About a month ago I sat down at a poker game in the Bellagio. A player two seats to my left stands up and says, "Excuse me everyone- I need to make an announcement. The most honest player in poker has just sat down at the table. That is all."
I wasn't sure if he was talking about me or not. If anything, I figured that he was being sarcastic because I play somewhat deceptively.
"You know what I'm talking about, right?" He asked me.
"No, not really."
"The other day, when you found that guy's chip."
Oh yeah. A couple days prior I was sitting at the same table, and while paying the drink lady for my green tea, I dropped one of my blue $1 chips onto the floor. I scooched my chair back and bent over to look on the floor and was surprised to find not only my $1 chip, but a yellow chip worth a thousand dollars.
I picked up the chip. No person or cameras saw it. If I wanted to, I could easily pocket it. Instead I held it up and asked if anyone at the table lost $1000. The guy to my right said that it was his and I handed to him.
It didn't really even cross my mind to take the chip. It's not because I'm a nice person-- after all I specifically sat to this guy's left because he was a bad poker player, and I wanted to win as much as possible from him (the left of someone is generally the best place to exploit their weaknesses from). It's because I don't want to have to deal with the consequences.
What are the consequences of taking $1000 from someone who would probably never notice that it's missing? There's one and it's a big one: I'd have to be the kind of person that would do that.
I live in my mind. Right now it's a nice place to be. But if I steal $1000, then I'm living in the mind of someone who doesn't follow his own ethics. I have to live with the incongruity of believing that taking money is wrong, but doing it anyway. I also invite myself to ponder other grey areas; after all, if I've taken money that wasn't mine once, why wouldn't I do it again?
I read a book recently called "Sins of South Beach" by Alex Daoud, the former mayor of South Beach. It's a shockingly honest story (which is only really possible because he ratted on everyone) of his transformation from idealistic crusader to corrupt politician. One of the things that struck me most was his inner dialog during the part where he was corrupt. You could tell that although he was accumulating power and money, he was becoming less and less happy. It didn't surprise me-- I can't imagine being a happy person living with that sort of baggage in my mind.
I have a strong set of ethics that has very little grey area, and I follow them scrupulously. I'm not trying to be arrogant, but I really do think that one of my strongest qualities is that I have a lot of integrity. This is good for people around me, and I'm happy about that, but I think that I get the most benefit from it. After all, I'm the one who gets to live in a mind that has almost no internal conflict or hypocrisy or temptation.
Sorry if this still isn't formatted correctly. We're working on it.
Photo is of my friend Toby, who's a friend with lots of integrity (like all of my good friends...)
I have a question though.... weren't you the guy that banged Mysteries GF?
Yep. Becoming like this has been a process, and I'm obviously not perfect. Put in the same situation today, I would act differently.
That said, she and I fooled around one night after they'd broken up, but before I had permission. First thing I did in the morning was find him, tell him, and apologize. The next day or so he approached me to tell me that it was okay to date her. I repeatedly asked him if he was sure and told him that it wasn't necessary.
When he flipped out after a week or so, I broke up with her, even though I was attached and didn't want to. She went to New Orleans for a month and I didn't return her calls or texts during that time.
When she came back, she asked him if she could date me, he agreed, and once again convinced me that it was okay.
I was naive, especially the second time, to think that things would be okay, but I think that I handled the whole thing with a pretty high degree of integrity.
I agree that the situation above was handled with as much integrity as was possible at the time. Usually men are direct communicators and don't have this implicit 'yes may mean no - no may mean yes - must interpret/read between the lines' communication style most women use. Thus when Mystery said it'd be ok you assumed that he would be indeed ok with it.
I also agree that you were naive that second time in which you saw how much he blew up the first time it happened and somehow assumed he made a huge psychological/emotional/spiritual developmental leap in just that one month. Relationship stingers sometimes deliver their venom for years depending on how much attachment is harbored by either party. We all make mistakes and start somwhere.
While we're back on the subject of pickup (lol to the detirement of those who didn't want to hear about pickup anymore) I wanted to comment on the last line of your blog:
"After all, I'm the one who gets to live in a mind that has almost no internal conflict or hypocrisy or temptation."
