Business Day - - THE BOTTOM LINE -

Lis­ten to what is be­ing preached. Look at ev­ery­one around us … [how] they seek hap­pi­ness and never find it. If any man stopped and asked him­self whether he’s ever held a truly per­sonal de­sire, he’d find the an­swer.

He’d see that all his wishes, his ef­forts, his dreams, his am­bi­tions are mo­ti­vated by other men. He’s not re­ally strug­gling even for ma­te­rial wealth, but for the sec­ond-han­der's delu­sion — pres­tige.

A stamp of ap­proval, not his own.

He can find no joy in the strug­gle and no joy when he has suc­ceeded. He can’t say about a sin­gle thing: “This is what I wanted be­cause I wanted it, not be­cause it made my neigh­bours gape at me.” In the end, he’s spent his life fol­low­ing other peo­ple’s de­mands. Then he won­ders why he’s un­happy. / Ayn Rand P res­tige is the opin­ion of the rest of the world … Pres­tige is like a pow­er­ful mag­net that warps even your be­liefs about what you en­joy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you’d like to like ... Pres­tige is just fos­silized in­spi­ra­tion. If you do any­thing well enough, you’ll make it pres­ti­gious. Plenty of things we now con­sider pres­ti­gious were any­thing but at first.

Jazz comes to mind — though al­most any es­tab­lished art form would do. So just do what you like, and let pres­tige take care of it­self. Pres­tige is es­pe­cially dan­ger­ous to the am­bi­tious.

If you want to make am­bi­tious peo­ple waste their time on er­rands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with pres­tige.

That’s the recipe for get­ting peo­ple to give talks, write fore­words, serve on com­mit­tees, be depart­ment heads, and so on. It might be a good rule sim­ply to avoid any pres­ti­gious task. If it didn’t suck, they wouldn’t have had to make it pres­ti­gious. /Paul Gra­ham.

/Michel Pireu (pireum@street­

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