Find Your Edges

At a shockingly early age we get pushed towards identity-defining metrics like good grades. High marks become the target for a successful life to children whose life experience measures in the single digits.

Unfortunately, this simplification of our identity leaves many bewildered graduates on the other end of the education system. Diploma clutched in one hand, head scratched by the other.

Hunting for good grades can muddy the vital process of self-discovery, which is arguably the best use of higher education.

College has added value if you can remain adaptive to your own interests. I changed my major three times before landing on what I loved, which required me to admit I was wrong, and then wrong again.

College provided me the time to take classes focused on the edges of my interest. Allowing me to discover at least as much about myself as the facts we were compelled to regurgitate on tests for grades that we’ve lived our entire lives to earn.

Running headlong toward my edges allowed me to find what I loved and what I didn’t, what I’m good at and what I’m not. It helped me understand how I might best fit in the world.

Had I focused purely on grades, I believe I would have done well scholastically but remained blind to my emerging adult self. And a high GPA would still only afford me a collar just white enough to sit at a computer all day.

But here’s the real con: That same arbitrary metric of scholastic performance is emulated at most companies. This means that this slavish pursuit of grades as a metric of success in school might keep one from noticing that taste turn sour at a soulless 9-5 job.

How would I classify a soulless 9-5 job? It’s one that’s built on lazy metrics to measure performance. Jobs that feel like working there becomes involuntary once the health insurance benefits kick in.

Where the demoralizing structure of our employment-agreement forces us into self-oppression; preventing us from ever finding our own edges. And unfortunately, I’ve found these jobs to be the most plentiful in the American work force.

Instead of growing as individuals, we cozy into the rut our wagon wheel creates through daily repetition.

Every day we earn our bi-weekly stipend by physically relocating ourselves to a spartan room filled with others who are policy-mandated into silence. Everyone focused on a screen connected to the same internet we all have at home.

The reason we commute landing somewhere between tradition and babysitting.

I’ve worked at places where I routinely finish my tasks before lunch. My productivity rewarded by forcing me to pretend to work until it’s time to go home.

All while I hold that acidic knowledge that I am capable of so much more, but feel the social pressures to pretend that I’m constantly swamped.

We tend to overlook the shrinking scope of these jobs that boil our tasks down to rote repetition. We’re told to remain focused on how our performance compares to others. That strange metric that we confuse with job security.

Our career roadmaps are built to pull skilled workers from completing tasks to managing others, which requires a completely separate and untrained skill-set.

That fact tends to go overlooked if the promotion liberates us from the pit of cubicles.

This means that most managers cling to these silly metrics; pressuring their lowest performers through a bewildered sense of duty. These managers may neglect seeing the virtuous side of management, because these managers might all be promoted workers with no leadership skills.

We, the workers, find ourselves slinking to the bathroom for just a moment of calm. We check our bank account to visit our most comforting metric. The one that frees us from fearing our credit card statements.

Comforting stasis. No edge in sight.

But our static routine is preventing us from learning the ability to adapt to emerging threats of our continued employment.

Every day we wake too early to drive too far to end up somewhere we’re too afraid to quit.

We have turned to stone by pursuing physical comfort over self-discovery.

Realize that whatever you do on a computer to make money will soon be done faster and better by the computer itself. Metrics no human could reproduce.

No matter how we slice it: using a computer as a job is entering data. And data entry is now the target of automation.

But the sad state of working a modern office job keeps us blind to that. We just sit and stare at the clunky user interface to the grandparent of our replacement.

How on earth could any ongoing employment compensation compete with a single price tag?

No benefits package. No sick days. No weekends!

99.96% guaranteed run-time.

No chance of unionizing. No talking back. Not this model.

Artificial Intelligence will devastate this category of shitty office jobs, and I’m not sure if I should weep or cheer. New jobs will emerge as tech evolves. But that will require an adaptive workforce; exactly what’s been trained out of us.

It’s clear that we must break free of arbitrary metrics defining our self-worth. We can no longer believe that we should feel content with rote repetition.

Regain your wonder. Focus on self-discovery. Read, express, find your edges!

Because the chair that you drive to sit in will soon become optional, and I doubt many companies ruled by metrics will be able to resist that choice.

Top Image Includes: David Phillip Vetter 1