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Business, Drug Addiction, and The Light Side

Maybe the title of this post has led you to think that I’m going to delve into thoughts about how many functional drug addicts (New Yorker, “Brain Gain”) are wandering the halls of large corporations, or some proofs that high-level drug kingpins function the same way as entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Corporate Kingpin

There are some decent points to be made on both topics, per the New Yorker:

  • Healthy and high-functioning doesn’t mean functioning at an “optimal level”;
  • People are “happy to take drugs” because our society is highly motivated by quick fixes (kingpins are just filling the market gap);
  • Drugs increasing dopamine are potentially open to abuse;
  • Increased performance and productivity is good – even if you take drugs to do it; and
  • Overall culture: “anxious employees in an efficiency-obsessed, Blackberry-equipped office culture, where work really never ends.”

At Infusionsoft’s ICON14, Simon Sinek made the amusing and relevant point that business leaders can either turn useful activities into group drug addictions or mutually beneficial relationships.

Boozing It Up Re-Connecting

  • Selfish Chemicals: Endorphins and dopamine help us get the good feeling of endurance and accomplishment via visual cues. (“I Have a Dream!”)
  • Individual: we get hits of dopamine after obsessively checking our phones and emails.
  • Group: dopamine hits can get us addicted to individual goal-related bonuses, public shows of appreciation,
  • Addiction versus Moderation: Continually craving the next hit of feel-good dopamine helps us to “waste resources, waste time, and destroy our relationships; in moderation, all of these things [checking email, running, finishing goals] are fine”
  • Selfless Chemicals: Seratonin and Oxytocin “make us form trust and cooperation” – demonstrations of loyalty and love and self-confidence boosts.
  • Emphasizing selfless activities helps the group to share in the wins.
  • Responsibility and the sacrifice of self-interest is the cost of leadership; at dangerous points, the group expects the leader (stronger and better fed) to protect them by getting rid of the danger threatening the tribe.
  • Sacrifices are worth it, helping the others to grow and do more than they can on their own.
  • As social people, we respond to the environment we’re in – either Me First or Them First.
  • More oxytocin in the body (friendship, acts of generosity, sacrificial time, the power of physical touch) = less susceptibility to all addictions.

Creating a supportive group environment combines the sense that each person helps the other to grow and improve, while knowing that you’re going somewhere worthwhile….together. Even as a micropreneur, I can see the organizational difference between people who know why they’re there and think it’s worthwhile, versus those who are there for a specific yet self-centered purpose.

Even the virtuous find it hard to be surrounded by those who are out for #1 all the time. This out-of-balance feeling can either make you work harder toward the light side of self-sacrificial Oxytocin (“I’m not going to be like Those People”) or move you toward the dark side of Dopamine (“I should get everything they have too”). There’s nothing grand and inspiring about selfishness, but it certainly helps in short-term survival. Conversely, being All About the Group when the group is all about itself, means you get tired, burnt-out, embittered people.

Walk toward the light. It will be worth it.

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