“Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. An Expression of the Contemporary Worker Through the Sound of Daft Punk

Many of us struggle through life trying to make a good decision, most of the time, the best possible decision, either in the supermarket, the clothing store and in our personal lives when we choose a job, a friend, or a companion. But what happens when the meaning of a good decision looks blurred against other options. Let’s take the case of Tanya.

Tanya is a young intelligent woman who doesn’t like her job. One reason are the activities she has to do, another is the way in which the company is managed, and finally the manner in which the employees are treated. All these in contrast to her expectations and the aspirations she has for her life. Why did she choose that job in the first place? Well, the illusion of security is one reason, the sensation of fulfilling  the need to work in order to pay everything that is necessary for her survival (even if she can get help from other people) and the promise of saving money and keep working on achieving her ultimate dreams, which involve traveling and  living outside her country, finally the need to balance the pending payments she has on her credit card. The difficulty in knowing how the company really was from the outside didn’t make the choice easier, only until she was inside she saw what was happening with the rest of the employees and how the company behaved in general.

The company is only related to her field, but not exactly. Tanya thought that by working in something that was related she could broaden her experience and perhaps to find something new, the possibility of having experiences that could take her to the path she was looking for, or at least that she could be able to cover her more immediate needs. She was recommended to this job, so if the opportunity had come to her, why not take it? It seemed like a new adventure that could have nice results. Even though the position she was offered, assistant to the CEO, was not her favourite, the fear of not finding something else soon and the idea –an recommendation from other people– to “give it a try” because “you never know where it can lead you” helped her to take the decision: she took the job.

From the beginning, she new that her first months would be just a test and was told that after three months she would sign a contract. Her first weeks were uncomfortable since she didn’t have any kind of introduction to the company, except for some scarce explanations about the likes and dislikes of the CEO, Martha. Christian, the former assistant who was now growing within the company and changing to another area, barely spoke about his daily activities and duties. Tanya was kind of lost and without grasping the general idea of what was going to be her responsibilities, nonetheless she was positive and sure that over time she would learn everything. The three months passed and no contract was signed, even more, she learned the ways of her position but also how the higher figures of the company behaved with the employees. It was a very confusing environment since every now and then she received orders or requests and later she was reprimanded for doing what she was told to, such like this were the cases of her co-workers, most of them had a similar story to tell, so she realised that this behaviour was not a one time thing but a constant that could happen to anyone there. 

One time she tried to talk to her superior about these small conflicts but nothing changed, on the contrary, the situation got a little worse since now she had to act like everybody else, ignoring the reproaches and never giving reasons but accepting faults –whether they were true or not– for fear to not being payed or to being punished with more work or unreasonable requests. It is important to point out that by this moment she already knew there was not going to be a contract ever and even more, none of the basic benefits for an employee were granted to them, the only real benefit she had was her salary and the promise that she would grow one day –something that was also promised to others who complained that even though they had a bigger position their income was not equivalent. The last drop was when she new that their superiors were thinking about skipping one payment and delaying the decision to give or not until the last minute.

After all these situations she decided to reflect about her own role there, also because as time went by, her character started to change and little by little she felt not as competent as she used to and down about her own dreams and aspirations.  She knew herself as a hard-worker, a committed person who was able to learn things very fast and give the best for any task. Beyond, she liked to study continuously and had become very disciplined in order to accomplish all the activities throughout the week that were also related to her dreams and personal life. It was time to come to a decision about staying in that place or not. Many of her friends and acquaintances told her that no job was perfect and that it was better to put up with the situation and hold until something better came up. However, her feelings said otherwise. She felt that it would be better to quit her job and look for something else, being more careful about her decision. What was the bravest thing to do?

Many people say that to get great things we have to act out of our comfort zone and dare to do things that scare us or bring some kind of uncertainty into our lives, others have said overtime that to achieve greatness we must be constant and always keep looking forward to accomplishing our goals and working for them, and a few others have said that once you plant the seed, you must take care of it but also learn to let go and allow things to flow on their own, for everything would come into place at the right time. Then…if all these notes have a certain level of truth, what would be the right thing for her to do? Should she quit the current job and venture into looking for something else knowing that there could be many possibilities? There should be possibilities as there is people in the world, or should she note her fear and stayed for the benefit of a secure little money until she got something new? even if it was unbearable to stay for more time? Can the fear be too great as to paralyse someone from any hopes or dreams of getting something better? Is it possible that staying could bring more benefits than just the fixed low salary she had?

What is to be brave in this case? What would it mean to work hard and keep fighting for your dreams? Would it be to hold on the job or to look for something else? Annie Dillard wrote on her reflection of presence over productivity (1) “How you spend your days is of course, how you spend your life” is it worth to spend your days complaining about your day to day life and struggling because what you do is not something that could make you slightly happy? Where does one draws the line of the unbearable? Where or when do you set on your own limits? For Tanya the answer seems to be clear, but if any one of us were in this position, would it be so easy to confront it? It seems situations like these happen in real life and we should be thinking not on how to handle the situation or how to tolerate, but on how to change and avoid to fall in situations like that, to learn about our own mistakes and acknowledge our strengths and possibilities. Our decisions are what create our lives, then taking a decision is an important task, how do we measure or incline to the right decision?

A situation like this may be happening, more than ever, in different places around the world. What are we willing to do to change it?…

(1) Popova, Maria. An Antidote to the Age of Anxiety: Alan Watts on Happiness and How to Live With Presence, Brain Pickings <http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/01/06/alan-watts-wisdom-of-insecurity-1/&gt; (29 January 2014)

One thought on ““Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. An Expression of the Contemporary Worker Through the Sound of Daft Punk

  1. When I read your headline “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”. An Expression of the Contemporary Worker Through the Sound of Daft Punk, it made me think about how this is also an expression of our mindset as individuals. Especially for me, how I feel I need to be “harder, better, faster, stronger” in order to be Worthy of Love and Approval… the two vids you posted really makes me think about the way we “programme” ourselves to “perform” in order to earn what we already have / are…

    So thanks for this. – M

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