In poker you often win not by playing your cards, but by playing your opponents cards. My good friend and sometimes poker mentor once told me that to become a winning poker player, you must learn to win the pots that no one has a legitimate claim to. If you have an excellent hand, you'll probably win. If he has an excellent hand, he'll probably win. But if neither of you has a particularly good hand, the pot is up for grabs. It's in situations like these that rather than playing your hand, you focus on your opponents weakness.
In real life, too, I find a lot of value in working from other people's weaknesses, especially societal weaknesses. As urbanization continues along with population growth, standing out from the crowd becomes more and more difficult. Even if you are exceptional, your impression can drown amongst the sea of other people everyone is meeting. The solution, or part of it anyway, is to identify what society at large is bad at, and excel at it. By doing so, you become even more distinct as the field increases.
Here are some examples of ways I try to distance myself from the crowd.
1. Always be on time. Being late has become the standard. I never expect anyone to show up to anything on time, and I'm usually not surprised. Most people won't be terribly late, but five or ten minutes of tardiness is the norm. For the past few months I've made a point of always being on time for everything. A week or two ago I was half an hour late making a phone call, and I still remember it today because it was such an egregious violation of this standard.
2. Correlated with being on time is being reliable. When people say they will do something, I assume that there is a fifty fifty chance of it actually happening, especially if it's something unimportant like, "Oh, I'll send you that link when I get home." The bedrock of trust is reliability, allowing people to trust that if you say you'll do something, it's as good as done. This is important for both sexes, but particularly for men, since we tend to be judged more on consistency and reliability.
3. Being present. With all of our distractions, particularly cell phones and screens, I find that most people have trouble staying focused. Whipping out a cell phone in the middle of someone else talking is totally normal, yet horrifically rude. If I'm going to take time out of my day to spend time with someone, I show them respect by ignoring my phone, even if it dings. This always surprises people. If you have problems doing this, put your phone on airplane mode when you're around real live people.
4. Listening. I think that our consumption habits from electronic devices have bled into normal life. Unlike the days of live performance or radio, we can now pause and fastforward through almost any media we consume. We're also used to communication methods like text, email, and instant messaging, where we don't need to wait for the other person to finish before we speak. I'd estimate that about half of the people I meet either interrupt regularly or talk so much that they don't leave pauses for the other person.
These are such basic skills and habits that you'd hope writing a blog post about them wouldn't be justified-- but sadly violating them has become the norm. The good news is that all four are easy enough that anyone can instantly adopt them and stand out from the crowd in his interactions with others. Another one I've been thinking of is dressing nicely. Most people dress very similarly to their peers. I guess I do, too, but I dress 99% for function.
I would include three more that I actively had to learn to adopt and still mastering.
1) Just Try or Ask, Put Yourself Out there
3) Not (Needing to) Judge/Criticize People.
1) Sometimes, the smallest request can lead to the biggest opportunities yet people are too afraid to just try or ask. Especially when it comes to infinite upside/zero downside scenarios. This could be asking your boss for a raise, asking a girl out, or reaching out to an old friend. This is still an issue for me depending on the situation. But worse case, they don't respond, and you're in the same place as before. I think everyone's scared of letting themselves be vulnerable so they only go for the opportunities they think are 110% guaranteed.
2) This piggy backs on the last one. Don't give up so easily. If I don't get a reply, I'll often follow up through a different medium (text, phone, fb, etc) after a week.
3) This is a harder one and reflects back on how secure the person feels. Also piggy backs on Listening. I can usually tease out secrets, pains, and dreams out of people very quickly because I do my best to not judge anyone. And I usually will easily and freely express my own problems and dreams to people. Rather than have some shallow talk about bullshit, why not just jump into what you really want to talk about? But it only works if you really are open to listening and not judging them on what they say. If you are judging and getting pissed off, it probably reflects an unresolved issue for yourself.
Something I practice along the same lines: I don't hang up with the person I'm talking to on the phone, to answer a waiting call. I might answer it if it's from an important person just to tell them I'll call them back or to get a quick message. But I get right back to the person I was talking to, usually in less than a minute. Usually I let waiting calls go to voice mail. It is quite common for people to say these days, "Oh, so and so is calling/I'm getting another call, I'll talk to you some other time," This is disrespectful and you're really telling the first person that you were just talking to them because you had nothing better to do.
