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Why Do We Do What We Do?

The other day in the mall I went to the Crosswords book store. I got a place to sit and a book in hand. What more did I need after walking aimlessly in the mall all by myself looking at things I didn’t want to buy. I started flipping pages of “Skin In The Game” written by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He is an investor turned author of the bestseller books ‘Black Swan’ and ‘Fooled by Randomness’. I have read the latter a few years back.

Taleb is known for his contrarian opinions expressed bluntly with a zero fucks to give attitude. He often replies to his critics on Twitter. And, following him on Twitter is entertaining most of the time.

As I skimmed through the table of content of the book. I instantly recalled a tweet that mentioned the subsections of Chapter 3 in Taleb’s book which Taleb had retweeted. The chapter name reads – How to Legally Own Another Person. I just googled it and found almost the entire chapter in this Medium Post by Taleb.

It is an interesting take on how capitalism has made (modern day) slavery a commonplace phenomenon. You do what is expected, follow orders, act as bosses want you to, and fit in. If you don’t, you run the risk of being an outcast. Taleb refers to the former as a domesticated dog and the latter as wolf. He wittily warns the reader, whatever you do don’t act like a wolf when you’re a dog [not verbatim].

He touches upon IBM, how executives working for the multi-billion dollar company in the 80’s had to wear only white shirt and blue suits. No stripes, no other color, just follow the code and be like everyone else. It was acceptable to employees during that period as companies stayed in business for far longer time than companies of today. Employees had job security in exchange of freedom. Even the benefits like company car or house served the purpose to the corporation by limiting the choices for the employee, making him comfortable. And when the time for layoffs came, the laid off employees couldn’t find another job that paid the same or gave the matching perks. Even the jokes they knew didn’t work outside of the organization.

While in the Crosswords store, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the entire chapter. A couple of times I chuckled attracting attention of people around me.

A couple of days later, mulling over random things I thought how our surrounding gradually conditions us to act a certain way. We begin to follow the unsaid, untold but implicit social protocol. Whether it is indulging in small talk you don’t want to be part of with office colleagues, or greeting an elder you don’t respect, or laughing at a joke not because it was funny but because your boss cracked it.

All these times you’d have acted differently. The way you wanted to but you didn’t because that’s not the protocol, because it is not expected nor accepted.

I will leave you to think about all those times and imagine acting the way you wanted.

And, dream about being a wolf with zero fucks to give.

To such dreams and to making them come true.

Posted in POV

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