Admiration. Adulation. Adoration.
People seek it, crave it, and do almost anything for it.
While this can be, in certain respects, the impetus that drives people toward greater heights, it’s most often, in my experience, the source of deep-rooted disappointment, disillusion, and discontentment.
That’s because admiration, adulation, and adoration is a short-lived reward that’s external in nature.
You get that round of applause. A quick pat on the back. And that’s it. It’s a short-term high.
Then it’s off to the next big(ger) task to get another round of applause. Next time, you want the round of applause to be even louder and longer.
So on and so forth.
It’s basically another way of running ever-faster on the hedonic treadmill, except you’re after approval in this case.
It’s like money. Just a different currency.
Chasing money is never a good idea. You will never catch it.
Well, chasing after admiration is also never a good idea.
It’s precisely when you try hardest to get it, you become the least worthy of it.
You’re chasing something that isn’t yours. It isn’t you.
See, this is an external reward that’s totally disconnected from your internal self.
And it becomes particularly problematic when you sacrifice personal beliefs, morals, or truth in order to achieve external reward. If you let this occur, you become someone and something else. Whatever admiration you receive in response for your actions or achievements will be reserved for someone that actually isn’t even you anymore.
To seek out admiration, rather than to let it become a natural byproduct of being who you are, will leave you truly lost.
It’s relying on a sense of relevance to give your life meaning.
But relevance is irrelevant.
And I’ll share why.
Internal Scorecard Versus External Scorecard
I’ll let Warren Buffett succinctly sum it up, in a way only he can do:
Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover?
Buffett has talked about the importance of abiding by an internal scorecard instead of an external scorecard.
This means that you judge your sense of self, your accomplishments, your success, and even your worth as a human being by your own scorecard, rather than what others think about you.
You build a life that will make you happy, not what you think others will like or be happy with.
This creates sustainable and long-term happiness, fulfillment, purpose, and meaning.
That’s because it’s authentic.
You only get one life. And it’s incredibly short. To spend much of that time living a life that isn’t yours is a huge mistake.
We must find and be ourselves. We must be comfortable in our own skin. We must live out our truth.
Where that ranks us in other people’s minds, according to an external scorecard, is totally irrelevant.
Financial Independence And The Internal Scorecard
The great news about this is, financial independence makes it easier to abide by an internal scorecard.
Furthermore, an internal scorecard helps you reach financial independence.
It’s this amazing circular and holistic relationship, where they assist and complement each other to propel you closer to a happy, successful, wealthy, and free life.
The path to financial independence requires you to basically “opt out” of typical societal measures of success and happiness: the big house, the fancy car(s), the lengthy job title, the impressive résumé.
You know, the things that make you the opposite of happy and successful.
And since these things are acquired in the rat race, where every rat is trying to outdo each other in order to earn more accolades, you’ll find that the path to FIRE is much easier and clearer without these obstacles in your way (once you decide to stop racing the other rats).
Creating an internal scorecard illuminates what was previously in the shadows.
You find that what actually builds happiness for oneself is a particular lifestyle that heavily weights autonomy, authenticity, choice, purpose, and a sense of greater good.
This lifestyle requires time, freedom, and vision.
Well, a job won’t allow for any of that. I can just about guarantee you that.
Furthermore, it’s hard to garner adoration or adulation for any of this because few people will ever see it or know about it – the lifestyle that one builds to get to FIRE isn’t “showy”, nor is time or freedom something you can actually show people.
And this makes it easier to abide by an internal scorecard.
That which allowed you to reach FIRE (and the happier, more free, and more purposeful life that comes with that) further reinforces FIRE once you see how much happier you are without the external scorecard that is nigh impossible to score high on anyway.
Relevance Is Irrelevant
Once you shift your mindset in this way, you see that relevance is irrelevant.
That’s because relevance is something that others bestow upon you.
Society makes someone relevant.
But that’s relying on an external scorecard.
Likewise, society can just as quickly take away relevance.
When you’re relying on others to give your life meaning, you have no control over your own happiness or sense of self. You have no center in your life. You’re being pulled by the currents of others. Your identity and very purpose in life is lost in the noise of other people’s opinions about you.
Indeed, this creates a situation where other people’s opinions carry weight in your life.
That weight, buried down on you with sanctimonious gravitas, will only serve to slow you down.
Everyone’s a self-appointed expert on everything. Everyone loves to judge. Giving people the power to judge you will only seed doubt and confusion in your life.
The only person’s opinion of you that matters is yours.
Worthiness Is Worthwhile
Is relevance is irrelevant, what is relevant?
I’d say worthiness. Worthiness is relevant. Worthiness is worthwhile.
We must actually deserve our accomplishments. As Charlie Munger has said:
[The] safest way to try and get what you want is to try and deserve what you want.
