There’s a worldview that says the rich people are more important than the poor, the elite are better than the average, and the special are better than the regular.

I call this the paradigm of prestige. It is the default premise of many country, company, and academic-institution cultures.

It is part of the premise and allure of attending an Ivy League school. It is also, frankly, an implicit promise of joining a company like McKinsey.

The thing is that the paradigm of prestige is rarely, if ever, talked about explicitly.

Nobody at Harvard really ever says, “If you get in and attend, you’ll be a somebody… and if you don’t, well… you know…”

Those words are never said out loud. It’s implicit.

What is said jokingly in a Harvard Business School finance class is that the most important thing you need to know about finance is to hire a CFO… from Wharton.

I spent the majority of my life within such a paradigm… did well in that paradigm… and never really realized it was a paradigm. I merely perceived it to be reality.

Here’s the thing with paradigms.

There are many.

There are cultural paradigms that value money. There are those that value beauty. There are those that value environmental consciousness, religious purity, or the visibility of one’s six-pack. There is an infinite number of paradigms.

The key insight to recognize about any kind of paradigm is that it exists… and that you’re probably participating in one without even realizing it.

A paradigm is merely a lens by which a group of people agrees to perceive the world. Paradigms are not inherently right or wrong. What they are is true… for the person who adopts them.

And this is the key idea. Paradigms of perception are a choice.

People fall into the choice unconsciously 99% of the time. It’s what they know. It’s the view of their family. It’s the view of their friends. It’s the view of their co-workers. When everyone you’ve encountered in your life to date shares a particular worldview, it’s easy to presume that it is the truth… as opposed to a truth perceived by the people who embrace the paradigm.

There are three decisions you can make consciously:

1) Decide if the default paradigm you’re implicitly living your life (or career) by is something you actually believe.

2) Decide which people, organizations, or employers you want to affiliate with, in part based on whether the paradigm they operate within matches your own value system.

3) Decide how you will conduct your own behavior regardless of the paradigm others around you operate in.

A few examples:

Just because the default paradigm of an elite institution is to create a better-than/less-than hierarchy, that doesn’t mean that you personally must treat some people as important and others as not. You get to choose your own actions. You get to choose whether you remain in that organization. You get to choose how you treat others while you’re a member of that organization.

When others evaluate or judge you through the lens of a paradigm with which you do not agree, you don’t have to accept those judgments as true (in the absolute sense).

If I were to hang out with a bunch of bodybuilders or fitness models (lol, the thought amuses me), I’m fairly certain that I’d fall way short of what’s considered acceptable or normal through that worldview… and that’s okay.

It’s okay for them to perceive and see the world the way they prefer to. It is okay for me to perceive things in a different way.

It’s all a choice… your choice.

Choose wisely. Choose consciously.

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