with Jasmine Bina

23: Pain, Sacrifice, and Our New Status Symbols

insights in culture

Brands get lucky once, maybe twice every generation, when the rules of status change and social equity is suddenly up for grabs. Our Concept Bureau Senior Strategist Zach Lamb believes we are in the midst of one of those rare shifts right now, where we are moving from the self-indulgence of conspicuous consumption to the self-denial of what he calls “conspicuous commitment”.

Public figures are devoting themselves to difficult new modalities, diets, spiritual quests, life practices and ideologies. Your friends are going on arduous, painful, yet revelatory, psychedelic retreats. All around us, wellness brands, food brands, medical brands, lifestyle brands tell us that self-denial is the new flex.

No longer are we obsessed with flaunting material possessions and extravagant experiences; instead, we’re witnessing the rise of people showcasing their unwavering dedication to self-work, vulnerability and personal growth.

In a time when nihilism is literally everywhere, when pessimism gets clicks on headlines, when post-capitalist hopelessness is a trending aesthetic on TikTok and every meme deals in absurdity, conspicuous commitment stands out.

In this episode, we also speak with W. David Marx, author of “Status and Culture: How Our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change” who has an alternative view of how status is tied to money more than ever, and what that means for an increasingly flattening culture.

If you deal in any premium or luxury category, this is a must-listen. The ways we seek to distinguish ourselves have dramatically evolved as we prioritize discipline and personal growth over material success.

That means everyone has to play by new rules.

Podcast Transcript

AUGUST 28, 2023

31 min read



Welcome to Unseen Unknown. I’m your host, Jasmine Bina, and right now we are standing in my kitchen. 


It’s late at night and next to me is Jean-Louis, my partner at Concept Bureau and all things in life, and we’re looking at his supplement shelf, which he installed over our coffee machine a while back. There’s all kinds of stuff on here. You’ll see brands like Athletic Greens, Organifi, Vital Proteins, Thorne Research, Pure Encapsulations, and Four Sigmatic, to name a few. And I’ll admit, I have my own lightweight stack of supplements mixed in with the other containers on this shelf. It’s a lot, and everything here has a specific purpose. Okay, so what is all of this stuff?


This is my personal supplement stack.


Okay. I’m looking at many jars, a tincture, something in a little, it looks like a tobacco box. What is this one?


So, this is Shilajit. It’s kind of interesting one, it’s like a tar that you need to kind of melt in hot water. It’s got a lot of good minerals and things. It’s great for your hormone, balance and energy.


What’s this one?


This is a functional mushroom blend. So it has a whole bunch of stuff, turkey tail, lion’s mane, chaga, good all-rounder for a lot of immune stuff, but also for brain health, especially. The lion’s mane is the big one in that one.


I see there’s creatine here and a bunch of other stuff. First, how do you take all of this? How do you ingest? Okay, I’m going to count this. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 substances here. How do you take all of these every day?


So mostly I cram a whole bunch into a couple of drinks. So I have my Athletic Greens with my creatine polyphenols, my D3 and K2 and some fiber. So I’ll have that usually first thing in the morning, and then I’ll have some omega-3 as well. For a lot of the other ones, I cram them into a hot drink. So I’ll mix collagen with my mushroom powder with the Sheila G, and I’ll put some cinnamon in with that and some honey to kind of round out the flavor. It can be quite intense. Then I’ll take some protein as well, and then sometimes I’ll mix some inulin as well in my breakfast.


How much time do you think you spent figuring out this stack and tinkering with it and getting it right? Just ballpark?


Over a dozen hours.


And why? The big question. Why are you doing all this?


I’d like to live to 150 years old. I think if I can be super healthy, I think there’s a very reasonable chance of living to 100, and I think at least by the time I’m 100, the medical advances will at the very least take me the rest of the way there. I feel like that’s a pretty solid bet I’m willing to make. At the very least, I’ll live long, but I’ll be healthy and happy in the meantime. I think that what’s interesting is that right now I’m more focused on how do I feel the most energy, and so it’s kind of been interesting . The problem is that I’m messing with almost too many things at the same time, so it’s hard to tell what’s doing what, but I feel great. I mean, I exercise, all of those other things too. But yeah.



