The conservation of drama


Everyone has a set point, a need/tolerance for a certain amount of drama in a life. I’m not talking about important work, I’m highlighting the excitment and tension that surrounds the things that happen to us (or might happen).

The newspaper is always just about the same length, regardless of what’s happening in the world.

Politicians seem to have the capacity to deal with a given amount of tough stuff. When the urgent wanes, they make up something new. When there’s too much, they decrease their perception of its urgency.

Last example: a restaurant kitchen has a very narrow range indeed. The amount of terror or urgency in a particular kitchen doesn’t actually vary that much between a reasonably slow night and one where there are two or three VIPs out front or if its a banquet for a thousand people. We adapt and adjust and most of all, we shift our perception of precisely how important that particular emergency actually is.

It’s easy to persuade yourself that this time it’s different, that this time the drama is real, and that, in fact, it’s all (truly) going to fall apart. In fact, though, it’s all imagined. Drama isn’t the work, it’s our take on the work. Drama doesn’t have to exist, certainly not in the way we’re living it, not right now. A few days or weeks or years from now, this work will be so commonplace to you, you won’t blink.

If drama was an actual external force, how could emergency room doctors, dictators and short order cooks ever survive? They’re dealing with so much incoming, they’d melt.

If the drama is helping you and your organization do your work and enjoy it, then by all means, have fun. But understand that drama is a choice.

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