I think the above is the one of the (if not) KEY ingredient(s) in learning how to be a better socially with women. I know this is often called 'inner game' but I can't stress how much congruence can help turn the tide around. When you are not at peace with yourself it is surprising how much sub-conscious self sabotage than happen regardless of the truth of your situation. Your voice gets all high and approval seeking, your words stall and stutter, you become defensive and unrelaxed and you just give off a very uneasy creepy vibe. I was/maybe sometimes still am that man (much less often than I was years ago). They say acceptance is the first step of recovery and it's only been ~6 years ago that I accepted I needed to work on myself. Congruence is key - everything needs to match up. Dogs smell fear, sharks smell blood, women smell incongruence, and the war in heaven will sniff out the things I don't accept in myself and come to terms with them. When I'm 'in the zone' and congruent I feel and act like I can play with the best of them. My wish for myself is to find that inner peace and congruence where I can learn to first accept myself then subsequently love myself. Until then let the war in heaven rage on!!!
This reminded me of a Paul Graham essay (although I couldn't find the exact one) where he talks about always telling the truth to the start ups they advise because it wouldn't scale to make something up and try to remember what he said to each one.
I have to say that's my reason for being habitually honest. If I lie or bend the truth, then I have to remember what I said. I can move much faster if I don't have to keep track.
And if I make a mistake or break something, it always hurts less to fess up immediately than to hide it and get found out later.
Thanks for the comment. I'm sure I read that article at some point and may have been influenced by it as well.
I agree with the point, too. I used to lie when I was a kid and I remember the stress of trying to keep my story straight. Relying on the truth takes all the stress out of these sorts of situations because not only do I not need to keep the story straight, I don't even have to decide what level of honesty to employ.
Nice pic of Dr Stephens - the very incarnation of integrity :)Does he know?
If you were able to somehow not live in your mind, and have guilty thoughts, would you have taken the $1000 chip?
Whenever I watch mad men, this is what I think about. How will the consequences of what we do now change how we feel about ourselves in the future? It's big.
where was the picture taken? Looks like Dominica or something rainforesty like that.
I'm glad that u wrote this. I still subscribe to your newsletter because of the way you've portrayed these types of good hints at just living. Keep it going!
I really like the idea that you are the one who benefits most from integrity. But I then expected you to say that this is because people will trust you. But its deeper, and I couldn't agree more; you get to live in a clean mind.
I get an annoying amount of email from people asking me how to gamble like I used to. The truth is that what I used to do isn't profitable anymore. It was a right time, right place sort of scenario. Although I'm not a professional gambler anymore, I have been spending time studying and improving at poker (I'm a break-even or slightly profitable player), and I have friends who are pros. There are surely several different paths you can take to make a living gambling; this is the one that I'm aware of and is feasible for someone of above average intelligence.
Despite offering a rough guide to making money gambling, I don't necessarily recommend that you do so. I gambled professionally for seven years. During that time I made a lot of money and enjoyed my life. One morning I woke up and all of my money was gone. The story behind that is complicated, but the gist is that "they caught on". The strongest emotion I felt was a sense of relief. Gambling is fun, but it's not "big". It doesn't contribute in a meaningful way or leave you with a body of work.
Most casino games have a house advantage ranging from 2-5%, assuming "perfect play". That means that if you play perfectly, you can expect to lose, on average, about 2-5% of the action you put through a machine. Perfect play for slot machines is simply to bet the maximum amount of coins (the jackpot is skewed heavily in favor of maximum coins). For blackjack you need to memorize what to do for every combination of player hands vs. dealer hands, specific to each set of rules (hit on soft 17, resplitting aces, etc).
This semester, I'm actually really excited about my classes. I spent the last year and half taking breadth (general education) requirements. I still have some to go, but I had a lot more freedom this semester to take whatever I wanted.
One of the classes that I'm most excited about is a class called Public Policy C103: Wealth and Poverty taught by Robert Reich. This was the turn out for the first day of class.
(Photo credit: Michelle Galemmo)
The lecture hall is designed to fit about 750 people. But, there are about 300 people on the waitlist, so about 1000 showed up. I sat on the floor in the waaaay back.