If You Want to Struggle Only Once in Life, Choose to Fight Your Own Battles
Herd mentality does more harm than good on an individual level
Herd mentality is not something that started 70,000 years ago when humans started to move away from Africa in groups ( ref. Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari ). It exists now also.
For example, around 70,000 years ago, if a group went foraging, and one of the members was tired, he is left behind and falls prey to a higher-level carnivore.
Being ostracised from a group was a matter of life and death back then.
Herd mentality now
Fast forward to the present, similar behaviour shows. Now instead of moving together in bands, we sync with other peoples' beliefs. The best example I experienced and observed is taking a career decision that you regret later.
It happens a lot in a typical middle-class Indian family. Parents give the example of all their friends kids who are pursuing the path that your parents want for you. You think they are trying to discourage you, but no. They are trying to set an ideal for you.
The career path that your folks decide has to do with something they wish they could’ve done at their time. It’s like this thought, “What I couldn’t achieve, my son/daughter will do it!”
Risk of getting excluded
When you are in late adolescence, you’ve little sense of reasoning to talk back to your parents. It’s because you are heavily dependent on them for survival. You couldn’t get along in a strange town for even one month without their money, food or shelter.
But when you are an adult, you start to question their methods. The earlier you let your curiosity be the driver, the earlier you’ll get close to your answers.
Otherwise, you’ll be one of the members of the herd mentality I talked about before. There is a more harsh slang for this: “rat race”. I don’t like the sound of it. But it gives a visual of what I’m trying to say.
Herd mentality in the job sector
In college, around 80% of my friends got an on-campus job offer 6 months before graduating. Out of them, I stay in touch with 40% of them. Out of those 40, 70% have either left their job for entrepreneurship because of toxic work-culture or are doing a second job that is a relatively better cultural fit than the first one.
I’m saying that the kind of people who didn’t fit in their first job didn’t take the job because they really liked it. They took it out of desperation. They took it out of fear of unemployment.
They didn’t know what kind of work they would be actually doing in the office. It’s like preparing for a data analyst role, and the job ends up maintaining spreadsheets all week. Once they found out what the job was really about, they felt betrayed and chose either of the two paths I mentioned above.
Fighting your own battles
My story was a bit different. I wanted to apply for a specific role: data analyst with Python stack. I couldn’t compromise with my tech stack.
The ones who quit the first job were preparing for it because of the seniors' information and referrals.
Sure, there is nothing wrong with asking for experts opinions on a topic like career options. But when it comes to applying it, their path is not the same as yours. So do an equal ( rather more ) amount of research before going in one direction before it’s too late.
The struggle will be longer, but it won’t backfire in future
My colleagues struggled for four months, got a job, then left the job in the first year itself. See, they winded back to where they started!
I was forging my own path by pursuing an online course. I didn't sit in the campus placements after getting rejected for a stupid reason.
I struggled for two years, got a job three months before graduation, and I’m still at it. The only difference is I still struggled a little longer than my peers, but it paid off in the long run.
The gist of this article is not to let the trend misguide you. If you want to struggle only once, choose your battles wisely.
Getting opinions is an easy feat, even insightful but definitely not the holistic perspective.
You learn from experience. And from what I’ve learned, getting outcasted is not a big deal if you choose not to be reactive. It only affects you if you fall into the insecure trap of loneliness.
Stick to your own path, forge it continuously, and once you’ve finished the long struggle, you’ll be living a life that you only dreamt of before the onset of struggle.
For me, it was a life where I can work from anywhere at flexible hours with job satisfaction in the long term. Job security is a given because of the insurance we get from multiple income sources.
I’ve got my dream job now. Actually, I am working at it for the last 2 years.
When people ask me how I got it, they are impatient to listen because it took me two years to land my dream job. They want to do it in two months. Have some realism, doofus!
It’s only gonna work if you devote enough time, trust yourself to bounce back every time from sludge and keep your eyes on the goal while enjoying the journey.
Otherwise, now it’s only the career that is affected. Tomorrow, it’ll be relationships, lifestyle switch, chronic illness, eating habits, marriage, business, post-retirement plan, etc.
Sanjeev is a mentor at Udacity who writes about mental health, productivity, writing, and lifestyle in his off-work time. When he is not clearing students’ doubts or grading projects, he is sweating either in a workout or playing badminton.