Living to 150 years old is ambitious, but it’s also optimistic. Jean-Louis is part of a massive community of people who are committed to this goal, “committed” being the operative word. Zach Lamb, who is our senior strategist at Concept Bureau, recently wrote an article about how conspicuous commitment is the next era of status, and that’s what today’s episode is about. In a time when nihilism is literally everywhere, when pessimism gets clicks on headlines, when post capitalist hopelessness is a trending aesthetic on TikTok and every meme deals in absurdity, committing to something optimistic stands out. Think about it. We have public figures devoting themselves to difficult new modalities, diets, spiritual quests, life practices and ideologies. Your friends are going on arduous, painful, yet revelatory, psychedelic retreats. All around us, wellness brands, food brands, medical brands, lifestyle brands tell us that self-denial is the new flex. No longer are we just obsessed with flaunting material, possessions and extravagant experiences.



Instead, we’re witnessing the rise of people showcasing their unwavering dedication to self-work. Status is moving from the indulgence of conspicuous consumption to the self-denial of conspicuous commitment. Zach argues that the more you commit to the difficult and the fearsome and the hard one, the more you signal this new form of prestige. That’s a huge deal for brands. The meaning of status hasn’t changed for generations, but now that it is, everyone has to play by new rules. But before we get to Zach’s prediction on where status is headed, let’s consider an alternative point of view, more grounded in where it is today. I spoke with W. David Marx, the author of Status and Culture: How our Desire for Social Rank Creates Taste, Identity, Art, Fashion, and Constant Change. David sees a social hierarchy that has become increasingly global, increasingly based on wealth, and increasingly flattening the texture of society.



W. David:
It is a position in a hierarchy, and it could be a local group, it could be all of society, but as you move up in this hierarchy, you receive better social benefits. So people treat you better and you get more esteem. And esteem is kind of the anchor for that hierarchy. So I think we all know that this is a nice thing to have esteem, but psychologists have found recently in a lot of work and research that it’s a fundamental human desire. So more or less, every human being desires some level of status. So then when you ask about the history, what you’re really asking about is, over time, how has it changed that these hierarchies are created and what is the criteria in which they’re based? And you could probably go back to some sort of tribal society 10,000 years ago where you have a very small tribe and there may be a bloodline in which the leader is the leader.



And then you move to the Middle Ages and aristocracy and so you have a society in which the church and the king and very formal, rigid feudal systems have made it where the hierarchy is completely and utterly rigid so that you cannot really move up and down. I think the big change came probably dated to the French Revolution, but more or less with the rise of the bourgeoisie and capitalism, suddenly everybody can make their own destiny and having more and more money moves you up. And so we now live more or less in a world in which that social hierarchy is created by money. But the other interesting thing is we live in a very plural society, which you can have subcultures. And the way I talk about subcultures and countercultures in the book are these are status groups and status hierarchies based on different criteria than money. The kind of historical stage that we’ve been in, especially the 20th century, is yes, we’ve moved away from these categories where it’s, you’re kind of born into status and you always have it, you have to make it for yourself, and money really really helps there.


At the same time, there’s all these kind of offshoots and subcultures that are growing in stature. So suddenly you’re not just an outcast for being in a subculture, but you could actually be cooler than people in the so-called mainstream by being in these groups. And now in the 21st century, I’ve been thinking a lot about what is happening and subcultures have weakened. They’ve grown in strength in the sense that more people are into subcultural type things, but being in a subculture itself provides less value. And it seems like this massive social hierarchy, which is more globalized and more expansive than ever, is really focused more on money than ever before. And there is a status taboo. We don’t talk about it. It’s not supposed to exist in an egalitarian, democratic society. We’re not supposed to have these hierarchies. We see status much more as caste systems and feudal systems and things that we all got rid of.


And good, great, now we live in a place where everybody makes their own status. And of course there are things like sexism and racism, which are old hierarchies that have still been imposed on this society where we’re supposed to be able to make our own way, and we can’t. And money, as much as we don’t want it to be the thing that determines the hierarchy, it just does. I mean, we live in a capitalist society. My book is just trying to more or less say, culture seems mysterious when you force yourself not to look at the main thing that is driving it. So if you say, “Okay, we’re going to write about culture and why it changes, but we can’t look at status, because that would be rude,” then everything’s just total nonsense. And fashion makes no sense. And the ways we contort ourselves to tell stories about fashion trends is just ridiculous because the explanations for fashion when you take away status makes zero sense.


