9.11.2013

Hamster Wheel to Eternal Damnation (Rough Draft)

I took an hour long bike ride during lunch today and during it, I had the idea for this post. Wisely, I pulled over to the side of the bike path to e-mail it to myself, so I would not forget, even though that slightly hurt my pace on MAP MY RIDE.

I have been exploring the concept of FREE AGENCY as part of my book writing project (tentative title: My Life Among the Corporate Cube Drones: How to Survive, Thrive, and Even Transcend Corporate America). The idea of choice ties into the idea of stress (stress is correlated with lack of choice and also too much choice). So these are just concepts, to be distilled later when I put the final draft of the book together for Kindle.

In college, there were some classes that were mandatory prerequisites to graduate. You had to take them and pass them. Many students often took these classes grudgingly and did the bare minimum to get by with a passing grade, because they felt they knew more than the academic administrators who designed the curriculum to maximize the education of students. Had these students spent as much time applying themselves to the course material as they did complaining about the poor judgment of the university administration, they probably would have aced these classes. Most of them were, by design, very basic conceptual courses.

But some people are psychologically hard wired to resist coercion. They push back on the perception of not having a choice, sometimes to their own detriment. These students bitched and moaned because not to do so would have been to admit defeat and acceptance of one's mandated lot in life.

Other students accept the lack of choice gleefully. They like that someone else has done the hard work of choosing the best courses to produce a well rounded adult, ready to enter the work force.

In corporate America, you see both personality types as well. Some people need hand holding and others prefer freedom and autonomy. I think the proportion of each kind of person is dependent on the circumstances and the environment. College kids are full of hope and idealism and naivete, for the most part. Their souls are alive and vibrant. They feel entitled. They resist compulsion and like having choices. It must be a thankless job to teach a mandatory prerequisite course at a college or university.

On the other hand, some courses in college are "electives." These are courses you have a choice to take, which count toward your total credits to graduate. There are usually tons of electives, such that most students' intellectual or artistic passions can be pursued. Electives represent CHOICE vs. the choice-less mandates of required classes. When you sign up for an elective class, you make a choice and by doing so, you take ownership for your own behavior and the resulting consequences. You have no one to blame but yourself if you don't like the class or don't do well in it. The hands of the college administrators are clean in the case of electives. You can whine and complain that the course it too hard and you can even choose to give up and fail the course. But when you choose to take an elective class, you own it.

You can fail or you can put in the time and effort to succeed and even excel at the class. In a mandatory prerequisite class, you can deny ownership and blame external factors if you don't apply yourself and thereby fail. But you cannot escape ownership in a class you willfully elected to take. Most students in elective classes are there because they want to be, and they expect to get something out of it to become more self actualized human beings. No one said these classes would be easy, but you made a choice and therefore you take full responsibility for the outcome.

Corporate America is much the same.

When young people join corporate America fresh out of college, they are full of piss and vinegar, optimistic at having completed one of life's rites of passage (college) and excited to move into the productive money making years of life. They are optimistic and idealistic and ready to change the world, as they were told they would have the option to do during their college years and probably during their college graduation, as well.

But corporate America is not college. It is a conservative environment, homogenous and designed to make money for stakeholders. There are things that work and things that don't and no one wants to take risks that put their jobs or reputations on the line. Management tries to maintain a status quo and this depends on obedient, complacent employees. So over time, corporate workers become obedient and complacent, going to work day after day no longer to change the world and make a difference, but just to make money, pay bills, and raise families.

The joy or pleasure they may have once hoped they would get from a job slowly shrinks to a nostalgic throb somewhere in the lower abdomen, in a state of torpor. They work only to live and survive, like a heroin addict, where the drug is money and promotion and the elusive prize of one day winning the Rat Race.

But the Rat Race becomes more of a hamster wheel to eternal damnation.

Have you or anyone you know won the rat race yet?

What does winning the Rat Race look like?

Isn't there always bigger, better, faster, more?

A soon as you think you are getting close to achieving the American Dream, the goal post moves again, and you keep running to keep up.

There is always a new necessity, a new toy or technology, a new desire to be fulfilled with material wealth.

It seems to me, the only way to win the Rat Race is to stop running it, to say, "I am not playing anymore," and get off the hamster wheel.

Being in the Rat Race is the surest way to lose it. Is retirement the goal? When you are old, will you look back and say, "I should have spent more time in the office?" Or will you say, "I should have spent more time with my family and pursuing my passions and dreams?"

Get off the hamster wheel. You don't have to have more to be happy. Be happy with enough and say enough is enough.

That'll do.

Joe

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