Clout is Fool’s Gold

Julian Shapiro’s article, Vanity Metrics, explains how most goals we chase are vanity metrics and how to course correct accordingly. One of the categories of goals that we chase are, The Ability Spectrum: Goals where we signal our ability.”

He illustrates a gradient that determines how representative a signal is of our ability:

Easy to Game ——————————-> Hard to Game

Easy-to-game accomplishments prioritize social validation over accurately representing your ability. That makes them vanity metrics. If your goal is to impress talented people and to have your work outlast your lifetime, seek accomplishments that are hard to game. Hard-to-game accomplishments have something in common: they create value. For example, whereas earning an MBA or receiving an award creates no value, appearing on a podcast or creating engaging content does.

In short, let output be your signal—not your credentials.

Subject matter experts see through credentials, and those are the people you’d want to collaborate with and who’d fund your ideas. When trying to impress people, impress the right people.

Another way of stating this is that easy to game accomplishments are zero-sum while hard to game accomplishments are positive-sum.

My most impactful accomplishments, the ones that I believe are the most accurate representation of my ability, are hard to game and positive sum.

I’ve met many people that stacked the deck in terms of their credentials but I didn’t find them that impressive. On the other hand, I’ve met many people that I thought are brilliant that often get overlooked because of their lack of credentials.

After all the best credentials are not the ones you earn but the ones you make yourself.

March 1, 2021

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