As A Therapist In Silicon Valley, I Believe Our Diversity Is An Illusion
“I was always on top, my whole life. First in my class, choice of job offers. I was the go-to, the guru! But since I came here and started working at (company) it’s like I’m nothing special, just another cog in the machine.”
-Recent Valley Arrival
This can be quite an adjustment if your identity was built around always being the best. You’re no less than you’ve ever been, but you feel less. This is an ego crash and it can be devastating.
Silicon Valley is a remarkable place, thanks to a phenomenon I call the “Intellectual Gold Rush” of the late 20th century. It started with the idea that anyone with a vision and the grit to realize it could come here, hook up with venture capital and become a billionaire (or at least a multi-millionaire). Word spread and the floodgates opened. Hackers, visionaries, ideologues and influencers from every corner of the world rushed here to be in the place to be.
This gave Silicon Valley the illusion of tremendous diversity, but it’s actually one of the least diverse places on earth. It’s a frenzy of gifted and aggressively motivated people converging on one small peninsula to seek their fortune, squeezing out everyone with less drive or means or potential. Some succeed profoundly and get lots of press. Many more crash and burn and disappear. But the vast majority simply keep doing well enough to preserve the hope of doing way better, perpetually chasing a dream just beyond their grasp.
Silicon Valley is where the world’s best, brightest and most ambitious people come to be average.
What are the implications? They’re intense. The world’s sharpest teeth coming together to feed on one another in the ongoing pursuit of dramatic success, that’s the Silicon Valley lifestyle. And it takes a toll.
I know. I’m The Silicon Valley Therapist. After decades as a denizen of the valley, surviving many notable creative and technical adventures, I became a psychotherapist specializing in the kinds of issues that arise for people enduring the Silicon Valley lifestyle.
“My company went public and I was a millionaire… on paper. But our stock crashed before I finished vesting and now I’m deep in debt.”
“Things are going great! I’m doing amazing! I just can’t understand this feeling of being underwater all the time. Sometimes I’m freaking out inside… like I’m falling apart.”
“I got laid off. Now that I’m home I see there’s trouble in my marriage. My kids, we’re like strangers. I’ve done all this for them, except there isn’t much this and I think I’m losing them.”
“I’m in my 40s already. I was supposed to be farther along by now. I know it!”
This valley demands everything and promises nothing. Where else can someone doing better than 99.999 percent of the world feel like a failure? People lose their passion, their balance and ultimately their perspective. And don’t forget the children being raised by these people, over-scheduled resume-building kids manifesting anxiety in grade school.
Silicon Valley is a breeding ground: it breeds more success but also more failure and heartbreak. I deal with crushed egos, broken dreams and anticlimactic wins. I deal with the issues which spring from ignoring people central to my life… from ignoring myself in my own life.
How do I help? I’m a sort of perceptual engineer. I work with people to realign their perspective. Adjusting perspective is critical for solving problems. Changing your worldview changes your world.
Resiliency, inspiration and perseverance can be the difference between bleeding edge or bleeding out. I help people flex their perspectives to see if we can find one that better serves. One that reignites passion, motivates perseverance and inspires action. I also help couples bridge the chasm between them (especially mixed couples because I’m fluent in both English and Nerd).
Read more at LinkedIn.
This article was republished with author Howard Scott Warshaw’s permission.