Monday, November 9, 2015

We Are Wimpy!

We, as a society, are wimpy.  We become more and more sensitive to every news article or Twitter post that rubs us even slightly the wrong way. We turn to social media as an outlet and believe it exists only as a means for us to vent our perspective.  If we don't like something, well, instead of doing something productive to change it, we voice our frustration in a Facebook rant.  Seven likes later - there, you feel better.  You DID do something about it.  You just changed the world, didn't you?

I'm not blaming social media for the current state of our culture; it had to be expected as the world grew more connected.  We all have a right to be heard - I'm not denying that - it's just that now we can easily access an audience for our tirades instead of chewing the ear of our significant other or neighbor or co-workers over the water cooler.  In fact, I don't even mind the obsession our society has with "being heard" and "making a point".  I think it even offers an advantage to the "doers" over the "talkers". 

Why do the "talkers" do what they do (or, don't do what they could do?)?  It starts young.  Parents these days (man, I'm sounding old!) do everything in their power to ensure that their kids are comfortable, regardless of how much they are being set up to fail.  Megan McArdle opens her book, "The Upside of Down" with a discussion on how schools are set up to let children fail later in their lives.  Parents side with their kids over teachers, grade averages are increasing - not due to smarter students, but out of convenience, multiple valedictorians are named in the same school - sometimes in the 30's and 40's - because "no one wants to make a distinction between the kids".  In general, everyone gets a trophy for participating.

I know this because I grew up in the early stages of this cultural phenomenon.  I was actually one of those valedictorians - one of twelve in my class.  I freely admit that I was a typical Carol Dweck "entity learner".  The funny thing is, kids with an entitlement mindset - those who believe they are "smart" or "talented" or "athletically gifted" (or, you name the adjective that screams "innate ability") are the ones who fall harder than those who had to fight for everything in their lives.  Many never recover.  Ever wonder why there are so many rags to riches stories of entrepreneurs who went from homeless and living in a car to running multi-million or billion dollar businesses?  It's because no one ever told them they were special.  They found out from an early age that they needed to fight for something if they wanted it.  They learned from their mistakes.  They had not other choice.

I only wish I had discovered Dweck's work half a life ago.  I wish I knew that failure is not a set back, but is really a necessary evil to progress.  What I would give to be armed with this mindset growing up.  But late is always better than never and there's no such thing as "too late".  With this knowledge, we can turn the tables on the rest of society and separate ourselves from the pack.

McArdle goes on to cite Pastor Steven Furtick:
"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel."
I don't know much about Furtick, but I love this quote.  We need to have thick skin.  We need to be less sensitive.  We need to avoid the temptation to waste our time complaining that Starbucks is ruining Christmas and become productive.  We can't be afraid of failure - the insecurity we feel is growth and progress.

McArdle includes a great discussion about how we only see and study the great work of Mark Twain in our literature classes.  But what about Twain's bad work?  Couldn't we learn a thing or two from that, as well?  She talks of how writers compare their drafts to the finished Huck Finn product, realize their writing is nowhere near that good, and give up.  We never see the thousands of hours of deliberate practice Twain put in to create the finished Huck Finn.  That's what Furtick is talking about.  But that feeling of insecurity is universal.  Even the world class have experienced it at one point or another.

Kids are now becoming adults who feel that it is more important that they are heard than to accomplish something on their own.  How does the quote go?  "When the going gets tough, quit and complain about your boss in 140 characters or less and hopefully someone listens"?  No . . . that's not it.  It's not that today's workforce is lazy, it's just that they are used to having everything handed to them, then being patted on the back for a job well done.  If a task is not laid out in a simple, step-by-step manner, they implode.  They don't know how to act when faced with a challenge.  They were never taught that tactic in their private college-prep schools.  So, they conclude, something is wrong with the system, not with them as a person.

There seems to be less and less of the "doer" breed as a percentage of the now-entitled population than even 15 or so years ago.  "Doing" still gets the job done, though.  The more we live by that growth mindset and regard challenges as a learning opportunity to become better, the bigger our advantage becomes against the rest of the pack.  Accept challenges with open arms.  Set yourself up to succeed without fear of failure and you'll be amazed what you can learn!


  1. Hey DP - Great post. Yes we're a society full of wimps. I agree wholeheartedly that this 'everyone gets a prize for participating' mentality is silly. Albeit I don't mind if everyone gets a token prize but there should be 1 winner!

    By the way, Pastor Furtick is here in Charlotte with Elevation Church and he is a magnet for young adults! I've only seen him on local TV and he's very intense and very funny. And right in line with your mentioning the social media ranting culture, wouldn't you know it, there's junk out there about Furtick over the size of his house, etc. To me it's a sign he must be doing something right.

  2. Thanks Groovy! As you can tell from the post, I'm in the same boat as you. If everyone receives a participation prize, fine, but don't eliminate the point of a competition - to compete.

    I did a little reading on Furtick and one of the first things that pops up is the debate about his house. I guess I understand where the critics are coming from, but the capitalist side of me says, "Hey, if he works hard, then he earned it. Let it go." Always something to complain about . . .