I'm listening to Nassim Nicholas Taleb's book Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets on audio right now. It's a good and insightful listen, and a good refresher, though not much different from what you'll already be familiar with if you're well-acquainted with the effects of happenstance on the world around you. Randomness and luck is an important topic when you talk about pick up and how to get lucky; it was the subject of one of the very first posts that ever went up on this blog, all the way back in December 2008: the brief "Randomness and Success," where I talked about another book I was reading at the time and the need for including quantity in your approach to meeting women.
Last night I had a discussion with a business partner of mine about the nature of randomness and its influence on success. "Surely, it isn't all randomness," she said. "Skill has a big part to do with it."
"That's true," I replied, "skill does have a lot to do with it. A lot depends on the time horizon you're looking at, however. If you're looking at how someone performs over the course of a single week, there's going to be a lot more random variation in there compared to how they perform over the course of a month, which will be a lot more random and less skill-based than how they perform over a year, and so on and so forth. The smaller the time horizon, the bigger the part randomness will play."
As I was walking to the gym this morning, Taleb's book reached a discussion of exactly this point: that if everyone lived for 1,000 years, the skilled workers who'd simply been unlucky would eventually rise to prominence, and the lucky fools who got more than they deserved would eventually even out at far less success than they happened upon originally.
It's like flipping a coin: if you flip it 10 times, you might end up with 7 heads and only 3 tails; 70% heads and 30% tails. But if you flip it 10,000 times, you're almost assuredly going to come up with a number very close to 50% heads and 50% tails.
This is why the most rigorously conducted scientific experiments have large numbers of participants. It's why the most accurate polls have the largest number of individuals polled from the most closely representative populations. And it's why the most successful seducers nearly universally tend to talk to lots of girls.
But if randomness plays so big a role in success in so many different aspects of life, and whether you get lucky with a girl or not, what's the use of learning skills?
To Get Lucky: Luck vs. Skills
If you examine most people's attitudes about what makes a man successful, they tend to boil down to two core attitudes:
- "It's all luck."
- "It's all skill."
Of these, each has one positive and one negative side. They are:
- Luck Positive: "It's all luck... and I'm a lucky fellow!"
- Luck Negative: "It's all luck... and I've got bad luck."
- Skill Positive: "It's all skill... if I work at it enough, I'll get skill, too."
- Skill Negative: "It's all skill... and I just don't have the skill."
The proponents of luck are the ones who believe that all is chance and random variation, and the best thing to do to avoid bad things happening is minimize your exposure to risk, and the best thing to do bring about good things happening is maximize your exposure to opportunity.
The proponents of skill are the ones who believe that all is hard work and individual ability, and the best thing to do to avoid bad things happening is to work hard and develop your skills, and the best thing to do to bring about good things happening is to work hard and develop your skills. Of course, some of these people think it's going to be too hard to develop their skills, so they give up before they ever get started.
You might think that so long as you have one of the positive mindsets, you'll be fine, and, in seduction, you'll "get lucky" (or, for the skill people, "get the success you worked so hard to earn," or something like that). And often, for a while, you are.
"It's all luck," people do great so long as fortune is on their side... but when they get hit with a rash of bad luck, they often get fatalistic and turn into the luck negative folks who stop trying because now they think they have bad luck and it's not even worth making an effort.
"It's all skill," people do great so long as their skills hold up... but when they too get a string of defeats, they figure that all the time they put into developing their skills still isn't enough, and maybe they really just don't know how to become successful. Then they become fatalistic - the skill negatives.
These are the successful business people, actors, politicians, and more you see who fall from grace and never recover. They were on a roll before... and then they take a hit, their belief systems are short-circuited, and they give up trying.
Almost everyone falls into one of the all-luck or all-skill populations. Which one are you? Here's a quick test to figure it out as far as seduction is concerned (but, generally, your mentality in one area of life extends to everywhere else, too).
Do you believe:
- Some guys are just born knowing how to get girls, or it's a learnable skill?
- Getting a girl to go home with you is right time, right place, or just how good you are?
- Getting a high quality girlfriend is more luck - or more skill?
- Being a sexy man is about how you just are, or something you develop?
If your answers are more in line with the first statements:
- You're born knowing how to get girls
- Pick up is all right time, right place
- Getting a high quality girlfriend is pure dumb luck
- Being a sexy man is just how you are - or aren't
Your worldview centers around luck, chance, and happenstance.
