Global Trends Review #1: Commitment Phobia

My current role as a strategy manager requires me to monitor and analyze global trends in order to be able to come out with appropriate business responses and solutions. Our work life often tends to spill into our personal life and I have to admit that I am guilty of letting this spill happen to me as well.

Recent conversations with one of my closest female friends, gave me the push to share one of these personal trends I have been observing in the past few years and attempt suggesting some strategic solutions. I would call it commitment phobia.

Disclaimer: This post reflects my personal opinions and experiences. Just as with any other global trend, it is a generalization based on a non-exhaustive set of data, which mayor may not apply to other individuals’ lives and / or be aligned to their observed realities. Please keep this in mind when reading the following lines.

Background:

We, young, well-educated and successful professionals live in a bi-polar world with numerous interactions, distractions and other forms of stimuli. Every single day, we multi-task, come up with new ideas, seek new forms of entertainment and get bored every other second. We have short-term goals, we are critical of ourselves and others, and we have no patience for failures. This phenomenon is applicable to men and women alike.

The Woman Approach:

We, women, set ourselves ambitious goals of career, free-time optimization (hobbies, clothes, sports, save-the-world, etc.,) and marriage to the love of our lives and all by the age of 30.

The Man Approach:

Men also set similar goals but with slight modifications: career, free-time optimization (hobbies, clothes gadgets, sports, save-the-world, etc.,), conquering numerous women, by the age of 35. Then marriage to a genius supermodelthe love of our lives and all by the age of 3040.

The Results:

Total disconnect for which both sides are to blame.

We, women, expect too much, then we project these expectations to the men who, in turn, perceive the need to perform to those expectations. Since there is a clear asymmetry of information, of course, the men also grotesquely inflate those perceived expectations (as it is human nature to exaggerate uncertain reality). This phenomenon can be classified under a concept I learned in business school called – Cognitive Dissonance. They then address this created anxiety through a very simple conflict free solution: block the root cause -i.e. the woman.

Specific examples (can attest from the woman side):

1.  You had a wonderful evening together, at the end of which he told you he had a great time. Then he never calls again. You try reaching him and all efforts are futile, or met with a cold response.

2. You hear through the grapevine that he is interested  and you try to make the first step. The response, shockingly enough, is lukewarm.

3. Any type of suggestive text messaging stream that suddenly dies out.

4. He makes promises or daydreams out loud about your future together, but as soon as you start showing interest in the ideas, he disappears like the earth has swallowed him.

5. I have many more. Please contact me separately if you like masochism.

My suggested Solutions:

For women:

1. Stop caring about what he thinks or wants and start thinking about what you care and want.

2. I really don’t like the concept of “He is just not that into you” because it kind of provokes the insecurity-ridden question “What is wrong with me?!” I think a better concept is: “It’s not you, it’s him.” This is a much healthier and productive approach. If you are a smart girl and you follow step 1, and still, he does not acknowledge your worth, the loss is all his.

3. Get a life: Make awesome friends, do interesting things and finds sources and outlets of creativity. Happy and fun people tend to attract other happy and fun people (aside from some basic dose of leeches which is unavoidable). If this doesn’t work, rewind, get another life and restart once again.

I am not saying that the above suggestions will land you the man you want, or any man at all. The point is that one should focus on what makes one happy now and not expect this happiness to come from an outside source only. Just as with any strategic analysis, sometimes it doesn’t matter who caused the global disruption but what matters is what are you going to do next?

For men:

1. If we are interested in you at present, it does not mean we want to spend the rest of our lives (or even just one year of it) with you.

2. Our flexibility does not imply a weakness of character.

3. Sometimes, a simple response of: “Thank you for your time and effort, however, I have decided to pursue other candidates/opportunities.” can make a lot of difference and show simple respect for the other person who also chose to share her precious time with you.

4. The perfect woman does not exist. Get over it.

Advertisements

Patterns

She enters the train in Flamengo station, all bundled up in her black high-collar jacket. She is in her late twenties. With dark skinny jeans and black heels, the only source of color in her somber ensemble is her sparkling chandelier earrings.  She is going for the simple chic look, as always, trying to blend in. She could almost successfully pass for a local (carioca) if it weren’t for her short, wavy blond hair. In Rio, young women come out of the factory with long, brown, and straight(ened) locks, in this order of frequency so she is clearly not from here.

The sadness in her eyes is reflecting the gloomy, rainy, early winter evening. She is having one of those bad days when one just wants to crawl under the covers and sleep until happy times are back. Unfortunately, this is not an option; her friends are visiting from overseas and they have to be entertained.

