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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 Effect
After 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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  1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. When do you release your ebook on email templates?

  4. 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

  5. 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!).

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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 ones who actually invest real time and effort into doing things well.

    As well as blogging, I write fiction and occasionally send pieces to magazines and competitions. 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. It doesn’t take long to learn, but it can really make your work stand out (in a good way!) on a busy editor’s desk.

  9. […] 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 […]

  10. “80 percent of success is just showing up” — Woody Allen

    Love the post today.