🤯Unknown Unknowns #62 - Sell Out!
2 min read

🤯Unknown Unknowns #62 - Sell Out!

"Selling out" was one of the worst insults in high school back in the day.  If you were a Sell Out, you had no self respect and no one had respect for you.  Gen-X was all about sticking it to the man and staying true to yourself.  Now, everything is about monetization.

Being high school kids, we had no idea of the realities of life.  You can't eat pride.  But there's a spectrum between a purist and having no standards.  Compromises must be made.  The key is to be conscious about it.  Make the money you need to have but still do what you want to do.

I apply the idea of the metagame to selling out.  Often, sell outs are playing the metagame and you're using the ethics of the underlying game to judge them.

There's always a metagame.  The metagame is a game inside the game.  It's focusing on getting a promotion or raise instead of doing a great job (surprisingly not always related).  It's making money selling art instead of making great art that you hope sells.  There's nothing wrong with making money.  The problem is when you're playing the metagame when you think you're playing the underlying game.  Or when you're playing the underlying game when you think you're playing the metagame.

This causes the mismatch of incentives.  In the example of your job, you might think if you do a good job, you'll get promoted.  In this case, you're playing the underlying game but you want the payout of the metagame.  You'll be neglecting the key component to getting promoted: getting your boss to want to promote you.

You need to align your expectations with the game you're playing.  If you want to make great art, make great art.  If you want to make money, make money.  Don't make great art and expect to make money.  Don't make money and expect to make great art.  Making great art and making money can coincide, but it's not necessarily true.


I'm sharing two essays that talk about confusing what you actually want to do with what you think you want to do.  It's an extension of last week's discussion on mimetics.  I hope this clarifies the concept of mimetic theory.

Nick Maggiulli writes:

Following the algorithm pervades our society. It’s when you take a career in consulting or banking because your college classmates did so. It’s when you invest in a new cryptocurrency or tech stock because it’s popular. Ultimately, it’s when you let others shape your life instead of building your own.

=> Essay Here

Nat Eliason writes:

When you’re afraid you can’t earn a sufficient living from the thing you want to do, you find something else to earn that money for you. But then it’s hard to balance the two, especially if the money is really good. Success can be its own failure. You start a lifestyle business to fund your passion, then the business takes off and now you’re stuck managing employees and a Shopify store.

=> Essay Here

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Leaving you in peace,