Discover more from Fashi Mindset by Chidi Afulezi
Keeping Away From The Joneses
The Emperor, the Conqueror, The Champion, The Lion is here, Losers!
A friend put himself on blast on LinkedIn, highlighting a huge honor he received from this globally esteemed organization, with the requisite “I am truly honored and excited…” intro, and how when he was little he would never have dreamt that…and you know the rest.
In other words, “The Emperor, the Conqueror, The Champion, The Lion is here, Losers!”
<Grammarly does not like that ☝🏾 sentence at all at all. Red corrections all over the place. Come on, get thee out of my face, AI!>.
Humblebrag? Well, that’s reductive if you want to get big English about it. I know him pretty well, he’s on point and on fire these days and his goals and aspirations have always been tagged against the upward (seemingly…I will explain in a sec) career and financial trajectories of a number of other super-rising stars that we came up with in school and in corporate.
Me being me, I had to check in on him about on it. Buzzed him on the phone (yes, GenZers…you actually can talk to people with your phone), and after the pleasantries, I asked him what’s with the increased “me, me, me” diatribes and declarations. I was genuinely curious as they seemed to be more frequent and more eyebrow-arching in the last couple of months.
I am paraphrasing, but his emphatic pushback to me was in essence, “Chidi, closed mouths don’t get fed. And there is nothing wrong with me shining the shine on me. I worked hard for it, and you and I know I deserve it.”
Ok. That’s fair. I hear you. I’ve been there, if we are putting all our stuff on the table.
You ever wonder where the term “keeping up with the Joneses” came from? It is so cliche these days to drop that phrase when judging others who are chasing after the exploits of others, but let’s defrag this a bit.
Defrag. Na wa o. I am aging myself here.
According to Wikipedia:
The phrase originates with the comic strip Keeping Up with the Joneses, created by Arthur R. "Pop" Momand in 1913. The strip ran until 1940 in The New York World and various other newspapers. The strip depicts the social climbing McGinis family, who struggle to "keep up" with their neighbors, the Joneses of the title. The Joneses were unseen characters throughout the strip's run, often spoken of but never shown. The idiom keeping up with the Joneses has remained popular long after the strip's end.
Two things that fascinate me about this. First is how social climbing is depicted as a battle of the neighbors. The second is that the Joneses are “unseen characters…often spoken of but never shown”.
If there is anything that is hard as hell now, it is the ability not to see or unsee others winning with little effort and on a constant basis. For the McGinis family, all they have as their locus are their neighbors, the Joneses, who become both the focal point and catalyst for their social climbing adventures. Today? Please. You don’t need to look outside at your neighbors. Just crank up the phone and you have multitudes of Joneses and Lopezs and Johnsons and Ibrahims. All colors, all sizes, all flavors. And they don’t, they won’t, they can’t stop or hide it…you will and must know they are killing it, making moves, getting theirs, taking no prisoners.
Demanding statues from their subjects.
And so we start to benchmark against these people. Social climbing is no longer a struggle to keep up with the neighbors, but an all-out battle royale to crush and dominate the universe. You went to Cabo? I am headed to Anguilla. You raised $5M seed financing? I just became the CPO and COO of a rocket-fueled unicorn, equity galore. Is that a BBL I see there behind you? Nice, check out the new abs I bought in Mexico. You’re wearing Balenci-ego? My underwear was sown by Versace himself.
“Ah-ah…but Versace is dead, Chidi.”
“Exactly. Your move.”
Remember this is all sight unseen, as my second fascinating point about unseen characters alludes to. What’s that famous “Fight Club” saying: We buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't like. The Fashi remix to that is: We do things that make no sense to impress people who can’t see us and don’t care about us. Ask anyone who they are competing with, and with just a couple of unpacking and deconstructing sessions, it is clear we are not chasing after the Ibrahims or the Joneses, it is the twin demons called expectations and ego that we are chasing after, or even better, are chasing after us. Morgan Housel talks about the gap b/w our expectations and reality, where the further away our expectations are from our reality, the bigger the gap, the more miserable we are as we churn and burn trying to get our reality to catch up to our expectations. Expectations that are benchmarked against what we think others are doing, or expecting.
Learn how to play the expectations game, which you better be playing, and my friend, I am telling you…there is something quite calming that shows up in your work, your relationships, your mindset, your operating system.
In essence, the smaller the gap, the less miserable you are. And that is so doable, it is why managing your expectations is not a call to mediocrity or a cry for you to suppress your ambition, but a call to real peace and chill (as my friend Ngozi Chukura says). Housel drops the gem on money expectations— the key to financial happiness is not figuring out how to get more money, it is how to want less.
Yes. I promise you...yes.
And hard stuff to hear. Or do.
Let me close with this paraphrase from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s longtime investing partner:
The first rule to a happy life is to have low expectations. If you have unrealistic expectations, you are going to be miserable your whole life. You want to have reasonable expectations and take life’s results, good and bad, as they happen with a certain amount of stoicism.
Make I go abeg.
The Emperor, The Conqueror, The Champion, The Lion…Is Here!!
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