Summoning the warrior

Prof Scott Galloway shared some graduation advice to new grads recently – “Be warriors, not wokesters.” Here are a couple of excerpts.

Be mentally and physically … warriors. Lift heavy weights and run long distances, in the gym and in your mind. Many tasks you’ll be asked to perform early in your career will be tedious. Don’t do what you are asked to do, but what you are capable of doing. Think of it as boot camp before being sent to battle, as there are millions of other warriors fighting to win the same regions of prosperity. Get strong, really strong. You should be able to walk into a room and believe you could overpower, outrun, or outlast every person in the room.

My first job was at Morgan Stanley. I wasn’t as well educated as the other junior analysts. (My fault: UCLA is a sink-or-swim place; I decided to do neither and smoke pot and tread water.) Anyway, at Morgan, every other week I’d go to work Tuesday morning and not leave until Wednesday night. Nobody was at home waiting for me, I had no real hobbies, and in your twenties, if you don’t tell yourself otherwise, you can work 30+ hours straight … easily.

Balance is a myth. There are only trade-offs. Having balance at my age is a function of lacking it at your age. Your call.

There is a lot of discussion re what it means to be “woke,” some of it well-founded, some of it hyperbole. Yes, be awake to the privileges and prejudices that surround you and rigorously honest about the world you’re inheriting. But the word has lost that original meaning. Beyond the media noise, an insidious pattern is emerging in academic and professional settings. The insistence on filtering everything through the lens of personal identity and experience. The prioritization of victimhood. The belief that to be offended is to be right.

Structural racism is real, and our economic system is tilted, if not rigged. The most accurate predictor of your opportunities isn’t your intelligence or work ethic but where you’re born. But playing the victim decreases your capacity to be a warrior against these injustices. Pursuing the politics of personal identity ensures you will remain an individual, alienated and alone. Warriors sacrifice for the tribe, but they recognize they are part of a tribe. Separate people from ideology, or you give up access to 50% of potential relationships and allies.

Reacting to every slight and demanding satisfaction from every insult is what the system wants you to do. Joining a Twitter mob seizing on a hapless middle manager or an out-of-touch English professor may feel like justice, but it’s just a cheap drip of dopamine lost in an ocean of social media profits.

Be a warrior. Before you resort to violence, make a thoughtful assessment. Register the intention behind people’s gestures, ideas, and words. Don’t make a caricature of people’s actions and speech so you can draw your sword and feel righteous. Be a highly skilled, devastatingly strong warrior who exerts their power by example and leaves their weapon in its sheath. Forgiveness is strength. Demonstrate it, every day. Be a warrior, not a wokester.

There’s a lot about this that resonated with me. I’ve been an immigrant since I left home when I was 17 and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve reminded myself that I may not be smarter than the people in the room, but I sure as hell won’t be wanting for my work ethic. I expect myself to show up every day and make the trade-offs necessary to get an opportunity to do more impactful work.

I haven’t seen it done any other way. The smartest kids I knew in school were also incredibly hard working.

The part about not being a wokester resonates too. There is no doubt the world isn’t fair. I still feel like an outsider in so many rooms and places. But playing the victim isn’t the solution. It has never been and it never will be. Focus on what you control, learn to get along, then change the system for the better.

This isn’t just a recipe for work. It is a recipe for life. That work ethic works just as well as a spouse and as a parent. Both of those suffer when we’re not willing to put in the work. Everyday.

It even works on vacation for what it’s worth. Sometimes, you just have to wake up at absurd hours to experience something spectacular.

It helps to know you can always summon that inner warrior when the need arises.