The Rat Race: Re-Rated May10


The Rat Race: Re-Rated

aha momentAs a recruiter, I suppose it would be fine enough to fill roles in a perfunctory manner. He needs a job. She needs an employee. Set. Match. But we’ve gotten ourselves pretty knee-deep into wholeheartedly believing in this thing we’re calling #standapart. To live authentically, we think you’ve got to work authentically. Which means matching up what you do with who you are.

David Foster Wallace’s 2005 commencement speech to Kenyon College is one of those a-ha life lessons that can be so easily applied to work. If you haven’t read it, you must. Even better, it’s just been released as a life-stopping 9m32s film; so now you can see it, too.

And you’ll want to. Because, loosely quoted and summarized, the speech says: “if you don’t make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, you’re going to be pissed and miserable.”

As in this scenario a friend recently shared with me via text: “I am working late again covering XXXX’s a$%. Is this for real?”

This is one of those times you might draw on Wallace’s words to change your perspective.

Even if you’re living your dream life, in your dream career, there’s no way you’re escaping the “dreary, seemingly meaningless routines” and petty annoyances that stack up, one upon another, to form days, months, and even careers. This is the day in, day out living we’re all doing, one way or another.

He asks us to “consider possibilities that aren’t annoying and miserable.” Like when:

…the person before you didn’t properly wipe down the bathroom sink.

…you find yourself making the coffee again

…you have to submit expense reports

…you bomb a presentation

…your boss is a career-limiting, grumpy pants.

Ask yourself: what place do boredom, routine and petty frustration play in your day-to-day work-life? What pace are you running at? How can you start choosing sympathy, awareness and excitement over feelings like dread, boredom and entrapment? To whom are you venting and evolving with? Or is it all in your head?

Because it’s not just long lines, endless emails, painful commutes and tweetable lists of other annoyances that can make you crazy or a jerk. It’s the way you think about them.

And so begins the work of choosing (again and again and again):

“The only thing that’s capital “T” True is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. This, I submit, is the freedom of real education, of how to be well-adjusted. You get to decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. That is real freedom. That is being educated and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness.”