You Are What You Do

When you see stupid billboards. Like the one I saw yesterday that had pictures of some people’s faces (token black guy) and then said “Toyota.” It’s easy to dismiss that as bad marketing. You forget though that someone with a fancy title -” VP of West Coast Advertising” – wrote a 40 or 50,000 dollar check for your viewing pleasure. Some other artist rushed to work each day to put the finishing touches on his big campaign. And of course, there’s the pesky little problem of advertising not working.

What about those Hedge Fund managers that go through divorces, raise fucked up kids, work 90 hour weeks that they need coke to get through, all for the glorious pleasure of not beating an Index Fund. A life exchanged for the privilege of deceiving people that you have a skill that you objectively do not. A gambling addiction without the self-awareness.

Or think about all the sleepless nights executives at Microsoft and Yahoo have spent over the last three months. Traveling, phone calls, lunches, dinners, frantic memos and pages of reports. All of that and they know – empirically – it will be an enormous failure.

And at least they were in the arena, marred in dust and blood. Unlike the journalists, analysts, consultants, trend watchers, coaches, authors – whose skills lie in breathlessly reporting the same story with different words. Apparently forgetting how laughable the chatter looks a few years later.

All those people subjugated their lives to showing up every day to an office. That is, in most cases, in the place of doing something they want to do. They stressed. They put shit off. Bogged in office politics. Missed the little pleasures. Philosophy. Reading. Thinking. Improving. They deferred. Wondered why their not happy. Debt. Turned around and tried to impart their ‘wisdom’ on the next generation.

Maybe they think about this daily and go ahead and do it anyway. Or, they never stopped to consider it. Probably the latter. No matter how many times they use the words “war room,” “attrition,” “4th quarter” – it’s not going to change the fact that it’s all a big charade. A joke. A lie.

Is that what you want to work your whole life for? I don’t. It’s my worst fear.

Honesty Box: I feel like all the time I am right on this edge. I’m trying to put this stuff on the record now. Reverse pressure. So I’m always thinking “but it’ll look bad if I become the person I said I never wanted to be.” I think I need all the help I can get.

Written by Ryan Holiday
Ryan Holiday is the bestselling author of Trust Me, I’m Lying, The Obstacle Is The Way, Ego Is The Enemy, and other books about marketing, culture, and the human condition. His work has been translated into thirty languages and has appeared everywhere from the Columbia Journalism Review to Fast Company. His company, Brass Check, has advised companies such as Google, TASER, and Complex, as well as Grammy Award winning musicians and some of the biggest authors in the world. He lives in Austin, Texas.