Rich People with Wonderful Families Should Not Say Motivational Quotes

I’m writing this as I am virtually-attending our annual office-wide meeting to go over last year’s highlights and discuss the goals for next year. Managing Director / Head of My Office Location likes to start all these meetings by welcoming and embarrassing the new hires, then giving his view of how we’re doing. This often includes a motivational / inspirational quote and always goes over time. Today’s quotes were around measuring success, given the COVID situation, which has impacted our business considerably. First quote is from Maya Angelou

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.”

― Maya Angelou

I don’t remember the second quote exactly, but something about how success is trying and making mistakes. Managing Director transitions from the quotes into something about how we’re successful for trying and working through tough times.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these quotes or this message. But it feels cheap for the Managing Director to embrace this model of success, and tell us it to motivate us, because I know perfectly well that the definition of success required for our bonus targets and possibly our merit increases, meeting our yearly financial targets, has not changed. So what difference does Managing Director’s motivational quotes re: success make if Employer is not actually changing the definition of success necessary to pay out a bonus? That’s nice that Managing Director feels inspired. Call me a jerk, but since we’re not successful enough for me to a get bonus, I kind of don’t care.

Rich people: please stop doing this. Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’d rather Managing Director just be honest. Tell us we didn’t hit our financial targets because it was a tough year due to COVID-19, we’re not getting bonuses, you appreciate our hard work in spite of this, and you’re going to offer some thank you perk in appreciation of our efforts, like an extra day off or something. Honestly, I don’t really expect the last part, but it would be nice.

Next, it’s time for Finance Director to talk about the financial highlights (Spoiler Alert: Sales are Not Good vs. Target). Finance Director also shares a story about what success during COVID means to him. The story ends with him eating dinner with his family every night and spending more time with his children, and this is the true definition of success – spending time with your children which money can’t buy.

Again, nothing inherently wrong with defining success as family. But there is something tone-deaf about the Finance Director, who makes soooooo much more money than me, telling me that money doesn’t really matter. Also, how am I supposed to feel if I don’t have as much money as Finance Director and I don’t have children? By Finance Director’s logic, I am unsuccessful.

Finance Director’s inspirational message about success is almost a bit Kohelet-esque. Like, “I have acquired all this wealth/women/slaves/cattle and I know it is frivolty, so you should not bother acquiring wealth/women/slaves/cattle”. My reaction would be, well, awfully rich of you to tell me it’s all frivolty for me? Like what if I don’t have any wealth or cattle? Who are you to tell me that my need for wealth or cattle is worthless?

Those kiruv stories of women who had successful singing careers and then gave them up when they became Baalei T’shuva because of Kol Isha always made me feel the same way. Like nice of you, who already achieved my dreams, to tell me that achieving my dreams is worthless. As someone who was just talented enough enough at singing that I couldn’t let go of solo-singing-on-stage style dreams, yet not talented enough to ever audition well or get anywhere with it, I always found these stories kind of hurtful and insulting. I liked kiruv well enough overall, but those particular stories were a turn-off. But I digress.

The worst part of this meeting is that my fellow co-workers keep typing messages of agreement/engagement with these successful motivational talks in the Microsoft Teams Meeting chat. These are genuine responses, not fake suck-up responses. So I feel like the only bitter, jealous, de-motivated person. I think I need a new job.

Maybe it is just me. But I always feel turned off when rich people try to seem relatable by talking about something common to non-rich people, like their kids or something. As someone who does not have children, and who has a lot of complicated feelings about that, those I’m-trying-to-be-relatable-by-talking-about-my-kids anecdotes just make me feel lousy for not being that rich and for not having kids. I guess maybe if rich people talked about poetry, or something I’m into, instead of cliched motivational quotes, then maybe I’d find them relatable. (Any poetry-loving rich people out there who want to be friends? Hook me up with a new job?)

Besides, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that people’s experiences of common events vary wildly. A person raising children in NYC has nothing in common with someone raising children in rural West Virginia. We’re all in the pandemic, but essential workers, teachers, CEOs, celebrities, parents, singles, children, teenagers, college students – they are all experiencing it wildly differently. All that “we’re all in the same boat” messaging is pretty stupid. (And actually, I don’t think the pandemic has taught us a damn thing.)

The irony is that I am, arguably, a rich person. As in a margin above the 50th percentile on those humbling, depressing, and misleading global/US/state income calculators, not mansion in Beverly Hills rich. Overall, I am largely supportive of capitalism and free market economy. (There are limits of course) I’m not a bleeding-heart liberal and I actually don’t think billionaires are the root of all evil. I have no problem with people working hard and enjoying the fruits of their labors, or even for their kids enjoying the fruits of their labor without working hard. I just don’t like having to listen to people who are richer than me talk about success.

It occurs to me that my friends might see me as an obnoxious rich person and hate talking to me. I make a mental note to stop talking to my friends in order to be on the safe side.

Update: My direct report won an award for being a office culture champion! I don’t know what that means because I forgot to read the award information and forgot to nominate anyone. So I guess it is good that someone else in the office did my job for me and nominated Direct Report for an award. I am proud of Direct Report, but a little jealous since Finance Director announced the award as if I was going to get it. I think Direct Report winning an award reflects well on me, although I feel a slight anxiety that everyone thinks he is better at his job than I am at mine, and that I will be fired. I think I do need a new job.

Update: Finance Director thanked the Finance team for being supportive because his daughter has been going through a difficult time. Seems that Finance Director’s daughter has been having significant health and/or mental health struggles. I didn’t know this till today since I’m not on the Finance team. Now I feel bad for being bitter and hateful.


  1. I also feel bad sometimes for being poor and childless. It’s hard to fight against society’s expectations. My big achievement in the last few months has been realising that my life is going to be different to other peoples’ because of my depression and high functioning autism and that’s OK, even if other people don’t think that it’s OK.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Interesting read for me (an 80 yo retiree) The corporate world has its own ethos. It sounds as if you are somewhat unhappy with your job. My daughter (in her 50’s) has a rule she measures her happiness with her situation in a job. You must have two out of these three things. 1, A killer salary 2. you love your work. 3. you love your work environment and the people around you. If you don’t have two you need to move on. If you have all three you are blessed.
    From this old person you have to take the good with the bad. Hopefully those ceo’s worked hard to get where they are and may have forgotten how hard it is. Hang in for now and make your own decisions about your own life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have nothing against Managing Director and Finance Director. They are good hearted people, they do work hard (especially Finance Director) and I wish them and their families well (especially Finance Director, since it seems like his daughter has been struggling). I find that I just don’t like being lectured to or talked at. And context is everything. Like if they said, in the context of a casual lunch conversation, and not our company meeting on our results, “Hey, I just read this inspiring quote by Maya Angelou and I have to share”, I think I would have reacted more positively. But in the context of the company meeting, when trying to convince us that we are successful while the criteria for successful enough for a bonus hasn’t been met…well, it feels a little fake.

      But also, I don’t really like my job these days. I tried applying your daughter’s rule and I’d say I have 1.5 of those things. It probably is time to update the resume and move on.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nothing worse than canned inspirational quotes in the workplace. Smuggery humbuggery. And then they start on about being grateful and being mindful and having grit until you are ready to strangle someone. Anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

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