vanity frivolousness and business


What is “fashion” anyways, but a celebration of vanity and frivolousness?

We should pursue higher truths: let us shed the falseness of apparel, together, and writhe naked on this carpet.


Sarah Jeong


“You have scattered your awareness in all directions,
and your vanities are not worth a bit of cabbage.
The root of every thorn draws
the water of your attention toward itself.
How will the water of your attention reach the fruit?
Cut through the evil roots, cut them away.
Direct the Bounty of God to spirit and insight,
not to the knotted and broken world outside.”




Well. This is an odd thought in a business world in which seems infatuated with efficiency, obsessive measurement and productivity – I believe it has been caught up in the frivolous. I believe it has been caught up in vanity. I believe it has been caught up in being a fashion business. The fashion business (you may say)?:

Both seem to teeter on the edge of frivolousness.

Both seem to pander to the ego.

Both seem to push the envelope in what they showcase all the while showcasing that which is not really helpful for the general public on an everyday basis.

Both seem to embrace style over substance

Both seem to believe perception is more important than reality

Both seem to have a wandering moral compass.

Both seem to have an uncomfortably disproportionate effect on us <society>.


Numbers matter to both. What they have in similar is their attitude toward gaining those numbers. Suffice it to say I am not suggesting this as a compliment. Frivolousness and vanity in business leads to charismatic, but incompetent leadership and dashboard, not deeper learning, based decision-making.

It also leads to a lack of substantive moral guardrails.

And, yes, a business, and an industry, can have a moral compass. I say that because most industries do play by some ‘rules.’ And a portion of those rules are dictated by the industry moral compass. And by rules I don’t mean lying versus not lying and having some sense of overall responsibility to how they sell what it is they are selling, but rather an overall sense of higher ethics.

This is tricky. Maybe trickier than it looks on the surface.

Ethics could very very easily reside in ‘truth.’ But instead I would argue that if you are an industry in which you know you have a larger impact than just selling what it is you have to sell, that you have a responsibility to a higher order of ethics.

** note: I struggle to think of an industry that does not qualify for this thought, but I left an opening for anyone who wants to argue they do not qualify to higher order of ethics.

I worked in advertising for a long time in my career. So I understand the responsibility to something more than ‘selling shit’ <which was my compass early in my career>.  The responsibility resides more in understanding that what you say and what you show and what you ‘sell’ makes an impact with regard to attitudes, i.e., how people think which creates some societal impact.

This is where frivolousness rears its ugly head.

Many people in fashion and business think about this and assess their actions on the moment as in “I have a responsibility to the moment.” Or. “I have a responsibility to the project objective.”

That is the easy path.

The lazy path.

And that is the shortcut that detours you around that beautiful little park which seems to have fewer and fewer visitors to what I will call “moral responsibility park.”

Each frivolous moment creates a ripple. Yes. EACH moment.

And, yes, if you look at it that way it can become a little overwhelming and possibly it creates some issues with regard to what you may actually do, or not do, in that moment.

And, yes, the lack of frivolousness, or vanity seeking, may even mean you take a moment and decide ‘damn, but this would have sold some shit <or reached the objective faster>.

I will be honest.

I am not sure if I am discussing fashion’s inordinate desire to celebrate moments of vanity <which is actually a frivolous approach to their business and overall responsibility> or if this is an overall ignorance of lack of responsibility <or possibly lack of understanding> of a higher responsibility that what they do and say each moment has an impact>.

I can almost assuredly say that these days business seems to be fighting not only for some rational valued place in society <as both appear to be relegated to frivolous irrational/emotional less-than-meaningful status> and, therefore, while no one is noting it — internally both are fighting to find their inner compass.

This should be important not only to them, but to us.

Their vertigo, i.e., without being grounded in some way with morality each step and only grounded to some number or numbers, doesn’t just make them dizzy, but also creates a spinning in overall societal attitudes with regard to what is important and what is truly happening around us <outside our own sphere of activity and experiences>.


Vertigo is when a person feels as if they or the objects around them are moving when they are not.

Often it feels like a spinning or swaying movement. This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, or difficulties walking. It is typically worsened when the head is moved. Vertigo is the most common type of dizziness.


Now, at the core of their dizziness is ‘the light headedness associated with the celebration of vanity.’

