Are You Trying Too Hard? Stop Trying. Start Succeeding


Trying Too HardA reader writes in to ask about trying too hard:

I haven't seen any posts yet by you about a particular subject--neediness and trying too hard.

In fact, I just read one of your posts "What regular men don't know" where you are a proponent of making yourself into an attractive man and getting better with women an obsession.

Personally I have had a few different people tell me lately that I'm "trying too hard." I don't know what this means. Without trying, I will get nowhere. At first I thought they were right, but now I'm thinking they were just jealous I was trying to change when they weren't.

Could you write a post on this inner game issue? What does it mean to "try too hard" and when does getting better with women become a bad thing? How do you make sure to keep consistently trying to get better without having people tell you you're trying too hard?

Or should I say screw 'em and keep on doin my own thing?

I was speaking with a former student of mine about this a few weeks back. We'd talked about him tweaking a vibe he gives off, where it feels as though he's trying a bit too hard. He wasn't totally aware of it, but he'd heard it from multiple people and he asked me if I could put my finger on it and help him figure out why he was getting that kind of reaction from people and how to get around it.

Honestly, trying too hard is one of the most difficult things to explain to someone, and one of the most difficult things to stop.

But I myself was guilty of it for a long time once, and since there's some interest in the topic, let me take a crack at explaining what this is, and what you can do about it.


Trying Too Hard: A Story

Because I'm someone who's gone through a lot of changes in his lifetime, I've frequently been in the process of remaking myself, and often when you go through that process it requires the adoption of new characteristics, traits, and behaviors, many of which are foreign to you. Because of that, you're in prime position to overdo things, and come across try hard.

When I first started working after high school, I suddenly found myself out of my middle-class white existence and thrown into working with mostly black, inner city folks. These were guys who'd tell you stories about their carjacking days; guys who sold guns and drugs; guys who were frequently disappearing from work following a drug bust or an arrest or a shooting. Most of them were a lot stronger and more muscular than I was; all of them were older than me. And the company made me, a skinny 19 year old kid from the suburbs, the boss of these guys.

Obviously, they didn't spend a whole lot of time listening to me at first. They'd been working since before I was born, they'd tell me, or they'd tell me to step outside with them to fight. These were the kinds of things I had to listen to on a daily basis.

I didn't have a social life back then. I didn't do much, realistically, other than sleep, eat, and work. So these guy WERE my social circle.

And I decided that if you can't beat, you've got to join them.

I started overhauling myself to fit in. I wanted to be tougher, stronger... more badass.

And I overdid it. And they started poking fun at me for trying too hard.

"Why do you walk like that man?" I remember one guy asking. "You look like you're trying to make people think you've got muscles. Do you want people to think you've got muscles, is that why you walk like that?"

"You know," I had another guy tell me right up in my face, who usually didn't talk to me and who'd just been released after a 5-year stint in the local penitentiary, "you wouldn't last 5 minutes in prison."

It was a hell of a ride for a sensitive kid who'd grown up writing his own science fiction stories and didn't know how to have friends. I started working out, and put on a lot of muscle pretty quickly, and I had to learn how to never get called "fake" or "phony" or a "poseur" ever again.


The Law of Least Effort

If you're a longtime follower of me or this site, you know I talk about the Law of Least Effort quite a bit when we get to talking about vibe and coolness. That's because I'm a believer that the Law - essentially, sprezzatura codified and explained in the context of social interaction - is the vital underpinning of being "cool."

In case you didn't see or don't remember the diagram from the article on sprezzatura that explains effort and returns, it looks like this:

trying too hard

The quadrant of that diagram that's most important to us here, in terms of guys who are trying too hard, is the one on the bottom right: The Jester.

The Jester is the guy who's putting a ton of effort in, and getting low results. He's working really hard for really little in exchange. He is, in effect, spinning his wheels a lot.

But if we can assume that high effort for low returns is a bad trade, why would anyone become a Jester in the first place?

