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15 Little Life Hacks

The Craigslist Penis Effect

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Every woman who has used Craigslist knows that it is a veritable jungle of unexpected penises. In other words, if you’ve ever posted a nice, g-rated “women seeking men” post, you will immediately and inexplicably have 50-80 pictures of men’s penises in your inbox.

Craigslist Penis EffectAfter this happened to a number of my friends, I started thinking.

Not just about how horrible men are at online dating, but how to use this to my advantage.

Introducing The Craigslist Penis Effect

The Craigslist Penis Effect describes situations where everyone else is so horrible that, by being even half-decent, you can dominate everyone else and win.

These moron men on Craigslist would be better served writing 5 half-decent responses, testing to see which got the best response, and then sending it out instead of a picture of their generally mediocre manhood. I did exactly that for my friend on JDate and ended up getting very good at introducing girls to him. (Jewish women, beware of my Ashkenazi skills.)

Let’s take some examples where everyone else is so terrible that you can dominate by being even somewhat competent.

  • Negotiations. Most people are awful negotiators (especially for jobs and especially in America). That’s because nobody teaches us how to negotiate — indeed, we’re actively taught that it’s “weird” and “awkward” to negotiate. By contrast, I find it “weird” to lose $10,000 because you didn’t take 5 hours to practice your negotiating pitch beforehand, like my friend Rachel did. By simply starting a negotiation, you stand out from 80% of other applicants.
  • Writing effective emails. Most people send out dozens of emails per day. Yet when was the last time they studied the best emailers to learn techniques to (1) get busy people to respond to them, (2) cut down on back-and-forth emails, and (3) get what they wanted via email? (I’m working on a product with 50 email scripts you can use today. Newsletter subscribers get first crack.)
  • Conferences. Most conferences are boring and bad. But so are most conference go-ers, who don’t do their homework beforehand, eat with their co-worker, and miss the prime benefits of networking. (The book Never Eat Alone has a magical chapter on how to be a master networker at conferences.)
  • Exercise. Go for a 30-minute run every day and you’ll be in better shape than 90% of adult Americans. Stop debating minutiae about health and get off your ass.
  • Holding onto expensive purchases for years (even decades). We love to buy expensive things like houses and cars, then turn around and sell them 5 years later. This is literally one of the most poisonous financial decisions you can make: Not only do you incur huge transaction costs, but you condition yourself to think that buying and selling expensive goods every few years is normal. Instead, if you can use the Tripod of Stability to make major purchases, you can spend that money on things that you love — rather than transaction fees.
  • Earning money online. As Erica Douglass recently said, “If you earn $1 online, you’re doing better than 90% of people.”

There are thousands of other examples: Writing winning scholarship applications that secure over $100,000 in funding. Or creating blog posts that drive hundreds of thousands of views. Or simply learning about the basics of social psychology for every day use.

The examples go back to my post about Big Wins, including why trying to save money on lattes is pointless for many people.

Big Wins Easy Wins
As you can see, many Big Wins are actually easily within reach — if you choose the right targets and differentiate yourself from others. While you’ll have a few areas of life where you’ll have to go up against formidable competition, many other areas of life are wide open.

For those, don’t waste your time competing with lame Craigslist penis guys in a race to mediocrity. Instead, think about areas where your competition is mediocre (where everyone is doing the same thing, and doing it poorly) and carefully test multiple strategies to dominate. The Craigslist Penis Effect is a guide to standing out from others when being even half-competent can get you superb results. There are literally thousands of these opportunities.

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42 Comments on "The Craigslist Penis Effect"

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Jord S
Jord S
7 years 4 days ago

Very good post, I especially liked the part where you suggested areas to dominate. I know I personally have been trying to make my emails more effective

Baker
7 years 4 days ago

I liked this post and while I haven’t experienced any penises, I have saw this effect in full effect while advertising our property management companies’ rentals online.

Like you pointed out, what these online trolls don’t realize is that it’s just as easy (and exponentially more effective) to create even ONE script to use. Let alone the great advice of creating 5 and rotating them.

Thought-provoking as always.

Maneesh Sethi
Maneesh Sethi
7 years 4 days ago

When do you release your ebook on email templates?

Writer's Coin
7 years 4 days ago

The incredible thing is that people aren’t realizing that they’re one of the “penises on Craigslist” and how easy/simple it would be to stand out in these types of situations. It always leaves me scratching my head when people don’t realize what these situations really are: an opportunity to stand out.

It’s kind of like commenting on a high-traffic, respected personal-finance blog….actually

prufock
prufock
7 years 4 days ago

Interesting post. Does walking 30 minutes a day really belong in the “hard” category, though? I understand how it’s a “small win,” at least compared to getting in the best shape of your life (though the benefits of even moderate exercise like this are pretty great – and for some people, that WOULD be the best shape of their lives!).

fasterthanyou
fasterthanyou
7 years 4 days ago

reminds me of the old joke – similar idea:

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Two guys were hiking through the jungle when they spotted a tiger. One of the guys reached into his pack and pulled out a pair of Nikes. His friend looked at him.

