Sociopaths, the Clueless, and Losers
Plagiarism warning: I’ve re-purposed Plato’s Allegory Of The Cave below.
Imagine being imprisoned and chained to a wall from birth. Your body and neck have been restrained your entire life and you’ve only ever been able to gaze directly at the wall in front of you.
Behind you is a fire that the prison guards use to cast shadows into your cell. You can’t see the fire nor the guards. You can only see the various shapes and objects that are projected onto your cell wall.
These shadows are all you ever see. They become your reality. You assign names to them. When the voices of the prison guards echo across the chamber, you assume they come from the shadows.
Then, one day, you break free.
As you race out of your cell, you quickly realize that there’s a lot more going on in the world than you thought. You notice the fire and realize that the shadows you've spent your entire life with aren't really a thing at all. They’re an illusion created by this bright thing bouncing off other stuff.
Your worldview is shattered. You may be tempted to retreat back into your cell where you at least thought you had a grasp on reality, but your eyes would have already adjusted to the light and it’d be hard to even see the shadows anymore.
So you sprint towards the exit and swing open the door.
For a moment, you're blinded. The sunlight is overwhelming. Slowly, though, you begin to see shapes. Then textures and colors. Then people and things. Eventually, you can see the sun itself.
You stand in awe. Reality is far different from anything you could have imagined back in your cell.
You rush back into the dark prison to liberate your fellow inmates, but you can’t see shit. Your eyes struggle to adjust to the darkness. The prisoners watch you stumble around blindly and assume that venturing outside harmed you.
“You escaped and now you’re blind, you idiot."
They refuse to follow you back out and willfully remain imprisoned.
At some point, we've all probably played the role of both the freed man who is revealed some truth and the prisoners who reject it as dangerous or wrong and cling to an existing worldview. Hell, in any given day we probably play both roles.
A few weeks ago, I read an essay that forced this unpleasant experience upon me and sent me into a stare-into-the-sun-and-face-reality experience.
The essay was a cynical take on the corporate world that shattered a few probably-naive views I hold (held). The spark notes are this:
- Most people in the corporate world are either sociopaths, clueless, or losers.
- Sociopaths ruthlessly climb to the top of any organization they're a part of. They often lack the hard skills that would make them valuable employees and are instead opportunists who excel at the power game.
- The Clueless faithfully carry out the plans of sociopaths. They are the middle manager-types who harbor a naive loyalty to an organization or system that is unlikely to actually give a shit about them.
- Losers are self-aware employees who lack the naivety of the Clueless and know they're stuck in a bad economic bargain. Instead of battling to escape like the Sociopaths, they instead attempt to minimize the level of effort required to keep some baseline of income.
The entire essay is designed as a brutally effective sledgehammer for crushing naivety. Maybe you'll hate it, maybe you'll love it, maybe all of it's wrong, but I present it here in its entirety: The Gervais Principle.
My eyes are still adjusting to the light.