Deep Stretch: False Urgency

We're already back with another Deep Stretch episode. Can you believe March is over? We're closing out the month with a conversation about urgency. Something Elizabeth Holmes knew a lot about. If you've been keeping up with the case or the new series, The Dropout, you know that she was always moving with a sense of urgency...and deceit. But that's a conversation for later. FYI - The Inner Working Group Chat has been having in depth discussions around Elizabeth and Theranos. Even bringing in lessons around academia. Yeah, we go there. We open the doors on April 1st and would love to have you. There are some fun perks, amazing benefits, and a community of other folks doing the inner work.

Listen to this episode of Inner Warmup as Taylor shares more about the group chat, her thoughts around startups, and why you should have less urgency in your life.

Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Inner Warmup where your inner work begins. I'm Taylor Elyse Morrison, creator of Inner Workout and you, as always our our expert guest. It's the end of the month already which means that we're here for a deep stretch episode. If it's your first deep stretch, these episodes are ones where it's like we're sitting down for a cup of tea. So normally I interview you and this one, I get to tell you what's been happening on my side of things, what I'm thinking about and pondering with regards to self care and inner work. So let's get into today's episode, which was entirely inspired by a conversation that started in the Inner Working Group Chat. This is our membership community that is launching to everyone on April 1. If you go to the show notes, there is a link to make sure that you are among the first to be notified when it officially launches. 

Okay, let's get in to the show. Basically, this started when I posted about watching The Dropout on Hulu. If you're not familiar, The Dropout is a dramatization of the Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos story. I've been following this for a long time. I listened to the original podcast, I followed along through the court case. And now I'm watching the show that's based on the podcast, that's based on the real life events. Elizabeth Holmes is this young woman who dropped out of Stanford, and she set out to start this company who was going to create a blood test that only needed a single drop of blood, and would be able to test you for a multitude of diseases. Spoiler alert: That never came to fruition. 

But she did defraud a lot of people in the process. I mentioned that there was a court case, she was found guilty on all of the counts that related to defrauding investors. And curiously enough, none of the counts that were related to defrauding people, which I think says a lot about how our society and our legal system thinks about who is valuable and who is not valuable. But that's a story for another day. As I was watching this TV show, I just started getting a little heated. It made me angry to see this person who, yes, had Theranos have worked would have completely revolutionized the medical testing industry. But she knew that the device wasn't working, her partner Sonny knew that the device wasn't working, people in the company knew. And they just kept going, they kept moving at this flash speed, for a lot of reasons. 

One, because startups tend to incentivize speed. You're supposed to move really quickly so that you can raise your next round of funds. She was working with partners who wanted things to happen really quickly, because of their own needs and their own desire, some greed. Honestly, their own desire to take more market share, or to have an innovation that other people, their competitors have. And what ended up happening is that there were people who got the wrong results. There were people in the company who had their own moral and ethical qualms. One person ended up dying by suicide because of it. It was and continues to be a really awful situation. And I think it is indicative of more broad societal themes. 

So in Theranos, they were moving really quickly, they were actually targeting certain types of investors who would vet things differently than more experienced investors would. But these investors are still here. Yes, they're sold into the story of what if you've never had to say goodbye too soon, but they're also sold into the fact that this would be a cash cow for them. If and when it did work out. And we see this in startups in general. I think of, I believe it was Mark Zuckerberg, who had this mantra “move fast and break things.” Like just move quickly. Just keep shipping, putting out different features and break things and just kind of trust it. It'll all work out. And yeah, it worked for him, he's super rich now. But think of the conversations that we're having to have around social media with regards to the mental health of teen girls, with regards to what's happening in Ukraine, and Russia…all of the misinformation that they've been able to put out. I believe that there's some restrictions that Facebook's done now but like what about all the misinformation they've been doing for years and years that Facebook kind of looked away from because they were spending money and that money will still could be cashed in their bank account?

This idea of moving fast and breaking things, it’s popular for companies that are trying to reach a certain amount of venture scale, where they think, okay, it's fine if we're not profitable right now. It's fine for us to maybe do something that's a little bit of a gray area, and disregard whatever it is that the establishment has done, because we're the disruptors. 

And in the end, we'll get the scale that we want. And we'll be able to clean up any messes that we make later. 

But sometimes people don't realize how big of a mess that they're creating. I think of the story of the guy who made Keurig. And this isn't necessarily startup related, but he made the Keurig and was like, oh, this is such a great invention, and so many people use it, but it also creates a lot of waste now. And I'll have to see if I can find the article, but I'm pretty sure that he said like, oh, oops, didn't really think about all of the waste of these little plastic cartons, I was just creating something that was really convenient for me. And then years down the road, realizing oh, didn't think it all the way through. 

