Then they sheepishly admit that this is true.
As a bootstrapped founder when I was younger, even dating was awkward. People considered me to be quasi-unemployed, despite working 80 hours a week. It's really hard to do if you're thirsty for status.
The issue with the bankers is that they’re trapped in a local maximum.
A successful entrepreneur is probably the highest status role possible in modern society (think Zuckerberg, Bezos, Gates) maybe even rivaling POTUS.
I don’t buy that entrepreneurs are not interested in status, they’re just making a longer term status play (and taking on more financial risk to do so).
Look at “30 under 30” lists, accounts on Twitter and their bios, there’s massive amounts of status seeking there. I suspect the successful low status people are actually the standard devs/IT employees, not founders.
An annoying part of this game is that it’s also high status to pretend you’re low status or that you don’t care about status (hence all the “I’m humbled to accept <high status achievement>”)
Dating is always awkward, doesn’t really matter what you’re doing (except maybe doctor).
Not even close. Regardless of the high esteem we may hold them in, the average person just sees them that you list as rich dorks. Compare and contrast with say Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio who, to use a stock phrase, men want to be and women want to be with.
The average person may lust after famous person 'x', or be jealous of their resources. They may even follow them as a sideshow. But I've met very few people who want to be a celebrity, or admire more than one or two for their contributions to the world.
Celebrities may be able to capture our attention better, but put your average celebrity next to a reasonably successful entrepreneur, and ask the average person which is more praiseworthy, or admirable, and I think the entrepreneur will win 80% of the time (I say 80% of the time, because I'm certain a small number of high-level athletes and musicians break that rule)
Young Mick Jagger could be a successful female model in 2020
No, they aren't.
> Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, and Tyra Banks, to name a few, were massively high status, on the level of professional athletes and movie stars.
So are Chrissy Teigen, Bella and Gigi Hadid now. Kendall Jenner, too, though more in the style of an athlete that is an massive on-the-field standout that takes every opportunity to generate negative attention off the field.
Girls who are into IT will view Zuckerberg as higher status vs. Brad Pitt.
A girl who's into acting acting will view Brad Pitt as more 'high status' than Zuckerberg.
I think you may have confused "modern society" with TechCrunch/other mainstream tech publications. If this was a politics community, someone would probably say that "modern society considers Biden" as someone with the highest-status role.
I think we under-appreciate the role of context when we talk about status.
gp has only listed tech entrepreneurs. Shocking as it may seem to us, the tech industry doesn't have a stellar reputation in some parts of the US/world. However we also have e.g. Donald Trump who ran on his identity as a "businessman" (however farcical), Elon Musk, or Oprah ( http://blackeconomics.co.uk/wp/oprahs-empire/ ), all appealing to different sorts of people, but their business acumen is not unnoticed nor unmentioned in each case.
If you think about it, it's odd that we even know the names of business leaders. But, I bet the typical American could name F500 CEOs than they could famous painters.
Trying to group all entrepreneurs together, I think, is a huge mistake.
I've definitely seen status driven entrepreneurs. Some of them are amazing.
But the ones that fill me with joy are the ones that clearly were sick of the world being incredibly bad at things, that could not accept humanity embarrassing itself so poorly, and who could not live with a planet that had so much wasted potential. And who responded. Who ventured forward, to make at least some data points, where humanity was doing it right. These people DNGAF about status, they only care about trying to generate some good, creating some value.
Yeah me too, Eliezer Yudkowsky comes to mind - there may be others but I think they're quite rare. Even in these cases I suspect status is some component though not the driving force (how much of a role it plays I think varies depending on the person and what they value).
People want to do something important/have purpose - I think it's hard to disentangle this from status because it's so tied up in how we see ourselves and what we often consider important. Millions of years of selective pressure and social behavior/hierarchies of intelligent primates can't really just be ignored.
There are some outliers, but I'm generally skeptical. I tend to think often the DNGAF persona is done because it's a signal of high status to not care about your status. I suppose at some level it's real though.
Yudkowsky is not an entrepreneur, he's primarily a philosopher (regardless of his disdain for other philosophers) and secondarily an artificial intelligence researcher. Among philosophers and researchers, it's not hard to find someone who wants to improve humanity.
and it was a lot more fun doing it when it had no status at all.
To paraphrase an interaction from the book about entertaining different paths, when pressed a student made it clear: "We've known who we want to be from elementary school. We are the type to get into <<Ivy League School Name>>".
I sometimes wonder if people focus on chasing status when they're at a loss for defining any other concrete goal. When you aren't sure what you want, it's easy to let society define your goal which manifests itself as chasing status.
it’s important to note that everyone is chasing status, and that status is (highly) multidimensional, so we can all have it along different dimensions. i’d go so far as to posit that status has more degrees of freedom than the number of people. it isn’t zero-sum by any means. “high-status schools” is just one of those dimensions, perhaps one that’s more visible than others.
While I do think that is the general rule since humans are social animals, I'm curious as to why you don't think there are exceptions. By definition, to chase status means to pursue things that society values. It seems to me there are certain people who do not chase such things because they have value systems that don't align with the society they are a part of. Perhaps I can agree if we lax the assumption on what defines a society. If your family or a church is sufficient as a "society" I could agree, but I was using a larger definition to include people one wouldn't know on a personal level.
>status has more degrees of freedom than the number of people.
