People say I'm the life of the party
Because I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I'm blue
I'd like to think that I add value to the world I live in with the rest of you. I'd like to think that the things I've done in my career and in life have had a positive impact - provincial policies changed, projects realized, countless individuals mentored and supported in their growth trajectories.
The events I've organized on my own have been copied by others, which means they were good ideas, right? The events I've supported have surely taken on added life through my contributions. My blog posts are fairly well read, considering I don't do much to promote them; I'd like to believe the comments I make on social media spark conversation, expand networks, hopefully inspire others to change their view or take action to strengthen society.
The sad truth, however, is that I often feel like I'm completely worthless. Like there's a yawning gap between the objectives I try to accomplish - and put a great deal of energy into - and me, as an individual. I keep pushing harder but have actually started to lose ground. Increasingly, I feel like I'm bleeding out, like the work I do is my life blood, oozing out of a thousand gaping self-inflicted wounds.
I feel tired, spent, lost.
This probably sounds like a "woe is me" rant; I can only tell you that isn't my intent, that isn't how I feel.
Recently, I've been wondering if I'm just completely delusional. I mean, people invest in things that have value, right? People that do good work are in demand; they are recognized, invited, brought on for contract work or project development or whatever. If people are constantly asking more from me, it's because what I've done simply isn't enough - it doesn't have value.
Therefore, I don't have value.
It's a gut-wrenching thing to admit, but it must be true.
I think of all the people I've worked with - the encouraging words, the polite smiles, the push to do more, to frame differently, to hustle harder, and all I can think is I've let each and every one of them down.
How many conversations have I hindered rather than help with my constant stream of ideas? What great initiatives have been sidelined by my suggestions? How many people have I frustrated by imposing myself where I had no business being?
There's nothing worse than intending to add value but, in fact, taking it away. Demanding what isn't my right to demand, imposing where I have no business doing so.
I know how exhausted, how spent I feel day in and day out. I can only imagine how much life I suck out of others simply by being around. It's not fair to any of us.
I can't do it any more. I can't keep being a thorn in the heel of meaningful development, a cross to be borne by the amazing people who have given me so much of their time and patience.
You deserve better than that, than me.
There is but one tag on this post – April 1. As in, the first of April, commonly known as “April Fool’s Day.” Naturally, there’s a reason for that.
I’m not going anywhere. I will continue to tweet, event-organize, lobby, connect, mentor, strategize and do all the other things I do to contribute to society and do my part to keep a roof over my family’s head and food on the table.
Those who truly know me will tell you that giving up simply isn’t part of my genetic make-up and that no matter what hits I take, I always get back up. My attitude, in a nutshell, is this – adversity is the world’s greatest teacher. Every stumble, disconnect or deal unclosed is a lesson on how to better frame the next time.
I’d be lying if I suggested there was no truth to the theme of the piece. Like a growing percentage of people in this world of ours, I often do feel like I’m being asked to do more for less, with increased emphasis being placed on me to sell the value of whatever it is I’m doing to the people with the money or space or capacity or whatever.
We see this in the workplace, with unpaid interns being told they should consider themselves lucky for the opportunity to skill-build, or contract workers being told they’re lucky to have work, period, so quit complaining about benefits.
Are there too few women in politics? It’s quite simply their fault for not trying hard enough, is it? Same goes with senior positions in Any Give Sector – if the women self-promoted as much as the men folk, if they put career before family like men did, they’d have more success, wouldn’t they?
What about youth and civic engagement? Kids these days, they want everything handed to them – they expect university education to lead to well-paying jobs, they expect to be listened to without having to do the really hard job of sales and marketing to make what they have to say be relevant to the people they’re saying it to.
Same, of course, for voting. If youth don’t vote, they can’t complain if policy doesn’t reflect them. The burden must always, always be on the individual; the only way to ensure a strong economy is to push everyone to have that killer instinct, to be hunters and sellers studying the market landscape and predicting employment trends – and develop their own budget to afford this R&D/market research.
That’s the system we have; that’s laissez-faire capitalism.
In reality, this system is a crazy hybrid of tribal hierarchies and typical predatorial behaviour.
People get to the top of the social ladder through hard work, right? And with that comes the riches. If anyone wants those riches, or access, or whatever, they have to hustle in the same way. That’s the predatorial part – eat what you kill, always be closing, etc.
Except we’ve also got the hierarchical system in which the Alphas get the greater portion of everything, but that comes with responsibilities to the societal whole. If the percentage of homeless people, malnourished children, poverty, etc. existed in a smaller tribal society, the head man would quickly find himself without a head.
None of this is to suggest there’s an elitist conspiracy theory to mix social systems in a way that actively oppresses growing percentages of the population from achieving success or being engaged in society; those who say that’s true have way more confidence in the ability of people to cohesively organize than they deserve. It’s more a matter of “if I did well in this system, than anyone can, and why would I want a different system if this one clearly works for me?”
People’s intent matters, but it’s simplistic to expect a direct correlation between intent and consequence.
Besides – not everyone is a hunter. Not everyone is a hustler. Nor, despite what laissez-faire capitalists think, should they be.
Can you imagine any ecosystem where every creature is a predator? There’s none that exists in nature; if anything, the evidence shows that any given ecosystem can only support a small number of predators.
It’s the exact same thing with economies. If everyone is selling a product and the general rules of predation apply, the vast majority of people aren’t going to close, aren’t going to get paid, aren’t going to survive.
Except in our social ecosystem, the “weak” hustlers don’t die, they underperform, burn out, suffer from depression.
Which is exactly why the tone of the original post was written from the perspective of depression.
People are giving up looking for work because they have no expectation of winning. They’re giving up voting because they don’t feel it makes a difference. You can call them weak, needy, losers, whatever you want, but the fact is their ranks are swelling.
As are reported incidences of depression.
Depressed people don’t work well, contribute less, are less effective at parenting, more distracted while driving, more likely to use healthcare services, taxing the existing health system. In aggregate, it ain’t a pretty picture.
If you’re at the top of the social strata, or if you’re a natural hustler, you will probably come back to the “so what?” mentality – what’s this got to do with me? If you can’t sell the threat of an emerging situation in clear soundbites without a lot of complexity, it can’t really be that much of a threat, can it?
History tells a different story. It tells this story over and over again in compelling ways. If you care enough to look, you’ll have little trouble finding examples.
We can’t do this any more.
Every man for himself is not going to work. We need to figure out how we’re going to survive here.
What happens to predators when there’s no more sheep to eat? Exactly.
Everyone has value. It's really baffling that the people most reliant on others - the sellers, the CEOs - have some much trouble recognizing that fact.
If everyone has value, then we're all worth investing in, aren't we?