It’s beneficial to the truthfulness and honesty of this post that I wrote it whilst working at this particular job because my detachment to this employment and this life wasn’t a reflection on a past memory, it was here, fresh in my mind and pressing me to make a change. I wielded my axe in this battlefield for the best part of a decade and I was never really content. It took ten years but in the end I realised I had to back myself.
This generation we’ve grow up in, is the period at the back end of the industrial age. Those before us had dined in the abundance of the industrial glory years, demolished the feasts with gusto and smashed the booze with Churchill vigour and now we were experiencing the hangover. We are products of this environment which is well past its heyday and is fast becoming outdated and redundant. This environment is based on an old school system that’s a long as it is boring and one which rewards the ability to memorise facts and information told without question and in general doesn’t hold any great value in creativity. It's a system which creates cog turners and treadmill walkers, a corporate man born and taught to work in a hierarchy based organisation for one fatcat at the top. So naturally that’s what we became . Like Dylan said ‘twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift.’
It is interesting to note that a lot of the world’s more remarkable individuals often didn’t finish school or go to university and that’s precisely why they are who they are and we are who we are. Because they were the outliers, they were cast from a different mould, they didn’t follow the masses, they broke the rules, they were like a one off prototype, but over and above they chose themselves. Think:
Bill Gates - Sergey Brin - Shaun White - Beyonce Knowles - Richard Branson - Elon Musk (finished uni, was going to start a PhD but resisted and started his early tech ventures.) - Tony Hawk - Vivienne Westwood - David Karp - Frank Lloyd Wright
I could go on, the list really is endless.
Talking with many of my mates and observing social media commentaries over the last few years it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that many of us are unhappy with our current life set up. This is because most of us dislike our work situation. We are not content or fulfilled because we aren’t making a difference or achieving anything substantial or working on things we love or are passionate about. We are just living life how we have been programmed, we got fed through the system and spat out there other end.
So, here we are, working jobs we don't like verging on the point of almost losing the plot, tearing our hair out and realising that we’d rather walk through hell in a petrol suit than spend another day commuting to our uninspiring job. But, why do we find it so hard to escape this situation?
This is best explained via an example from a great book by Seth Godin called ‘The Icarus Deception’.
If you build an enclosure in a forest and lay some bait to trap a fox, the fox will be much too cunning to walk into this trap. However if, over a period of time you build the enclosure wall by wall, whilst continuously leaving bait, the fox will soon be roaming contently within the ‘safe’ confines of the enclosure, all we have to do is close the gate and we have trapped our fox! This is what has happened to us, the corporate and industrial age has built their trap over the course of many years and we have become trapped within its confines. We have become so comfortable and accustomed to this life but now the gate is now wide open, however we struggle to walk out.
It is so easy to live life from within this cage, to effectively go with the tide. The reason most people find it hard to leave the ‘enclosure’ is because it feels safe and this is true, it does 'feel' safe but it definitely isn't safe. If someone else has control over your employment and how much you get paid the safety net may be there for a time, however it can easily be pulled away if it suits the person responsible for its placement. Then if this safety net is pulled away, you can be exposed to a great fall. So from this perspective one can see that working a job in 'the system' purely because it feels safe and satisfies the survival instinct can be foolish. It is also likely that as time passes you’ll have an increasingly greater chance of being expended to make way for younger, more talented and more enthusiastic employees (or perhaps by a machine). Then at this stage of your life finding a new job may be extremely tough and you may still have large debts looming over your head. So then, would it not be more wise to work towards investing in yourself by developing great talent in something you love and have a strong passion for? This way you will be an expert and very valuable in your field and be much harder replace.
So, ok, I can hear you say, this is all well and good but how do we really walk free from the enclosure, how do we gain control?
First we must believe in our potential. Steve Jobs said it well 'what you must realise is that the world was made up of people no smarter than you'. You can achieve whatever you set your mind to, just start by taking the first step and you'll be surprised how far you get. A massive part comes down to effort and attitude, we need to be constantly switched onto unlearning the habits drummed into us over our adolescent years and re-educate and reprogram ourselves, then go about getting what we are after.
This may sound somewhat daunting but the good news is, it has never been easier to get informed and or to start something. We are seeing the beginning of a new era often referred to as the connection economy. We have the world at our fingertips. We have access to a wealth of knowledge (from both independent and commercial sources) and the ability to acquire services which have never before been so easily accessible and abundant. If you make a tune, you can record it through your computer, upload it and it can be heard by the masses that very moment. If you design a product, you can draft it on auto cad, send the file to be 3D printed and have it online for sale within a week. If you have an idea for an app you could find coders in every corner of the world, just one email away. If you want to build a simple website you don't even need a developer, online software like 'wix' and 'voog' make it so easy you can do it yourself. If you want to learn how to be a good online marketer, an SEO expert, a great designer, or if you want to learn about how consciousness affects classic theories on quantum physics, well guess what, you can do it all on the internet. It's truly remarkable, when you take a second to ponder it.
Just prior to starting Stepsie, Jono our ideas man was working in a sewerage processing factory on his 26th birthday in Haugesund Norway, waterproofing a tunnel. Fast forward a year on Jono's 27th birthday and he was in Tartu, Estonia meeting our web developers kicking off the creation of Stepsie. Jono had an idea, he put it into action, he chose himself and he had go.
The key here, is to unlock your true potential, find your bliss and follow your passion. I am not saying everyone is going to be out there starting their own business, the world probably wouldn’t turn if that was the case but at least make sure you are doing something you have a passion for and care about. If you are a part of an organisation make sure it’s one that’s adapts with the times, tries new things, sets trends, trailblazers, creates positive change on the world and gets the best out of you and values you because we all are talented individuals full of potential. If you are in a job you don’t particularly like, work on a side project outside of work hours, it may very well lead you somewhere more exciting. Educate yourself, start something, make your own assumptions, question things, back yourself and start doing what you believe.
In closing, I'd like to leave you with this poem from Dr Suess:-
"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go."
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‘The Icarus Deception’ by Seth Godin
‘Choose Yourself’ by James Altucher
‘Makers' - The New Industrial Revolution’ by Chris Anderson
‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill
Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?
Choose Yourself: What James Altucher can teach you about starting about starting a business