The reason is because it often feels like the Jester is getting somewhere with people.

Fact is, people respond differently to each of the four different quadrants:

  • People like the King because he is powerful. They want to be in his presence, soak up his majesty, and hope that some of his magic wears off on them too. People are in awe around the King because he remains so comfortable at all times, and even stays comfortable in the midst of tense situations.

  • The Peasant often isn't popular socially - he's just average. He's a hard worker who gets decent results. The Peasant is the Everyman of the four quadrants of effort and returns.

  • The Unknown can be both intriguing and off-putting to people... sometimes both at the same time. He doesn't seem to care about others' goings on, nor does he ever seem to have much going on himself. He's just there, and no one's really sure why.

  • The Jester, like the King, is also well liked, though for other reasons. While people want to bask in the King's glow, with the Jester they like having him around for the entertainment value. He's funny; he's informative; he's constantly finding ways to crack jokes, get people engaged, and make everybody around him happy. He's uncomfortable with any form of tension, and sees it as his mission in life to plug the holes of tension with his own effort and energy.

So, as it turns out, the two individuals in opposite corners of the chart are the most attractive to others: the Jester, who tries very hard and gets little in return, and the King, who doesn't seem to try at all but gets much in return.

The other two quadrants - the Peasant and the Unknown - escape much notice because they're more "ordinary."

And while it's not impossible for a Jester to become a King, he's got a lot of work to do to get there.


It's Good to Be the King

trying too hardBut wait - why would you even want to be a King? Why not just keep doing what you're doing?

I'll tell you from experience that Jesters attract, date, and sleep with far less attractive women than Kings do, and women with far more, shall we say, quirky personalities than do Kings. Jesters also don't rise as high in their careers, have as cool or effective friends, or find life as straightforward or fulfilling as Kings do.

It's good to be the King.

When you're working hard for chips, people can tell, and they know you're trying too hard. And sometimes they'll tell you.

Trying too hard is, in a nutshell, working a lot harder for smaller gains than other people judge that you should.

Let's say you're sitting at a table, and someone's telling a story about a vacation from hell. At one point, you jump in to show some solidarity with them:

"I know, right? How could that innkeeper think you'd stay at a place like that?"

This is the kind of thing that someone (a Jester) who's trying too hard will tend to do. They'll jump in at slightly inappropriate moments to express a slightly-too-much-for-the-occasion sentiment in order to show themself to be relating, or to bring the spotlight back onto themself, or to be funny or improve their status in others' eyes.

Examples of things that someone trying too hard will do:

  • Make "I relate to that" comments when they're not needed
  • Find ways to interject jokes, humor, and witty comments into everything
  • Be overly expressive in agreeing with things, "Yeah, totally!" "Tell me about it!"
  • Seem to be chomping at the bit to dive in and contribute to the conversation
  • Constantly feel the need to be a part of things at all times
  • Touch people when it feels like they're trying to touch them

The common thread in all of these is that the guy is trying to regain attention.

I want that to sink in.

If someone tells you you're trying too hard, it means they KNOW you're trying to get more attention.

You're trying to be funny when the moment isn't quite right.

Or you're trying to show how much you relate to someone when it's not necessary.

Or you're trying to act / look / portray yourself as cool, or strong, or tough, and you're overdoing it.

When someone tells you you're trying too hard, it's because you are trying to force an opinion of you, connection with you, or attention on you.

It's because you're not being a King. You're being a Jester.


Less is More

trying too hardOne of the greatest lessons for me from my tryhard days was that less really is more.

To become a King, you must learn to achieve what you want to achieve with LESS exertion.

That means, if you want people to think you look big and tough, you learn to walk big and tough, and then tone it down. Do it enough that it's noticeable... but almost under the radar.

Ever see guys walking REALLY dramatically? It's almost comical. But a guy walking strong but understated... he looks POWERFUL.

