I’m Not The Only One Worried
Too many of us Baby Boomers are always complaining about things going to hell. Movies are not imaginative enough. The songs have no melodies. My cell phone is too complicated and my computer hates me. My kids think I’m just a grump.
Well then, so is David Brooks who just wrote an op-ed piece in The New York Times on April 16 called “Five Lies Our Culture Tells Us.” And that’s what the column is about. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a plug for his new book, The Second Mountain, but that does not make the lies more true. In fact, he hypothesizes that we have “built a culture based on lies.”
Here are the lies.
Career success is fulfilling. No it’s not. All it does is make you long for more. Ask Tiger Woods. Success is not settling to the “monkey mind” that dominates so many of the millennials and Boomers with computer-generated short attention spans and worries about aging. Career success is career success. It does not make you a better person.
I can make myself happy. As Brooks says, “Happiness is not an individual accomplishment.” I could not agree more. I frequently say in my lectures about health care that the most fulfilling work you will ever do you do in groups with others. Relationships are everything. Don’t you wish Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill could figure this out? There are four P’s in government: policy, process, politics and personality. That is in ascending order of importance. How you treat the other guy counts more than your policy brilliance or the amount of money you raise for your next campaign.
Life is an individual journey. Doing your own thing is just fine, but your own thing must have limits. And those limits—family, friends, working with others—is what gives life real meaning. Fun is pleasure, engagement and meaning. Not just self-pleasure. We all know what self-pleasure really is.
You have to find your own truth. What’s that? The quest for alternate facts? Haven’t we seen the damage that has been done in the executive branch by a leader who defines his own truth? Societies have values. We learn those values at schools, houses of worship and through strong organizations with good mentorship. There is not individual truth. There are universal truths. Know them. Start with The Bible and move on to The Great Books.
Rich and successful people are worth more than poorer and less successful people. The rich and successful may have more power, but that does not give them more value and surely does not guarantee them greater insight.
I think Brooks is on to something here. In the insatiable quest for more money, power, and gratification, we may be losing sight of what really gives life meaning at work, at play and at home.
I think it is harder than ever to be young in America. The world is moving quickly and often makes no sense. Leaders are constantly shown to have feet of clay whether it is by cheating their kids into college, paying off porn stars, or flouting conflict of interest rules if they can make an extra buck.
Brooks’ lessons are well-conceived and good advice. They are worthy of much thought and even more discussion.