“Tell me about an accomplishment that made you proud?”

I received this question in a recent interview. This question is an awkward position for a postmodern to respond to.

For someone like me, it’s like asking me what’s my favourite dinosaur. I suppose it’s fine to ask a 7-year-old, but it doesn’t work for me for several reasons.

The Brontosaurus has been officially classed as a dinosaur again | The  Independent | The Independent

First, I don’t really react to ‘proud’. I’m a collaborator. Even so, I don’t see why I (or we) would be proud of an accomplishment. And. I’m not much into the notion of attachment. Siddhartha would be proud. (Just kidding. )

For this piece, I looked up the definition of ‘proud’:

feeling deep pleasure or satisfaction as a result of one’s own achievements,
qualities, or possessions or those of someone with whom one is closely

So, it’s not enough to be satisfied that you’ve accomplished what you’ve set out to do. Proud and pride are odd concepts to me. Some people are proud to be part of some nationality or ethnic group—proud American or proud Italian. Obviously, these are not accomplishments. I suppose if one has to pass a citizenship test, then it might count as an accomplishment. I’m not sure it rises to the level of ‘pride’. I’m proud because we won the football match?

But the question posed to me was about work accomplishments. I’m not sure that my response was taken as authentic. And how could it have been? If I respond that the bronotsaurus is my favourite dinosaur, do you think they’ll catch on that I just blurted out the first thing that came into my head?

My first response was that I was proud of the time I spent teaching and giving back. It was a fulfilling experience. Proud feels a bit of an overstatement. There was a project that ended up yielding longtail benefits, but again, what’s there to be proud of? And for the group or team to be proud doesn’t feel any better. ‘Yay! We won the Superbowl. Isn’t the winning enough’? Sour grapes, I guess. Right?

LA FONTAINE : Le Renard et les raisins (Livre III, fable 11) - PODCAST
Le Renard et les Raisins

As a think about it, pride is about attachment—specifically ego attachment. Christians have a saying that ‘Pride cometh before a fall’. It’s one of their cardinal sins. I’m not a Christian, but it seems to me that it is not to be encouraged.

As a Buddhist, one might focus on the attachment aspect. Pride is about living in the past instead of the now. It’s not very Zen. I’m not judging.

My biggest problem is that I presume that a person who asks this type of question actually buys into the whole pride thing. That doesn’t help my cause.

“Not to come across as a Marxist, but I’m not really into the ‘Proud’ thing. Here are some stock responses.

I ask myself, is pride related to competition, or can one be proud in a different environment? It seems that there’s a connection. And, of course, there’s ego.

I wasn’t sure whether to share this on my philosophical blog or my business blog. In the end, I opted for philosophics.

Diversity of thought

Je m’accuse. I’m such a bad blogger. I haven’t been focusing much lately, but given the recent events around #BlackLivesMatter, I’ve been doing some thinking. A lot has been said about diversity and inclusion—whether for black lives, females, LGBTQ+, or some other class—, but the issue is more complex and dimensional than a problem with intersectionality.

There is something to be said for experiential diversity, and the benefits of virtual cross-pollination may have some advantages, but much of this is superficial diversity-washing, enough to claim a public relations participation award.

I keep Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex close to the top of my mind much of the time, but this is more than just about feminism. It’s about otherism—the otherness that creates outgroups.

In Beauvoir’s parlance, there are men and there are not-men—others. This is similar to Baudrillard’s dog/not-dog distinction but with more intention, so we arrive at an orthodox/not-orthodox pairing.

Taking workplace diversity as a frame, that they accept blacks, or women, or disabled, or some other identified class is superficial because the common thread is an acceptance of the prevailing meta-narratives, not only of Capitalism, Democracy, meritocracy, authority structures, and the like. As long as you comply with this mindset, sex and gender, the colour of one’s skin, or disability is cosmetic.

To some extent, there will be some diversity of thought. There will be some cultural perspectives, some generational perspectives, and some gender perspectives, but all of these are aligned to the overarching narrative.

In the world—in the United States anyway—, it’s OK to be black or Hispanic as long as you act ‘white’ or ‘American’. Speak with a neutral accent. Listen to mainstream pop. Don’t wear culturally identifiable clothing. This will ensure acceptance. In a way, this is a faux pas of Donald Trump. He comes across as vulgar to those who hold this perspective.

The diversity that’s missing is one that would do things differently. When a woman ascends to a CEO position, she has done so by more or less mimicking the path a man would probably have taken, making similar decisions. Ditto for a black. Double ditto for a black woman.

People outside of this narrow path will not ascend. I’ll ignore the question of whether this is even a worthwhile aim, A woman who takes this path may have to break through a glass ceiling, but for those of us with a more diverse mindset, the ceiling is stainless steel—a meter thick.

But this is for more than CEOs. I am a self-aware eccentric, and although I colour within the lines my thought is typically outside of accepted boundaries. Luckily, I’ve had the good fortune to work with the right people in the right environments to capitalise rather than be hampered by this difference. I’ve been lucky enough to operate with relative autonomy because over the years I’ve generally met or exceeded expectations on my own path.

During a review—or at least a conversation—about a decade ago, a manager told me that he had no idea how I operated but that he didn’t want to interfere for fear of breaking the goose laying the golden eggs. I know this was difficult for him to do and to admit because he is a very structured thinker and felt compelled to create repeatable structures (despite ignoring the structure when it came to him—and, thankfully, me).

This same person—whom I admire despite our having different worldviews—also noted that I operate as a director or orchestrator rather than a typical leader. I feel this is spot on. Even as early as high school, I articulated that I did not consider myself to be either a leader or a follower. I was a self-professed adviser, so it’s no surprise that I find myself in consulting and advisory roles. I realise that in the United States, the world is constructed to be more diametrically than it would otherwise need to be, so I end up being a veritable unicorn in most settings.

As those who know me, my first career was in the entertainment field, where diversity is more part of the rule than the exception—though there are still many normies there, too. My ex-wife asked me countless time why I left the music industry, or didn’t stick to academics or activism, each with their own level of interest to me.

The problem is that this diverse perspective is not something a resume can convey very well as there needs to be a great deal of trust, which is not typically in place for new hires, so many, let’s say, organic and creative thinkers, get left out of the equation to the detriment of cultural diversity.