These days, you see plenty of blog posts, magazine articles, and Medium rants about the frenetic world we live in, how to obtain work/life balance, and the dangers of our lives turning into a new version of Fight Club. But while we worry about being inauthentic and not finding our bliss, we also shout at each other about how many ways are we failing to get reshares on social media, attending the right networking events, and adhering to the 15 Things Successful Entrepreneurs Do Every Day.
Sure, our jobs may require us to plan, execute, maximize, analyze and repeat 12 times per day, and that may be not-so-silently killing us inside, but we allow that mentality to carry over into our lives elsewhere. Or we don’t, but then take to conversations online or face-to-face where we pretend that we do. If we can assume that everyone is telling the truth, then the average American creative professional working a standard 9-to-5 job somehow manages to accomplish the following every day:
- Sits quietly for early morning meditation
- Eats a healthy breakfast that includes at least 3 separate food groups
- Spends quality time with their family and close friends
- Engages their followers on Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook at least 2-4 times each
- Reads at least 15-30 pages of their current novel
- Creates new content that’s brilliant enough to share with every type of audience that exists in the world
- Listens to at least 1 self-help or humorous podcast
- Prepares or delivers a kickass presentation for their team at work that will see revenue for their department triple by next quarter
- Grabs a coffee at Starbucks with a former or current colleague where they laugh and joke about something funny they saw online or in a new episode of whatever show everyone else is watching
- Researches and plans new content for the following day, week and month
- Responds to any and all social media comments
- Takes a yoga class or attends a course on self-improvement through language, dance, martial arts or learning a new skill that’ll give them an advantage at work
- Interacts with neighbors for at least 3-5 minutes
- Tidies at least one room in their home
- Reviews their bank accounts
- Walks, feeds and plays with their pets
- Cooks a healthy dinner with all natural ingredients bought fresh that day
- Cares for their home gardens
- Responds to any late night emails from work
- Writes a new entry in their private journal
- Goes to bed by 10:30pm
- Wakes up at 6:30am to do it all over again
And during all of that, we supposedly never worry about retirement or our ability to buy a home. We never grab a bite to eat that’s quick, easy and unhealthy in all of its deliciousness. And we never just sit and think about why it feels so wasteful to just sit and think.
Sometime in the last decade we’ve managed to trap ourselves into these hamster-wheel scenarios about what makes a good person and a good life. And although we have plenty of TV shows, comedy sketches and YouTube videos pointing out the absurdity (Portlandia is my personal fave!), we aren’t breaking the cycle.
We keep pressuring each other to succeed by mastering the knowledge of what it takes to succeed. If you’re only doing 8 out of the 10 things that Elon Musk does every day before noon, that must be why you’re not as successful or as rich as Elon Musk, right?
How many committees and review boards are you on? Can you give a presentation on the fallacies in current A/B testing methods and how it may affect martech outreach in 2017? Can you give that presentation to me by noon on Friday? Are you reading at least one book per week? What do you mean you don’t do yoga? Are you participating in tomorrow’s Women in Tech Twitterchat? Did you read Twyla’s book? Why are you crying?
Between vapid self-help books and antagonistic blog post headlines, you have to wonder why we keep spinning on this hamster wheel? And more importantly, why do we keep beating ourselves up?
If we’re honest, we know why. We beat ourselves up because we’ve bought into the idea that if we aren’t successful — whatever that may mean to the world around us — it’s because we didn’t work hard enough, sacrifice enough or do everything within our power to be the successes we tell everyone we have to be in order to look down on anyone else who isn’t. That’s right. We do all of this, not because it brings prosperity, comfort and joy, but because it provides us with a dubious perch upon which to sit and join the others who will judge us if we don’t.
We’re burning ourselves out with a 9-to-5, a side business, a continuing education plan, a family life, a social life and a holistic healthcare regimen. When you add the judgment of our peers, the condemnation of the tenuous Corporate workforce, and the guilt that settles in when you think about those 3 hours on Sunday watching Bob’s Burgers on demand instead of working on a project that’s going to make you the next superstar in your industry, it all becomes just too much.
I don’t know how to make the hamster wheel disappear, but choosing to not join in on the judging and perch-sitting is the first step. If we stop beating ourselves up, maybe we’ll stop beating each other up as well. Time management is important, but the notion that anyone without a brass nameplate on their standing desk is failing at it is ridiculous. We owe it to ourselves to remember that we may not control everything in our daily interactions with the world, but we do control how we handle them. And the best way to do that is to stop beating ourselves up.