Will Storr (@wstorr) is an award-winning investigative journalist and best-selling author. His latest book is The Status Game: On Social Position and How We Use It.
What We Discuss with Will Storr:
- The evolutionary purpose of status and why it’s always been important for human survival.
- How seeking status spurs innovation.
- The three kinds of status games we’ve been playing throughout human history: dominance, virtue, and success.
- The connection between low status and depression: why Will believes that Jeffrey Epstein did kill himself.
- Why you might choose a higher status title at work instead of a pay raise.
- And much more…
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As humans, we’ve been keeping up with the Joneses since they were in the next cave over. Even if we’ve tried to pretend otherwise, it’s always been a competition to bring in bigger hunts for the tribe, or paint brighter murals among the stalactites, or discover more potent medicines, or care for more orphans of sabertooth cat attacks. We’re constantly seeking to elevate our status among our peers, and can’t help but laugh when someone of higher status gets taken down a peg or two.
On this episode, we’re rejoined by award-winning investigative journalist and best-selling author Will Storr to talk about his latest book, The Status Game: On Social Position and How We Use It. Here, we examine why status matters (no matter how much we try to pretend like it doesn’t), the right and wrong ways to build it, and why Will believes that Jeffrey Epstein really did kill himself. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Miss our two-parter with North Korean defector Charles Ryu? Catch up here starting with episode 84: Confessions of a North Korean Escape Artist Part One!
Thanks, Will Storr!
If you enjoyed this session with Will Storr, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- The Status Game: On Social Position and How We Use It by Will Storr | Amazon
- Will Storr | Website
- Will Storr | Instagram
- Will Storr | Twitter
- Will Storr | The Guardian
- Will Storr | Avoiding Self-Obsession in the Age of the Selfie | Jordan Harbinger
- Space Billionaires Get Skewered in the First Promo for Jon Stewart’s Apple TV Show | The Verge
- The WELL (The Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link)
- Ben Gunn: Murder, Love, and Life after Prison | The Guardian
- Prisoner Ben Blog
- The Role of Socio-Economic Status in Depression: Results from the COURAGE (Aging Survey in Europe) | BMC Public Health
- The Day Jeffrey Epstein Told Me He Had Dirt on Powerful People | The New York Times
- Stock Market Crashes Linked to Higher Rates of Suicide – New Research | The Open University
- Will Storr | Six Degrees to Joe Rogan
- Does Your Neighbor’s Income Affect Your Happiness? | American Journal of Sociology
- Lawyers Are Not Algorithms: Sustainability, Corruption, and the Role of the Lawyer in Institutional Frameworks and Corporate Transactions by Larry Catá Backer | Backer, Larry Catá, Lawyers Are Not Algorithms: Sustainability, Corruption, and the Role of the Lawyer in Institutional Frameworks and Corporate Transactions | Legal Ethics
- The Paris Hilton Effect | Psychology Today
- Idi Amin: Violent Ugandan President | History
- Mother Teresa | The Nobel Prize
- Albert Einstein | The Nobel Prize
- Aunt Becky Goes to Jail: Revisiting the College Admissions Scandal | Ethics Unwrapped
- The Influence of the West African Songs of Derision in the New World | Journal of the International Library of African Music
- Prince Harry, Meghan Markle Poll Slump Exceeds Charles’ After Diana Divorce | Newsweek
- The Crown | Netflix Official
- What Is Cancel Culture? Why We Keep Fighting about Canceling People | Vox
- The Jussie Smollett Scandal Recalls the Infamous (And Very Fake) Neo-Nazi Attack on Morton Downey Jr. | Decider
- Teacher Gets Prison in Hate Crime Hoax | Los Angeles Times
- The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human and How to Tell Them Better by Will Storr | Amazon
- Complete 66 Mac vs. PC Ads | Angus Lo
- Why Did Paul McCartney Want to Change the Order of Their Surnames on Beatles Song Copyrights? | Quora
- Framing Genocide as Revenge and Self-Defense: The Function, Use and Effect of Self-Victimization in the Context of Genocide and Mass Killing by Georg Bauer | Open Knowledge Repository
552: Will Storr | Understanding Social Position and the Status Game
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Will Storr: You know we play status games with the people closest to us. We don't play status games with distant people so much. We don't compare ourselves very often to the king of Thailand or Michelle Obama. You know, if we did, we'd be very unhappy because we're not those people. I mean, we're never going to be those people. That's a form of kind of torture. We compare ourselves to the people around us.
[00:00:24] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional billionaire investor, former cult member, or money laundering expert. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:00:50] So if you're new to the show, or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, we've got these episode-starter packs. These are collections of top episodes, some of your favorites, organized by popular topics. That'll help new listeners get a taste of everything that we do here on that. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start to get started, or you can help somebody else get started. Of course, they always appreciate it when you do that.
[00:01:10] Today, we're talking with my friend Will Storr about status, social status, group status, our position in our tribe, whether we think we're in one or not. We often double down on these status games that we play, right? Losing sports team's fans will rationalize that their team is still better or superior somehow. We are awash in tribalism, both political and otherwise. You've seen the super woke kids. We've seen the crazies online. We've seen the people who are unwilling to follow any rules of society because that's the tribe they're in. And the other ones that adhere religiously to the other ones, sometimes, literally. Even more damaging is that our brains hide these status games and these stories from ourselves. Today, we're going to learn how to spot and evaluate status in others and in ourselves, get status in healthier ways and not resent others for their status in general. A fascinating conversation with Will Storr.
[00:01:58] And by the way, if you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, thinkers, creators every single week, it is because of my network. I'm teaching you how to build your network for free, thereby building yourself some status as well. That's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And most of the guests you hear on the show, they subscribe to the course. They contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. Now, here we go with Will Storr.
[00:02:23] I did read the book and I really enjoyed it. I think status is a funny thing to write about because we're all sort of beholden to it. And especially the people online that go, "I don't even care what other people—" Those people, they're the worst. The more people act like you don't give a crap about status, the more for sure you're obsessed with it. And you think about it nonstop and lay awake at night wondering how to get more.
[00:02:46] Will Storr: I always think about these people say, "I didn't care. I didn't care what people think about me," even saying that is this state claim, because you're saying, "I'm above you. I'm better than you."
[00:02:54] Jordan Harbinger: Of course.
[00:02:54] Will Storr: "Because I just don't care." You know, you're just like you so care.
[00:02:59] Jordan Harbinger: My favorite phrase from like the sort of gen — maybe millennials are the guys, because there's always guys that say, "I just don't even give a f*ck, man. I don't give up." I'm like, "No, no, no. You give all of the f*cks. You give so many f*cks, you're talking about it right now. That's how many f*cks you give." You know, like nobody else is sitting here talking about how they don't care. You made a post about this, made a video about how you don't care. That's how much you care. Why is status just integrated into the human genome, brain, whatever it is, in a way that cannot be removed?
[00:03:31] Will Storr: Well, that goes back to our evolutionary history. As I'm sure you know, and most of your viewers will know, we're tribal animals. We're an age that worked out how to work cooperatively. That involves being in groups and working with groups and working out how to sort of cooperate in groups. That was essential for our survival, but it wasn't simply a case of connecting into groups. Like connection is really important. We want to be connected to people. It wasn't just that. It's actually, you have to own status within that group. Because the more status that you earn in that group, the more resources you get, the more food you get, the better access to mate. It's the safest sleeping site. Like everything gets better as your status gets better.
[00:04:10] So that's why the book is called The Status Game because, you know, it's our subconscious mind. It's like playing a game. In all the groups that we joined in life, whether it's a sports team or it's our job, or it's the podcast game against the rival podcast players, we're playing a game of status. So our subconscious minds have this kind of basic instruction — join groups, gain status — because in that way we maximize our potential for survival and reproduction. So it goes that far down into the core of our humanity. It really is fundamental. It is the way we play at life.
[00:04:44] Jordan Harbinger: But it also pushes us to innovate and achieve, right? Because it's almost like the reason I work — well, not the whole reason, I'd like to think — but one of the main reasons why I'm like, "Okay, I've got a market The Jordan Harbinger Show," and it's like, I want to make impact, but that's also like, "Well, I want more people to know about it and I want them to use it. And I want them to credit it with them getting a raise at work or changing their life. And I want better guests. And I want to do a better job on this show as a host." Because let's be real, if you get down to the base level, this has to do with status. I want people to listen. It raises my rank and Spotify, and then more people find it. And then I get more advertisers because they associate me with more people and more of a beneficial brand. So I get money because of that, which also raises my status, which makes me able to raise my kids and send them into better schools. I mean like every—
[00:05:33] Will Storr: And that raises their status, yeah.
