“You’re standing in front of an elevator. The doors open. And inside the elevator is one solitary stranger.  You’ve never met this person before in your whole life,” reflects Peter Kaufman, editor of Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charlie Munger

“You have three choices for how you’re going to behave as you walk into this elevator,” Peter observes.

Option one is to smile and say, “Good morning.”  If we do that, “98 percent of the time the person will smile and say good morning back,” Peter predicts.

Option two: We can “scowl and hiss at this stranger in the elevator. And they have no idea why you’re scowling and hissing at them. And I say 98 percent of the time, they may not hiss back at you, but they will scowl back at you,” says Peter. 

Option three?

We can walk into the elevator and you can do nothing. 

“And what do you get 98 percent of the time?” Peter asks. 


Peter calls this “mirrored reciprocation.”  We get what we give.  

“You’re going to get back whatever you put out there,” Peter comments.

“Do you want to spend your one lifetime like most people do, fighting with everybody around them?”  asks Peter.

There is a better way, Peter tells us. 

“Instead of an antagonistic fighting life, all you have to do is go positive, go first, be patient enough.”

It’s the “be patient” part that trips us up.    

“This is why nobody does it,” Peter tells us. “Oh, it takes too long.” 

“Compared to what? Peter asks.  “Look at the plan B that everybody uses. It’s terrible! It doesn’t work. They spend their whole lives fighting with everybody.

“This is why these bars are full of people at 2:00 a.m. drowning their sorrows. Knocking down these drinks. ‘When’s the world going to give me something, man?  When am I going to get mine?’” Peter observes.

“Well, what did you ever do? Did you ever get up in the morning and smile at the world? No. You either did nothing or you scowled and hissed at the world. You’re getting back exactly what you would expect to get back if you understood how the world really works,” Peter states.  “It’s all mirrored reciprocation.” 

“You want to go positive,” says Peter.  “And, you want to go first.” 


Reflection: How comfortable am I with going positive and going first?  Is something in the way? 

Action:  Experiment with going positive and going first.  Today.

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