The unhealthy obsession with "crushing it"

I saw a tweet today that spoke volumes to me.

The quoted tweet was linking to an article about setting and achieving goals (something I love to do, and in fact, the author appears to go through the same annual reflection processed I referred to in my previous post, although in a much more intentional, structured way!). The article is great, but the tweet itself issued the challenge: "Are you ready to crush your 2018 goals?"

I hate the term "crushing it" (or Smashing it, or Killing it, or any other similar phrase).

There are two reasons I hate it. The first is simply, it suggests victory comes from destruction. It suggests that the only way to win is to tear something else down (in this case, goals, which is honestly probably fine but hold that thought) and it reflects a broader "alpha" culture which I really hate. 

To suggest winning means conquering, or destroying something is just really... unhealthy. It suggests that those that win are bigger, stronger and meaner. It says that the only victory is one which comes from pain (either yours or someone else's). It compounds the adage of "nice guys (or girls) finish last", and it's simply untrue. Victory doesn't need come from destruction. To win doesn't mean someone or something else has to lose.

You can win by solving a real problem that improves the lives of others. You can win by curing cancer. You can win by helping a nonagenarian cross the road. You can win by cleaning the office kitchen! None of these are activities which you'd say "wow, I crushed that", but they're all inherently valuable and all make our world a better place (especially cleaning the bloody kitchen).

When you crush goals, it suggests that your goal was a struggle or a challenge to be conquered. It suggests that you bested something that all the other losers couldn't. I've never heard anyone "crush" good customer support, "smash" that usability review or "destroy" creating a flexible work from home policy, yet I'd argue they're all more important than whatever goal you "crushed" this year.

Crushing is a negative force, not an additive one, and the people that use it tend to be alpha dudes. A rash generalisation I know, but it's evidence of the compounding force of bro culture. It demonstrates a culture of tearing-down rather than building-up. It suggests that we succeed through force rather than by simply creating, collaborating or caring. If you measure your success by what beasts you've slain, you're probably not contributing to the world the way you think you are.

The second reason I hate people "crushing" goals, at least in the startup world, is that it gives others a false sense of where you're really at. The fact is that most people don't spend their days "crushing it". We all have good days and bad days. We win sometimes, we lose others. If your response to "how's things?" is "we're crushing it", you've just missed out on an opportunity to share the burden, learn something or even help someone else. 

If instead of always crushing it, you expressed frustration about your development backlog, or how revenue hasn't grown as strongly as you'd like or how your investors have lost patience with you and want their investment back, you've missed an opportunity. I've always made a point of being entirely open and honest about how our business is faring (possibly to a fault), especially with investors and other founders. For one, it gives you an insight into who you're speaking with. There's a lot to be learned from their follow up question. Are they keen to help, or are they a parasite looking for someone else's success to leach off?

But, more importantly, it gives the other person an opportunity to share their troubles as well. Instead of standing around patting each other on the back for being awesome, you could be helping each other solve real problems. That struggle you're having, they may have solved already. The problem you thought you were the only one experiencing, they may share. Most importantly, if we're all honest with each other, we make it easier for those around us to keep going. Knowing that nobody has all the answers makes us want to continue searching for them ourselves.

I have no time for a culture of "crushing it". I have no time for bro's that need someone to lose for them to be able to win. Success, to me, means leaving people, things, or places in a better state then when you found them. You can't "crush" that.