career status anxiety

Rashid Rana PakistanThere are two kinds of career status says author Roman Krznaric in his book How to Find Fulfilling Work: one is to have a job esteemed by others and the second is to have a greater degree of perceived success in relation to others.  The need to compare is pathological:

famous study in behavioural economics showed that if given a choice between earning $50,000 a year with everyone else earning $25,000, or earning $100,000 while others earned $200,000, the majority of people would choose the former.

Both kinds of status lead to endless cycles of anxiety:

The writer and spiritual thinker C.S. Lewis understood this problem when he said that most of us desire to be a member of an ‘inner ring’ of esteemed or important people, but we ‘will reach no “inside” that is worth reaching’ since there are always more rings within it.

Most of us?  More than 50% of us are anxious about this elusive desire?  But there is a way out of the cycle of anxiety. Krznaric recommends an exercise, a simple question that you ask yourself:

Who do you imagine is judging your work status – perhaps family, old friends or colleagues? Do you want to grant them that power?

Who Are You Trying to Impress? How to escape status anxiety, Published on March 15, 2013 by Roman Krznaric in How to Find Fulfilling Work

photograph by Rashid Rana, Pakistan

how to be a bohemian

“Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by this son of York, ” said Richard III.  Things were looking up for Richard as his brother had just been made king.

Was the collapse of our banks the winter of our discontent, now being made glorious by people around the world – starting with the Arab spring and spreading some months later to America – to walk the streets, to camp in parks, to make demands, to express their dissatisfaction with a world that has become unequal?

The analogy isn’t quite right:  Shakespeare’s peerless words perfectly describe a thawing; but Richard’s glorious summer was decidedly murderous, and the one flowering for us appears to be much more hopeful.

The peaceful occupiers in America don’t have murder on their minds.  But all of the elements found in the bard’s phrase: discontent, flowering summer, and even the scheming and murderous intent of the protagonist Richard III, are evident in the protests that are happening across America.

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necessary things
August 24, 2011, 3:42 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

Percentage of North Americans Declaring the Following Items to Be Necessities

Second car
Second television set
More than one telephone
Car air conditioning
Home air conditioning



Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton p 194

six stories

In autumn the surface water in lakes begins to cool and grow heavy.  Eventually the heavy top water sinks and displaces the lighter water at the bottom of the lake; and the lake turns.

History can be like a lake.  Take for example how we see class, particularly the members of the upper and lower ones.  Alain de Botton, in his book Status Anxiety, uses three stories to illustrate how we used to see the rich and poor, until about the middle of the 18th century, and three more stories to show how that perception of class has literally flipped.

We used to believe the labour of the poor drove wealth creation, that there was no shame in poverty, and that the riches of the upper echelons were generally ill gotten.  Now we believe the opposite.

Arguments can be made about the relative truthfulness of each of the two antipodal visions of society.  It’s much harder to argue that the radical shift in perspective has not had a profound effect on our lives.  To claim we’re not worse off, for instance.  Among many other things, it’s quite clear we have become uncompromisingly and unapologetically uncharitable.

From Status Anxiety:  the first three stories are the old vision, and the second three are what we believe today.  The old view of class:

Three useful old stories about failure:

From approximately 30 AD, when Jesus began his ministry, to the latter half of the twentieth century, the lowest in Western societies had to had three stories about their significance, which, while they could be believed, must have worked a profoundly consoling, anxiety-reducing effect on their listeners.

First Story:  The Poor Are Not Responsible for Their Condition and Are the Most Useful in Society

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