It’s just chaotic and things just become big randomly. It’s like that’s not how it works at all. And this idea of virality is completely ridiculous. And so the book is just saying, look, status exists. We don’t want it to exist, but here are the rules of how it works. And if you just line these things up and extrapolate from why a human being wants status, which is a very logical thing to want because it makes your life better, and the way people behave in pursuit of it in different ways, because not everybody’s saying, I want status, therefore I’m going to buy a Lamborghini. There’s many ways to do it and people in many groups, but if you just look at this, you’ll pretty much understand the origin of most of the cultural practices in society. And I just find that really helpful because ultimately, I’m interested in what is culture, where does it come from? Where’s it going, what is it doing? And unless you understand this status component of it, it’s just nonsense.


When I read this in the book, I was asking myself as well, why is there such a taboo around status? Why does it feel like such a risk to actually talk about this thing? Which according to you, is kind of like the driving force behind culture.


W. David:
I think it’s changing a little bit. I watch a lot of TikTok videos, and maybe it’s because they’re like 16 year old kids, but there’s all these kids who’ve made money in dubious ways who have sitting on the hoods of all the Mercedes-Benz as they bought their parents or whatever, and they’re just like, “Yeah, if you’re 17 and you don’t own four luxury cars, you’re a failure.” So there’s this change where this principled detachment, I think, is getting much weaker. This kind of gentleman’s agreement not to talk about status has been lost on this new generation coming up that doesn’t have much connection to the old culture and is finding ways through the internet to make money on their own. So that may get weaker over time and people may hide it a little bit less, but I think they’re also very unlikely to talk about status too, because if you have status, it’s a very uncool thing to talk about status. So then it means the people who we hear from most and have most influence are never talking about it.


Okay, but aren’t people just finding, let’s say, the TikTok generation, aren’t they just finding new ways of asserting status, just new codes, new languages, new images and symbols where for them it’s maybe not so much about the money, but about being part of a special class that knows the rules?


W. David:
Yes. I mean, that’s always been true. And the thing I noticed is simply how fast the information that is privileged information that gives you status as a teenager is devalued. If you’re on TikTok, the way that trends move is so fast that you know how to use this audio to make a video, and then you get a bunch of likes for it. And then within a week or so, everyone’s done it and it’s passe. And so the degree to which, let’s just call this a whole thing memes, but do you get a status for being a master meme maker and knowing what’s the right meme to make a joke about? Probably. But the question I have is, is that status you’re getting from meme manipulation very valuable? And also doesn’t it require just constant refresh? So you’re right that there is this group, but I don’t know how valuable that is on a global level.


And again, these are really important concepts for understanding status, but in your local group, you have a local status. So just think about if you’re at a rural high school and you are the captain of the basketball team, maybe you are a local star, but on a global stage, nobody knows who you’re and nobody cares. And so global status is how people perceive your position on a larger scale. And what is interesting to me is TikTok and YouTube in particular are massively popular platforms that everybody knows have replaced television and other forms of media, and yet they have all these stars that are very big locally within those worlds. But I keep thinking about have those stars crossed over to mainstream society? And if you look at ads for Louis Vuitton, they’re still using models and movie stars. No one watches movies, cinema’s in crisis, and yet Brad Pitt is this spokesperson for these brands, and not TikTok stars.


W. David:
So there is status being generated locally, probably not yet globally. I know that will change, and I’m kind of waiting for that moment. It’ll be very interesting. But I’m passionate about there are people who understand these things and there are people who don’t, and the people who understand them are much more successful in life, and this information is hidden to people and it is hidden from people. And the more that these ideas become common knowledge, the more the system changes and the more we can take control of it. And so I am passionate about, this knowledge is not equally distributed, and it should be. Every high school should have a class that teaches people about the sociology of status because they’re living it. I mean, high school kids live it more than anyone else, and they just think it’s like, this is the nature of the world, and if I’m uncool, then it’s something wrong with me.


And it’s like, you’ve got to understand how this works. And so I deeply believe that we should move towards an egalitarian society, and you can’t do that unless you see where the stratification exists. Unless you perfectly understand the stratification, you can’t get rid of it. The second is, and I do write this in the book because the whole book, I’m like, “I have no opinions about this. This is just the way it works.” But at the end it’s like, fine, I’ll have two opinions, which is if we could have lots of hierarchy or little, I think a little is much better, and we should move towards that and understand the ways that personally we replicate and we reproduce the status structures in our own behaviors. So that’s number one. Number two is, culture should be more exploratory, experimental, interesting, more complex. And complexity is good for the ecosystem in general because it trickles down and it makes even simple things more interesting.


