The Great Resignation: Have You Risen to Your Level of Mediocrity Yet? Are You Wasting Your Life Earning Money That Won’t Make You Happy?

The Great Resignation Continues
About 4.2 million people quit their jobs in October, according to data released by the Labor Department on Wednesday. That is a decline from the number of people who quit their jobs in September, but still close to a record high. Job openings also remained near a record high, as unemployment dropped to 4.2 percent from 4.6 percent. All of this has given workers more leverage in the labor market, and wages are rising, especially among low earners. But those raises are not keeping pace with rapidly rising prices.
~ New York Times, December 12, 2021

Spring 1988, Philadelphia. Professor E. Digby Baltzell takes the stage in a large auditorium on the Penn campus and informs us that most American workers ride an escalator up to their own level of mediocrity and spend the rest of their lives there. Professor Baltzell had coined the term “WASP” (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) and denigrated that upper echelon of American society for being exclusive or what we refer to in contemporary parlance as “racist.” I vividly recall his animated lectures recounting how Jews and People of Color were excluded from elite American institutions until staggeringly recently.

Still, when I Iook back at my classmates and where they are now, I believe that most people in that room had been born on third base. A few had been born on home plate and did not even need to run around the bases. In any event, it would be damn near impossible to graduate from an Ivy League institution in 1988 and not be a multi-millionaire today. Most of my roommates had become millionaires by the time they were 30 years-old.

Somehow I managed to avoid their fate, somehow I managed to stay hungry.

Through an egregious amount of “pain and suffering,” I had already learned that once one’s basic needs are met the correlation between money and happiness is negligible. And after studying philosophy, psychology, spirituality, Buddhism, happiness, authenticity and a few other subjects for the past 35 years here is what I reckon is being evinced by the Great Resignation:

Autonomy and Agency

After meeting thousands of patients and Esalen students, I have concluded that autonomy and agency correlate inversely with our twin epidemics of depression and anxiety.

Autonomy is our ability to decide what we are going to do and when we are going to do it.

Agency is our ability to execute those decisions.

And as I wrote on the chapter on “Congruence” in my book “How To Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re An Adult,” being authentic is contingent upon the congruence between who you know in your heart of hearts you should be and being that person. And if you want to be happy, your best shot at it is to be authentic. If you want to be authentic then you must muster the personal integrity to listen to the information that the universe is providing you, “Own Your Life,” and manifest the tools to be that person and live the life you know you were born to live. Not the life your parents, teachers, legacy media or social media told you to live. Following someone else’s recipe for happiness is a surefire way to misery.

I believe that “Follow your bliss” is Joseph Campbell’s updated version of “Follow your dharma” from the Bhagavad Gita. On the macro level dharma is how the universe is operating; on the micro level dharma is how you as an individual relate to the universe. Or as I enjoy asking my Esalen students, “What the fuck are you doing on planet earth for the extremely brief time that you are alive???”

Are you wasting your life in front of a screen watching numbers rise and fall next to words such as “Net Worth” or “Bitcoin” or “Index”? That sounds both anxiety provoking and depressing at the same time.

Nobody on his or her deathbed ever said, “I should have worked more.”

Many people have been heard to utter, “I should have LOVED more.”

And this is the revelation emerging amidst the Great Resignation. Apocalypse now for the misguided, those who used to get their sense of self from their job title, zip code, bank account, stock portfolio, car, handbag, and latest vacation destination.

I want to be a human being; not a human doing.

So to all of those quitters, all of those people who have quit the rat-race before getting rat-fucked by the myth of meritocracy, BRAVO! You should be very proud of yourselves!

It is time to create a new society, a society not based on scarcity, competition, bottom lines and inequity. A new system that isn’t based on oppression and exploitation. And the time to do so is today. Before the planet hemorrhages our little species of thinkers off of it with tsunamis, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, plagues, diseases, undrinkable water and unbreathable air

So instead of swiping your device to check your portfolio this morning, why don’t you ask what tremendous, life-enhancing, beautiful, compassionate, new idea or artwork or song or technology is waiting to enter the world through YOU?

If there is any benefit to be gleaned from the pandemic it is that all of our systems have become corrupted, the old paradigms are moribund, and it is up to us to create a new way of interacting based on love instead of fear, on compassion rather than competition.

A place to stay, enough to eat
Somewhere, old heroes shuffle safely down the street
Where you can speak out loud about your doubts and fears
And what’s more, no one ever disappears
You never hear their standard issue kicking in your door
You can relax on both sides of the tracks
And maniacs don’t blow holes in bandsmen by remote control
And everyone has recourse to the law
And no one kills the children anymore
~ Pink Floyd, “The Gunner’s Dream”

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Ira Israel

Ira Israel

Psychotherapist, Career Counselor, Relationship Coach, Author, Esalen & Kripalu Happiness Workshop Facilitator