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Why The Crowd Stayed Silent


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We humans seem to have a lot of holes in our brains.

Not literally.

But figuratively, or metaphorically.

One way is when we imagine that mysterious "they."

We imagine some mysterious group of people who have near magic control over our lives.

Sometimes "they" are kind of specific.

Like "they" have invented tires that never wear out, but since "they" won't make any money selling them, "they" have kept them secret.

Or when ancient humans looked up at the stars at night and imagined the stars were actually gods looking down upon them.

And if they had a bad crop, "they," the gods, were disappointed.

This is helpful if it keeps us on track.

We are hierarchical social animals, and a lot of times it helps to imagine that some mysterious and powerful group is in charge.

But sometimes, this can hinder us.

Especially if we have an opportunity to do something.

We tend to wait around until somebody tells us what to do.

Once I went to a seminar.

The guy up on stage was pretty famous.

He came out, and the crowd applauded and cheered for a while.

But he just stood there.

After it got quiet, he held out a $100 bill.

Just stood there and smiled.

For about 30 seconds, nothing happened.

Then a woman ran up and grabbed it.

He asked everybody why it took so long.

There it was, free money, but everybody had the same thought.

"I'd like to get that, but what if I make a mistake? I'd better sit here until somebody tells me what to do."

This is another aspect of "instinct mismatch."

Having strong social instincts, to follow the crowd, is generally a good thing.

But if there is a very limited opportunity, waiting for the crowd is the LAST thing you want to do.

Because once the FIRST PERSON goes and gets that opportunity, it will be gone.

This presents a paradox.

How do you know when to go first, and when to wait for somebody else to go first?

How do you know when to take a risk?

After all, before that woman got up there, he could have had a TOTALLY DIFFERENT idea.

She might have gone up, realized her mistake, and had to walk back to her seat.

While EVERYBODY was watching her.

This is a VERY CLEAR example, and a very literal example of the famous saying:

Fortune favors the bold.

Most of us would LOVE to be told what to do.

But if we wait to be told what to do, we'll get the same thing EVERYBODY ELSE will get.

Going first is scary.

Going first is rarely successful.

But if you NEVER go first, you'll never capitalize on those opportunities.

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