“What Next?” The Conundrum of Corporate Capitalism & Trivial Pursuits
I recently read that my website designer built his own law firm, sold it (presumably for a tidy profit), created multiple online businesses and now has his own digital design agency. That’s awesome. I met a lady the other night who was working with a guy who had already created and sold 4 businesses and is now working on a social enterprise. Impressive stuff.
I know of people who spend their whole lives going around and buying dilapidated properties, renovating and then selling them for a big profit. That’s great too.
The achievement of these people is obvious. They’ve set their minds on something and they’ve gone out and done it. But, I ask myself, does the achievement of these goals really serve any purpose?
Jonathan Derbyshire poses this very question, examining whether our achievement-centred society is actually creating any happiness; or whether it may, conversely, actually be contributing to our misery.
The achievement of goals can often leave an empty feeling. In fact, the truth of the matter is that the closer we are to achieving our goals, the closer we are to ‘achieving’ death. As Devonshire notes, when succinctly describing this conundrum:
“The idea of the “midlife crisis” has itself entered middle age. The term was coined in 1965 by psychoanalyst Elliott Jaques, for whom the crisis takes the form of a “paradox”: just as you’re entering the prime of life, death appears on the horizon.”
That’s an interesting proposition. I work in an industry where it is often said that bankers have a magic number in mind for retirement – the consequence being that until that point in time, sacrificing any concept of work/life balance for the sake of future pleasure is a price worth paying.
I’ve never subscribed to this philosophy that proposes to “let life run its own course”, leaving one to deal with the crumbs left over once the main meal has been served. What sort of deal is that?
Deal or (“Rain”) makers in the City talk about the buzz of the deal; and when it’s over, it’s time to move on to the next one. For what?
Case in point: I worked in Citigroup for a number of years. At the time, it was the largest bank in the world. Sandy Weill, the CEO, had conspired to merge Citibank and Travellers, which together with Salomon Smith Barney, created the largest financial conglomerate in the world. Oh how the mighty has fallen! ‘Citi’, as it is now known, is still a big bank, but it teetered on the verge of insolvency during the financial crisis.
I look back at my time at Citi with much fondness, but considering the grand delusions that were its management’s ambitions at the time and where it is now, I sometimes wonder what the fuss was all about.
To me, it is a reminder that the constant craving for trivial pursuits and empire-building is ultimately a fruitless exercise, because the only constant thing in life is change. From one moment to the next, worlds can (and do) change – overnight.
As Derbyshire concludes, the only way out of life’s conundrum is to:
“live in the halo of the present”.
Being present, being mindful. It really is that simple: Living for the day, but being conscious of the journey that you are leading.
By all means be focused on what you want to achieve and visualise the manifestation of that dream in your life. But beware of the tail that is wagging the dog. One day, you might just ask yourself, what the hell was that all about.
What’s your experience of achieving goals: Feeling satisfied or left feeling empty-handed?