Chapter 54: Decision Time

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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

ZB x

Collective Helplessness.

The problem with the local news is that it tells a disempowering story.  One where we are always the victim.  We, the local people, should feel scared, terrified, disgusted.  These atrocities are happening in our neighbourhood, in our streets, in our neighbour’s house.  And there is nothing we can do.  Just be on the lookout, be wary, be cautious.

It is true that these things are happening, yes.  But why do we need to know?  So that we can continue to be paralysed by fear and so that fear can be used again to hook us in to the cycle of fear.  Watch again to see if they’ve caught the killer.  Watch again to get the ratings up.  Watch again so that the billionaire at the top can take his yacht out in Cannes this afternoon.  If the purpose is to inform us, then there are many ways to get a suspects face out into the public; social media being the more obvious place in modern society.

But the sharing of crime and negative stories are not part of a bigger solution.  By sitting in the comfort of our homes and watching this daily droll, we are indirectly supporting the cycle of continuity.  If we were really appalled by these people, these behaviours, this constant stream of assault and death and horror; then wouldn’t it be more beneficial to support the circuit breakers?

Let me explain.

  1. Mr Smith kills Mr Jones – random attack, assailants not known to each other, Mr Smith has a history of mental illness and violence, and is known to police.
  2. Media goes wild.  The attack happened in an affluent area, neighbours remark that they thought this was a “safe place to raise children”, a shot of a nice car driving down a nice street pans away.
  3. We, the public, watch this and immediately react either consciously or subconsciously.  Our mind, hearing upon the threat of death races into fight or flight mode.
  4. We take a sub-second check of all the things that mean something to us; our family, our partner, our friends, our safe neighbourhood.
  5. Then we react, rightfully so – fear, disgust, sadness, anger, hopelessness.  Another morning or evening news session and another reason for our body to recoil into an unhealthy stress response and cement our victim mentality.

We feel sick, or worst of all, we feel nothing.  We are used to seeing this on the screen.  It’s a daily story that is the same but usually the characters and the location change a little.  We are educating ourselves by watching.  We are being presented information that we did not previously have, right?  – “News”.

But what is “news” if it is only telling 0.1% of the story.  Not lies but not complete pictures either.  I mean, last night, one person was murdered in my city.  Actually horrific, terrifying, and scary. Uncomfortable to think about.  But what about the 5 million that didn’t murder last night?  What about the 5 million people that cooked an average meal, watched some shitty reality tv show, spent more time checking their emails and social media than talking to their spouse and then went to bed; tossing and turning for a good 45 minutes before waking up before their alarm went off to the dog barking?  What about those stories.

Well, they’re boring, aren’t they.  They don’t serve to inform of us any impending danger or give us any new information or entice a certain heightened response from us.  But these stories are important.  Because we have forgotten them.  We have forgotten that the majority of the stories not being told are overwhelmingly positive.  That the majority of us are surviving and thriving and cooperating with each other as best we can.  Not only does this story need to be told, it needs to be celebrated.

5 million people went about their business today without punching one person in the face.  50,0000 of those crazy fuckers even held a door open for someone.  2 million gave way to another car in a merging lane (still another million who haven’t quite grasped the concept but we are not perfect).  3.5 million walked in to their houses last night and received a hug or kiss within the first five minutes of arrival.  This mass wave of connection, kindness and contact occurring between the hours of 6:00pm and 7:00pm sent a huge burst of positive energy into the world and should be applauded.

But instead we focus on the 0.1% who chose not to choose kindness.  We give them air time and our energy.  Which would be ok if that was energy towards a proactive response. But instead it steals a piece of our most precious asset, time, and takes with it the recoil of joy.  Our victim mindsets are cemented and our learned helplessness continues.  What if we saw this story of Mr Smith and Mr Jones and got to choose one of the following responses:

  1. Press A – to donate money to this relevant local health service
  2. Press B – to encourage your local politician to put more of government spending towards mental health and police services
  3. Press C – to support your community in one of the following areas of early intervention; domestic violence prevention, increased education opportunities
  4. Press D – to educate yourself further on the scientific findings of this mental illness and what the prime causes such as a neglected childhood really do to people
  5. Press E – to feel worried about your own safety but not worried enough to do any of the above

Or you can Press F.  You can vote with your button.  You can turn off this skewed bullshit and you can stop lining the pockets of the people who do not care about your welfare, or your safety, or the safety of your children.  You the individual garner more power than you know, more power than the billionaires and the government, and the media.  But your power is magnified significantly if you use it as a collective.  There are millions of you and together you must remember that the future is hope not death and misery.  But only if you unplug from the negative vomit being spewed into your minds.

If you really want to know what’s happening next door, look out your window.  If you really want to know what happens in your neighbourhood, look at the statistics.  If you really want to know what is happening to your fellow humans on the other side of the world, look outside your mainstream channels.  Search, seek, hunt for the truth.  And then – do something.  If you believe that what is happening is atrocious, as it often is, make the decision to become part of the solution.  As we take our place as the innocent bystander, we stand as much with the perpetrators as we do the victim.

Change is uncomfortable and it takes effort.  Despite this, we all must choose one option.  So, if you are unable to press A, B, C or D – then at least press F and spend your energy with that beautiful, average, law abiding majority this evening.

Here’s some “serious news” to give you encouragement, Zig x