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The big "Yes"...
And knowing when to say "No"
We live in a world driven by the small “yes”.
“Yes” to the product and service offers made to us, “yes” to the demands of employers, “yes” to debt. Before we know it, we end up like Gulliver, tied down by a network of tiny “yesses”.
The yes to a holiday paid for by a credit card leads inexorably to the yes to an employer because we need the money to pay the credit card company. The yes to the employer connects us to another yes to accept a new, but not very different job because the one we are in is driving us crazy.
I was drawn to this post at Gaping Void. It talks about the difference between “fakes” - counterfeits trying to fool us that they are the real thing; and “dupes” - cheap replicas of the real thing, but which do not claim to be anything than a cheap alternative.
It got me thinking about jobs.
There are a few counterfeit jobs around - ones that present themselves as genuine, but have no real substance and depend on a combination of clever “sleight of mind” and our gullibility - influencers, commentators, and others who persuade us to outsource our judgement to them. And then there are “duplicate” jobs - ones involving real work, long hours, and mental wear and tear but which are transient, with few opportunities for learning and skills development or meaningful experience. The sort of jobs that BT will dissolve by the end of the decade and replace with technologies that nobody really understands yet, but have the glorious quality of being cheap and that do not take holidays. The sort of jobs that the late David Graeber famously called out as “Bullshit” jobs. Jobs defined by “little yesses’, easily broken.
Of course, your line manager’s line manager values you; it’s written in the values statement, so it must be true.
Then there are the jobs with the big “YES”. The ones that have a clear, compelling, visceral purpose, ones that demand our commitment in ways that money can never achieve.
Jobs that make a difference - teachers, nurses, doctors, campaigners, our armed forces, the rest of our societal glue, and even the occasional politician. These jobs are often easy to spot because the “YES” element allows them to be hired for just enough money rather than what its contribution beyond short-term profit warrants.
There seems to be a strange inverse relationship between the size of the “yes” and the salary it commands.
The power of that “YES”, though, is beginning to show because it confers clarity on what to say “no” to. We see it in places where it matters, as those who take them for granted struggle to find an answer to a principled “no” and instead seek to exert authority they find they don’t really have.
It may say “leader” in their job title, but when exposed to reality, it’s a “dupe” - a cheap alternative to the real thing.
Artisans work for the big YES because anything else is bullshit.
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