Add it Up
Sometimes, when you see the world as a Hustler, you lose all track of what it’s like to see through the eyes of a normal person.
I was waiting my turn in an insanely crowded deli – one of those take a number places – when the lady with the ticket number 37 gave up and walked out, randomly handing her ticket to number 45. “How nice of her to do that instead of just throwing her ticket away!’ said some chick in front of me, and several people nodded, glad to see that a valuable resource had been preserved rather than callously discarded.
At that moment, I found myself entirely unsure whether it takes an extreme Hustler’s perspective to see that moving someone eight places forward means moving eight people one place back – without changing the only thing that matters, which is the number of people served per minute. This should be obvious to even low-level hustlers.
But the underlying fallacy – the failure to notice that things must add up – is, in my experience, the single greatest source of hustle error! The same fallacy is illegitimate father to the prejudice against the high-level hustler who accumulates great financial fortune and somehow impoverishes the rest of us. In fact the exact opposite is true!
The Hustler who hoards wealth in the form of stocks, bonds, and currency instead of splurging on goods and services is leaving more goods and services for the rest. If more normal people grasped this simple point, there might be less enthusiasm for economic stimulus packages that promise to fill our bellies by encouraging others to grab larger shares of the dollar-bill pie!
There were a series of experiments performed by prize winning economists that illustrate how this simple point applies to your hustle. First, a subject is put in an isolation booth, handed ten one-dollar bills, and invited to hand some of those dollar bills over to the stranger in the next booth.
The result: About two-thirds of the subjects keep all the money for themselves. In other words, people don’t like giving money to total strangers. So far, so good. Giving away money seems like a nice thing to do, but why give it to a stranger who might already be a Hustler or an obnoxious jerk, when you could give it to, say, one of those starving children’s funds instead.
In the next experiment, the subject is told that any funds passed to the stranger will be tripled by the experimenter. Give up a dollar and the stranger gets three; give up two and the stranger gets six.
Now all of a sudden a lot of money gets passed! The average subject hands over $3.63 (out of the initial $10), so the stranger receives $10.89.
At first glance, this seems to make sense. People like to do well. They won’t pay a dollar to give someone else a dollar, but they will pay a dollar to give someone else three dollars. It’s the Hustler’s Golden Rule!
Except it’s not… Passing dollar bills from one room to another is not a productive activity. No wealth is created in the process. Every dollar passed to the stranger comes from somebody – in this case, probably from the taxpayer who’s funding the experiment. The naive non-hustler reading is that the subject will pay a dollar to create an extra two dollars’ worth of wealth. The high-level Hustler easily sees that the subject will pay a dollar for the privilege of forcing one total stranger (the taxpayer) to give two dollars to another total stranger.
But in the absence of any information about these total strangers, why would you care what direction the money moves? Maybe people just love moving other people’s money around.
More likely, the subjects are under the delusion that wealth can appear out of thin air, even in the absence of any productive activity. They’ve forgotten, in other words, that things must add up! Once this is achieved, your profits will grow, and you will have reached the point of the Grand Hustle.