Level 5 – Orange

“Express self now calculatedly so as not to arouse the ire of others.”

While many people refer to L5-Orange as “Materialistic,” I think it’s probably more appropriate to talk about it as a system of “material ambition.” Whereas L3 expressed themselves impulsively with no thought about others, L5 has the L4 layer underneath which allows it to practice critical thinking and evaluate or calculate the effects of their actions beforehand. This ability to pre-calculate the results of actions, and choose actions based on those calculations is often referred to as manipulation.

If you think of each system as a reaction/outgrowth to previous one, then L5 will be a reaction to, and an outgrowth of, the strict conformity and order of L4. When the structure of “rules for everything” becomes too limiting, the individual member of the L4 community will break away and begin to seek his/her own way.

Where L3 was concerned with adjusting to the first blossoming of self-awareness, L5 has moved beyond simply staking out what is mine, and moved on to conquering the entirety of the physical universe. There are no boundaries to this system’s ambition – which has been publicized as both “Blind Ambition” as it applied to Richard Nixon, and “Blond Ambition” as it applied to Madonna.

The problems of existence at L5 are problems of abundance. L4 lived in a world where the market was based on scarcity. We had to control distribution to make sure everyone got their fair share or their fair chance. The work ethic was firmly in place, and those who worked the long and hard hours were the ones who were living comfortably. Those who weren’t willing to put their blood and sweat into it – did without. At L5, abundance has taken over. The world is seemingly overflowing with natural and human resources, just waiting to be used by those with enough know-how and ambition to take advantage of them.

L5 is more concerned with causes and effects, or with needs and results than it is with ideas, beliefs, values, and theories. This kind of pragmatism, built on the critical thought of L4 and the competitive instincts of L3, gives L5 the perfect perspective to find the best of all available alternatives in any situation. Whatever will get L5 the most advances, the most progress, the most material gain – that’s the path it willchoose. L5 is the birthplace of WEW – What Ever Works. Whatever gets you the results you’re after. Whatever gets you the most money. Whatever gets you through the night. Whatever gets you your fifteen minutes of fame. Whatever gets the recognition and the prestige.

As an odd numbered system, the response to a world full of untapped resources and boundless possibility is self-motivation, self-promotion, entrepreneurism, a free market, and policies of continuous improvement. L5 is where the machinery of business is fine tuned and polished.

Where there is an abundance of goods and resources, there will follow an abundance of bureaucracy, people movers, and personal services. Capitalism is the religion, and bankers, lawyers, and entrepreneurs are the priesthood. The coping mechanism for a world of so many possibilities and opportunities for conquest is management.

In the L5 world where time is a seen as currency to be spent on worthwhile investments, this commodity becomes worthy of a special kind of management. The concept of managing time was unheard of at L4 – where time was used in the “to everything there is a season” manner. Calendars were something used to mark the passage of time rather than schedule and plan with shrewd business sense. At L5 it becomes possible to be clever and adroit with time, using it to advantage, and using it as an investment as tangible as dollars and cents. Using time well to cope with the abundance of choices and possibilities is one of the most obvious indicators of L5 in full flower. Especially since the mantra of the L5 religion is “busy busy busy.” Look around for Dayrunners, Daytimers, and those handy little electronic Timekeepers and you’ll be looking at L5 managing its time in the same way it manages its checkbook.

If L2 is motivated toward safety, and L3 is motivated toward its own psychological independence; L4 is motivated toward order and Truth (and away from punishment); then L5 is motivated toward progress and success. More than any previous level, L5 is motivated by possibility. Possibility and progress are viewed as blood brothers, in constant service to each other.

The most obvious motivator for L5 is the tangible reward. Acquisition matters. Markers of success matter. Proof and evidence matter. Designer fashions matter. Driving the right car matters. Eating in the right restaurants matters. Shopping in the right stores and living in the right neighborhood matters. Sending your kids to the right school matters. Being seen at the right places with the right people, and at the right functions for the right causes matters. One-ups-man-ship is an L5 game, and “The one with the most toys when he dies – wins” is an L5 joke on an L5T-shirt. The concept of “keeping up with the Jones’s” belongs to this system, as do such words as “Young Urban Professional” (Yuppie,) “Double Income No Kids” (Dink,) and the always popular, “Young Upwardly-Mobile Professionals” (Yumps.)

Whereas justice and respect for the law are strong motivators for L4, the litigious society where lawsuits are filed for profit and revenge is L5 in origin. The whole battle over “frivolous lawsuits” and other aberrations of justice in the name of profit is an L4 vs. L5 problem. The cringing truth of lawyer jokes is a result of the migration of the profession from L4 to L5.

