We are all living in cages with the door wide open
— George Lucas (Star Wars Creator)
The default for society is to chase status games.
The programming is unconscious and it’s a trap that’s easy to fall in to. I fell for status for years until it became clear what I was doing.
It’s not easy to give up status because it’s hardwired into the modern way of life. First let’s talk about what status games are.
The woke movement upsets tech bros on other social apps.
The fundamental problem of this movement isn’t what they stand for, but as my friend Michael Chapman points out, it’s the virtue signalling.
It’s cool for brands and businesses to change their logo to a rainbow or Ukraine flag, but they’re mostly not doing it to support the cause. They’re doing it as a form of status. Worse, they’re trying to remain relevant.
The rainbow logo is a serious thing and they’re treating it like a joke.
My last employer changed to a rainbow logo. This was the same employer that had an all-male leadership team and had terrible benefits for women who left work to have children.
They talked a good game but their actions spoke louder than their propaganda machine.
Support the diversity and inclusion programs you believe in, just make sure they’re not virtue signalling in disguise.
People see through fake status seeking.
LinkedIn created this nightmare.
People took the idea of their first and last name and turned into some kind of corporate brand with a motto, logo, and picture quotes. They started telling everybody they needed a personal brand.
Things got worse.
Someone told these fake influencers to post lots of videos using the selfie camera on their phone. They thought they were news anchors or Richard Branson entrepreneurial gurus.
Wanting your name to be popular is a status game that becomes a trap. Once you play this game you transcend into a world selfishness that’s hard to escape from.
The currency of the corporate world
I didn’t work in banking for the salary.
The currency I worked for was job titles. I wanted the fanciest titles possible so I could appear more of an expert than my colleagues. One good title could help you leapfrog to a new job you hadn’t earned.
I saw it all the time. Some “Head of” would sell the dream to a new department and get the General Manager gig.
Three months later it’d all end in tears.
They had the title but not the talent. They could talk the talk but not walk the walk. Job titles seem smart but they’re a fake game.
What matters is whether you like your job and get enough free time to pursue passion projects and spend time with family.
Prestige is the lie we tell ourselves to justify our ‘bullsh*t jobs — Jack Raines
When I entered the workforce every job I applied for asked me whether I had a degree (and from where).
I didn’t have one.
I remember one September a new colleague joined my banking team. He had a double degree from MIT and Stanford. He even got a glass office where he hanged the certificates on the wall.
It all seemed real smart. But he missed his team’s revenue target. 5 weeks later he got fired and struggled to find a new job.
Degrees are fake status symbols. Anyone can get one, and if they can’t afford it, they can get a student loan. Some may even get lucky, like in America, and become part of the loan forgiveness program.
When everybody has a degree, nobody has a degree in reality. That’s the painful truth many young people face right now.
Proof-of-work is a stronger signal than college memorization and theory.
Luxury life items
The reason the average person has no money is because they are conned by consumerism and marketing to upgrade their status.
It’s why people in the poorest suburbs where I live in Australia all have Gucci and Armani bags and t-shirts.
They think status matters.
They wear a brand because it’s supposed to say something about them and what they’ve achieved. But true self-worth speaks louder than a Gucci handbag ever will.
The more luxury items you buy the more you trade your money for fake status. And the more debt you’ll likely get into to afford this cheap rubbish made in a third-world country.
When I got married I saw it firsthand. Friends spent 6-figures to have the day of their dreams and get a golden chariot to drive them around once they were married at the equivalent of the Sistine Chapel.
At our wedding we had zero guests and used the free chapel the government supplied. And no joke, it’s one of the nicest wedding venues you’ve ever seen.
The purpose of an experience isn’t to flex status but to enjoy yourself.
What you’ve read so far is the modern trap many of us find ourselves in.
We trade the currency of time for the fake currency of status. Then we wonder why we feel so miserable and never seem to be able to get ahead.
There is a solution though. You can trade status games for freedom games. Here’s exactly how…
Living a simpler life
There’s a reason minimalism became so popular years ago.
On the outside it looks like living one glass, plate, and pair of underwear. In reality, it’s all about not buying endless stuff that makes you unhappy.
A simpler life means less things which means you need less money to pay for your lifestyle. I wear the same clothes most days. I only upgrade stuff If I absolutely have to. And if I buy something new, I like to donate something else, so I’m not acquiring more stuff over time.
Fewer possessions frees your mental headspace. You don’t have to “protect” stuff from fake robbers or buy endless insurance policies.
Or worse, keep inventory lists to remember what you’ve got and check the list after every new visitor to your home.
It’s for this reason the tv show “American Pickers” should be renamed to “American Hoarders.”
All the stuff is an invisible mental illness.
Peace in your head is true freedom.
Chasing the real titles
Job titles feel lifeless after a month.
The one title that upgraded my life was “father.” It actually means something. I have a job to do to look after a nine month old baby who relies on me for everything. She’s hard work.
She makes the typical day full of tantrums and sweater vomit. There’s no elevated status I get by having a daughter. And these are the titles we should chase.
Another noteworthy title is “leader.” It can be attached to any field or pursuit. It’s not a title that says I’m better than you. It’s a tittle that says “here’s a mission and let’s follow it together.”
I got this title recently when I accidentally created a committee in my local community. I said “enough is enough, let’s get together and solve this community problem.”
So I became a leader without being chosen.
I only continue to keep the title if my actions remain consistent with the cause. If I drop the ball then another community leader will emerge and take my spot.
Pursuing a cause without personal gain leads to true freedom. You realize you can do anything and be anyone without asking for permission.
Forgetting about victim labels
Being a victim makes you a prisoner.
It’s a status we opt into. We can see problems as things that were given to us or challenges we overcome. We can focus on the oppressor or being free from them. Much of the daily battles are fought in the mind.
It’s the reason the book “Man’s Search For Meaning” about a holocaust survivor is so damn powerful (read it).
The truth is we are all victims of someone or something — parents, governments, employers, attackers, abusers. The label can define us or help us find a new path.
I never forget the story I heard in a Tony Robbins documentary called “I’m Not Your Guru.” A young woman gets up and says she doesn’t want to live anymore. She grew up in a religious s*x cult.
It wasn’t her fault, but she felt like a victim with a sad story.
Tony helps her break free and realize she’s not a victim, but a hero to many people who’ve gone through something similar. Her life was never the same again. Her tragic story set her free.
The stories we tell ourselves can lead to victim status or freedom.
It’s hard to be free when your dinner depends on a boss.
The reason to learn how to start a business or commit to a side hustle has nothing to do with status or looking cool on Instaglam. Making money on your own teaches you to hunt and gather on your own.
Once you can prove to yourself you can do it, everything changes. Where you work, who you work with, and how you work is all up to you.
This level of work autonomy is often underrated.
For me, it’s been powerful to go out on my own. To test my skills and back myself to make a living without having a boss hold my hand like an adult baby in a diaper playing in a daycare center.
Not everyone has to be an entrepreneur. But everyone should feel the feeling of having one income stream that’s not tied to a job.
Bringing it all together
I urge you to give up the status games.
They don’t lead to meaning, fulfilment, or happiness. They’re a distraction from the real game that is personal freedom.
Start playing a few freedom games. Use your imagination and creativity to find an unconventional path that leads to peace of mind.