Here's another example. Ever see a guy holding his arms really far out from his body to try and make himself look bigger? Yeah, looks silly, right? Instead, just puff out your chest and keep your back straight. Then, deliberately don't put your arms out on the side like those guys. People will think you look authentically strong, but they won't know why.

Tryhard guys flip "instability" switches in people that frighten them off. Why? Think about it like this:

  1. You run into a guy who's "tryhard tough," carrying his arms out from the sides of his body. You accidentally insult him. How do you think he'll react?

  2. You run into a guy who's legitimately tough, but in a cool way. You accidentally insult him. How do you think he'll react?

Most likely, you'll assume that Guy #1 is going to huff and puff and try to knock you down. Meanwhile, Guy #2 is not going to make a big deal about it.

That's because you instinctively know that Guy #2 is secure and confident in who he is, while Guy #1 is putting on a show and trying to convince himself and others... and he'll freak out if the curtain is pulled up on that show or his adopted self-image is threatened.

Women are aware of this subconsciously too... and the Guy #2s of the world (the authentically cool and confident) pull a lot more girls, and a lot more beautiful and higher quality girls, than the Guy #1s of the world (the tryhard guys).

It's not even close, really.

When you train yourself how to behave socially, for this reason, you want to be thinking one word:

Understated.

You should be understating your:

Understated.

Move more slowly. Talk more slowly. React more slowly.

When someone's telling a story, let them tell it. Make them wonder if you relate to it or not. Don't be afraid of social pressure - that pressure is your friend, to an extent. You want to not have so much of it that things get weird, but not have so little that everyone can count on you to alleviate the pressure at all times and function as the Jester who's going around making everyone feel carefree and happy.

And think understated in all things. How can you get the message across you want to get across, but without overdoing it?

To be sure, this is a difficult mindset to maintain. It's taxing. You'll be monitoring your communication, verbal and nonverbal, to the most minute level... it's a high wire balancing act. "How do I come across as relatable, but not TOO relatable?" you'll ask yourself. "How do I seem strong, but not TOO strong?"

You'll be turning a lot of gears in your head while you train yourself to respond appropriately in situations to give the right presentation to others.

But the good news is, once you've trained yourself on the right way to present yourself in given situations, it becomes automated.

You stop thinking about it.

And then, ever after, you've just got it nailed.


Stop Trying. Start Succeeding.

Most people know, I think, at least subconsciously, if they're trying too hard. It was certainly the case with me. There's just a sense, underneath the surface, that you're working too hard for the results you're actually getting... the results just don't match your expectation of what those results should be. And you know you're putting in way more work for them than you'd like to.

Once I had a "tough but relaxed" vibe down about myself - and it took some time - I found that managing the tire shop was a heck of a lot easier.

Guys stopped challenging me, almost altogether.

People respected me more.

I could micromanage less - things would just get done.

Best of all... it was far less work for ME.

I wasn't a poseur anymore. I was legit.

And if you're trying too hard, my message to you is that you should start trying even harder... to rein yourself in, that is.

There are men out there who are not trying hard enough. Those are the Unknowns (who need to progress to Jester before they go anywhere else), and the Peasants (who need to try harder to rein in the level of effort they expend to get the results they do).

But if you're in the Jester's quadrant - if people around you are telling you you try too hard, or you feel like you do - your mission is to try hard to take a more balanced approach: get your results up by getting your effort down. Walk that middle path, and be clear but be understated.

At that point, you'll stop trying... and start being, and start succeeding.

Talk with you next time.

Yours,
Chase Amante

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Comments

3rd Millenium Men's picture

Great article


An excellent article, containing information that's often overlooked. Trying too hard tends to be from doing a lot of external things, without achieving inner mastery. Hence why what you were talking about as a King and caring less is so important.

