Partial Transcript: Episode 36 (The American Dream)

Virginia: We are talking about “success,” which, in an of itself has become sort of a cult and that the American dream is…

Andrew: Big house, two cars, 2.5 kids…

Nick: Overcoming obstacles…

Mike: And a pet…

Virginia: To me, I just want to write the great American self help book that is in praise of failure.

Nick: Your views make me think that you’re just like, “End it now.  Forget trying.  Just stick the barrel in your mouth.”

Virginia: No.  It’s the exact opposite.  It seems like people get so caught up in what it means to be successful.

Nick: I can see your book now.  The first fifteen chapters are all about failure.  Chapter 16 is: If you’ve made it this far, then you’re fine.  Ninety percent of the other readers died before this chapter.

Virginia: It would solve our population issues…

Andrew: That’s called conspicuous consumption.  They want to be seen as big and important, so you spend a lot of money on cars and houses.

Virginia: There’s this economist from back in the 1800’s named Thorstein Veblen.  His book is online in the public domain.  His basic idea was that people in the leisure class had lots of spare time, so spending their time doing ridiculous stuff was a way of showing society how rich they were.  But now, it’s changed into a consumption this.  Part of status is now working really hard and being super important.

Andrew: Big screen TV, huge house, etc.

Virginia: Have you ever actually met anyone who had those things who said, “Yeah.  I’ve got plenty of time.”  It’s always, “I’m in such a hurry.  I’m so stressed out.”

Nick: That’s the one thing, that even if you don’t have money, you can still say it.  Stress is universal.  Even poor families have it.

Virginia: To me, it’s an importance thing.  My job is so important that I am necessary to the company.

Nick: Executive assistant?

Virginia: I’m not really talking about title creep.  Everyone wants to be important.

Andrew:  Everyone wants to feel worthwhile.  Would you like a job where you weren’t appreciated?  You’d hate it.  You’d want to get another job.  Title creep kind of plays into that.  Maybe it fools some people.

Nick: Everyone is a manager.

Virginia: Did you guys ever read those articles about how to manage your career instead of letting it manage you?

Everyone else: Nope.

Virginia: When I was in business school, we had a free subscription to this magazine.  It was everyone.  It was all about how to climb the corporate ladder.  I had never seen anything else like it.  As a kid, you just had a job, and that was it.

Andrew: Can you even make a ten year plan for your career anymore?

Virginia: It’s funny because that’s changed.  People are almost looked down on if they’ve been at the same company for twenty years.

Nick: My dad’s been at his job for over thirty years.

Virginia: It’s not the norm for our generation.

Nick: What makes it bad is because he stayed at his company, is that his income level has not increased at the same level as his peers.

Andrew: All of my biggest raises have been from moving to a different company.

Nick: When you think about it, that’s the best way to do it without being a dick.  If you go to your own company, it’s like saying, “I don’t value you at this salary.  Thus, I’m going to jump ship and move on.”

Virginia: The company is also saying, “We don’t value you enough to pay you more.”  When I was interviewing, I had a guy pull me aside and give me the best advice I’ve ever gotten.  He said, “If I, as a manager, can get four people to work an extra ten hours a week, I just hired a new full time employee for free.  Companies that you work for are using you and your time, so don’t develop any loyalty that the company doesn’t reciprocate.”

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