Thoughts on the outcome of the US election

“Pain + Reflection = Progress”

–Ray Dalio

As long as we learn to embrace one another, we will be all right. Maybe even great. I heard a lot of noise during this election and it buried and confused the issues for too many people. It’s still unclear to me what happened that allowed our election to play out as it did. Many people believe our country voted from their pockets, and I am not opposed to this idea because I experience love every day from people of all different political affiliations and backgrounds and from every corner of the earth.

Sure, a bunch of misogynistic bigoted racists may have played some small role, but I intuit that this situation is much more nuanced than what meets the eye and feeds into fear.

I will continue to work to understand the deeper whats. I’m calling them whats and not whys because the mind has a tendency to divulge into automatic implicit hate when you begin diagnosing people whom you’ve never set out to befriend.

We have to believe in the goodness of people. There is no other choice.


The Illusion of Success: the Story of Rocky, the Ambitious High-Achiever Who Became a Button-Presser

Rocky is a highly curious person who wants to be exceptional. He has a question many people have. How can I be extraordinary? 


I want to be the best version of me I can be. I wantsuccess.

First things first, Rocky studies hard and is admitted into a notable college.

Four years later, he graduates with a degree in liberal arts. He is recruited by a reputable company. They have high revenues, distinguished clientele, and accomplished staff.

The recruiter says, “we would like to offer you the role of Senior Associate of Button Pressing Operations. Despite the title, it is an important position. All of our products and services depend on it.”

“Hmmm,” Rocky  says. “Pressing buttons, or button-pressing operations, however you define it, doesn’t seem true to my nature, my strengths and abilities. I am more of a creative person. I would prefer a more strategic role.”

“You finished school recently,” she says. “At your age, you should explore. What you need is to surround yourself with accomplished people. Your boss is accomplished. He is Chief Director of Global Button Pressing Operations. You will learn so much from him.”

She continues, “we believe you will have a wonderful career here. With hard work and discipline, we will make you a success. Have I mentioned the handsome pay?”

Rocky is handsome. His grooming supplies and education loans have left him with a hefty debt. Time is of the essence.

Reputable Company + Important Job + Accomplished Boss + High Salary + Hard Work = Success. Right?  His stomach churns.

With no time left to think, he slides his fingers through his silky hair and responds, “why, yes, I am handsome, thank you. I accept your offer. After all, successful people are important people. I want to be successful; therefore, if I am important, then I will also be successful.”

“Terrific!” the recruiter responds, agreeing with Rocky’s logic.

Rocky spends 4 years pressing buttons. He thinks, if I work quickly and for many hours each day, I will most certainly grow to be the best button-presser in the world! I will pay off my debts. My boss will think I am phenomenal. He is accomplished. I will follow in his footsteps and earn a fancier, more important title. People will like me. I will be a great success. I will be extraordinary. 

And people do like Rocky. In fact, he makes many new like-minded friends along the way, although, suspiciously, he never hears from the recruiter again.

Together with his colleagues, he “works hard and plays hard.” He presses buttons for long hours each day. He guzzles coffee, eats glutinous meals, enjoys a nonstop fountain of scotch, wine, and fine beers, and what’s left of his precious time is spent watching mundane television shows and betting on sports games.

It feels good to be part of a team. It feels good to be needed. It feels good to bond. The team’s mantra is, “we’re in the bunker together!”

But Rocky’s gut feeling is slowly turning into a gut problem. He visits the doctor.

Doc says, “your stomach is growing a hole in it. I’m prescribing you meds.”

Rocky says, “will they work?”

Doc smiles, “they should lessen the symptoms.”

Rocky assumes, it’s all part of growing older. This is normal, right? Doesn’t everyone’s health deteriorate with age?  

“Thank you,” he says, and he takes the meds.

The next day, he plans to hop back into work as usual. But the meds make him dizzy. He can barely get out of bed.

He takes a deep breath. It feels good, so he takes a few more. And a few more after that.

Suddenly he thinks, wait a minute, why is life a bunker? Are we soldiers in war? I am a button-presser. That shouldn’t be our mantra. Maybe I need a vacation.

