The indispensible first step to getting the things you want out of life
is this: Decide what you want.
In the film A Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe plays game theory pioneer John Nash. One scene from the film succinctly captures the essence of game theory and its implications for decision making. In the scene, Nash and his classmates are together in a bar when a group of five young women walk in—one blonde and four brunettes. The group—and particularly the blonde—quickly attracts the attention of Nash and his friends. Immediately, each classmate begins to plot his next move to win over the blonde. Nash has an epiphany of sorts: If each one independently attempts to maximize his personal outcome (which, in this scenario, involves pursuing the blonde), they will undoubtedly trip over one another and, in the end, no one will “win.” He predicts that, by the time their mutual failures to win over the blonde become apparent, it will be too late to turn their energy to her friends—none of the brunettes will want to be second choice. This dilemma causes Nash to comment that Oliver Williamson's classical view—that through individuals acting in their own best interests, the best interests of the group are met—does not fit the situation. If each classmate acts in his own best interest, then they will all fail.
Instead, Nash understands the situation as one in which each individual's best move depends on the anticipated moves that other rational players can be expected to make. Understood this way, the best course of action for each individual is to recall the dynamic—espoused in the title of the 1953 movie—that “gentlemen prefer blondes.” Knowing that your classmates are likely to pursue the blonde first, a more effective strategy would be for you to attend to one of the brunette friends. That way, you maximize your chance of winning the attention of one of the women. The critical observation here is the recognition that, in many situations, one individual's best move is often dependent on