June 24, 2024

Statusmaxing vs. Curiositymaxing

Imagine a line representing the spectrum of ambition.

On one end, you have people playing max-level status games. They post bait on social media that drives growth, they’re constantly and explicitly selling themselves and their product, and they are always evolving with the current meta.

On the other end, you have people playing max-level curiosity games. They strictly lead with their interests, they are thoughtful in their reply-game and open to conversation with anyone, and they often bounce between projects and books based on whatever catches their thoughts that morning.

Both of these archetypes are ambitious, seeking growth and success in one way or another. Statusmaxers evaluate success externally. Curiositymaxers evaluate success internally. Social media pushes us to be statusmaxers. Books and academia push us to be curiositymaxers.

Both are wrong.

Somewhere in the middle (but probably closer to the curiositymaxer) there are those who lead with curiosity and evaluate their work both internally and externally.

Internally: Does this work fulfill me? Am I interested? Am I meeting people that give me energy and enjoying the process?

Externally: Does this work make a positive, unique impact? Do people I care about think this work is valuable? Do people respect what I have to say?

Interestingly enough, over-emphasizing either curiosity or status leads to the same outcome: doing work that might not be useful and isn’t fulfilling. Curiositymaxxers might be more interesting. Statusmaxxers might make more money. Both are likely doing work that uphold the individual responsibility of aligning your interests with the needs of the world.

In both cases, striking that balance is an ongoing battle with your ego.