[00:05:35] Jordan Harbinger: Right, and it raises their status. Right. Which is like, my genes are now high status down the line because I had a good conversation with Will Storr, yeah. So it turns out to be way more important than any of us really want to admit. And it's like, you even think the most wholesome thing you can think of like doing a good job as a teacher, there's still status involved in that. Now, it might not be the main thing and it might not be the thing you think about, but it's there. And it's like anybody who says that it's not there is lying to themselves, at least to themselves, probably to everyone.
[00:06:07] Will Storr: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that one of the main takeaways from doing all the research for me was — you're right. We don't like to admit that we were interested in our own status. It kind of makes us feel a bit grubby because we tell this heroic story about ourselves. I just want to know, I want to change the world. I want to help people and all these kinds of things. We can't swallow our desire for status. How I've started to think about it is, you know, when you think about it, you think, "Well, it's just status," but actually it's just that I don't really agree with. Status is really, really important. And dismissing is always just status. It's to fundamentally misunderstand the human condition. We seek connection and we seek status. That's not a bad thing. It's a really good thing.
[00:06:46] And one of the things I do in the book is to delineate three kinds of different status games that people tend to play. There are dominance games. So we've been playing dominance games for millions of years and most animals, you know, play dominance games and that's physical. That's fear, strength. So that's one kind of status. And other kind of status is virtue. You know, part of our being a tribal species is that we would compete to be seen as virtuous, generous, putting the tribe first. And you can see that in the storytelling of thousands of years. Heroes in stories are ones that put the tribe first. They put their own interests behind and the interest of the people that they care about in front, that's the hero. And then their success, you know, competence. When we're evolving, being a competent honey finder, a competent storyteller, a competent [cheeba] digger. This was really good or really useful to the tribes. So again, we've evolved to attach the status to competence.
[00:07:42] And so your game is a podcast, that's driving you. I want to be a better podcaster. You know, you've been talking to me about how the software that you've got is the best software as much better than all those other bits of software.
[00:07:52] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:52] Will Storr: For the podcasts, that's there before.
[00:07:54] Jordan Harbinger: It's true.
[00:07:55] Will Storr: No evidence. It's true.
[00:07:56] Jordan Harbinger: Squadcast.fm.
[00:07:56] Will Storr: Yeah, exactly. And that's all part of the status games. So you can see dismissing it as just status. No, status is driving you to be a better man, a better person, more competent, more successful. That is a gift to the world. That is an entertainment to all of your listeners. That is a gift to your family who are supported by your work in the broader view. You know, it's taken Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson to the edge of space this week. This drives the status of who's going to be the first. And these are fantastic things. The need for status, whether it's competence or success-based status or virtue-based status, all of the good that's done in the world is based on these drives that people have for status.
[00:08:35] Jordan Harbinger: It seems to be an important — look, it's an important driver. We've kind of covered this, but it seems to be that there's almost an appropriate, like a societaly appropriate level of striving for status. So for example, I'd like to think that I fall into the category of like normal people seeking status for the quote-unquote right reasons in the right way. Right? Be really good at your craft. Help people out as much as you can, both because it makes me feel good but also because then I'm seen as an authority in this area and then blah, blah, blah, advertising and dollars and we kind of talked about that before. I don't think the more I can shove mattresses down people's throats in this podcast, the more of a bigger car I'm going to get, but you see when sort of like the influencer bullsh*t goes wrong, right? Where you see people on Instagram and they're doing all of this very bizarre stuff to seek status where you just think, okay, this is a little bit over the line, right? They're not using it to make a better show for their listeners. They're using it specifically and solely to make themselves look good. And usually that involves showing other people what they lack compared to that person. And then, and that's kind of where it gets toxic, right? Where you're creating FOMO and almost downgrading other people's status intentionally or otherwise in order to bring yours up. And that I think is where it starts to get a little bit objectionable.
[00:09:50] And we can talk about this because in your book, you mentioned that status is relative, right? So decreases in our own earnings. If we're just going to talk about money, they have a detrimental effect, but a raise in my neighbors standings have that same effect, even if my earnings are unchanged. And I think there's probably — so status is relative, right? But it causes all sorts of problems I would assume. I would assume this causes more problems because look, instead of earning more money, I can just move to an area where everyone else has less. That's sort of a weird solution, but the other thing I can do is make other people look or feel like they have less than make myself look or feel like I have more, which I think we can all see where that can go wrong.
[00:10:29] Will Storr: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's absolutely right. And I think a lot of the toxicity that we see developing an Internet culture and have been seeing it enter into our culture, since the rise of social media. It is a result of this kind of relentless status driving. And, you know, since I've done the research, I used to start this kind of reflexive — you blame Jack from Twitter and Mark Zuckerberg for it all. And of course, they're not held. But you're never going to get rid of it because if you're connecting human beings together to be together, they're going to play the status game. And sometimes that's going to get really rough. And one of the things I do in the book is I go back to the very first, the early days of social media, which is to go back to the '80s, the mid '80s,
[00:11:10] Probably the first social media website, as we'd recognize it today, was called The WELL. You can only get on it by, you know, it was like you're at the war games where he put the phone in the modem into dial in and there was any sort of, it got to about 500 regular users and the first Internet troll turns up and starts attacking them all. You know, it's incredible how little things have changed. They're having a ruse about pronouns. They are exactly the same as the ruse we're having about pronouns today. Like literally they were doing this. And so you can see it doesn't take Mark Zuckerberg or Jack the Twitter dude to create this toxicity. It just creates connecting people together and just setting them free. And they'll start trying to boost their own status, trying to drop off other people's status and that's going to become toxic. And you're going to get this cancel culture that we're seeing today. It's in our human nature. It's what we've done with the internet.
[00:11:59] Jordan Harbinger: Status gives us meaning in many ways and it's as necessary as oxygen or water from what it sounds. You mentioned, you started off the book actually with this story of a prisoner named Ben. This was a fascinating example. I have to hand it to you to start with, because usually when we think status, we think rockstar or athlete that's up on top and goes down and then gets depressed about it. This is a guy who I think had done something really horrible, like murdered another child or something like this as a young man. Tell me about Ben, because this sort of shows us that no environment and no person is really exempt from this.
[00:12:30] Will Storr: Ben is somebody that I met quite a few years back in my days when I was still doing journalism. And he's a fascinating man. And so, yeah, I wanted to start the book there for exactly that reason. Ben was somebody who lost his rag — again, it was a status thing. He told another child, he was a child. He was 14, I think, and this other boy was 11. He told him the secret. And soon as he told this 11-year-old his secret about himself, he panicked. "Oh my God. If the world gets to know about this, they're going to laugh at me. It's going to be a humiliation." So he lost his temper and he attacked him. And this kid ended up dead and Ben went to prison for that as a school boy. So that's where his life was. He just had nothing. As this happens in prisons, sort of the world, he was bullied and victimized by the prison officers. He tried to kill himself by starving himself, trying to escape that didn't work.
[00:13:17] But eventually he kind of picked himself up. And what he started doing was he started researching the law and he started sort of pushing back against the prison guards, I guess what you perceived as these great injustices. And then he started helping other prisoners, only became known as this kind of jailhouse lawyer kind of guy. And he began playing this kind of game of status, which he kind of called fighting abuses of justice, I think. What happened was he kept coming up for parole and every time he came up for parole, there'd be some misdemeanor that they'd get wrong and he'd get refused parole. And he ended up being, I think, the person who has served in Britain longest over there, kind of tariff. And I think he was in there for like 30 years in the end.
[00:13:56] And what happened was he fell in love. He fell in love with the visiting English teacher. They just fell head over heels and they were having sex in the station recovered. And he was phoning around this secret and all this stuff. And it was all there waiting for him literally. All he had to do was behave and he could leave prison. He could move in with this Alex and into that beautiful cottage. There's a place called the Cotswolds in England, where the rich people live, a fabulous place. You know, when you think of England, it is best, it's the Cotswolds. He just wouldn't do it. And he eventually kind of had to admit to her, "You know, I don't want to leave then."
[00:14:26] So I thought that was really interesting. Why did he want to leave? He'd lost everything. And I think it was the status. He found a status game to play and he said to me, "You know, I was a lifer and that gives you a certain status in prison. And I was this jailhouse lawyer. So I was the guy who was fighting back." And what enabled him to leave prison was Alex got to start up a blog called Prisoner Ben, where he would talk about his life in prison. And that blog became really successful. It won an Orwell prize, very prestigious. So only when he managed to get a bit of status on the outside world would he leave but even then it wasn't enough. And he had this huge collapse. He spent his life creating a status game and he excelled at it. And then as soon as he kind of left it, he collapsed.
