Man’s pursuit of happiness is man’s pursuit of validation – one way or another.
In whatever field we choose to dominate, we all eventually want that piece of paper to say that we have made it. That we got there. That piece of paper might be a degree from an Ivy League school, a certificate of some kind to show that we have mastered a specific skill-set, a star (or two, or three) on a Michelen guide, or even stacks of green papers with Benjamin Franklin face printed on them.
The strange part, however, is that humankind only had these “paper-like” validation for a few hundred years, which isn’t nearly enough time to have this attribute embedded into our DNA code as a survival-mechanism.
So, how the fuck did that happen?
Why are we so attached to these papers that we spend a big chunk of our lives chasing them, and later frame them and hang them on our walls as medals of honor?
This isn’t an anthropological study; this is my own attempt to justify this behavior, and hopefully find a way out of this hollow pursuit of external validation.
To simplify things, it is only fair to assume that humans – at the most basic level, are biological out-of-date machines with two purposes and two purposes only: survival and replication.
Enter the caveman era.
Of course, this is a flawed assumption since we are no longer prehistoric creatures living in the wild, trying to hunt our dinner and hopefully not get killed in the process. We are no longer living in small groups of hunters and gatherers. We are now highly sophisticated social animals living in a modern digital world where we enjoy the perils of technological advances in science, medicine, agriculture, engineering and most importantly, language.
This mode of communication (language) separates us from the entire animal kingdom. Using words, you can now better express yourself, create poetry and songs, but also now you can bullshit way to survive and replicate.
Enter the con-artist era.
This is why, we humans still have to look for hard-to-fake signals (rather than just words) in order to maximise our chances at survival and replication. In a similar way a male peacock showcases a train of magnificently colored feathers, as an honest signal of male fitness. This can simply be an effective (not perfect) strategy to decide your next move on a date, an interview or even when you decide to sign up for a weightlifting, music, dancing or writing classes.
Enter the modern contemporary era.
So maybe these so-called papers after all is another way of displaying a hard-to-fake signal to show you are a great mate, doctor, lawyer, engineer, dancer, . .etc. This way one can minimize risk when making decisions under high level of uncertainty.
This paper can show, at the bare minimum, that you have gone through a rigorous timely process, where you successfully demonstrated a certain level of fitness or skills. I can live with that – assuming the same was endorsed by a reputable group of individuals.
But anyone with half-a-brain and real-world experience knows materialistic pursuits are hollow experiences, since you would always want more and would never feel satisfied or that you are good enough.
Enter the Kanye West era.
How much it too much?
The way out of this loop is to focus entirely on your craft, and follow a reputation-based model of success rather than having to be endorsed by an external entity. You let word-of-mouth and guerilla marketing tactics do the trick. It’s the nature of pre-selection. If other people think it is good, then it must be good. The price, however, is time and effort. There is no way around it.
Believe it or not, reputation can also be a hard-to-fake signal of fitness since you can’t control this element and it will be a reflection of your skills and continuous interaction with your community.
Nobody asks Kanye West about his qualifications. His talent and reputation signal to music producers, fans and corporations that he is a crafty winner.
This is the highest rated survival and replication value you can ever attain.
This is the war of art.
This is survival of the fittest at its finest.
“Visiting my mind is like visiting the Hermés factory. Shit is real. You are not going to find a chink. It is 100,000% Jimi Hendrix.” – Kanye West.