El Chapo or Pablo Escobar

Who was the best negotiator?

I wrote before about Pablo Escobar and how his infamous “Plato or Plomo” (silver or lead). That made him, in my eyes, a savvy negotiator. I do not support illegal activities and the killing, but I am fascinated by how bad, and good people negotiate. Just like I despise Donald Trump, but his book The Art of the deal provides relevant insights.

So, in the villains’ negotiations series, I introduce villain #2 El Chapo Guzman. And as I research the topic, I realise that the timing is excellent! Because he is on trial right now in NYC, and it is a tourist attraction!

El Chapo. In case you are not watching the series on Netflix, El Chapo was once ranked the 41st wealthiest man in the world! How they calculated how rich he was, well probably the best guess, just like how they derive the wealth of everyone else on that list. Still, if you are on Forbes radar, you are RICH. And if you are rich through drug smuggling, you have left bodies behind you. In the Netflix series, the estimate is between 2000 and 3000 bodies. Again, no clue how accurate this is, but it is a lot if one loses track of killings!

Timeline refresh. First, there was the Medellin Cartel, then the Gentlemen of Cali and then the Guadalajara cartel before giving us El Chapo Guzman.

Beside all the atrocities, what did he do right, negotiation wise?

  • Explicit messages: As clear as it gets. The shipment does not arrive, you do not live another day. That way there are two options. The shipment arrives, or you die trying.
  • Consistency: No (good) surprises. No variations. It is always the same outcome if you do not deliver. And make sure there are plenty of witnesses to spread the word!
  • Patience: Make time work for you. Understand how to leverage it. Understand when you must rely on time and when you can influence and make things move in your favour. During one of the episode, they show how many times he had to try to get his wife and children out and how he will abort the plan if everything was not perfect
  • Unpredictable: “I’ll be where they would never expect me to be” this is how he expected to evade the Marines and also how he got caught. I am sure that this strategy allowed him to confuse everyone who was after him!
  • Collaborate: Partner when you have to. And when you are the world largest drug exporter, you probably need to partner with a lot of people. Still, you make billions; you must understand how to a little as needed while ripping off massive benefits!

I want to understand how good skills are used by bad people. With this type of skills, El Chapo could have been a very legit and powerful man and leave a fantastic legacy. It is disturbing, just like when I heard that 1 out of 100 people is a psychopath. oh yeah, I’ll close on that to let it sink…

NDA, Non compete, and all other non blah blah blah agreements…

…are just BS

In the era of fake news, it is hard to know what is right and what is not. Everybody is trying to influence everybody, and in the end, you do not know who to trust, especially on social media or even on the news. 

Only when things are written on paper, we are all sure to know what is real or not.  You heard and probably even said: “I have it in writing”, “put it on paper”.  And when you have it on a signed contract, everybody believes they have the holy grail because they know without a doubt what can and can not happen. WRONG.

  1. Non-disclosure agreements
  2. Non compete agreement
  1. Non-disclosure agreements (NDA): In normal people language, it is a secret that people decide to keep.  An example is when Trump got the porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep it secret that he paid her $130 000 to sleep with her. When she breached the NDA, Trump’s lawyers sued her for 20million dollars.  This is an extreme example of lying with a contract.  But it makes the point. While NDA can be enforceable if you break it, the consequences of breaking an NDA cannot be out of proportion.  What is out of proportion? Suing someone for $20million when that same person got paid $130 000 in the first place.
  2. Non compete agreements: Again, in normal people language, it is your commitment that you will not use confidential information to start your own business or work for a competitor.  Usually, employers put in a contract that you can not work for 1 year for a competitor. The majority of the time, that clause is just worthless.  There is only a handful of specific situation an employer can enforce a non compete agreement.  And because of that, if you want to bypass a non compete, there are loads of ways. 

I am not a lawyer, Don’t carelessly break a NDA or a non compete after reading this post. But, be aware that there is a way out. “contracts are made to be broken”.

Why minorities should strive to be wealthy?

If Blacks were the wealthiest community in the US, do you think we would be shot by the police?

