I’ve had friends make fun of my obsession with human nature in the past. They claim it’s ridiculous to “play games” or be “manipulative.” I’ve heard things like “I don’t need to know stuff like that, I prefer to just be myself.” If I ever recommended a good article or book or piece of advice concerning dealing with people, they would just laugh it off.
Yet every time one of these same people had an immediate high-stakes problem that required a grasp of social dynamics, they’d suddenly be pressing me urgently for advice, anecdotes, tips, articles, or book recommendations. We could be in a nightclub and they are asking for tips on what to say to a girl they just met at the bar. It could be dealing with a work client at a critical juncture of a deal. It could be a girl whose number they got and spoke to a few times and the whole thing just fizzled out and the girl was no longer calling them. It could be a family dispute that spun out of control. Whatever it was, these same people who were above reading books and having discussions on social dynamics suddenly wanted to learn as much advice as possible in order to deal with a current problem.
This is a perfect example of what I call the hustle mentality. In the streets, you have people who look busy and are always going from one short-term hustle to another, whether it’s mixtapes, weed, bootleg clothes, incense and oils, dice games or whatever else they can get into. They are staying busy, putting in a lot of time and energy toward making money and finding opportunities, but it’s purely reactive. But you also find the same hustle mentality in more respectable middle-class environment as well. Instead of thinking of one long-term proactive plan that will allow them to make more money in the future without having to work so hard, they bust their humps working like crazy in order to keep putting out little financial fires: make enough money to pay this bill here when it comes up, make enough to buy this new unnecessary gadget when it hits the market, etc. They don’t focus on lining up a newer and bigger opportunity until the old one is snatched from them and they are now desperate. They won’t think about getting more education until their current job becomes obsolete. This keeps them in a state of perpetual catch-up. They stay focused on linear income without ever thinking of ways to build residual income.
There are a lot of people who have the hustle mentality when it comes to personal relationships. They don’t think about how to navigate office politics and impress their boss until someone gets promoted past them or their job is in jeopardy. They don’t stress understanding the opposite sex until their current relationships sour. They don’t think about having backup plans until the primary plans already in danger. They don’t try to really master the principles of the art of negotiation until they are already well into a negotiation.
Do you know what that’s like? It’s like waiting until you’re drowning to try to learn how to swim. You’re too busy trying to keep your head above water to properly focus on the things you need to learn. Or it’s like trying to master a sport during the big games rather than during practice and off-season when the stakes are lower. Learn things when you don’t need to use them. Success is when opportunity meets preparation. If you wait until the opportunity actually comes to start preparing, you’re screwed.
So most of the time when these friends of mine come to me for solutions after they already are waist-deep in the problem, I do my best to help them, but it’s like the old adage says, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” But I do my best to help them, thinking “Okay, even if it doesn’t work this time because it’s too late to turn this specific scenario around, hopefully this failure will cause them to be more proactive about learning social dynamics in the future. This failure will make them say “Never again!” and spur them to learn all they can from the experience and do their best to prevent a recurrence.
But this rarely happens. Once they fail, they tend to return to their previous complacency until they’re faced with their next personal dilemma. They’re just stuck in that hustle mentality.
First in this one:
Tactical hell is a way of thinking that you sink into when you lose a sense of the broader perspective. This is usually caused by the stress of immediate battles: in this case winning each election as it pops up. In tactical hell, you are constantly reacting to what your opponents give you, to each one of their aggressive attacks. You are continually fixing problems as they happen. You think you are being strategic in your actions, but you are merely responding to events, never guiding them.
The Democrats have been in this mode for quite some time. It is the source of their misery. Once you enter tactical hell, you cannot get out because it requires taking a step back, suffering some short-term defeats in order to set up long-term gains. This is nearly impossible in the hell mode because you think everything is at stake in the immediate battle, when in fact there is a larger campaign to wage. Because the Democrats have lost their soul and any sense of vision, they cannot take the big step of crafting a campaign. They exist as a kind of negative field force, held momentarily together by the sheer implosion power of the Republicans.
This quote was from 2006, and ironically it ended up applying to the Republicans in 2008.
He also discusses tactical hell here:
[M]ost of us exist in a realm that I call tactical hell. This hell consists of all of the people around us who are vying for power or some kind of control, and whose actions intersect our lives in a thousand different directions. We are constantly having to react to what this person does or says, getting emotional in the process. Once you sink into this hell, it is very difficult to raise your mind above it. You are dealing with one battle after another, and none of them end with any resolution. It is very hard for you to see the hell for what it is; you are too close to it, too mired in it to think of any other way. Because there are so many people now vying for power in this world, and our attentions are so distracted in many different directions, this dynamic only gets worse and worse.
Strategy is the only answer. This is not some dry academic point of contention, or me trying to sell more books. You can read plenty of other books on strategy. It is actually a matter of grave importance, the difference between a life of misery and one of balance and success. Strategy is a mental process in which your mind elevates itself above the battlefield. You have a sense of a larger purpose for your life, where you want to be down the road, what you were destined to accomplish. This makes it easier to decide what is truly important, what battles to avoid. You are able to control your emotions, to view the world with a degree of detachment.
If a person tries to suck you into their battles or problems, you have the necessary distance and perspective to keep away, or help them without losing your balance. You see everything as a strategic concern, including how the group you lead is structured–for mobility, for morale. Once you are on this track, everything becomes easier. A defeat or setback is a lesson to be learned, not a personal affront. Success does not go to your head, make you overreach.
There are false strategists in this world who are nothing more than master tacticians. They look like strategists because they are able to manage immediate problems with a degree of aplomb. They know how to fix problems. They get ahead, or rather they are able to just raise their heads above the water. But they inevitably slip up. I consider President Bill Clinton to be an example of this. As compared to an Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, true strategists.
Being a hustler is better than being an outright lazy bum, but in the long run it’s nothing to be especially proud of. The hustler may be making it happen right now, but flash forward to next year and the year after or even ten years from now and the hustler likely hasn’t advanced that far in the big picture. Remember, the best time to try to master something are the moments in your life when you least need to use it.