I don't know if I'd go this far. Status is by definition relative social standing and thus defined by the society at large. It can be relative between cultures (some societies may give teachers more status than lawyers and vice versa) but it can't really be relative within a culture and still meet that definition of aggregate consensus. Naturally, within cultures some dimensions will be more valued than others as the ones that give prestige.
a singular global social order is a fiction we don’t have to choose to believe.
Using a "singular global social order" is a bit of a straw man. It doesn't have to global, just like it can't be individual.
and again, that's the point. neither extreme is realistic, but we have a bias toward one that we should actively compensate for. most of our esteem derives for the few hundred to a few thousand people that forms our social system, but our thinking tends to stray to where we stand in the wider, unfathomable society. it's a component of why social media tends to be corrosive rather than creative and supportive.
As a silly example, a giant pickup is a status symbol in cattle country while a tesla is a status symbol in some parts of CA. Both sometimes look down their nose at the other. I'm not making a case as to which is correct, just that I doubt people make their value judgement in response to some global society.
Since I have little presence on social media, I may just not have a good handle on how that skews the whole dynamic but it certainly feels more locally biased to me.
this bias is especially pervasive in, and because of, the modern connected society. how do we contend with extreme interconnectedness? that, the contention (and potential resolutions) of a global social network, will be a defining feature of our times to future historians i think.
I think this is a very good point and it reminds me of discussions during my undergrad days.
>the very comparison of 'truck vs tesla' depends on a global, and contentious, notion of status.
This is the opposite point I was making about the status of each being non-global in nature.
As I've moved around the country, I've come to realize the local effects on university status. Some schools, like those Ivy League institutions are almost universally revered. Others seem to have local reverence that doesn't translate well. I've lived in some areas where the local universities have a supremely high status for reasons that aren't valued elsewhere (athletics comes to mind -- some schools are 'great' because they have a good football team while having an almost non-existent basketball program and vice versa. It's a bit strange to me how this can confer status to students who only interact with the programs as spectators. Academics similarly; having an MIT degree confers status even if it was in liberal arts). Outside of that local bubble, people put almost no stock in said school but within that bubble it carries a lot of status if it's on your resume because of local cultural (i.e. societal) bias. And people seem to make choices more biased by their immediate social group. As you allude to, much of it seems to simply be inertia of what the herd mind reinforces. It's high status simply because everyone has agreed it's high status. But I still contend that requires a reasonably large social component biased by the local bubble.
It will be interesting to see in the coming decades if social media dilutes those local effects.
That's not a judgment about them good or bad, just something that seemed to stick out to me about many of them.
This hits hard.
Whenever I think I want to do something, I try to seriously think about whether it’s something I want to do, or something I want to have done. Working on side projects and companies is something I enjoy actually doing, while for a lot of the status-seeking types it’s usually something they want to have done and finished successfully. Similarly I sometimes think I want to write a book, but I really just want to have written a book, which is a very different thing.
For me, most of the worth to be doing category is stuff I don't enjoy, yet I do it anyways for the long-term gain.
On a related note, this is a mindset that I think is probably the biggest blocker to entrepreneurial success (and perhaps happiness?)
I have a friend (you know who you are since you’ll probably read this ;) who is by ALL measures a massively successful and brilliant person. Ran his own startup for 10+ years, just had a great exit. And during his post-sale victory lap in which he took a much-needed burnout recovery break, STILL began to refer to himself as “unemployed” in the context of worry over what to do next.
“Employed” / “Unemployed” is a mindset that’s been engrained into people for hundreds of years, so I can’t blame others for applying it to entrepreneurs. But I think it’s a limiting frame of reference and holds a lot of people back.
Edit: and even if “idle” in that sense is assumed to mean the previous sentence, that’s still counterintuitive and misleading.
Personally, I don't even go there. By all measures, I haven't been "employed" since the late 90s (when I was briefly an employee of an investment bank for a summer internship). I've run my own businesses, helped others build theirs, worked as a consultant, and done nothing at various times for the past 20 years.
Rather than describe my state of being as "employed" vs "unemployed", I always break it into "working on a project for someone else" vs. "working on my own project" (and sometimes both, and sometimes neither.) Some of those projects generate money. Some of them don't.
It's taken some time, but people get it! I just refuse to play the game :)
It's that underlying implication that you must always be striving for something, even meditation is in service to being a better self, vacations aren't fun, they're recharging the batteries / destressing, all of the implied 'be working toward something or you're worthless' assumptions that just frustrate me even more.
It's a privileged term to use in some ways because of the so very many in dire financial situations right now. But among friends or family or certain situations, it has its uses.
If that is the case, funemployed would be the more appropriate term.
To me sabbatical meant, taking time off to focus on oneself or ones own pursuits, however I didn't realize there was a work or growth related connotation to the word.
It can mean just an extended break from work, but the connotation to most is that the break is used to engage in another project that your day job constrains in some way. It also implies that you will return to your previous duties afterwards.
The trend is to call a temporary leave of absence from your job to do whatever a "career break."
This may be biased by my academic background where a sabbatical year is typically one where you would have no teaching duties so were free to travel to another university to work with a new group, explore a new field, finish a manuscript, etc. Expectation is that you are working, but not your routine work.
I've heard it used similarly outside academic contexts and when it was not something you were contractually guaranteed - e.g. "I took a year off my job to finish my book" , but never in the sense of "I took a year off my job to go surfing".
