Caring and Not Caring

July 12, 2022

Hey everyone,

One of the secrets to happiness in life, and in your career, is to learn the art of what I call “caring and not caring.”

CG members and other readers of this newsletter are typically caring people.

You care about your fellow employees.

You care about your customers.

You care about the quality of your products and services.

You care.

That’s a great strength of yours. 

And I want you to keep caring.

But I also want you to start not caring.

By ‘not caring’ I mean recognizing that you have a limited span of control.

You don’t control your employees – even if you are CEO (perhaps, especially if you are a CEO).

You don’t control your customers, the war in Ukraine, inflation, the crypto crash, etc.

Almost everything is outside your control – except a few things, including how you respond to events outside your control.

In 2000, I had to layoff most of my customer experience company, a week before Christmas, and in the depth of the dotcom downturn. It was terrible. 

I thought it was all my fault. I was captain of the ship. I had even predicted the downturn in the fall of 1999 (and gotten a lot of press for that). But I thought *we* would survive. We had been careful. We had grown slowly (compared to everyone else). We had not taken on VC money, which I thought made no sense for consulting companies (everyone from Michael Dell to General Atlantic wanted to put money in).

Nevertheless, I was miserable and felt responsible.

That is until my therapist raised an important point: “Are you saying the dotcom downturn is your fault?” 

I thought about it for a moment and realized in a way I was. That was ridiculous obviously…and that allowed me to care about the employees I laid off, *and* see that a much bigger change had happened that was beyond my control.

Recognizing that helped me achieve some emotional balance and focus on the few things I could do at that moment to begin rebuilding.

I’ll share a more recent example.

Two weeks ago a CG member, Sally, a VP of Product, called me in crisis.

She was stressed out at work. Meetings were interminable. Against her wishes, a new boss, a CPO, was hired over her to take the company public, but that was put on hold, and, in fact, the company now had to do layoffs.

Sally was considering adding herself to the layoff list to get a package and wanted my advice. 

We talked at length about her financial situation and net worth, her unhappiness at work, and I ended up recommending two things.

First, given her financial situation (Sally was not financially independent yet) and the topsy turvy markets, I suggested she not leave, but instead join a Slow Seeker’s Job Search Council so she could be employed while conducting a quality job search (as I outline in my next book). 

Second, I asked her to adopt an attitude of caring and not caring when it came to the quality of their products –– especially given that the layoffs were going to reduce her ability to make improvements. She could pick a few things that she *could* do and let go of caring about the rest (at least for now).

She said yes to my first recommendation and no to my second. 

Then a few days later, I received this text:

I have really thought about the concept you shared of “caring and not caring” and I think that part of my circumstance is self-made pressure. 


She then went on to say:

I was also thinking that if I book a few things for fun that I will feel more balanced and have these moments to look forward to, and then it will just give me more perspective and energy to slowly look for a new job.


Care and not care.


P.S. CG members: if you want help learning to care and not care, then reach out.

About the Author

Phyl Terry

Phyl Terry, Founder and CEO of Collaborative Gain, Inc., launched the company’s flagship leadership program – The Councils – in 2002 with a fellow group of Internet pioneers from Amazon, Google, and others. Thousands of leaders from the Internet world have come together in the last 15 years to learn the art of asking for help and to support each other to build better, more customer-centric products, services, and companies.

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