Why does working in an office sap us of our courage?
I can’t figure this out and it’s making me crazy.
Why is it that working in an office seems to sap us of our courage?
Maybe it doesn’t sap you of your courage and if that’s the case you’re lucky or tougher than I am but for some reason it seems to me that the grind of working in a bureaucracy and having a soft job takes it all out of a lot of us.
Why is that?
I think maybe it’s because we don’t have to make mistakes to succeed.
Let me see if I can explain.
First of all, I don’t have this figured out.
And I feel a little embarrassed about the name Authentic Masculinity for the company I started, but more on that in due course.
One of the best men I know, in fact, one of the men I call My Ten Best Men came to a Bond Fire about a year ago and said as he was staring into the fire that working in a bureaucracy was turning him into a weaker man.
I wondered long and hard about that and wonder about it still.
Here in Virginia there’s a lot of snow falling and I lay awake early this morning enjoying the fact that I was warm inside with my wife and children but it’s always fascinated me that we are separated from brutal cold and crushing conditions by this thin sheet of glass.
But more on that, too, at a later date.
But I woke up this morning trying to think through why it is that we get ground down by doing things that are safe and predictable.
What can we learn from Mr. Incredible?
When we become good bureaucrats it seems we lose something central to being who we are. You hear a lot, you read a lot about lives of quiet desperation and becoming little grey men in raincoats. My favorite example of this from modern entertainment is Mr. Huff in “The Incredibles.”
Mr. Huff is Bob Parr’s boss. Bob works at an insurance company and is doing a heroic bureaucratic thing by helping an old lady with her claim. He tells her how to circumvent the insurance company bureaucracy.
Mr. Huff, a small man, controls Bob and tries unsuccessfully to reduce Bob to an insignificant man. Bob ultimately throws Huff through all the cubicle dividers and gets fired, of course.
It’s a great movie. I love that movie.
If you remember, Bob Parr is a Super. He has super powers.
We all have super powers. Learning how to access them is the stuff of magic and enables us to regain our lives.
Bob Parr has to keep his super powers hidden because using them scares others and his powers are at their finest, he is at his finest, when he is living his life out to its fullest.
Rescuing, fighting, laughing, taking on the bad guys and helping the weak and innocent.
Vital powers exercised along lines of excellence in a big, big life.
It reminds me of my absolute favorite definition of happiness, which is, “The exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope.”
Vital powers. Lines of excellence.
A life affording them scope.
We are meant to live big lives and do our best and exercise our most vital powers.
Bureaucracies don’t let us do that. They crush us because over the course of time we make increasingly less important decisions that are safer and safer and safer. And if we become good bureaucrats we seem to have lost something that makes us better men.
I know you may not care, but I launched Authentic Masculinity because I want to encourage men. I chose the name Authentic Masculinity not because I think I am authentically masculine but because we are at our best when we are connecting in an authentic way and living lives of authenticity in the sense that we are working it out in the company of other men and facing our demons and trying to be better.
Better every day.
It’s not complicated but it’s hard as hell and we make mistakes and we get up again and we try the next day.
If that describes you I admire you. Don’t quit and don’t think nobody notices because somebody does. They are all around you and they’re watching you and need your good example so keep going.