The Holidays are here, Are You Feeling Sorry for Yourself…

While it’s not often you won’t find me traveling for business, its during those down moments when I do get to work from home and spend sometime with my wife who also works remotely from home (so much for Coase’s Theorem) that I am reintroduced to an interesting piece of Americana.

As my wife also happens to be the type of person who has to have some background noise all the time as she types away at the computer, I am once again exposed to the American tradition of daytime television. As most of this “background” noise takes the form of daytime reality television, and you guessed it, is packed with Judge Judy, Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkcos and the like.

How does all of this daytime drama tie in with the holidays you ask and even more a viral concept?  Well, spend a few minutes first watching “It’s A Wonderfull Life” with the immortal Jimmy Stewart playing the role of George Bailey and what do you see?  For most of the movie is about a man who while does have some challenges (hey who doesn’t), is just feeling sorry for himself, straight up self pity if you will (the world would have been a better place without him).  Now we push the fast forward button in time to see Judge Judy’s case of the day and bam! While the characters are not as nice hearted as George Bailey, they like George all typically have what I call the “Whoa Wes Me” gene alive and active.  I’ve come to coin the new gene by this name as while the human genome project has not officially identified it just as of yet, it’s simply a matter of time before one of the researchers watches some daytime TV and the lights also go off.

However, what sets this gene off you ask, it’s the gene “carriers” belief the world owes them “fairness”, maybe even an advantage just because they were born!  Since for the most part this doesn’t happen the “gene” drives them to seek “pity” from others as a source of full filament. Back to the holiday theme, if you now move from daytime TV to primetime holiday programming, it is packed with all these stories of someone feeling wronged in life who ends up sitting on a park bench alone on Christmas Day.  Yes, I fully understand this is suppose to tug at my heart strings, however it’s hard for me to watch someone sit there and “feel sorry for themselves” and have empathy for them when they can do something about it.  Also there are people who do not get the idea this is a movie or TV show thus further feed the “pity beast” within their “Whoa Wes Me” gene.  Hey look George in a Wonderful life found happiness in the end right?

This is one of the things which for me is a growing concern as media’s taste is to over feed the viewing public a steady diet of “Whoa Wes Me” to the gene holders of the same at large to get them to watch more mindless tube.  Thus it grows within the American culture even passing from generation to generation as the youth see this apathy not only in their family units.  However, also supported in their television viewing content creating a feedback loop supporting a “negative habit” within a positive growth loop.

As a kid many moons ago, I would sometimes sit there healthy and all with a solid mind yet feeling sorry for myself over one thing or another.  Enter my father of little words who would say, “if you don’t stop feeling sorry for yourself, I will give you something to feel sorry about“.  Yes, there were times where I was foolish enough to push the envelope and yes my father made good on his promise.  However to this day I respect and love the man for teaching me this valuable lesson which I’ve made use of for almost a half a century now.

However for the greater population this has not been the case as there has been a steady growth of the concept of entitlement within the American culture which also adds another negative loop into the growing viral mix.  As a final thought, please keep in mind, this trend in whole is a disturbing proposition for the building of America’s future workforces which is needed to replace the retiring baby boomers who are departing the working legions.  Happy holidays and read a book rather watching all those heart tugging holiday show on TV as the workforce needs you!

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About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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