The strangest thing about not working is being accountable to yourself. There is no one to answer to. No one to instruct you, guide you, discipline you. It is a huge lesson in self accountability which sits strangely alongside a stream of honour. It is an honour to live your life freely. To immerse oneself in the human-ness of being. To feel the ups and downs in all their rawness and to not be shrouded in modern-day ailments such as tiredness, busyness or exhaustion. This freedom is as exciting as it is terrifying. With all this head space, more questions arise than answers. What does my perfect day look like? What do I actually want to spend my time doing? It’s as if all the hopes and dreams that made up your escape plan changed form. Suddenly, and without notice, you are engaged in a game of Guess Who – except the faces are your future plans. It is on this board game that you are presented with a number of turn offs. It seems like more than before but really these options have always been there. It is your perception that has changed. In taking off the corporate cloak, the comfort and familiarity that once clouded your view has disappeared, leaving a clear runway awaiting your next move.
So what are these options, you may be wondering? Well let’s start with the most obvious and socially acceptable one – go back to corporate. Head back to the grind, the office, the desk job, the emotionally contained, the safe, the well paid, the Monday to Friday, high pressure, high performance , instantly rewarding; 9 to 5. The obvious drawcard is the financial security, followed loosely by the structure and sense of leading with direction. Management set tasks; I complete tasks; I am rewarded with a sense of achievement. I’ve been amazed to find how much I miss this fickle sense of accomplishment. Tied to it were my hours, my energy, my effort, my time away from the things I loved, and time away from my human-ness. When you put it like that, it makes complete sense that I wrapped up a sizeable portion of my self-worth in these endeavours. Though, too often I would think about the worthiness of it on a larger scale. Am I actually any good at this work and is there opportunity for growth? Am I passionate about this, do I really love the tasks? And then the ever-growing elephant in the room; is what I am doing contributing to the greater good in the world? I can tell you now, often the answer to these was a resounding ‘no’.
The next option was a ‘think-less’ job. A few shifts per week, non-corporate, low stress, low responsibility. A ‘job’ rather than a ‘career’ type role. It has merits. The obvious one, again, being dollars in the bank (though perhaps not so many as the prior option). But the flexibility of its unstructured nature would allow some level of breathing space to commit to other more purposeful side projects. Depending on the field, this job has the potential to bring…joy! Maybe even fun, connection, and who knows what other invaluable qualities. But herein may lie a self-placed-trap. This option may provide a outlet to hide away from progress and moving forward. A cozy, noncommittal option to waste precious resources such as time and talent.
Which brings me to my next option and the one many of you have been waiting for or perhaps expecting; the passionate entrepreneur. There I’d go – skipping down the road, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. With a suitcase full of big and bold ideas and a taut stomach ready for the onslaught of start-up punishment. My heavy head appears tilted as the depleted left brain is outweighed by the right; drowned in a sea of failures, pivots and empty pay cheques. It is a continual dig into an endless mine of possibilities. Lump of coal after dirty, filthy; lump of coal. We fill the lorry in the hope that one of these days that big shiny diamond will appear and make this often thankless expedition all worth it. This lifestyle is a volatile one. A mix of hard work, finding the right people, and an unwavering commitment to solving the worlds biggest and most immediate problems. I am reminded of the sizeable amount of personal effort this option requires.
Which brings me closer to the option with the least amount of strain. It is none of the above. For me, anyway. It is the last and final option and questionably the most confronting. And no, it is not the dole line, albeit tempting. This option is financially unstable. Structurally insecure. It is not guided or managed. There are no VCs dying to invest and there are no key performance indicators providing clear metrics. There is no immediate reward or socially acceptable management structure holding me to account. There will be no reward or disciple depending on my outcomes. Yet somehow, there are still be a number of pro’s. There will be a strong need in this pathway to continue to self-structure, lead and hold oneself accountable. It is comical that as a highly functioning species, this self-regulating option is such a foreign one. It’s as if we have been taught to colour in the lines but can only do so when being supervised.
You’re still not catching what I’m throwing, are you? I get it. I sound cryptic. It is time for the big reveal and I am being coy, stalling almost. Perhaps I am afraid of what you’ll think. Or afraid of my own harsh judgements, of the reality of the situation. Because even as I try to put into words what this fourth option entails; I, myself, struggle to find the right title. The right explanation. The right position description for a role that really does not have one. As I boxed myself into my former roles, it was easy to provide a title. Manager, Coordinator, Co-Founder. Though the titles rarely described the actions undertaken, they did allow you to form some sort of image in your mind.
But this last option, potentially my most purposeful prospect yet, is well….beyond titles. It is not within a scope or confined to a few sheets of A4 paper. Yet I must try to translate but a section of its capacity if I’m to bring closure to your wondering minds and bring hope to my ailing heart. So here goes. From one angle, I guess you could describe my new purpose as a STORYTELLER. You may think of it as a writer, an author, a sharer, a thinker, a philosopher, a different perspective, a teacher, a word sleuth. From another angle, it will take form as a PRESENTER; a visual communicator, a mass media patron, an appealer to those that will listen and an interest piquer for those who may not.
For I have come to understand that my well wishes to teach a good few may not be as fruitful as the capacity of scale that is held within film, video, audio and the written word. If successful, our messages have the potential to reach the unreachable. The moving image is downloadable, transferable, scalable, discussable, and most importantly, thinkable. I have avoided being seen for long enough but I no longer care for my ego ruling my life decisions. I will park the fears of judgement, the appearance issues, the anxiety beast, and the kicking and screaming ego to one side as I focus on getting across the right message to the right people. I want to continue on the “ikigai” journey and scour the globe for those meaningful stories that bring us all hope. What are the most resounding reasons-for-being and what gets people out of bed, happily, in the morning?
See I told you it would be complex. But I believe in your capability to think laterally. And I am beginning to believe in myself. That my purpose is to guide and connect. To bring people together and to highlight our commonalities and humanness. Though they do not come regularly, my words come freely and I hope they provide some thought provocation for those patient enough to stop by. But it is truly the verbal expression where the greatest impact lies. Discussion, conversation, facilitation. The face to face immersion in all its non-verbal glory patiently awaits these stories to be told.
I’ll be sure to get something on the side to pay the bills because well…LIFE (the house didn’t sell)…but hey, what’s it all for if not for trying. So I’ll film a few pilots. Write a few stories. Interview a few wise and weird folks. I’ll give this unforeseen pathway a chance to breathe and see if we can grow it into something tremendous. It might be a slow burn or perhaps alight much quicker but either way, at least it’ll be enjoyable. Choose a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life – right?