[00:15:06] And if you now look up Ben Gunn, you'll find him on Twitter very easily. And he now speaks Twitter warrior. That's constantly arguing with people and having fights. He's one of these types. But, you know, you can see this is how he plays for status. And, and so, yeah, I thought that was a really fascinating kind of experiment in a way, like a one-man experiment. And what do you do? What happens when somebody is thrown into hell in prison, where they've got no status whatsoever, the child killer, they've got no status whatsoever. Well, you find state — that if you're got a healthy brain, you find status. If you don't want to collapse, that's what you do.
[00:15:37] Jordan Harbinger: There's a connection between low status and depression. I would love to touch on this because anything that sort of explains why depression exists, I think is almost helpful for people that deal with it because you just, instead of thinking your brain is broken, you just realize it's in a mode. That's not serving you. This doesn't go for all depression, obviously, but I'd love for you to shed a little light on this.
[00:15:54] Will Storr: Yeah. So there's a very strong link between depression and suicide and lack or loss of status. One of the ideas is that when we become depressed, it's because we're doing badly in the game. We're failing to find status. And because status is such a fundamental need. When we feel we're lacking in status, so the subconscious kind of evolved brain, that signals where we do badly in this tribe, we're going to start losing resources. We're going to start losing security. And so what happens is we kind of move to the back of the cave as it were and shelter, and the mind's trying to stop us going into battle with higher status people because it's too dangerous out there. When people study the causes of suicide, again, you know, incredibly complex subject. It's not as simple as people who've lost status, but certainly in a lot of cases, that's what is found. It's people who have lost significant amounts of status. And I think the people who are most vulnerable often are the ones who've lost the most status rapidly.
[00:16:51] This is why I think Jeffrey Epstein did kill himself because he's just a textbook example of somebody who was up here and went down there with enormous rapidity. That's why I suspect, I don't believe this conspiracy, that it was a fit up. He's just a classic case of somebody that you could expect to take their own lives. And that's what they find. So it's when people are going to rapidly lose status. That's why, the financial crisis, lots of people ended up committing suicide. Again, it's incredibly important. And also when they left behind, it would become vulnerable to suicidal ideation. So when we stay still and all our friends and everybody around us accelerates on that could be very bad for our mental health. As you say, it's not because there's anything wrong with us. It's because our brains are functioning correctly. Our brains are putting us into an emergency mode because when we lack status, that's a dangerous situation for the human and all to be in.
[00:17:41] Jordan Harbinger: I want to sort of clarify this too. The plenty of super successful people struggle with depression as well. So I don't want people to think like, "Oh, I have depression. Does that also mean I'm low status? Like, you know, screw me. What the hell? This sucks." I want to clarify that there are many reasons for it.
[00:17:56] Will Storr: Yeah. And of course, status is relative. I mean, what are the sorts of dangerous things about status that we are acclimatized to it very easily. So, you know, we become this person and it's great for a while. And then, but after a while we are acclimatized. We want the next thing, we want the next thing, and we want the next thing. And I think that's the interesting thing about super successful people is that from our lowly heights, you can look up at them and go, "Wow, you must be so happy," but of course, we know. They're not happy or often they're not happy because status is relative. They're looking at the people around them and go, "Well, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson," and go, "Well, you've got to space before me. That's annoying," but perhaps, so they're playing a game.
[00:18:32] You know, we play status games with the people closest to us. We don't play status games with distant people so much. We don't compare ourselves very often to the king of Thailand or Michelle Obama. You know, if we did, we'd be very unhappy because we are not those people. I mean, we're never going to be those people, that's a form of kind of torture. We compare ourselves to the people around us. So people that you would consider high status are just as vulnerable to these mental health issues and people could sit low status, they're comparing themselves to the people around them. So for a super wealthy person to suddenly live my life with my income, they could become seriously, mentally ill as insulting as that is to me. But that's the truth, that's how it works, that's how human cognition works.
[00:19:12] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it's kind of sad. I feel bad for the guy who has to move into my house, which is probably the size of his 12-car garage. And it's like, no one in their right mind would feel bad for the hedge fund manager that's forced to downgrade into a 6,000-square foot or whatever house. And they only have two swimming pools. Not that I have this by the way. But like, "Oh my gosh, there's another house in front of you before you get to the beach, you poor thing," right? Like this is all relative.
[00:19:39] Will Storr: Yeah but that's the craziness of it. Nobody in their right minds will feel sorry for that hedge fund manager, but he would be suffering sincerely and genuinely. Not because he chooses to because that's the human brain. Like, you know, middle middle-class I'd say, and if I suddenly had to go and live in a house that is significantly below where I'm living now, I would be feeling depressed and, "Oh my God, this life is not worth living," which is incredibly insulting to the people who are very happily living in those kinds of houses now. You've got to remove that kind of the urge to morally judge people on this stuff, because it doesn't work. And equally, you know, the people who are living in those houses, they're living in a kind of splendor that a hundred years ago, they've got running water, television, electricity, you know, they can turn lights on and off. It's like they're living by the standard of a hundred years ago, fantastic, amazing lives, you know, working class people in their homes. So it's all relative as weird as it sounds. It's given me a new kind of empathy for super successful people. I don't wish I was them quite so much anymore because I understand that they experienced the same pain as anybody else. Even though, as you say, nobody feels sorry for them. They still hurt. And they should know because it's all relative.
[00:20:50] Jordan Harbinger: It's in the public eye that it is the worst, right? Because you look at somebody like Kim Kardashian and you think this person's getting so rich, they have so many things going for them. There's all this and that. But they're looking at, like you said, Beyoncé or Michelle Obama, and they're like, "Man, how do I get to that level? I don't understand what's going on. "And they're thinking, "I didn't get invited to the red carpet at the Grammys this year. Does that mean that my status is lower?" Meanwhile, I've never shed a tear over not being invited to the Grammys or the Oscars, or I will never do that, right? And you, I assume, are on the same boat, you know, there's nothing that says, "I can't believe I didn't get invited to the inauguration this year. That's ridiculous. What does this mean for my life?"
[00:21:31] Will Storr: Well, yeah, exactly, exactly. And, but I've got my own things that if I think about the situation I'm in now, how it looks from when I was a school boy, failing on my exams and just being hated by all the teachers I'd be thinking, "Wow, you must be so happy. You write books for a living. You're invited onto these podcasts to talk about your ideas. You're comfortably off. This must be amazing." And of course, it's not amazing because I'm just thinking, "Well, how come I'm not on Rogan yet?" And you know, it's like, everyone is like this. This is human life. This is the status game. It's what we all do. And we drive ourselves crazy with these things, which rationally and objectively are pointless. You know, that symbolic, they're nothing, and yet they're not. They mean everything to us. Something that we can feel demeaning to admit it, but you've only got to be honest with yourself and it's true.
[00:22:19] Jordan Harbinger: Start talking about how aliens built the pyramids and how Atlantis is real and start doing psychedelics. And you have a much better shot at getting on Rogan. And I'm just going to give you a couple of pro tips there. That's how you get on that show, you know, if this book doesn't do it.
[00:22:32] Will Storr: Oh, I was invited on, but the Corona, I couldn't go because of the virus.
[00:22:37] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, really?
[00:22:37] Will Storr: Yeah. I have the date fixed and everything else.
[00:22:40] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man, you should definitely go. You should stop wasting your time with shows like this and go on Joe Rogan immediately. Get over there, get that — wear one of those space helmets, so that you're not affected by the virus, you know, one of those ventilated ones that have — do it, it's a Joe Rogan would you know you, then you're going to hit the list. Then those teachers that thought you were an idiot back in elementary school are going to be, "Wow. Will Storr. Man, he turned around, he turned it around."
[00:23:05] Will Storr: But then it would be the next thing and the next thing. It's a trend, isn't it?
[00:23:09] Jordan Harbinger: Rogan's probably the top for any author, but you're going to then wonder why you didn't get invited to the White House or something like that, yeah.
[00:23:15] Will Storr: Oh God, I hope I get that,
[00:23:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, well, you never know.
[00:23:21] You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Will Storr.
[00:23:24] We'll be right back. This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help online therapy. Therapy can be seen as a negative thing, of course. Like, "Ah, people that need therapy, they must be having some kind of problem." I always see therapy as a positive thing. You're taking this opportunity to better yourself. And let's be clear, most people who initiate counseling, they don't have any sort of serious mental illness at all. But life throws many curve balls our way in the form of relationship struggles, workplace, job environment issues, isolation, grief, and loss. And if you don't believe me, listen to one episode of Feedback Friday and you'll get the idea. Know that you are not alone. Everybody's got their own stuff they deal with. Better Help offers online professional counselors who are trained to listen and help. Better Help will assess your needs. They match you with a professional therapist who you can start communicating with in under 48 hours. Log in any time, send a message to your counselor, weekly video or phone sessions. You don't have to drive. You don't have to park. You can do it from your couch instead of theirs. Also, it's more affordable than traditional offline counseling and financial aid is available. So take advantage of that. So many people who have been using Better Help. They're hiring in all 50 states.
