Sunday, April 9, 2017

Level of Investment

I've mentioned before that I never ever want to be part of an organization like my college where everyone is happy and positive all the time, that I need to hear people expressing negative opinions and complaining about their troubles at least sometimes in order to feel safe in any environment. I recently discovered another green flag to look for in any situation.

I've described my college experience as a bad relationship, and I've compared it to a bad relationship in a variety of ways. But there is one thing about it that I didn't think of until just now. People always say that to have a healthy relationship with someone, you and the other person should both have a life outside of the relationship. You should both have things that you do and care about that aren't about the other person. I know I've said before that I don't want this, but in the case of college, this was actually a huge problem with my relationship to the school. In the case of college, I never wanted to be totally obsessed with the school and have my entire life be wrapped around it. I had a rich and fulfilling life that existed before I ever went to college, and I intended for it to stay that way. And yet, that was not the expectation. My college was designed for everyone's life to be entirely wrapped around the college. Even things that people did outside of school grounds, such as going abroad and doing summer internships, were part of college-sponsored programs and the students were getting college credit for those things. No one ever talked about or seemed to care about anything that was not in some way related to the college. Whenever I told anyone that I was writing a book, the conversation was basically:

Student: "Are you getting school credit for that?"
Me: "No."
Student: "Could you get school credit for it?"
Me: "I don't care about that."
Student: [Left confused and speechless]

Out of all the students I talked to, I only ever met two other students who, like myself, had any non-college-related goals that they cared about. (One of those people was Eli, and they are the only person from college that I've stayed friends with. Coincidence? I think not!)

What I recently discovered is that, while hearing people complain openly about things is extremely important to me before entering a new group, hearing people talk about their lives outside of the group is equally important. Before joining a workplace or organization of any kind, I need to hear people in that organization talking about things that are completely unrelated to the organization. I want to hear about their personal lives and what they're doing over the weekend and where they went out last night. I want to hear people talking about the latest books and movies and the new coffee shop that opened down the street. It doesn't need to be super personal - I know some people prefer to keep their lives private, but I just need to get the overwhelming sense that most people in the organization have lives that they care about outside of the organization, that most people do not have their entire lives wrapped around the group. And if I hear that people have serious goals and aspirations that are completely unrelated to the group, that's even better.

Going forward, I'm always going to be aware of the level of investment that everyone has in a group before I join.

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