And not to put the blame on a single person, it’s just that's a tangible example of what can happen when we have this mentality of moving really quickly. Where we don't have values in place, either personally, or as corporations to guide us. And then we end up breaking things and potentially breaking people in the process. And one of our group chatters Deanna has been in academia. She introduced me to this concept of "publishing or perishing”, which is really popular in academia. The term was first coined in 1930 something, and it's this idea of, if you want to be an academic, you have a PhD or professor who has a promising career, then you want to put out as many articles as possible. Whether or not they're the best researched, whether or not you're following the best practice guidelines, you want to turn those out. So that your career can continue to be in good standing, can continue to flourish. At the cost of like I mentioned, ethics, there's some ethical, some gray areas and some just straight up no, that's wrong. You're not supposed to do that. 

But you're only supposed to publish something once. Some people will try and change things around and essentially, try and publish the same thing twice so they're getting double credit for one amount of research. Or maybe people are fudging the numbers a little bit. And at what cost? Like sure, now you can say I've been published in 30 something places over the past couple of years. But are you able to be a really good professor who's bringing up the next generation of thinkers in whatever your area of study is? Probably not good if you're so focused on research all the time, and not this in depth slow research, but this really kind of like microwave, fast food type of research. 

Another interesting fact that Deanna shared in this article in the group chat was that most of these papers actually don't get cited. So people are turning out these papers, because that's what you're supposed to do. And theoretically, it's supposed to be so that people can learn from them. So the next person can see, ooh, that's a great insight that Taylor and her team discovered in this paper. I'm going to use that and study this adjacent aspect of it. Or I really want to zoom into this one piece that they talked about, and see. Does this hold true for this specific population for this context? But that's not happening that much. 

Most articles aren't getting cited. And a lot of the articles that have citations have people citing their own works. So they're like, oh, in this first study that we did, we found this. And now here's the study. And you could be listening to this so far and be like, I'm not in a startup. I'm not an academia. This is so true. Even if those identities don't mean anything to you, like, I'm not a startup person, I'm not an academic. You might be or know someone who's in the greater economy and it's maybe instead of publish or perish, it could be post or perish. 

I need to post so many times on social media, or on my YouTube channel or a podcast because if I stopped posting, I am no longer relevant. My worth is not just in what I put out, the quality of what I put out, but in how much I put out. And if I decide to slow down to create space for me to create content that is going to be rich, and actionable, and interesting and funny, or whatever type of thing it is that you're creating, you are losing those aspects. And so that's why a lot of podcasts end up being ghosted, where people do it for a month, two months, six months. And then we realize, oh, the schedule that I set out for myself was a little ambitious, so I'm going to be done with it. Or that's why people can start creative projects and decide I'm going to, I'm going to blow up on Instagram, I'm going to blow up on Tik Tok, and then realize, oh, this is me buying into this paradigm of post or perish. Maybe my career isn't perishing, but part of my mental health is in the process. 

And this applies to for any type of business, whether you own your own business, whether you work for a larger, small corporation. I'm hoping that everyone listening to this is like I am in a great place. I'm in a great organization that supports my mental health and well being. But if it doesn't, you might be in this place where there is some type of urgency to produce or to perish.

If you are a graphic designer, maybe it's we need to create these new graphics for an advertisement or these social graphics.

If you work in strategy, maybe it's like, I need to be creating this deck for a client and we got to move it forward. 

If you're a business owner, you could be thinking I need to launch these new products.

I've definitely been there before, I need to launch these new products, or I need to find these new clients. Or I need to do doo doo. Otherwise, my job's not going to be here anymore, or my business isn't going to be here anymore. 

And what it ends up creating is this false sense of urgency. This urgency, perceived urgency that is just pervasive in our society. In urgency, just because I like to go back to definitions, I find that so many things can be murky. And I think I know what they mean and then I'm like, oh, that's actually a little bit different than what I thought. So urgency is something that requires swift action, requires swift action. So that's why it's called urgent care, because you're like, I need help right now. I cut myself while I was chopping vegetables and I'm not sure how deep it is. I need to go to the emergency room. I need to go to urgent care ASAP. I can't miss this. 

But I can make a lot of things urgent that are not urgent. And when we create that sense of urgency, what do we think that this urgency gives us? Maybe we think that it is going to make us more money. If I can keep posting videos, if I can keep grinding, keep hustling, I will make more money or maybe it's going to give us momentum. You feel like it's been really slow. If I create this urgency, it will give the team or myself momentum and that will keep me going. That will sustain me. 