[00:24:27] Jen Harbinger: And our listeners get 10 percent off your first month of online therapy at betterhelp.com /jordan. Visit better-H-E-L-P.com/jordan. And join over a million people who've taken charge of mental health with the help of an experienced Better Help professional.
[00:24:41] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by BiOptimizers. Have you had bad gas lately? That's right. I'm asking you if you're farty. It's a little awkward. It's an uncomfortable topic in general. The only reason I bring it up is because bad gas is a sign. You may have undigested food fermenting in your gut. This is occasionally a problem for all of us. If you need proof, just ask my wife. And that's why I want to tell you about P3OM probiotics. P3OM is a patented probiotic that eats up excess sugar, eliminates bad bacteria and protects your gut and also helps improve digestion.
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[00:25:31] Jordan Harbinger: Now back to Will Storr on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:25:37] People often accept a higher status job title versus a pay raise. And I thought this was interesting, right? Because that sort of says any status is worth more than money in many cases. Now, money is status in many cases as well, but that sort of proves in many ways, that status that's very visible and obvious to everyone around you who you're competing with might even be better than a raise. Right? Because if I get a raise by five or 10 grand, maybe other people in my office don't even know, maybe it's confidential, but everyone's going to know if I get promoted to Sir Jordan Harbinger, intergalactic podcaster and the PhD. Right? They're going to be like, "Whoa. Okay. He really got — the boss thinks a lot of him, that committee thinks a lot about him." They don't necessarily know that I got a salary bump.
[00:26:19] Will Storr: Well, that's it. Yeah. I mean, and this is one of the surprising things is that when they do surveys, they usually find that a good chunk of people would forgo a pay rise for a job title rise. And that shows the importance of status. And you mentioned before the extraordinary study that The Economist did where they looked at people's relative income. Well, firstly, people find that relative income makes us happier than raw income. So what makes us happy isn't the amount of money we get itself. It's the amount of money we get versus the people around us. That's what's connected to happiness, not raw cash. And the extraordinary study that The Economist did, where they found that if you're kind of relatively poor in that, in your neighborhood, you're going to be relatively kind of more depressed and unhappy with your life. Your well-being is going to be lower. And if the effect is greater, the more you it's in your neighborhood. So the more you're hanging out with your rich neighbors, the less happy you are. So it really is a powerful thing.
[00:27:13] And it kind of makes sense. We were born into this world in which, especially in the US and the UK, money, money, money, money. We're kind of led to think that money is the be all and end all and money makes the world go around. When our brains evolved, there was no money. Really money is just another way of playing the status game and our brains didn't evolve to what money. They evolved to want status. And so it's just another way that we play that game. And another paper that I thought was fascinating that I quote at length in the book was by this US lawyer, former big firm lawyer now a judge. And he writes an amazing detail about the process of corruption that junior lawyers go through.
[00:27:54] And he writes that basically, you join your big name law firm and in two or three years, you're going to become corrupt. You're going to start lying and cheating as a matter of course. And he says, "It happened to me. I did it." And the reason for that is that you're going to be introduced to this world in which you're comparing yourself on the basis of money to all the other lawyers. And twice a year, the legal magazines posts leaked tables of what everyone's earning, and everyone gets obsessed with these things. And the thing about lawyers is they work just incredibly hard. They work every hour, God sends, and more. So how do you get the edge? And so the only way you can really get the edge is by bidding for more hours than you've actually worked, by making sure that sometimes not cooperating with the discovery process, making sure documents go missing and stuff. And he says, this becomes such kind of part of second nature that it's just this inevitable process that happens for young lawyers. And he says, there's a line something in two or three years, you go from somebody being really genuinely happy about being able to afford your first car stereo to somebody furious that you've only got a $400,000 bonus. That's what happens to you. And so that shows the power of the status game, or just this idea that money is just the way we keep score in that game. That's what money is.
[00:29:05] Jordan Harbinger: A proxy, right?
[00:29:06] Will Storr: Yeah. Once you've got enough to survive and raise our children safely and feed ourselves, the rest of it is just the status game. And it also shows the power that the game has to corrupt. You know, I thought it was a very interesting paper because it just shows how easily the need for status can, kind of not just become and less ethical people.
[00:29:25] Jordan Harbinger: Would you send that to me? I'm very interested in that. I used to be — well, I still am an attorney and I worked on Wall Street. So I saw, I had a front row seat to all of that. Even when I was in law school, I was like, "Oh my God, they're going to pay us 30 grand to come in for the summer and eat like ribs and shellfish. This is ridiculous." And then after year one, I'm like, I can't believe I'm making this much. This is more than my parents made put together at the peak of their career. It's my first year. This is so amazing. Second year, I got a bonus on top of a raise. This is incredible. And then as I started, well, I left the law pretty early, but I remember thinking like, why are these guys who are seven, eight years, nine years and so miserable. It doesn't make any sense. You have two houses, you have a boat, your kids go to a private school. You know, none of this makes sense. And it's because another guy or gal that they went to school with is making a little bit more at an investment bank, or they move to a different firm, which we're in lockstep pays. So everyone knows what everyone's making. I know that they're making 20 grand more than me. Who cares? It will not improve your quality of life, that $20,000. There's nothing you could buy that would make you happy with it. You're going to invest it, hopefully. It's not even going to let you retire any earlier at your current level of consumption but it's driving you crazy. And you're here on Sunday night, missing your kid's birthday, working on something that's not urgent because you want to make sure you hit your billable hours so that you get promoted to partner so that you can do that rat race. I mean, none of it really makes any sense, but it all makes sense when you look at status.
[00:30:50] Will Storr: Yeah. And one of the things he does in his papers, he takes on the idea that money makes you happy. And he just talks about the rates of mental ill health, cocaine addiction, divorce amongst big firm lawyers. And it's off the charts. These people are not happy. They're not happy people. They're really rich. They're really successful. But by and large, they're stressed and anxious and unhappy because they're sucked into that game. And I think by nature, attorneys, lawyers are very competitive people. You know, if you've been through law school, you're smart and you're competitive. So you've got to probably on average, you know, everybody's got a different need for status. And I think you're probably out there on the need for status if you've put yourself through all that.
[00:31:28] Jordan Harbinger: It gets worse though, right? It gets worse when you get there. Because you're almost like, "I have ascended the top of the mountain," when you get there. But then like you said, you acclimate and then it starts to become like, "Well, why am I at the bottom of this? Why isn't our firm paying us like this other firm does? Oh, well, they work like a sweatshop. Well, I'm a hard worker. I don't mind working on Saturdays. I feel like I'm working half the Saturdays anyway. Maybe I should switch over there." And then it's, well, all right, now you're working seven days a week. So yeah, I'd love to see that paper.
[00:31:54] I wonder how did children's spot and identify who to imitate and learn from? Where are children coming into this and learning about status? They have to be learning it from somewhere.
[00:32:03] Will Storr: Yeah, well, again, because this is so deeply rooted in us. We're born with this kind of basic instructions. You know, the wiring is there in the brain. And so there are various cues that we look for when we're children and indeed adults, but these are kind of built into us. So the first thing to say is that when we're planning a status game, what we're doing is we're spotting higher status people and we're copying them. We mimic them. And this is why fandoms happen. This is why people take on the kind of reading musical tastes of their idols and copy their dress, you know, because that's part of who we are. That's part of the game plan, cognition. You know, we spot people in our game that we admire that are high status and we copy them and we copy them because that's our strategy for becoming high states as ourselves. I mean, it's a basic heuristic. I'm going to do what they're doing. Whatever they're doing, I'm going to do it.
[00:32:51] There are four cues that we use. Let me see if I can remember them. The first one is self similarity. So we look for people who are similar age, same gender. And so, you know, whatever other kind of similarity cues there are. And of course, this has lots of unpleasant side effects. The self-similarity que is obviously very present when we think about racism, sexism, all the isms, the self-similarity cue is we feel more comfortable with people like us and we do from birth. Babies who can't speak prefer to be with people who have the same dialect as their mother's accent. You know, it's in us, unfortunately. So the self-similarity is the first one.
[00:33:33] The second one is competence. We look for people who are showing that they are good at tasks. So that draws us. The third one is we look at who other people are paying attention to. So that's another cue. So if lots of people are looking at one person, then we assume that that person must know something that we need to know. So we go and look at them too. And this can become a runaway effect. So again, it's natural to us. If we admire them, we want to become like them, we have to identify with them. We'll pay attention to them. So psychologists called this the Paris Hilton effect because it can run away. And these processes are built for small groups that we evolve in, not for the age of the Internet and celebrity and international media. So these days, somebody like Paris Hilton, who has no observable talent can become hugely globally famous because everyone's just looking at them and then they get written about, and then, so we look at them more. So that's part of the status game.
