A Happy Death is the Worst Death of All

Have you ever heard of hypoxia? It’s the starvation of oxygen from the body, you know, like when you’e at high altitude. My partner who is training to be a pilot had to do a test of how long he could function effectively without oxygen. He explained it to me as a “happy death” because despite the fact he was dying, he was perfectly happy.
Here’s someone explaining it a little better:
‘”Two whole minutes of my life had disappeared, simple as that,” he says, throwing his hands into the air. “What was extraordinary was that I had no fear or concern or distress, just this massive self-belief. I believed I had beaten the system, but I had fooled myself.” This is the crux of the issue. With hypoxia there is no raging against the dying of the light, more a friendly welcome.’

The scary thing about hypoxia is the blissful unawareness and therefore, unwillingness to fix the problem.
‘”Flick the switch, Michael,” orders Dr Ted Meeuwsen, acutely aware of how much Portillo’s brain and other vital organs are being starved of oxygen. But the former politician, still capable of sight, sound and coherent speech, does not reconnect his oxygen supply. Meeuwsen tries again. “Put your oxygen mask back on or you will die,” he says bluntly. Again Portillo ignores him as he continues the journey to the edge of his existence. A few seconds pass and then the scientists can wait no longer. Physiologist Hans Wittenberg, who has been monitoring his subject in an altitude chamber mimicking atmospheric conditions at 29,000ft, snatches Portillo’s mask and clamps it back over his nose and mouth.’
We experience this personally, and in our workplace, when we obliviously continue down our merry path of everything being ‘nice’. Being nice to our customers, being nice to our colleagues, having a nice atmosphere… it’s so nice to be nice. But niceness is just another form of a happy death, when there’s no movement towards sustainability like making a profit. Is it our job to be nice to customers, or to sell to them with intelligence? Is it our job to be nice to our colleagues, or to ensure the right decisions are being made?
And so it doesn’t matter whether we scream “change now or die” to those that we’re leading who are in a state of nicepoxia. They don’t care! Why change when everything is so nice? Change only means one thing – that the niceties have to go. It means accountability and challenge.
Are you willing to do whatever it takes to survive? Are you up to the job of snapping people out of it? Can you be the grim reaper of their (or your) ‘nice’ lives? Can you deal with the fact that survival might mean a lot of unhappiness?
A ‘happy death’ is the worst death of all, because there’s not even a fight for that valuable life – it’s just an acceptance of the needless inevitability of it all. How freaking lame.

Btw, if you’re wondering how I can be employed in HR, and write about HR – here‘s my explanation.

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  • 16 March 2014