Columns | Guest Column
Anxiety to Stay Relevant
The pressures of keeping up in an ever-changing world
28 Mar, 2023
(Illustration: Saurabh Singh)
Longing and belonging are two primeval feelings in all humans. Almost all other emotions are driven by them. Aspiration is longing. Dreams are longing. Family, friends, neighbourhood, communities and nations are belonging. Overriding these desires of longing and belonging is the anxiety to stay relevant. There is so much peer pressure that life has become a perpetual roller coaster. The desire to succeed is embedded in us for millennia but given the hyper competitive environment of the 21st century we are riding tigers. You can’t jump off the tiger’s back but it becomes almost impossible to keep riding a tiger day in and day out. So, most people end up constantly anxious and figuring out their next move.
Actually the battle is about staying relevant to your work, family and friends and generally to the world. As you age you normally “retire” if you are in an organisational set up. If you are an entrepreneur or in a creative field strictly speaking you can work till virtually your last breath. It’s another thing that you’re either not wanted by the audience or your creativity just runs out. It’s like a bulb suddenly fuses. You are left agape, wondering where the applause has disappeared.
In a recent article in Inc., Australian serial entrepreneur Andrew Griffiths says, “When the world changes as rapidly as it does today, one of the greatest challenges we all face in business is staying relevant to our target market. The main reason is that just as the world is changing, so are our customers. They have far more distractions, choices, opportunities and ways to communicate that can ultimately test just how strong the bond between customer and business actually is. Losing relevance will ultimately cost us market share and even worse, we can go the way of the VHS. This means we need to be doing everything we can to stay relevant.
Some businesses are very good at this. Some, not so much. Think about the well-documented stories of Sony Walkman failing to take advantage of the digital music era, the taxi industry doing little to effectively battle UBER and many, many more examples. This is all comes back to a loss of relevance with an audience and it is one of the biggest risks facing all of us in business today.”
We are living life@frenzy. Mere survival is a big task. They say if you are not walking on the edge you are occupying too much space. Everyone is so busy that just keeping in touch is a task. From traditional extended families relations even in today’s nuclear families it is a problem. Education, work, leisure. You name it we are doing all this at a frenetic pace. If one doesn’t keep up you get just get left out. In a world full of hyperbole, jargon and acronym there is a 24×7 level of engagement. If you are not part of the conversation you are not relevant. A constant battle between real lives and virtual existence is art du jour. One is facing redundancies in work and home. Left out. This is the pre AI world. What happens next is a one big blank. Go figure out your relevance.
Much before ChatGPT was the flavour of the month thousands were trying to fight the fear of losing their livelihood. The only solace is in the constant repetition of the fact about emotional intelligence and human intuition which the Theory of Everything doesn’t talk about. I remember reading a piece by Yang Chun Wei years ago in Medium. While discussing the threat humans face from Artificial Intelligence. Wei points out an oft repeated truth. “When it comes down to people skills, AI is no match to humans. Ultimately, when it boils down to convincing others to side with you or make a choice, you need to know how to cater to people’s emotional side. Emotions are not a rational thing, which machines can’t comprehend. The lack of order and logic renders AI ineffective in dealing with us — the complicated beings.”
About The Author
Amit Khanna is a writer, filmmaker, media veteran and social commentator
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