Obviously, nobody is trying to be poor.  But the reality is that white men account for the majority of the wealth. Only 3 out of 536 billionaires in the USA are Black.  And only 8% of the millionaires are Black.
There are loads of systematic reasons why minorities are poorer and it will take some time for that to change.  However, regardless of how tough the situation is, there are always some actions that can be taken.  Not saying it is easy, but it is worth trying, if not for you, for your children.
Where to start? let’s begin with a comment I have been hearing for the past 10 years: “I do not want to be the wealthiest of the cemetery”.  This is a French saying translated into English. So let me unpack it for you.  It means that when you die, you are not taking your wealth with you, so you should spend it all while you are alive.  For a long time, I agreed with that principle.  The result? I would make it rain in the club, and enjoy everything money can buy.  Now I am thinking about it differently.  I want to be wealthy (not rich), and I want other Black people to be as well.
Why?  It is not because I am greedy or anything of the sort.  It is because I believe that our community needs a lot more wealthy members to positively influence the lives of the entire community at the local, state and federal level.  I am not talking about a Beyonce or a Jesse Jackson that are figures people will loop up to.  I am talking about your uncle being wealthy, I am talking about your childhood friend being wealthy.  I am talking about people who know the community, are still connected through the community building their wealth and spreading it.  They are the people who would influence the community daily life. And when I say life, I literally mean life.  Let me put it in perspective to truly understand what is at stake.  If Blacks were the wealthiest community in the US, do you think we would be shot by the police?  My guess is that it would have stopped real fast. Or actually, it would not have even started in the first place.

So yes, I am stacking my money now. I am encouraging others to as well. I am trying to build businesses with friends. I am investing in real estate in a nice neighborhood, where I expect my investment to grow.  I am not driving a fancy car, actually, I am riding a bike. And it is not because I have changed, It is not because I forgot where I came from. It is because I want to play my part in lifting up the community. I believe, like Tony Montana, “first you get the money, then you get the power”.

Photo by Javier Reyes on Unsplash

I would never do that…

Well, actually you would!

By now you know how much I love understand how people can be manipulated, oups… I meant influenced. No, really I meant what I said.  How to make people do, what they think they would not.

And this is a different take from the last post about we all follow like sheep.  It is not about getting a critical mass of people to do something, so that your mark, oups again, your negotiation partner does what you want him/her to do.  This is the art of influencing someone step by step to do what you want in the long run.

It sounds cryptic. Let me take a concrete example from the book “the spy’s son“.  The most famous US double agent.  He is not only famous for all the intel he gave to the Soviet Union during the cold war, he is infamous for having convinced his son to continue spying for the Soviet Union while he was in prison. Yes, this guy would never get dad of the year award and must be seriously twisted.  What needs to be unpacked is how did he manage that.  He is in prison, and his son who comes to visit him in prison, and knows that his dad is in there because of spying on his own country, would nevertheless continue spying for the Soviet Union.  How did he do it? He did not say “you will pick up where I left it”.  Instead, he first asked his son to do something small, like sending a postcard to an address in the US, then it would be to pick up an envelope, then it would be to transport a small package, then he would start receiving money and before the son realizes it, he would have meetings with the head of the rezidentura (the Russian spy big boss). If you asked the son “give this secret message to a chief Russian spy” most likely the answer would have been “hell no”.  But asking a small, innocent looking favour for his dad, what kind of son would say no…

The reality is “what separates honest people from not-honest people is not necessarily character, it’s opportunity” says Dan Ariely, a professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University in his book The Honest Truth about Dishonesty.  Because behind big lies are a series of small deceptions.  Some people may take advantage of this bias with people to lead them step by step.  My personal opinion is that the saying “this is a slippery slope” may well come from that bias too. Watch out and use with care.

We all follow like sheeps

How to use it in negotiations

Grandpas do not graffiti on walls in their neighbourhood. But what would it take for them to? Yes, you read right. Spoiler alert, the answer is not “this is impossible”.

One of my idol, Malcolm Gladwell, has the podcast called « revisionist history ». In one episode he talks about the threshold for someone to do something that looks “ridiculous”. Let’s go back to your grandpa. If he sees enough people doing graffiti on the walls in the neighbourhood he will go and do it. Why? This is how we are wired, and this is how we survived for so long. If cavemen/women saw one of them eat a berry and die, they would not go and eat the same type of berry. In a similar way, if your grandpa sees everyone tagging walls in the neighbourhood and nothing bad happen to them, eventually even the most rule follower grandpa is going to follow. The key for this to happen is to understand what is the threshold. The threshold is the number of people who have to do something before you do it. This is also what people call the sheep following mentality.

But how do we use it in negotiations? How do we use it to influence people? It is simple, find out how many people it would take to do something to convince the one person you want to influence to also do it. Sounds easy right? The tricky part is the how. This video is funny and very instructive.

