The other day I made the mistake of going on my fake Facebook account and looking up some people I went to high school with. I put on a playlist of all the music I was listening to back then to get me in a nostalgic mood. I don’t use Facebook for real since, as any guy with game will tell you, it’s a single man’s worst enemy for at least 10 or 15 good reasons. I originally opened the fake account for an abandoned troll project and have kept it for the occasional pre-date reconnaissance job. It’s amazing what information girls disclose voluntarily.

fakefacebook

I started punching in names and, before long, I was trawling friend lists and started remembering names I’d hadn’t seen since my crazy ex-girlfriend “accidentally” threw away my high school yearbook not long after graduation. The trend was—like it is for any other red-pill man who has gone through this exercise—remarkably familiar: the girls had become shockingly fat, the dudes disappointingly lame, and nearly everyone seemed to going out of their way to live as ordinary a life as possible. I couldn’t decide if it was inspiring or depressing.

Surprisingly, some of the worst cases were the guys who had shown the most promise in high school—stand-out athletes, cool semi-geniuses who I was sure would cure cancer, and stylish players who were banging multiple girls before anyone else was. A surprising number of them now resembled Danny McBride from Eastbound and Down, but without any of irony or comedic value. Many of them were (practically) hitched to fatties or objectively unattractive chicks, who they were lovingly clutching in every other photograph. Even more of them were working nothing office-jobs, a fact they declared by showing pictures of themselves in their beige cubicles wearing ill-fitting suits.

mcbride

These images brought me no joy. I wasn’t a marginalized, quiet nerd in high school who got pushed into lockers by these guys and was praying for celestial payback all these years. They were either my friends or, at least, guys I would nod “wassup” to in the hallway. In high school, I was a pretty middle-of-the-road guy. My claims to fame were my teacher-infuriating (but student-pleasing) class-clown stunts, my silver tongue in insult contests, and being the mastermind of the greatest high school prank in Chester A. Arthur High School* history. I played a couple of sports and, while I was good enough, I didn’t particularly distinguish myself in any of them. I was classified as one of the “smarter” kids, but I wasn’t winning any best-of contests or giving any speeches at graduation. In retrospect, I was pretty good at talking to girls but, it turns out, terrible at “escalating.”

*not my real high school’s name

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that an overwhelming majority of precocious types I’ve known—in high school and beyond—have followed a similar pattern. They stand out for a period of time, early in life, only to fade into mediocrity when the well that brought them that distinction dries up. If that supply was high-school sports, for example, their glory rarely lasts for very long after they return their rented caps and gowns. For others, the hey-day comes in college. A few manage to ride the wave a longer, but only a tiny majority parlay their exceptional skills in one thing into a diverse set of enduring life skills.

The other half of the Facebook story is the guys from high school who hadn’t gotten fat, who had pictures with legit hotties, pictures from exotic travels, and seemingly interesting lives—at least from the fragments I could piece together through their varying privacy settings. Nearly all of them had been miscellaneous background extras who I barely remembered. One guy, a quiet stoner with buck teeth, whose only job on the junior-varsity basketball team was coming off the bench to take charges, was now co-owner of a sports equipment company. I know 101 percent of people exaggerate their status on Facebook, but you couldn’t exaggerate the pictures of this guy’s house. Or girlfriend. There were at least three other guys like this: straight-up surprises that nobody would have put any money on, who were now stand-outs, especially in the things we care about—“money, hoes, and clothes,” to quote a famous 1990s poet.

moneyhoes

For as long as I’ve been involved in the “game community,” I’ve noticed that an overwhelming majority of guys, especially those most successful with women, were of this latter type—late bloomers. “Naturals,” as they call those with effortless success with women, rarely understand fully, if at all, where their success comes from. They coast on what they have—whether that’s good looks, exceptional athleticism, or some privileged access to a special fishbowl—until it runs out. Sometimes it doesn’t–but those guys tend to be the exception.

Meanwhile, the non-natural, the self-made man, spends those early years watching from the sidelines–whether as a bucked-tooth nerd or a middle-of-the-packer who simply doesn’t stand out as exceptional. But unlike the rest of the pack, he’s paying attention to the mechanism behind people’s behavior. Or, if he doesn’t, something down the line alerts him to this behind-the-scenes reality. Whatever the case, he studies it, takes it apart, and implements it into his own life. As a result, he develops superior social intelligence—the fulcrum for success with women, business, and continual self-improvement. His understanding of what creates success grants him an adaptability—one that naturals rarely develop—that enables him to extend his prime years long into the future. As a consequence, I’m convinced the red pill is an overwhelmingly late-bloomer phenomenon.

Chances are, I’ll never have a “real” Facebook profile, but I’d be more than happy to be another surprise to the high-school class.

Read More: The Power of Shame