Thursday, April 6, 2017

BIZARRELY CUTTHROAT


 In the 24 years I’ve lived in New York, I feel like I’ve lived a multitude of different lives, with different careers, different friendships, etc. Over the past few years I’ve realized that I chose New York as my home because it allowed me so much growth and expansion as a human being. This hasn’t always been comforting, and it has often felt destabilizing. But, if your primary purpose on this planet is personal, spiritual, creative and intellectual growth, New York offers a great many opportunities to engage with that complicated pursuit (if you don’t fear change, and don’t lock yourself inside your own ego).

The one thing that I’ve seen time and time again, in so many intriguing and baffling iterations, is the way in which people here who really align with a certain “world” can be so incredibly (and bizarrely) cutthroat about elevating and/or maintaining their status in that world. This mentality suggests a belief system where there is only one acceptable spot open (or role to play) in their specific world, and they must aggressively knock out the “competition” to get to that role or spot. And then they must defend their role or spot at all costs.

Super interesting. For this type of person, it is not about getting better and better at what they do, and inviting their evolving talent to open the doorways and pathways that will also evolve their career. For this person, it is more about eliminating all “competition,” so they are then seen as the “last man standing.” The game of life played as a zero sum game. A good rule of thumb in identifying this type of person is: if you are in the presence of someone who is either subtly or obviously tearing someone else down—ESPECIALLY A PEER, COLLEAGUE OR SUPPOSED "FRIEND"—you are definitely in the presence of a cutthroat. So good luck with that! They won't stop there. As the horror movie tagline goes: you're next. 

I’m personally quite fascinated by this mentality and methodology, mostly because it is often such a recipe for disaster. Because what this person has to do—and, in my experience, always does—is seek out some kind of situation where they will get close to their intended “victim,” then betray their victim by talking shit about them. This is always the way it goes down. I’ve seen it countless times. Then they will often assume a role previously occupied by that “victim,” wearing that person's old role like some strange spoil of war. 

And the bizarre thing is: the cutthroats usually have this weird reverence for their “victims.” It’s like they admire this person so much that they want to be them, so they have to “destroy” them in order to do it.

But then this other thing happens that is also super interesting. In every case I’ve ever seen, the cutthroat person pulls their little power move. Then, within months, something happens that scatters their plans to the wind. The magazine they clawed their way to the middle of closes. Someone else gets tapped for the job they thought they were a shoe-in for. Something always puts a spoke in their wheels.

I use the words victim and competition in quotes here because these situations are not real, in any sense of the word. They are imaginary games. They are played by very cynical people who think that life is a game, that talent isn’t real, that there is nothing new to create or achieve, and thus the only way to get ahead is to beat out someone else. This is a very common and very sad way to exist. But it’s the way many people play their own little game of New York. A hyper importance is placed on status, with very little consideration given to nurturing their own talent. This suggests to me a childhood where the person was not encouraged to explore or evolve outside the boundaries of what their family deemed appropriate. Success and achievement only mattered if they fit into the strict definitions set forth by the family. In adulthood, the insular and stultifying confinement of the family is then re-created in the world of this person’s chosen identity or profession. Super fun.

But, in my experience, it is talent that always kind of keeps quietly chugging along on its own accord, and in spite of any situation. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for extremely talented people, none of whom were cutthroats, and they showed me how to care for my own talent. I have always kind of babied my own talent and let it wander off where it needed to go, like a curious little kid, because I truly am in love with it. It is my compass, my companion, my little comfort, and it has never failed me. It deserves to be treated with love and respect. Everyone has this; I am not special at all in this regard. But people forget about it or disown it. I find that really sad. I’ve had many interpersonal relationships where I tried to coax people to align with their abandoned or forgotten talent, because I thought they had something special that they were abusing through neglect. I have learned that this is absolutely a fool’s mission. You cannot change someone’s mentality on this topic. They either value their talent or they don’t. Case closed.

In every “world” I’ve experienced, people who over-identify with that world tend to value its own vague structures of success as though they were the only structures that have ever existed. But those structures are illusory; pillars of sand. What people should value more, in my opinion, are their own gifts and their own unique abilities in this life. Those are the things that will give to you and guide you, eternally.