So i guess I think of it as a formalized break from your work routine where you do something else productive with the expectation of going back to that work afterwards.
Of course "productive" here is a bit slippery.
And yea I also lived like a bum for a few years after that but I never really cared as much for fine food or whatever it is stuffy banker types lived for anyways
#vanlife is a nice escape fantasy, for this ultra-hostile expensive world we live in.
Edit-But more seriously - I totally agree. It is infinitely more difficult to accept a low position for that long to the point of impossibility for many already otherwise established.
They mean a rich, powerful, famous entrepreneur, not an intrepid voyager living by their wit and instincts to do something that changes the world.
What you tell them is spot on.
Rich, powerful, and famous is probably the end goal for most entrepreneurs.
A: Founder and CEO.
Calling oneself Founder and CEO doesn't have much, if any, cachet outside of the tech world, since on its own it doesn't mean anything. What matters is what you actually did at the failed company.
You know what a plumber in charge of a plumbing company calls himself?
It had been a very long day, and after the sixth or seventh group of students that met with me completed their "I'm the CEO, this is the CTO, this is the CMO, this is the COO... on, and this is our engineer" speech I looked at the CEO and accidentally snapped "Well, I guess you've learned an important lesson about how meaningless these titles are."
So I agree with you - the pretentious titles hold very little cachet, and not just outside the tech world, but inside it as well. No one is actually impressed at the zero-experience CEO of his own company until he proves something even in tech.
I do care about access to high paying wages with work that gradually grows more high level over time. I do think working at a startup could be more fun, but I don't think it'd be a good idea worth doing, ever, given what I've got now.
I am happy with what I've got. I make a chunk less than $200k, which isn't close to the very top tiers, but it's way more than I need. Yeah, probably could have gotten even more going a CS FANG route or a lucrative start up that just works. But personally I think everything more or less went as planned and I think that's great.
I wouldn't go assuming that folks in similar positions aren't aware of the calculus here either. If someone says running a startup sounds really interesting, that's because there's a lot of cool stuff in it. The same could be said of being a commercial fisherman, or being a detective, or running a small restaurant. I mean running a small restaurant sounds awesome. But it also probably sucks. If someone asks me about it, I'm likely to focus on the positives. I'm not exactly being asked to sign my name on a career form here. If you decide to call me out on not actually wanting to drop my lucrative career for that startup/restaurant/fish boat, that's not me being sheepish, that's me trying to downplay an uncomfortable situation coupled with an apparent assumption that I'm unaware of my own vanity for status :/
Status symbols drastically change between generations. The question is: what are the status symbols of your peer group?
My impression is that as you move up in earnings (or perhaps with age?), the symbols of status become more esoteric.
One female friend of mine wants to start a yoga studio: that appears to me to be a particularly alpha-female status seeking activity in her social circle.
And the definition of what are status symbols is extremely dependent upon the group, and the symbols are not always visible or obvious. One symbol that seems invariant between different cliques (although somewhat recursive) is having a high status partner.
The clearest status symbol across different groups is whether high status individuals within the group (or globally high status people) spend time with you. Name dropping. Audience seeking.
Do you think the status drive is the same, just replaced with different signals?
I've often wondered if a lot of it is almost generationally defined. Boomers grew up in a time where cars were a major status symbol, but there's a high percentage of younger generations that don't even care to own a car. Based on what you stated, I wonder if the materialism has just been replaced by an experiential sense of status (e.g., who has the best Instagram-worthy vacation to share, or who has the coolest start-up story to tell, or the most 'artisan' career). I'm not claiming to know, just curious if these are just different means to the same end defined as the esteem of our collegues
There's definitely some sort of anti-materialism cultural movement. I don't know how to judge the instagram status game. It's big, and growing, but it's also totally optional. You don't come off as a low status individual if you don't even have an instagram account to the same degree as someone who walks in with a non-professional looking pair of shoes.
If nobody knows what my insta-status is (as a non user), and I don't know what anyone else's is... is it really a good measure of status or is it just kind its own thing? Aside from the top few percent of individuals who are basically professional social media players, I'm not sure insta-fame amounts to much more than being a guild master in a particularly popular MMORPG. Kind of cool but hardly universal.
It is awkward-- and frankly, unhealthy-- to be working 80 hours a week. That's what people in cults do.
> Then they sheepishly admit that this is true.
That might be less about agreement and more about politely getting the guy who's being deliberately discouraging to shut up.
The superficiality of modern positivity obsession is a source of a lot of problems, because people don't have a tight-knit network who will be there for each other through thick and thin.
So even some of the most successful high statis people are caving in to outside pressure to be something other than what they want. Problem is, the benefits of that (money, status, maybe power) are nice thing to have even if they're not your goal.
Sounds like a stereotype to me; many people would love to have passive income for many different reasons I'm sure.
How long were you willing to work for someone else before you became a founder?
Status takes many forms.
If hard work were enough, we'd all be in charge. Lots of hard workers out there.
Not shut down so much as exhausted by everyone rushing in.
High status isn’t an arbitrary designation that everyone can achieve. By definition, it requires some degree of exceptionalism and significant separation from the average.
If everyone could achieve a certain high status attribute, it’s no longer high status. It’s just average.