If your answers are more in line with the second statements:
- You learn how to get girls
- Pick up is an acquired ability
- Getting a high quality girlfriend is up to your skill level
- Being a sexy man is something you develop
Your worldview centers around skill, learning, and expertise.
In general, the "luck" people tend to be more fatalistic - things are just going to be how they're going to be - while the "skill" people tend to be more optimistic of their odds - they can always get better.
So which answer is right? Is skill the determinant of whether you "get luck" with women, or is it luck that determines that?
Well, guess what. That little test above was filled with trick questions... because neither of the options presented was wholly correct.
It's about skill and luck.
The Search for "Consistency"
One of the things that maddened me for a long time as I sought to be able to pick up girls ever better was "consistency." I wanted to be able to:
- Consistently open and meet women
- Consistently hook them and attract them
- Consistently get into meaningful conversation with them
- Consistently get them turned on and aroused
- Consistently get them to come home with me
- Consistently take them to bed
And every time I felt like I was getting closer to consistency, I'd have the rug pulled out from under me. And the patterns didn't even make sense.
I'd go out feeling like a champion one night, and very quickly meet a great girl, take her home, and we'd go to bed. "Aha!" I'd think. "The secret is your emotional state!"
Then I'd go out feeling like a champion another night, to the same exact place, dressed in the same exact clothes, and no women would talk to me.
Another night I'd go out feeling terrible, not wanting to meet anyone. I'd force myself to do a few approaches, and then -BAM!- I was taking some hot girl home.
It didn't make any sense. Where was the consistency? Maybe I really was just getting lucky.
The breakthrough I had in understanding consistency was when I had a stretch of nights where I managed to pull a girl (or girls) home every night. And each one of those nights, when I first looked back, I thought, "Wow, that was a great night!" But then I'd remember there were long stretches when I was piling up rejections, and it seemed like I'd run out of attractive women to talk to and I was probably going to go home alone.
There were even ups and downs - one of those nights I started off great, meeting two beautiful girls who were both very into me, passing them onto my two friends with me to be generous, then striking out on my own and not meeting another friendly girl for 3 or 4 hours, until finally meeting two more girls sitting by themselves and taking them both home with me. These nights had all kinds of variation.
That seems to imply an element of luck. There's chance there - it's random. Keep talking to enough girls, and something finally clicks.
This is where the fatalistic luck guys chime in and say, "Yes! See? This proves it! Learning pick up is a scam and a waste of time; it's all a game of chance!"
But not so fast.
Pablo Picasso. World famous painter - probably one of the first names you think of when you hear the word "painter," right up there with Van Gogh, Monet, and Michelangelo. How many of his paintings do you know?
If you're like most people, it's somewhere in the range from 3 to 10. Somewhere around there. Highly talented painter, right?
Picasso created about 50,000 different paintings in his lifetime.
That's a rough estimate. There's no definite figure, but that's the number a lot of his biographers settle on.
And yet you only know 3 to 10.
There are probably a few hundred in art museums. And... what... perhaps 50 "masterpieces?" Fewer?
This leads us to two questions:
- If Picasso was so skilled though, why didn't he create more masterpieces? This is the argument the luck people will make to show that, in fact, Picasso just threw a lot of stuff out there and only happened to create his masterpieces because he created so many paintings - he had to have a few hits in there! By this vein of reasoning, Picasso could get lucky because he put so much stuff out there, so it must be luck.
- If it's all about chance though, why don't the millions of random paintings created by tens of thousands of amateur painters every year produce masterpieces at anywhere nearly the same rate as Picasso did? This is the argument the skill people will make to show that, in fact, it was Picasso's skill that let him generate those masterpieces, and that 50,000 paintings by hundreds of amateur artists won't have nearly the same average quality or peak quality as those created by Picasso. By this vein of reasoning, the amateur painters failed to get lucky despite putting out way more stuff than Picasso, so it must be skill, not luck.
Of course, these two lines of reasoning contradict each other. The conclusion this drives is that it's not all luck, and it's not all skill.
Success - and consistency - is both luck and skill. The amount differs by the field; as Taleb points out, trading in the stock market, for instance, is far more luck-dependent than dentistry, which is far more skill-dependent. Any baboon can make money in the market (see: "Lusha the chimpanzee outperforms 94% of Russia bankers with her investment portfolio"), but arming a chimp with a drill and a dental mask wouldn't have quite so favorable results when it came time for your root canal.
