What game are you playing?

Riffs on a Naval Ravikant tweet

I recently read a tweet by one of my favourite people on Twitter, Naval Ravikant on the danger of playing status games instead of wealth games. 

Seek wealth, not money or status. Wealth is having assets that earn while you sleep. Money is how we transfer time and wealth. Status is your place in the social hierarchy.

It’s a whole thread titled, “How to get rich (without getting lucky),” and worth taking the time to read, and that tweet is the second. He goes on to say:

Ignore people playing status games. They gain status by attacking people playing wealth creation games.

Whatever your thoughts on wealth, I think the point about status is worth thinking about.

If you think of wealth as being paid for creating stuff people value (although he defines this more specifically), and status as your position in a social hierarchy, a few things come out. 

One is that wealth is outward focused: for people to pay you for whatever you create, it has to be stuff they consider valuable. (Ethical wealth, I mean, of course!) They determine that, not you. It’s not about how much work you feel like you put in, it’s how valuable people consider that work to be. If you make money off a book, a movie, an app, you’ve basically been paid for creating value. It’s all about the value. The money (in this sense) is simply people putting their money where their mouth is (as against merely saying your work is valuable).

Status, however, is inward-looking: it’s not about others, it’s about me. It’s about do others like me, do they accept me as one of the group, do they think I’m important, maybe even recognise me as something of a leader? If they like me, then I get to be higher status, or at least not be lower. It’s all about my position. 

As Naval put it elsewhere, you can fight for bigger slices of the cake (because status requires someone to be below for another to be above) or you can work to create a bigger cake which allows bigger slices in general. 

To put it another way, you can be creating value for others (that they’re actually willing to part with monetary value for), or protecting your status (that you’re rewarded with higher status for).

A helpful way to think about which is which, though, is are you more concerned about people’s response to your work (value creation) or your person (status protection)? 

Of course we all have to do both to varying degrees, but which of the two is more important to you? And it’s easy to tell ourselves of course we really want to create value, but it’s important to be honest with ourselves. Heck, making money itself is often a status game. 

Ultimately, though, what’s our main driver: how people rate us or how they rate our work? And when they don’t like our work do we take that as a sign to do more work or do we make that also a status thing? Are we really working for status? In our interactions, online, on social media and online, are we playing status games or creating value?

Overall the categorisation isn’t very precise — even problematic in some ways — but I still think it’s very useful, especially in the questions it raises and how those can help us think about how we work and exist in the world. 

What are your thoughts on this? Do you find it useful, yourself? If not, why? And if you do, which do you find yourself caught up in more?

Doc Ayomide