When I was a kid, I read/heard several variations of the folk tale “Stone Soup.” The plot is that of a hungry vagrant who convinces a resident to furnish him a pot and water so he can make “stone soup” (he has provided the stone). As the water boils, he remarks that the soup could use a dash of something. A carrot or celery or a potato is procured and donated to the stock, then another item, and eventually the pot is filled with furnishings (from either his host alone or various townspeople) alongside the stone. Everyone was excitedly awaiting the “stone soup” and so were happy to give their own modest parts to it.
All those involved enjoy the soup, then the vagrant takes his stone out of the pot, puts it in his bag and departs. The whole point of the story is that there was no “stone soup” – they just made a soup with the vagrant exploiting the stone as a catalyst to get things moving.
For most of my life I have regarded this tale with a glint of cynicism, as a warning against a ripoff by a person who feigns to have something to offer but is really just setting you up to do all the giving.
I’m told, however, that it’s generally regarded as a fable of sharing and cooperation. In an optimistic light, the story provides a great example of getting resources in a state of great need by not begging for the charity of others but by putting your ante in first. The guy didn’t really have anything to offer, but he did a lot with what he could – not just providing the stone to seed the soup-brewing operation, but providing the environs, the mood, the enthusiasm around the event, the chance to be part of something. Most of his contribution was non-material, yet he ate well that day.
It recalls the Gospel story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, where the good Lord and his crew sought to feed a large crowd with only a handful of things to eat, yet wound up collecting basketfuls of scrap food after all had eaten their fill.
When I was growing up this had always been very sketchily proffered as a conventional miracle of provision, that God could provide against material want as a sort of cosmic vending machine (which, if you haven’t been reading the papers, we don’t really see Him doing on a daily basis).
But one piece of theology I read had a much more practical interpretation: faced with the task of throngs of hungry people gathered to hear the sermon, those in the crowd who could procured their own foodstuffs and donated them to the crowd at large.
THE STONE-SOUP PROCESS
Another interpretation of the story is the allegory of building something – beginning with a pretext, which superficially motivates everybody to contribute, and coalescing into something where the original pretext isn’t important at all.
Allow me to coin the idea of the stone-soup process: to begin a task with a kernel that is wholly critical, where at the end of the task, the kernel will be wholly irrelevant.
Game, in most of the forms we understand it today, is a stone-soup process. That means both the process of learning game, and the process of building a sexual and romantic connection with a woman.
THE HOOKS REQUIRED TO START BUILDING GAME EVENTUALLY SUBSUME INTO IRRELEVANCE
Game is incessantly criticized for its teaching of small, digestible tasks men can use to improve their social-sexual ability – openers, funny or confident routines, responses to fitness tests, body language tips, dress tips, tactics to touch women effectively, even the appropriate order in which to stroke a woman’s erogenous zones. The critics will tell you that all that stuff is crap that “doesn’t work,” that you should just “be confident and don’t be a pushover,” or that if you try to employ tactical tips you’re already a loser that women will see through.
It’s a bit like Yogurt from Spaceballs, telling Lonestar that he found the Schwarz ring in a Cracker Jack box. (There’s usually also a good helping of “that nonsense would never work on me.”)
I played sports for a long time in my youth, and when I reached adulthood I began coaching sports. One of the key tenets of coaching athletes is that for all practical purposes, new muscle movements cannot be learned at full speed. A large part of coaching is the process of teaching new skills, then repping them (correctly) at progressively advanced speed and increased complexity until they can be executed autonomously in he heat of competition. At that point, the skill is internalized and automatic, and the athletes can concern themselves with the dynamics of the game instead of which foot to put in front of the other.
Those who can be told “go catch this pass I’m going to throw to you” and do it on the first try are natural athletes – their bodies came programmed to accommodate physical tasks demanding in time and space. Another challenge of coaching is teaching athletes who are naturals, or who think they are naturals, that it’s important they learn to do skills the right way and not rely entirely on their natural ability, which is prone to change or might not be useful if the required skills change a bit. (One interesting outcome of this fact is that many natural athletes hit a wall of development – some of them in early high school – and get passed by other athletes precisely because they can’t get out of the “naturals’ mindset.”)
Back to game: the fact is that new mental-muscle movements can’t be learned at full speed either.
I’m here to tell you that for most guys, starting with the small stuff is the way to go. It’s way too daunting a task to begin with “you need to really envision yourself as the prize that women are lucky to chase after” or “you gotta let go of the idea that the outcome matters to you” and try to get results with it. It’s not actionable and is nothing more than a hollow affirmation. Only a guy with the psychological plasticity of a woman is going to be able to turn “be more confident” into a product without going through a behavioral-adjustment nexus. (An aside for another post: I’m working on a theory that one reason women are so dismissive of the idea of game as an acquired skill is that women tend to be susceptible rapid changes in psychological state in response to cultural stimuli, whereas men have a long-term, durable psychological arc based on a rational assessment of their own core value. So to women, it sounds perfectly normal to just wake up tomorrow and “be more confident.”)
