“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.”
“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.”
Arthur Somers Roche
“Its not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it”.
For much of my career I have earned more than the average person.
For much of my career I walked the hallways of advertising and marketing companies who tend to focus more on “what’s next” and trends and adopting new ideas & thinking.
For much of my career I have traveled to parts of the world and worked with people who flew thousands of miles a year.
For much of my career I have wandered along the brink of the leading edge, or bleeding edge, of businesses and business thinking.
On the other hand.
I went to high school at a rural ‘farmer family student’ school.
My first job was in a small South Carolina city.
I have driven across America three times.
And I have worked in the Midwest heartland, Texas, blue collar part of Florida, the south and visited manufacturing plants in almost every state in the United States.
And maybe because of this odd mix I am an early adopter of ideas & new thoughts & thinking … and a late adopter of actually doing those things.
I think that shifts my stress and anxiety toward the actually doing and permits me to be anxiety free with regard to the actual encouragement of change.
I still outsource my presentations.
I still outsource my website management.
I still haven’t mastered my smartphone and I grudgingly add apps to my phone.
And, yet, I still enthusiastically present ideas on new trends, changes in cultural behavior, reform of institutions, embracing new technology and, in general, disruptive ideas to status quo type thinking.
I know I live in a certain type of bubble.
What I mean by that is I just read a really nice interview with Elaine Chao who runs the Department of Transportation in America which explained my bubble probably better than I have ever done myself.
“I thought that he <Trump> had tapped into something, a strain of anxiety, of fear, of vulnerability that somehow nobody else did.”
She thinks that anxiety may have less to do with the economic impact of trade than about the crush of new technologies, adding that Silicon Valley has a responsibility to try to ameliorate those qualms.
How insightful is that?
In my bubble there is no crush of new technologies, or ideas, it is more about the excitement of sifting through “what’s next” attempting to discern the meaningless from the meaningful.
But she is correct.
This onslaught of new technology and new ideas happens in a bubble. And outside that bubble a lot of people feel alienated and marginalized and unconnected not because of money or culture … but rather by change and ‘newness.’
We, in this bubble of mine, get confused by this because this same group ,of marginalized and alienated people, have embraced the fringes of this technology surge – the smartphones, the apps and the social communities. All of those aspects thrive outside the bubble therefore we confuse it with a hunger for more new stuff and thinking and behavioral shifts.
Chao said something as a message to the tech industry … but it is actually more relevant to my bubble: “You take it as second nature, but for much of what you do, people do not understand.”
I am not naïve enough, nor egotistical enough, to believe my bubble is the most important thing in the world. But I do believe my bubble has the greater interests of society and progress embedded within its sometimes wacky machinery of ideation and practical outcomes.
Recognizing my bubble matters.
Recognizing my bubble matters because it is in my interest, and in the interest of new ideas and progress, to help those outside my bubble better understand where we are going with these ideas and why these ideas matter … and why these ideas are actually in their best interests.
I vividly remember presenting something to the CEO of a national company years ago and the CEO leaning forward at the end and saying “Bruce, I like the idea, I appreciate the idea, but I am not sure I want to be on the bleeding edge.”
How stupid am I to not think if a CEO of a national company would think & say that … that … well … a significant portion of America wouldn’t think and say exactly the same thing? <answer: pretty stupid>
Progress is good. And people, in general, love progress. But progress and some ideas my bubble generates can make people anxious. It doesn’t mean anyone is stupid, or slow, or backwards, or ignorant, or anything negative … they are simply anxious.
And when I read what she said it reminded me of a quote I had stored away:
“If you gathered up all the fearful thoughts that exist in the mind of the average person, looked at them objectively, and tried to decide just how much good they provided that person, you would see that not some but all fearful thoughts are useless.
They do no good. Zero. They interfere with dreams, hopes, desire and progress.”
An anxious population can get angry.
They can get angry because anxiety interferes with dreams, hopes, desire and progress.
I think more people in my bubble need to remember this. And, maybe more importantly, more people in my bubble need to take steps to acknowledge this … and try and do something about this.
Ideas really just do not happen just because they are good ideas. To move an idea from inside the bubble to outside the bubble takes some hard work, some sharp think, some good articulation and a shitload of persistency.
To be clear on this bubble thing.
Not all bubbles are some generalized 100% thing.
Just because you may live in a city doesn’t mean you cannot understand rural poverty <because you can have your own poverty>.
Just because you have earned money doesn’t mean you cannot understand having no money <because “having earned” can quickly become “not earning”>.
But the bubble of ideas and thinking and innovation? That is as real as it can get. It’s not just about money or access … it is more about relatability and relevance to one’s life.
Standing in the hallways of some advertising agency discussing some new idea, or in some tech company in Austin, it is difficult to believe everyone wouldn’t understand that is something everyone should want … and to want to get “there” <wherever there is>.
Stress is caused by being ‘here’ but wanting to be ‘there.’
I live in a bubble.
And it is good to be reminded that my bubble, which can look awesome standing inside it, can create a shitload of angst and anxiousness to those outside the bubble because inevitably they know I am gonna try and get them to do some of the things I think everyone should want to do <to get “there”> as part of natural progress.