Just a Cog

With all the activity related to starting this business, finding time to write is a rarity. So the resumé blog, while still in progress, is taking longer than I had hoped. In the meantime, here is a post I wrote maybe 8 months ago, while I was still working as a project manager for a Silicon Valley startup. It was greatly inspired by Seth Godin's wonderful book, Linchpin.

Like most people, I am the product of a system that taught me to be a cog--an ordinary thinker, a standardized worker, a bland human being. This started for me when I was processed through America’s factory education system. Where I was told to sit down, shut up, follow directions, fit in, memorize this meaningless list so you can pass the test. I was told that if I did these things well and didn’t make waves I would be successful. I came to feel that I was not unique, not important, that I was totally replaceable, statistically average, just another number. In other words, that I was just a cog.

For most of my life, I have played that role; I have been that cog, unaware of how much I hated it. Why? Because my ‘cogification’ was not accomplished with fanfare. Indeed, it is the product of thousands of tacit messages inherent in the system. I was never overtly told that my role in society was to be one of compliance, unquestioning sacrifice, and eminent replaceability. Instead, I was praised for my unique intelligence--the quality that gives us all our human value. But that overt message distracted me from what was happening behind the curtain; I was being standardized and dehumanized.

Words can blind us to the truth. For years I was told I was unique while being scored on the same scale as everyone else. I was told I was a good problem solver while solving the same problems as everyone else. I was told I was smart while paying thousands of dollars for a degree that I no longer use. Both I and, I think, the people telling me those things believed them. But when I started paying attention, I realized that I only believed them intellectually. Emotionally, I felt like a cog.

I am learning, however, to pull back the curtain. As I gain perspective, I become more unique, able to think more clearly, to create more freely, to effect more courageously. By unleashing my own unique qualities, I become more human.

That is my journey, but it is only the beginning; journeys are made up of many destinations. Each day of my life is a gift--one that can be enjoyed and remembered, but never recovered. I am no longer content to trade in those days one at a time for a paycheck. I don’t yet know where this journey is taking me, but I am more optimistic than ever that as I embrace the unique qualities of my own humanity, that it will be somewhere amazing.