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What I'm reading #14: The only scorecard that matters

By Sam Instone - April 07, 2022

Grigori Perelman, a Russian mathematician who solved a key piece in a century-old puzzle known as the'Poincare Conjecture', was one of the four mathematicians awarded the Fields medal (the mathematical equivalent of the Nobel Prize) in 2006.

But he refused to accept the medal like he had other honours.

The President of the International Mathematical Union tried to persuade otherwise.

But Perelman told him,

"The prize was completely irrelevant to me. If the proof is correct, then no other recognition is needed. I am not interested in money or fame."

Perelman single-mindedly dedicated, practically in isolation, seven years of his life to solving this problem.

Absolutely nothing else mattered to him.

What's your scorecard?

Perelman's act of disregarding external validation for his work, is testimony to what Warren Buffett calls living with an "inner scorecard."

As he told his biographer, Alice Schroeder,

“The big question about how people behave is whether they have got an Inner Scorecard or an Outer Scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an Inner Scorecard."

Think about this.

Would you rather be the world’s greatest investor, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst?


Would you rather be the world’s worst investor, but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest?

Interesting question, isn't it?

Most of us often want both.

Not only do we want to be good at what we do, but we also want people to think we are and see us that way.

In fact, we often place greater emphasis on others thinking we are doing well, than on actually doing well.

Social media has taken this idea to a different level.

Due to the increasing connectedness of the world, we're not only starving for recognition in person...

But our biggest happiness now comes from how many followers we have and how many likes we get.

Even when from total strangers.

Knowing who you are

What drives this constant need for external validation is living with an outer scorecard.

This is an external measure of success.

Maintaining an outer scorecard means acting according to concerns about how the world sees you.

An inner scorecard is intrinsic.

It defines who you are at the core of your values and beliefs.

When you live with an inner scorecard, you focus on being the most authentic version of yourself.

And even when you do this, the reaction you receive from others might be annoyance, disrespect, and jealousy.

If you're not living with an inner scorecard, these responses can be crushing.

But with an inner scorecard, you find joy and satisfaction in everything you do...

And don't need to look to anywhere (or anyone) else for happiness, but within.


"Most people get it backwards and seek the admiration of the collective and something called a good reputation at the expense of self-worth for, alas, the two are in frequent conflict under modernity."

- Nassim Taleb

"Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovelyor to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love."

- Adam Smith

Further reading

The Psychology of Money' by Morgan Housel

How to safeguard your family’s financial future

What I'm reading #4: A powerful force shaping your behaviour

Goals vs. capital: Are yours aligned?

Retirement planning for affluent expats: The right balance between spending and saving