It's Hard To Hit First

My friend organized a Fight Club, where a group of nebbishy friends spent an afternoon participating in some not-particularly-violent fights.

I had two bouts, one fake jiu jitsu and one fake sumo. I realized pretty quickly that the deep temptation was to circle your opponent for a while and wait for them to hit at you before (in your head, at least) you retaliated with overwhelming and highly successful force.

Meanwhile, the effective strategy was to attack immediately before your opponent even started thinking. But nobody seemed to do this.

I don't believe our reluctance to hit first was purely from ignorance of fight strategy; I think on some deep level, it just feels really wrong to hit someone who hasn't hit you.

One of the frustrating events of my life recently was getting screwed over by a fast-growing, somewhat-major company, and (unlike usually when getting screwed over by large companies) having a chance to do something about it.

The short version is that I discovered this company had charged me a bunch of money improperly, and I had the chance to publicise it. They were just on the cusp of fame, and I had been their second-biggest customer, so for once it was plausible that if I went public with the story it would actually have an impact (unlike the more-common experience of tweeting into the void about some big company's wrongful actions, knowing nothing will really happen as a result).

I had a dilemma: the overcharging seemed likely a result of incompetence rather than malice, and at the time it was still plausible they were taking stock of the problem and would do the right thing. So going public with it right then would have felt like "hitting first," which ultimately I didn't have the stomach for.

Since you're reading this blogpost, you know how this story goes: the company wasted my time for over a year without paying back the money that (they agreed) they had wrongly taken from me, while getting increasingly famous and seemingly-rich (this was a 2021 era startup, so almost the entirety of their valuation was illusory, though if the founders took money off the table during their raises then they are now personally rich, just at the expense of someone else).

By the time I felt comfortable hitting back, my biggest opportunity to do so was over, and my voice mattered infinitely less than it had.

On some level of course, knowing what I know now, I wish I had hit first. But the thing I come back to is: in the "best" case scenario, where I spoke early and powerfully and had a meaningful impact on events, my "adversary" would have probably just capitulated and paid me back the money they owed immediately, with some kind of apology and a gift bow on top. And I would never have found out that in the alternative universe where they weren't publicly shamed for it they just never did the right thing, and wasted a ton of my time and energy in the process. That is: in order to have "won" this game I would have had to be the kind of person who can live with hitting someone who hasn't hit them first.

And I'm just not sure if it's worth being that kind of person, even though the alternative is occasionally getting punched in the face.

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