August 23, 2017
Author: Bianca Yang
I read an article today that was linked to by Hacker News titled Relationships Are More Important Than Ambition. The article argues that we should focus our time on cultivating a loving community that wholeheartedly and selflessly takes care of its members in good times and bad. The tradeoff is between following the call of ambition to take on a fast-paced job in a big city and travelling the world and soaking up all the world has to offer and staying near home, with the neighbors you grew up with, raising your kids, and giving back to the community that raised you. Sounds idyllic (and good for your health) to go back to the simple, slower lifestyle that some of us may nostalgically associate with rural or small town America. But that tradeoff is largely meaningless.
The fundamental human need this article is trying to expose is our need to belong. We all want to feel wanted, appreciated, acknowledged, and loved. We want to claim an identity that feels right. We want to have a good reputation. We want to fit in.
This need is clearly more taken care of in the small town community. In the city, everybody is individualistic to a fault. Everybody takes care of their own space and minds their own business, and life goes on as usual. This superficial veneer of the city relationship is also carried onto the Internet. Internet relationships are ephemeral, shallow, quick, touch-and-go, which probably contributes to the epidemic of depressed, phone-addicted teenagers that I keep hearing about.
Emotional well-being is a need that deserves extreme importance. People who are free to express their emotions and take care of their mental state perform worse, and the performance impediment only grows worse with time. If you don’t feel like you belong somewhere, you should immediately look for alternative communities. Do not fret. You have Google at your fingertips and social media at your fingertips to help you search for the right place.
Employers also need to be upfront with prospecting employees about the culture and expectations. As Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio explains in his Principles, you want to bring in people that you want to share your life with. If, at any point, you feel they stop being suitable for the role you brought them in for, you should fire them. But remember that any behavior changes you expect will take time. Ray Dalio says to expect an average of 18 months adjustment period.
Always be evaluating your environment and circumstances. You are constantly receiving signals about how to adjust to a better position. Pay a little more attention to your environment and yourself and work towards making your life better than it is now. Our lives derive meaning from the struggle for improvement and achievement. Let this struggle for belonging and emotional satisfaction fulfill you and those around you.