The Narratives of Work
We live in a Cartoon Age, an era not of alienation per Karl Marx, but of alienation per Groucho Marx. What’s the cause, what’s the future, and what do we do about all this? It’s a TL;DR cri de coeur in Part 12 of Epsilon Theory’s Notes from the Field series.
What is "Work"?
Narratives of work are among the most varied and intensely personal of all narratives. And for good reason. Whether you see it as a social construct or an inherent feature of the human animal evolved to deploy his many faculties productively, work engenders narratives which are also narratives of identity.
Podcasts about Work
Credentialism and Work Narratives
The student loan crisis is a Big Deal. And it is only a part of a Bigger Deal: the Myth of College.
This issue will be front-and-center in the upcoming elections. We will all be handed our very own ‘Yay, College’ signs to raise high. More often than not, we will be asked to raise them in service of market-distorting policies which will make our problems worse.
You don’t hate education, innovation, progress, equality and merit-based reward systems…do you?
“Oh, little Jimmy is going to 20-Years-Ago-This-Was-A-Second-Rate-University? I hear really good things about that school. Congratulations!”
“Thanks! We’re all very pleased. Everyone except my bank account, that is. Hahaha!”
It’s true, everyone is VERY pleased by the current system. Prestige university credentialing is a steam valve … \whispers\ just like elections.
So if you COULD prepare most Americans for their jobs and lives in less than a year, how WOULD you? Well, we took a shot at answering just that, and I’m sure you’ll all agree completely and wholeheartedly with our conclusions.
Ben has already talked about the biggest and most important thing we can do in the face of the admissions bribery scandal.
But many remain convinced that this scandal is an inflection point, a change in the Zeitgeist. It isn’t. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be watching for our opportunity to weaken the influence of the Church of Credential.
The Cartoonification of Work
The key to political and commercial success in a widening gyre? Controlling your own cartoon. In other words: if you don’t tell your own story, someone else will.
What do you get when you give a raccoon billions of dollars AND invisibility from regulators? Collusion and insider trading.
Some things are only palatable when they have been transformed into a cartoonish version of themselves. For financial professionals that raises a moral question: how much emphasis on the cartoon of expertise about us is too much?
The Half-Happy Horror is the realization that pursuit of multiple objectives can end up with a baby split in two.
At best we give lip service to secondary or tertiary goals, all as part of some cartoon we’ve constructed about our “process”.
Yes, optimization is a scourge, and it hits every aspect of modern life. It hits the professional investor hardest of all.
The future of remote work after the pandemic ends has been a part of the zeitgeist for more than a year.
Now it IS the zeitgeist. It is also a narrative battlefield being actively conflated with a half dozen other major social and policy topics.
Navigating the Narratives of Work
It’s the most valuable lesson I’ve got for any smart, young coyote embarking on a career in the Mob or in Wall Street: never ask for a cut on an existential trade idea.
Our Thing isn’t about the money. IT’S. ABOUT. THE. MONEY.
Except when it’s not.
Two emails from soldiers, both asking questions that I can’t answer alone. We need a pack.
I can’t advise you on the Answers. I won’t advise you on the Answers. But I will advise you on the Process. Because that’s what we do for our fellow pack members.
We have built industry standards around minimizing the appearance of risk. As a result, we now have an epidemic of ability-signaling, when what we really need is humility.
Everyone has their Lehman war stories. Everyone at least in their 30s, anyway. Here’s one of mine that was particularly formative for Epsilon Theory and our stories about stories.
We asset owners and allocators (rightfully) obsess about alignment, but too often that obsession becomes an outward one, motivated by our rights and entitlements instead of our ultimate best interest.