Build reputation, avoid credit

The stunning conclusion to the search for a fundamental purpose.

The original post is here:

So here’s the long-term goal I’ve settled on, with a few further details to help clarify it:

Build reputation, avoid credit

Reputation, of course, is built on credit, so it’s a somewhat counter-productive goal to avoid credit. I’ll have to find ways to build self-explanatory reputation that doesn’t require any self-promotion. I probably won’t build as much reputation as I could have otherwise. It could be said that I’m avoiding effectiveness as well as credit. The problem I kept running into was that most goals, in themselves, are quickly turned into games. Reputation was one of the games that sat at the core of most of the goals, so I decided to abstract it out and let the smaller goals specify ways to actually build that.

By deciding to build reputation I’m making a big sacrifice–I’m putting my goal’s achievement into the hands of others… not ideal but I couldn’t come up with any goals where I could be a reliable judge of my own success… plus, it will help me avoid becoming too self-righteous if I actually have to depend on others on some level. The reputation I’m trying to build can be highly localized to a small group of people, as long as the local reputation doesn’t have a negative impact on the global reputation (for example, I can’t try to achieve this by gaining the respect and admiration of serial killers).

By avoiding credit I mean that I need to avoid building credit as a currency of its own. There are ways to get credit without doing things that deserve credit (or as much credit as you get) and that’s what I’d like to make sure doesn’t happen here.

I told myself earlier that I have to know why I chose the goal that I chose. A goal needs a system… I’ve determined that much. A system is an abstraction of the real world, and it requires that you accept some things as unconditionally true without proof… such as that reputation is worth building. Reputation is a good system to participate within because it already has self-correcting mechanisms to root out selfish and harmful play. And it’s already strongly policed. I could probably write up some rules that would more accurately describe exactly what I want to do with my life, but there wouldn’t be any forced evaluation based on those rules. In other words, I’ve decided to go with the cheaper third-party solution rather than build the perfect system in house. Now I just need to adapt the reputation system by adding one additional rule about avoiding credit, and we’re good to go.

There are many ways to build reputation. Here are the ones that I consider to be candidates for the next 1-5 years:


  • Help your friends first, strangers second, and enemies third, avoid asking for help
  • Build complex tools that improve relationships between people (make interactions between people more valuable without making them more costly), avoid building complex tools that can’t be used to build/inspire more complex things
  • Build health, avoid image of health
  • Build strategies for effectiveness, avoid gaming the system
  • Build tools for effectiveness, avoid possessions
  • Build competitive spirit with self, avoid competitive spirit with others (in case their goals aren’t in line with my own)
  • Build large goals directly off of main goal, avoid small goals that have questionable connections even if they are easy to measure


  • Build a company, avoid money
  • Build a book (a real book), avoid publishers
  • Build a website/web service, avoid maintenance
  • Build an object-oriented written and spoken language, avoid ?

When possible, I’ve added what I think is the best thing to avoid in order to help avoid credit. It doesn’t mean I plan to forsake money, maintenance, and all possessions… but rather I don’t trust myself to seek them explicitly as they are the most common traps that will lead to seeking effectiveness through less-than-honest means. By saying that I need to avoid them, I’m just making sure that they’re not the primary motivator because usually they are very tempting as primary motivators.

The tough part about these goals is that because they rely on people outside myself for validation, it’s really tempting to zero in on a smaller goal and then forget about the bigger one. The end goal is not effectiveness, it is reputation. Many highly reputable people weren’t very effective. Wittgenstein, Salinger, Joyce, and Beethoven built reputation but part of that reputation is in their ineffectiveness–and as a result their reputation is a bit cleaner, more pure, than people like Picasso, Madonna, and most CEOs. Part of my worry is that there aren’t many examples of ineffective businessmen with high reputations. Business and politics seem to be largely dominated by effective people who strove for credit. So that might mean that building a company isn’t an option–I would have to sacrifice my goals in order to succeed, but in succeeding I will have achieved nothing.

My thoughts still aren’t completely clear on this… I feel like I haven’t completely reduced the problem to a satisfactory solution, but it seems to be mostly right for now. I can drop the subject for another year until my next identity crisis meltdown comes.

With this new goal, it would be nice to build tools that could measure my progress along this goal. How to reduce reputation to a relative number? I have some ideas, and they involve social software applications, but none that currently exist. In some ways, reputation can be measured by finding out the number of people who are willing to help you with a certain task. Something as simple as “number of people willing to help you move to a new apartment” might actually be directly related to your reputation. What about building a site called or something, which would allow you to tell people what you’d be willing to help them with, and also find out what people are willing to help you with. One interesting side effect is that the relationships become provable. If 10 people say they are willing to help you move, and it comes time to move, you’ll be able to call on those people to help you. Those that don’t might not be able to remain on that help list. It brings the gaming-aspect of the social network into a falsifiable context. Anyone want to build it?

· In these piles: fundamental-purpose · Original post