I recently took a hiatus from social media.
At this point I could lie and say it was because of lent (always a good excuse), but it was actually because I lost a competition I thought I should have won.
I wore a purple suit in honor of Kobe, pitched my ass off, and was more confident than I had been in months, and I still didn’t walk away with the investment.
I felt robbed. I felt confused. I was pissed (like Kanye at the VMA’s mad)and the worst part was I couldn’t come up with any answers.
Startup life is abundant with rejection and things not going as planned, so the feeling wasn’t entirely new, but for some reason this time it was harder to shake. For all intensive purposes I am the definition of the “strong friend”. People expect me to have it together, and I expect even more from myself. I didn’t want to bother explaining to others what had happened, when I couldn’t even wrap my head around it, so I decided to take a break.
I deleted Twitter and Instagram from my phone with plans to return in the following weeks with some kind of positive message and new content to share. I had been thinking a lot about “who I am outside of work”, a conversation that I had been having consistently with my therapist that I wanted to further explore. When you face adversity it’s important to remember who you are, your purpose, and what makes you-you. This seemed like a great opportunity to do some self reflection.
Then Coronavirus came out of fucking nowhere.
I remember hearing about it in China and it seemed like a distant catastrophe. I thought back to swine flu, the Zika Virus, the 2016 election and all of the other crises that we’ve experienced as a country.
I thought it would fly over and then it didn’t.
Our new apocalyptic reality started to set in. Cities were shutting down, the economy was crashing, and staying at home was no longer cautionary- it was mandatory. Whatever made me angry before quickly became insignificant. Who gave a shit about a pitch competition when life as we knew it was changing before us?
I began to question how this would shape society.
We spend so much time caring about the things that frankly don’t matter. The latest win, or deal, or IG worthy announcement fail in comparison to things like your health, being a good family member or friend, or just being humane.
How would we start to rethink and redefine ourselves without the constructs of what society told us was important?
Do we become better people?
The conversation with my therapist led me to introspection I never thought I would have- the pandemic amplified it.
How We’re Wired
We live in a capitalistic society that tries to convince us that worth should be tied to productivity. We are trained to rank the importance of people by how powerful they are, how wealthy they are, and what they do for a living.
Even when you meet someone new, what’s the first question you ask?
“What do you do? “
We’ve become accustomed to measuring how important someone is by what they do- and not necessarily who they are.
Our identity is almost always directly tied to our careers and if we’re not “killing it” in that area then we feel inferior to those that are. Even worse we’re always secretly judging or gaging what other people in our lives can do to help us level up.
We crave people and things that are status risers- we avoid everything that isn’t.
Everyone wants to be a founder of something, the creator of a brand, or an influencer- Gary Veeing all over town to remind people how significant they are. None of shit that matters now.
One of the silver linings of this deadly virus is that we are starting to appreciate all of the workers that are typically deemed inconsequential to the people that have 80K worth of student loan debt and get paid to sit behind computers all day. The people that work at the grocery store, the delivery drivers, the custodians, are all equally if not more important than the doctors and nurses working the front lines.
While you’re sitting at home in your Patangonia vest, still enjoying the perks of being a startup employee, someone at Walmart is risking it all for the greater good of society.
Humbling times indeed.
How We Should ReWire
In my therapy sessions I was forced to rediscover aspects of myself that aren’t related to work.
Come to find out, happiness can’t be measured in KPI’s. If we only define ourselves by things like money or status, then we feel lost whenever we experience challenges.
I had to think about the things that bring me joy. Who was I beyond an entrepreneur and career coach? What was my life really about? I tasked myself to explore what I truly wanted while also releasing myself from the expectations of how I thought things should look.
I challenge people to do the same.
Detach yourself from the pressure of being “successful” in the midst of a fucking pandemic. Chances are you’re not going to be the speaker at that conference, or land that promotion you want right now- and that’s o.k. This is not a suggestion to sit around and do nothing, but it is a suggestion to do some self discovery.
Take these moments to remember the painter in you, the writer in you, the musician in you(I see that keyboard collecting dust from here), the comedian in you, the chef in you…all of the things that make you happy. For the love of God, please don’t dedicate this time to just doing dancing challenges on TikTok (even though I’ll be watching).
This is a scary time but it’s also a significant time.
My hope is that as a society we will all become more grounded, empathetic, and shift how we think about ourselves, and how we think about others.