Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What do you value, and why?

Sitting in at a Web Design Meetup recently, I made a comment that one of the attendees might consider a few traditional marketing channels to seed the customer base for their internet start-up.  Write articles for one of the many local free print magazines, like Today's Triangle Women , or Wake Living magazine, that sort of thing. She felt her time was already stretched thin, and engaging multiple marketing channels was not something she wanted to do. That's the second big mistake of shoe-string internet start-ups. The first big mistake is starting up a business that doesn't provide any real value to society.

This entrepreneur then observed that she had as her focus the goal of making money. A common goal for sure, but the way in which she said it struck an odd chord -- as if it were a programmed response. In stream-of-consciousness mode, it took me to a quip by another friend, after I thanked her for lunch on her dime: "It's only money.".

As I ponder how distant those two modes of thinking are, and how they reflect the values that motivate these two people, I realize how very much we are driven by cultural imperatives to perform, and how many people follow a path of altering their personalities for the sake of earning a dollar. The rationalization is that they have a professional identity, and a private life, but cognitive dissonance between the two is unavoidable. It reverberates inwardly and telescopes outwardly, and sensing it I grow uneasy every time I interact with someone whose mind has been altered.

"Altered in what way?"  you might ask. Well, there's the corporate type who has been married to the machine for so long he is willing to do and say anything to please the company. There's the entrepreneur who is so worried about fast money that they no longer see the company as an institution of people and on-going business concern.  There's the real estate agent who carefully avoids saying anything that might cause a sale to fall through, even in the face of glaringly negative consequences for the buyers. There's the queen bee co-worker who feverishly positions, cajoles, and otherwise targets other women to push them out of the organization.

I and others I know see instances of such self-twisted personalities pop up regularly. Never mind tattoos or nipple rings -  why do people mutilate their own minds this way? And why do we accept, no, even encourage, being people seeking to become so unbalanced as individuals?  Through overspecialization an individual may seek to somehow surpass his or her peers, but to what end do we seek to become such self-serving monsters?

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