“I find that a ducks opinion of me is very much influenced by whether or not I have bread”
– Mitch Hedberg
“Experience is simply the name we give to our mistakes”
– Oscar Wilde
I was explained this once about the mechanics of how relationships work.
Originally, it was explained to me as the reason for how couples fall in love but the same mechanic works in a lot of fields. It explains everything from why it is difficult for guys and girls to start dating to how investors back promising startups. It explains the reason why it is difficult to form relationships.
Imagine a big empty room. The room is infinitely large. Inside the room is a party. And you are about to open a door to let in the guests. The guests are all X’s and O’s. And they are all about to enter the room for the party.
So the room will be filled with X’s and O’s. It doesn’t matter how many there are but lets say there are an infinite number. There are infinity X’s and infinity 0’s. The 2 symbols each represent some juxtaposed entities that want to meet up together. Every X is searching for an O. And every O is searching for an X.
But they are each individuals. Every individual doesn’t just want to meet another person, they want to meet the perfect person for themselves to form a relationship with. An X doesn’t want to meet just any O, it wants to meet the perfect O for that particular X. And the O doesn’t want to meet any X, it wants to meet the perfect X for that specific O. They won’t just settle for any of the other symbols. They want the best symbol compatible for themselves. Let’s call it their soulmate.
But the X’s and O’s have another characteristic. While searching for their counterpart, they also tend to stick with their own kind and so will form clusters. So X’s will be in groups with other X’s and O’s will be in groups with other O’s. Some X’s and O’s also have more value than others and will seek other high value X’s and O’s but for the most part we can ignore this.
The groups are reasonably small. So in this party you can imagine lots of tiny groups of O’s and X’s. X’s need to stay close to other X’s and O’s need to stay close to other O’s. But after a while when they’ve spent enough time in the group, every X and O will leave, wander around the party for a bit and then go join another group of X’s and O’s or come back to the original. So while they are in their clusters, both X’s and O’s are constantly trying to leave to find their soulmate.
Also, an O and X can’t form a relationship with their soulmate unless they meet them away from every other X and O. The X has to meet an O while both of them are wandering away from their group. When they find their soulmate, they separate and go on the dancefloor together. Or they can leave the party altogether. It’s easier to imagine XO’s together somewhere in the room away from all the other groups.
Here is where the difference comes in.
The defining difference is whenever an X leaves a cluster, it exerts a force drawing other X’s to chase after it to try and get close to it again. Whereas whenever an O leaves a cluster, the other O’s try to draw it back into the group where it left. So when an X leaves, the other X’s will try and move closer to it. But when an O leaves, the other O’s try to pull it back. But this will only happen when an X and O are starting to get close and form a relationship.
Both X and O want to meet and form relationships with each other. As an X gets close to an O, the other X’s see this O and will come crowd around it and ruin its chances, each trying to get with the O. And as an O starts to get close to an X, the other O’s will pull it back into the group of O’s which also ruin its chances of meeting its soulmate. This only happens as an O and X begin to get close to one another and start to form a relationship. The individual X’s and O’s about to start a relationship have to both resist this urge and go against the behaviour of the groups for a successful relationship to form.
Ok, so now we have our rules. What do you think happens if we run our simulation? When you open the doors, the party starts and all the eager X’s and O’s flood in. You’d think that every X and O would meet up and find their soulmate right? Wrong.
If you do a Monte Carlo simulations over infinite time and this party ran forever. What does end up happening is they cluster. What you see is strong clusters of X. And strong clusters of O. And these tend to be clusters of value. So high value X’s cluster with high value X’s and high value O’s cluster with high value O’s and so on and so on. Only the minority of O’s and X’s end up leaving their group, meeting each other and forming a relationship. This is really sad when you think about it.
Because it means the other X’s and O’s are the very reason an X and O do not find their soulmate. The natural tendency of the individual X’s and O’s is not to go against the super behaviour of their groups. And there is a soulmate definitely present in the room somewhere for every X and O, they just have to find them. It’s why to form a great relationship, you are overcoming societal barriers where the mechanics work similarly.
Most of the X’s want to meet another O and vice versa, but they don’t. They want to but they don’t. They end up stuck where they are. It takes an overcoming of this hurdle for relationships to even form in the first place. And why you should nearly always try to go after someone or something you want. And not get stuck in the status quo.