The Crisis of Competence, or: Adulting Ain’t That Hard

  • by Gitabushi

I go to a geek website daily. It seems like 10% (probably not that high) of the posts are cartoons about anxiety, like this one:

From Amanda Panda Comics

AmandaPandaComics, support her on Patreon if you are so inclined.

The isn’t funny. It isn’t insightful. It *normalizes* fragility.

It normalizes fragility and inability by saying, “See? Your thoughts are normal. Other people feel this way. There’s nothing wrong with you and no reason to change.”

But there *is* something wrong with feeling anxiety.  Normal people should *not* feel anxiety doing normal tasks like making a purchase at the grocery store.

We have a Death of Competence crisis going on the US. I’ve seen it at multiple levels. We’ve developed a system predicated on a complete lack of understanding of how to do stuff.

One example is Hillary Clinton. She never *did* anything. She just rode her husband’s coattails and had a staff make decisions for her that let her take credit for.

I saw it when working at a 3-Letter Agency.  The director was an engineers should know how to do stuff. But she mainly knew how to talk. She isolated herself with layers of staff. No one above a GS-13 would make an independent decision on anything. If you had a proposal, it had to be presented perfectly up through the layers of staff. If anything was wrong (bad grammar, in the wrong color folder), it was kicked back to be redone.

I understand the concept: if your attention to detail is lacking, then it probably extends to the proposal.  But the reverse is not true: just because every i is dotted and every t crossed, it doesn’t mean the proposal is well-thought-out, or a good proposal; it just means the focus is on superficial aspects of appearance, rather than on the salient aspects of a project.

So as assigned projects filtered upward, the higher staff would demand more explanations, and recommendations.  I’m sure there was some thought in signing off on the recommendations, sometimes the higher ranks would use their knowledge and experience to raise the “bullshit flag” and knock it back down.  But in general, the whole process was designed so that if something worked, the decision-makers could take credit for approving it; but if it failed, the blame could be placed on the GS-13s (the highest level just short of an actual leadership position at most Agency HQs) that provided the hard numbers and background information for the proposal, or perhaps the staff that let the proposal through.

This is success in the US right now. We don’t teach anyone how to *lead* organizations to success.  We discourage anyone taking risks. Our leaders insulate themselves from the possibility of being associated with a failure, so they can move up in the ranks of a zero-tolerance system.

And this adversity to risk and fear of making decisions trickles down to the average person, like the one in the comic.

I think this is because the US is rich and successful.  Outside of the military and some engineering projects, there are no life-and-death consequences for failure, so people don’t learn how to do effective risk analysis and then take risks.  All their decisions are career-path based, rather than project success-based.

I mean, I know I’m painting with an overly-wide brush here, but I think this *is* what’s happening.

We are teaching our kids to not think, to not plan, to just follow the life plan set up for them on rails: go to school, get a degree, live in a city, & everything will be perfect.  I understand this, too: you want your kids to have a good life.  There is a way to achieve that, so teach them to follow it.

But the problem is that we tell them to follow it exactly, and promise them that if they do, everything will be fine and there will be no struggle, no problems.

No. You have to think for yourself, try things out, take risks, learn how to manage your life.  I *want* my kids to struggle.  How else can they learn how to avoid mistakes that cause people to struggle with life?

I have no doubt the person in this comic *is* common among young kids right now. But it shouldn’t be. If you are feeling anxious about finances, YOU CAN LEARN TO NOT BE.

Okay, let’s back up a moment, here.

The point of a Character-Driven story is the main character reaches a point where they can no longer continue as they have been. They MUST change. Then they change.

For this cartoon to be actually helpful, rather than cocooning readers in failure, it should have started with the realization that you can’t live being anxious about buying tampons. That you have to make changes so you are never anxious about buying tampons again. Then you walk through the door into adulthood.

 has been collecting tweets from people who are anxious about being adults, who have never lived how to live a bountiful life.  I suggested he put all these quote tweets into one long thread (much like I have done with “Leftists are caught in the grip of incoherent apoplexy” and “Democrats are a criminal organization masquerading as a political party”.

He liked the idea, so he should soon be collecting tweets from these incompetents we’ve created. I hope he never stops adding to it, so it becomes an irresistible weight of motivation for his students (and anyone who reads it) to learn to live a glorious, successful life.

It starts with recognizing that anxiety over a simple purchase is not normal, and unnecessary.

Go, and do.


13 thoughts on “The Crisis of Competence, or: Adulting Ain’t That Hard

  1. There are a few different elements here I’d like to comment on –

    1. I think the piece about people’s lives being on rails these days is dead on, and it’s bad. It’s only been about 10 years since I graduated from college, and I feel like going to work in Japan right after was really the first part of my life that wasn’t on rails. Going to college after high school was just a given, and the financial implications of taking out like $60k in student loans didn’t register with me because that’s just what people do/did.

    2. You know who take risks and lead off-the-rails lives? Entrepreneurs. And there are plenty of them out there. On the whole I think they’re good for our society. And I don’t need to say too much here, because I’m singing to the choir, but the party that supports higher taxes and more regulation is not a friend to these people.

    3. I agree that in many cases people can build up resilience by exposing themselves to things that make them uncomfortable or anxious. This comic is a good example of that; if you don’t run up your credit cards and always pay of their balances, this should never be a fear. Still anxiety (and feelings in general) can be a tricky thing. Social anxiety can be reduced by being social, and yet I bet for many people it still never completely goes away.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. If you can’t pay cash for it (or check), then you shouldn’t be buying it.

    Miserable parents. A whole generation raised the millennials and they turned out as they did. Too bad those parents don’t all commit seppuku…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Sorry, but the results speak for themselves. While 100% of those parents may not be horrible, worthy of death, people, enough are to lump the whole generation together. The exceptions simply prove the rule.


  3. Hi there! I’m the artist who made this comic and others like it… I totally get the point you make about finances. My intention with this comic series (though I see it may not have been well-executed) was not to normalize financial insecurity. In my comics, I portray everyday interactions and situations that would normally be nbd, but nevertheless trigger an irrational response bc of my anxiety. I could have plenty of cash in the bank, but I still get these feelings when making purchases bc I have terrible social anxiety and my card being declined in public is a nightmare situation for me that I can’t help but visualize. The only thing I am trying to accomplish with my work is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and help other ppl with anxiety feel less alone, and maybe find a glimmer of humor in what is otherwise a very humorless and isolating condition. I am in fact financially secure. My Patreon supports charities benefitting mental illness. To see more about my comics and mission, please visit my website:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi! Thanks for stopping by and providing your view.

      I hope I made it clear I don’t think you are single-handedly ruining society, or any such obvious nonsense.

      I think I understand your intent, which is compassionate.

      My view, coming from having conquered depression, is that emotional issues are of two types: learned/conditioned internal dialogue (programming/software) and actual brain chemistry or physical problems (hardware).

      To the extent that a problem is just internal dialogue and programming, I think compassion/sympathy reinforces the faulty mental programming, and discourages people from making the changes they need to live a happier life.
      To the extent that the problem is brain chemistry and can’t be fixed merely by changing how you think through discipline and time, then compassion/sympathy discourages them from the necessity of seeking professional help, so they can live a happier life.

      Anxiety is a mental illness; either mild or significant, depending on your perspective.

      Compassion/sympathy may temporarily soothe feelings, but the only long-term solution is treatment.

      I hope your personal journey leads you to the point where you are able to conquer your anxiety and live a more abundant life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand your point of view, but respectfully disagree with your take on the effects of compassion for those dealing with anxiety, either of the clinical or emotional kind.

        Liked by 2 people

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