Agenda | Mar 19,2022
Dec 19 , 2021
By Christian Tesfaye
It is not hard to feel cynical in these times. There is no shortage of developments that make the future seem bleak. This should not be surprising, of course. The human brain is wired to focus much more on threats than potential opportunities. The social media platforms we are all glued to these days exasperate the matter. Fear and anger sell, and they have algorithms specifically designed to keep us in a state of doomscrolling. The more we scroll, the more ads Silicon Valley companies sell and the more personal data they collect.
Economists and those in politics are thus telling us daily that it is a matter of time before all our political and economic systems collapse. We are told that all types of radicalisms are on the rise, the environment is collapsing over our heads and global war is just around the corner. This is not to underestimate the prevailing challenges of our era, but we are all in desperate need of a break from time to time.
There is thus the need to switch off from Facebook and Twitter, reduce the consumption of daily news, and focus on personal and professional growth. This is why I have come to appreciate the likes of LinkedIn, a professional networking platform where people are less likely to dump their worldviews on everybody else. It offers a welcome break.
When people gloat on LinkedIn, it is not military victory or to toast the ruin of others' fortune, which is the case in Twitter. It is usually to celebrate professional achievement, such as a new job, a certificate for acquiring a new skill or even starting a new venture. It is incredibly inspiring to see many young people labour as entrepreneurs, figuring out what works and what does not.
There are few things more stimulating than seeing entrepreneurs talk about their challenges and the opportunities they see. There is a certain mentality one has to have to start something new. They have to believe in their own personal capacity to make a change, or solve a particular problem in the market or society.
Such a belief in a personal capacity to improve one's own lot in life is particularly what those in politics lack. There is always something institutional, structural or historical that needs to be overhauled for change to come. The problem is the system itself – which it is sometimes – that has to be levelled to the ground for anything to improve. Even economists are guilty of this sometimes. They consider themselves the channel through which a grand new order would be instituted if only everyone else saw what they see so clearly and acted to realise that cause.
In comparison, entrepreneurs strike me as both modest and ambitious. They are modest because although they want to see systems improved and an enabling environment for the success of their venture be established, the grandiose view of themselves is often in check. These are people that do not want to remake the world in their own image. Only the egos of political players metastasise to the point where they forget such a thing often ends in horror.
But they are ambitious in their belief that they can control their fates without having to bulldoze prevailing systems. They see a problem and have enough self-worth to believe that they can get past it through hard work and perseverance. It is not that systems in the world do not need improving. It is only that it is faulty to anchor every personal failing to structures, institutions and society, and demand restitution for it.
We do not live in a perfect world. But we are not all its saviours, and neither would most of our suggestions go on to create a better world. Perhaps, the best way to help is to improve our abilities and skills in our own narrowly defined fields.
PUBLISHED ON Dec 19,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1129]
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