Even though many in the throws of L5 get caught up in things and stuff – the evidences of success – the bottom line in L5 motivation is the bottom line. L5 loves to show a profit at the end of the day. And the end of the week. And the quarter. And every quarter thereafter. There is tremendous motivation toward efficiency, economy, and investment return. Getting results is the supreme test for L5 success.

But more than any of these, there is a motivation upward. The quest for more recognition, more authority, and more territory to conquer (and thus more rewards when the job is done) is so strong that L5 is sometimes willing to put home, family (L2); personal desires (L3); and/or ethics and integrity (L4) off the table if they interfere with their L5 quest. L5 will risk everything in its quest for the top of the heap. It takes a sturdy and well balanced individual, with a fully integrated L2, L3, and L4 to stand up to the temptation to succeed at any cost. In a world that has everything to offer, and where everything is possible – the advertising slogan: “Just Do It”may be the strongest motivation of all.

A professional teaching future professionals marketable skills, including the ability to do objective research to further science and technology.

When L5 is lived in a healthy and complete way, there will be a well-developed sense of ambition, and a sense of identity based on personal accomplishment. It learns to manage others, and to manage the benefits it has reaped from its successes. This means generosity and philanthropy will appear, though not necessarily for the purpose of benefiting others as much as for the social and political benefits to the L5 self. When lived well, L5 will attempt to balance professional and personal life, giving its best to both.

If L5 is missing or incomplete, there can be an over-attention to possessions and an inappropriate reaction to wealth and achievement. This reaction may take the form of greed, or extravagant spending. Done badly, L5’s work-a-holic habits may damage relationships, and in the absence of material acquisition, or when ambition fails, there may be self-depreciation and even self destruction.

The strongest global examples of L5 in action occurred in the last two decades of the Twentieth Century. The collapse of the former Soviet Union signaled an end of L4 dominance there, and a turn toward the free market, and toward the individual freedoms associated with the odd numbered systems. Because these freedoms are taken, acquired, or at least accepted individually, rather than being granted or earned, the radical move from L4 to L5 by a society is a difficult and complex task. The need to enter the global market rather than continue in relative isolation was a substantial choice, met with the opposition and resistance of staunch L4 forces across the former Soviet Union.

The resistance there was nothing compared to the resistance met by the students marching on Square in China. There, L5 was strong in individuals, yet those individuals were in an overwhelming minority – and a relatively powerless minority at that – dominance by the old L4 status quo was quick and thorough. L5 had emerged in the young student population, but not in the military and the city dwellers who watched, hidden, from the shadows. The L4 military, in some cases the fathers and brothers of those marching, were fighting for the one (and only) Truth with a capital T; while the students were marching for possibility – the enemy of inflexibility.

American capitalism of the Reagan era was heavily influenced by L5 voices – lobbies for powerful money machines exercising more influence than the needs of individuals. A Gulf War fought as much (or more) for the oil industry than for the good of any people, or some ultimate moral dilemma, is a strong L5 case.

Another remarkable example of L5 sweeping across the landscape came when capitalism got a good look at the internet. Up until mid 1993, the internet was the non-graphic and not particularly user-friendly tool of scientists, academics, and government agencies, used to transmit research and information. In the hands of the L5 system, however, it became America Online, the World Wide Web, Netscape Navigator, the Electronic Wall Street Journal,, Yahoo, the Hollywood Stock Exchange, the Internet Chef, and Thanks to L5 ingenuity, you can do your banking, beef up your stock portfolio, stock up your beef freezer, unfreeze assets, and buy yourself a new sofa – and you can do it with your handy-dandy L5 money (the credit card) protected by a triple encryption on your handy-dandy L5 communication system (the personal computer).

L5 loves technology. Everything from laptop computers and the internet, to electronic musical instruments, new recording media, robotics, calculators and microchip-run Daytimers, microwave ovens, video games, electronic guidance systems on automobiles, food processors, cellular telephones and beepers, space shuttles, and Concord airplanes. These are the toys at L5 because they make getting to the bottom line faster, easier, and at the very least, sexier. This is technology not just for the sake of discovery, and not even for the sake of utility alone, because each toy is its own symbol of status earned and universe conquered.

Organizationally, L5 is the direct descendant of L4’s bureaucracy. It takes that bureaucracy which divides the lower classes of workers from the higher, and makes the divisions malleable. Because L5 believes anything is possible, it believes that the strata of bureaucracy do not represent a permanent class distinction as they did in L4. L5 believes the pyramid of authority and responsibility is scaleable. The ladder of success. In L5, it is a real and tangible possibility for the kid in the Mailroom to succeed in business and work his way up to the Board Room.

Whereas L4 believed that working harder was the key to a happy and fulfilled life, L5 believes working smarter is the magic ticket. Instead of remaining in a stagnant position for a lifelong career, L5 will take whatever route provides the fastest movement – and may include lateral changes as well as those that go straight up.

