What do you do for a living? Are you a victim of a Career Crisis?
Are you in a moment of a career crisis? When someone asks you, “What do you do for a living” what do you say? How much do you inflate what you really do and, if you inflate or exaggerate your job title or the responsibilities you have been granted by the corporation where you work, then why do you do it? Have you seen this behavior in other people? Perhaps these are moments of career crisis. Perhaps this type of response clearly demonstrates and articulates the existence of a gap between the hopes and reality of life.
If you get to the top do you own your career success? Likewise, if you don’t, do you own your failure? Isn’t your lot in life and your career achievement the result of every decision you ever made? Why shouldn’t you own your success as well as your failure? Is this too simplistic? Is there relief in the concept of Tragedy?
Is there hope for people who suffer moments of career crisis?
Now everybody, all politicians on left and right, agree that meritocracy is a great thing, and we should all be trying to make our societies really really meritocratic. In other words, what is a meritocratic society? A meritocratic society is one in which if you’ve got talent and energy and skill, you will get to the top. Nothing should hold you back.
It’s a beautiful idea. The problem is if you really believe in a society where those who merit to get to the top, get to the top, you’ll also, by implication, and in a far more nasty way, believe in a society where those who deserve to get to the bottom also get to the bottom and stay there. In other words, your position in life comes to seem not accidental, but merited and deserved. And that makes failure seem much more crushing.
You know, in the middle ages, in England, when you met a very poor person, that person would be described as an “unfortunate.” Literally, somebody who had not been blessed by fortune, an unfortunate. Nowadays, particularly in the United States, if you meet someone at the bottom of society, they may, unkindly, be described as a “loser.” There is a real difference between an unfortunate and a loser. And that shows 400 years of evolution in society, and our belief in who is responsible for our lives. It’s no longer the gods, it’s us. We’re in the driving seat.
That’s exhilarating if you’re doing well, and very crushing if you’re not. It leads, in the worst cases, in the analysis of a sociologist like Emil Durkheim, it leads to increased rates of suicide. There are more suicides in developed individualistic countries than in any other part of the world. And some of the reason for that is that people take what happens to them extremely personally. They own their success. But they also own their failure.
Is there any relief from some of these pressures that I’ve just been outlining? I think there is…
Watch this TED talk to find out – Alain de Botton: A kinder, gentler philosophy of success