It is one thing to get a qualification or a diploma because it grants you entry through some gate — perhaps corporate employment. It is quite another thing to actually believe that you are automatically smarter or learned by virtue of it. Understanding this is the difference between playing the fool or being the fool.


Modernity often elevates spurious indicators of value above the actual things of value themselves. Whether it is mainstream education valuing grades over true learning or the corporate job market valuing diplomas over passion and skill, we so often mistake poor copies for the real thing.

True learning being subordinated to narrow exam results is certainly undesirable for society as a whole. But from an individual perspective, it may still be a strategy that allows career advancement — acting as a form of signalling. So, it continues.

Playing the fool

Choosing a certain path as a form of signalling may be something that you wish to do. Fair enough. However, do not delude yourself about the truth of the matter. Do not confuse the signal for the actual thing, lest it become like eating the menu confusing it for the food. Or worse, like eating yesterday’s newspaper thinking it is the food.

Playing the fool without being the fool can be a tricky business. Particularly when your choices begin to impact how you relate to yourself and how you live.

A dangerous game

One such fundamental area is mistaking external status achievements for inner fulfilment. Believing that happiness is really a product of reaching some arbitrary mountain top outside of you, rather than something that comes from within — a product of your inner state.

You may acquire status as a by-product of your life activities, but if you start to base your self-worth on it, you are now beginning to fool yourself.

Playing the fool or being the fool

So, playing the fool for a long time might actually lead to becoming the fool. Because you have forgotten that you were only playing the fool in the first place!

Our unique individual circumstances may require us to make certain choices based on the cards we’ve been dealt. Whatever these choices may be, you can really empower yourself by being clear about them. By acknowledging the difference between spurious indicators and the real thing, and when you are dealing with which.

Be aware

Always remember to consider if you are just playing the fool or being the fool. Forgetting to do so is the quick path to getting lost in world of confusing spurious signals. Only a commitment to cultivating a deeper awareness of yourself and your world can help you navigate all this.


life coaching londonHarsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.