As another successful period ends, I want everyone to take a moment to recognize that we are not only transitioning into the beginning of a new quarter, but we are also embarking on an adventure with limitless possibilities for the future of this company. In this moment, we prepare to meet the varied and exciting challenges ahead while leveraging our collective intellect and experience in order to push ourselves to the boundaries of what we’re able to accomplish. Moreover, in honor of this fresh start, I want to come clean about something that’s been weighing heavily on my shoulders for the past few weeks: I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.
When I say that I don’t know what I’m doing, I don’t mean it in the sense that my vision for the future is unclear or that I’m struggling to reconcile how we can assert ourselves globally in a landscape that is constantly changing. I mean it in the sense that I don’t know what a CEO can or should do. Literally. I don’t know what this job is.
When they asked me if I wanted to be CEO, I just accepted it. They asked, “Do you want to be CEO?” and I said, “Yes.” That was it. I didn’t spend one minute thinking about what my role would be or what the expectations were. I didn’t care. I got more money and a better office. I got to travel to China for free. I didn’t want to subscribe to the preconceived notion that being CEO of this company is hard. When you really think about it, this office is nothing more than a building filled with animals tapping away mindlessly at keyboards and yammering into headsets. How hard can it be to supervise a glorified cult that’s clinging desperately to the hope that what they do on a daily basis will actually make a lasting impression on anything (even though it most certainly won’t)? The problem—as I’m starting to realize— is that there is actually more to being CEO than I anticipated. I just don’t know what that is yet.
The other day a colleague (I honestly can’t remember her name) approached me frantically with a Moleskine in one hand and an iPhone in the other. She was sweating profusely as she launched into a long, complex question punctuated by dynamic shifts in the pitch and volume of her voice. At the same time she was hurriedly eating her “lunch,” which was just a fistful of cashews from the filthy office kitchen that she was cramming down her throat. I think she was talking about something related to money, but I can’t be sure. I zoned out about halfway through because I was trying to mentally picture Keira Knightley in my head but all I kept seeing was Anne Hathaway. By the time she finally finished droning on and on and on and on, I had no clue what she had been talking about or how to respond. So I just turned toward my window, let out a protracted sigh and blurted out the word “synergy.” Then I waited with my back turned until she left the room. I can guarantee you that word didn’t make a lick of sense given the context of whatever she had been saying for the last five minutes. But you know what? She bought it.
And that’s when I realized most of the stuff people say here doesn’t make any sense.
If you’re smart, you figured this out a long time ago. If you’re even smarter, you’ve learned how to speak nonsense yourself in order to blend in. If the things that are said here actually do make sense to you then you must either be an idiot or you have a gross misunderstanding of the human condition and/or how language works. Congratulations, you could be CEO. Business is simple: there is money and there are assholes and each one feeds the other in a tantric masturbatory Ouroboros where nobody ever climaxes. If you can master the art of saying things that don’t matter while making people subsequently think that you’re doing what they think they want, then you’re halfway to running this company. Hell, you’re better equipped than I am.
So, again, we return to my central question. What am I supposed to be doing? Well I’m essentially in charge of a collection of agencies that forms an amorphous cluster of resources. A main component of this cluster is You People. I know nothing about You People. There are simply too many of you for me to have any intimate knowledge of you personally. But mostly, I don’t take the time to learn anything about you because I don’t care. I’d wager that most of you don’t care about the people around you, either. Some of you may think that you do, but you don’t. Your coworkers aren’t your friends; they’re just proxies for the people you wish you could spend your time with instead—the people you love. What am I supposed to do as the man in charge of this mess? Nobody ever told me. Personally I don’t want to know. It would probably be a lot more work that I don’t feel like doing. I’d rather be intentionally vague and set smokescreens while spouting platitudes and scrolling aimlessly through my Blackberry.
Next week, we’re having the annual summit of something-or-other. I’ve been asked to open the meeting with a few inspirational words and some insight into our plan for “what’s next.” I have no idea what’s next, and I haven’t given much thought to what I’m going to say. It doesn’t matter. I found a site that compiles sentences by pulling from a library of buzzwords. Developing hollow content isn’t hard once you’ve been immersed in an office environment for any prolonged period of time. Worst-case scenario, I can always defer to corny humor. You will probably all laugh either out of pity or fear or because your sense of humor really is that awful. Maybe you don’t have a sense of humor at all. If you’ve lasted this long here without chuckling at my ineptitude or at the overall farce that is this company and its principles—this malignant lump of assets driving actions that are ultimately meaningless blips in the grand scheme of life—then you’re probably barely sentient. I don’t blame you. The false sense of culture that we pretend to foster here has likely turned your brain to oatmeal. This resulting character degradation is maybe no more apparent than during the afternoons when I witness young professionals in what should be the prime of their creative lives hunched over desks typing emails with one hand while miserably scarfing down falafel with the other.
As CEO, one of my responsibilities might be to offer hope in the face of this continuing deterioration of the human spirit—that your hard work and dedication are contributing to our unprecedented growth. Unfortunately I can’t provide that. I can say, however, with 100% confidence that your work probably really is as pointless as you’ve always feared it might be. I can recommend that you succumb to the gut instinct you hopefully have to pry yourself away from this relentless circus of banality and do something you love instead. Lastly, I can offer an honest appraisal of my own strengths and weaknesses. So, in closing, here are a few things that make me uniquely qualified to be CEO: I’m relatively tall.
Actually, that’s about it.
I thought I wanted to be CEO. It turns out I was wrong. You know what I would be if I could be anything in the world? I would be the guy leaning against the rock in Caspar David Friedrich’s Winter Landscape With Church. I don’t care much for religious symbolism in art because I don’t care much for religion. For me, the muted cathedral in the background is mostly an afterthought. But what I love about the painting is its depiction of perfect stillness. The crippled man is dwarfed by the immensity of his surroundings. He has abandoned his crutch and found a spot to rest. As far as I’m concerned, it’s irrelevant that he is praying. He is the only person I’ve ever seen in my life that I felt was truly at peace. No computers. No bullshit. He is the man I want to be.
I wish I had some better advice to give you but… fuck it. Nobody reads these anyway.