So all of this leads us to where we are today, a world in need of transparency and perhaps even more importantly, exploration and complexity, a world with more dimension where status is not solely derived from money, but from creation, experimentation and ingenuity. This is where Zach’s idea of conspicuous commitment comes in. What Zach sees is a new social code around status that affords us this kind of dimension that untethers us a little bit from wealth and moves us toward creation of the self where it’s not about what you have, but what you are committing yourself to. And it rings surprisingly optimistic.


With conspicuous commitment, the flex that I’m pointing at in the article is the hard work that you’re doing on yourself mentally and physically. That’s what we’re really trying to show off now. It’s not like, “Look at all these possessions that I have. Look at all these things,” or, “Look at all these experiences that I’m going out and collecting and then sharing on Instagram or TikTok.” And it’s not your virtue signaling, like I’m this kind of person with these kinds of values and beliefs. No, it’s what am I doing to train my mind and my body that makes me into a certain kind of person and shapes me in a way that’s self-directed, that I’m choosing. And I found a meme on Twitter the other day that really encapsulates what I’m talking about. It says, “Become a ghost for six months. Find the beast within you. Throw yourself into pain. Cut out all the excuses. Go all in on yourself, train like a warrior, work like a robot, eat like a king, reject vices, transform, upgrade, create, thrive, win.”


Right? It’s super serious. From the outside, it’s easy for us to laugh at this, but if somebody’s on the inside, they’re deeply committed to this project of self-transformation and self-betterment, and it feels like that. So 50 years ago, you’d see somebody jogging through your neighborhood and you’d be like, “What is going on? This is really, really weird. What are you running from?” That’s the joke. But we’re so far from that now. This is such deep whole being training, being, mind and body. That’s what I’m really trying to capture with this new evolution in status, showing that off, that change in that training that you’re doing for yourself.


I feel like I’ve definitely heard conspicuous commitment on social a lot, but what are some of the hallmarks of conspicuous commitment that make it what it is?


There’s four main hallmarks. The first one is isolation. Make no mistake, this is all about me. It’s very me focused. I’m not trying to change the world. I don’t have a socially altruistic angle here. I’m merely trying to better myself. At the end of the day, this is all about me, individual, isolated. And the second one is challenge. You’re setting up challenges. You’re putting obstacles in your way so that you can overcome them and transcend them on this path that you’re on. Society isn’t giving you these obstacles. They’re not part of the normative development of how we grow and move through life. No, you’re putting these obstacles deliberately in your way so you can experience what it feels like to overcome this challenge. The third one, I kind of alluded to already, earnestness. We can laugh at this stuff, but it’s no joke. It’s very serious.


It’s almost anti-nihilistic. This is a deep meaning system that this person on this commitment path really believes in. And the last hallmark is devotion. I think this is the one that’s most interesting to me because it’s so religious. It feels, this stuff, when you engage with it, it feels like there’s zealotry. There’s a religiosity and a religiousness to this. The word I used in the article a lot is asceticism to describe this. I just love that word because it’s beautiful and it’s got all these religious connotations about self-sacrifice for a higher purpose. That’s what it feels like if somebody’s on this path of commitment.


To me, this feels like a big deal because I don’t know the last time that we ever discussed as a culture when the meaning of status was up for grabs, when we were going through a shift in what it actually means to have and attain status. I mean, is this really a fundamental shift? Am I over emphasizing here, or is it really this big?


No, it’s really this big. And I think to understand why and to feel why it’s this big, just briefly how we got here. The last 10 years, we all know it’s been crazy. We had a big breakdown in shared visions, shared norms, even shared realities in a lot of cases. Reality tunnels is the phrase I like to use to describe just how different worlds that we’re living in. Status doesn’t work in that context, right? Status is predicated on shared belief, shared buy-in. We all have to want the same thing. We have to be moving through life in the same way. So all that went out the window and we don’t have anything to anchor on anymore because we’ve also lost faith in all of our progress narratives. That explains a lot of the nihilism that you see in culture. People just don’t believe generally that a rising tide is going to lift all boats.