Without worthiness, nothing else matters. That’s because your internal scorecard will naturally suffer to a great degree if you feel, or if you know, you don’t deserve whatever success you have in your life.
Admiration, adulation, and adoration may or may not come.
But if you’re not worthy of any of it, it won’t matter.
However, being worthy of your success, because you’ve earned it all, fills your internal scorecard to the brim.
Of course, being successful, and being worthy of whatever success you’ve earned in your life, means some kind of relevance will likely be bestowed upon you anyway.
In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith wrote:
No benevolent man ever lost altogether the fruits of his benevolence. If he doesn’t always gather them from the persons from whom he ought to have gathered them, he seldom fails to gather them from other people, and with a tenfold increase. Kindness is the parent of kindness.
I’d actually say kindness begets kindness. To be right and just isn’t only good in and of itself, but it will naturally lead to a cascade of kind and right events in your life.
Being just makes your world more just. Not least of the reasons being how you feel about yourself. It’s a holistic way to approach your life and the world around you.
Being kind for kindness’ sake makes you more likely, and more worthy, of receiving kindness in return – at an exponential rate. This compounds the more it spreads.
When you openly and honestly share, you’re more likely to be shared with. And you’ll be more worthy of that sharing, which will make it that much more valuable.
For example, I try to write the highest-quality content I possibly can not to earn adulation from others, but I’m instead interested in personal growth, conceptualization, and inspiring others. I share to help. And that process of openly sharing helps me, which is exacerbated by the sharing and value that others bring back into my life.
I try to live a life that I think is the best possible life to live, which is reflected in that writing. The writing and the life I live are inextricably linked.
It’s how I try to make my way up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
I want to become more than me. I want to leave a legacy behind. And I want to do what I can (in my own little way) to make the world a better place and improve the human condition. I try to be the change I’d like to see.
I do what I do because I genuinely enjoy it. Whenever I’m productive in my life and improve myself in some way, I feel immensely proud of that. The fact that society has granted me some semblance of relevance is, well, irrelevant. And when that relevance is one day taken away, it will also be irrelevant to me.
The important thing is that I feel worthy of whatever praise I’m given (or not given).
If I’m not actually praiseworthy, all the praise in the world wouldn’t make me feel good at all.
Moreover, if my internal scorecard is being graded quite high (which it is), external praise will have very little effect on me anyway.
That all said, just imagine how I’d feel if I were writing one way but living a totally different way.
If I were writing about minimalism and dividend growth investing on one hand, but secretly consuming like crazy and buying up bitcoin on the other, just how praiseworthy would I be? And how good (or bad) would I feel if/when praise actually did come my way?
To feel like a fraud is just about the worst feeling in this world. If you feel like you’re a fraud because you are a fraud, you’ll be absolutely miserable – no matter how large that round of applause might be.
A great way to avoid this is to be genuine and authentic in all aspects of your life, which is aided by abiding by an internal scorecard.
The best example I can think of to better illustrate this point is Bernie Madoff.
You had a guy who was doing quite well on the external scorecard. Everyone thought he was a financial wizard.
But he was actually a wizard of fraud. His internal scorecard was certainly showing a big, fat zero. He knew this, even though nobody else did.
And then, when the lies finally caught up to him, he admitted that he felt relieved to have it over and done with. He wished they had caught him years prior. He couldn’t take it anymore.
See, Madoff was earning praise. But he was not praiseworthy. The former matters nil if it’s not accompanied by the latter.
Madoff chased the high marks on an external scorecard, completely forgoing paying any attention to the internal scorecard.
That imprisoned his mind first, then his body later.
While his body is now imprisoned for the rest of his life, his mind is finally freed. And he’s openly discussed how that feels great – he’s happier in prison.
If we are to truly be independent and free in this life, we must score ourselves by our own internal scorecard.
Relevance is irrelevant.
To seek out praise, instead of executing actions that make you praiseworthy, will make you feel hollow and empty inside – regardless of whether or not the praise eventually comes your way. However, the more praiseworthy you are, the heavier that internal scorecard will be with its high marks, and the greater that praise, when it comes (which it surely will if you’re doing things the right way), will feel.
We must create a life that makes us happy, not what we think will make others happy.
If we can operate a life with an internal scorecard, we’re free from society’s opinions.
That allows us to make choices and pursue endeavors that are most aligned with who we truly are. And it’s once we live that authentic and genuine life that we finally feel content and happy. To live our truth is freedom. There is no greater freedom than to be yourself.
We need to be great human beings. This, collectively, makes the world a better place. And I believe we are our greatest selves when we grade ourselves by an internal scorecard.
What do you think? Do you abide by an internal scorecard? Why or why not?
Thanks for reading.
Image courtesy of: iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
P.S. If you’re interested in FIRE, which can greatly help you to abide by your own internal scorecard, check out some fantastic resources that I personally used to achieve financial freedom at just 33 years old!