“Do you really think those shoes are going to make you run faster than that tiger?”

“I don’t have to run faster than that tiger. I just have to run faster than you.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

good article as always!

AC
AC
7 years 4 days ago

Negotiations work. Just got my first job out of grad school. When they offered the job, they gave me a number. I asked for 5-8k more, and they called me back the next day offering me 3k more and a 2k sign-on bonus. Cost me a day, I end up starting a week later (extending my summer vacation – not a bad thing), and because of the timing my benefits won’t kick in for another month, but for 2K now and 3K/year extra, well worth it in my opinion.

Ali Hale
7 years 4 days ago
As a blogger, I see this happening all too often. People latch on to a “system” which they think will give them a great blog – maybe posting every day, commenting on dozens of other blogs, or getting guest posts on various blogs. The problem is, most of these people end up writing rubbish. It’s really not hard to stand out in the blogging world by spending a bit of extra time and effort on every post (and guest post, comment, email), and the people who seem to end up becoming genuinely successful (like your good self ;-)) are the… Read more »
chuks
9 months 22 days ago

I want to be part of this cairgelist

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[…] you to be rich uses the example of men sending penis pictures to women seeking men on Craigslist: The Craigslist Penis Effect Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Even BraverCraigslist is AwesomeThis will not get […]

Jeff
Jeff
7 years 4 days ago

“80 percent of success is just showing up” — Woody Allen

Love the post today.

Tyler@feet2thfire
7 years 4 days ago

That wins the award for “Most Attention Getting Title” of the week! Oh yeah, the information was cool, too.

Stephanie PTY
7 years 4 days ago
Ali Hale said “Something I was told early on was that an easy way to beat 90% of the competition is simply to follow standard guidelines on manuscript formatting and presentation, and to look professional” Yes yes yes YES! This goes for so many things. A few examples: Right now I’m running a contest on my blog to win two free laptops. The rules are simple: make a piece of multimedia about smart money habits (photo, artwork, video, whatever) and leave it in the comments. You don’t even have to make the best one to win, I’ll just pick randomly… Read more »
CH
CH
7 years 4 days ago

Excellent post. I’m self-employed in a relatively underdeveloped industry in my part of the world. When I first started out, the quality standard was low and the accreditation system did little to address the issue. I made myself stand out by simply producing a much better work than what people were accustomed to. Actually managed to thrive for these past couple of decades despite my poor marketing and networking skills – my clients recommend me to more than enough people to keep me in business.

April
April
7 years 4 days ago
I am bad, bad, bad at negotiations. But I actually HAVE done research on how to negotiate, comparable salaries in my area, etc., and practiced presenting my case, and it was basically met with “this is what we’re offering, take it or leave it.” Maybe I could have done something differently, but then, my boss was also a jerk with a chip on his shoulder because I had a degree and he didn’t. (I worked there part-time in college, and he made several comments about quitting school to work full-time at the company!) Just once, I want to be able… Read more »
A-ron
7 years 4 days ago

Dude, I almost feel out of my chair laughing. But you’re right, and not just about craig’s list, 90% of men are bad daters period. It’s funny than even being mediocre at most things is enough for you to be both effective and an instant expert. I think just being authentic is enough to set most people apart from the hordes trying to get attention by “exposing their penis.”

Actually, Ramit, I think you should have posted a pic of your penis just for effect. Then, you might have killed me with laughter.

Michael
7 years 4 days ago

Great Post Ramit!

and @Jeff- that woody allen quote is one of my favorites

The only issue I have is with the analogy. Even if you write the perfect email to this lady on craigslist, what are the odds she’d read it if the site has already flooded her inbox with penises? I think the real craigslist effect is indetifying a goal and finding alternative paths to achieve it.

LinearChaos
7 years 4 days ago

LOL, it’s amazing what you find when you start to look at patterns and use them against themselves. Success!

Great post!

Egon
7 years 4 days ago

In one breath you’ve mentioned using an email deluge of men’s penises to your advantage. Cuidado!

