12. Gen Z
I want to wake up with the sun - or slightly before it.
I started this week by time blocking my days. My goal was to be able to account for 8 - 10 hours of productivity. I have a friend who says that during sprints of hyper-productivity, she is able to get 15 productive hours in a day - consistently. At the moment, I can only dream of such. If I truly account for it, maybe I get 4 productive hours in my day. The remaining hours disappear into hazy oblivion. What did I do between 10 am and 12 pm? What did I do between 5 pm and 10 pm?
On Sunday night, I time blocked my week. Starting at 6:30 am, all the way to 2 am (Which is when I try to force myself to sleep)
Starting my day at 6:30 am was ambitious. I often set the intention to start my day early but never am quite able to. There are exceptional days when I wake up with so much anxiety that I have no choice but to channel the anxiety into being productive. I think that’s what some people called high-functioning anxiety.
On Monday, I had ‘edit audio’ from 6:30 am to 8:30 am
I slept through it, albeit stressfully.
On Tuesday, I had ‘write newsletter’ from 6:30 am to 8 am
Again, I slept through it.
On Wednesday, I had ‘write’. I didn’t specify what I would write but there’s typically a backlog of essays/articles/stories for me to work on.
I did not write any of them.
Why don’t I have the discipline to start my day early?
Incase you are new here: My name is Mo Isu. I am an audio producer based in Lagos, Nigeria. I am currently attempting to build a career in audio journalism. I have taught myself everything I know so far. You are reading issue 12 of my newsletter detailing this segment of my journey. Read the about page for more
Vulnerability is nothing without competence
I just finished reading a profile on Lewis Hamilton in Vanity Fair and I cried. Not because it was terribly sad but because I am easy to tears. Always have been. I was one of those children that cried easily; cried when you shouted at me; cried when I failed a test; cried when others cried. A nickname I got as a child was ‘agric’, a yoruba word that I learnt from one teacher meant ‘big for nothing.’ I got this because of how fragile of a child I was. I was (and still am) very tall.
What comes as you grow up is you learn that crying has its place. There is a time when it’s useful, a time when it’s allowed, a time when it is expected.
I stopped crying in secondary school. I still had a reputation for being fragile but it wasn’t because of the frequency of tears.
University is when I started to cry again. When my struggle with anxiety began.
In a recent conversation with someone I work with, she offered me a compliment.
I enjoyed what you wrote. It was really good. You did a good job. Welldone.
It made me cry.
I responded to her saying I had cried a number of times that week but this was best reason why. She asked me why I had been crying? I said I hadn’t handled things well (polite way of saying that I had screwed up a little this week) and crying was part of how I processed things. She didn’t know how to reply me and she let me know that much. Then I wondered why I had even told her that I cried; that I cried then when she complimented my work or that I had been crying at all that week.
I have been having conversations with people I work with about Gen Z. I think as we have entered into the work force, pop culture has begun to increasingly document the working experience of people of ‘my generation.’ Born in 1997, I stand in the spot where my experiences are both akin to millennials and Gen Z. I was born before the internet and witnessed its growth but at the same time, I don’t know much of the world without it.
The first time I ever related to a comment on work habits was from a study quoted on the Ted Radio Hour. I was in University at the time and millennials still dominated the young work force. The research pointed out the difference between Millenials and Gen X.
Gen X, the research said, preferred work that provided them with the ability to provide for their family. Work where they earned enough to take care of the people they loved. This is where they were happiest.
Millenials were not content with this alone. Millenials needed to find some form of contentment from the work itself. They were happiest when they did work that spoke to their passions, not simply work that provided for them.
When I was in Uni, I identified almost entirely as Millenial and this narrative fit what I thought about myself.
Gen Z seem to not be content even with doing work they are passionate about.
I am working on a podcast (amongst many things). Let’s keep this between us here on the newsletter. I have been working on this podcast for a little over a year now, making small progresses here and there. For the episode I am currently producing, I have already spoken to somewhere in the vicinity of 10 to 15 people. 6 of those conversations have been recorded. 1 has been a proper interview. For a section of the story I am working on, myself and my associate producer (Jill) looked at the storyboard I had and made some edits. Then we went on a research rabbit hole to find the next set of people we would be talking to. One name came up for a potential interview. She has expertise in the area of the story I am trying to plug holes in. She also just so happened to have run for presidency recently. I put her name down and pretended I was going to reach out to her a little later. Jill jumped in and with her help I had the woman’s number within a day. What was left to do was to call her.
That was two weeks ago.
