To be a human being or a mere tool?

Image credit: Tshepo FPS | Instagram:

“Scarier than robots that are behaving like humans are the humans who are behaving like robots. And they are everywhere.” Art Director, Ji Lee, who is renowned to espouse simplicity is his work tweeted this thought a few months back. When I read it, it stuck with me.

And another fascinating piece of work I recently read is Seth Godin‘s book, Linchpin. And on it, he talks about an interesting idea. Seth notes that as the world changes just as it changed with the industrial era, it brings with it incredible opportunities — only if you are willing to adapt and not be romantic about how things were in the good ol’ days (think of the music industry). It calls us to change our posture and use our gifts to be remarkable. That the world has now started to compensate people who use their talents and artistry to touch the world.

As I proceed reading the book, I see myself in the observations he makes. The book makes me reminisce about my days as a Cashier and Sales Consultant at PEP Stores.

When Seth says, “The only way to get what you’re worth is to stand out, to exert emotional labor, to be seen as indispensable, and to produce interactions that organizations and people care deeply about.” He reminds me of the times I cared about the customers who came to my (shoes) department. Often, I’d make genuine conversations and truly want them to feel better after speaking to me — to derive deeper value than merely buying shoes. I’ve always enjoyed making other people feel good.

Of course, at the time, I did not have a slightest clue that I was effectively flying against the idea of being a mere cog in the giant retail sector machine. That I was instead being a human. A person who made meaningful connections with customers. I poured my soul into the work I did and avoided mindlessly following instructions.

If you think about it, it is tempting to avoid responsibility and live by the safety of only executing other people’s instructions. When things go wrong, you won’t be in the firing line. And on top of that, you’ll get paid just to seek safety. Sounds like an awesome deal.

Because it seems that avoiding being a cog in a machine is emotionally daunting. It is far easier to be face-down in your cubicle, doing exactly what you’re told, right?


I’d enthusiastically advise that you take the risk and be human!

I believe even the task of sending an email, for example, ought to be an occasion! You need to touch people with your emails at work. So much so they notice when you are gone. I’m reminded of one such person with whom I worked a few years back at a South African social media agency, Cerebra. Khumo Mokgoko was the office manager at the time, and such an phenomenal Writer that the office looked forward to reading her emails. (Some of the colleagues even encouraged her to start a blog.)

So, never shy away from doing emotional labour. Actually, go out to work with the aim of touching other people emotionally. Bring your human-ness in with you, bear your soul and make meaningful connections.

The ultimate reason you need to ooze kindness, energy and creativity is a simple one:

Robots never put in extra effort to delight customers.

And I am certain you are not one. You are a human being.