Vengefulness, Despair, Celebration

posted May 28, 2013, 10:30 AM by Tia Karelson

February 1, 2013

Vengefulness, Despair, Celebration

I just finished reading Nora Ephron’s “Wallflower at the Orgy,” a collection of articles she wrote in the late 1960s. It is a wonderful time capsule covering fashion, food, literature and movies. My favorite piece is the December 1968 Mike Nichols interview. Fresh off directing “The Graduate” he says, “I think when people do things, they do them out of a variety of motives. Let’s say, arbitrarily for a minute, you can divide why people act into three motives: vengefulness, despair, and celebration. Dig?”

First off, how long has it been since you’ve heard someone say, “Dig?” Love that. But in all seriousness, I’ve shared and thought about these words every day since reading them.

What is that drives our behavior? What is that motivates a business? Businesses struggling to transform have difficulty acting from a place of celebration. Often, they are transforming not because it is invigorating and exciting, but because it is an economic necessity. There are elements of vengefulness since they are fighting the competition, and despair because the change is forced.

I started Market Karma as a way to transform my life, not just to build a business. I was tired of corporate life. The idea of doing something until retirement because it is what I know, and theoretically provides economic security was no longer enough.

I also questioned whether I could find happiness in yet another corporate environment. I asked a friend who recently retired how many truly happy moments she had had at work. She was stumped. Another friend said work and happiness aren’t supposed to go together. Sadly, part of me agrees with that. I grew up with the notion that work is drudgery. It is something you do because you have to do it.  It is not about growing, learning, creating, socializing, laughing, discovering, and certainly not having fun or being happy.   

Market Karma grew out of this despair, and to be honest, a bit of vengefulness. Or to be crasser, “Fuck you.” This is the feminist rant part of the post. Skip to the end if you prefer.  A few years ago, a male executive advised me to be “male and territorial” before presenting to a group of male executives. If I could put on an objective hat, I would realize this says much more about him than it does about me. But it still threw me, and needless to say, it was one of my poorer performances. A friend of mine who does talent management was appalled. He kept asking, “You know this is bad, Tia. Don’t you?” I did know it was bad. I also knew that it was not the first time I had received that message. It was just more overt than usual.

In the interview, Nichols goes on to say that much of his behavior has been driven by “I’ll get you bastards” but feels it is changing, although he doubts he’ll ever achieve celebration.  I wonder how he feels 40+ years later?

It is hard for me to write that Market Karma emerged partially from vengefulness. I am not a naturally vengeful person. I do not spend hours plotting revenge against those who have wronged me. If someone brings up a story of a particular person who caused me aggravation in the workplace, I have forgotten that person exists. My revenge is ignoring their LinkedIn invitations.

While Market Karma may have emerged from a combination of despair and vengefulness, it is moving forward in a spirit of celebration. The current Eels song “New Alphabet” has a fantastic lyric, “When the world stops making sense, I make a new alphabet.” Market Karma is my new alphabet. It can be yours too. Let’s have some fun while figuring out ways to grow your business. Maybe we’ll discover some happiness too. And it is ok if you are male and territorial. Just recognize and respect that I am neither.

On a side note, I just started reading “Love Goes to Building on Fire: Five Years in New York that Changed Music Forever” by Will Hermes. The five years are 1973-1978. The New York depicted is a world away from Nora Ephron’s late 1960s New York. I wonder if Nora ever got to CBGB’s?