By: Carter Ottele 

Dear acquaintances, 

Let me make this brief: y’all are no longer my friends

I don’t intend this as a personal complaint. In fact, that’s why the B&S has agreed to publish my letter for everyone to see. You might have once been a good friend with whom I’ve only somewhat kept in touch, or an NSO buddy at whom I sometimes wave, or perhaps you live down the hall and we brush our teeth at the same time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning. The manner of our acquaintance is unimportant

Rather, I have decided that in order to maximize my return on investment, I must cut spending on casual friendships. Streamlining my social network will allow me to retain a diversified portfolio of core relationships without wasting energy on awkward, fruitless small talk. Investment in these core relationships will be far more efficient. 

Here’s the truth: I do not care about you that much. We may have mutual friends/interests/experiences, but that does not necessitate the pretense of friendship. I do not care which classes you’re taking this semester. I do not care how your winter break went. Up until now, I have waved at you when passing in the loggia because I would’ve felt rude otherwise. I have disguised acquaintance as friendship out of respect for social norms. 

Recently, however, the book Billions: How to Live Life to its Fullest and Become a Self-Made Robber Baron by John Robert Abercromby inspired me to rethink my social approach. As Abercromby writes in Chapter 4, “there are two groups of people: people who win, and people who are won upon by the winners.” People who are won upon by the winners share a set of common characteristics: low motivation, financial incompetence, limited imagination, being a girl, and so forth. But Abercromby highlights another distinction, that “winners recognize the potential of good friendships as well as the risks of loose connections.” In layman’s terms (a technical phrase meaning “the way I’d speak to someone being won upon”), this says that it’s worth it to be close to someone, but a waste of time to merely be on good terms with someone.  

Some readers may be wondering how I’ve selected which friends to keep. I have operated under a list of five criteria while streamlining my social network: 

  1. Social prominence in the Grinnell community 
  1. Connections with successful friends or family members—ideally a parent who works on Wall Street 
  1. Diversity, as measured by Abercromby’s Perceived Diversity Index (PDI) 
  1. Access to a car on campus 
  1. Physical attractiveness (provided that the friend is willing to sleep with me) 

By accounting for these five concerns, I am confident that my friend group will offer me social status, professional networking opportunities, the appearance of diversity, transportation, and hookups. I hope everyone can understand why weak relationships which meet few or none of these criteria offer little benefit 



Bradford Stout ’24, Major in Economics