Prestige and its Periles

Note to future self…

Today I came across this great quote:

“Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like.” Paul Graham

This feels so true. I am guilty of this – rubber stamping my way through life without seeking approval of the most important person – myself.

Recognition of this is important but not enough. Something has to be done. Should you avoid accomplishments, people, institutions, etc that give you prestige? How could we do that if we we’re rewarded by our society to seek those rubber stamps of prestige?

People get congratulated when they do prestigious stuff – getting a great job, getting into a great school, working with the right people, etc. It seems futile to fight against that. What should we do?


I don’t have a definitive answer but here’s my current solution.

First, know thy self. Understand what you want in life and why. Not what others want. What you to want. What you actually want. Understand that your desires tend to be derived from others. Embrace your inner Girard.

Second, know thy circumstances. Realize that this too shall pass. The good and the bad. Nothing is forever. No one will remember in 1000 years.

That’s it. In practice, just don’t let your prestige badges speak for who you’re. If you still rely on those – your school, who you know, where you work or have worked, etc. – then you still have a lot of work to do.

Now back to work…