Since L5 is willing to do whatever works, it will climb to better itself in a passionate “by hook or by crook” manner. The cleanest and most characteristic method of climbing is L5’s ability to network. It makes connections and contacts; remembers names and favorite foods and wines; it knows the athletic teams its contacts support, and the names of their children. It trades and collects favors, accumulating influence as it goes, building a network of friends, colleagues, supporters, debtors, experts, followers, hangers-on, and mentors.

Because L5 is a system of specialists, this networking becomes increasingly important to daily function. In order to rise to the top faster – and to create a broader top layer – L5’s become experts in one particular area so they can be the best in that area. As a result, L5 physicians may be experts at diagnosis, but have no bedside manner or skill in treatment. One might specialize in premature births, but have to call in an associate expert to deal with multiple births. The days of generalization seen in L4 disappear in an L5 culture where narrow areas of expertise are viewed as most important. What this structure provides, is both an opportunity to network on a daily basis, and an opportunity for society to reap the benefits of this kind of aggressive learning and innovation.

What was a simple organization chart in L4, becomes a web of interconnected influence and responsibility in L5. One specialist may be accountable to several managers, possibly at different levels of authority. Departments and divisions may routinely exchange or share personnel who have special skills or experience; employees who share similar responsibilities may work together to improve their skill levels or to clarify responsibilities; and work may be subject to approval by a variety of managers who aim for the bottom line through efficient use of both personnel and expertise.

The climb may be direct or indirect, by whole steps or incremental steps, and at a steady or erratic pace. The only real constant is movement.

The L5 individual is the great egocentric complainer of our time. For L5, there is never enough time to do all that needs to be done. In truth, however, it is more what L5 wants to get done, rather than needs. In a worldview of infinite possibility, there is an infinite amount of busy-ness to be involved in.

L5, in its willing eagerness to do whatever it takes to move forward, up and beyond, may accumulate more than favors. Guilt, anger, fear, anxiety, frustration, stress, panic, depression, and other emotional dysfunctions are so common in this system that L5 welcomes the arrival of yet another service profession: the counselor / therapist. In L4, troubles were met with prayer (both individual and the prayers of the group) or with simply working harder and longer. In L5, however, the solution must be generated by the individual, so in a time of crisis or emotional stress, they go looking for an expert – someone who specializes in dealing with the problems of mind and emotion.

In the same way that L3 produced soldiers and competitors, and L4 produced lawyers, preachers, and law enforcers, L5 produces counselors, managers, and specialists. The forgiveness once offered by the L4 church is replaced by justification through therapy and twelve-step programs. In a therapeutic situation, L5 can walk into a neutral territory and vent problems, then walk out, giving them no more thought until that same hour the next week. Most L5 therapy is more like paying for L2 friendship or family, an hour at a time instead of devoting the time a fully realized L2 would require. By paying for someone to trust with innermost thoughts and fears, L5 gets some of the benefit at a reasonable hourly rate without sacrificing their most valuable commodity – time.

On film, L5 has enjoyed a variety of representations, from the most extreme personification of greed in Michael Douglass’ portrayal of Gordon Gecko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street (1987), to Danny DeVito’s doughnut loving, Larry the Liquidator, in Norman Jewison’s Other People’s Money (1991.) Not all movie-L5s are greedy financiers, but that aspect of L5 provides easy contrast when writers are trying to make a point about one of the even numbered levels.

1. Is income level, possession, status/position, and/or achievement a motivation for work?
2. Is there philanthropic and charitable use of funds and status (as opposed to time)?
3. Is there management of time and other resources?
4. Is there delegation of responsibility to specialists?


The conscious L5 is so eager for more that it has no time just to live, and its obsession to redo the world in some more convenient, artificial form crowds out the natural.. Its unconscious complement is thus what it excludes, the archetype Life, often personified as a male (animus) or female (anima), who revitalizes a partner’s overly busy, artificialized existence, Think back to 1979’s Electric Horseman, where Robert Redford’s alcoholic, has-been, rodeo cowboy bucks the entire L5 world of commercialism by horsenapping a prize winning steed who has been put to pasture in boxed cereal advertisements and gaudy, electrified barding. Unlike L2 with its shamanic trances or L4 with its ritualized prayer, L5 prefers quick routes to the unconscious through technology (e.g., alcohol and other drugs). Having followed this fast track, Redford’s character has lost interest in professional success as a pseudo-cowboy and acquired enough charisma from the psychic depths to fascinate and convert Jane Fonda’s character. Significantly, the focus is appreciation of a beautiful horse. If his mission became a conscious program to free all animals from captivity, he would have moved through the threshold to the next level. Like L6, he is nostalgic for the values and aesthetic splendor technology bulldozes. Instead of quite becoming an L6, however, he acts compulsively and intuitively, fighting the diminishment of Life.


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