“Being Beauvoir” in the 21st century: Y/N?

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August 11, 2012 by Katie.

Recently, I decided to venture out on my own & start a company with two of my friends and until that becomes profitable (hopefully!), I’m working several jobs that pay my bills but allow me a lot more unstructured choice as to what to do with my time, to do what interests me.  The point is: I’ve been thinking a lot about the traditional modes of thought surrounding what it means to be successful or how one  BECOMES successful.  Here’s my question: what opportunities could you have if you thought outside the box?

A great example – and one of my favorite peeps – is Simone de Beauvoir.  The lady was hardcore.  Founding feminist scholar, philosopher, novelist, and co-founder of existentialism along with her partner Jean-Paul Sartre, she spent a lot of her life teaching, working in different movements, working on newspapers, and writing.  Although she was part of the internationally reknowed “engaged intellectuals” of the 50s and 60s, I think its her earlier life that exemplifies finding out what you love and taking matters into your own hands.  She was a woman going to school for philosophy in the 1930s, which was tough.  She was one of the few women in her class, and probably the only one who treated it as as her career.  She had to prove herself.  She continued to do that throughout her entire life’s work, demonstrating that you don’t need to conform to social expectations, you can make your own reputation and make your own life.All the usuals are saying that the key to job success in the 21st century is going to be piecing together your own job, piecing together your own skills, and going it on your own.  While I think de Beauvoir’s life can serve as a helpful model, her life-philosophy – existentialism –  is even more helpful.So, how does existentialism apply?

Existentialism presents the idea that we build our own realities through the choices we makes.  Following this to its full conclusion in this context, it says that the traditions that insist that you cannot be successful – or that it’s very difficult to be successful – outside certain “career parameters” are falsely set, they’re a social norm.  This is not to say one cannot also be successful within those parameters or that those parameters are necessarily negative but it is to say that you don’t have to listen to them.  It’s a mental shackle.  Once you toss off the idea that you have to live within these parameters you discover that there’s a lot of opportunity out there to make for yourself.  Of course, it can be much more difficult than the norm, but existentialism (or anyone!) would never say that creating your own life is particularly easy.  You have to work hard at it.

So, again, what opportunities could you have if you thought outside the box and what do you think is better?

The current ideas of organization that define the parameters of working toward success or breaking the mold?

Is breaking the mold where we’re headed, or not?

Suggested Reading:
Simone de Beauvoir by Deirdre Bair
Existentialism is a Humanism a lecture given by Jean-Paul Sartre

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