Two Human Operating Models You Live Your Life By Without Even Knowing It (Probably): Solving Problems vs. Seeking Validation

To be human is interesting, to say the least. We do things for reasons even we don’t understand (Thinking Fast and Slow, cognitive biases, Influence by Robert Cialdini, etc.). Let’s boil it down to two fundamental drivers of essentially all human decisions and actions. Without this realization and understanding, you will be very confused by the world. And, you will be confused anyway, so let’s do what we can to lessen the load every so slightly. 

Those Who Solve Problems (aka Pragmatists, “Reasonable” People, People Brian Respects, 0-1% of Instagram Influencers)

These are people who speak when spoken to, or to otherwise resolve something at hand. They value functionality over image, status, or prestige. They drive Toyotas, or Teslas if they want to double-dip operating models which we will get to shortly. You may hear them say they don’t like “talking.” If less will do, less is the way. They live their life solving one problem to the next, without given excessive thought to how things will be perceived, or even if they will be, by others. Pretty simple and end of story, so let’s get into the next human operating model. 

Those Who Seek Validation (aka Me-Monsters, Attention Who-err-Grabbers, People Who Talk About Being Woke or Enlightened, Most People)

I’ll never forget walking into my first Farmer’s Market in Santa Monica, witnessing every female wearing Alo pants. I remember the good ol’ days when Luluemon was the attire to be had, but oh how fashion changes promptly and without exception. One of the reason’s I hate fashion is marketers have it down to a science to continually change what is considered in and chic, pushing the consumer to make a decision to cave and purchase, or tacitly take a stand. If you choose to fit in then you are seeking validation, which is understandable given we are socially wired to connect else we risk being ostracized from the tribe, where we then have to go out and look for berries and twigs and fend for ourselves, but we aren’t equipped to do so because it’s cold outside and there’s no “I” in team, so we would starve and die (sorry, I had to offer yet another overblown explanation of social creatures and tribes from someone who’s never read a book on evolution). 

If everyone has a Rolex or a Ferrari, then it no longer signals to others that you are inherently better than everyone else and god’s gift to mankind. This is known as a zero-sum game, where if someone wins it means someone necessarily loses (Naval Ravikant talks about this more eloquently). There is no justifiable purpose or function of things like Rolexes or Ferraris, other than to signal to others, seeking validation. Can’t you just validate yourself, gosh darn it! No, you need to flaunt around, find ways to re-direct the conversation back to you, humble or full-on brag, or otherwise find ways to showboat. That all ends today! (not really, this has been going on forever and will continue to do so – I listened to an entire lecture in Charleson on how silk was worn explicitly to status-signal back in the day). 


Admittedly most of us fall into both of these camps, but usually one is much more dominant than the other. What would you do if no one could find out and you could never post about it on social media? Asking this question to a validation seeking dominant person is like asking…nevermind I overestimated my analogy producing abilities – stupid is as stupid does. Awareness of your balance or lack thereof here, as with most things, is usually a constructive first step. The next step is to continually assess your actions and decisions through this lense and ask yourself if that’s acceptable to you. If you’re anything like me (then god help you), you minimize the validation-seeking game and instead harness your energies into productive and problem-solving means. 

At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.

You get one shot in life, as best we know it. Don’t blow it by building up a house-of-cards life to impress people you don’t like to begin with. 

My idea of the modern Stoic sage is someone who transforms fear into prudence, pain into information, mistakes into initiation, and desire into undertaking.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb