A vote for privacy in a world of oversharing

This post is probably going to annoy some people. I’ll jump the gun here by saying I’m not pointing fingers or on some superiority rampage but I can’t help but look at what’s happening online, now that the Internet and its users have become more intertwined with each other, and see some possibly damaging ways we live out our digital lives.

We all know overshare is a big issue in this era. People can’t seem to figure out where to draw the line or even know that there is a line for the most part. One weekend you’re happily sharing pictures of your drunken night out and making cocky remarks about how superior you are to everyone. Next thing you know, your prospective new employer is going through your #yolo and #fuckthepolice posts and doing a side-by-side comparison between ‘CV you’ and ‘Facebook you’, while you sit there hoping the chair you’re cringing in sucks you through the floor and out the nearest exit. Somehow not even your ‘dress for success’ outfit that you are hoping to (or need to) return the next day saves the day in that moment.

So yeah, we’ve all learned – either through awkward personal experiences or by reading Buzzfeed articles – about how very wrong things can go if you’re not careful what you post online. The angle I’m coming from with this post is a bit more specific, sort of a puzzle piece of how to ensure you don’t end up with egg on your face thanks to your social updates. The big bad wolf I’m trying to tackle here is how you end up looking thanks to what you post or reveal about yourself. The impression you create and the description people who fall in that big, grey realm of associates and people who aren’t quite family or closest to you, would generally give of you.

See, people are funny in more ways than one. What is undeniable, and not really something anyone chooses consciously, is that we all generalize to a degree and have ideas of things and people based on what we see, even if that bit we see is very limited and skewed. Even the most open-minded person who doesn’t generally judge, only gets given so much to go on when they don’t really know you. With that in mind, should you really be fuelling your chances of being misinterpreted? Oh and hey, this is not a post about caring too much what people think. If anything, it’s aimed more towards people who are already trying to make their way through life in a successful manner and who maybe, possibly, want to run for office one day (heck, if Trump can do it, anyone has a chance).

What any good public persona or role model will tell you, is that a great part of garnering respect from others is by maintaining a consistent public image. Erratic behavior makes any perception of you murky, which basically translates to: people are going to compare the things you generally post and say online and then make a generalized assumption based on that. So if you’re angry as hell about love/men/women in one post, then madly in love, then drunk and loving it, then swearing off drinking forever, vegan one moment and wolfing down a steak the next, you’re going to be seen as someone who really doesn’t have a clue what they want in life. If anything, you’ll be marked that erratic one who can’t be depended on. This brings me to the crux of creating a muddled image of how stable you as a person are and how well thought out your life really is: putting dating and relationship updates online.

Take a look at people who are quick to update their Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Twitter etc. and shout it from the virtual rooftops whenever they start dating someone new. Suddenly all anyone connected to them sees is a flood of pictures with this new love interest and updates from them in their floaty, high state. It’s like they went from being a single entity with their own contribution to the world, to being absolutely nonexistent in the virtual realm, if you excluded updates about this new person. I’m not bashing people in love, not at all. It’s great to feel great. But with that feeling – as with any other – needs to come an understanding that no state of being or feeling ever lasts, directly coinciding with an ability to act in accordance with that knowledge. *climbs off the high-horse-shaped pedestal*

But, as life goes, a lot of relationships fail. It’s just one of those things. Problem is, when you’ve been making so much of a public announcement about it, it’s glaringly obvious when your relationship has withered to the point of nonexistence, even while you try to sweep it under a rug, delete all digital traces of it and keep unusually quiet for a while in the hopes that nobody asks potentially hurtful questions about your love life. It blows my mind and baffles me to no end that people carry on doing this, especially if they’ve gone through the whole process of several failed relationships in this digital era of everything being so out there. We face judgement for so many things, and by putting your most private connections and most meaningful moments (however short-lived they might end up being) out there, you face the very real risk of being judged or having unwanted and sometimes very direct interference from outsiders who should (in a less intrusive world) have no role to play in your personal life…it’s also something which has caused a lot of issues and ultimate failures in relationships lately. Of course, also not forgetting how all this ultimately ends up being a big influencing factor in your appearance as someone who is able (or unable) to hold down a serious, long-term relationship.

If you take nothing more from all of this, take this next piece of my opinion and just think about it a bit. I don’t think you should ever post updates that are too close to your personal life. Firstly, why would you need to make such an effort to expose your relationship (and actually many other things) to the world? Anyone secure in who they are and who they are with wouldn’t need to show it off or seek validation or even any other response by telling everyone. With the way life is, I really, honestly believe the only time you should put up a relationship status and photos online, is when you’re already married. In fact, make your wedding photos the first ones you put up and let that serve as a solid confirmation that what people see, is likely to be something, or rather someone, that they can expect to see and associate with you for a very long time.

I’d even go so far as to say don’t even announce your engagement online. The amount of times Facebook friends of mine announced an engagement, or even got to the point of being newlywed, then suddenly going very quiet and months later they start dropping hints about how lonely life is and mention things about life as a singleton…sigh. Life is meant to be lived, not captured and recorded to the point where you miss the here and now (and this is coming from an avid archivist). Privacy is a precious thing…it involves trust with a select few people and the rare ability to choose to be and do whatever you want, without need to conform to standards and expectations. If ever a relationship had to be associated with something, surely privacy would be it.

This could just be me. I mean I’m a solid fan of structure and having a clear understanding of things. So when people I know go through these wild phases of being in and out of love repeatedly, it makes me worry that nobody in this world actually has it together. And I really, truly, want to believe that we all are at least sort of in charge of things and  are following some Master Plan. More than that, the underlying thing that bugs me, is that it all starts to create a very sad outlook on the reality of dating life and relationships. Maybe this is how it’s always been, maybe I just want to retain a hint of denial when it comes to this part of life. That whole notion of ‘for as long as we both shall live’ is already battered and bruised, just look at how many people casually cheat on their partners. I really don’t need to know that, on top of life being damn hard and complicated, there is a very real, huge mountain of struggle ahead of each of us to find the basic fulfilment of a partner. After all, if all the lore of life and love is to be believed, a partner is the one thing that’s supposed to help you get through all the other bad things life throws at you. If it’s a mission finding that, you’re going to have to become one seriously tough person who, although independent as heck, will probably have far too many lonely days.

Oh also, bit of a thought I had the other day… Even the most together people who are otherwise calculated, laser focused and apparently mentally stable, can completely lose their head when it comes to love. For those people, the ones who would really like to know when they’re being nuts at any stage in time, I have a suggested litmus test: Take the person you are dating or want to be in a relationship with, and imagine you get to meet the one person you admire and look up to more than anyone in the world. Now imagine meeting them and ask yourself if you’d be happy, excited and proud to introduce the person you’re with to them. If you’re flinching right now, I have bad news for you. None of us are perfect, granted, but your partner is a very powerful extension of who and what you are and stand for. Even the smartest, most successful person in the world can very rapidly lose respect or credibility if the person they choose to be with isn’t entirely on par with them and their standards. I’ll just leave you with that…

The Man Without A Purpose

I’ve spent my years fascinated and captivated by purpose and how it drives people to achieve incredible things while feeling truly fulfilled in life. Several years ago I had a very vivid dream that I recall to this day. I thought I’d relay it…

I dreamt about a man, short and middle-aged, balding. Think Danny DeVito without the accent or comedic charm. By all accounts he was fairly dull and unexceptional. He had a pretty ordinary job where he never really climbed the ranks or made any impact, lived in an ordinary apartment and barely raised an eyebrow wherever he went. Overlooked and never truly considered someone exceptional, he bore a deep, intense frustration within him. He’d spent all of five decades and then some on this planet, day after day, hoping and desperately seeking a reason to exist, a purpose for being here. From his youngest days he just wanted to know why he was here, what he was meant to do to avoid living a life devoid of purpose and meaning. Yet he never discovered some remarkable talent that he could pour himself into and proudly proclaim his association with, something that resonated within him and made him feel that this would fulfill him. He found himself with more questions than answers and so he spent his days, always questioning, never finding an answer that brought the mulling questions to an end.

One thing made him different, although this one thing went either entirely unnoticed or felt like simply an annoying habit, it seemed. We all know very young children incessantly ask “Why?” as they discover and seek to understand the world around them. With this man, that urge to ask why was unyielding and never faded as he grew older. As a child, he’d ask his teachers why a mathematical problem had to be solved in just the way they specified…why not another way? He’d trouble the shopkeeper about why he arranged his goods in same banausic way he always did. As he grew older he almost unfailingly felt the urge to listen to people or watch them in their day to day lives and ask them why they did things the way they did. Never able to offer a suggestion or alternative, never seeming to contribute to a conversation or offer anything to better a situation. All he could do was ask why, without ever knowing why he was so compelled to do so.

He went through his days in this unexceptional fashion, until one fateful morning when he collapsed on a pavement while on the way to work. He lay there, sprawled out on the tarmac, clutching his chest and desperately gasping for air as pedestrians and cars carried on moving around him, oblivious to his panic as his world closed in on him and his vision faded. He reopened his eyes and found himself in a hall, cast entirely in white and almost luminous. He felt a presence behind him, turned around and in that very moment, feeling the power of the presence with him, he realized he had died. He cried out, a huge sense of loss and defeat overwhelming him. Year upon year was spent trying so hard to find a purpose so that he could live a life of significance, and now that chance was gone and here he was, with nothing to show for it.

“Why are you so sad?”, he was asked.
“I failed. I…tried so hard…I tried everything to just find out why I was even alive, to be of use to someone, anyone. And now I’m here. I’m so sorry. I failed.”
Instead of the judgment he was sure he’d feel in full force, he felt a warmth, and then, a smile. Almost as though this incredible presence was shaking His head, as one would to a child who sheepishly admitted to having done something wrong.
“Failed? No. You did everything exactly as you were supposed to. You fulfilled your purpose.”
The man was stunned.
“What…how? I spent my whole life doing nothing exceptional, being nobody exceptional. How could I possibly have done what I was meant to?”
In that moment he was shown glimpses of his life, from his earliest years all the way through to his last days.
“Do you remember that teacher you asked about the math problem and why it couldn’t be solved another way?”
“Yes…He shot me down and told me to do things the way I’m told and not ask questions.”
“Well, that man remembered you for years after you stood up and asked him that question. Thanks to you, he began to ask himself that same question, and he realized there is no good reason why it can’t or shouldn’t be done another way. It led him to wondering why he didn’t challenge himself in other aspects of his life as well. Finally he left his teaching career and became a well-respected and very passionate man who wrote several papers and taught many others to look beyond convention.”
The man was stunned. He only ever thought of that moment as another point in his life where he was rejected for questioning something.
“How about the shopkeeper you visited each afternoon? Remember how you asked him why he always arranged his goods in just that same way? He realized he’d become so set in his ways that everything stagnated in his life, not just his store’s sales. What you said sunk in, he took all of that to heart and decided to try things in a different way. Thanks to you his life changed as well.”
The man shook his head, stunned. He was shown many more moments from his life, each time with that same distinct, recurrence of him asking why and how it changed some part of the lives of those he spoke to.

“Remember this? That one night at that party where you felt like such an outcast? Remember standing there, listening to this scientist talking, telling everyone how he’s struggling to find a solution for the research he’d invested years and countless hours working on? How he felt he was so very close to finding the answer but somehow it kept eluding him?”
The man nodded slowly.
“Do you remember what you said to him?”
The man recalled that night. Everyone was nodding quietly as this highly educated scientist was explaining his life’s work, not really knowing what to say. Then he, in a moment of inexplicable compulsion, blurted out the only words he ever managed to find. Again, relative what the scientist had said, his response was along the lines of, ‘But why are you doing it like this? Why does it have to be done this way?’ He felt like a complete idiot as total silence descended upon the circle of people, moments after the words left his mouth. Fumbling with his hands in and out of his jacket pockets, he hung his head and escaped the crowd, and went back to his apartment. He spent the rest of the night staring at the ceiling, beating himself up about being such a failure.
“You never knew this, but your words were exactly what that man needed to hear. He went home that night and couldn’t get what you said out of his head. Those simple two questions you asked him gave him a renewed perspective on his problem and things fell into place that he never thought of before. He got back to work on his project and with time, discovered the solution to what he’d been working on for years. I’ll let you in on a secret. Some time after your life was over on earth, the research he was doing contributed to helping to cure cancer.”

By this stage the man felt completely overwhelmed.
“But I’m nobody. I…only ever asked questions.”, he replied, stuttering.

“Your purpose was to ask the questions that would change the way people thought about problems in their lives. Everyone has a purpose. It’s just that not everyone can know what that purpose is.
Do you know that if I ever told you what your purpose was in your life, you’d have tried to change everything? You would have tried so hard to find the right questions to ask at the right time, to the right people, that you would have entirely missed asking the right people at the right time.”

The man stood there, absolutely speechless.

“Purpose isn’t something you seek and have to find. It’s something you always have. Sometimes people fulfill their purpose just by living and expressing themselves sincerely. Not everyone has a purpose that is immediately visible to others or one that makes them known or loved on earth, but sometimes the most powerful purpose comes in the whispers of voices people can’t forget. Or, in your case, the questions.”

Growing Pains – A Startup’s First Steps

So much has been written about working for yourself and the pros and cons of entrepreneurship, from serious articles to humorous ones. It hasn’t even been a year yet that I set out on doing my own thing but I’ve learned a great deal in this time and I continue to discover more every day. Most of my friends are in startup mode as well, and a few coffee meetings every now and then reminded me that we are in our phase of learning about things most people will never even get to experience.

Quite a few people have asked me what it’s like and what I’ve learned, so I’ve put together a few of the bigger things I’ve learned over this time:

 

You’ll be called crazy or brave at least a few times along the way. Probably both.

Between friends, family and random strangers I strike up conversations with, I often find myself being told I’m insane for working so hard and I need to ease up, or that I’m brave for doing what they are sure they will never have the guts to do. I suppose you need a spark of madness, or at least mad determination to succeed at getting a business off the ground or working for yourself. You have to be prepared to go far beyond the point where most people would get fed up, scared or unsure, and be too stubborn to just let it go. The rewards are tremendous – on many levels – but I have come to realize having the ‘stuff’ needed to do something like this, is either ingrained in your character or it isn’t…and there is no flaw or lesser strength in either having it or not. It’s as straight forward as being a morning person or not, loving sweets or preferring savoury snacks. In the end, it’s a yes/no variable which you sometimes don’t truly know your placement in, although making the choice to go alone and actually seeing it through already tells you a lot about which side of the fence you tend to be on.

You’ll be disillusioned quite rudely at times and learn all about counting chickens before they hatch.

At first, the help and support of mentors and angel investors seem like the best possible thing for you. While these are undeniably great benefits to have on your journey, you need to evaluate if their vision and assistance is truly in line with what you aim to achieve or if it will stunt your growth – not every offer or opportunity should be accepted and you’re often better off buying your time and securing your footing first. You’ll run into people who offer their help yet end up getting carried away with their own interpretation of what you should be doing, or promise to help yet ultimately never do. As is the case with most things in life, relying too heavily on the help of others means you become dependent, which can seriously hamper your growth and set you up for unexpected falls.

You’ll have to re-think and re-envision everything you initially saw yourself doing as a business.

Initially you start off with an idea of where you want to go and what you want to do, but as you interact with clients and peers, you will be asked to do things outside of the scope you initially envisioned. You’ll also either realize you’re doing something everyone else does and start specializing when you recognize a niche in the market that needs to be filled, or you’ll come into your own and start to identify what makes you different and where your strengths lie. As I’ve mentioned, I have several friends who also run digital startups or work for themselves, yet none of us are in direct competition with each other because we each have strong, individual skill sets that make us good at a particular style of service or working with a specific type of client. Ultimately you will need to decide where you draw lines in terms of your services, or prepare to expand far beyond what you envisioned at first.

Everything is a case of extremism.

If you like balance and predictability, you’ll have a rough time adapting to running a startup. Everything, from workload to income, can completely flip on its head at a moment’s notice. One week you pull 18 hour work days and pray for sleep, the next things become almost suspiciously quiet and just as you become accustomed to a less mad pace, the next wave of mayhem hits. Financially, unless you’ve got retainers in place, you can go from having a pretty great month where all the bills get paid and you get to save a bit of cash in the bank, to realizing it’s the 20th of the month and you’re not sure if you’re going to make rent unless you pull a rabbit out of a hat. It’s both nerve wracking and exhilarating at the same time. One thing you can be sure of is that change is the only constant and that you’ll be on the edge of your seat pretty often.

Extremism also exists in your behaviour, depending on your mindset.

You either procrastinate heavily after a rough, long work phase, or you are overworking yourself to the point of burnout. Moderation is for the meek and this isn’t an apathetic person’s playground. While you’re trying to find your feet and figure out when and how you work best, you’ll probably go well overboard pretty often and be left wondering what normal is again.

You learn a great deal more about yourself, both good and not so good.

Every bit of your personality, character and ethics – both inside of work life and outside of it – gets tested to the very limit when you set out on your own. You don’t truly understand the scope of your limits and abilities while you’re working an 8-5 job, because you’re still in a relatively safe environment where you get to clock out and decide how you spend your free time. The moment you leave that and have to fend for yourself, all of these aspects become a lot more accentuated. If you procrastinated while employed, you’ll find yourself having to fight hard not to put off tasks to the last minute now that you decide your own hours. If you had a tendency to take work home with you, you will find yourself frequently haunted by thoughts about outstanding tasks and mentally extending to-do lists at 2AM while you’re trying to fall asleep. More than ever, you’ll learn that setting schedules and allocating time to every part of your life becomes crucial, because there’s nobody else there to force you to abide to time slots and you can easily get caught up in doing too much, or too little, of something for months at a time. Without fail, you will also become more responsible, more accountable and more meticulous about how you take on your life, and it will spill over into every other part of it as well. You go from being perfectly happy with someone else managing your tax payments and deciding your schedule, to carefully reading the fine print of every document and making very sure you know the ins and outs of everything you are involved in or sign up for. In essence, you take charge of your own fate in a way you never have before.

Sometimes, for a brief few seconds, you envy employed people.

Granted, you will shake off any of that envy within moments of having it cross your mind, but sometimes you’ll look at fulltime employed people and think that they’ve at least got the knowledge that they have a set income and know exactly what to expect at month end, as well as having mostly predictable work expectations. Then you’ll remember how absolutely terrible it is to be forced to work at set hours in an environment that probably isn’t good for your creative or intellectual wellbeing, for a manager who is, quite likely, a dictator in their own right, and that no matter how much extra effort you put in, you won’t reap extra reward if you happen to put in 60 hours of overtime one month. Then you’ll take a break and go have coffee at the mall at 3PM, surrounded by housewives and retirees, because you can.

You may not need to put in sick leave, but sick days cost you so much more.

While it’s not necessary to write a text message or call in with a husky voice to explain that you really feel like a bus hit you and still have to go get a doctor’s note to validate this, every hour you’re sitting in bed staring at the wall with glazed-over eyes, you’re losing money. There’s no company to pay you for sick leave days regardless of whether you reply to mails or sleep the day away, which means flu season can be a real hazard. Also, that bittersweet indulgence of knowing you can crawl back into bed while your co-workers start their day, is replaced by calculations of how many extra hours you’ll have to put in to make up for the need to hug your pillow for a few days.

The space between what you realize you know and what you don’t know yet, will get bigger.

Transitioning into a startup and taking on the world by yourself means you probably already know a bit more than most of your peers, whether it’s because of an unquenchable curiosity that keeps you learning, or the need to advance for professional reasons. As you grow your startup and start interacting on a new level with new individuals, you’ll come to realize there are some extremely inspiring people in a league you just haven’t reached yet, in spite of your experience beyond employment level. For a curious mind, realizing how much more is out there and that you’re in the middle of a huge upward shift in growth, is pretty much the equivalent of letting a kid loose in a candy store.

You realize that client relationships are ultimately interpersonal relationships, and sometimes they just don’t work.

It’s impossible to differentiate your work style from your personality, at some point in time they do converge and it tends to be in the moment you meet a prospective client and as you start working on a project for them. While many times you may not have the luxury of turning down income, you may find yourself at a crossroads from time to time, realizing that your client’s demands and the way they deal with you and vice versa, clash beyond the point of agreeability. At the end of the day, as is the case with everything, it comes down to people dealing with people, and sometimes you just don’t ‘gel’ or play well together and you realize it’s best to cut your losses and move on. In the same breath, finding a client who is completely on par with you and treats you with respect and professionalism, makes for a fantastic, lasting work relationship that very little can compare with. Treasure them like solid gold bars and treat them with gratitude for helping to secure your freedom from an office cubicle.

Wishing for island getaways vs having full throttle drive happens pretty much simultaneously.

You’re fantasizing about a holiday on a remote island somewhere, with minimal use of your phone, except to update your Instagram account with a sunset picture or a shot of your most recently ordered cocktail. Yet at the same time you’re feeling so excited about the next step, the progression of what you’re doing, that you don’t want to stop. It’s a constant mix of ‘I would kill for rest and peace’ and ‘This is amazing, I’m so close to another milestone’. Again, always an elevated state, never a dull moment.

 

Having said all of this, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. Judging by the past few months, next year is going to be even more challenging and rewarding, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Forget taking the bull by the horns…be the bull!

The Indecisive Face of Sex Appeal – A ‘Disproportionate’ Girl’s Opinion

I’ll be the first to say that the whole hammering on how the media makes women and girls feel bad about how they look is a pretty beaten-to-death topic. But this isn’t one of those blogs. We all know the media – and now, social media as well – is just a selection of perfectly timed, often Photoshopped impressions of what the world is like, when the reality is usually far from it. You learn to get over all of that as you get older and stop paying heed to overpriced glossy mags with cheap advice inside. This is about the perception of beauty and what is sexy to society, how it changes over time and why I no longer care much about it, nor should anyone else.

I’ve always said your body carries something far more important: your mind, your soul. It ages over time and regardless of how well you take care of it, the reality is you will start feeling the effects of aging as time goes on and you will have to fight harder to not succumb to it. Back when I was a pre-teen and early teen, the idea of what you should look like to be sexy, was the whole Kate Moss figure. Tall, lanky, no indication of curvature (or personality, for that matter). Back in the 90s and early 2000s, boyfriends and husbands had to deal with the anxiety-inducing question they were likely to be asked at some point in their relationships: “Does my butt look big?” White girls everywhere had a paranoid fear of the uncontrolled expansion of their gluteal regions. It was pretty much the dooming gong that wiped out any hint of sex appeal, even if the rest of your body was in pretty good (read skinny) shape.

Me, I had the greatly unfortunate genetic predisposition of having natural curves. Curves that, for the most part, showed behind me, not so much in front. I still remember an older family member looking at me one day, when I was about 8 years old, and saying, “Shame, you have such a big butt. You’re going to have to live with that for the rest of your life, it’s your grandmother’s bad genes.” Yeah, she wasn’t all that tactful, I always considered it a characteristic of hers that was best just to laugh off. But this stuck when I realized that, even at my fittest, I really wasn’t going to run, jump, rollerblade, bike or swim my ass off. Fast forward a good decade or so when I was at a braai at a friend’s house. Two lesbians were sitting on the couch, clearly a bit tipsy as they didn’t realize how loudly they were discussing me as I walked past. The one asked her girlfriend what she thought of me, the other’s response was, “She’s okay, but jeez too bad about her big ass.” Even when I wasn’t acting like an ass, I always had one to fall back on, it seemed. By then the rest of my adult curves surfaced and I was a full-on wide-hipped, narrow waist girl. Which was okay, until I went for a job interview, got the job and, while sitting in for the (extremely skinny) receptionist one day, found mails (hey, I was bored, it was late December) between her and one of the guys there, discussing how disproportionate I look and how weirdly I am built. Fortunately by then I’d learnt the water-off-a-duck’s-back trick pretty well, although I couldn’t help but wonder. ‘Disproportionate’ is a pretty extreme description, after all.

Just for interest’s sake, I just Googled “Disproportionate Girl” and the image below came up, among others… Would you believe, the image is tagged with the title “Nobody Can Be That Disproportionate Can They?” Yes. Yes they can be. Thank you.

Pseudo Disproportionate

So I went through my twenties, phases of training, eating very little, weighing very little, eating more, weighing more. Eventually I decided screw it, I was just going to focus on being completely healthy and not try to kill myself to look a way that my body wouldn’t succumb to looking like. So then, about a year ago, I got into the gym thing properly again and started doing heavy weight lifting. That’s when it emerged that somewhere along the line, while I wasn’t giving a damn about what’s sexy anymore, things had changed. Curves were now a lot more welcome and lo and behold, suddenly having a big butt was all the rage. In fact, if you were one of those unfortunate white girls with a flat ass, you’d surely be squatting from sunrise to sunset, just in the hopes of getting a little bit more protrusion going on back there. I had to laugh. Today, women like Michelle Lewin are considered goddesses…ten or even five years ago, most men and women would have recoiled and said she’s built like a man.

Michelle Lewin

The new face – and body – of sexy

Now, if a guy gets asked “Does my butt look big?”, he’d better jump to say “Yes, absolutely!” to avoid hell breaking loose. I feel sorry for guys, really, I do. How you ever keep up with what’s okay and what isn’t, I don’t know. Being muscle bound was always an appealing thing for guys, now it’s just more the case – and requirement – than ever before. At least you don’t have to worry about some parts being too big or too sm…uh, yeah.

Today, instead of skinny, the more muscle you have, the better. While the whole healthy and fit route is great and I encourage anyone to be more attentive to what they eat and that they get exercise, there is an issue here. This super ripped and built obsession has unfortunately caused an uprising of supremacist douchebaggery of eye-rolling proportions, because people have gone and taken it a bit far again. Now your worth is so fixated on your bulging quads and ripped abs that nobody stops to think or care about actually developing a personality, between all those hours of pumping at gym and devouring chicken breasts and broccoli.

(You can stop reading now if you don’t want to see the usual, flowery, moral-of-the-story conclusion I always end off with.)

Now I ask you, with all these crazy fluctuations in sex appeal criteria, just in the last 20 years alone, why do people torment themselves so much to look a certain way? The sheer amount of damage you can do to your health alone is reason enough to be cautious. There are things that don’t ever change. Like how much impact a kind person has on those around them, the value of having a sense of humor, a sharp wit, developed understanding of the world or a personality that is so diverse that it’s fascinating to be around. These are things that take years and decades to build and they don’t ever become less valuable…in fact, they become rarer over time, as many people seem to become stagnant or bitter in their older years.

The Hand That Feeds Often Needs A Band Aid

People seem to have difficulty with the idea of turn-based generosity and kindness. I got to thinking about this yesterday while caught in semi-rush hour traffic and everyone was kissing the bumper of the person in front of them stubbornly, leaving drivers who were trying to turn into the lane sitting there like island castaways watching commercial planes flying overhead.

“Starting to question if I even really exist…”

“Starting to question if I even really exist…”

I dead halted and let a guy through, he courteously thanked me and took his place ahead of me. Next thing the three cars behind him decided this was their in as well and they forced their way into the lane without so much as acknowledgment or gratitude.

Hey man, the ticket said “Admin One”.

Hey man, the ticket said “Admin One”.

I raised an eyebrow and sighed. A truck driver was next in line, with a giant cargo container in tow. I started moving forward and he gave me a look like you swear I’d just walked into his house and stole his dinner off his plate. While glaring at me all spear-eyed, he carried on moving and pushed in front of me. Stuff like this really doesn’t phase me, but while sitting there I started thinking about how this is a great example of what people tend to do in life.

Let’s say I didn’t let the first guy in. I would have been just another selfish jerk who couldn’t be bothered about anyone else then, in his eyes. Had I only let him in and then shifted forward and left the rest waiting, the next guy would have thought it’s seriously unfair that the guy in front of him got a chance and he didn’t. You see it from pre-school ages, where one kid gets a bigger sweet or any form of treatment that leaves the rest feeling they aren’t being treated fairly. I’m not sure where it all arises from. Is it really so common for people to just be naturally selfish in their behaviours or is it that they have a mind-set of scarcity – some caveman-like instinct to fight for every crumb because there isn’t enough to go around?

"It's MINE!"

“It’s MINE!”

The problem with being a sincere, nice, kind, generous person is you tend to expect the rest of the world to be and feel the same. They aren’t. They don’t. That’s just life. Not everyone is a good Samaritan by nature, but at least take stock of how many times a day you’re the nice guy in a situation, the exception instead of the demanding norm.

PS: This was not a rant. I swear. No really.

The Curse of The Brain Dead, Miserable Employee Life

It’s funny to watch 5PM creeping up and seeing everyone’s attention span waning (or should I say, sky diving like an anvil without a parachute) after 3PM, their eyes undeniably more fixated on the clock as the last minutes of the work day tick by. And then, as if someone yelled “Bomb!” they all grab their bags and run like hell to get out of there the very moment the clock strikes 5, leaving a manager walking in or looking up from their desk with an expression of slight befuddlement and saying something along the lines of “Wow, can really tell they’re dedicated to their jobs…this place cleared out in five seconds flat”. That is, of course, unless the manager mumbled some excuse about an unexpected meeting before packing up their bags and laptop and slipping out the car park before anyone notices an hour before everyone else does.

The funny thing is, changing the rules and giving leeway doesn’t actually help improve worker dedication. The only exception is if someone comes from an 8-5 job and now finds themselves employed by a new company that allows them to clock out at 4PM every day. This is pretty much the holy grail of employment perks, aside from having a free canteen with five daily menu items available. Talk to anyone who works at one of these companies though, and you’ll still see the exact same behaviour as the usual 8-5er club. Instead of being on the edge of their seats at 4:58PM, they’re sitting in the exact same position, just as eagerly waiting to get the hell out of there, only it’s at 3:58PM. If you think free lunch will keep them hooked, sadly, you’re also wrong. You’ll find long-time employees staring at the menu board, shoulders slouched in unenthused disappointment, moaning about it being burger or pizza day again…while the newbies dash up to the counter with a sparkle in their eyes and an almost irrepressible smile of excitement on their faces as they pick out their choice of lunch. The long-time employees will scoff at the sight of them and say something like, “Just wait until they get used to the menu.”, before waddling off to go get KFC instead or, if it’s later in the month, give in to whatever seems least excruciating because they’re running a bit low on cash and have to take what they can get.

Here’s the thing with people – and I’m only generalising because we all fall into this trap most of the time, unless we’re really disciplined about what we do, and or able to pick up on when we’re just bandwagon hopping like a normal part of the sheople society. Two things seem to happen all too easily, no matter where you are and what group of people you find yourself with in the Western World:

1. We conform.

Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But put someone into the same situation for long enough without changing very much about what happens in that environment, and they’ll end up numbing out a bit and losing their individual sharpness. That thing that makes you you, that gives you your character, your appeal, your personal strength and charisma, it dies a little bit more the longer you expose yourself to routine. And nothing is more routine than being stuck in the same building, on the same floor, the same department, the same desk, the same chair, with the same people, at the same times, every single day. I’m not blaming the company of your employees here, make no mistake. They’re being dumbed down by monotony just as much as you and as a result, they’re not exactly displaying an array of fun characteristics either. Larry from accounting isn’t making the same two-line conversation at the water dispenser whenever you see him because that’s all there is to the poor, boring SOB. He’s probably a champion cook and impressive surfer on the weekends, but you’ll never know that because he can’t exactly whip up a steak or show up in a wetsuit at work. Believe me, he’s probably just as annoyed by his monotonous jokes as you are. More than that, he’s probably so damn frustrated he’s screaming inside his own head and wondering what he’s doing with his life. And that’s just Larry. Now imagine everyone else around you at the office. Unless they are just absolute stars at what they do and they really are living their life’s dreams by being there, chances are they feel a whole lot like you. But back to the conformity thing. You’re expected to act a certain way at work and because of the monotony of it all, everyone in a working environment starts talking about similar things and feeling pretty similar about many things, even if you honestly couldn’t have given a free-willed thought about it if you were operating on your own accord. I started buying and talking about shoes after being stuck in an oestrogen-fuelled office for four months every day. Me! Shoes! (If you don’t know me very well, just picture Henry Rollins talking about the lovely shade of fuchsia he wants to incorporate into his living room curtains and scatter cushions. Same page? Okay good.)

2. We’ll never be happy for long.

No matter how nicely you treat someone, they will get used to it and demand more. Think putting an Xbox in your office and letting your employees have a frag match between hours of tedious coding will boost morale? Okay yes, yes it definitely will. And we’re talking about gaming and developers here so this is actually an unfair example. Point is, no matter how cushy someone’s job is, they are going to adapt to it and start looking for more. It’s human nature. We adapt to things, get bored, then look for new things to excite, stimulate and satisfy us. Our benchmarks go up higher – in the case of work, we want more pay for less hours AND all the benefits that top-level Fortune 500 companies dish out, even if we’re only temporary sales clerks at Larry’s DVD shop. There’s a bit of a mess up of gigantic proportions when it comes to work life these days. Thanks to the joys of the internet, we get to see how Google employees have this absolute fantasmagorium of a work life and office environment and dammit we deserve the same. It suddenly goes from a situation where we could potentially have a work life like this, depending on several variable factors like whether we as employees are educated, determined, hardworking, resourceful and committed enough, alongside working at a company that not only has the financial stability to facilitate spending a lot more money and resources on keeping employees happy and having the mindset and understanding of how important environmental factors, plenty of rest, growth and development and the like are to making and keeping happy, productive employees…no, suddenly this whole having a pod bed and a fish tank office thing becomes a basic human right. Kids walk out of high school with this expectation that they should be treated like royalty and any company should be so lucky to have them work there, instead of understanding the concept of hard work over a long period of time equalling work ethic and experience. But I’m going to stop myself right there, before I go on an aged ‘kids these days’ rant…again.

The only time people take back what they feel or say about how crap the company they work for is, is when they stand at risk of losing their positions there and have no prospect of finding another job. Or, if suddenly the perceived value of the company skyrockets and social and employment value of it increases. People are funny. We give social value to everything. Think about it. You don’t want to tell people you work at some low-end company nobody’s heard of, because it won’t raise the perception of you. But if you land a job at Google, even if you’re the newly employed janitor, you’d be very quick to mention “I work for Google”, within seconds of introducing yourself at a dinner party. Or anywhere else. Of course, I can’t help but hear some guy two feet away from hypothetical janitor guy scoffing and saying “Psh, don’t we all.” Because let’s face it, we all bow to Google in some way right now.

So then, you wonder, if making life easier for employees doesn’t do the trick, what will work? Employees are not rebelling when they become apathetic about their jobs and the company they work for. They’re not all secretly scheming to bring down the entire business because their dislike is really that deep-seated. No. They probably would prefer if the company did better and excelled, got some media attention and signed a new contract with a cool brand or company. That way they don’t have to lift a finger to get greater social reward out of working there. Now they can say, “I work for Ben’s websites.” *crickets and blank expressions in return* “Oh, and exciting developments are happening! We just partnered with Google!”. *sudden recognition and admiration* Of course, he happily and very deliberately leaves out the details that the business is merely using Google Analytics as a service feature now…

There are tons of factors that determine someone’s happiness and dedication at work. Hundreds, if not thousands of papers and articles have been written about enhancing personal dedication by ensuring employee growth, healthy and clean work environments and all the other things that I won’t repeat because it’s already been said plenty of times. My thoughts on the whole thing? It’s simple (well, sort of). Nobody wants to be bored. Nobody wants to feel taken for granted. That is as true in a personal relationship as it is in any other aspect of life, including work life. If you are a boss or manager and you’re in a struggling, boring personal relationship, then I’ve got bad news for your prospects about exciting your employees. Excitement and the prospect that something new will most likely happen today and again tomorrow, that gets people feeling less like the wheel-spinning hamsters they usually are. In the end it comes down to finding those people who just light up rooms by being there. Those elusive amazing science teachers we see in movies but never had as kids, who did awesome things and made us all want to be physicists…and then nearly burning down our parents’ houses in makeshift science experiments on the weekend. Passionate people. I said ‘finding those people’ just now, but I really meant being one of those people. This is the tricky part. Nothing makes people as excited as a passionate person who gives them renewed energy and interest in what they’re doing every day, but being that person is just a whole other ball game. It’s simple enough when you are in the right work environment with the right people, doing what you love. But doing a job because it’s a job and you have no other choice, that won’t get you very far into achieving anything great or feeling invincible and proud. Basically, the way we work and do things is screwed. That’s my professional and personal opinion. We’re expected to breed generations of people who are brilliant at their jobs and love where they work and what they do, but it’s just not happening.

That’s an article for another time though, it’s Friday and oh look, it’s around that time where everyone’s staring at the clock, waiting to go home…

I’ve Had Too Much To Think Again – Summary of A Brainstorm Hangover

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve become a bit disconnected from being so directly involved in having a social life, that I’m sitting here watching everything and thinking about all this. Maybe it’s old age. Maybe I’ve worked too many crazy hours and blew another mental fuse. (Shrugs). Whatever it is, here are some things that I think a lot of people don’t seem to think about or realize*:

(Two topics kicked off my hurricane of thoughts today…)

1. ADD/ADHD is becoming more prevalent in our society, even among adults who’ve never had this problem before. It’s not a disease so much as a resultant side effect of a lifestyle that is increasingly demanding of our attention, while bombarding us with information, options and distractions at a scale never before encountered by the human species. On an evolutionary scale, we’ve just hit an unprecedented spike in mental preoccupation, with a sharp decrease in the need for physical activity. We all live in our heads now, our lives revolve around processing and contributing what we think far more than actually, physically doing things.

2. Depression and anxiety disorder, while always having been seen as something “faulty” people have and should be ashamed of, is now more common than ever. I can’t help but think that our fixation on keeping up the pace in terms of being busy all the time and constantly having the latest technology, clothing, cars etc while trying to fit in with an ever-changing standard of what is normal or acceptable (think about how quickly the internet has created global trends and just as quickly discarded them for the next, new one) is leaving most people feeling inadequate. Add to that the reality that society is becoming less grounded in what matters on a basic human level, while desperately seeking something real (think about all these inspirational quotes being reposted all over the net, telling you what you should be, should do, should look for, assuming you can’t figure it out for yourself out of stupidity or sheer laziness to self-develop) but not truly ever finding a connection. How about the notion that we can now buy more, have more, do more, than ever before, and yet none of it is all that deeply fulfilling?

(…which then led to a few shots of this…)

I think a great deal of problems being encountered in the world is just because we’re being guided towards behaving in a way that is not congruent with our basic human natures. We’re being forced outside of our natural and health zones, forced to push harder to survive and be successful, than any of our ancestors or forefathers ever did. Sure, they had to deal with manual labour, getting up early to milk cows and plant seeds, hunt for food. But they got enough sleep. They ate pretty organically and didn’t have to worry about banting or gluten-free diets. They didn’t obsess over if they’re good enough because some form of media is making the entire village want to look a certain way or be shunned for not doing so. They followed their instincts and listened to their bodies. We’re becoming increasingly disconnected from our ingrained natural self-preservation, that voice that instinctively tells you some food doesn’t agree with you or that you need more rest today to make up for yesterday’s over activity. It’s just not accepted if someone does that. Even following your gut feeling about something is frowned upon now, often being re-classified as your imagination running away with you.

(…and then this…)

The funny thing is, I get the feeling that our advancement in science and medicine to eradicate disease and helping us stay alive longer, is probably directly and inversely proportionate to the rate at which we are harming our health and well-being in new ways through our new lifestyles. We’re fighting to keep up with stopping old and existing disorders while we actively create new, possibly bigger ones. And while we have always had decades of history to base our calculations and estimates on, the rate we are currently moving at, plus the infantile existence of the digital era, means that we honestly can’t tell at all what will happen to humans on the long term as a result of what we’re doing right now. Fifty years ago we could sort of predict what would happen within our lifetimes. We knew that you’d have to go to university to get a degree, to earn a decent income, working for the one employer you’ll have your entire working career. This would fit in fine with the partner you’d marry, kids you’d have and home cooked meals you’d eat every day. You’d pretty much live a life similar to that of your parents, except with one or two new innovations along the way to make life easier. Today, we can barely even guess what will happen to us in two years.

We are existentially living on the tip of a stray bullet, as it blasts through into completely unknown territory, not knowing where, when or what it will hit.

