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People Don’t Mind Being Used As Long As They Aren’t Forgotten

Published: December 23, 2022

I’ve been meaning to write this post for years; but, I never really knew what I wanted to say on the matter. I still don’t exactly – I just feel compelled to put something down on paper because this phrase strikes a deep, emotional chord in my soul:

People don’t mind being used as long as they aren’t forgotten.

I’m not 100% sure where I heard this. I think maybe Clark Valberg said it. But, it could have been my dad. Or, it could have been something I saw in a movie. It’s just sort of been there, forever, in the back of my mind.

This phrase has been top-of-mind for me lately because – as I discussed on the Working Code podcast – I’ve been working on the “legacy” platform at work. Or, to put it more acutely, I’m the last one working on the legacy platform at work. And, it’s been super lonely. Many people disagree with the merits of actively improving an end-of-life platform; but, I believe that’s beside the point of this conversation. As the last worker, I’m also – seemingly – the last one to care. Which means that when I build something for our customers and I go to show it to the team, I realize that no one is watching.

I don’t work on the product for recognition, I do it for the customers. I absolutely love our customers. But, I’m only human; and, the desire to rejoice in the camaraderie of a job well done is an intensely innate human need.

Now, this is not intended to be a “woe is me” post – this a post about human connection and the power that human contact has on people’s well-being. It reminds of a TED Talk that I watched over a decade ago. In the talk, Dr. Abraham Verghese looks at the power of physical contact; and, how it should be the next revolution in “modern” medicine:

It’s a wonderful talk. No matter how many times I watch it, I’m always moved to tears. If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to stop and give it a viewing.

The irony of all of this is that even as I am increasingly cognizant of the importance of human contact and acknowledgement, I still find it very hard to put into practice. My whole life, I’ve been an “out of sight out of mind” person. This isn’t out of any sense of malevolence, I just an introvert that gets so mired in my own affairs that I quickly – and easily – forget that people exist outside my personal cone of focus.

So, I guess this post is as much a reminder to myself as it is to anyone else. I need to be better about connecting with and acknowledging the efforts of those around me. At work, in my marriage, in my personal relationships – I think we all yearn to be an important part of a tribe. And, creating the sense of belonging has to include both giving and receiving of appreciation.

Anyway, this is just emotional Ben being emotional. Happy Friday and have a wonderful holiday season!