To understand the System, you must understand social status and signaling.
Social status is “the position or rank of a person within a society.”
Status is so pervasive that it’s causally slipped into lyrics. “Back in the days when I was a teenager / Before I had status and before I had a pager.”
The quest for status leads to what Alain De Botton coined status anxiety.
The desire for social status causes you to second-guess yourself.
Questions like, “Do I measure up,” and, “Am I good enough” are premised upon a desire for status and social recognition.
Alpha status, which is assumed to be desirable, increases stress.
An alpha never has enough and must always be on guard against challengers.
You can achieve status by building yourself up or tearing others down.
When an alpha lion takes over a new pride, he kills the existing cubs to avoid future challengers.
Status is always changing. Today’s alpha has lions waiting to kill him.
Status anxiety never ends. (Maria Konnikova, “How Facebook Makes Us Unhappy.”)
The System has hacked your brain.
A virtuous man of legitimate accomplishment achieves acclaim and status. Although some geniuses like Nietzsche die without recognition, on a long enough timeline your talent will generally be recognized.
The System does not want men of legitimate accomplishment, as achieving mastery generally requires an investment of time rather than money.
The System has taught you to seek instant gratification. “Life hacking” is one of many tricks of the System.
You want to learn to play the guitar? Buy a used one at a garage sale and spend 8 hours each and every day playing it. That is not profitable for the System.
The System wants you to live under the illusion that you’re mastering a skill, and the System will sell you goods and accessories to help you maintain that illusion.
It takes years to understand the martial arts, and decades to master them. The System would rather have you buy a Tap-Out t-shirt to signal to others that you “train.”
The System has taught you to seek status through consumerism. (Young Jee Han and Joseph Nunes, “Signaling Status with Luxury Goods: The Role of Brand Prominence.”)
The System has tricked everyone, which is why you feel you must drive a certain car, wear a certain watch, and live in a certain home in order to impress other agents of the system.
You can hack the System.
You cannot avoid a desire for social status.
To live in society is to desire status. As Aristotle observed, “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human.”
What if you changed your conception of status?
What if you stopped caring about name brand clothing and luxury goods?
What if you shopped for comfort and utility rather than to “signal your status with luxury goods”?
What if you decided to stop trying to “keep up with the Joneses?”
What if you chose to measure your status by the lives you’ve changed rather than the gadgets you’ve acquired and the complete strangers you’ve impressed?
Do you want status or inner peace?
Although I write about social dominance, my quest for dominance is largely defensive.
I want to be left alone to think, write, travel, and fuck.
Maybe that is not your way.
Maybe you want people to think you’re super cool, hot, and successful.
If that is the path you have chosen, recognize it comes with a cost and do not complain or cry about the high cost of status.
And above all else, be honest about what you want.