Today we have a serious issue to discuss: how to NOT be a douchebag.
Now, I’m pretty sure we all have the potential to be a douchebag, but I don’t think any of us really set out to be one (“What would you like to be when you grow up, Little Timmy?” “Well…”). But sometimes it just… happens.
Here’s the real problem:
I think our popular culture actually encourages us to be douchebags.
Or, if you prefer, it pushes us in a “douchey direction.”
Let’s say you’re a congressperson. Your health benefits are _____ (i.e. really good). You WANT to be empathetic to the _____ (i.e. enormous amount) of people who don’t have health insurance or those who have craptastic coverage, and you’d even LIKE to sympathize with the small business that’s just trying their best to make payroll and keep their staff employed, but try as you might, you really just can’t relate. First of all, you don’t actually know anyone without amazing health insurance (or enough money to where it doesn’t matter), and second of all, cashflow issues in your life are a very distant memory, like those suspicious plants you puffed in college… a different foggy lifetime.
You really don’t mean to be a douchebag, but the culture/atmosphere/crowd you’re in reinforces those kinds of behaviors.
As an entrepreneur, I do a reasonable amount of phone calls to meet new people. Most people I meet, often via phone/Google Hangout are overwhelmingly generous with their time. But every once in a while I end up on a call with someone who feels like they maybe “should” talk to me because of who connected us or something, but really, they’re “just too busy.” With these folks, I generally get passed onto their assistant who can “help us find a time to connect” and after about 30 emails back-and-forth I eventually receive a calendar invite for 2:00p-2:15p. Then it comes time for me to call, and it goes straight to voicemail. I get a call back about 12 minutes later, but by that time, we’ve got approximately 3 minutes and 23 seconds to talk because they’re “literally running to the next appointment.”
Of course, just because you perceive yourself as “busier” than me doesn’t mean you are more important. But the dominant culture tells us that “more busy = more important.” So even though I know it isn’t true, when I hang up the phone from one of these calls, I have an internal battle about my own self-worth. I can’t help but think, “Wow, I should be busier than I am.” Or, “I should have an assistant who manages my calendar.”
But even though this is a game I try not to play, it’s another reason why it’s really hard to NOT be a douchebag. What’s “popular” tells us that there’s something appealing about being too busy for others.
The crowd we’re in, especially as we become more “successful,” encourages some major douchebaggery. But enough of us say NO, maybe we can change this.
I really don’t think we mean to become douchebags. I think it’s an after-effect of us not paying attention and taking the path of least resistance instead. I think it’s a side-effect of ingesting a culture that is kind of toxic, without taking the time to purge once in a while. If we don’t regularly take a moment to unplug, sadly, the default path is also the most douchey one.
Here’s the real kicker: these stories aren’t about other people. They’re about me. I’ve been “the politician” and “the too-busy entrepreneur.” Sometimes I forget what it’s like to not be able to afford health care and sometimes it makes me feel important to seem busier than others. The circles I’m in are privileged and my calendar is full. If I’m going to NOT participate in this douchey behavior, I have to do drastic stuff to counteract it.
So, PLEASE… #sayNOtodouchebaggery. I’m going to keep trying.