With age, we tend to keep a ‘such is life’ list. Like ‘our exam system is brutal’ or ‘workplace politics is inevitable’. This is called problem blindness–a condition where we normalize crippling problems.
In doing so, we tend to forget our own difficult journey to that point and expect anyone new to simply get on with it. But they–the new recruit, the freshman, the apprentice–struggle.
My argument is that a get-tough policy at a point of transition doesn’t always work. It kills potential more often than it breeds champions.
When I finished my boards and joined junior college, I was warned about the challenges ahead. The two-year window before one sat for competitive exams for admission into the best undergrad colleges in the country was supposed to be brutal.
Before I could fathom it, I was shuttling between college and coaching classes and taking mock tests every other week. I had been a straight A student through school. Suddenly I was struggling to keep up with coursework, with my peers, and with expectations.
It was my first taste of failure. I lost interest in physics–the subject I enjoyed the most. I found little joy in learning.
First meaningful failures often coincide with life/career transitions. That’s a smoke detector going off. At that point, being a hard-ass to those at risk is counter-productive.
Nearly everyone is at risk if the first taste of failure is bitter. If too bitter, they’re put off trying again.
Losing someone young to the system may not always lead to survival of the fittest. But it does signal a poor support system. I had friends who lived in the zero-tolerance ecosystem of the Indian middle-class obsessed with academics. I think they fared worse.
I spoke about the Indian education system because I have experience with it. There are far worse instances of problem blindness. For a long time, sexual harassment was normalized. Even today gendered roles are, in the workplace and in society.
Transitions don’t end with high school or college. Every new joinee, every new team member, every new neighbor is changing over.
They’ll do a lot better, if navigating a transition, they see your support as inevitable and not the challenges they face.
What has been your personal experience with life/career transitions? And what problems make up your ‘such is life’ list?