The Midas Gambit

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I care what people think. You wouldn’t notice, but I actually agonize over meeting new people. I’ll replay conversations in my head for days. Did I make a good first impression? Did they laugh at my jokes? Are we friends now? I know this line of thinking is shallow and insecure, but I can’t help it. Whether you do the same or not, there’s an uncomfortable truth in how people view you – social status and new friends can unlock new opportunities you otherwise wouldn’t have. That’s why I always aim big in social situations. After reading this, you will too.


You’re at a dinner party. It’s a potluck and everyone’s cooking in the kitchen. Before showing up, you were given a choice on what to bring. Should you make something wild, or just be lazy about it? Sure, there’s an art to perfect mashed potatoes, but there are people to impress. You go to Granville Island instead and source ingredients for an authentic Louisiana gumbo chock-full of andouille, shrimp and fresh okra. Go, you.

“Holy shit, what are you making?”

“An authentic Louisiana gumbo chock-full of andouille, shrimp, and fresh okra,” you say.

“Wow, that looks delicious! I can’t wait to try it!”

Bam, immediate bonus points. Meanwhile, Safeway Joe mashes his potatoes in the background and no one cares. He serves a purpose though. We NEED mashed potatoes. He probably even does a pretty good job at it.


I have a confession to make: I’ve never made mashed potatoes. Literally never. Part of the reason is I grew up in an Asian family, but the real reason is “The Midas Gambit” – I always do the coolest and most advanced thing I can instead of basic tasks. That way, even though I’m secretly a derp, it looks like everything I touch turns to gold. When I cook in my free time, I’m not making sandwiches or boiling pasta. I’m cooking the craziest and most involved dish I can so I learn how to do it.

One of the first things I ever made was wild game gyoza. Elk, bison and venison. Shiitake mushrooms and onion for texture. Pan-fried and topped with grated ginger, and served with a rice vinegar dipping sauce. I had no idea what I was doing, but it came out great. It’s surprisingly difficult to fuck up food. Other dishes I can do with minimal thought are root beer glazed ham, chicken coconut curry, spicy eggplant, ratatouille and perfectly-grilled ribeyes, but I still look up the proper rice-to-water ratio because I’m actually a culinary idiot. To the outside world though, I’m the guy whose dinner parties are out of this world. It’s the Midas Gambit in action. We don’t have infinite time. We might as well do awesome things with the time we have.

The Midas Gambit doesn’t just apply to food. And once you step back a bit, it’s not even about impressing people. It’s REALLY about being the greatest goddamn person you can be. When you start making it a goal to do The Impressive Thing always, you’ll find you eventually reach a level of advanced competence your peers don’t have.

While most of my photo classmates were dicking around with Holgas, I learned everything I could about building a photography business. I registered my business at 19 and now pull a living wage. Meanwhile, 90% of those classmates remain hobbyists. Many of them aren’t even photographers anymore. While most of my friends drank PBR, I was learning how to taste whisky from Jim Murray and earning industry certifications that still make me money today. I now get invited to whisky events where cracking a 32-year-old Port Ellen is no big deal. While my musically talented friends only showcased their ability on karaoke nights, I registered myself with SOCAN and joined a band to tour other provinces as a drummer. I’m not even a good drummer! I just did it because I could!

Do you see what I’m getting at? In all these examples, I chose not to stay at “my level”. Why would I register a photography company when I didn’t even have clients? Why would I attend a Jim Murray seminar when I was only vaguely aware of Glenlivet? Why would I tour as a drummer when I can’t even drum on Rock Band? I’ll tell you why: Because that’s how you get ahead in life.

The Midas Gambit only has one rule: Given a choice between two courses of action, ALWAYS DO THE MORE IMPRESSIVE THING. That’s an oversimplification, and there are obvious exceptions – electrical work or handling firearms, for instance – but the message is clear. Avoid basic tasks. There will always be someone to mash the potatoes, and you’ll get further in life if you pick up the power drill and let someone else take the screwdriver. Do the complicated thing always. You’ll often find you end up learning the basics anyway just to make the complicated thing work. Choose to put yourself miles ahead of the competition. If you make this a mantra, I guarantee you’ll soon impress everyone you know. Heck, you might even impress yourself.

Okay, seriously: What’s the proper rice-to-water ratio?