It’s easy to forget that high status is something given by others. You can’t become high status arbitrarily, you can only be high status if the average person voluntarily decides to see you as high status. Luxury good brands understand this perhaps better than anyone as their entire business revolves around making things appear artificially rare, unique, and hard to get while discreetly selling them to as many people as possible.
I think that there are some minimum thresholds you have to beat in terms of intellect, drive, charm, talent, etc., but I'm not completely convinced you need a significant "degree of exceptionalism" in any of these things - being in the right place at the right time can often be enough.
Most people just follow the path set for them, and among those who do set out to change they mostly just change from one standard path to another. Like switching from bagging groceries to college to become a programmer. Very few want to do the hard work required to change the world, they prefer safety, even among richer people.
> Hard work only matters when you work hard to change yourself.
Risky and difficult to comprehend are two forms of "barriers to entry". Another is who you know. One of the most obvious that you left out is: cost.
People buying their way into Harvard et al will obtain high status. People becoming a doctor will obtain high status. It's just that those things cost a 200k+. The price alone closes off that route to most people.
Risky and difficult are the routes to high status that less fortunate people MUST take, because the barriers for less risky routes are impossible to overcome by most people.
The important part you're highlighting is true: status requires barriers to limit the number of people that can acquire that status... it's just more broad than you've acknowledged.
To me, it's a huge positive signal when a group has a culture that actively embraces new people and finds way to identify and celebrate what's cool about them, rather than just the opposite. I personally found student coops at my college to be one such culture.
I think success here is somewhat incidental. No doubt the vast majority of niche workers are pursuing non-viable careers, a minority can just about wring a living from it, and a vanishingly small part will actually see some measure of success - upon which that path too will close off quickly, both due to masses of people flocking to follow those footsteps and active gate keeping by value-extracting entities.
Implicit in this model, there is a dark timeline where there are always many more people than there are opportunities. Since this system of exploring possible paths and then closing them off to the lower masses is so extremely effective, eventually every single niche will be flooded with overqualified eager young upper-class people who are just perfectly networked for success, and even though they are so many there are still untold thousands more of hopeless dregs below every single one of them.
And those that do invariably either had a scene they could grow into - like Steve Jobs orbiting around HP and landing at Atari in his earliest days, which wouldn't have happened if he'd been living in (say) Idaho.
Or they have some questionable connections and history - Russian oligarchs being the ideal examples, although there are others.
I rarely hear the argument that the USA needs gov funded heath care, BECAUSE it would be good for entrepreneurs. It's a bit like being part of a wealthy family :)
Folks who come from a high status background tend to be more willing to do low status things, because doing so doesn’t undermine their status, which comes from elsewhere.
Your summary is both a good point and a little chilling.
I've always wondered in Capitalism how this concept of a JOB for people to have a living wage is sustainable in modern times. Much less for people to innovate and thrive.
I don't think you can really have that same kind of status in tech without building something very significant which typically takes years of experience.
We are all rolling the dice here. Just be yourself and do what you find interesting. If it pays off great, if it doesn't that is okay too.
Sure, at the end it's a dice role, but you can get a better dice ;)
But your chances of being able to do that in the first place are massively dependent on your luck. It's a lot harder to get a degree or start a company if your family is struggling to afford essentials, or you're caring for a sick relative.
So for people who find themselves going into dept slavery, unable to feed themselves and their children well, unable to afford healthcare, and so on, you're saying it's all good, just a bad roll of the dice, nothing to worry about?
Seems to me more like the system is fundamentally broken if pure chance is all that seperates a millionaire and the destitute and downtrodden.
What assumption have you made about the system's purposes and functions? This is an important question and one we are currently wrestling with as a society. It's one of the BIG QUESTIONS and hard to answer. Plato's Republic might be a good starting place.
Social classes and social immobility are millenia-old phenomena and are completely independent of capitalism.
Or require being born with a rare gift or trait.
Sadly inheritance is looked down upon, and people would like every citizen to be born with the same information, and this information being delivered by public education.
Sadly, parents teach much better than teachers when it is about the little things that make a life successful. There will never be a way around this. Transmission will never be good between people who don’t care for each others, such as civil servants. Therefore we should acknowledge that, yes, some parts of success will be taught by parents, and tearing children from parents will only lose information instead of elevating everyone. We should elevate parents and teach them so that they, too, can get successful children, and make sure all kids get two parents, and as many grandparents as possible (who are very, very important for psychological stability and growth), and make sure parents can be confident in teaching their children, i.e. not criticizing them for teaching them methods to succeed which have succeeded for a millenium, like, I don’t know, marrying which is the single best predictor of success.
Sure, we can re-engineer humans without parent inheritance, tear them off and give them to childcare centers, but we already know the sad results.
I’ve once asked my Arab employee why only (foreign) Arabs applied to our job (in France) and had the skills, he very acutely noted that their parents don’t allow them to fail, whereas French-born developers were more lazy. The result is very visible here: The only decent application we have are from North Africa.
« The right parents » is not about wealth or social exclusion. It is that some parents decide to be crap parents and destroy a millenium of wisdom at their generation by not transmitting all the accumulated knowledge, generally due to some ideological dream (« my ancestors were all wrong! THIS is how you do it! I shall be free to roam! ») But the failed child is free to start again, marry, work a lot, study success, and he can give his child an excellent life, and his grandson can be CEO of a large company.
