Adapt or Die: My Personal Life Lessons from "Downton Abbey"

Besides just being an entertaining human drama, “Downton Abbey” is a television series about an English noble family held back by tradition, bracketed by change in a pre and post Great War world. This was the change of global power and dominance from the old British Empire to America after the Great War ie. World War One. It probably did not help that many of the young men across Europe were killed and the country was in repair mode. These deaths cost Europe the energy & new ideas that can only come from Youth. And then you are mainly left with the old. Unfortunately in a time of great change, the old ways just don’t work anymore. Change hurts. The cultural shock of the Jazz age. Status and Hierarchy at all levels, even within the servants class. Old versus New. Tradition versus Innovation. Rise of technology (automobiles). Servants deep interdependence with Nobility. Downton Abbey shows it all. 

Downton Abbey showed how the old nobility class were reliant on inherited fortunes, were not able to support themselves & their luxurious lifestyle and cost structure despite their status & noble name. This is not dissimilar from  what I see today with the east coast elite class in media (NYC), politics (DC) & on Wall Street. 

The show also exemplified inheriting versus founding. Prior to this, the elder Lord Grantham’s lack of flexibility, his focus on tradition and name, cost him his daughter's life, almost cost him his marriage. He almost lost his property on numerous occasions because he could not afford it. He ran things the way they had always been from his fathers time. Things only got better when the elder Grantham finally embraced the change and by bringing in the young generation to run things. 

This is why I am so grateful to be working in tech. There is definitely an age-ism problem in Silicon Valley. But frankly I also blame these older individuals for not keeping up with what’s happening. Yes, there are many older programmers or tech executives who cannot get jobs but in many cases it’s because they do not invest in learning new things. As Chamath says 

“It’s about trying and learning. It’s a learning mindset. Things are changing so F--ing fast,The only thing I can do to stay safe is to learn how to learn because things will constantly be changing underfoot” 

I’ve taken this to heart over the last 22 years. I have tried to keep a very open mind, I have invested extensively in my own education and will continue to invest extensively here.  I continue to fight against my own inertia, habits and general dislike of change. “Downton Abbey” has only confirmed for me that this is THE only way forward if you want to stay relevant in this world.