The Games People Play

I know some of you will say “Just ignore the status game altogether,” but this is easier said than done. Like many other animals, we are biologically wired to respond to status. Ignorance is not the way out.

The Games People Play
Capital Thinking | The Games People Play

Capital Thinking • Issue #1078 • View online

When I was a kid I didn’t really understand status.

I didn’t understand why some people would grant more social value to others based on their wealth, fame, or talents.

-Nick Maggiulli

Choose Your Status Game Wisely

Nick Maggiulli | Of Dollars and Data:

I grew up in the middle class and everyone I knew was in the middle class (or close to it) as well. Therefore, the only time I saw status was on television.

Musicians. Athletes. Actors and Actresses. You were either a celebrity or a normal person and there was nothing in between.

In high school I furthered my ignorance by becoming anti-status. I grew my hair long and started playing electric guitar.It was heavy metal or bust and I didn’t care what anyone else thought.

Status among my friends was determined not by how popular you were, but by your music abilities or how much you could drink. Nevertheless, I kept my grades up and my parents never asked any questions.

It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I finally had my first encounter with status. After getting into a good university I noticed how people outside of my friend group started treating me very differently.

No longer was I seen as this random “metalhead,” but as the kid who was going places. For the first time in my life I had some status. And I’m not going to lie, it felt great.

But as soon as I entered college, everything changed. Those things that had once given me status were gone.

No longer was I one of the smartest kids in my school, I was just average. Now status was determined based on what fraternity you joined and where you were going to work after you graduated.

But this wasn’t the last time that I had to learn a different status game.

Following college I worked at a litigation consulting firm where status was based on prestige, pay, and performance (like most corporate environments).

And today, as a content creator, status is mostly determined by the size of your audience and how much you can keep their attention.

No matter which environment I was in, I noticed that there was always a status game being played.

Status in the Eye of the Beholder

My story illustrates how different communities value different things when it comes to conferring status.

For example, if you are a competitive powerlifter, your status is determined by how much you can lift (strength) and how many competitions you have won (competitiveness).

If you are a VC, your status is determined by what companies you have invested in (network) and how well those companies have performed (money). I could go on, but you get my point.

Status is relative to the context in which it is being evaluated.

In other words, VCs don’t care how much you can bench and weightlifters don’t care about your investment returns. Both groups have their own standards for judging members of their community and they care much less about everything else.

This is why you have to choose your status game wisely. Because whatever status game you choose in life ultimately determines what you optimize for.

Choose money and you’ll end up working all the time. Choose beauty and you’ll always want to look better. Choose fame and you’ll constantly be seeking attention.

Each of these choices has consequences too.

Your pursuit of wealth could leave your personal relationships in shambles. Your pursuit of beauty could impact your mental and physical health. Your pursuit of fame could end up ruining your reputation.

Whatever status game you decide to play, you have to ask yourself: are the benefits worth the costs?

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Choose Your Status Game Wisely – Of Dollars And Data
On status games and how to outsmart them.