🤯Unknown Unknowns #102 - You Are NOT a Pain Sponge
The most interesting character on Succession is Tom Wambsgans (Don’t worry, there will be no spoilers). Tom is a self-described “Pain Sponge.” His value is to absorb pain, to do what his superiors don’t want to do. He even volunteers to go to prison!
“Pain sponge” hits close to home. My entire corporate career was not about producing value but absorbing pain.
Think about it, staying late for the sake of facetime, what’s the point? What’s the point in making elaborate slides and presentations when no one reads them? What’s the point in making decisions with models that have no basis in reality?
When a culture is not based on producing value, but instead on appearances, the only way to assert a hierarchy is by applying pain. And the only way to move up the hierarchy is by absorbing pain.
It’s a hazing culture. My boss went through it, so I had to go through it.
I not only became accustomed to the pain, I began to think it was normal. And I became brainwashed into thinking that not only is absorbing pain a valuable skill, but that it was my only valuable skill. My value proposition was “I can do anything for you faster and better than anyone else.” The charitable term is “Managing Up.”
Work became synonymous with pain and I gradually became numb to it. I absorbed pain when at work and wrung it out on nights and weekends. The constant cycle of pain absorption and dispersal meant that Pain Sponge became my identity.
Whenever I wanted to leave my job, I blanked on what else I could do. The first step of finding a new career was to list out my skills. As I went through this exercise, all of the skills I could think of led back to being a Pain Sponge. I wasn’t producing anything, I was just making someone else’s life easier.
Because I wasn’t producing value, I felt I wasn’t valuable.
I finally left finance without a plan. It took a while, but through Write of Passage I’ve discovered the value I can bring through giving feedback and through Small Bets, I’ve found a way to experiment with new ways of giving value.
Leaving my career has given me a new perspective. It’s forced me to understand what I want. I still look to provide value by helping other people, but it’s the people that I want to serve, it’s the problems that I want to solve.
1️⃣writes about internal value and external equity, how your company perceives your value versus how other possible employers value you.
This is a great and valuable take. But I think Edward misses a key factor: Do you value how your equity is measured? If your equity is based on the fact that you’re a Pain Sponge, how do you feel about that?
2️⃣writes about work-life balance. More precisely, how it’s a false dichotomy. He says, “We have only one life, and work is part of it. Any separation is delusional to our detriment.”
Quote of the Week:
“I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself. Your own reality--for yourself not for others--what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.” ― Joseph Conrad
You can find more of my writing at chr.iswong.com.
Questions, suggestions, complaints? Email me at [email protected].
If you enjoyed this newsletter, please share it with a friend or two. And feel free to send anything you find interesting to me!
Leaving you in peace,