Society can’t offset crap parents. Society already does a good job at making social move possible; 86% billionaires of our generation didn’t have billionaire parents. Also, don’t believe I’m not sorry for the victims, but let’s pass the word and teach again the good tips that have worked for millenia, instead of telling everyone they can survive with a mother-and-two-step-uncles, a flat, a brother in jail and a pink dress. It is not ok to say that. We should rather tell them it will be hard and we can help them progress if they choose to live a clean life starting from now.
Also I'd love to see a deeper analysis of your "86% of billionaires" comment. Usually what happens is we discover that "self-made" millionaires grew up in quite affluent circumstances, perhaps not with millionaire parents, but with parents who earned a sufficient income to themselves retire as millionaires. That is to say, they aren't "self-made". It isn't meaningful to compare their accumulation of wealth to the struggles of those born in less favorable circumstances.
There are no "self-made" billionaires. Or very, very few (WhatsApp founder Jan Koum is literally the only one I can think of who comes close). Every single high-profile billionaire today--Gates, Buffet, Zuckerberg, Bezos, Musk, etc.--came from a family with substantial financial means and social connections.
How many of them had hundred-millionaire parents? The way wealth has grown for the super rich over the past few decades is staggering. Children of wealthy parents attaining far greater wealth than their parents has been the norm in America for generations now, it's not some exceptional accomplishment.
I make about ten times as much as my mother did, although we are both university educated. The difference is that I can sell my products on the Internet to a much wider audience. That was a serious multiplier which affected a lot of people and businesses, even on the lower end of the scale.
But I am very definitely not a USD-millionaire and likely won't ever be.
That's a bold statement.
French-born engineers are some of the best I've worked with, definitely not lazy by any means. But the local market in France is truly disconnected, salary-wise, when compared to the rest of the world.
If you advertise French wages on the French market, you simply won't get any of that french-born talent. They are either working remotely or already in the Bay Area!
It is not. You don't choose your parents, just the same way as you don't get to choose your sex/gender, race/ethnicity or caste. If you take "equal chances for everyone" seriously, it is a primary concern for a society to allow children to prosper freely without being impeded by the misfortune or failings of their parents.
> Sadly inheritance is looked down upon
We're totally not on the same page. Not even close.
> destroy a millenium of wisdom at their generation by not transmitting all the accumulated knowledge, generally due to some ideological dream (« my ancestors were all wrong! THIS is how you do it! I shall be free to roam! »)
I think it doesn't take a millennium of wisdom to understand what's needed to raise sane, mentally healthy children. Besides, this chain of knowledge-transfer gets interrupted constantly anyway, often due to war, accidents or addictions.
> But the failed child is free to start again, marry, work a lot, study success, and he can give his child an excellent life, and his grandson can be CEO of a large company.
Why the grandson? Why not the son? (Or daughter, for what it's worth.)
According to this study, at least 50% of wealth persistence is accounted for by direct transfers from parents, i.e. financial inheritance, while earnings and education are only able to explain 25%.
0 - https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ecoj.12535
If success means just the ability to buy stuff, the richest person gets the same iPhone, so why bother striving for more?
Perfect equality means total inhumanity and the destruction of family.
These concepts are hard to understand for a hyper-individualistic person that lives in an eternal present.
Much more impressive is when people direct their intelligence toward solving problems in high-dimensional domains. Self-contained leetcode problems, at most, break down into (1) translating the problem into known-best algorithm input (2) implementing that algorithm (3) translating the algorithm output into the expected format. Boring.
I disagree with this. Never underestimate how many people just don't show up or try at all.
Look at average screen time for Americans as a data point. It's a ridiculous 12 hours a day of media usage. Just think about that. People are basically staring at their phones/tvs for 12 out of the 16 waking hours.
As I get older I realize more often than not most successful people are not special, but simply were normally people that didn't screw up badly, showed up to work every day, and took better opportunities that were available. They graduated college with reasonable degrees, they didn't stay in bad jobs, or in dead-end cities. Eventually if you do that you will get a break, land at a successful company, get a big promotion, ect.
This idea that success comes to anyone who just shows up and puts in a little bit of effort because most people are watching TV or browsing the Internet for 12 hours a day is, to be blunt, extremely naive.
You're right that in a lot of places in western society (though not all) you can become pretty successful through good strategy and some hard work as you've described. But that's actually quite hard to do!
Plenty of things in life can get in the way and more importantly having a good life strategy requires a level of knowledge not available to many. The reason so many entrepreneurs come from moderately well off backgrounds is that the middle class is far far better at teaching their kids the strategies to success than those less well off. The upper class are even better and can use their money and access to take shortcuts not available to the rest of us.
If you're a working class kids whose family have never been to college or who hasn't been exposed to the 'professional class' you might have no idea how to get there and thus have no idea that you could get there. There are plenty of super smart kids from lower socio-economic backgrounds who would never even consider going to uni for a 'reasonable degree' because no ones implied it was possible for them.
We're conscious beings with a will, and there reaches a point where you struggle with your own will in order to evolve as a person. For some that's screen addiction. I'm only eager to write this comment so I can highlight the danger of a 'not my fault' mentality that's self-sabotaging.
Take college major choice. Why do so many people get worthless degrees? They can do a simple google search to see how much people with X major make as salaries. It's not hidden or even a remote mystery. I won't get in to how people finance their education (not even reading the terms of their loans which are invariably awful).
