Effort vs. Result is non-linear

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail

Question: if, as some people would like you to believe, getting jacked really was all you need to do in order to get girls, how come the Misc [1] is full of jacked dudes who struggle with girls?

Answers: because increasing SMV is a multifaceted undertaking, and focusing on a single aspect only means doing things wrong: depending on the single attraction parameter you have decided to focus all your efforts on, above a certain threshold you will encounter either ever-diminishing returns or even negative returns. And in both cases, you will be left wondering why girls are not falling all over you now that you’ve got that single thing completely in check.

But before proceeding any further, let me clarify this: lifting is good, by all means hit the gym regularly and work out hard, the benefits for you will be great in terms of both physique (Looks) and confidence (Vibe). And as a bonus you will have the opportunity to casually ping the girls training next to you (Social Calibration). Still, if part of the reason why you lift is to get better with women, then hitting the gym regularly and working out hard is good as long as it’s not the only thing you ever do in your life, and as long as it’s not the only thing where you focus all your improvement efforts.

These are, in my opinion, the key things to keep in mind at the beginning of an improvement journey, and then all the way through:

● Happiness is only in the present moment
● The relationship between Effort and Result is non-linear
● There is such a concept of “being good enough”

Let’s look at the second bullet point, the relationship between Effort and Result (the concept of “being good enough” deserves a separate post). If we define “return” as the amount of extra Result you get from the amount of extra Effort you put in, there will be a certain threshold above which, when you put in some more extra Effort, you will encounter either:

1. Ever-diminishing returns
2. Negative returns

Ever-diminishing returns

Leather jacket example

Men’s fashion lends itself as a perfect example for the pattern of ever-diminishing returns. Let’s take a concrete example and let’s consider going shopping for a single piece of garment, a leather jacket. Two years ago, when I was in the market for my first leather jacket ever, I tried different models by different brands, of different quality, and at different price points. From fake leather models priced at 50 euro, all the way up to boutique models priced at 3000 euro. And as I kept trying different models, it became clear to me that I was in the “ever-diminishing returns” pattern (in this example, Effort is the price of the leather jacket, and Result how good the leather jacket looked on me).


The graph is somewhat simplified, since many more permutations other than the four shown are possible, anyway let’s proceed with the KISS principle in mind [2]. Point ① is reported just for completeness, since it was a clear no-go from the start. Point ② was already better, because, all else being equal, the right fit gives you a considerable advantage in fashion. But still, it was noticeable that the leather was fake, hence that model got rejected. I then considered real leather jackets only, and I tried some in the 150-euro range: better than point ②, but on one side the leather was low quality and didn’t stand out at all, on the other side the design and the details were absolutely plain. Rejected. I then moved in the 500-euro range, point ③, and this is when things got interesting: excellent skinny fit, perfecto style superbly executed with zips and buttons in the right places, epaulets, belt, quality leather… I proceeded to try a few more jackets priced at 800, 1500, and finally 3000 euro (point ④), and it became obvious that they all looked pretty much just as good as the 500-euro model. Sure, maybe a bit better, and I seem to remember that the lamb leather of the 3000-euro model was of “superior” quality, but I concluded that the extra price required to buy one of those jackets would not have generated a meaningful difference in terms of how good the jacked looked on me, compared to the 500-euro model. And so, I waited one month and I bought the latter model for 350 euro at the sales!

Maybe the specific details of this leather jacket example are not applicable to everyone, but on the contrary the principle of “ever-diminishing returns” is universal: when you reach point ③ you are fine, you can consider that single attraction parameter in check, and refocus your effort on other parameters which are still lagging behind at points ① and ②.

Negative returns

Attraction parameters with “ever-diminishing returns” pattern have a nice fail-safe mechanism built-in: if you overdo things and decide to put in the maximum Effort, you will face no real consequences other than having put this extra Effort on the table (time, money, etc), assuming having put the extra Effort has no serious repercussions on your life. In the above example, if 3000 euro is the spare change you have in your pocket, going to the boutique and buying the 3000 model of point ④ will have no negative consequences for you: sure, the extra edge it will give you in terms of capturing female attention will be negligible compared to point ③, but you have done no real harm since you can afford it effortlessly.

For some other attraction parameters, on the contrary, when you put in extra Effort without realising that you have crossed the “sweet spot” already, then this extra Effort will generate negative returns, which is hardly what you want.

Haircut example

Letting hair grow is an ideal example of “negative returns”, and in this example Effort refers roughly to the length of the hair (roughly), and Result to how much more attractive the haircut makes your face.


I spent most of my twenties between point ① and point ③ above, meaning that every time I visited the barber I asked for a ridiculously short haircut, then I let it grow for roughly four weeks until I thought it was “too long”, and back to the barber again. To be honest, after almost every haircut the relevant girlfriend and some of my close friends were giving me feedback that it was too short, but every time I shrugged it off thinking, “what do they know about that?!”. Then at 31 I had a brilliant idea (!): finding a decent barber and letting him cut my hair as he pleased. It took two attempts to find the kind of barber I was looking for, and to this day I’ve always given him a free hand for my haircut, with great results. When I went there the first time, I was let’s say at point ③ in the above graph, and he explained that it would have been not just a matter of letting the hair grow, but also of adapting the haircut to the shape of my face. I went like:

Adapting the haircut to the shape of my face… What a brilliant concept, it took me only 31 years to get it!