This was also a related concept to my recent encouragement of men to flake on girls and care less about their interactions. Because when they do, they give off less of a sense of neediness, and get a better idea of when girls will actually come back to THEM. http://3rdmilleniummen.wordpress.com/2012/10/14/flake-on-girls-fog-week-...

Keep up the good writing.

Chase Amante's picture

Flaking First

Author

Hey 3MM,

Flaking first is an interesting gambit to run... what you'll notice is that it makes women MORE likely to show up when you finally do get the first date scheduled, and also a lot more likely to hit the hay with you. It drums up your scarcity a good bit... also beats most women to the punch (a lot of Rules girls want to flake first to up their own scarcity, but their game is jarred and emotions take over when the tables turn).

Even more than getting a handle on your own neediness, I think flaking first just does a solid job of putting guys in the driver's seat who otherwise wouldn't be. Here's hoping your readers see some good returns out of it.

Cheers,
Chase

Knight's picture

Pregnant pause


Hey Chase,

this article was really interesting and exactly what I needed as I'm completely revamping my life at the moment - mostly thanks to Ricardus and you. One of the hardest things but also the one that I'm working on the most is non-verbal communication so I can follow the law of least effort (I don't want to become a criminal, haha) and I'm aware of what is called the pregnant pause, however, when should I be using it? And when do you yourself employ this? I believe I can apply this to all communication that I take part in.

Chase Amante's picture

Pregnant Pause

Author

Hey Knight,

Believe it or not, I have an entire article on here devoted to the pregnant pause already! Here it is:

Tactics Tuesdays: Using the Pregnant Pause in Conversations with Women

Especially look to #2 to get an idea of when to use pauses depending on your style. For me, because I'm more deliberate, I use it to break up thoughts or conversations and build intrigue. e.g.,

"For me," [pause], "I use it to break up thought or conversations..." [pause], "... because I'm more deliberate."

This is especially when making a point I want a woman to pay attention to, or if I want to slow things down and regain control if she's acting uppity or arrogant or she's started sniping at me. It's amazing how effectively a few pauses mixed in with some sideways glances to the right (e.g., you're thinking as you pause) can be at calming things down and returning the advantage to you.

Don't overdo this or you sound like a robot, but do use it liberally. You'll need to test it out and use it a bit to get your timing and calibration down just right.

Cheers,
Chase

Knight's picture

Pause


Thanks Chase,

I find applying this advice is really helping myself become a better person.
I wish you all the best.

Walls's picture

Awesome inner-game stuff


One of my favorites, Chase! Good stuff as always. I love the inner-game and social stuff, thank you for you in-depth analysis on these things. Anyways, I usually play contradiction police, not to challenge you, but to gain better understanding of your curriculum myself. So here's two I noticed:

"You're trying to be funny when the moment isn't quite right.

Or you're trying to show how much you relate to someone when it's not necessary"

I read in a different article (I forget which one) that being funny and taking things as a joke (example, waiter getting the order wrong) at moments where it's unusual to do so makes you seem... more in-control. Relaxed.

And when is it not neccesary to be relatable?

Any ironing out would be helpful, thanks!

Chase Amante's picture

Re: Toning Down Humor / Relatability

Author

Howdy Walls,

Worthy questions.

On humor: you usually don't want to call attention to others' mistakes (have a laugh at their expense), as it makes you look petty / like a social ladder climber (e.g., you're attempting to profit off the individual's mistake to elevate your own status). You basically position yourself as middle class; e.g., the waiter makes a mistake and the alpha-wannabe dude says, "Guess they decided to change my order for me!" The dude who's actually a super alpha just ignores it or reassures the guy it's fine and asks for the order to be corrected in a calm, firm, but non-threatening way, or he just tells them not to worry about it if it's something he'd eat anyway.

On relating: many people make a show of how much they're relating. Not only can this seem forced, it also defuses a lot of tension, letting the person know where you stand. It increases comfort and familiarity at the cost of power and intrigue. You want to do a little of this, but not too much. The guy who stares at a girl thoughtfully while she tells her story, with no other indication of whether he's following along or not, then makes a profound comment when she's finished, is perceived as far more powerful and respectable than the guy who nods and "mmm-hmm"s the whole time through.

