I’m not quite sure when we became so obsessed with how much we do…and how much we do compared to others.
Maybe it started in high school, when we somehow adopted the belief that it was good to aspire to be the person who was in every club photo in the yearbook, smiling out from the page in the shot of the soccer team, the newspaper staff, the French club, the National Honor Society, the Peer Advisors group, the dance team.
Even now, I’ve been in conversations with a group of people and after one person has introduced himself with the long list of things he does (I founded a tech company, I’m virtuoso violinist, and I help build schools in Africa), another person in the group, who doesn’t have such a long list, inevitably introduces himself by saying “I’m just a writer.” Or a teacher. Or an office manager.
Since when does only doing one thing require us to add a self-deprecating modifier?
Doing as much as we can has turned into a competitive sport.
We have been primed to believe that “more” is more interesting. That a jack of all trades is more interesting than a master of one. Why? I think in part because we perceive it to be more difficult to both be an entrepreneur and a violinist, for example, then to be only one or the other. That perception of heightened difficulty turns being a master of “more” into something we covet and therefore something we celebrate.
But it’s the classic “more is better” trick. And we’ve been falling for it all our lives.
In the end though, I don’t think it’s a matter of whether more is bad or good – it can be both. It’s a matter of why we’re choosing more. If we’re choosing it to impress others, to fulfill a societal quota that we think will make us seem more desirable and successful, then we’re doing it wrong.