When it comes to getting lucky in picking up girls, luck and skill matter in different stages of the process.
How to Get Lucky: Mix Luck and Skill
The most resilient mentality toward success you can have, I strongly believe, is one that combines a healthy respect for both luck and skill.
A lot of the opportunities you're going to get will be random. And things will happen or line up in ways that are random. You can't control this.
However, you can reduce the ability of randomness to decide your fate by improving your skills, abilities, and fundamentals.
This protects you from the vagaries of fate. When a bad stretch happens, you know part of it's luck, and part of it's that you need to refine your skills some more. So, you work on what you can work on, and trust the rest to even out on its own. Before you know it, you're back to getting lucky again.
How's this work? Let me give you a scenario.
Let's say you're walking along the street. Up ahead, you see an unusually beautiful woman. She's stunning. Gorgeous face, perfect hair, and a low-cut dress showing off an extraordinary body. She looks great.
What are the chances you were going to see a girl who looks like her? Random.
But, how random?
Well, they're strongly influenced by:
- Whether you live in a city with a lot of beautiful girls (or not)
- Whether you live and work in the part of town with the most girls like that
- Whether you're outside a lot, or not
You can imagine that your odds of running into a girl like that are going to be a lot lower in Podunk, USA than they are in Miami, Florida or Bogota, Columbia.
These are all things you can control.
Now how about how she responds to you?
That's going to be random too.
But again... how random?
Well, it'll be influenced by:
- How well-dressed you are
- How good your posture is
- What kind of shape you've gotten yourself into
- What kind of hairstyle you're sporting
- Whether you've got cool facial hair or not
- Whether you've got a powerful, sexy walk or not
- What your eye contact is like
- What your facial expression is like
- How sexy you seem
- How edgy you seem
All that's going to be filtered through:
- Her personal preferences
- Where she is in her life right now
- Where she's going and what she's got going on
- Whether she's in a social mood or not
- Whether she's been approached by anyone else recently like you approach her
You have NO control over the filtering criteria. Yet, you have TOTAL control over the FIRST list of criteria.
Imagine the difference a guy who fails to handle his fundamentals will elicit in terms of her reaction versus the reaction a guy who gets ace fundamentals down will get.
Here's the thing:
Luck will always play a big role in your pick ups. But skill takes a lot of the edge off.
Getting more skilled is HOW you get more LUCKY. You learn what you need to do to be successful.
Do you ever get lucky EVERY time, from here on out? No. Do you ever get 100% consistent? No.
I have friends I've gone out with whom every time I go out with them they see me pick up a beautiful girl and take her to bed, or have women fawning all over me. These friends treat me like I'm the messiah of seduction, and they assume that when I say it isn't always like and I get turned down too that I'm just being modest, and women just fall at my feet everywhere I go.
And I have friends I've gone out with whom every time I go out with them they see me get dismissed by women and get lukewarm reactions from the women around me. These friends treat me like they're trying to figure out if I'm a big phony or not, and assume that if I say it isn't always like that and I get some pretty gorgeous girls move pretty fast with me I'm just exaggerating or worse.
Were these friends ever to compare notes on my abilities with women, I'm sure they would respectfully listen as one another related his experience with me, but inside each of them would be thinking of the other: "This guy has no idea what he's talking about."
But if it was 6 or 7 years ago, there would've been a lot more of that second type of guy than there was of the first.
Developing your skill with women to a high degree doesn't erase randomness. It just helps you reduce its impact, and increase your levels of consistency. How high you can you get them? I wouldn't set a limit... because limits are made to be broken (just look at the Olympic 100-meter dash records over the past hundred years). You can always get more consistent, and you can always reduce the influence of randomness a little bit more.
You can improve yourself. You can change your surroundings. You can change your exposure to threats and opportunities. There's a lot you can do.
But, in something like pick up and seduction, where you're dealing with real, living, dynamic people with their own wants, needs, preferences, and predispositions, you're never going to be able to gain full control over the process. There will always be a mixture of luck and skill inherent in the process.
All you can do is get yourself as good as you can, and give yourself as many opportunities to meet the kinds of girls you most like, and go start taking your shots.
And if you do all that, chances are, you'll get lucky sooner rather than later.