Good Friends (and Lab Rats)

Tim Ferriss made a super interesting post last week about revealing flaws of character by purposefully unleashing environmental and situational adversity on new acquaintances. It’s really thought-provoking, and went a little something like this:

3. Take them to a restaurant with good food but bad service. (Testing: how diplomatically they contend with and resolve incompetence, which is the default mode of the universe)

4. Invite them to an event or function and then profusely apologize when you realize you’ve forgotten your wallet. Offer to repay them later or treat them the next time out. (Testing: how they relate to money issues. Wonderful people sometimes turn into irrational monsters as soon as even a few dollars are involved. It drives me crazy to keep a running ledger of who owes whom for a few dollars here and there, especially in social settings. Repaying the favor is mandatory, but dwelling on differences of pennies is tiring.)


Apparently a lot of people were sort of dismayed and alarmed, but as I read through his ideas, they didn’t look so shocking. And short of experimentation (of which I am a certain proponent), there’s something else I realized. As far as I can recall, the people I choose to spend my time with have already passed “tests”, just like those. They’re the people who chill in the face of uncertainty or loss of control. (Although if we’re going to talk about control, well… that’s an issue of mine.) They’re the ones who don’t get flustered when time or money or expectations get a little bent out of shape. I don’t think I ever thought about it that way, but as far as I can tell, it’s true. I wouldn’t expect any undue reactions to any of these things, from any of the people whose company I enjoy, whom I trust. Sure, I guess I could be wrong—but just think what an excellent gauge of character some of those “experiments” are. Tim’s got a point. (Especially about incompetence being the default mode of the universe. Oops!)

As regards experimenting on people you don’t know well, well, who knows! I don’t think it’s a particularly horrible thing to do to a person. It could perhaps become misguided! I don’t know that I will engage in it, but it doesn’t seem like a terribly bad idea. Maybe we’d all get a little wiser with the purposeful application of calamity.

I probably would, anyway.

I guess you’ll have to wonder the next time something wreaks havoc on our schedule. ;}

Update: He has a follow-up at the end of this post—apparently quite a few people were annoyed. Interesting!

Leave a Reply

I have noticed some comments getting waylaid in the spam filter. If you don't see your comment appear, feel free to drop me a note at . Thank you! :}