The Lies Our Culture Tells Us About What Matters — and a Better Way to Live

I have been following David Brooks for a while now. He is a New York Times Op-Ed columnist, a best-selling author, a political commentator, and a founding member of Weave. The reason why I have been following him is not for his political beliefs, but because he is an intellectual pundit who has been openly undergoing an inner transformation and writing about it. I find it interesting to see how he navigates this inner transformation, especially as someone who is used to leading with his brain not his heart. I myself am on my own journey with this too with this blog, and find it really freaking uncomfortable! In 2014, he talked about living for your eulogy rather than your resume. He then started to observe people who seem to always shine an inner light, similar to Brene Brown when she talks about Whole-Hearted people. In his latest Ted Talk, he talks about the lies that our culture tells us and a better way to live. Read more below for a summary and take-aways.

The lies our culture tells us:

  1. Career success is fulfilling. “I’ve had a fair bit of career success, and I’ve found that it helps me avoid the shame I would feel if I felt myself a failure, but it hasn’t given me any positive good.”
  2. Self-sufficiency makes us happy. If I just win the lottery, lose 15 pounds, do a little more yoga, etc. I will be more happy because I’m more self-sufficient. In actuality: “As anybody on their deathbed will tell you, the things that make people happy is the deep relationships of life, the losing of self-sufficiency.”
  3. Meritocracy: you are what you accomplish. “The myth of meritocracy is that you can earn dignity by attaching yourself to prestigious brands. The emotion of meritocracy is conditional love, you can “earn” your way to love. The evil of meritocracy is that people who’ve achieved a little more than others are actually worth a little more than others.”

All of these lies lead us to what Brooks calls the “Valley of Disconnection”. We become detached, isolated, and fragmented from each other. We feel lonely. We don’t have trusting relationships. We don’t have a true community.

More and more people are falling into this valley, and in this point in time we are experiencing a social and relational crisis that is bubbling up to the surface through acts of hate, violence, and chaos.

How do we get out of the valley?” What is the solve?

Hint: You can’t climb out of the valley alone. Someone has to reach in and pull you out.

In other words, there is no life hack or app that gets you out of there. You need others to support you on the journey. This is a relational game, not an individualistic game.

#1 – Relationships: Practically, this means surround yourself with your tribe, showing up in your relationships, and really putting your personal relationships first in your life. In my experience, it has also really helped to also hire support in the form of a therapist or executive coach with like-minded values. This requires you to spend quality time with your people to nurture your relationships. This requires you to have more intimate and deeper conversations with people. This requires vulnerability, trust, and mutuality.

#2 – Self: In addition, part of the work is to spend quality time by yourself, preferably in nature, where “there’s nobody there to perform for, and the ego has nothing to do, and it crumbles, and only then are you capable of being loved.” Start to detach from your typical identifiers (job title, salary, lifestyle, etc) and allow yourself to be your whole true self.

#3 – Service: Lastly, it’s about pulling other people up too. Every single person who is in the valley needs someone’s help getting out of the valley. Who could you help from your community? How could you be there for someone as a leader who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to rise up?

When you have one of those bad moments in life, you can either be broken, or you can be broken open.

– David Brooks

How are you choosing to show up in your life and work today? Could you choose to allow this pandemic and this moment to break you open?

 

 

 

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