They look at things like inequality, racism, sexism, all these things. And there’s so many reasons to turn away from society and say, “That’s not working. This isn’t going to make me better. I can’t have faith and buy into the system. I’ve got to figure it out for myself.” So there’s just this sense of tragic optimism where my life prospects are just not going to be as great as they once were, so what am I going to do about it? And so in that context, believing in a positive future for yourself, committing to something, really stands out, right? Because nobody’s doing it. Culture at large is sort of mired in these negative things. But if somebody really commits and stands out positively, well, that’s going to confer status. That’s kind of how we got here.


So it is a pretty big shift. We’re really reckoning with the social changes and cultural changes of the last decade or so. And commitment really provides the order that we’re craving. Now, if you are somebody that commits to a project of self-improvement in the ways that we’ve been talking about, it really tidies the house. It shores up your meaning systems. It gives you order over chaos. It gives you direction and guidance. I started this research thinking I was going to write about brands offering personhood in a box, like, “Here’s a way to be a person in this crazy world.” But then I realized I was actually touching on something much, much bigger, which was this fundamental status shift.


So you’re saying because optimism is such a limited good, that really is the new luxury, is to be able to have something to be optimistic about. And conspicuous commitment is a way of committing to or displaying that sense of optimism that you have in your life, right?


100%. Because if the rest of us are kind of mired in nihilism or trolling or laughing at structures and institutions, but not building anything constructively, people that are doing something optimistically that say, “I think things can get better and I’m going to make them better for myself,” that is a big shift. Not everybody sounds like that. It’s kind of rare, sadly.


Yeah. Where are you seeing conspicuous commitments show up most in the market, in the real world? What brands are really tapping into this? I feel like I can kind of see it in wellness from the examples you’ve given, but where is it showing up the most right now?


There’s three main areas. There’s biohacking wellness, alt wellness. That’s a big one. Really exciting new one is longevity and even immortality, as the AI has kind of entered the chat. Like, how are we going to maybe live forever through the use of AI? That’s another. And then lastly, of course, new buzzy therapies, particularly psychedelics. But there’s a lot of new kinds of group therapies. Those are really ripe for going inward. And of course to myself, you can’t go more inward than a trip. So all of these areas, I think my favorite brand in this space, Heroic. I would encourage everybody to check it out. They call themselves a self-mastery platform that combines ancient wisdom and modern science to equal your best self. And, “We train heroes,” is what they say. And forging anti-fragile confidence, master yourself, as I was checking them out, literally step one of their processes is called Commit.


And they say you’re on a path of Heroic commitment and they’re going to guide you through every step of the way. And what’s really ripe about them and interesting is they’re not shy about saying this is individual change first, for social change. So they reference social change, but they say social change is only going to come from a bunch of heroes out there, a bunch of people controlling their own, mastering themselves. So then when you’re doing that you can show up better in all the ways that if you’re in therapy, the therapist will tell you, “Put your own oxygen mask on first.” Heroic is really embracing that, and the world needs you to be your most heroic. For every company I will mention, there’s like 1,000 influencers or podcasters that are touching this space as well. So you can find your flavor of any one of these companies no matter where you are.


Another one is Wim Hof, or “breathology”, self-transcendence via breathing. I just love, it’s a gym membership, mindfulness coach and health insurance all rolled into one, through cold plunging and breath. But it’s a system. It’s like why it works is it’s a totalizing system for controlling the world, controlling the chaos, being a person and being a thing. Another one is HigherDOSE. I really think that they’re interesting. They’re a biohacker, collective biohackers, emphasis on the “her”s. Why they’re really innovative in the market is because biohacking has traditionally been such a masculine space and there hasn’t been a female presence in biohacking. And they’re really leading that. And there’s nothing too esoteric for them. They’re doing it all. And what’s really cool about their brand is they’re producing so much content of them experiencing all these things. Like I said, there’s nothing too weird. Ecstatic dance, Kambo frog venom poisoning, sound vibration, biofeedback psychedelics, sweat lodges, cold immersion.


They’re doing it all, but with the emphasis on the female body. And that’s a really refreshing intervention in the biohacking space. And so they’re really popular for that, just highlighting the role that women are playing and they’re playing a big thought leadership role in this space.


HigherDOSE though, they’re the sauna blankets, right?




Okay. That’s their main product, but they have all this really high level conspicuous commitment content that just transcends that product, right?


