, and they want in on it. In their eyes, if they are in with the in crowd, they’ll “go where the in crowd goes” and “know what the in crowd knows.”
But . . . Can (and/or should) the group hold the extra weight? If the group is 20 instead of four men, and the number of women hits 20 as well, the problem then becomes time.
Each member of the group now has 19 instead of three others to help.
Let’s get out of the bar and back to the office.
If you’re an author, helping three people as needed is sometimes doable. Guaranteeing help to 19 is not. What do you do? You start saying no because you’re an author first and if you are helping 19 people every time they call, you aren’t doing your work, which is the one thing you have to do above all else. You also consider your circles because even though you can’t help all 19 all of the time, working with a few at a time might be doable. You start thinking in Venn Diagrams instead, because working with others is a good move and if all those circles are moving, different people will circulate through that sweet overlap.
If you’re one of the extras wanting to get into the group, you learn about the group first. You do your own work and get yourself to their level before you try to stick your foot in their door. You respect their time and you don’t behave poorly if they say no to you. You keep doing your work. You keep improving. You develop your own network.
The Nash-through-the-lens-of-Hollywood theory stands on solid ground. You have to take care of yourself first, but there are great opportunities available when you collaborate with others. Just make sure to avoid the false positive barflies. They’re good for laughs, but you need more than laughs.
Love it. I cannot be of true help in the world unless I am strong/powerful/capable of first taking care of myself. Without my own degree of success, the people I’d introduce another artist/entrepreneur/creative would be my friends and family.
Smell like Amway…next thing you know I am asking someone to host a party at their home in which I can draw circles on some butcher paper.
With a degree of success, I actually have something of value to the group–repeat customers for example–that I can e-introduce to my colleagues.
Loved this Callie – I remember that scene from the movie and I can’t think of a better illustration for this post. As always, thanks!
Excellent insight. I agree 100% with the approach of not trying to enter a circle before you have done and raised your work to the level of those in that circle. My question is, as a writer, when do you seek out mentorship (if at all) from those in that circle? To me it seems that blogs like this are the safest way to do that with no intrusion into the circle.
I think that Nash here has stumbled upon a false dichotomy.
Helping yourself is defacto helping the group. A writer creating a best seller in a sub-genre automatically helps all other writers in that sub-genre.
When 50 Shades became a bestseller, it’s not as if E.L. James could have (even if she wanted to) told readers not to read other billionaire romance/erotica stories.
In fact, this category is still selling strong.
But, let’s bring it back to the blonde. My theory is that you’ve got to make the blonde want you, and to do that, you’ve got to make yourself not only desirable to her, but better than than the four friends chasing her (or thinking about it) which brings us full circle to the fact that to get the blonde, you have to concentrate on your own best interest.
What I think people forget is that gorgeous blondes (or famous writers/directors/influencers) have nearly unlimited choices when it comes to dance partners.
Doesn’t mean you cannot (or shouldn’t) pursue them, it just means that you’re wasting your time until you’re in the same league as the rest of the competitors that have a shot. Think “The Bachelor” or it’s counterpart show…somebody is going home with somebody…
And that’s what the best take away, I think, from above:
“You do your own work and get yourself to their level before you try to stick your foot in their door.”
When it comes to blondes, never ask one a question unless you’re 99% sure the answer will be “yes” because even asking her if she knows where the restrooms are located has the subtext “will you have sex with me.”
So any “ask” –even a simple one– has a good metric:
Remember that you’re really asking for the person to get into bed/business/relationship and so they’re going to evaluate the question: “Coffee?”–not whether they want caffeine–but whether they want a second date (which means you’re never really asking a blonde to Starbucks, you’re asking her to bed).
Good post, and I dig that you embedded a film clip, thanks for the extra.
I think Troy’s question captures one situation I have seen often. That is, people often hold the belief that their best way to become excellent is to learn from the best or be mentored by the best. So they seek help from Steven Pressfield, or a one-on-one with Seth Godin, or the equivalent.
My answer to that inclination is that people should seek the best help actually available to them. While the best writers may not be available to coach the many, there are venues and people, writing teachers and editors, who do make a business of coaching. In lieu of seeking favors from someone who has no time for you, one has the option of paying someone who offers such a service.
The second situation I have seen is people who think (often mistakenly) that they have actually arrived and just need someone in a high place to notice them. Again, I think such a writer should be willing to pay someone for a critique of his work, someone who offers that as a service.
As in any case in which one shops for a service, getting references will be important!
Great point. Your post made me think of something else. If I were to ask for basketball tips from LeBron James, I do not have enough skill to fully understand his advice. The advice/mentoring that I am able to understand and internalize is at a high school JV coach level.
I think our mentors need to be just a bit stronger/better/more established than we are, not NBA athletes. LeBron and Michael Jordan could talk for hours about the smallest detail of the game–and it would all sound either too basic, or too complicated for me to understand.
You have to be clear in your own mind about what you want from a mentor, too. Going in starry eyed is not the best approach. You have to know what you want to learn from them and be specific, look at the work of others or their students and see if they can help you. If you don’t take this objective approach, you endanger your own voice and can become just a copy artist of someone else’s work.
Thanks Callie. This just the advice I need at this moment.
Interesting replies. As I read Callie’s article, I reflected on my current spec, beginning to theorize my protagonist’s goal. He’s not singular in the hunt for a villain. A brood…kindred unknowingly is after the same antagonists very much the same reasons, thus in competition; only the antagonists recognizes from the onset.
Seems I must review Smith’s legacy and review all the wise responses again.
Hey its food for thought and a page load of lessons.
Appreciate Michael Beverly’s blunt response.