Beware the Prince

I’m about as well sorted psychologically as I’m ever going to be but I get to use a shrink as consultant for niggling issues, an arrangement that suits us both. During a recent conversation, we were discussing some completely impersonal topic and after commending my insight, looked at me purposefully and said “But you’re not a Prince”. He started to explain what he meant, but I just raised my hand to stop him. I got it, I just didn’t like it.

As a group we like societal anomalies as long as we can feel superior to someone. The sick fascination with serial killers fulfills a violent prurience with the added benefit of guilty Shadenfreude regarding the victims. Positive outliers that make us feel inferior are less welcome. We don’t like those, to the point where psychological self-defensive concepts like “luck” and “cheating” arise immediately like squid ink.

Princes, winners of the genetic lottery in exactly the ways that count most, do exist unfortunately. Princes are separate from savants, the latter with skills so focused in one area that they’re completely useless and awkward in others to make us feel better. For the true Prince, as the name implies, the aptitudes and will are so strong and varied that future success is virtually preordained. They are not only capable of breezing through an applied economics final after no lectures and 30 hours of studying, but also know what you are going to do and say before you do or say anything.

Too many viewings of Good Will Hunting, you’re thinking. I wish that were the case but I actually know a Prince well who has operated so well in the back section of the FIRE acronym that having never been anything but self-employed, he personally owns his own jet (money enough not to waste time) and funds a major post-graduate school that has his name on the door. His social skills are legendary, maintaining varied and rarely overlapping spheres including prominent politicians, assorted billionaires, and his friends from high school. He is also a former professional athlete.

There is another business acquaintance whose history may indicate Princedom, but I don’t know them well enough to say for sure. He shares, and here finally we reach the point of this exercise, an interesting set of outwards traits with my friend, marked stillness and a vagueness equal parts camouflage and obfuscation. Whether this represents confidence, focus, strategy or an inability to connect to us regular mortals I have no idea. But, these characteristics make it extremely difficult for even the most observant meeting attendee to know what they’re dealing with.

Princes (of both sexes, I refuse to use “Princesses” here) do exist, which is the first thing to keep in mind. The second, more business-related point which follows, is that it is a very good idea never to be on the other side of the table from them. I’ve seen the advanced negotiation tactics and I will state unequivocally that an attentive person of above-average intelligence will not even know they are being applied. A lot of it is flattery, not sales, with hearty congratulations for coming up with an idea that “I never would have come up with myself”, even though the counterparty has been subtly nudged in that direction for a week and will have to get a cab home because they have unwittingly thrown their car into the deal. (that actually happened, btw). On the other side of the table, you will have brought a knife to a gunfight while being lauded for your impressive strength.

Money attracts talent and despite widespread charlatanism and scumbaggery, finance likely has more royalty than any other field. Beware the Prince.

3 thoughts on “Beware the Prince

  1. Robert says:

    Reminds me of the quote from Rounders: “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you ARE the sucker. “

  2. Interloper – even if you start your new job this blog NEEDS to continue! Your wisdom/insight requires sharing!

  3. kris says:

    I almost knew it, since most of your posts are like confessions; your blog is a confession. You have used the word “cathartic” few times. This is a scary word for people who contemplate the meaning of it, like you do with words.
    I’m here to learn about finance, mostly on the practical side, but I’m seeing that your readers (even those who do not post), are like you. They just do not have the guts to confess.
    When you talk about finance, you are so, so ‘simple’. When you talk about life, you are so, so ‘not simple’. You may want to try to do with your life, what you do with finance, just simple. It’s so beautiful.

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