One of my favorite writer/thinkers, Umair Haque published a fantastic post on Friday about what he calls "Mega Problem Denial Syndrome" or MPDS:
Let me introduce you to the biggest little problem in leadership: Mega-Problem Denial Syndrome (MPDS). As often in life, it’s the little problems that turn out to be trickier and more troubling than the big ones—like postponing having that troublesome lump scanned because you’re too busy/scared/lazy. Certain challenges may seem distant and therefore small today, yet the pervasive hesitance to even acknowledge them is standing squarely in the way of leadership.
This post is important for two reasons. First, he puts his finger on how MPDS is at work when we're talking about the futures of Millenials and (to some extent) Gen-Exers:
Millennials are the first generation in history—not just American history, but that of the modern advanced world—that will experience lower living standardsthan their parents. They won’t enjoy retirements, savings, pensions, careers, steady raises, security, stability, assets, homeownership (and maybe even working democracies, societies, a planet) on a par with those that their parents’ generation enjoyed.
Think I'm overstating the case? Congrats! You just fell prey to Mega-Problem Denial Syndrome. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, the economic damage done by the Great Recession was on the order of a historic war, catastrophe, or disaster. That damage is like a disabling illness, not a cold: It doesn’t "go away," it leaves societies on lower trajectories of human potential. And it's the young who are going to suffer that loss the most. They're already on lower career trajectories and will earn and save lessfor life.
Anyone crushed by debt yet forced to work increasingly insane hours for comparatively worse wages (often in jobs and industries that contribute to the inequality whose consequences they suffer) is not free in any meaningful sense of the word.
But you’ll hear precious few business leaders discussing that, let alone doing anything about it. Instead, the prevailing narrative is that the economy’s recovering, and everything’s going to be just fine and dandy, thank you very much. That’s not leadership; that’s an alternate reality built on delusional wish fulfillment.
From a career perspective, Millenials and Gen-Exers are living in a world that is not currently optimized for their success. I think it's important to recognize this and start talking about what we need to do to make changes.
Too much of what passes as career advice is geared toward the changes an individual is supposed to be making to improve their prospects for employment.
The bigger elephant in the room is that these prospects are pretty dismal for a lot of people. Your perfect LinkedIn profile and your "personal brand" don't mean anything if the real opportunities are dwindling.
The second reason this post is important is because MPDS is at work in virtually field of human endeavor. Every organization, every industry, every occupation has those "small problems" that, when ignored or not recognized, will add up to something huge later on.
Our greatest opportunities may lie in our ability to call out and acknowledge these issues--can we recognize these "small problems" and can we see how they may have huge positive or negative impacts in the future? Are we able to describe these issues in a way that allows others to recognize them and so that we might actually harness the will to make changes?
To the extent that we have opportunities, they may lie in our ability to recognize and acknowledge those issues that everyone else is denying even exist.