Think of humor and relating as spices to sprinkle onto your interactions, rather than mainstays that need to be mixed in in generous portions like most people try to do once they become "aware" of them (as opposed to the people who don't realize they should be using humor or relating to others at all).

Best,
Chase

AR's picture

Neediness vs Persistance


Hey Ricardus, I love the concept of the king mentality. But in previous posts it's mentioned that one needs to be persistent as well, and I struggle to understand how to find the balance... What's your paradigm when you persist in a way that is non-needy? I'd like to understand how to find that balance.

Killer post by the way.

Chase Amante's picture

Re: Neediness vs Persistance

Author

Hi AR,

It's a fine line to draw for a guy who's still struggling to grasp it... I've talked about persistence some in the past in posts like:

... and Ricardus has posts up on it here too.

Best way of thinking about it is this: imagine you're playing a game of basketball (or tennis, or chess, or any game). You've got a move you REALLY want to make... and you're trying to make it. But the opponent is defending against it. But you still keep trying, and trying. And maybe you get it, or maybe you don't. If you do, you still get a boost of, "Aha! Got it!" and if you don't, you still get a bit of, "Ah, drat," but it's not THAT big of a deal and you don't get overly needy about making that one shot or capturing that one piece. It'd just be nice, is all.

That's the attitude you'll find is most effective with women. It's almost impossible to get without getting a fair amount of field experience under your belt; if you aren't meeting a lot of women and pushing things to get ahead, you'll struggle to achieve this.

But you can still be aware of it and do your best to emulate it. On the outside, it looks like you're very cooly and calmly and casually but persistently insisting that the girl come along and join you. On the inside, it feels exactly like you're trying to make that shot that's being guarded against, or capture that piece the other side doesn't want you to capture.

With enough field experience, you start not caring about the outcome of MOST of your interactions, and it's all in good fun after that. Occasionally you'll meet a girl who really does it for you and gets you excited, and you'll feel a little neediness creep back in, but you just remind yourself it's all part of the game and that there are plenty more women out there just like her, and it dials back down again.

Chase

student of the game's picture

clueless


hi chase i have been taking large bites of all the info. on this website and to me this just what the doctor prescribed :)anyways my problem is that i am currently in senior in high school that is about to graduate so far so good.but the thing is i went to school in an country in Africa that was all boys so i am not really use to girls,i mean i don't know how to make them my friends or give them the wrong message i mean i use deep diving to find about thier dreams and goals but that's about it.even though i am over 6ft2 i dont play any sports in that school.i don't know how to make friends boys especially girls.i mean when ever i am in a conver. with a girl we talk about college,work,school,etc. but how will i try to be intriguing with my background since they will know from my name i am not from around her and how can i boost my confidence in socializing back up and how can i make my conversation less of something that looks rehearsed? i mean if i try to make every girl my friend then suddenly i want to make them my girl i cant just drop contact because it will seem weird and as if im cold.what can i talk to girls that i want to be as friends about contrary to those that i dont i mean what topics.and how can i boost my confidence back up. apologies for rambling but this distrubes me everyday im clueless dont know where to go thanks for creating this website and i am looking forward to your reply:)

Chase Amante's picture

Re: clueless

Author

Hey Student,

Of everything in your comment, this part's the most telling:

"i mean if i try to make every girl my friend then suddenly i want to make them my girl i cant just drop contact because it will seem weird and as if im cold."

I was plagued by this kind of thinking for a long time, and it's actually a core part of trying too hard that I didn't cover in the article above.

That aspect is: caring more about what others think than about what you want.

