“You’re supposed to walk the labyrinth with a heavenly intention.”
I try not to be That Guy Atheist. I don’t always make it–particularly in the presence of That Guy Christian–but I try. After all, we know that thinking about your breathing relaxes you, that the bio-feedback associated with prayer does give you a certain healing calm. If petting a kitty and mediating on nothing produce the exact same reverent joy, maybe the ancient Egyptians had it right all along.
So I nodded and smiled at the the silver-haired lady who’d been assigned as my guide while I was at Sacred Grove Retreat. She folded her hands. “I think I’ll walk with joy today,” she said and stepped into “the labyrinth”, a pattern marked in rock on the grass in front of the main house. I let her get a few feet ahead of me and thought. “Joy. That would be nice,” as I too stepped into the labyrinth.
If you’re really interested in the sacred journey of walking a labyrinth, you can read about it here. I am not an expert on such things. But I did think about joy, particularly the kind of thing that makes me happy on that spiritual level that’s supposed to equal joy, and I don’t think regular readers of this blog will be surprised that I thought about math, and all the beautiful little programs I can make with my mind and some amazing tools created by people smarter than me–including the tiny and efficient piece of computing power that’s currently sitting in my lap.
And if that’s what you love doing–oh, and I do love doing that–you have to ask yourself why you’re not overjoyed every morning when you wake up and realize that you get to go to work yet again.
And while I was on my long, spiritual walk, I asked myself that question, and I realized the answer was because of pride–not the sin they taught me about in Catholic school, but its polar and just-as-deadly opposite, the sin of no pride. The one that makes you finish one project and immediately start another. The one that keeps you from saying “No, I will not do that menial task because I’m the person who did this other amazing thing for you and I can do that again if I’m not bogged down with stupid crap that only happens because you have your corporate head up your corporate–”
Where was I?
Anyway, I think those of us who do for a living sometimes forget to be proud of the things we’ve done. We hate listening to people run down a list of empty, irrelevant accomplishments, so we forget to mention our own–even when they’re relevant and impressive. We let ourselves get bogged down with tasks that should be passed down the row–either to a junior employee or to someone who likes bullets on their resumes. We do things because we’re asked, and we get asked because we do, and thus the feedback loop continues until our day is so full of meetings and obligations that we end up trying to squeeze the real magic in at the end, or on weekends–or never.
It takes a certain amount of pride to say no to things you’ve done well in the past and yes to an exciting new project. It takes downright hubris to try truly amazing things that might fail–things like fight cancer with a social platform, things like building a statistical software platform for the Mac when it’s only 1989 and everyone else thinks you’re mad, things like build a search engine when there are already a thousand search engine companies.
Brave mad crazy things take a whole lot of hubris–and if you don’t have it, working on them will wear you down. The world is not easy on visionaries, and you don’t need to fight a two-front war–not if you’re going to win and have something of yourself left over.
I get it–the Catholics made pride a sin for a reason. Overdo it, and you end up being one of those people you can’t stand. You become the guy who derails the whole meeting for his brilliant point, the stock broker who loses all the client’s money, the CEO whose pet project ruins the company. Too much pride is costing us dearly in modern business.
But I wonder if the problem in is less that there’s too much pride. Maybe it’s a problem with pride distribution. Maybe some people are over-invested in looking awesome while the rest of us are so sick of their nonsense we under-invest in ourselves. Pride isn’t about how much you talk in meetings or how publicly you post your accomplishments. Pride is about how you treat yourself. It’s about how you stand when you do get a chance to talk about what you’ve done. It’s about the tone of your voice when you state your opinion and the reverence with which you treat your work. Pride is something you feel, and it can keep you going when there’s no one else to help.
So, you quants and you analysts, you data scientists you programmers, you quiet competent people who make the things that other people shout about:
Never mind brave. Let’s be proud. Let’s be arrogant. Let’s be mad.
If we do it all at once, something wonderful might happen.