Cory Leonard

Brooks on the Illusion of Absolute Individualism

In career on August 3, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Filled with wisdom about how we think about our place in organizational and professional life:

In your 30s and 40s, you will begin to think like a political scientist. You’ll have a lower estimation of your own power and a greater estimation of the power of the institutions you happen to be in.You’ll still have faith in your own skills, but it will be more the skills of navigation, not creation. You’ll adapt to the rules and peculiarities of your environment. You’ll keep up with what the essayist Joseph Epstein calls “the current snobberies.” You’ll understand that the crucial question isn’t what you want, but what the market wants. For a brief period, you won’t mind breakfast meetings.

Then in your 50s and 60s, you will become a sociologist, understanding that relationships are more powerful than individuals. The higher up a person gets, the more time that person devotes to scheduling and personnel. As a manager, you will find yourself in the coaching phase of life, enjoying the dreams of your underlings. Ambition, like promiscuity, is most pleasant when experienced vicariously.You’ll find yourself thinking back to your own mentors, newly aware of how much they shaped your path. Even though the emotions of middle-aged people are kind of ridiculous, you’ll get sentimental about the relationships you benefited from and the ones you are building. Steve Jobs said his greatest accomplishment was building a company, not a product.

Then in your 70s and 80s, you’ll be like an ancient historian. Your mind will bob over the decades and then back over the centuries, and you’ll realize how deeply you were formed by the ancient traditions of your people — being Mormon or Jewish or black or Hispanic. You’ll appreciate how much power the dead have over the living, since this will one day be your only power. You’ll be struck by the astonishing importance of luck — the fact that you took this bus and not another, met this person and not another.In short, as maturity develops and the perspectives widen, the smaller the power of the individual appears, and the greater the power of those forces flowing through the individual.

via The Credit Illusion – NYTimes.com.

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