Sometimes I think that people in organizations do it because they want purpose. They want to feel valued. And they want to feel a sense of purpose in what they do. And so I've definitely had this in past roles where my boss was just giving me and giving the team things to do, that didn't really map into particular goals. But then they could say, we've done X number of these things each month, and we do Y number per year, and just putting a lot of numbers and metrics around something. But if you peel it back, it's not actually driving something that the business has seated as important. 

But it can make the team feel important because we're doing things, we're productive. We're doing things doesn't that mean that we're valuable. I think that's some of what we want when we create false urgency, is just to feel valued and valuable. What urgency actually gives us though, and it's certainly given me this at times…stress, anxiety, burnout, or companies that can give high turnover. And what it ultimately does is it disconnects us from our self-expertise. Urgency disconnects us from our self-expertise, because we feel like this needs action now. Sometimes the urgency is internal. But a lot of times, what I find is that when I peel back the layers, it's actually an external voice. So I feel the need to move with urgency internally, but when I think about where that's coming from, it's external. Someone else is telling me, oh, this is important. Oh, you need to move forward on this. Oh, every good business owner, good wife, good friend is doing this thing. So you need to do it right now you're behind. It disconnects us from our self-expertise, from the belief that we know what we need in the moment. 

And I'm going to be honest, I thought that I was above this, I really did. I was having a conversation with a friend and we were talking about Theranos. And we were talking about different work experiences that we've had. And I kind of was like, “yeah, I mean, I left corporate. I don't really have to deal with urgency that much. I'm not making things urgent in a way that is harmful to me because I get a lot more autonomy over my schedule.” And then I sat there as we were talking about where do we think the urgency comes from, and then I thought, Oh, wait, Taylor, do you just did this like two days ago. I was trying to post a reel on Instagram, and we use a tool that tells us what the best times are for us to post when our community is online. I was trying to post this reel or trying to post it in a way that it would show both my personal account and Inner Workout’s account, and like different things are just not working. And Matt, my loving husband is trying to talk to me about our plans for the weekend. And I'm like, babe, I need to post this reel right now. I was supposed to post it 15 minutes ago, and it's not working. I've had to delete it like five times. And this is really stressful for me, I need to do this right now. I need to get it fixed. 

I apologized to him later that night. But I realized that someone told me that there was this magic time when people are going to be online. And I said that it is urgent that I post at as close to that time as I possibly can. And I treated my husband really poorly in the process. False urgency. So maybe a few less people saw our post. It trust that the right people, the people who needed to see it, they saw it.

And when I look at how I measure success, it's so much more important to me that my husband feels seen and heard and cared for. On paper, it’s more important to me that he feels cared for than an Instagram post going up at the magic time. But that urgency told me that no, no, this thing, posting this reel is the most important thing. 

So what do we do? What do we do when we feel the sense of urgency? We feel like this thing, this task, the situation requires me to act right now. This is counterintuitive. But I think the most useful thing that you can do is to pause. Urgency, it's telling you fire all cylinders, go as quickly as possible but when you take that pause, you allow yourself to connect back to your self-expertise, and to do what mindfulness teachers call respond right rather than react. React is really driven by our stress responses, by a part of our brain that doesn't think as critically. And that brief pause, a few deep breaths, maybe an introspective question, something like what's important here? Why do I feel like this is so important? Who's telling me this is so important? That shifts us into responding, where we're making a choice, where we are back in the driver's seat. And maybe sometimes you do take that pause, and you're like, yeah, this is actually really important. 

Going back to that example of, if you slice your your finger, you might take a deep breath. oh, yeah, going to urgent care is the sane choice. But you also might have it where you get an email. And I'm talking a lot about work. But this can be personal too. You get an email, and it's like this thing is on sale, there's a countdown timer, you have three hours. And before you know it, you've already added this $150 thing to cart because you have to have this course, or this new bag that just dropped or whatever it is…”sign up for this event right now!” But if you can add a little pause, okay, why is this important? How does this map against my personal values, my definition of success, what I say is important? You are actively choosing rather than being corralled or sometimes fear mongering into doing something because someone or something told you that it was urgent.

So what I'd love for you to do as you continue your time of reflection is just to think about a time when you felt the sense of urgency. And really think about like, what did it feel like in my body? What did it feel like emotionally? Get familiar with that feeling and try to notice it. Try to give yourself a pause, a deep breath or two. So since this is a deep stretch episode, we won't build in the time for reflection, but if something came up for you, feel free to DM us. Or if you are one of our group chatters, feel free to start a conversation in the group chat. Like I said doors open to everyone on April 1 and the link is in the show notes if you want to be on that list to get notified. Thank you so much for your time and for your expertise. Take care!