We have to own our motives in order not to be a martyr

There’s an employee review for a telecommunications company that has the following title:

Are you killing yourself for someone who would replace you in a week?

Reading this kind of remark makes me sad. Because people who give some company the best years of their life are not heroes, they’re martyrs.

There is nothing noble about trying to please someone who will never be happy with you no matter how much work you do.

It’s the corporate version of unrequited love. People wait around like codependent puppy dogs, waiting for the company to reciprocate the love they confess to have for them. And the story they tell themselves is that their unselfish and stoic willingness to accept suffering will not only be appreciated, but rewarded.

Business doesn’t work that way. Employers won’t hesitate to shitcan people at the drop of a hat for any reason that fit their business needs. Because most of these companies are operating out of fear, aka, protecting assets and trying not to lose; rather than operating out of greed, aka, producing opportunity and trying to win.

It’s not malicious, it’s not personal, it’s economics. And that’s okay.

Accepting this is the first step towards freedom.

Crawford, the original and some say best supermodel, made the following comment about the fashion industry:

This business will use you, so you better use it back.

This insight applies across the board. We have to own our motives in order not to be a martyr.

One way to insure ourselves against such a soul death is to focus on systems, rather than goals. Adams writes about this key distinction in his book of business failures:

A system is something you do on a regular basis that increases your odds of happiness in the long run. If you do something every day, it’s a system. But if you’re waiting to achieve it someday in the future, it’s a goal. And the advantage to systems is, they have no deadlines, and on any given day you probably can’t tell if they’re moving you in the right direction. Meanwhile, you’re feeling good every time you apply it, rather than having goals and fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn.

And so, if nobody seems to appreciate the fact that you are killing yourself for them, perhaps it’s time to transition from goal to system. Shift your approach to doing the work because it builds value, creates meaning, earns money and stimulates growth.

Otherwise you might kill yourself making tiny dents in a massive pile of somebody else’s shit projects, only to be unceremoniously dismissed for your efforts, and left to rot as shells of your former self.

Own your motives. Treat it as a system to achieve your meaning making mission, regardless of results, regardless of recognition, and nobody can touch you. 

Are you a person with goals or a person with systems?


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