Well, yes, 100%. And I’m glad you kept me honest and pointed that out, because I got enamored with the content, but at the end of the day, they’re selling infrared light therapies and these blankets. Yes, exactly.


Yes, yeah. Okay, cool.


And I would be remiss not to mention Blueprint, which is Bryan Johnson’s project to live forever. A lot of people mock Bryan Johnson, but it is the quintessential example of conspicuous commitment. He’s saying, “I’m making a big bet. Criticize me if you want. This is what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to reverse-age myself so I can be the same biological age as my son.” I have some of his language here just because it’s fantastic. And again, it’s the language of commitment. “The enemy is entropy. The path is goal alignment via building your autonomous self.” Again, the emphasis on the self. “Enabling compounded rates of progress to bravely explore the zero-width principle future, and play Infinity Games.” He’s very serious about… But I don’t even know what Infinity Games are, but I’d love to play them.


I’m not laughing at Bryan Johnson. I actually really admire what he’s doing. But the language, you’re right, it makes your head spin a little bit. Okay.


Yep, yep. But what’s cool is that it is just commitment to extreme progress into the deep future. And again, it’s offering a new narrative. It’s a hopeful narrative, really. If you are buying into it, it’s giving you optimism, it’s giving you hope, it’s giving you something to work towards. And I think that’s a really refreshing space. And then just lastly, I’d touch on the status therapies. Like I already mentioned, psychedelics are the perfect tool for going inward, not outward. I think we all thought at one point in culture, we were telling all these stories of galactic expansion. That’s how we were going to learn. That’s how everything was going to be different. We were going to be a species in like space colonization. That’s still in the thread of culture, but with conspicuous commitment and all these other cultural changes, we’re really turning the microscope back in.


And there’s a hierarchy in psychedelics as well. Did you take mushrooms with your buddies or did you do a hero’s dose with a blindfold at a field trip location in a major city? Or did you take ayahuasca in Peru? There’s these stages. There’s a cool ladder of psychedelics, but we’re all doing the work, right? And if not psychedelics, it’s some buzzy new therapies. Like Every Man For Men, I know you’ve written about Every Man in the past as this great company that’s spotlighting men’s mental health through the loneliness epidemic. Peoplehood is another one. We’re all lonely. We need a new way of being and relating in the world. And another favorite of mine, Chill Pill for Generation Z. I can’t get on the app. I tried. They said, “You’re too old. You can only get on this app if you are a certified member of Gen Z.” So if you’re not doing the work, if you’re not in therapy, increasingly daters say they don’t want to date you. That’s just how entrenched this doing the work notion of commitment is showing up.


But I’m going to be honest, these sound like the easy ones. Of course it’s going to be in wellness, of course, it’s going to be in self-help. Of course it’s going to be in psychedelics. How do you see it getting outside of the confines of wellness? Can conspicuous commitment show up in other ways, in other places?


Totally. Commitment is really suitable for finance, wellness, food, athletics, any sort of hobby pursuit where there’s an element of mastery. Think about it. If your category is such that somebody can get better at something, then why can’t commitment enter into the picture? And I think it looks like for those kinds of companies that it’s like brand activations and brand experiences that give people rituals, help them feel that they’re going from point A to point B, that things are changing in their life. You’re offering them a journey. You’re framing your experience and your product as a journey of transformation is one way to make it feel like you’re committing to something. And another, you can give people opportunities to experience new kinds of discipline. Every brand out there and generally in culture for the last 20 years, easy, easy, easy. We want to make things as easy as possible and eliminate as much friction as possible.


But conspicuous commitment says friction is good. I want to overcome the friction. So if you’re a brand that says, “We’re not easy, we’re difficult, but worth it,” that helps you stand out and it gives people something to believe in and buy into. That feels like commitment. And if you give them tools of introspection, everybody loves that. Well, that’s all ripe too. But I think generally commitment gives you a playbook of mastery. That’s what you’re trying to do. Just help people master themselves through the domain of the thing that you’re doing to commit to it and to improve.


Okay. So I’m going to ask you what probably most people listening to this are thinking in their heads, which is, is this not just the pastime of people who have tragically too much money and too much time on their hands?


