By Callie Oettinger | Published: March 17, 2017
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.