Shallower Than They Need To Be

by Conor Friedersdorf

In the middle of this deeply weird David Brooks piece – I say that as someone who is very much a fan of the man's work – we get a wonderfully insightful paragraph:

Many members of this class, like many Americans generally, have a vague sense that their lives have been distorted by a giant cultural bias. They live in a society that prizes the development of career skills but is inarticulate when it comes to the things that matter most. The young achievers are tutored in every soccer technique and calculus problem, but when it comes to their most important decisionswhom to marry and whom to befriend, what to love and what to despisethey are on their own. Nor, for all their striving, do they understand the qualities that lead to the highest achievement. Intelligence, academic performance, and prestigious schools don’t correlate well with fulfillment, or even with outstanding accomplishment. The traits that do make a difference are poorly understood, and can’t be taught in a classroom, no matter what the tuition: the ability to understand and inspire people; to read situations and discern the underlying patterns; to build trusting relationships; to recognize and correct one’s shortcomings; to imagine alternate futures. In short, these achievers have a sense that they are shallower than they need to be.

If I might gently critique the balance of the piece: there is limited utility in taking the wealthiest one percent of the population, identifying a particular subculture within that class, and generalizing at length about it. A keen eye is best used elsewhere.

That brings me to the piece I'd like to see David Brooks write. Here's the pitch: "Rebelling Against The Organization." A followup to The Organization Kid in which the author spends time with and writes about twentysomethings who had within their grasp everything the organization kid is taught to seek... and chose to do something different. What led them to unexpectedly jump on that bus? How many of these kids wound up disappointed? Among the happy ones, what did they do right? How did their friends in the meritocratic elite respond?