Deborah Hill Cone
Deborah Hill Cone is a Herald columnist

Deborah Hill Cone: Actually dude, life is a competition

As regular readers of this column will know - "Oh hi everyone, Bryan, Ken, Peter, good to see ya" - I have been through a bit of a bumpy time lately. My marriage split up and it made me a tad bonkers.

A bit Rodney Hide, perhaps. I even started running. (Incidentally, Led Zeppelin is the best running music - especially the bits where Robert Plant sounds like he is having a long orgasm.) I dabbled in studies of narcissism, Jung and drank cocktails with a kick like a mule. I had a 12-hour lunch and set my hair alight at SPQR. It's dark there - beware of the candles.

The interesting thing about going through a stonking life change - divorce, whatever - is that if you don't like today's mood, there will be another one along in a moment. Last week I was cross; this week I think I am a lucky cow - from disgruntled to gruntled in 60 seconds.

And after a breakup you do all sorts of different things. I had never worn a strapless dress or been to the kickboxing before, let alone both at once as I did this week.

And last week I bought a copy of the Kama Sutra. Actually, it turned out to be Kama Sutra Lite - the sauciest pictures were of soft-focus couples feeding each other strawberries - but I still felt like a liberated woman buying it from Whitcoulls when the sales assistant smirked "enjoy" as he handed me my receipt.

You also start to question a lot of things which you had taken for granted or assumed were a given. As a buck-toothed, myopic, plait-wearing nerd who used to read my book walking to school, I always aspired to being an intellectual.

Obviously, I was hardly going to be an elite sportswoman (the running won't last).

Now, I am starting to wonder if I was on the wrong track.

And I have to add a note here for the kind Herald editors who have let me write about skippies and sex and all sorts of not terribly obviously business topics: stay with me here; there is a business angle to this.

Wannabe intellectualism manifested itself by choosing friends who had all been to university, revered Philip Larkin, arthouse movies and whiny earnest singer-songwriters.

But as you get older you start to realise that being able to read Proust in French or reminisce about seeing Leonard Cohen is not really a necessary condition for achievement or meaningful relationships. Overall, there are already far too many intellectuals. I can't help wondering if bleddy intellectuals are the problem with our piss-poor productivity figures. Bottom line: too many posh people go into business.

Generally it is not the snobs or brainboxes who create wealth or earn export dollars. And don't get me started on our world-beating number of lawyers.

A new report from Trade and Enterprise out this week says our national traits - a frontier self-reliance, egalitarianism and a "she'll be right" attitude - don't work when it comes to taking on the world.

And our "bach, boat and BMW" mentality means we settle for the good life rather than growing our businesses to their full potential.

In the debate following the report there were many comments about how aiming high was greedy. The people who thought this seemed to have been straight-A students harbouring some half-baked and overly complex ideas about how aspiration to be wealthy is a character flaw.

This is a decidedly middle-class conceit - working-class people don't agonise over wanting a better life. They are unlikely to say: "Life is not a competition" as one bourgeois Herald reader commented. Er, sorry dude, but yes it is.

These middle-class chin strokers all seemed to be over-thinking the problem. We are not a nation of No 8 simpletons, we are actually far too angsty for our own good.

Stop worrying and start simply listening to the instincts that make you want to prevail, to be the best in the world. Just go for a run and listen to some IQ-dampening Led Zep.

- NZ Herald

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