Said it all

The Browser, a compilation website that links to “writing that’s worth reading” as the tag line says, posts almost always interesting stuff.

Save this. Reading it was painful enough that I had to give up and skim the rest of the way to the bottom to find out if it was a bona fide article or just some perverse joke. Bona fide article.

But at the bottom of the article was the saving grace. A commentor, Burton, posted what was both withering and insightful and far better than anything in the preceding 2000 words. It was so good I had to cut and paste it here. Enjoy.

(Final note: Robert Safian, editor of Fast Company (magazine of the article) did the decent thing and responded to Burton directly, about five comments later.)

I’m sorry, but this article is just filled with narcissistic, me-me-me, feel-good pandering to an age group of people that were born in the 70’s and earlier, who are scared of losing their jobs. And the point it makes, about job skill adaptability, was much more eloquently made in an NPR segment 2 years ago. The damaging part about this article is that it ousts social responsibility or even societal utility of one’s job and promotes trend-surfing as a way to make money, and essentially charlatanism. It’s basically a mean-spirited, “every man for themselves” call-in-disguise, amidst a totally uncertain economy and marketplace.
Right off the bat, this article attempts to make an adaptable workforce seem like a special club using a made-up term “Generation Flux”. I’ll bet the writer can’t wait for that to catch on so he can take credit for it. And he was probably born in the 70’s or earlier as well. Then it tells “success” stories to make the reader WANT to be in that club. Then it uses ONE example of failure by Netflix, which doesn’t even really follow the point of the article, to make the reader FEEL threatened, and that they should want to join this exclusive club.But it’s all so narcissistic from the branded image photos of the interviewees to the description of Bob Greenberg’s hair, “flowing and bushy… as if he’s saying, look, I am who I am. So deal with it.” Yeah, like with that leather jacket, hat and scarf he’s really giving off the I-don’t-care-about-my-image vibe… sure… It’s pure charlatanism; you’ll get a job based on an “I-don’t-give-a-f***” attitude and making yourself seem more important than you are. Okay.Ultimately, this 1970’s-born-and-earlier pandering is totally apparent in the age group of the interviewees. They all (with Pete Cashmore as the rare exception) earned their degrees and entered the workforce well before the economic crash in 2008, and based on their ages, were part of the group of young professionals who bounced around without any direction in their 90’s and early 2000’s lives, wasting the wealth and goodness that was accumulated during that time, which was the same poorly thought-out attitude that led people to buy a bunch of houses they couldn’t afford and wreck the economy and lives of millions.But what of the generation that graduated in 2008 and later? It is totally true that job skill adaptability and ability to learn new things is much more valued in an employee now than it was years ago when “specialization” ruled. But the unemployed 20-somethings are not achieving life and career success by bouncing around from job to job. They don’t have that self-indulgent luxury. My generation, the 2008 graduates, have to focus AND be skilled at EVERYTHING. And if they’re lucky enough to even get a job now, they hang on to it. But what’s more important is that the lucky few of the generation of 2008-and-later graduates that actually do get a job discover that it’s all about societal usefulness. And that’s what’s lacking in this article.This article brings up the tired, business-minded belief in social darwinism. Which basically means that everyone is your enemy, and the goal is to make a quick buck on whatever trend, wherever you can. Beth Comstock succeeded in an Ecomagination and Healthymagination campaign for GE? That’s just nonsense catering to the health-conscious and eco-conscious trend that has emerged now because our health care system is a mess as is our planet. Raina Kumra’s “Light-Up-Malawi”? Again, another serial entrepreneur trend to create some non-profit for the developing world. Non-profit work is a long-term process for devoted people that actually care about helping developing countries, and the fact that Kumra left it just goes to show the lack of commitment to it and the clear signs of trend-surfing instead. But let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume their intentions were good. Either way, this article is so confused about whether it endorses longevity or not. These darwinistic attitudes don’t promote longevity nor does its promotion of the “four-year career”. Yet its “positive” examples of Apple and Facebook are much longer than four years. Steve Jobs didn’t quit Apple after 4 years the last I checked. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t quit Facebook after 4 years either. So what gives?

It’s simple: Yes, be adaptable. Update your skills. But don’t be some a**hole charlatan. Have value. Stop thinking about yourselves and commit to something greater than yourself. Wake up and face reality: millions are unemployed, health care is in shambles, education is in shambles, government is out of control and impotent and our economy is crumbled. So stop thinking about yourself, your “personal brand image” and think about society. Don’t abandon longevity. How are you contributing to rebuilding our society? How are you contributing to solving our problems? OUR. It’s not about YOU, it’s about US. Wake up and make yourself valuable not by trend-surfing or serial entrepreneurship, but by building a future. Actually believe in it. Technology may change daily or by the second, but technology is not our world, technology is the tools to build a world. A better world. That should be your motivator, not social darwinism.




About Graham Lettner

My wife and I recently moved from Zambia back home to Alberta. I'm lucky to have been asked to be a guest blogger for the Localize Project. I love writing stories, and when the subject is food -- something that connects us to the planet and to each other -- the stories are endless.
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