Chocolate and Gold Coins

Friday, June 10, 2005

Success: Can We Enjoy It?

In the comment section of my post on “Is Happiness a Zero-Sum Game?” Half Sigma (always an interesting blog) and I had a very interesting exchange. Before I talk about that, let me first consider an idea very alien to my own way of thinking.

Suppose that you worked really hard in an area – so hard that you became one of the 100 best in the whole world in your area of expertise. And suppose that most people couldn’t care less because your area of expertise was nothing they cared about.

This would seem almost too cruel. You strived your whole life to attain the summit of your profession only to get almost global indifference. What’s the point of working so hard to attain success if you cannot bask in its glory?

You get invited to one of those trendy jet-set parties where you can hobnob with the glitterati and inevitably some semi-celebrity asks, “Who are you?” You give an embarrassed look of “What, don’t you know who I am?” and then you do your best to explain it while maintaining your exalted self-image.

Of course, I think this is all quite ridiculous. But some people think otherwise. Half Sigma has the strong desire to be a top 100 blog but fears that even attaining the almost impossible goal will bring little joy since he apparently measures joy in the approval and the adoration of the public in large (perhaps that’s the problem).

I’m not going to belittle another man’s life goal. If he achieves top 100 blog status, he deserves accolades. He deserves to drive around in a Ferrari with a vanity plate that reads “TOP 100”. Well, he deserve the plate - he needs to earn the car.

But then what is the point of achieving this success if others don’t recognize it? They don’t count! Only bloggers count!

So here is the exchange I had with Half Sigma.

"You might have the ambition to be a top 100 blogger (I am assuming that you aren’t already a top 100 blogger because why would you be wasting your time reading this?) There are millions of blogs, and only 100 top 100 blogs. You can do the math. Your chances of achieving this goal are tiny."

I think I have a better chance of making it into the top 100 of the blogosphere than making it into the top 1% of U.S. society.

Without naming any particular blogs, I'll say that there are several blogs in the top 100 that plain suck.

Nice post. I may have to write about this topic again. Thanks for the plug.

Come on Half Sigma, name names! Douce? Wil Wheaton? Like they’re going to care what you think.

Anyway, here was my very tongue-in-cheek reply:

Hi Half Sigma
Well if you ever do make it to the top 100 blogs, I can tell everyone that I knew Half Sigma when he was a virtual unknown. And that might impress someone for some reason. I'll be able to deduct a little happiness from others because they know nobody.

Half Sigma responded with a note of fatalism:

"Well if you ever do make it to the top 100 blogs, I can tell everyone that I knew Half Sigma when he was a virtual unknown."

This is based on the assumption that having blog #100 would somehow make me "known." I doubt it very much.

It's not an elite club like being the in the top 100 CEOs, or the top 100 baseball players.

Baseball players? Pfft. Twenty years after they retire, they've blown their cash and they’re pathetic greeters in gambling halls.

Anyway, I related one of my favorite anecdotes about fame:

Hi Half Sigma
You just can't compare these things. I have the perfect anecdote for you. William Falkner, the greatest American author circa late 1940's was in Hollywood for a film adaptation of one of his novels. [Note, he wrote several screenplays for movies not based on his novels also] He was invited to lunch with America's greatest movie star at that time: Clark Gable.

What did they talk about? Well, Mr. Gable didn't read much. He asked Mr. Falkner: "What is it that you do?" Mr. Falkner explained that he was an author. Then he asked: "Mr. Gable, what is it that you do?"

Making it to the top 100 in anything is impressive, and we might as well be smug about if it does happen. And yes you're right, you might get that annoying question "What is it that you do?" but now you know how to throw that right back at them!


  • The worth of doing something is in how much money it pays, unless the free market is somehow INEFFICIENTLY allocating wealth.

    Being CEO #5000 pays a lot better than blogger #100.

    Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like I have a realistic shot these days at being CEO #5000.

    By Anonymous Half Sigma, at 1:17 PM  

  • Michael, I have book-tagged you. I hope you don't mind..

    By Blogger Anil, at 1:37 PM  

  • Oops, I never realized you'd already been infected with the meme.. my bad!

    By Blogger Anil, at 1:14 PM  

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