A lot of this comes from not knowing exactly how others will react, or from being sensitive yourself and projecting your sensitivity onto others. e.g., you'd be offended if someone suddenly dropped contact, so you figure since you wouldn't like it very much if someone did it to you, you certainly shouldn't do it to them... because heck, they might not like you.

One of the key things you'll find newer guys struggle with is that their goal is "get girls to like me" instead of "get a girlfriend" or "get a girl in bed." And the problem with "get girls to like me" is that doing the things necessary to get a girl as your girlfriend or lover risks having her not like you.

So so long as your goal is "get girls to like me," you'll always be trying too hard to please, and not trying hard enough to get what you really want - which is lovers and girlfriends.

Best piece of advice I can give you here is to realize you'd rather have 2 lovers and 8 girls who hate that you cut them off from being their cool guy pal than to have 10 girls who like you as their platonic friend. You only have so much time and focus, and if your time and focus is going to women that aren't a productive use of that time and focus it's effectively lost.

Chase

Walls's picture

Wow


This really resonated with me, and I think it's something I've been doing wrong since... ever. Ever since I can remember I've cared more about what others think, and have projected my sensitivities onto people (I guess I'm just really polite, sensitive, a bit introverted). But I'm really working on it. Any more tips on how not to project these sensitivities, and maybe something on being an extrovert while naturally being an introvert? Thanks Chase. That might be the breakthrough for me!

Denis's picture

From Unknown to Jester/King


Hey Chase,

I would consider myself as something inbetween an unknown and a King right now, if thats even possible. I got the mentality ever since I started reading this blog, but I've just been having problems projecting it out to others, like confidence and all. It's really frustrating and when you add the fact that I live in a new country where I struggle with the languange when hearing other people and I can't make the conversations as interesting and make people invest as much as I would in my mother tongue. Do you have any advice on that? (Other than perfect the languange, I'm on it 24/7)

Another thing is what you said in your article. That the Unknown should become a Jester before becoming a King. Why is that? Why not just become a King and not have people remember that person as "the guy who used to be introverted and now clowns around too much?"

Thanks,
Denis

Chase Amante's picture

Re: From Unknown to Jester/King

Author

Hi Denis,

If you knew me in high school, you'd probably have described me as "somewhere between Unknown and King" too. The problem that the Unknown has in getting "known" is that he's not accustomed to putting himself out there much, so he lacks the reference points to be able to accurately gauge how much to do so, and he lacks knowledge of where the limits are (which is what the Jester is learning as he transitions from Jester to Peasant). Without knowing the limits, you can't run up to them and get the maximum returns, which is what the King is all about - the King knows the minimum and maximum thresholds for the energy to put out.

Essentially, it's about building the intuition on how much is too much, and what's the right amount of effort you need to put out there to accomplish any one thing in the most efficient way possible. You might be able to figure out a way around it, but as far as I've been able to tell you've simply got to go through the fire of trying too hard before you're able to really come out on the other side getting maximum returns for minimum effort in just about anything you do.

One note of reassurance though: you don't have to be a Jester in everything at once. You could be a King in smooth talking women, but a Jester in approaching, for instance. And still be an Unknown at physical escalation, on the other hand. If you bite off one bit at a time to really run your gears at and try hard to build up your reference points and intuition, you'll be able make headway in your skill sets without feeling like you're trying too hard at everything all the time.

Chase

Anonymous's picture

thanks


u helped me feel better about being a jester hopefully i can evolve into a peasant :D

jfsryker's picture

Striking the balance


Hi Chase,

I'll just say that I have little sense of humour so I thought it would be better for me to present 'myself,' more which is a little quiet, a few smiles and pleasant. I avoided humour because it does show as trying too hard often. However, that would make me close to 'shopping man,' material/too passive.. So recently, I actually just played the 'serious,' card and came across as intimidating. This girl who turned down my attempts to ask her out was just playfully chatting out with a less edgy, younger guy.

So exactly what am I doing wrong here? Appearance and smarts are the least of my concerns.

I should meet more women.

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