There are some guys who are messing up in one particular tactical area, and once that is addressed, they hit their stride. Other guys have most of the outer game covered, but just need to believe they can win and develop some “killer instinct” for getting after it in the field. But the bulk of guys who are drawn to game need a lot of work in a lot of areas.
The thing is – and this is where the stone-soup idea comes in – once a guy is on his way to mastering a number of these tactical points, it becomes internalized, and the rest of his issues can rapidly dissipate because the overall mental frame, the feeling of power and confidence, takes over and drives out the rest of the negative traits.
There are limits to this, but it’s an effective strategy to fix some of your glaring problems for their own sake, get a bit of success from it, then once you “get the hang of things,” to move forward in a more holistic manner.
I went through this as did many guys. I never did a lot of highly structured PUA-style game to begin with, but I dabbled in some of its constructs. But today I could barely tell you what I’m doing in a set or where I got it from. The idea of opening, teasing, connecting with, and escalating with girls is something I can feel out – I don’t formulate a mental strategy, I just play out the behaviors and the mindset I subsumed under practice.
The “game” as the stone in my soup is back in my bag, while me and the girls are enjoying the soup.
“FAKING IT” WILL HELP YOU MAKE IT
The joke is really on the haters, because psychology is on our side. Not only does body language reflect our mentality, it goes the other direction too – it’s been demonstrated that changing the way we sit or stand affects how we perceive our own attitude and sense of power, and I can tell personally that changing my workwear changes my approach to my craft (I take my work more seriously in a suit than in grad-student shorts and tshirt).
Our minds have evolved elaborate shortcut mechanisms to infer one’s mental state and psychological fitness from body language, and it seems our minds are impressionable even when it’s ourselves doing the impressing. Thus it’s important for a guy whose game sucks to literally start going through the motions to adopt physical and verbal mechanisms that will imprint the winning attitude onto his mind.
GAMING A WOMAN REQUIRES EXPEDIENT HOOKS
Another way the stone-soup principle works is in the process of attraction and seduction itself. You’ll use spontaneous coincidences, short-term opportunities, deja-vu moments and other things as logistical props to move the process forward, completely for that purpose and with no persistent meaning.
One classic, archetypal example is that almost no woman will ever remember your opener. I’ve asked women if they remember the first thing a guy said to them; crickets. It’s critical to have an opener to get the conversation started, but it almost immediately becomes irrelevant and is more often than not forgotten.
Another is the oft-cited principle of using discretion and plausible deniability to advance the seduction temperature. If your plan is to go to your place, you can drop bait about seeing your vacation photos or shaking her up your custom Martini recipe. If it’s her place, you can always ask to use the bathroom and see how that goes, or suggest watching a movie.
(An aside that’s worth talking about: hard-edged critics paint this soft-sell approach as “coercive.” This line of thinking is frankly silly and tries to paint women as infantile victims of male agency with no accountability for their own decisionmaking. I don’t view it that way, first of all because she can say no if she’s not interested (and in my experience, they do, because you’re creating an environment where it’s OK to say no) and in fact I’ve found that girls who are interested like the roundabout process of seduction that gives them the feeling of discretion and “it just happened” that they like. There’s nothing romantic or seductive about “why don’t we go upstairs and bone?”
You’re doing your job as a man when you take that kind of pressure off of her so she doesn’t have to go through some mental gyrations about “should I invite him up? Is it too early? Would that be kind of slutty? Do I really want to do this with him? I wonder if he’s as good as Mike was…he smells good enough…we can always watch TV if it’s not hot, then I can kick him out. Is he not asking because he doesn’t like me? Maybe I should have worn another top…shit, I was supposed to wear this one to the work social tomorrow. I better just end it here, I have laundry to do. Oh, why won’t he just kiss me?”)
The first-class game blogger Roosh had a post with a stone-soup ethos. A young man in a coffee shop asked Roosh to teach him everything he knows about women. Roosh tasks him with progressively more involved personal projects, including approaching 100 girls, reading books, getting fit, and learning a new language. At each juncture Roosh promises to teach him about women after he completes the next task.
Of course, Roosh is teaching him to be a higher-value man, a complete package that is attractive to a wide spread of women. Eventually the hook of teaching what he knows about women becomes superfluous.
Three months later he came back to the coffee shop. Behind him was a pretty girl.
“Hey Roosh this is Rebecca. I met her in the grocery store and we’ve been going out for two months.” When she stepped out to make a phone call, he said, “Roosh you’ve been very helpful to me. I’ve grown a lot in the past couple years and can barely recognize myself in the mirror, but I’m finally ready for you to teach me everything you know about…”
Suddenly he stopped and stared at me. A smile formed on his face. He gave me a strong handshake and then left with his girl. I never saw him again.