[00:34:25] And then finally one of the cues is we look at the person themselves and see how they're presenting. So there are various cues that high status people use, the head up, they'll talk more. You know, high-status people tend to present in a certain way. So that will also cue us to be drawn to certain people and begin copying them.
[00:34:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right, you mentioned in the book that there's some high status behavior. And I remember when I used to teach this kind of thing, these don't always work out perfectly well. High status people tend to talk more, they tend to talk more loudly. They might have louder fashion, so to speak or more of a unique and sort of zany fashion. Their vocal pitch can be different. They take up more physical space, but not too much where they look like they're trying, just a lot more than the average person and they might own stuff. And this is kind of the toddler example. Like toddlers are really, they're not subtle about the way that they try and gain status and they can't talk. So they will hoard toys or they will grab things. They don't want to share it. Adults tend to be a little bit different with their ownership of things, but we certainly see it.
[00:35:24] I mean, how many people do you know? In Hollywood where I used to live, there are directors that are unmarried or they have adult children and they have one wife and they have like a 28,000 square foot house. They live in three of those rooms. They're never home. They work in their office. What do you need that house for? Status. Right? That's all it is. They got a view that they never even look at it because—
[00:35:44] Will Storr: Yeah, you have the same here with British Aristocrats in their massive castles and then you find out, "Oh, we just live in three rooms in the east wing. And everything else is just full of armour and tapestries. It's totally pointless.
[00:35:56] Jordan Harbinger: That's funny. I can imagine that that's probably true, right? A giant manor and it's like there's a door that never gets opened and the rest of the house isn't heated, but in there old wagons and paintings and like, I don't know, a bunch of, yeah, like you said, the suits of armor with a knight standing up in the corner, like stuff you see in a haunted house in United States.
[00:36:14] Will Storr: And yeah, ghost, just hanging around.
[00:36:16] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, just ghosts and the occasional caretaker to make sure the rats aren't eating the ancient tapestries and rugs from your great, great, great grandfather, you know, Lord, whatever.
[00:36:24] Different types of status though. Right? Dominant leaders versus prestige leaders. This is interesting because I think a lot of us, we look at apes and we look at dominance to that..We look at kind of like, I would say more — what's the word I'm looking for this politically correct here? You kind of see, not politically correct, but not offensive, I guess, but you see some sort of, there are elements of culture, especially in the United States, where let's say like big gorilla-ish type guys will use dominance games to get status. And it works, especially within their sort of tier. And I don't play that game because I'm 5'10" and 178 pounds or whatever, right? Or on a good day, you know, with my shoes on I'm that tall, I can't do that, but I can — there's a different status game that I play that actually, I think works a little bit better, which is, you know, I use other things that work for me, like intelligence or success in other areas and leadership and things like this. So dominance versus prestige, these are two different types of status games. Most are being played at some level almost at the same time and in the same place.
[00:37:27] Will Storr: Yeah, so that's it. So, as I said, dominance games is the oldest form of game. It's very different in the animal world. So, the idea is that chickens will peck at each other until a pecking order is established. Crayfish, you know, attack each other until they've worked out, who's in this order. So dominance is a very animalistic. And before we settled down into our tribes, you know, humans were much more. Into dominance games fighting very violently one-on-one. And we're doing this as males, particularly we are that bone structures are different. We have much more muscle mass. We know we were much more aggressive before we settled down, but when we settled down, all these alpha males going around, beating each other to death, it wasn't going to work when we were all trying to live communally.
[00:38:07] So what happened was we evolved to different forms of status, game. And these aren't unique to humans. The more intelligent animals also use prestige. But the idea is that rather than fight one-on-one to show who was on top, you would earn prestige. So you would play a status game with your reputation rather than the actual self. So the important thing is that people thought well of you. And there were two ways of earning prestige in a group. And the first one is virtue. So the idea — what they both have in common is that you're useful to the group. And the more useful you are to the group, the more status you're awarded, the more heroic people think you are.
[00:38:40] So there are two ways of being useful to your group, your tribe. And the first one is being virtuous, enforcing the tribe's codes, making sure everyone's taking part in their rituals and indeed you're taking part in the rituals yourselves, believing it's sacred beliefs, being generous, being courageous in fights, in hunting. So that's a virtue. And then there's success, so competence. So, you know, you're also being very useful to your tribe. If you're very knowledgeable and very skillful.
[00:39:08] So those are the three essential status games. And there are other ways we can gain status. Beauty is a way of any status. Age is a way of any status. Height is a way of any status. But they're not particularly interesting. Most of human life takes up these three forms of dominance, virtue, and success. And the easiest way to understand it is that if we want status, we can try Idi Amin, Mother Teresa, or Albert Einstein. You know, these were all people who are incredibly high status people and they earned their status through dominance in the case of Idi Amin, virtue in the case of Mother Teresa, and success in the case of Albert Einstein. So it's kind of the games we play form the kind of people that we are.
[00:39:47] Jordan Harbinger: That's interesting. I've noticed this on the other side of the coin as well, that we love to see people taken down a peg, right? We'd love to see celebrities just take a fall. We love those — the video you mentioned in the book, we love those videos where someone's like, "Do you know who I am?" And like, "I'm going to get you fired." And then like cut to them getting arrested for something. I mean, look at the college admission scandal, right? We're pissed off that those people bribe their kids way into college, but we're also kind of like, "Oh, Aunt Becky from Full House is going to jail. Good." Not that I ever had anything against her, but like, if you're going to be a sh*tty person and you're famous and you're rich, I want to see you behind bars. I want to see you crying in the media. Right? I mean, I don't need a brain scan to know that I'm petty as hell, but I know that something's lighting up when that happens, right. If I'm in an fMRI machine or whatever, I know that when I see that stuff, there's a part of my brain that I almost wish wasn't there. That is just having a field day.
[00:40:50] Will Storr: I think that's right. And that's for a couple of reasons. The first one is, as I say, you know, the game is an artifact of our kind of tribal background. And when these parts of our brains were evolving, that virtue game, part of that virtue game is punishing people who are breaking the rules of the tribe, of being selfish, unfair. And so we've evolved to feel good about punishing them. You know, we feel like we are status-ful. We know we weren't status by punishing them because that's useful to the tribe. But there's something else that's going on there too, which is the whole tall poppy thing. And I think it's exacerbated by the modern world. Because, as I said, these tribes that we evolved in, we were pretty small and we'd spend most of our time with 25, 30 people. And those sort of little units would connect into larger groups at certain times, but they were much smaller.
[00:41:37] We had no concept of other people in the world back in the days of the tribes, there weren't any millionaires. There weren't any landowners. We were comparing ourselves to somebody who had slightly more state, you know, that some of the leaders of the tribe who had marginally more status than us. So we've evolved to play these very small status games. What's happened is that we now play enormous status games, massive status games. People can become massively wealthy, massively famous, and that's not how we're designed to live. And a part of the one ramification is that we have this, we are constantly needle by these very high status people. And, you know, sometimes, we love them and we love them if we identify with them. So if we're a big golf fan, we might love Tiger Woods but most of the time we hate them. We really don't like them at all because they remind us how small we are.
[00:42:23] As we say status is relative, you know, our status, it's not in a fixed place, depending on who we're with and who we're thinking about bouncing around all over the place. And so, yeah, the other thing going on in the college admissions scandal is that we just love seeing these people who are much more status than us become much less status than us. It's pleasurable. You know, it's not necessarily a lovely part of the human condition, but it's an undeniable one, I think.
[00:42:48] Jordan Harbinger: But it's also like, look back in the caveman era or even the tribal era, we would be self-policing. I don't really hate Aunt Becky. I kind of at some level understand why she did what she did. I have a level of pity for somebody who gets embarrassed on an international level. It sucks, but there's that other part of my brain that's like, "Yeah, you follow those rules," right? That everyone else, that you're breaking, we all have to follow it. How dare you? But this makes sense because if I'm living in a group of a hundred, 150, or a couple of hundred people, and somebody gets too big for their britches, I'm going to gang up on them and take them down a peg. I don't need to exile them or banish them to death or throw them in prison. But I'm certainly going to — the example you gave of the book is there are songs that tribes will sing if somebody is a hunter and they're doing really well, they're supposed to downplay their success and other hunters will do that. And if they don't sort of voluntarily do that, then everyone gets in their face and sings the equivalent of the opposite of the happy birthday song.
[00:43:42] Will Storr: Yeah, it's called the song of derision.
[00:43:44] Jordan Harbinger: It's funny that that even exists.