I think that the act of doing these things are good in *theory* but I definitely think for certain things, its good to have a "moving standard" as opposed to a rigid one.
For example. I am always punctual as well, and I think people expect so much of me. However, I have a certain group of Brazilian friends that are ALWAYS late to things...and not like 10 or 15 minutes - more like an hour! This used to drive me crazy and spending time waiting can be irritating. I knew there was no way I can change all of their behavior, so instead, when I meet with that group of people, I'm late. I feel better not having waited, and no one thinks less of me.
Tynan, how early do you shoot to be at for something planned?
Let's say you have something scheduled at 2pm. At what time do you plan to get there - exactly at 2?
I like listening... that is a skill that I acquired being from a large family with various personalities... I'm a little confused on the 99% comment. Tynan, you dress for function, is that still in the "nice" realm? I used to work with engineers, and when I first started working, I always had on some sharp slacks and a nice blouse... slowly that morphed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt during a period of my life where I put on a few extra-extra pounds. Engineers are not the best dressed industry... no offense to any colleagues out there.
Now I dress for chasing a 2 year old, so I'm back to jeans and t-shirts, and anything that is comfortable...
I have to say I'm lucky to have most of my interactions with people who are really good on all four of them. In somewhat related note, what do people think about talking on the phone while dinning alone in a restaurant? I don't see anything wrong with it but I know some people think it is rude.
Once again an excellent post and one that I can totally relate to. In fact, 1(being on time), 3(being present), and 4(listening) are really important part of my identity. All of my best friends have similar habits.
But lately I am struggling a lot with these habits (especially number 3) when dealing with regular friends. For example, while having a conversation with someone, my phone would be on table. If it rings, I will just ignore it. Other person will see it and thank me or at least smile. But then the other person's phone phone rings and they would answer it. I know it is normal in current society to answer phone even in important or deep conversations but it really pisses me off.
Only way I can respond to another person answering phone while talking is either taking out my own phone or walk away.
I try to hold people to their own standards rather than my own. So even though I think it's rude to answer a call in front of someone, I allow that they might not think it's rude.
Hey Tynan, a month ago, or so, I invited you to read Byron Katie's book " A Thousand Names for Joy, Living in Harmony with the Way Things Are", and you said it would be the next book you read.......am very curious as to what you, a person who loves to learn and grow, will think about the content.......
Awesome post, and one that more people need to read and take note of AND put into practice. As to the question someone else asked about "how early do you shoot to be at for something planned?" For myself, my philosophy has always been it's better to be 10 minutes early than 10 seconds late. It's only common courtesy. So I shoot for 10 minutes early, always. As to the phone issue, most of today's younger generation have never been without a cell phone. But it is still no excuse for interrupting a conversation to answer it. No one has taught them that's it is indeed rude to do that! It would be great if everyone who reads Tynan's post would share the link on their facebook page. Perhaps we could do some educating as well!
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).
I played cards for a few years, and I quite enjoyed it. I don't play any more, but sometimes a lesson I learned comes back to me.
There's one writer on poker I learned a tremendous amount from. His name's Mike Caro, and he was one of the first people taking serious interest in the psychology of poker. He wrote a famous book called "Mike Caro's Book of Poker Tells", which is excellent and highly recommended. The basic premise is that people act strong when weak and weak when strong. So if you hear a very little sigh when someone is betting, almost like they're sad, then they've probably got a strong hand. If they're pushing the chips forwards with a little extra force when betting, they're probably bluffing.
This was all very fascinating to me, I loved learning that kind of thing. I'd recommend Caro's Book of Tells to anyone, regardless if you play cards or not. But he also has written quite a bit on self-psychology and discipline in poker. Today I recalled one of Caro's general principles:
Caro’s Threshold of Misery suggests that once you move beyond the maximum you expected you could lose, you stop feeling any more pain, and you’re in danger of damaging yourself further by making weak decisions.