As for career, I lived for a year in Minnesota and was amazed at how many people were incredibly underpaid (like 80K a year for a senior software engineer) and simply did not try to change jobs. Similarly many also refused to even consider moving to a costal city with better pay. I've also had co-workers that stuck around at obviously failing companies (and then were upset when their options were worthless).
And with investments, I've an aunt who inherited 50K about 20 years ago and just kept the money in the bank. Everyone knows you should be investing that money in the stock market or an appreciating asset, yet she is hardly unusual in just not investing the money. My mom invested it and made at least 4x on the money.
There are tons of these kinds of things - which are all simple and obvious, but literally most people don't do them for reasons that are just beyond me. I had a friend who was a semester away from graduating at UCSD and dropped out to take music lessons at community college. I tried to explain to him that was an awful decision, but he was just dead set on it. I've seen this stuff happen over and over.
Obviously, you can say that people don't have this kind literacy because they were poor, ignorant, ect. It doesn't change the fact that mostly getting by and moving up in the world is not rocket science or for special people, it's a matter of just making mostly reasonable decisions: choosing a reasonable career, saving money, showing up for work, taking good opportunities when given to you.
A lot of people just want to go to art school.
For the people who are busy working on something they find important, most often 'status' is not even a thing. So there's no 'willingness' really to it, it's just that status doesn't really exist. The way they see themselves and how they measure their success has literally nothing to do with what perceptions other people might have about them. And then, sure, eventually some of them end up being pretty successful also by other people's standards.
I'd slightly modify that to say that what they were doing was more important to them than status - which isn't the same as saying they didn't care about status at all.
I read a number of biographies of great US presidents in the last year, and found it fascinating to see that pretty much all of them were intensely ambitious. What made the difference is that they ultimately cared more about the people they served than about serving their own ego.
Agree. I refer to this as meaningful work. It can be difficult to describe to others why it is important, but it is important to them at that time.
The joy of such work is that status does not weigh upon it as much as other endeavors. I suspect some of this success reverse-engineering efforts sometimes runs ramshod over non-extrinsic motivations because they're not as apparent, especially to the authors of such pieces.
Then went on to Ron Chernow's "Washington" (another great book), and am currently on Jean Edward Smith's "FDR".
If you're interested in presidential biographies, have a look at this guy's page: https://bestpresidentialbios.com/
Unless you’ve reached enlightenment through concerted practice, status will still be a topic that concerns you.
Why is this even on Hacker News?
Can't help but think hn now showing the username for some domains including twitter is increasing the submissions somehow? Or maybe people just engage more in discussion around tweets lately.
If you are an underrepresented minority and spend years working in a low-status position, the likelihood of a payoff for you is much lesser than it is for someone who typically doesn't experience discrimination based on their age, race, or gender. The downside for spending those years for some people is much higher than others.
A social safety net can de-risk this somewhat, but the US doesn't have a meaningful one.
So really, the "willingness to be low-status" often just means "coming from a background that's high-status enough that being low-status for a few years will not significantly damage their financial prospects".
I'm not sure willingness is the word for this. All I feel is bitterness. I'm not sure if this is me being reflective because it's my birthday today or what, but I'm so fucking sick of working so hard to get nowhere.
* I've noticed many don't appreciate the bitterness as the bitterness needs to align with their beliefs and people their beliefs are different. If it doesn't align, then all they feel are unpleasant emotions.
* Being/feeling bitter is destroying my soul. Don't give into it, I know you have your justifications. I have mine, but ultimately it's a one way ticket to depression land and it's not a fun place.
* Get rich on aspects that people don't pay attention to (aka how I also happen to win resource-based boardgames). Some examples are here .
* Keep networking
* Keep improving
* While showing bitterness is a risky thing, showing that you're looking for work is a good thing. Showing side projects is a good thing. Anything that looks constructive and positive in the area of where your needs aren't being met is a good thing. So focus on applying, focus on building stuff.
* I know it's tiring, but what I'm experiencing is that now that I'm working at a company that the job is easy, because web dev is relatively easy compared to what I did at uni.
Good luck, I hope that one day you'll be happy again.
 Examples of getting rich on aspects that people don't pay attention to (e.g. when going for a job that has bad pay):
- Flexible working hours
- Ability to work 4 days per week
- Amazing opportunity to learn
- Flexibility to work from wherever
- The flexibility to not always work at 100%
Examples for if you aren't working (and can't find a job):
- Freedom to work on whatever
- Freedom to network with whomever
- The freedom to work at a nice pace
What helps me a bit to get through the grind is to observe myself while working or applying for jobs. I'm noticing when I get into things, and when I am not getting into things and asking myself why. Sometimes it's really clear why, but sometimes it's subtle. In rare cases I can tweak my inner psychology a bit to like things a bit more, i.e. suffer less.
Now that I'm finally working, I have ample of opportunity to see when I'm in a flow state :)
Also, development in a sense is a numbers game. You get more experience and try to expand as much as you can, rinse and repeat. Entrepreneurship is only another way, you can make it happen (and many of us did) just being a normal employee.
Best of luck to you.
2 was really the hard part, can't lie. It was years of effort, and I have no formula for it besides make and keep as many friends as you can. It kind of sucks for an introvert to do this, but growing your network of friends and acquaintances is the single most important thing I have done for my career.