He can’t remember the last time he had a vacation. He books a trip and off he goes!

It’s beautiful there. Walking along the beach, he looks up at the sky. The sun warms his cheeks. The ocean glimmers.

“Eureka!” He smiles. “I have an idea!”

Eagerly the next week, he returns to work. “I have an idea!” he exclaims. “It will revolutionize button-pressing forever. No human shall have to waste his life pushing buttons this way! Just imagine the joy we will bring!”

His boss laughs. “Nice idea,” he says, “but it’s not realistic. Looks like you got a little too much sun.”

Rocky is confused. He hangs his head. His stomach burns. He thinks, what am I doing here?

He confides in his friends. “What should I do? Where did I go wrong?”

“You’re being too hard on yourself,” they say. “That’s just the way things are, the way they’ve always been. We all have dreams about who we will grow up to be when we are young, and then reality settles in. Don’t give up button-pressing. You’re not a quitter. Button-pressing is your life. Button-pressing is who you are. Who are you if not a button-presser? What will you do without handsome pay? How will you survive? What will we do without you? We need you in the bunker!”

Overwhelmed, Rocky takes a deep breath. It feels good, so he takes another, and another, and another until he’s almost euphoric, like nothing can break his spirit.

A thought pops into his head. A question, a series of questions. Who am I? Do I suck? What do I want?  

And as if from some deep arsenal of knowledge growing from within him, the answers emerge.

Oh Rocky, isn’t it obvious? You know what you want. You want to unleash your creativity, and instead, here you are pressing buttons. You are uninteresting, bored and you work a job that goes against your gut. You drink too much. You eat too much, and frankly, your handsomeness is going down the drain.

I’m sorry to tell you, my friend, that your cohort is united in suffering. They believe they are in a bunker. Because they are in a bunker. Because life is a bunker to them. They point to your weaknesses and call them strengths. They demote your strengths to weaknesses. Don’t you deserve happiness? Don’t they?

Handsome pay, brand names, accomplished people.  It all sound great, but who is controlling your destiny? This is the checklist for someone else’s vision, the formula for someone else’s success! Don’t you owe it to yourself to define your own framework for happiness, for success? 

Rocky, you are magnificent. You are ambitious. You are creative. You went to a notable school. What are you doing sitting here, pressing buttons, numbing your mind and your gut until there is a huge hole in it?

Listen Rocky, no one is immune from making mistakes. No one is immune from career paralysis. No one can define success for you. You must think for yourself. Believe in who you are. Believe in who you want to be. Acknowledge your nature. Your desires. Your abilities. Give your instincts a chance to guide you. Give your abilities a chance to flourish.  It’s time to take a risk. It’s time to break free.

The next morning, Rocky is afraid. His stomach still churns, but he decides it’s time to set out on a new journey. He doesn’t care about what accomplished people think. Okay, he does care. In fact, he cares a ton. But what he cares about more is what’s true. He cares about the approach. He cares about defining his own vision, his own strategy, his own path, his own framework for happiness, his own success, his own pathway to extraordinary.

And it turns out that once Rocky believes and invests in himself, so do his friends, and so do accomplished people. They give him a cowboy hat and a set of moleskin notebooks, and send him on his way. But not before throwing him a proper goodbye party.

So, let’s all raise our glasses to Rocky, and to life’s most satisfying moments. Those moments, when you, the individual, choose a pursuit worthy of your time, and give it everything you have. Not for the fame! Not for the money! Certainly not because someone said so! But because it brings true meaning to your life, AND NOT THE ILLUSION OF MEANING.

Rocky tips his hat and thanks his friends.

The End.

By: Tara Makhmali


If you enjoyed this, you may also enjoy:

1.  Are You A Closet…Entrepreneur?

2. TED Video, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave by Alex Gandler

3. Scientific American, Think Twice: How the Gut’s “Second Brain” Influences Mood and Well-Being by Adam Hadhazy

4. Harvard Business Review, Mindfulness Can Literally Change Your Brain by Christina Congleton, Britta K. Hölzel, Sara W. Lazar

5. When Believing Hurts

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