As she finds her spot, pressing her back against the train wall, she notices Him. Early 40’s. Carrying a black HP backpack (“just like the one they gave us at work..” she is thinking). Handsome face, strong features, dark wavy hair. He is tall and fit. “Must be a runner,” she notes to herself. They just manage to exchange a quick glance before something strange happens.

Three young men in their mid twenties enter the train carrying musical instruments and occupy the space between our two strangers. They are an interesting bunch: Guitar Boy (dreadlocks, hands covered in kabbalah tattoos), Tambourine Boy (blond hair under a hipster hat, eyeglasses taped with a band-aid), and Saxophone Boy (black hair, looks like a football fan in his Vasco athletic shirt).

She is expecting a typical cacophony (she was so used to blocking those out during her New York subway days) but she is in for a surprise: the three musicians start playing light samba music, slowly rocking their bodies in harmony. She is captivated and when she looks around the whole wagon is rocking along. It is as if the air received an injection of sudden energy or everyone just simultaneously decided to take their happy pills. She catches herself smiling and rocking from side to side, just like everybody else and then she notices him again, doing the same thing, just on the other side of the music circle.

She feels the urge to cut across and introduce herself but then, the train arrives to its destination in Ipanema. He gets off and she follows, focusing on the black backpack walking in front of her. He stops at the escalator. Then, filled with that earlier energy, she passes him, walking up the stairs. He surveys her slim back, and those skinny legs in the skinny jeans, getting away from him. He speeds up and passes her again. He exits the station, boards the connecting bus most foreigners take to Leblon, and gets into the window seat. “Will she follow again?” He wonders.

On Dating and Career Success

Today I read 2 cool articles. One of them was a piece called “You should date an illiterate girl”.  It was a nice parallel to the very successful “why you should date a girl who travels”. 

Another one, from the Wall Street Journal, was about the real things people should tell us when we graduate about the life out there before we graduate from college. I translated it into Russian for my grandpa so that he could comment from his 92 years of life experience. He agreed on most points but couldn’t really relate to the point about little league stuff. Me neither though…

I think my most favorite one was: Don’t make the world worse. I realized my lack of potential for making it better quite some time ago and indeed have been focusing on at least not destroying value.

Date a girl who Travels

Today I read this very beautifully written piece http://www.solitarywanderer.com/2012/02/date-a-girl-who-travels/ and it touched a nerve. Although she writes about a girl who travels, in my opinion she also means a girl who is independent and strong and has her own wishes, ideas and aspirations. This is something that I think many men find very intimidating.

I once had a conversation with one of my business school classmates about his perception of b-school women. He said he would never want to date one because they put their career in front of their relationships and their priorities are not the type he would want from a girlfriend / wife. It really upset me to hear this opinion (one I have heard before from other men) because its logic was so fundamentally flawed.  In my short lifetime I met many wonderful women, who were well-educated, well-traveled, successful, good-looking and basically had everything going for them and the one thing that was missing in their lives was love.

So friend from business school failed to understand the critical difference, in my opinion, between many women and men. We may care about our careers and be ambitious but we will continue to prioritize human relationships again and again as this is where we eventually see our self-worth, regardless of how successful professionally or overall independent we may be. Instead of thinking that we are too challenging for you, you should feel special that we had picked you out of everybody else in this world.

It takes a strong man to love a strong woman. So, my beautiful, strong, smart and funny girls, don’t settle for less. My great guy friends, look for your strong woman. My future awesome date, call me!

Image

Rio Carnaval, here we go

Lunch yesterday was a totally un-carioca (same weight as undemocratic), as I went to see a Modigliani exhibition at the Museum of Belas Artes in Centro (the exibition was so so but their Brazilian modern art collection was great). To compensate for my evil ways, the plan for today’s lunch is to go to Saara (?) market to buy a carnaval costume. I’m debating between Mini Mouse and Freddie Kruger ( sexual harassment: invite or fight or: conformity vs rebellion) so let’s see how it goes..

After getting “thanks so much for arranging everything” note for my friends that are visiting for carnaval, I realized I should probably arranged something and solicited some input on the blocos to go to. The results: an official brochure from Globo (the main newspaper), links to 2 blogs, an excel spreadsheet with 350 entries (categorized by must-go, avoid, best women, etc) and an excel schedule divided by day and hour of the 10 best blocos. Guess which one was from a former banker and which is from a consultant? Now I just need to synthesize.

A failed attempt at matchmaking for the same-sex community led me to contemplating on my own dating life and sending a “how are you and happy carnaval” email to a friend with some potential. I got the best response from him. He said “I’m going out of town but let’s do something when I am back (hum…I’m more or less in relationship, but if it’s less than more, we can see each other!)”. This is what I call a flexible design!! I think I’m going to use this one in the future.

I leave you here with another a piece of art.. This picture is actually 2D.