I actually grew up in NYC, and I used to read The New York Post a lot, so I knew about different Donald Trump bullshit and antics maybe before some other people, who grew up in other places, might have. One of the biggest things to me about the rise of Trump is that everyone gets so flustered with his complete bullshit on so many topics, but he keeps doing it and flustering more people. Why? As David Leonhardt of The New York Times explains today, it’s simply because he can.
Now, we do have a pretty divisive cultural time in the U.S., at least on surface. People are screaming about snowflakes and Boomers and debt relief and kids in cages. It’s all very fraught. In reality, the type of polarization we are currently seeing is probably pretty rational, and American political polarization has long been somewhat unique.
Plus: as much as we wring our collective hands about injustice and different social issues, there are two realities to consider. One is that by and large, this is the best time in human history to be alive (although admittedly it doesn’t always feel that way). Two is that there are a lot of people in the world who just want to go to work, watch Netflix, and scroll Instagram and that will become the measure of their life. They don’t really want to wade in the deep end of these things, these bigger things.
But in considering this Leonhardt column from today, this is what I kept thinking: We are in this weird circle right now politically, and I think this applies back to work as well. I’ll try to make that jump in a second. Here’s the bouncing ball:
- Many people were tired of standard political bullshit.
- Trump came along and “told it like it is” because he could get away with it.
- Enough people responded that he won.
- In his mind now, he has his name on buildings, he’s won an election, he sleeps with models and porn stars, he’s had a top book and TV show … why would he change course now, in his 70s?
- Now people are tired of that bullshit (at least half the people).
- Some take real action about it — registering others to vote, etc. — but many just pipe up on a social soapbox and think that is “fighting,” even though social is run by algorithms, and those are inherently designed to show people like-minded content.
If you do the math there, we started with bullshit, we got more bullshit, and then we tried to fight against perceived ills with a third tier of bullshit. That’s a lot of bullshit.
What about at work?
Varies tremendously by organization and industry, but broadly I would say this is what happens at work that challenges people emotionally and intellectually in a bad way →
Executives and leaders claim everything is important and they are on the cusp of changing XYZ thing that people have been grousing about, but nothing seems to ever actually change, except you get run in more circles on urgent projects.
Why does this happen? Lots of reasons. The way we inherently set up work isn’t even logical, for one. Two: the human brain can only focus on so much stuff at a given time. If three of those things are Netflix, IG, and your children, well, work is probably somewhere between №2 and №4 on the rankings, if it even cracks the top 4. A lot of people claim to care deeply about stuff happening at work, especially if they make more money and have to be seen caring about these things, but they don’t really care about them. They probably care about the aspects of a job and different political shifts and reorganizations that may impact their family directly.
I got in trouble at ESPN for something in 2006, and I had to meet with an exec about what happened … and I remember he told me “There’s lots of stuff everyone wants me to care about, but I just don’t.” ESPN was still doing great in 2006. This guy was easily making half a million per year. Did he really have time to give a shit about these 10,000 things people were claiming was important, when his ability to earn for his family is predicated on 4–5 of those things? Nope.
So again, at work it can feel like swimming — or even drowning — in seas of bullshit. We claim Y-thing matters — salary transparency is a great recent example — but it really doesn’t. So bullshit on bullshit, but be at your desk Wednesday by 8:50am.
Maybe I feel this way because I don’t have kids
I’ve heard kids help with meaning and purpose, although I don’t know if that’s per se the reason to have them. I do not have kids, and often feel meaningless and purposeless as I walk through life.
The thing is, friendships inevitably change from 22 to 42, you know? People have kids, people move, people break up, people lose touch, whatever whatever. I’ve blogged about this, and definitely felt it in the last few years. Almost all my close friends from six years ago I don’t talk to anymore. It’s hard, and can feel like more bullshit. But again, that part is specific to me, not you, and I see that.
Just wanted to call that out in terms of my own biases.
What sayeth you?
Is everything bullshit, or is that a fabricated narrative? I can easily see both sides. Oh yea, and one other thing — I always feel like our constant discussions about “purpose” and work make this stuff worse. Work is not designed to bring you purpose. It’s nice if it does, sure, but I don’t think that was ever really the deal, you know?