On Meaningless Careers | Young Money by Jack Raines
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As much as I think work needs to change in many fields, I really don’t like how this author is unable to see the similarities between his role on a football team and his role in the office. He could have done exactly the same on the football team and similarly had close to no effect on the overall success/failure of the team on the field. The fact that he fails to realize that him doing a shitty 5-10 hour week from home is reduced output and therefore harmful to a company shows how little he’s thinking about his work. He’s not engaged, and frankly, I don’t blame him. This is a failure of big picture thinking and understanding how complex processes work.

With that being said, he does bring up some good points about prestige and how many jobs can feel like ‘unplugged controllers’. On the former, he’s right that prestige is nonsense. He’s wrong that it’s just a useless award we give ourselves, it’s an award we give ourselves because others give themselves the same award and we need to stay competitive in the job market. If you’re applying for a job and everyone else is a vice president and you aren’t, well, good luck getting the job at a better company with better pay. I think many people are quite acutely aware of how prestige is often nonsense, but at the same time it’s important to celebrate the victories that you do have (recognition increases cohesion among teams, recognition strengthens your mood and resilience, and recognition is an important part of framing positivity and happiness) and to downplay it entirely as bullshit misses many of the important roles celebration plays.

On the latter, we are often ‘unplugged controllers’ in that these systems are very resilient to a single piece doing a poor job. We collaborate to prevent any one piece from slowing the machine down a lot, and we pursue a ton of projects because some succeed and others fail and the end result is progress. He’s also right that increasingly people are feeling undervalued but that’s because capitalism has become so much colder on a global scale. When you can easily replace workers because there are literally hundreds of millions of people out there who could apply for the job, you treat them like a tool rather than human and you devalue them to maximize profits. This is unsustainable at a certain scale (see: amazon literally running out of people in the world to hire because of size and turnover), but more importantly it misses an important part of the perception of being an unplugged controller - public awareness of the downsides of capitalism and an increasing social acceptance of criticizing capitalism has helped individuals become more aware of their worth in the eyes of a company.

I really wish that at the end of this article the author had advocated for empowering workers, as I think the general message here of people trying to take a more active role in their jobs and having more influence over what happens would resonate nicely with the overall message.


I actually understand where he is coming from on the football team vs office job perspective. When I think about my current work, my feeling is sometimes that it doesn’t matter, but if I actually consider what I am doing and the nature of the project, I realize that my efforts do affect the course of the project going forward. Contrasting that to my experience running competitively as a high schooler, I did not matter there at all, I never raced fast enough to score, in the rare event I was in a race where the score mattered. But despite that, I still feel some connection to the team. Whether that is different because of the physical nature of the task, the social elements, the fact that I was young and certainly still developing socially at the time, or that sports coaches have an approach that just hits differently than office bosses, I can’t say. I think I have enough capacity for self reflection to not go chasing the way I felt during that time of my life, but I can understand how someone would come to feel that way and why they might want to generalize that feeling to other parts of their life.


if you like to work in current society, think fulfillment is the greater meaning of working, and can not see all implications then you have fallen victim of capitalism/market and is blindly compliant with worldwide unfair inequality and suffering.

humans work to survive. if working in a capitalist, walled garden society is the best distraction you could find for yourself, then you are a good employee for the few who control this world.

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