[00:43:45] Will Storr: I know. I thought that was hilarious when I read that, the song of derision. I think it was an Inuit tribe that did that. Yeah, so that's it, you know, there's this idea of hotly policing what's known as big shot behavior. It's very common in early human groups, in small societies. And we've probably been there for tens of thousands of years. The thing about prestige, virtue, and success status is that it's offered by other people. You can't claim it for yourself. You can't walk in there and say, "I'm this amazing dude, love me." People don't like it when people do that. If there's one, everyone backs up and that's the kind of reflective thing. I mean, actually I think the country that puts some of that the most is the US, like the cooking competition shows. And when you watch the Top Chef, the chefs are like, "I'm the greatest, I'm amazing." And the English equivalent Master Chef, they're going well, "I don't know if I'm going to win. I'm not very good."
[00:44:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:44:37] Will Storr: So yeah, I think there's a cultural difference there, but still in the status, you can't go in and demand everyone loves you. That's not how it works. And we tend to respond very badly to that. So, yeah, status is always offered. And I think that's why in the UK. There's a cultural obsession at the moment with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. They are, I think it's fair to say, widely disliked by a lot of people in the UK right now. And I think a lot of—
[00:45:01] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[00:45:02] Will Storr: Yeah, a lot of that is down to the fact that they seem to have afforded themselves a level of status, which they don't seem to have earned. I think that's the popular perception, at least amongst the people who don't—
[00:45:13] Jordan Harbinger: But that's the whole point. They were in the Royal family. Like they'd never earned that. You know, he was born into it. And then he says, "You know what? I don't want to be a part of this. It's too much of a rat race and it's making me miserable." And then people go, "How dare you? What are you too good for the Royal family?" And he's like, "That's not really what my point was, people." And so now you're mad at him for that. I don't know. I don't get it.
[00:45:31] Will Storr: Well, I think it's the fact that every game has its rules.
[00:45:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:45:34] Will Storr: If you've ever watched The Crown, you'll know that the big thing about being part of the Royal family is that it's not all that fun, its duties, boring stuff. It's opening supermarkets and clubs and shaking hands with mayors and pretending you're interested in what they've got to say. It's a grind. There's a lot of work and it's pretty boring. And the other thing about the Royal family is you're not allowed to have an opinion because you've got to unite the country. You can't divide it so you can't have political opinions. And so it's tough. It's not easy. I think the perception here is that he rejected all that. So they're fine if you're going to reject that. Then you can't really be taking all the status from being a member of the Royal family, which may be a little bit.
[00:46:12] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Will Storr. We'll be right back.
[00:46:17] This episode is sponsored in part by Sleeper fantasy app. Sleeper is a modern fantasy experience designed to connect people over sports with its integrated chat and sleek interface. Sleeper users talk more to their league mates, go figure, and their leagues simply feel that difference. Sleeper is free, zero ads. Sleeper offers fantasy NFL, NBA, and even LCS League of Legends and gives you total control over your fantasy and draft season, redraft, dynasty best ball. Sleeper's made to play fantasy sports your way. Sleeper is the fastest growing fantasy platform with millions of users built almost entirely on word of mouth, which by the way, has 46,000 app reviews with five stars. This app includes handy real-time news updates and in-app league chats. So you don't need to use another app to talk to your league mates. Sleeper conveniently has everything you need in one place. Co-founded by two childhood best friends who discovered fantasy sports, which became the glue of their friendship. Sleeper is the app. They wish they had grown up and they continue to use it to deepen friendships and keep people connected. Available at the App Store, Google Play, or on your desktop.
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[00:49:51] Now, for the conclusion of our episode with Will Storr.
[00:49:54] I mean, I kind of understand that, but also isn't he like, "I'm not a member of the Royal family anymore," or "I'm not a Royal anymore"? I mean, that's like, I don't know. I feel bad. It sounds weird to say it, but I feel bad for the guy, right? Because he basically said, "This is freaking me out. I'm having a mental health crisis," and everyone went, "How dare you? Take care of yourself."
[00:50:12] Will Storr: I think if he was taking care, he was doing that and was just going to — listen, if he was going to go to the United States to get a job, people would have gone, "Oh fair enough." But he's completely trading off the fact that he's still relying on the Royal family for his status. He's all connected with that, he still calls himself Prince Harry, the duke of, whatever, he is the duke of.
[00:50:29] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, I didn't know that. And he went on Oprah. He doesn't work at Safeway. He doesn't work at Spotify. Yeah. Well, he technically does.
[00:50:36] Will Storr: So where's his virtue status coming from? Well, he doesn't seem to have, he doesn't seem to have done anything nice for anybody. Where is his competence? Well, he hasn't got any competence. You know, we admired him when he was fighting for the British army in Afghanistan, but where's this competence now? So, I mean, again, I don't want to come across a massively anti-Harry person. I'm just trying to kind of—
[00:50:54] Jordan Harbinger: I was going to say, well, we know where you stand on the issue. Sh*t, Will.
[00:50:58] Will Storr: Well, no, it's more of a case of positioning for him. I also admire him for upping and leaving. If you don't want to be in it, brilliant, go and live it. Like he lives in Santa Monica. I wish I could live in Santa Monica. But wherever he is, he's in that part of the world, roughly as well.
[00:51:15] Jordan Harbinger: I think he is like, I think he actually is there. You can visit when you go on Joe Rogan. You can check it out.
[00:51:20] Will Storr: I think he's being badly advised and I honestly think if he understood a bit more about how status works, then he wouldn't be making a lot of the decisions that he's been making. I think he could be much better advised.
[00:51:29] Jordan Harbinger: What would you do if you were him? This is such a tangent, but I'm so curious. What would you do if you're him, like stay out of the limelight, you know, that kind of thing?
[00:51:36] Will Storr: Well, the first thing I would do is reduce the impression that you are sourcing all your status from attacking the Royal family. And, you know, we were talking about how you can gain status by putting other people down. And I think that's what's been happening a lot, but also I just think people just admire him if he just went out and work.
[00:51:54] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. I think, didn't he get a job at a tech company or something?
[00:51:58] Will Storr: Yeah. It's all very weird that he also took a deal from Spotify. And I think they've produced half an hour of content in a year.
[00:52:04] Jordan Harbinger: For like $32 million or something.
[00:52:07] Will Storr: Yeah, so all of these things that you just think, wow, God, you know, it's not going to play well with the majority of people in the UK who are just working their backsides off, instructed. If I were him I would keep my head down. I don't have money that wasn't dependent on my role status. And then, you know, once you've got that separation, you've got to earn that distance from the Royal family. Then you can come out with your books and your Oprah and say, "You know what? Being in the Royal family was pretty bad. There were some problems with it." And I think if he'd have waited, and I think if he'd have earned respect before — he could still say everything he's been saying about the racial allegations and the whatever else he's been saying, people would have been much more receptive to it if you divert that respect rather than just assuming that he has it.
[00:52:45] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. That is interesting. That is very interesting. I never thought about this like that, but I also am not paying super close attention to it. I assume you're paying more attention to it. Now, one, you don't have a choice because you live in the UK, but two, you're writing about status. I'd love to hear what you think about cancel culture, because that also seems like it's very much about status. It's not like — well, I'll let you go off on this because this to me seems, almost like a disguised status play or a thinly disguised status play on all sides.
[00:53:13] Will Storr: Well, it is. Yeah, I think that's right. And I think one of the most interesting research that I found was that it suddenly made sense of cancel culture in a way that I'd never thought of before. And that was how punishment worked in the tribes that we evolved in. And there was a really interesting fact. And that the tribes that we evolved in didn't usually have leaders. When you look at the world today, where there are leaders everywhere, political leaders, cultural leaders, bosses at work, leaders. You know, we have leaders, they are leaders and there are followers. When we evolved, they weren't leaders in that way. There were high status people, higher status people, but they were generally led by consensus and they were generally deferred to only in the kind of distinct realm of their specialism. So this isn't in all cases, but it's in most cases.
[00:53:58] So the question then is, okay, so if there's nobody in charge who decides who gets punished. Because life in these tribes could be pretty rough. If you transgressed the rules, you could be executed. And it's believed that capital punishment execution was once a human universal. So that was just how it worked. If you got it wrong, there was a chance you were going to get killed. And so what would happen is that people would start gossiping about you. And through that gossip kind of consensus would build. And the people that would make the decision on what would happen and the policing is called they couldn't resist the cousins. And they said we didn't live under the tyranny of leaders, we live under tyranny of the cousins and what happened with the cousins would get together and they were talking and again, a consensus would emerge. And once there was a feeling of consensus in the group, it didn't have to be a literal consensus, just a sense that most people were against this person. They would attack and often with deadly force.
[00:54:48] And in the example that I quote in the book, the guy has done nothing. Somebody died in the group. A sorcerer did a ceremony with some leaves, tea leaves and decided this person was the killer. So people started gossiping about this person and never accounting — you know, what happens in gossip when you account of what his past sins that can suddenly seem like a very evil person. And then the guy was killed, cooked, and eaten. That's what happened to him, you know, as this is in a Gebusi tribe.
