What are the goal to which you aspire? Is who you are dictated by what others think, or what you do?(Pexels)
What are the goal to which you aspire? Is who you are dictated by what others think, or what you do?(Pexels)

What does your inner scorecard say: Life Hacks by Charles Assisi

Do you worry more about good reputation, or greater self-worth?
Hindustan Times | By Charles Assisi
UPDATED ON JUL 27, 2019 03:03 PM IST

It didn’t occur to me until we met that 25 years had passed since we graduated. Or that it would take a superhuman effort by one man to bring us together. Why he did it would become obvious only later. For now, all those who once looked and sounded familiar, seemed unfamiliar. It was inevitable that everyone be asked: How has your life shaped up?

The one who initiated this meeting started with his story. He had been a man of scientific temperament, who spent long hours in the lab. It was easy to imagine him a researcher somewhere. But he had pivoted multiple times and was a successful entrepreneur now.

His success had everyone blinded, his wife included, to the fact that he was also battling alcoholism. Until one day he collapsed at work and had to be rushed to an emergency room. While there, he finally asked himself: How did I get here? What ghosts am I unwilling to confront?

He began to acknowledge the abuse he had suffered as a child, and admit that the long hours spent at the college lab had been an attempt at escape; that the pivots in his career were attempts to morph into different people because he was so desperate for acceptance. And he began to face the fact that when he was alone, he couldn’t escape or pivot, and so he turned to alcohol to numb his mind.

In the counselling sessions that followed, he addressed how the abuse had affected his self-esteem. And how the only metric he measured himself by was how others perceived him. He had no inner scorecard.

Why that matters stared him in the face when he read Alice Schroeder’s book, The Snowball: Warren Buffett and the Business of Life — the authorised biography of the world’s richest man. A few questions occur in the book, questions such as, ‘Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst? Or be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the greatest?’

He then came upon a post by the risk analyst and author Nassim Nicholas Taleb on Facebook: “The optimal solution to being independent and upright while remaining a social animal is: to seek first your own self-respect and, secondarily and conditionally, that of others, provided your external image does not conflict with your own self-respect. Most people get it backwards and seek the admiration of the collective and something called “a good reputation” at the expense of self-worth for, alas, the two are in frequent conflict under modernity.”

My former classmate has since retired from seeking investor approval or engaging in societal banter. The inner scorecard he now keeps insists he ask himself instead: How much time do I invest in meaningful relationships?

That is why he reached out to us, his old friends. We applauded. Silently.

(The writer is co-founder of Founding Fuel & co-author of The Aadhaar Effect)

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