The Person I Care About Most Doesn't Care

December 14, 2017

 

The intensely bored looking man on the left there is Ludwig Wittgenstein. He was born in Vienna in 1889, and he was a philosopher at a time when that was a field that could keep you fed. He's really helped my marriage, but I'll get to why later.

 

Success can be a bit paradoxical. I'm happy to say that I've realized quite a bit of it, by my own measure. My greatest satisfaction comes from always being on a journey toward greater achievement. I'm quite happy most days. What gives me pause is when I have something great happen to me, and I rush home excitedly to tell my husband all about it, and it lands with a thud.

 

Don't get me wrong, it's not that he doesn't care. Well, let me take that back. He truly does not care in the least about the latest corporate intrigue that has taken me to my highest heights, or the latest quote I've gotten in an article. He does care deeply that I'm smiling broadly, and that I'm thrilled again. The disconnect is that he doesn't get it. And for a long time, I didn't get that. 

 

This is where Wittgenstein comes in. His most famous quote is this: "If a lion could speak, we couldn't understand him."

 

Perhaps Ricky Gervais would do a good job of explaining it, but fair warning, it's a bit NSFW thanks to some cheeky lion photos:

 

The man I married is a lion in my world. He works a union job. He gets perks, raises and promotions conferred upon him thanks to a CBA or a test. It's entirely entitlement-driven. The world that I'm working in is completely different. If I were looking for validation, he's not the one I'm going to get it from. It used to bother me a lot.

 

On the other hand, there's my mother-in-law. She's just the best when it comes to validation. She worked in the corporate world for a long time. She's an exceptional listener. She doesn't just respond appropriately when I tell her what's going on at work. She asks probing questions! She remembers everyone's names! She wants to know more! Sweet, sweet validation. I try to be intrinsically motivated, but I like my little praise nuggets. I'm not a robot.

 

My husband and I have come to a point of compromise. He knows, essentially, what I'm looking for, and he delivers it to the degree he is able to. But I've also stopped looking for something that he's just not capable of giving. I'm not looking for the lion to give me zebra behavior. I've seen so many times that we can be disappointed by our own expectations.

 

This is a point we can carry into a career. Don't take a job in an entitlement-driven culture when you want to be judged by your performance. Don't complain about a performance-driven culture when you are much more accustomed to an entitlement-driven culture. I see this most often played out with some of the oldest workers left in the workforce. Traditionally, the entitlement-driven culture, where the perks and money to go those with the most seniority, was how workplaces worked. It's part of why older workers stuck around in their jobs for decades, seeing no real reason to move on. Things have changed dramatically over the last fifty years. Performance is the name of the game now. Choose your environment wisely.

 

Don't be surprised when some of your closest friends or loved ones don't seem to care when you share something huge that happened to you and they show very little reaction. I'm having conversations with others that are revealing to me it's much more commonplace than I thought. Sometimes, people just don't understand. Other times, it's jealousy. Whatever the reason, don't dwell on those that aren't giving you the reaction you hoped for. Treasure the ones who do.

 

Lest I leave you with the impression that my husband is terrible, I'd like to say, for the record, that he's downright exceptional in a lot of great ways. He braves the cold to warm my car up for me on winter mornings. He buys me bougie chocolates on his way home from work. You know, lion things. Lord knows there are things that I just do not get from his world (ask him about medieval armor so I don't have to - please!). We compromise. We've found our balance.

 

Time for you to have your say in the comments below. Do you have a lion in your life?

 

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