For decades, the Dr. Seuss children’s book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” has been used to inspire young graduates and anyone going through a transition in his or her life.
But a newly released book, “Oh the Meetings You’ll Go To!,” is brining that starry-eyed enthusiasm down to Earth in a parody of American startups, modern careers, and ambition squandered by bureaucratic bottom-lines.
Author Dr. Suits — also known as Eric Nelson — is offering some harsher corporate truths to millennials, in rhyme.
“You’ll meet the world’s brightest, you’ll hang with the best! / And now that you’ve met them, you’ll work with the rest!”
With Zohar Lazar’s illustrations, the parody’s protagonist is depicted as a young, suited man navigating a world of Seuss-like animal characters set in boardrooms and cubicles. He’s a tiny David among furry Goliaths.
In Dr. Suits’ darker fairy tale on bootstrapping success, the goal is “treating your parents to dinner” and making “partner by thirty.”
If you succeed, “KID, YOU’ll BUILD EMPIRES!”
But to get there, you’ll need to surf through piles of work — literally, in the case of the protagonist. Under Dr. Suits’ retelling, millennials are smart strivers with plenty of ambition but no bosses to hear them. As our millennial protagonist wonders what to mention in meetings, if “mentioning ‘mobile’ help break up the tension?” no one is paying attention to him. Instead of innovating or listening to ideas, these offices are:
“Waiting for Facebook to show something fun,
waiting for colleagues to get their work done,
waiting for growth, so the firm’s number one;
for new standing desks to make their feet numb,
for surging to end so their Ubers can come.
Waiting, just waiting.”
The book warns us that we don’t want to become like those co-workers in stasis, always looking down at what’s in their hands instead of at the world around them. Referring to the markers of U.S. millennial identity —Uber, Tinder, Taylor Swift— the book is specifically a parody of the American white-collar workforce, illustrating the sweat underneath the cheery narratives of Silicon Valley startups promising the world.
With dark circles under the protagonist’s eyes, the book captures the stresses and pressures placed on young workers: “You’ll feel overworked. / (Can you die young from stress?) / Try not to melt down— / you’re such a hot mess.”
One arresting image of the book is the protagonist running away from downward graph arrows falling from the sky as our narrator demands: “You’ll have to press on. / Gotta pay back investors. / You’ll have to press on. / Please the board of directors.”
In “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”, Dr. Seuss noted that failure was a part of the pitfalls of life. “And when you’re in a Slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done,” he warned. Dr. Suits’ protagonist is also in a slump. At one low point, he doubts his career choices in a lonely cubicle long after everyone else has left the building.
But he perseveres, he achieves “Inbox Zero,” and his reward, for better or worse, is more meetings. The parody is an absurd fable, but it also recognizes the absurdity within the bureaucracy of corporate offices.
So remember, graduates, dream big, “you’re off to great meetings.”
And as with every generation, “the trick is to balance the work with the play. / Have fun!—but invest in your 401 (k).”