What We Can All Learn From Celebrity Mistresses (and Inmates)

In: career| ideas| networking

22 Mar 2010

Another day, another celebrity sex scandal. The latest saga involves the sordid affair between motorcycle-building and Sandra Bullock-marrying Jesse James and some “tattoo model” named Michelle McGee. Several days ago the smoking gun was finally revealed: text messages that James had allegedly sent to McGee.

All of this is happening in the wake of the Tiger Woods debacle, which happened to include an incriminating voicemail Tiger had left on his mistresses’ phone.

(A piece of advice: If you’re golfing legend Tiger Woods and you need to ask someone to change a voicemail message so your wife doesn’t find out about your affair, don’t leave that request in a voicemail. And definitely don’t start the message with “It’s me, Tiger.”)

Here are two different examples of wealthy, famous individuals who both have a lot to lose from the public knowing about their affairs. And what did they both do?

They handed someone they couldn’t trust a lever.

What’s a lever?
A lever “will lift, pry, or force an object to respond through the proper distribution of pressure,” according to the book, Games Criminals Play by Bud Allen and Diana Bosta. In the book, the authors outline how criminals manipulate people. For example, inmates create a setup against a corrections officer in order to gain leverage over that individual. It usually has to do with getting them to bend the rules slightly, like by sharing a cigarette with the inmate (which is against the rules within prison). They then threaten to report the guard for the infraction unless some other favor is done for the inmate. The situation can continue to escalate, leading to serious crimes like having the guard smuggle drugs or weapons into the prison.

If you’ve ever read a news story about a prison guard risking their job and their family by doing something serious like this and wondered why they would do it, this book outlines the process the probably led up to it.

Not Just For Corrections Officers
I’m assuming not too many readers of this blog work in a prison. But I share this book because I consider it recommended reading for everyone. It outlines some basic principles of human behavior and psychology, describing a sequence of events that can lead to people being manipulated and doing things they would have never imagined. And it usually starts by handing someone a “lever” that can be used against them.

And it’s not just celebrities that make these mistakes.

Obviously, whenever someone cheats on their partner, they are handing a great deal of power to the individual they cheat with. But it applies on a smaller level too. When you tell a co-worker you weren’t really sick when you called in the other day, you handed them a lever. When you engage in gossip about someone, you hand a lever to the person you’re sharing with. Most of the time the lever is never used. But by continually handing them out, you’re increasing the chances that it will be.

Don’t be manipulated.
Games Criminals Play describes various setups and how they are used to influence people’s behavior. A lot of colorful language is also used to describe the process, like lever, ducks, stings, and protectors (I won’t spoil it by explaining what each one means). There are also a few entertaining case studies that describe actual events and situations. It’s a great book and has a lot to share about making sure you aren’t being manipulated.

So the next time someone mentions the great work you’re doing and how it’s obvious your boss doesn’t appreciate you, ask yourself: Are they just looking for a lever?

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Mark Webster

About Mark Webster

One of the Co-Founders of SideTour, former TechStar (NYC Summer 2011), ex-NBA'er, and past TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon Winner.