It took three months to reach point ④, and I visited him once a month so that he could adapt the growing hair as needed in order to reach the desired target haircut. Fact is, during those three months the benefits of this new work-in-progress haircut started to emerge already, since it was changing the symmetry of my face quite significantly, and the attention I was passively getting without really doing anything was growing quickly as a result. It felt amazing, and I just couldn’t have enough of it. That’s when I distinctly remember thinking:

This is great! I will just keep my hair growing and growing, so that all these smiles and glances, which are at an all-time high already, will grow and grow accordingly!

That thought lasted for just a fraction of a second, since the logic fallacy was clear. But still, it shows that once you put Effort in an attraction parameter (haircut in this case) and start getting such impressive results, there is part of your mind that just can’t have enough of it. And this is when you need to be careful in understanding the concepts of “sweet spot” and “negative returns”.

At some point you will reach point ④, when you have the ideal haircut for your face shape, and this is great. Then, unless you decide to have your hair done every day, you will pass this point and enter the area of negative returns, which is absolutely normal. Eventually you reach point ⑤, and it’s important to notice that points ④ and ⑤ are not that far away in terms of Result: the haircut still looks good on you. At point ⑤ you visit the barber and move to point ⑥: a bit shorter than the “ideal” haircut, but close enough in terms of Result. After two weeks you reach point ④ again, and after additional two weeks you are at point ⑤ one more time, and you go back for yet another haircut. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat.

Things go wrong when you reach point ⑤ and for some reason you decide to wait some additional time before going back for the haircut. If during the hypothetical two weeks needed to move from point ④ to ⑤ the rate of negative return is small, in the hypothetical two weeks needed to move from point ⑤ to ⑦ this negative rate is bigger, and the longer you wait the bigger it gets. At point ⑤ the haircut still looks good on you, while at point ⑦ you are significantly away from your ideal haircut, and you lose the edge that you were previously getting by keeping this attraction parameter in check (meaning haircut always between points ④, ⑤ and ⑥).

Building muscle example

Building muscle is another parameter where you encounter negative returns after you have crossed the sweet point. The negative-returns mechanism is the same as in the haircut example, but the dynamics are very much different in this case: first off, it takes quite a lot of effort to move from one point of the curve to the other; then, contrary to the haircut example, here a few guys get completely side-tracked and enter a monk-mode journey which never ends. More than a problem of crossing the sweet spot, this case is a problem of mindset, of not realising that you have crossed the “good enough” threshold. Sure, if looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1974 is a personal goal of yours, then by all means go ahead with that. But if you think that getting there will give you an edge with the girls, then I’ve got some bad news for you (excluding a very limited niche of girls):


Anyway, very few people need to worry about crossing the sweet spot and entering the area of negative returns in this case, since getting there literarily takes ages. Not a beginner’s problem at all. On the other hand, most people need to keep in mind that, in order to start hitting on girl and putting yourself out there, you don’t need to wait until you reach point ④. Not at all. Jim, who is at point ③ of building muscle and at the equivalent level on a few more attraction parameters and has 200 daygame approaches under his belt, he will be much more successful than Joe, who is at point ④ of building muscle, doesn’t have any other parameter in check, and has not approached a girl in two years. But let’s keep talking about this in a different post.


When you are at the beginning of your improvement journey, my recommendation for you is to:

1. Identify the attraction parameters where you want to focus your effort on.

2. Identify any quick wins and prioritise those (quickly).

3. For the remaining parameters, distinguish between the ones with pattern 1 behaviour (“ever-diminishing returns”) and the ones with pattern 2 behaviour (“sweet spot” + “negative returns”).

4. For “ever-diminishing returns” parameters, decide how much effort (time, money, etc) you want to put in.

5. For “sweet spot” + “negative returns” parameters, get a clear idea of where the sweet spot is, and avoid falling into the trap we saw in the haircut example above.

6. Work on several of those parameters at the same time.

Improvement journeys are just great, since you literarily become the best version of yourself. And they are also pleasurable, because the results you get in terms of becoming a more attractive, more confident and more socially calibrated man depend pretty much just on you: you are in charge of your own destiny here, no commitment / agreement / approval from girls is required.

Fact is, eventually you will need to go to point 7. of this list. Sure, maybe you want to quickly go through a couple of quick wins first. And sure, maybe you also want to start working on a few other parameters first, since this will make you feel good and give you a lot of positive energy. I understand all this. But there is no getting away, eventually you will need to:

7. Put yourself out there and start approaching

And you want to do that sooner rather than later.

[1] The Misc. section of the Bodybuilding.com forums

[2] “Keep It Simple Stupid”, something I always strive to remember

The Essentials:
• Fundamentals