Someone who seemed totally crazy at first then becomes normal when everybody joins in, and suddenly the ones not joining are looking odd.

When doing good leads to more good…

…and when it does not

What do Jackie Robinson and Barack Obama have in common? There both were first. Both first opened a door that was previously locked tight. The first Black player in the Major League Baseball (MLB) in 1947 for Robinson and obviously the first Black president for Obama.  Amazing achievements. We already know that 5 years after Jackie Robinson first game in the MLB, hundreds of other Blacks player were in the league.  Jackie Robinson opened the door.  What we do not know yet is if the door will remain open after Obama.  I do hope there will be many more Black presidents. But maybe not because of moral licensing.

You guessed it by now. This post is more about understand a situation that impacts Black people and I believe is critical to understand to get what you deserve.

Back to moral licensing. This is when people in power – read my previous blog post to understand who I am talking about – after doing something that is morally right, feel better about themselves but to go back to their old habits in a heartbeat. It is like I did a good deed and it excuses all my bad behaviours for the next decade. We all experienced it at some point. This is similar to people saying “I am not a racist, one of my friend is Black”.

Moral licensing is a beautifully sadistic way to control people. Build a door, let the people you like come in all the time, and let a tiny fraction of the people you do not like get in once in a generation. It reminds me of “exclusive” night clubs in NYC, LA, Paris or London. No line, just a crowd of people all over the entrance. The bouncer picks from the crowd the people going in. You see people going in, so there is hope. And at the same time, nobody tells you no you will not get in, so you can’t get really mad. Hope that you may be the lucky one. We all know how that story ends. You do not get into the club.

I do not know how to keep the door open, other than becoming the owner of the door, building our own doors or even breaking them for good.

Perfect influencing skills, for horrific reasons

How human traffickers find and control their victims

Not for the light-hearted. Not even for the strong hearted. I am writing this post with the hope that by exposing horrific influencing tactics, people will not fall for them, and will also help people support potential victims.

I am talking about pimping. Actually scratch that word. I am talking about sex traffickers. This is a critical difference. Unfortunately, pimping has too much of a positive connotation. Somehow it is ok to have songs telling the stories of a pimp, or people calling themselves proudly to be a pimp. People even dress like a pimp! Whereas nobody, in their right mind, would brag about being a sex trafficker. And that is the way it should be. And women “working” for sex traffickers are not prostitutes, hoes or whores. They are victims.

With this out of the way, let’s dig into their practices. I listened today to an Ear Hustle podcast. That podcast is produced by an inmate at St Quentin prison in California. They talk about life in prison and sometimes dive into the story of some of the inmates. In this case, a victim of a sex trafficker was talking to an ex sex trafficker serving a 200 years life sentence. Yes, heavy stuff! He starts by explaining how he managed to commit his terrible acts:

  • Find the victim: I was sadly impressed by how smart he was and how well perfected was his approach. He explains that he would first observe. Hang around schools, and look for a specific profile:
    • Low self-esteem. He would judge that by their physic but also their appearance. It was an indication to him that they may need to feel more popular.
    • Not well off. He would note if the girl was wearing off-brand clothes; if she was wearing several times in the same outfit in a week.
    • These would be signs to him that she is a prey, and could be interested in having nice things and feel in demand.
  • Patience. He would take 2 years before he would start trafficking his victim. 2 years. You for sure have many issues if you can prepare such a horrific act for 2 years while building a relationship with a young innocent girl. But he understood that he could not rush it, and also sadly he understood that the wait would pay off. He looked at it as an investment. Buy “nice” things to this girl for 2 years, and get a pay off for the years to come.
  • Keep the victim: That is when the mind game is elevated.
    • Create fear: You may think what could be worse. Unfortunately, people can always be convinced of something worse. Even if it is highly unlikely to happen. Traffickers use worse case scenario. Because they spent so long getting to know the victim, it is not hard to find the hot button that will keep them in check.
    • Create hope: With an end in sight, victims may think they have no other choice than stay and focus on surviving day to day. And you guessed right, there is always a reason to extend the timeframe.

Traffickers are expert manipulators. It is beyond me how they built these skills. My fear is that they were exposed to the basics of sex trafficking at a young age.  And they learned by seeing. Which unfortunately is probably the most effective way of learning.  It is also unfortunate that these basic skills channeled the right way could make these people successful in the (legal) business world.