(If you that person carried on it's not necessarily bad of course, but then you're just any old investor, it was a good year and maybe you'll have more good and more bad.)
Admittedly, I haven't talked to them since, but they didn't seem to expect it to bounce right back up again. I wonder how many people out there did something similar.
I remember back in 2008 one of the older voice engineers I knew, who was in his 60s and getting ready to retire, panicked and moved his money out of the market (it's a separate question why he still had so much in stocks) near the low point. He quietly canceled his retirement and worked another 5 years. Whoops.
Frankly I'm kicking myself for not doing as you say. I 'thought myself very smart' by being aware of it over the new year, reading how bad it will be, thinking markets will tank, and sticking to my guns because 'I won't try to time the dip'. And then of course with a modest amount of new money in March thought 'if I'd sold in January I'd definitely be pound cost averaging back in now, even if not piling back in, I'm an idiot for being 'sensible''.
If I had though I'd probably be thinking it's crazy at the moment (or especially a week or two ago) and piling back out... Remains to be seen how well that would've gone.
I think really it's all a good argument for separating 'boring, don't touch it, keep buying', and 'fun, dabble, hobby speculation'. Where the latter should be funded appropriately for what it is, a hobby.
Agree 100%. The vast majority of my savings goes into an index fund and I keep on adding to it like clockwork every paycheck, and I avoid even thinking about it. I very specifically kept my fingers away from the keyboard when the pandemic was unfolding. I do like to play stocks for fun however, even options when I'm feeling spicy, but I do that with my 'lunch money' aka hobby money I'd have just spent on something else.
SQA is the easiest entry level job to get if you are technical. Get one of those and program your way to the top. Replace yourself with a program. Just keep programming and getting better.
The competition is intense. I understand the feeling. Helping others will help you. Maybe offer to help out at the local high school teaching programming to the kids. A lot of parents wants their kid to code.
Nobody wants to be "low-status". That's a terrible narrative. All that's being illustrated here is that being low-status is the default, and success is a matter of luck, not of merit or hard work.
Capitalism doesn't care how hard you work. It doesn't even care if you deserve the status you have (high or low). It cares about money above all else, even more than you.
Can you please explain this part? I have no idea what you actually mean by it and an unsure how it follows from capitalism.
On the other hand: there's a second interpretation of all this, which is that doing just about anything big - a major product launch, a body of research, etc. - involves a lot of drudgery. In other words, even big significant things involve a lot of work that looks silly / insignificant. I would agree that learning to commit to that drudgery, and to see it as necessary and even occasionally enjoyable (or at least meditative), is essential to reach a positive outcome. (Which is not to say that all drudgery has value, or that we shouldn't still seek to reduce / manage toil over time: it's also possible to fall into the trap of assuming all drudgery is of equal value, which it definitely is not.)
I’m not actually sure how true that is in practice, but the stickiness of income bracket and legacy enrollment in universities seems to give some credence to this type of construction.
If you are in the bottom quintile, you only have a 64% chance of staying there. That's not incredible, but it does make you question the "inescapable poverty" narrative when a full 1/3 of impoverished people escape it every decade.
Across every income quintile, you are more likely to die richer than your father.
Anyway, "dying richer than your father" is extremely different for the bottom quintile than the top, which shouldn't be equivocated. When half of people stay near where they are born in wealth, it's pretty clear that there is a massively unlevel playing field.
In the son-of-a-general instance, the son is born into those connections. But if you are able to associate yourself with high-level decision makers in a relevant low-status role, that can pay off.
I've done this twice, once as a marketing intern at a news startup where our CEO connected me with some decision-makers in the journalism industry (though I decided I didn't like the journalism industry), and again when I got my foot in the door as a customer support rep at a tech company to leverage my software development skills into a dev job with no relevant professional experience or education.
One could think of the “don’t mess up too badly” as “dad’s friends will still interact with me in public”, which is just a proxy for connections as you mentioned.
Going from low to high status is definitely made easier by leveraging high status individuals. Lower, but not necessarily low, status is still expected, I think, as the son of the general still goes to West Point and proves themselves in lower-status roles like being a lieutenant - the gears are just greased to keep going.
I bring this up to say: what other people think is significant career-wise is really only a helpful opinion if it's informed. Outsiders (friends, family, etc.) may have helpful questions but they often just don't have enough information to help you decide when to give up or press on.
A common example I see is wondering if and when programming will be automated away. These questions come from ingesting the hype surrounding AI. So unless you're inside the industry, or have someone from inside explain things to you, you'll have a mistaken perspective on the future of software careers, thanks to the ongoing barrage of marketer lies. I imagine it's the same for other industries.
So while it does not make you successful it removes one potential reason of failing to become successful.
Otherwise yeah you can pack burgers every day and stay at that level if you want. But some will make more, find more customers, more venues, new ideas. The growth spirit maybe ? I don't know.
That said, given a strong UBI or a grant of a billion dollars I would GLEEFULLY spend the rest of my life working on trying to build a perpetual motion machine. Sometimes we just have to remember that if we are honest with ourselves we are not as rational as we would like to believe.
I don't think society should fund research into the flatness of the earth or perpetual motion, but I do think there is plenty of scope for making beautiful things.
Especially if you explain it gleefully when you unveil your latest :-)
You know the U is for universal right?
