But First, The Side Effect Mentality
Process-oriented living is massively under-appreciated.
Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s coaching philosophy epitomizes this idea.
Nick Saban doesn’t focus on winning games, he focuses on executing every single play. If he does that, he will probably win the game. His results, 7 national championships, speak for themselves.
I call this mode of thinking “the side effect mentality.”
The mentality revolves around one central question: What can I do to make the outcome I want almost inevitable?
Here are a few too many examples just to make sure you get the point.
- Don’t think about losing weight. Instead, only eat healthy food.
- Don’t fixate on having a good business idea. Instead, focus on solving a problem.
- Don’t fixate on finding a mentor. Instead, focus on asking specific questions from qualified teachers. A mentor will be a side effect of this process.
- Don’t focus on getting fit. Focus on getting good at a sport (besides golf).
While it is clear why this approach works well with specific one-time goals, most people don’t realize how well it also works with life’s undefined, ongoing goals.
Consider the surprising logic of the agnostic Jew, someone who doubts the fundamental premises of Judaism such as the singularity of G-d, the validity of the Torah, or the importance of keeping kosher, yet remains very culturally involved.
While it might seem irrational to adopt the habits of a religion you don’t “believe” in, it makes a lot of pragmatic sense. Why?
We all want to live good lives. We want health, friendships, fun, community, social activity, and continuous learning. Even if you don’t believe in the religious secret sauce, being culturally involved is extremely useful.
For example, the habit of attending Shabbat (Jewish sabbath dinner) means you spend time with the most important people in your life, disconnect from modern distractions, and enjoy an amazing meal… every 👏 Friday 👏 night.
Likewise, following Yom Kippur (day of atonement) means you guarantee at least one extended fast each year (#ancient_autophagy).
Consider also how marrying within a culture tends to have higher success rates because of shared values and a reduced likelihood of fighting in-laws.
So What Does This Have To Do With Parties?
I first heard the term “system of living” from my podcast guest Joe Wehbe.
A system of living is when you intentionally maintain a recurring practice because of its beneficial side effects. While many of us can probably identify useful traditions in our lives, a true system of living requires conscious understanding as to why you sustain the activity.
At a minimum, Joe tries to read a book every week. This automatically gives him new ideas for his essays, keeps his mind sharp, and satisfies his quest for lifelong learning. Instead of starting every week with uncertainty about how he’ll find writing ideas, what he’ll learn, and how he’ll avoid sloth, Joe just focuses on finishing a book.
The 8/10 system you maintain for a long time always beats the 10/10 system you quit.
B+ effort. A+ consistency.
Okay, now I’m actually going to talk about parties.
The Side Effects of Throwing Parties
If you maintain the simple system of hosting a party every year, every birthday, at the end of every semester, every Oscars, once a month, every Superbowl, etc, many powerful side effects occur.
1) Reciprocity — Tit For Tat
One of the best ways to get invited to more parties is to host more parties.
We are reciprocal creatures. An eye for an eye. A party for a party.
We take care of people who take care of us. Show someone a good time, and they’ll want to include you in their next adventure.
As a bonus, the fact that you threw a party might give your guests the motivation to throw a party (which you’ll probably be invited to).
2) Efficient Relationship Maintenance
In the very first edition of my newsletter, Louis’ Learnings, I introduced the concept of “Decentralized Dunbar.”
Quoting myself, “Dunbar’s number is the well-studied idea that we are only able to maintain around 150 relationships… it is the “typical number of people we can keep track of and consider part of our ongoing social network.”
After we graduate high school/ college it is essentially impossible to meaningfully keep up with everyone. We don’t just “bump” into our 50 closest friends like we used to. Because of parties, I’ve kept in touch with a dramatically larger circle.
Because of this newsletter, I can briefly update 100+ people concerning “what I’m up to” with one click, and parties are the best analog equivalent.
I don’t have the bandwidth to coordinate a one-on-one coffee date with every person I’d invite to a party. It would be wildly inefficient to commute that many times let alone spend the effort on scheduling times, dates, and locations.
Instead, all at once, everyone comes to me. Then, when finally in the same room as some friends, future activities end up being planned in the moment.
If you aren’t a “party” person, one alternative popularized by Cal Newport is to host publicized office hours. Tell your general circle that you hang out at the same public place every week at a few set hours. You can also do this on Zoom. Bring some reading or non-urgent work tasks. If nobody shows up, great, if people do, great.
College professors don’t have time to make an appointment with every student or peer. Since we also value our time, we should consider adopting their system.
3) Meet New People With Little Effort
Cliche truth: we don’t know what we don’t know.
Less cliche corollary: we don’t know who we don’t know.
When you host parties, always encourage (trusted) friends to bring a plus one. New people spark new relationships and the possible impact of randomly meeting the right person at the right time can’t be exaggerated.
Maybe they’ll make a life-changing book recommendation, tell you the best joke you’ve ever heard, spill a crypto alpha-leak, or invite you to interview their extremely successful aunt. The point is that YOU NEVER KNOW what could happen.
More important than you gaining opportunities from random new people, however, everyone at the party enjoys the same chance.
4) Dot Connecting
As previously introduced Joe Wehbe would say, “the best way to open doors for yourself is to open doors for others.”
We are busy. Our brains are scattered. We fail to make obvious connections that would help people tremendously. Parties can be a great way to overcome this short-sighted tendency.
Sometimes you don’t realize how well two people you know would get along until you see both of their faces in the same room, side-by-side.
You think to yourself, “Holy sh*t. They both are trying to break into real estate. They’d probably really benefit from knowing each other.”
Boom 💥. Dots connected.
Don’t forget about reciprocity. When you help others, they’ll almost always want to help you in return.
Let me be clear. The goal is not to accumulate and bank social credits. Some would find that a little bit problematic. Instead, my point is that there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the inevitable beneficial side effects of helping a lot of people.
5) Not a Catfish
When you just meet someone, it can be strange or uncomfortable to suggest immediately doing one-on-ones. How could they know you aren’t going to Texas Chainsaw Massacre them?
If I just meet someone and they want to take a remote hiking trip, I can’t help but get low-key murder vibes. Instead, if they invite me to a group event, and I walk into a room of 20+ people, the fear for my life subsides.
This is why everyone recommends first dates in public places. Non-romantic relationships clearly benefit from these same rules.
Stay smart, save the deserted building tour for the 4th(ish) activity in a relationship.
6) Parties are Fun
This email might sound like everything is only useful so long as it is a means to some greater end, but that is NOT the point I hoped to make! Let me clarify.
The goal of thinking in side effects is twofold.
- Recognize situations where you could be more effective by focusing on the process instead of the outcomes.
- Be motivated to put more effort into a specific activity by fully appreciating the second-order benefits. Parties require time, effort, and capital. By considering the higher-order consequences, I might convince you that it is worth the investment.
Thinking of beneficial side-effects is… beneficial, but don’t lose the forest for the trees.
A party is about bringing people together for laughter, bonding, and community.
The joy of the moment is THE benefit.
As covid rules fade into oblivion, do yourself a favor.
Throw a damn party.