Gen Zs have a lot to say about their mental health. It’s become a matter of ridicule on twitter. In some instances, this ridicule is made using our own language, Language that we ourselves use frequently in describing our experiences.
It’s not giving.
Feels like shackles.
I can’t come and go and kill myself
There’s an incredible amount of nuance present in this issue. Nuance that’s impossible for me to include entirely.
But I have been thinking about my own work and my own mental health a lot recently.
I know when anxiety became a component of how I saw work. It was not always the case. I used to have confidence in what I did, could do, wanted to do. I was practical about it. And of course I was scared in all the ways I still am. But I was not nearly as dramatic.
I think what has happened with Gen Z is that we have had access to language at the same time as we have entered the work force. We have the privilege of being able to say that certain normalities about working should not be normal - because they aren’t healthy. Having language for a thing often empowers your ability to feel it.
We have all this language for our mental health and are feeling all these things as we begin to work.
Or maybe it’s just me. I can only speak about myself.
Over the last month, I produced a different story for another podcast I am working on. In one of the interviews I had, something came up about Gen Zs. Specifically about the way my interviewee felt about us, about how we handled work. Specifically about how it seemed like we often let our feelings get in the way of the work that we needed to do. My interviewee acknowledged that what she said, how she felt, was toxic. I didn’t think it was.
My anxiety frequently gets in my way. You know this by now. I have shared so many examples of this with you in previous issues of this newsletter. This is my Gen Z experience of work.
What my interviewee said to me was this
“I am not saying you shouldn’t feel how you feel. but there’s work to be done. Someone has to do it.
Some one has to do it.
some one has to do it.
I called the woman for my podcast episode yesterday. Panic came over me seconds after she picked up. I quickly forgot my key ask and began to ramble. Saying more than I needed to and forgetting I called to ask her one thing - for an interview. Luckily, she wasn’t available at the time and she rescheduled the call.
The fact that I had already broken the ice by speaking to her did not make me less anxious the second time I needed to call her, or the third time. Or when she called me this morning.
This morning we spoke for 20 minutes. I rambled a little; she spoke at length about things I didn’t ask (which I am always happy about in interviews) and then I asked if I could interview her on record. She said yes.
I have been thinking a lot about myself, my work, my mental health. This is where I have gotten to. I no longer want my narrative about work to be led by my struggle with anxiety. All my stories about work recently seem to feature proclaimed intention, tears and fear. They feature emotions more than they feature actions. I no longer want this for myself.
I don’t expect to stop feeling scared and anxious all of sudden. But I don’t want to wait to not feel that way anymore. I know what I need to do. I know the steps. I know that my emotions mean nothing if I have not been able to show that I can do the work. Vulnerability is nothing without competence. You have to be competent first before you can be vulnerable. Otherwise, your vulnerability sounds like an excuse.
I am trying to shed all of that, the tears, the narrative around my anxiousness, the hesitation it comes with, the intention of doing instead of simply doing. I intend to replace them with competence. Commuicating fast, quickly, fully, Doing work with immediacy.
I love all the work I am doing. I really do want to do it but I have let whatever this weird phase has been be the main thing about me. I am more than that - this anxiety. I have things to achieve. Things I want.
The difference between who I am now and who I want to be is this. The thing that will make me a functional Gen Z: with the language to identify toxic situations, language to express when I am struggling mentally, but the ability to be competent.
Thank you for reading and see you next week thursday
My average productivity this week was 6 hours. I had one day with 8 hours but I also slept at 3:30 am that day
This week, I am listening to:
Podcast: Dead Eyes
In 2001 Actor/comedian Connor Ratliff (The Chris Gethard Show, UCB, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) was fired by Tom Hnks from a small role in 2001 HBO mini-series, Band of Brothers. Tom Hanks fired him because he had ‘dead eyes.’ A comment that has haunted him ever since. In this podcast, it tries to solve the stupid mystery of why he was fired. Does he really have dead eyes? The podcast ends with him finally talking to Tom Hanks himself.
I am currently binging this.
Music: Winter Morning 2
As I write this to you, I am listening to this incredibly calming piece featuring Woodkind, Nils Frahm and Robert De Niro. Three of my favourite artists. Listening to this composed pulsating piece that features spoken vocals from De Niro is definitely my transfixing experiencing of the week. It’s a bit niche but give it a listen.
Please subscribe to my newsletter if you aren’t already a subscriber.
Liked reading this issue?
Share it with a friend
And the grand ultimate support, buy me a coffee. I don’t think I would have gotten this far without all the people that have supported me in the past. So here I am again, asking for your kindness.