The last few weeks feel on a similar plain to the Matrix’s blue/red pill scene. The big difference, however, is rather than me consciously making a decision to ‘wake up’, someone slipped the blue pill into my drunk at a bar last night.

I have always been a strong believer that startups make a positive impact on the world. A company like Airbnb, for example, brings people from different continents together who probably would never have met. I have hosted myself, & found the experience richly rewarding.

However, I now realise that many are a farce.

The majority of companies – including my current one – insist on using the word ‘family’ to describe the relationship between employee & employer. This is a complete façade.

It is not in the interest of the company to even have a ‘family’. Better to automate as much as possible & avoid hiring until absolutely necessary. What business wants to deal with paying individuals & having to fuss over creating a pleasant working environment? It’s a drain on resources.

As soon as those in the ‘family’ are no longer required, any manager would not hesitate to fire that individual. What’s their purpose? They are wasting the company’s time & money. Send them packing with a P45 & the cute picture of their dog that sits on their desk. Get them to leave the company laptop on the way out.

Is that how a normal ‘family’ works?

“Hey, son. So… we’ve just had a new baby… I’m not sure we’ll really be needing you anymore. Close the door on the way out, will you?”

Yet who in the startup world questions this absurdity? Its usage is completely antithetical to the definition of the word &, quite frankly, an affront to our collective intelligence.

I’ll tell you what though, thanks to whoever spiked my drink with the blue pill, as I am no longer singing along with the choir.

I’m pretty sure we are not a family

I work in a smart home company. It has raised a load of investment & has high hopes. We are, as you might have guessed, a ‘family’. (If it were a sketch show, then I’d be seen as the sort of renegade, drunk, verbally abusive uncle).

Our mission, purportedly, is to save household’s up to 30% on their energy. That’s cool, right? That’s actually a big impact on the environment if it comes to dominate the European market?

However, our CEO clearly does not give a shit about that.

It is – & seemingly always was – an ego project in the pursuit of wealth & social status. The glories of our ‘family’ would be borne by our benevolent, omniscient leader. We, the faithful, were always doomed to bask in his glory.

Yet many at the company still fawn over – & aspire to – something that is clearly a myth.

How did I accept this opiate so unquestioningly? I consider myself fairly self-aware, yet I spent 3 months walking through a haze. I accepted unquestioningly the direction we as a company were headed & never voiced my concerns or opinions.

Looking back, it is clear that I didn’t voice anything because I didn’t care. Some part of me had already realised the paucity of purpose in my work. Some part of me had already realised that there was no point, because following someone with ego means accepting that they will always be right & that any attempt at persuasion is futile.

So, in this context, you understand why it pissed me off to core when our CEO said we were ‘a family’. I don’t think we could further from that.

What, I wonder, could ever merit using the word? Any attempt we seem to make to follow its definition are an affront. Throwing a few limes in the fridge, a litre of gin on the table & labelling it a ‘social, family event’ is being disingenuous. A weekly social drinking event is hardly an authentic attempt to create the strong, deep social bonds between those you work with.

It’s putting a Band-Aid over much deeper issues, such as the clear, almost tangible conflicts throughout the office & a general air of unhappiness & stress.

Waking Up

If you find yourself nodding along with what I have said above, then hopefully you as well are ready to take action.

Since my awakening a month ago, I have focused relentlessly on creating an alternative path for myself, by building a new business.

This started by starting every day with a question ::(see full article)::.

Every morning, create a note (whether on Notes, Evernote or Bear with the question, ‘What is the most important thing I can do today?

Spend 2 minutes thinking of the one thing that will get you closer to your goals and write down a short, concise answer. This can literally be one or two words – or even a paragraph if you want to clarify why it is important to do. Some examples from my journal: ‘Write blog post’, ’30 minutes learning to programme’ or ‘Be more present with friends later’.

There is also absolutely no way to excuse not doing this. You can write the note on your phone whilst commuting, it takes under 2 minutes & is not mentally demanding. By just stopping for a moment each day, you’ll find much greater mental clarity, however, and you will start a habit which you can build up towards a fully developed journaling habit in future.

By making a small step every morning, you are taking action towards changing your circumstances. These small steps start compounding & will help you too escape your 9-5 ‘family’.

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