[00:55:15] Jordan Harbinger: That has escalated quickly.
[00:55:16] Will Storr: Yeah, well it did. And you see that happening with cancel culture. And again, it's another example of the fact that we can't blame Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey from Twitter for creating these things. They're just enabling people to do what people have been doing for tens of thousands of years. Somebody transgresses the sacred rules of the group, but it's usually a political group, a group where you've got very strong political views about race, gender, or Trump or any other, you know, whatever it is that that group. Somebody comes on, transgresses their sacred rules. And the group kind of, you know, nobody's in charge of a cancellation, there's nobody that says, "Right, let's go and do it," or nobody could stop it. It's this thing that emerges and emerges in this atmosphere of gossip, consensus building, and attack. In exactly the same way that it would have worked tens of thousands of years ago and still works in some pre-modern tribes. So that's the key for me with cancel culture. It's part of our basic cognition. It's what we do. So it's going to be very hard to stop.
[00:56:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it's not something we can just sort of decide not to do anymore. Right? I mean, we are 100 percent wired to do this. And so cancel culture is only going to get worse as we are taking our brains that evolved to work in small groups and plugging them into the entire world via the Internet overnight. Like we're not going to be able to adapt to this, right?
[00:56:30] Will Storr: And so there were two things I'd say about that. First one is we might be able to stop it because the great things about humans is that we can always come up with new norms. And I do think slowly, this is happening. I think the more cancel culture is known, the more it's getting frowned upon. The more it's becoming a more niche idea. It's still very mainstream and people are being canceled all the time and it's still happening but I think now that it's being highlighted. We can create norms against it. The other thing is that we can legislate against it. In the US, you have free speech. In Europe, we don't have free speech but we have effective free speech. It's a lesser form of free speech, but speech is protected. People shouldn't be persecuted for their beliefs, that kind of thing. And so I think I would like to see the government's legislation specifically against cancel culture. I would like to see it laws brought in. That companies aren't allowed to fire people on the basis of their political beliefs. It should be made illegal that people should be removed from their positions of income generation because of their political beliefs. I would like to see legislation against that.
[00:57:32] Jordan Harbinger: Victimhood and status also play an interesting kind of mixed role here, right? Because we've seen this recently. Faking an event or exaggerating something or even faking a hate crime to gain victimhood status has happened in many instances. I wouldn't say it's an epidemic per se, but it does show that the players in this game are not trying to be the most moral. They're trying to be the most morally forceful in these specific situations. Right? It's not about who's right. It's about who can sort of like signaled the hardest at that level.
[00:58:03] Will Storr: Yeah. So when you understand morality is a status game, all of that stuff makes sense and as you say, it's not an epidemic by any stretch of the imagination, but it's happening. You know, it happens that people fake hate crimes. And there are some examples that I kind of listed in the book. When you understand morality is actually just a status game. That kind of makes more sense. When we become victims of a rival group, that can be a kind of status gaining situation because we get loads of attention from people in our group and they want to help us. And they look at us and they raise us up and go, oh, you know, so victimhood can paradoxically be a kind of state of heroism and especially stand up and go and say, "I was attacked by this person, but I'm still standing. And I will bring the fight to the media." You become the Braveheart of your groups. So that's an incredibly status-making pursuit.
[00:58:50] And you also see in the context of people whose kind of jobs or their, their social identities are dependent on these kinds of moral status-making incidents. So in the book I talk about one, I think she was an academic and she was doing a speech at a university about hate crime and hate speech. And lo and behold, she left the talk and her car had been vandalized with swastikas. And, and it turned out that she did the graffiti herself, the police discovered. She did it all herself, the vandalism. So you can see in that instance that somebody, that her sense of status depends upon there being horrific racists everywhere. And so she's making it happen that there are horrific — mostly they aren't, but she's making it happen in their bucket of raising a status. So you can see that as kind of, yeah, once you understand that morality, virtue is just one way that we gain status for ourselves. Do you understand that the will to be seen as a victim because being a victim can be a very status making thing with our own people who are the people that matter.
[00:59:49] Jordan Harbinger: Right, because it causes our sort of tribe to defend us. But also the subtext is, "Look how important I am. People cared enough to commit crimes against me because of what I'm doing and what I am believing, therefore what I'm doing and believing must be so important that it is a threat to the enemy." It communicates all the right things if you're kind of a shallow status seeking asshole, who's willing to lie to people to gain status in that way.
[01:00:13] Will Storr: Well, that's exactly right. And also, I think there's a fundamental thing about storytelling and, you know, every tribe, every person in every tribe that we belong to, a group we belong to, has stories that tells about the world. The stories are replete with heroes and villains and those stories are never really true. They're always gross simplifications of the reality. I always think about Apple versus PC as a story about how PC people are just silly nerds. And of course, that's not wholly true, you know, but the stories make us feel good about ourselves. These stories basically say we are high status, they're low status. So somebody that comes along and reaffirms that story, that we are the good people and they are the racists, they're going to get all this status. Women are great. Men are terrible, or men are great, women are terrible. If you could tell your group or present your group with a story from your own life that affirms this — I had this terrible thing happen to me that these awful people did to me — just by reaffirming their simplistic story of the world, you're going to gain status.
[01:01:10] Jordan Harbinger: Is there a way to tell, for us to tell what status game we're in and maybe dial it back a little? Because as with many psychological concepts, the more we become aware of it, maybe that's the first step anyway into toning it down or letting it affect us a little bit less. Right? Like if I know other people are just trying to gain status by saying horrible things about my work. Maybe I take those comments with a bit of a grain of salt, instead of thinking like, "Wow, why am I getting attacked? There must be something wrong with me." Well, actually I'm more visible now I'm doing everything right with marketing. And of course, there's going to be people who decide to try and take me down a peg, because of what we just discussed today. Are there sort of practical exercises that people can do or things people can keep in mind in order to make this hurt less, I guess?
[01:01:57] Will Storr: Yeah. I think that as you say that, the first thing is just to know, it's just a game. Just to remind yourself that it's just a game. And the one I always think about from the book is there's this island in Micronesia where the state has got their players growing massive yams and other than they do anymore, they just have this culture of all the men spending all their lives obsessing over who can grow the biggest yam. And of course, it's in their world. That's the most important thing. And they obsess over their yam, their big yam, like I'm obsessing with my writing and you're obsessing with your podcast. But it's just the f*cking yam, you know?
[01:02:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:02:25] Will Storr: It doesn't actually matter that much. And especially if it's people like being mean about you on Reddit or whatever, it actually doesn't matter. You know, it's just symbolic. They are, as you say, they're just showing off to their group. I'm trying to go in status. The other thing I think is really important. You asked about how you can tell what kind of group you're in. And I think it's quite easy in a sense of dominance games are mafias. Always lawyers play dominance games. It's a game of force and coercion. So dominance games are usually pretty bad places to be, you know, an issue on the side of a winning army or something.
[01:02:57] Virtue games are about the enforcement of moral rules. And so virtue games can be amazing. Charities, you could say are virtue games because they're doing virtuous things. For churches, a virtue games, you know, Royal families of virtue games, they're not about competence, Royal family. It's not about success. They're about deference and enforcing the rules and enforcing the hierarchy and making sure everyone's performing the ritual correctly. And success games are businesses. They're scientific endeavors.
[01:03:27] Success games are those games you play that have a specific definition of what success looks like. And it isn't just winning. We are going to write a best-selling book. We're going to create a Coronavirus vaccine with no side effects. It's that. You know, success games really have transformed the world. When you think about modernity, when you think about how the world has become post — you know, the Industrial Revolution was a revolution of success games. It was a revolution in the sense that we stopped playing virtue games. We started getting much less about cost, social background, all that other stuff. And we started playing games of who can build the best bridge, you know, who can create the best internal combustion engine. That's modernity. It's about success games. Probably, if you want to sort of change the world for the better, paradoxically, you don't play virtue games. You don't really want to go and be a priest. What you want to do is you want to play a success game. And if you really want to change the world, you want to play as there are no kinds of pure games.
[01:04:20] Every game is a blend of all of those different forms of status. I think the very best games of virtue-success games. So if you think of a cancel culture mob, that's a virtue-dominance game. They're the worst games because they're about people forcing you to adhere to the rules with threatened pain and punishment. That's cancel culture. That's Hitler. That's the Nazis. That's all of that stuff that we don't like. That's Stalin. Virtue-dominance games are the worst. The virtue-success games are that we are going to use competence to increase good. So charity is a virtue-success game. Somebody's running a marathon for lung cancer or breast cancer or prostate cancer is playing a virtue-success game. Somebody's working for a pharmaceutical company, assuming they're not one of these people that are charging thousands of dollars for asthma inhalers are playing virtuous. You know, the people who designed the Coronavirus vaccines are playing a virtue-success game. You know, we've got this successful end game, but it's for a virtuous end. So I think those are the kind of very best games.