But surprisingly, this was actually pretty valid after wading through all of those penises.

tish
tish
7 years 3 days ago
Great post..! I work in state government, and I have been saying just this for years..! When I worked in private industry, I did, eh, ok. Nothing great. Not really excelling, not really motivated to. Or actually, just finding myself paling in comparison to everyone else which then just bummed me out, and I never really had the confidence to pursue something better. Then I started working for the state. I’ve never done better financially or professionally. Coming from private, my work ethic was, uh, a bit different than the typical state worker. The director was always so impressed with… Read more »
Ryan
Ryan
7 years 3 days ago

tish, you have just affirmed what many already think of Government employees. Struggling in private but excelling in public because everyone else “sucks”? LOL. Congratulations on your success… but I pray to God that some of your gumption spreads to your coworkers.

tish
tish
7 years 3 days ago

Ryan: lol.. I did forget to write in my post that it will come as NO surprise to anyone that many, many, many of my co-workers suck..! I actually try telling some of my co-workers that can be saved (ie, are fairly new to the system) about my idea that i look like a genious in comparison and hope they will be inspired by it.. 🙂

Ry
Ry
7 years 22 hours ago

Ramit,

I totally agree on that exercise thing as well. Just getting up and going for a run is definitely way more than most Americans can muster.

I can totally imagine a psychological/sociological study entitled, “The Craigslist Penis Effect”. Well put…

AJ
7 years 20 hours ago

Lol. Funny yet good post.

Matt
Matt
7 years 3 hours ago

I wish you hadn’t of this post by that name citing an ethnic stereotype. I have had the opportunity to deal with a number of Indians in my line of work. While not every Indian displays the behavior that you are alluding to, a number do. If I see their what I consider crude, rude and demanding behavior arise I dig in my heals and don’t budge. The negotiations have effectively ended and they end up purchasing.

RStewie
RStewie
7 years 21 minutes ago
Ramit, Great article, and post #17 had me falling out of my chair laughing. What a spectacular come-back. I’m not familiar with Craig’sList; my SO does all the Internet buying and selling. I love this post, though, because it goes along with the 80/20 theory: focus on what matters. In this case, what makes you stand out as the best. I would like to say, though, that I don’t consider setting yourself up at your company as an expert in your field is difficult to do. Some self-confidence and the guts to step up and say what you think is… Read more »
Laura @ BeyondBeerMoney
6 years 11 months ago

I echo the above that the way to beat out 99% of competition is showing up and making a move.

Most people won’t even take the 1st step because they’re so held back by perfectionism and/or terrified of failure.

Even if you do something badly, the fact that you’ve tried it at all can pull you ahead and connect you with people that are going places.

aj
aj
6 years 11 months ago
As Laura states, there are those that are afraid to even try…Then there are those that think they are that top 1% but don’t even have a clue! Somewhere in the middle is the ideal. Courage and confidence to try and fail, then the awareness to truly see why, take that information and keep on evolving until you find yourself. The confidence thing is really hard for a lot of people, and then there are those that have too much without anything to back it up. The key is to be able to keep it real, analyze others and yourself,… Read more »
Yale Wang
6 years 11 months ago
I met somebody who told me about a a test once where he wanted to see what type of replies women get on Craiglist depending on their age and attractiveness. He posted an identical classified ad with 3 different pictures. The first was a 20 year old, followed by a 40 year old, followed by a 65 year old. Not surprisingly, men sent the same horrid emails to all 3 posts. Men who were 65 almost responded the same way as men who were 18. Emails usually fell into the “is that really your picture? you’re hot cutie” to the… Read more »
C.A. Simmons
6 years 11 months ago

LMAO… Excellent title. I wonder how much trouble I’d end up in if I started using this terminology with my consulting clients?

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[…] to make long messages. There is also and additional benefit to doing this. Many men are completely incompetent when using Craigslist. By taking an intelligent approach and standing out girls will take more […]

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[…] next time. Doing this helps keep you sharp and stay ahead of 99% of people who never do this (the Craigslist Penis Effect in […]

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[…] next time. Doing this helps keep you sharp and stay ahead of 99% of people who never do this (the Craigslist Penis Effect in […]

mba admission requirements
1 year 1 month ago

The chief reason of writing business school essay is to offer a crisp and clear idea of your personality to the selection committee.

suzanne
9 months 10 days ago

this is stupid

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[…] people could take advantage of the Craigslist Penis Effect and rise above all the unwashed masses with just one […]

Ioana
8 months 12 days ago
Great article. People raelly would be surprised how many responses they could get just by sending a well written e-mail. I am in the process of posting a series where I interviewed over 40 online personalities. I was honestly shocked when the responses started rolling in and I received answers from people like Yaro Starak and Derek Sivers. People underestimate the power of e-mail and overestimate how difficult it is to contact well-known people. The most important thing to remember is that they are real people too and actually they’re very cool people who are glad to share their views… Read more »
Mike
6 months 10 days ago

Dating isn’t the problem here.. it’s all the stupid people just trying to get quick dates!

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[…] The Craigslist Penis Effect […]

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[…] I Will Teach You To Be Rich: Ramit’s personal finance and behavioural change blog. With more info on the Craigslist Penis Effect. […]

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