They become so fixated on the dual glittering spectacle of that which they seek to sell and that who is, well, themselves.

Ok. While I could editorialize about the misguided ego of that which is fashion and business, I believe I will talk about some specifics. Because it is lazy to simply heap disdainful opinion upon the empty carcasses of fashion and business.

I want to discuss some specifics because when business gets it wrong, when they stray gleefully into vanity & frivolousness across our lives, they can fuck us, people, up.

What is a key way business fucks us up? Their advertising sucks.

Worse? Their advertising may actually dictate some social norms and beliefs.

Yeah. Advertising can do that.

And if they kept their vapid efforts to themselves it would be okay, but then they convince someone else to do something “artsy” to create “buzz” and be “cool” and, well, my quotation mark key is getting worn out.

Look. I am not disregarding personal responsibility with regard to electing what is important to us and what is not. But if you are continuously being pounded with:

  • images and words depicting what is not only socially acceptable, but what is socially desirable
  • hollow messaging depicting vanity dashboard numbers in a conference room, but generate substantive behavior/attitude responses

You will inevitably get people to begin thinking it is truth <or maybe even just thinking that it is possibly truth>. It is a seductive path to walk. And none of us … yes … NONE of us are immune to this seduction. We eye it equally with trepidation and thoughts of possibilities. and in doing so it creates images of, well, false glory and vanity.


False glory is the rock of vanity; it seduces men to affect esteem by things which they indeed possess, but which are frivolous, and which for a man to value himself on would be a scandalous error.

Jean de la Bruyere


By the way, this is human, this is not some sign of weakness or of lack of self identity – this is real world ‘me & you’ attitude stuff. Don’t laugh. Don’t think you are immune to it. It is how we think. That doesn’t mean you can’t fight it off but, trust me, their frivolousness is insipid and wily and is constantly trying to sneak into our thoughts and attitudes to encourage us to be frivolous and vain.

By the way.

I note that last thought because that is where I believe fashion’s lack of responsibility is, well, almost unforgivable. Unforgiveable because my guess is that in the back room discussion this never even comes up in the conversation.

Shame on them.

By the way.

I note that last thought on fashion’s lack of responsibility to point out that what business does, in general, is not unforgivable, but reprehensible. Reprehensible because I know, having been in the ‘backroom’ that this discussion rarely comes up and that is reprehensible because they actually know better.

I can wag my finger and shake my head at fashion and business because their moral relativism <or lack of moral responsibility> actually falls into the same trap they are driving society into — their vanity and self esteem. I am constantly amazed each industry is simultaneously preoccupied with the appearance of its own body and at the same time completely out of touch with it as well.


“It’s amazing to me that we can be simultaneously completely preoccupied with the appearance of our own body and at the same time completely out of touch with it as well. “

Jon Kabat-Zinn


They celebrate their own vanity and frivolousness because they have lost sight of their moral compass. Or at least they have lost sight of the higher moral responsibility.

Let me be clear.

What I am discussing today matters.

It matters because while we would like to flippantly relegate fashion and business to some irrelevant chatter occurring on the edges of Life — neither are irrelevant and neither are just chatter.

They impact society way beyond informing our opinions; they inform an impact our attitudes. And, yes, attitudes impact our behavior. Our behavior with regard to not only ourselves <how we look, eat, dress, think, buy and do things>, but also with regard to those around us <how we view how they look, what they eat, how they dress, what they think, what they buy and what they do>.

Both fashion and business absolve themselves of the higher order responsibility with words like “we want to inform people so they are better aware of their options.’

What bullshit.

That is simply their excuse to do whatever they want in the moment <short term decision making>.

That is simply their excuse for “making their numbers” <or ‘following what the numbers told them to do’>.

That is simply their excuse for conducting business frivolously.

That is simply their excuse for short-term attitude or ‘managing/maximizing the moment’ business which is simply moral relativism.

Shame on them.

To circle back to the beginning … my advice to fashion & business is “cut through the evil roots, cut them away …  and  pursue higher truths: let us shed the falseness.”

Running business by ‘moments’ is not only seductive, but frivolous, and only leads to moral relativism. Running a business with a frivolous attitude is, ultimately, one of vanity. I would suggest that frivolousness and vanity are neither a higher path – to self-value or to long term business value.

Ponder. Choose wisely.

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Written by Bruce