The gold standard of self worth
I like having a personal space here and I'm glad I have kept it for myself to look back on. I was just out for a jog – against my better judgment for this is the summer where we're having a lot of smoke from wildfires up in Canada – and reflecting.
I've been doing some Work in the last few years. I posted a thing here about 18 months ago, wherein my flame had gone out. My internal motivation, or more precisely my internal compass of where to go and what to do next. This was very uncomfortable to me, but I was also blessed with a knowing that this situation I found myself in would eventually start to present some solutions in the form of some wisdom.
Here's what I've come up with.
Achievement – Pavlov's whip
A theory started to emerge in my head a few years ago, and I liked it, but I didn't know how deeply and personally it actually applied. My framing was trying to understand some organizational politics I'd found myself battling while building up the data function here at my job.
I had issues with two of my coworkers in particular. One was an American coworker with whom I'd always gotten along very well. It was only after I started working in this data domain that it seemed I had to deal with some machination of his on a continual basis. I attributed his frustration to a frustration that I also had, specifically that my “career growth” here at my current employer seemed very much left up to me to move forward, if possible at all.
I began to view the desire for career growth, and specifically that which is represented by titles put on resumes, as a poisonous motivator. Simply by wanting recognition for your efforts at work, you give control over your moods, emotions, productivity, etc to others, your superiors. Much of American society is motivated by this hustle, this relentless march for achievement and climbing the ladder that seems designed around subjugation.
Indeed, so much historical violence has been wrought on people and societies by some dude's unquenchable hunger for more that I can't help but view the corporate world's constant buzz for moving up or expanding as really toxic in and of itself. On the other hand – all that's needed for evil to win is for good people to do nothing, and so onward..
In the meantime, I've started to finally internalize some of this realization about what has driven me to “achieve”, and about the toxic second-order effects it has had on me and those around me – specifically workaholism.
Plenty of other topics in between but then,
A career break
About 6 weeks ago I was officially taken off the Data beat, and put on the FinOps beat. Old me would've been really thrown for a loop, as Data was the house I built here. To be evicted, to have a career decision made for me, this was a first. It actually didn't phase me that much – maybe a day of negative emotions before the positives of the situation started to emerge.
I hadn't been in love with managing a team really ever, to be perfectly honest. I like figuring out and setting the direction of things and this was an opportunity to do so. Further – FinOps is essentially the practice of performance optimization at the company scale, with dollars as the highly visible and verifiable metrics of your efforts. Two things I love are money and performance optimization, so this works.
Also, having spent 3 years building the data house, and 4 years prior to that working on multiple facets of this same company gives me domain knowledge and a skill set that are very rare and very valuable.
The gold standard
So back to my point – I was jogging earlier today and pondering that I have done something like take myself off the Gold Standard of self-worth being defined by external validation. I have decoupled my sense of value and what drives me from being given little tokens of recognition by others. This has begun to set me free (it's a process after all).
This is not how society teaches us to do it. The point is to hustle and achieve in the eyes of others, with titles and money and houses as your status symbols and evidence of your intrinsic worth to this society. To opt out of this game doesn't feel nearly as weird as realizing that you've been unconsciously playing it all along.