Its Always About Control
“…it is mandatory that we understand the machinery of our lives if we are to modify that machinery to produce the results we want.” –From the book, Work the System: The Simple Mechanics of Making More and Working Less.
A couple of months ago I wrote a post about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. In the essay, I stated that each of us is driven by the innate desire for something more than what we already have. Here’s a further subtlety: For each of us, the “desire for something more” can be more precisely defined as the “urge to acquire better control of our surroundings and of our lives.” (And I might as well add this: The more control a person exerts over his or her life, the happier that person will be.)
What we do in life is almost always about a search for additional personal control within a system. Consider the following random observations:
- Via some protestant-ethic mental gyration, too many of us waste time refuting the simple fact that having plenty of money is a good thing. It’s elementary: More money means better control over the mechanical aspects of life. Find an ethical way to get more money and you will not only have more power over your time and surrounding environment, you’ll have enough left over to give some of it away to those who need help. It’s simple logic. Don’t confuse the issue.
- I don’t blog to make a living so there is no need for me to run every word through some kind of a marketing-savvy/politically-correct content scrubber. This gives me stronger control over what I say. It’s liberating. If I were writing in order to sell you something, my thoughts would be more parsed.
- In the West, the parent/child system of communication is often little more than a back-and-forth struggle for control. The ingratiated, coddled child has been granted adult-like power so parent-to-child instructions are transformed into child-to-parent negotiations. Control has moved from the parent to the child. Sad for the parent and sad for the future adult.
- Substance addiction is a black-hole system of destruction, and the ultimate example of loss of control. Not controlling an addiction ruins everything. (Interestingly, out-of-control addiction is the end result of misguided efforts to control a bad state of mind.)
- Twitter. Really: How much real control does one get in making endless tweets? Face it. If you have 15,000 followers and you follow 15,000 others, there’s a whole lot of talking going on while no one is listening. Using precious time to spout off to people who don’t even hear you is an act of delusional thinking and ultimately an act of non-control.
- Nature: In unfettered-by-humans natural systems there are control-lessons everywhere. The cougar chases the deer. The deer’s act of control is evidenced in the furious sprint away from the cougar. The cougar seeks its own incremental dose of additional control by securing yet another full belly. The deer’s act of control is to escape. Forget anthropomorphizing theories. In unadulterated nature, it’s always about control.
- Business and politics: No explanation necessary. Clearly these arenas are about control, and offering up examples would be condescending to you the reader.
- War: Same as above but certainly the most gutteral illustration of the deep-seated urge for control. (I just finished the book War, by Sebastian Junger. It’s worth the read.)
- Add your own examples. From the “control context” vantage point, just look around.
Most times, seeking more personal control is a good thing. Don’t hem and haw about it, or pretend the search for control is not a primary life-motivator. From Barack Obama’s agenda to Mother Theresa’s life work; from the act of buying a new TV to hailing a cab in the street, it’s about putting oneself out there in order to get a better grip on things. Once this inborn drive is understood from a non-judgmental point of view, getting a handle on the mechanics of life becomes simple and logical.
Here’s how I “work the system” in order to get better command of my environment and myself: First, I decide exactly what goals I want to achieve. Second, I study and dissect the linear systems that I’ve aimed toward those goals. Third, since I can now precisely see how each individual system executes, I carefully manage the components of each of those systems in order to produce my desired goals. It’s a mechanical approach, and in this mechanical world the approach is profoundly effective.
This overt effort to engineer better control is called “management.”
If you liked this post, please pass it on. -sc
Photo by H. Koop-Delaney, via flickr used under a creative commons license.