Is That Who You Want To Be? Pt II

October 7, 2011 — 28 Comments

How much would you have to be paid to be a huckster? Because that’s the thing about schemes and scams—they work.

Think of it as a kind of different take on the dress-suit bribe but with the same logic. Not how much you made running the scam, but how much it cost you to be the kind of person who could do it. Not how much you get out of being the loudest guy in the room, the big swinging dick, but what you did to yourself to be it. Or what you did to other people along the way. How much did you pay to get paid?

That’s what you should ask yourself. But, since it is unlikely that the people attracted to such things will have that self-awareness, ask it to yourself that when you catch yourself envying them. You won’t wish for what they have when you know what they paid for it. Because whatever the amount, it came out of a bank accounts that cannot be replenished. The ones labeled: dignity, self-respect, restraint, pride.

Ryan Holiday

I'm a strategist for bestselling authors and billion dollar brands like American Apparel, Tucker Max and Robert Greene. My work has been used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and has been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company.

28 responses to Is That Who You Want To Be? Pt II

  1. Hi Ryan, great post, really insightful. If there weren’t a price to pay, then more people would do it and the profitability would go down.

  2. Ayn Rand had a good quote that goes along with this in Atlas Shrugged. “No debt goes unpaid. If the guilty don’t pay it, then eventually the innocent will have to.”

  3. There is a cost to everything, particularly good things. Never forget it.

  4. This post reminded me of my favorite post of yours. I printed it out and put it near my desk at work.

  5. Ryan look at who you worked for. I would not go as far as to say you were huckster but is that who you really wanted to be? What did it cost you?

  6. I do want to be that. I want to be comfortable, secure, and respected. Eat or be eaten.

    • The people we’re talking about are none of those things. In fact, they are the opposite of all three of them in every way.

      • “Behind every great fortune there is a great crime”

        • And…? Would you like me to quote some some random, irrelevant platitudes too? This has nothing to do with what we’re talking about, certainly nothing to do with your complete misreading of people.

          • I’m misreading your current post as an artificial distinction between people who violate the Western social mores of honesty and people, such as ourselves, who live comfortably while others starve.

  7. Vonnegut’s line ‘We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.’ springs to mind.

    When you pretend to be something, it’s so very hard to really grasp the complexity of what thing. It’s so very easy to slide into something half thought out, and let it become real organically, and instead of becoming something you’ve chosen, something that is who you want to be. You become a flawed thing, that isn’t what you ever imagined.

  8. Dude, when I first read your schemes and scams email I was kind’ve put off. I saw a lot of truth in it which, I guess was confronting. But at the same time, in spite of my “scammy” intentions reading books like the 4HWW and Malcom Gladwell have changed my life in a massively positive way. If a book has a scam facade ie 4HWW but allows the reader to get more meaning from life is the scam justified?
    And congrats on shaking me up, I’ve read a lot more (well, okay just a little more) into the teaching of stoic philosophy and realise that this was a basic teaching method.

  9. Scam is what we do. We sell products that we paid for at a price that is more than we paid for them. We attach a story and this makes the investment emotional. Saying hucksters pay a price more than a respectable person is justification for the choices we already made. If you are not rich, you are not qualified to tell people the perils of acquiring wealth. All this making rich men into monsters is counter productive. Ideals rot men’s souls

    • Show me where I talked about the perils of acquiring wealth. Let’s respond to the post, not your preposterous misreading of it.

      Ideals do the opposite of rotting the soul, btw.

  10. Is saying negro in Spanish wrong?

    How do you grow a rutabaga?

    Is tuberculosis have rights?

    Do hamsters learn how to dance when the barnacle is not observing?

    These questions and more. These questions and more.

  11. Ryan, have you ever read Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto?

    I just finished it yesterday, really amazing book. John takes you through the history behind mandatory schooling and how its origins come from Prussia, where it was just another form of eugenics, artificially separating the “good” from the “bad”, hoping to turn kids into brainless adults that need to be told what to do, and don’t have the tools to question what’s been told to them.

    I am not making the book justice enough, I think you would really like the book.

    “Under the new system, the goals of good moral values, good citizenship skills, and good personal development were exchanged for a novel fourth purpose – becoming a human resource to be spent by businessmen and politicians.”

    • Joao-

      John Taylor Gatto’s writings on the history of mandatory, state-run schooling and the real effects of the system are amazing and were influential in our decision to homeschool our kids when they reach school age. We look forward to providing our kids with the opportunity to explore their interests at their own pace.

  12. “Because whatever the amount, it came out of a bank accounts that cannot be replenished. The ones labeled: dignity, self-respect, restraint, pride”

    You can’t always live your life by some staunch morale/ personal code. If you are going to take risks there will be times where you f&*k up and then you have to bend over and take it up the jacksie while you get back up on your feet.

    Life is about compromising with people – you can’t always say “sod you guys I’m doing it my own way”.

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