Yes and no. I mean, status has to work like that. We have to aspire to it. It has to come from somewhere. But this is really trickled down. You will see this on your Instagram feed, your TikTok feed. You’ll see many versions of this. If you’re looking for it, you’ll start to go like, “I’m shocked after writing the article. Oh, yep, that’s commitment. That’s commitment.” It pops up everywhere, and there’s a flavor of commitment for everybody. Maybe you’re not able to do the full Blueprint method, but you listen to Andrew Huberman and you’re taking lots of supplements and really buying into a dopamine hacking lifestyle. So it’s like there’s a scale and a degree that is there for everybody, but there are elites that are leading this for sure.


So how do you see this continuing to evolve? What are the variables that will determine the course that conspicuous commitment takes over the next few years?


I just love John Vervaeke’s work on the meaning crisis, and a lot of cultural commentators are talking about it. We’re all looking for meaning, all the old sense-making ways that we used to make sense of the world have broken down. So what are we going to do about it? So conspicuous commitment is that response. It’s like, I’m going to impose my own kind of meaning. So it’ll be interesting to see how the meaning crisis continues to play out. Is society going to get more equal with AI? Is it going to get more unequal? We don’t know. I think that’s a variable here too. Most people agree that universal basic income is coming, it’s just a matter of when. And I think that conspicuous commitment is really interesting in that context because theoretically, as more of us get universal basic income, the playing field levels a little bit, I think then commitment gets really, really important.


It’s like, it’s not what are you buying with your money. It’s like, what are you doing with yourself, with your time? How are you making yourself a better person with the time that you have that you didn’t have before? Because we didn’t have UBI. So I think we’re going to spotlight commitment as UBI comes onto the scene. I think that that’s likely for sure. Another way to project this into the future, I think that’s with interesting context is we’re in the area of dupes now. We don’t really care to have the original. Increasingly, it doesn’t matter. I’ve called it product flows, right? Yeah. If you’re not buying the original luxury item, there’s 18 different versions along the spectrum that look just like it increasingly that are undistinguishable, and I can just buy a piece of that at whatever price range I’m at.


So consumption is increasingly going to lose its ability to sort of set us apart and confer status when we can all kind of have the same thing. If I don’t have the original Yeezy sneaker, I’ve got the $20 Temu version that you can’t tell the difference. I also saw something recently, I think it was Jennifer Aniston spends $200,000 a year on her body. These are things you can’t fake. The body, the mind can’t be faked, can’t be duped. So they’re going to stand out even more.


And I’m left wondering, where do you engage in conspicuous consumption in your own life? I don’t think you’re above it. I don’t think any of us are above it, right? We’re all status seeking. Where does it show up for you?


Yeah, I dabble. I’m less conspicuous and less committed than I would like to be. I’m waiting to get my foot on the ladder. I dabble in all the little wellness practices I mentioned. I have done Kambo, the psychedelic frog poisoning. That was fun. But I consume more than I commit. That’s the thing. Commitment is anti-consumption, really. It’s like you’re saying, I’m going to do this thing. I’m going to produce, I’m going to act, I’m going to create something or shape myself to be something, not consume passively. And I know personally, I just love sitting down and reading. I guess if I could commit to anything, it’s that. And even as technology evolves, we’re leaving the era of the rectangle and entering the era of wearable tech. Think about how much more seductive every mode of consumption is about to become. It’s going to get so much harder to commit to something because it’s going to be so much easier to just numb out and consume.


And that’s what I’m guilty of for sure. And I know I’m not alone. So many of us are like that. So I think as we end, that’s another future way to take this too. As we leave rectangles, go to wearable tech, it’s just going to be harder to commit and a commitment is going to stand out even more. So summing it up, UBI equals more commitment. Dupes can equal more commitment. We’re really at the beginning of this era of commitment. It’ll be fascinating to see how brands respond and provide them the meaning systems that they’ve been seeking.


Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Unseen Unknown. If you’re new here and like what you’re listening to, do us a favor and subscribe and leave a review. Those reviews mean a lot and help our audience grow. And don’t forget, you can always get more of our brand strategy and culture, articles, videos, podcasts, all of it at conceptbureau.com. And while you’re there, you can also sign up for our awesome newsletter that will deliver valuable thinking to your inbox twice a month. My team is publishing some pretty amazing stuff based on the work that we’re doing with our amazing clients, including the article that this podcast episode was based on, which by the way, is linked in the show notes. And I promise it will be the best strategy newsletter you ever get. Thanks for listening. We’ll catch you next time.


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