[01:05:17] So there's advice at the end of the book, there's seven rules for playing a status game. And I think two of the most important ones are the first one is to reduce your moral sphere. And by that, I mean, as you've been sort of mentioning throughout, that our conversation is just really easy to make ourselves feel good by tearing other people down. It's really easy to turn on the television to go on Twitter or Reddit or Facebook and make our residence status increase by pulling other people down. And so, you know, reducing your moral sphere is just consciously trying to catch yourself when you're morally judging other people and really trying to focus that moral judgment into yourself. How can I be a better person rather than how can I make myself feel better by nicking out on attacking all these other people. And a more practical one is about kind of ways of being really. When you look at the literature on how people should present in order to succeed in life, there are kind of mixed signals in the literature, but the ones that make sense for the status game are warmth, sincerity, and competence.
[01:06:19] Like if you can show warmth, sincerity, and competence, you're going to win it. And that's because when you're warm, you are implying, "I am not going to play a dominance game with you. You're not going to get any threats from me. I like you. You're in a safe place. You know, I'm not going to start attacking you or threatening you." So that's dominance. Sincerity is I'm going to level with you. So sincerity isn't just being nice, it's being, "I'm going to be honest with you. I'm going to tell you when things are going badly, and I'm going to tell you when things are going well. So I'm not going to be kind of morally unfair to you."
[01:06:48] And then of course, competency is just success. I'm going to be, I'm going to be useful to the group. I'm going to show skill and you learn some skills from me and together we're going to increase the status of our group. So warmth, sincerity, and competence to me is that this kind of magic triumvirate that I think, of course, it's easier said than done. But I think it's a goal to aim for, if you want to win in the status game of life, those are the three qualities which we should be working on.
[01:07:14] Jordan Harbinger: Well, thank you very much for your time. I wish you all the success in the world with the book. And may you grow the largest yam among all of the other writers in your neighborhood.
[01:07:22] Will Storr: Thank you Jordan, I wish you the largest yam in the world of podcasts making. Thank you so much for the great chat and for engaging with the book. I really appreciate that.
[01:07:33] Jordan Harbinger: Now here's a trailer with Charles Ryu here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[01:07:37] Charles Ryu: When I was 14, I got my first opportunity to escape North Korea and go to China. Police came to our house. I'm getting deported to North Korea. I got transported to a detention center. They have been brainwashing us for nine months. I started working in a coal mine while I was paid only in rice. So one morning, instead of entering the mine, I walked up the path and began running and in the distance, I saw a train come to a stop. This is my chance. I need to get on that train. I finally made it to the Bordertown. I'm ready to determine the next day. Right? I walked into the river that divides North Korea and China, which is Yellow River. And then I slowly walked into the water. I slipped on a rock and let out a scream. A flashlight was on my back. And I heard a soldier screaming at me.
[01:08:24] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[01:08:25] Charles Ryu: [Foreign Language] Stop, stop. or I will shoot. The guard kept screaming at me, but he never pulled the trigger. And then I went into the cornfield. I'm in China now. So I embarked on a long journey to Southeast Asia. I got to Thailand. That was the best day of my life, going to Thai prison. And then I was trying to apply for South Korea, but they didn't recognize me as a refugee. And they're like, "We would have to send you back to China." Chinese government sent me back to North Korea, but those guys don't want to help me.
[01:08:57] Jordan Harbinger: And that's just the tip of the iceberg. He escaped the police. He had to run with the secret police in China. I mean, this guy just has an absolutely amazing sense of survival and story. And that's episode 84 with Charles Ryu: Confessions of a North Korean escape artist, part one and part two episode 84 of The Jordan Harbinger Show. Make sure you check it out.
[01:09:18] Status is a subject that has always fascinated me. I mean, look, when I was teaching the dating skills and all that stuff, status was the number one thing. And it's so nuanced. You know, we're not evolved for modern day status games, but we are still wired to resent others because of the imbalance and that alone causes so many problems in society. It causes self-esteem issues in men and women. And it's important to remember that status is always contextual, right? The highest status monk has fewer fancy ties and cars than a junior investment banker does. So it's always there. It's always sort of omnipresent. Status is never ending. Paul McCartney famously had all these status issues about where his name appeared on the albums that he was creating. It's like, "Dude, you're in the Beatles. You're one of the most legendary musicians of all time. And you're worried about whether you come first or second." I think the thing is with status, it's never possessed, right? It's given and it can always be removed. Hence, the constant chase for it.
[01:10:13] This is precisely what makes it so freaking dangerous and detrimental to our sanity and to our society, right? I mean, we feel it when we thirst for revenge, when we're humiliated, many of us only care about status when our status is threatened, never any other time. Andof course, you get rid of this by raising your status. We have rivalries that can be destructive instead of encouraging people to compete in a healthy way for status. We also have cults and we have anti-vax groups. And these groups, they give status and people in those groups increase their beliefs because of this status. Not because of sound science or because it's the best way to spiritual enlightenment or whatever the cult or group is but because of status and that makes it very, very hard to change beliefs when you're already in the group.
[01:10:57] And this isn't just for stupid people, right? Smart people are actually really good at rationalizing and supporting a belief that they already have. And of course, when you try and leave the group, you end up losing your status and in places where status is given and taken away, we can be vulnerable to believe almost anything because status is so important to us as humans. So that's why a lot of us end up with these sacred beliefs, these weird, sacred beliefs that are actually against our interests, right? They can be carriers of status. They're irrational. They're very hard to change. And it causes us to vilify out-groups with different beliefs, with beliefs that are not our own.
[01:11:34] The book also covers status drunkenness is of course there's some interesting examples in there of, you know, Kim Jong-un and Turkmenbashi who renamed words and days after himself and calendars, Imelda Marcos, Gaddafi, I mean, any dictators, really kind of a study in status drunkenness. Cults and status covered in the book as well. Of course, our minds seek certainty rules are absolute in the status path, right? When you're in a cult, it is supposedly anyway, set in stone. So that is, what's so comforting about a lot of this, right? Usually the reward and the after life is status above all other mortals, association with the cult leader. Of course, they're the highest status, right? So there are just so many interesting elements that status touches in our society.
[01:12:15] A lot of things that are not totally gross and unhealthy, like the examples I'm listing here, but I mean, those are always the most interesting, right? Like who are we interested in more the Boy Scouts or freaking ISIS? So one of these groups is legit going to be talked about more than the other, especially in this day and age. And humans do not seek equality. This is a myth. They seek status and they seek dominance. Even genocides aren't about cleansing the land of enemies and all this other BS rhetoric. They're about propping up the people who felt humiliated before. Like, communists, they are against the wealthier classes because they've been humiliated by them. Nazis, they were supposedly humiliated by Jews and others, but really this is all these kinds of a head fake. Rwandans were humiliated supposedly against higher casts which were the Tutsi.
[01:13:00] So really this can lead us down some dark paths, but remember being different or original can get us status without playing the same game as everyone else. And that is why not to be too cheesy here, but I do encourage you to follow your own north star, right? When I created my career here as a broadcaster, this was not something that was even supposed to be possible. I tried the other path, get a job on Wall Street, go to a great law school and try and accumulate tons of money and buy accoutrements of the wealthy. None of that was for me, that's a status game. I'm now in a different status game, but it's almost by accident. I can tell you right now that I am much, much happier than I would have been, and that anybody I knew who's still in that game is right now. So the key, the antidote to a lot of the misery caused by status is being different and original and realizing that since this game has never ending and since you can never truly possess it, the best thing to do is not try to ignore it or ignore your drive for it as a human, but to do what it takes to accomplish and achieve it, and to acquire that status in your own way. Remember, no one wins the status game. Life is just playing it.
[01:14:10] Big thank you to Will Storr. Links to the book will be in the website in the show notes. Please use our website links if you buy the books. Those always help support the show. Worksheets for the episodes are in the show notes. Transcripts, those in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. Our clips channel with highlights that never make it anywhere else is at jordanharbinger.com/clips. A lot of cuts that don't make it to the show there.
[01:14:32] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same system, software, and tiny habits that I use. The same ones that I use to book the guests, the same ones I use to build the business. It's a free course. There's no garbage. I don't need your money. All right. Jordanharbinger.com/course is where it is free. Dig the well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course. They contribute to this course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. Get that status.
[01:14:58] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. And my amazing team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show, I want you to share it with other people. If you find something useful or interesting, you'd like the status thing, you think other people are chasing it too much, share this episode with them. I hope you find something great in every episode of the show. Please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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