I don’t understand why you decided that needed to be followed up with a personal attack.
But our family wasn't in great financial shape. Small expenses became debts, parents always fighting or stressed about money, just general family stress. Classic stretched middle class family, perhaps a bit more than others.
But we moved anyway, and it was great. Stress went down, and as each of us turned 16 my parents bought us (cheap) cars and we started working.
Sharing rooms was annoying but really didn't impact us much. Lower stress was great, and a little pressure to get jobs got all of us a head start on working and paying for stuff (gas, insurance, fast food, cell phones, outings with friends) during high school.
We are all successful and happy today. But I bet a lot of people thought we were losers when we left the big house. And if we had waited until we HAD to leave the big house, we would be losers.
I hope I can teach and model this lesson well for my son.
The point is not that the living condiitions were bad. They weren't. We had what we needed and more.
The point is that my parents were wise enough to cast off the things that didn't matter before they were forced to, and focus on what did matter. They didn't care what the neighbors or friends or aunts and uncles thought.
How many people willingly drop themselves down a few rungs on the social ladder for anything? Even for stuff that matters much more, like their family's financial security, happiness, and freedom?
"Pushing a boulder up a hill" is my preferred framing. Better to talk about difficulty, uncertainty, and boredom. All those things will make you low status - choosing to be sisyphus isn't glamorous - but that's also where you find valuable niches. Not in the silly.
It's not a willingness to be low-status; it's a willingness to persevere in the face of ridicule/obscurity while ALSO having an actually good idea that you have a chance of successfully iterating on.
The only difference between visionary and batshit crazy is success.
It's entirely possible to be low status and working on something incredibly important. E.g., driving a lorry to collect rubbish and recycling: nobody thinks of that as a high status job but imagine what happens if people stop doing it, and see if you can then still convince yourself that it's not an important job. It's also possible to do such a job for your entire working life and never taste "success". In fact, I would imagine that's possibly the default case. This in turn suggests that "low status" is an incredibly poor predictor of success.
Also, look at how rife poverty is across the globe. Poor people tend to be "low status", and many of them stay that way for their entire lives. Talking about their status as a "predictor of success" seems incredibly tone-deaf to me.
Overall this comment seems ridiculously ill thought out, to the point where I'm wondering how it's ended up here on the front page. To the person who wrote it: please, for your own benefit as much as anybody else's, step outside your bubble, because staying there is breaking your ability to think clearly.
Their not identical, but one does interact with another. In the context of an individual (not a global or social context), heterodox choices tend to be the less status oriented choices.
It's tone deaf because it relates to breakthrough success, and heterodox chance taking is tends to be a privileged prerogative. That doesn't make it untrue.
Or, someone who enters politics by joining local committees, volunteering to help other candidates, and maybe running for an "insignificant" office will have more success than someone who enters politics by running for mayor, governor, or president as their first endeavor.
But, more specifically, I interpret "looking like they're working on something silly or insignificant" to basically mean finding tasks that are critical for the survival of the organization; but might not come with the prestige of a leadership title.
The tweet thread is using the word "status" a little differently than a sociologist might use it when talking about "socioeconomic status".
Kinda disheartening to see obvious survivorship bias elevated to the top of HN.
Also in the US I listen to Dave Ramsey callers, and there are lots of people whose car is worth more than their whole net worth, which is totally unjustifiable in my view.
May as well drive an old corolla or prius and save your cash.
Everyone from an early age is fed a lot of information regarding all this stuff. Your parents, the ZIP code you grew up in, to the public or private places you were educated or dropped out from.
The truth is, it takes all kinds and success is defined 8 billion ways by 8 billion different people on this planet.
I think one thing that is interesting about tech (I don't work in tech, and I'm not a programmer) is the entrepreneur / start up culture. Maybe it has something to do with the cap nature of the beast (all you have to do is code and rent a server) that makes everyone bananas to be "successful" or a "CEO," but I just don't see this in other industries. Sure, other industries have entrepreneurs and people who start their own thing. But is it SO much different in this tech world. It's a cultural phenomena. It's more or less a function of time. No matter how hard I worked, I could never start a chemical refinery or build a car company. A new app? Function of time and sweat.
At least for me, recognizing that success is nice, but not getting too hung up on it (or expecting it) and to enjoy the labour itself (and find fulfillment in it) helps.
To practice this and it makes more sense. I recently quit my decent job despite I was doing great. I spent a while to fully-convince myself, and I realize I don't really care about status, and wasn't feeling I was achieving anything. But I live in a relatively judgemental country. When I communicate this idea with my collegues many wouldn't understand it. When I communicate with my parent I recieve immediate objection, then I receive quit some interruptive phone calls from them telling me go back to work. In practice it take more to be low-status.
Nikola Tesla is one of the greatest inventors in recent memories and he had this gift. His first job under Edison in America had a not so glamorous title. I actually wrote about it in https://leveragethoughts.substack.com/p/take-the-role-and-pr...
On the flip side, being comfortable staying in a low status role over a long period of time where the role does not provide opportunities for learning and doing hard things might be a sign of lack of ambition.
FWIW I work as a SWE at a FANG, presumably a "high or upper middle class" job.
Also, this low-staus thing is not a great predictor. The hard work that is mentioned is prevalent in many of the studies looking at success. Of course this is part of a matrix of qualities.