Status or Power or Wisdom or ...
People have things ass-backward. We have a world of fools chasing status. Status is different than power. Power is being able to influence the movement of bodies. Status is the recognition of one’s social ranking amongst bodies. High-powered individuals conceal their power, and low-status individuals expose their status. Many fake their status, cheaply copying the status of the powerful, pretending they have high status.
Pretending one is high status can be used to gain power. It can also backfire, reducing one’s overall power. One can also have various degrees of power, with others misreading their status. For example, a social experiment one finds on YouTube: clean up a man who is homeless and put him in a suit, and when he walks down a street, people will deem him as having high status, treating him with more respect.
A relevantly unknown tech billionaire wearing a cheap t-shirt will not garner the same respect as the homeless man suited up walking on the same street, even though they have more power. You can hack status with things you own, such as a new suit.
This type of hacking is known as “conspicuous consumption,” buying luxury goods to display social status publicly. You can also hack status by using body language that shows dominance, such as back-slapping or allowing a person to enter a room first, displayed reliably by alpha-posturing politicians.
The phrase for people who hack status in a way that does not give them more power in the long run is “empty suits.” The empty suit chases symbols and positions that imbue status without the adequate competency to deserve them or sufficient power literacy to navigate the social complexities that emerge from having them.
Empty suits have “empty briefcases,” symbols of ersatz status that fool people into thinking they have high status when they do not, illustrated beautifully by James Dean in Something For an Empty Briefcase.
People chase status over power because:
It’s easier to fake than power.
It’s easier to attain than power.
It offers immediate benefits and social highs, whereas power requires more discipline, obfuscation, and sacrifice.
There are many ways to pursue power. Seeking wealth brings power. There are good reasons why investor guru Naval recommends seeking wealth over status.
“Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Money is how we transfer time and wealth. Status is your place in the social hierarchy.” - Naval
Chasing power in a way that allows one to become wealthy imbues new status, inspiring people to chase the symbols of the newly powerful. However, only sociopaths chase power directly. Chasing power will only corrupt one’s soul. Power without wisdom will lead to suffering for the whole.
Some are chasing wisdom instead. On the surface, this seems wiser because those who become truly wise will naturally have power bestowed upon them. People want to give the wise person power because, in theory and in practice, a wise person knows the wisest path to take. Yet, anyone who openly claims they are pursuing wisdom is secretly pursuing status through “wisdom signaling,”1 the superficial display of wisdom rather than actually being wise. They are not wise and are digging themselves into greater foolishness.
To pursue wisdom, pursue less foolishness; once you do that, power will naturally come, and new forms of status will be imbued. Do not chase status, power, or wisdom; that is foolish. Instead, confess you are a fool and become less so; everything unfolds from there.
There is no better way to chip away at one’s foolishness than journalling. Join a Collective Journalling session and become empowered with a crew of good-hearted fools becoming less so. The RSVP link is behind the paywall.
What is Collective Journalling? This communal practice happens via Zoom and is 90 mins, with check-ins in the chat at the beginning and an opportunity to connect with fellow journalers in breakout rooms at the end. You do not have to stay the whole time. If you are in an antisocial mood, you do not have to interact with anyone, yet you can still enjoy the coffee shop-esque communal vibe. The session concludes with an optional sharing of a passage in the chat. Most of the time is spent in silence together, individually inquiring about what matters most. A lovely group of people has formed around this practice. The practice occurs on weekdays @ 8 AM ET.