 

*Disclaimer: These are just my own thoughts, based on what I have deduced. I’m not saying I’m right, I’m just making an observation. And as always, there are always exceptions to any statement, something which I completely accept and agree with. Don’t shoot me.

A Tale Of a Beggar, a Rich Man and a Golden Cat

Years ago, when I was very young, I heard a story about a beggar and a rich man. I’ve been trying to find that story everywhere and haven’t had any luck over the years, leaving me wondering where exactly I heard it in the first place.

Few things stick with you prominently from childhood and usually it’s random and probably useless. But this story is one of the few that echoes very loudly and to this day I find it oddly interesting, with new interpretations manifesting as I grow older and understand the story differently.

So, I’ve decided to write what I remember being told back then.

 

A beggar, a rich man, and a golden cat:

One day a rich man was walking down a busy street, mind fixated on his own thoughts, oblivious to the world around him. A beggar was sitting on a derelict corner, completely overlooked by the hundreds of passing faces. He saw the rich man, dressed in what was clearly very expensive clothing, rushing towards him and as he approached, the beggar called to him. The rich man blew him off and began to walk past him, then dead halted when the beggar said these words: “Sir. What if I told you I have something of extreme value to offer you?”

The rich man stopped, turned around and looked the beggar up and down with a cynical expression on his face. “What could you possibly have to offer me?”, he asked. The beggar smiled. “Not everything you see is as it truly is, sir.”, he replied. The rich man frowned as the beggar continued.
“What if I told you I had a statue of a cat, beautiful and made of pure gold? Like nothing you have ever seen before.”
The rich man scoffed in disbelief, but his interest was piqued. Looking down at the beggar, he replied. “I highly doubt you possess anything like that. But if you did, I’d be interested in hearing more about this supposed golden cat.”

The beggar shrugged and said, “You look like a smart and capable man, I’m sure you understand that there is investment potential in the most unlikely places at times.” Flattered, the rich man nodded slowly. “Yes, this is true.” Something about the elusive smile on the beggar’s face made the rich man wonder if he was passing up an opportunity by walking away. “Let me buy you lunch. I want to hear more about this statue.”, he said.

They went off to a local restaurant and ordered food as the beggar continued to tell the rich man more about the golden cat. “What if I told you it was a relic from ancient Egypt, stolen from the tombs of Tut Ankh Amun shortly after its discovery? What if I told you the person who stole it was my grandfather and it’s been passed down to me?” Enthralled, the rich man leaned forward and asked the beggar to continue. The beggar carried on giving more details, painting a vivid picture as he swung his wine glass around in the midst of explaining. “What if I told you it has large sapphires for eyes and a necklace made of pure rubies and emeralds, unlike anything you’ve seen?”

The rich man’s eyes widened, his face in an expression of total captivation and fascination. “Tell me more!”, he exclaimed as he ordered more wine and food. The beggar feasted as he continued. “What if I told you it glistens with precious stones and has a large. perfectly flawless diamond hanging from the collar? Easily the size of half your palm!” By now the rich man was completely taken by the story and ready to offer the beggar a sizeable amount for the statue, knowing full well that he would get tenfold that amount upon selling it himself.

They finished their wine and food, and walked out of the restaurant. “I think I’ve heard enough.”, the rich man said. “Take me to this statue of yours. I want to see it.” The beggar paused for a second, then shook his head. “Sir, I don’t possess such a thing.”, he replied. The rich man frowned. “What do you mean? You just told me all about this statue you have. You told me all about how it looks. The diamonds! The precious stones!” His confusion quickly turned into anger. “You told me you had this statue! You lied to me?”

The beggar raised his hands in defence. “Sir, I never told you I have a golden cat. I merely said ‘What if’ I had one. You made all the assumptions yourself.” He smiled softly. “But thank you for the delicious lunch. I haven’t eaten that well in ages!” The rich man stood there, stunned, as he watched the beggar walk away and disappear into the crowd.

—————————-

To this day I can’t quite decide what the lesson is in this story. Is it that greedy people are blinded by their greed? Or that you shouldn’t underestimate someone’s intelligence based on their appearance? Maybe it’s that you shouldn’t believe what people promise you, because they could just be taking you for a ride at your own expense and their pleasure. Whatever it was, this story comes to mind time and again, at random, throughout my life.

What brought it to mind this time was a statement I read that got me thinking: “Not everyone who smiles at you, is your friend.”

I guess the moral of the story, or at least one of them, is never stick your neck out too far for something you’re not sure of, and never paint images of your future based on the promises of those around you – their words may never manifest in actions and you’ll be the one struggling as a result, not them.

Of Gift Horses…

I had an interesting upbringing, I think. My family and extended family were a varied range of very wealthy to fairly average, which gave me a solid understanding of what life is like with an abundance of riches – both material and interpersonal – and the shortcomings of either side. When I was about 7 or 8, all I wanted was a horse. I was obsessed with horses and the fact that I grew up in a rural community where half of my friends lived on farms and owned a few horses themselves, made it all more frustrating. I battled to come to terms with the reality that the closest I might ever  come to riding a majestic animal was trying to make my Labrador sit on him for more than two seconds before shrugging me off, giving me an unimpressed look and scoffing before walking away.

One particular family member of mine, my mom’s uncle, was an interesting part of my early developmental years. He was the mayor of the town, an avid businessman and politician, and made no qualms about the prestige he’d acquired throughout his years on this planet. His wife was equally driven and no-nonsense, but she baked and cooked like a pro and never failed to overindulge me with treats of every conceivable kind. They formed an integral part of my daily life and showed me what hard work can achieve.

One day, my parents had a braai and invited all our family from the area for a nice get-together. I was 8 years old and at that particular moment in time, I had very little on my mind aside from how badly I wanted a horse. That afternoon I wandered around the garden, caught up in my own thoughts while the rest of the family were relaxing under the trees, having a drink or two. I ended up drawing pictures of horses on the concrete with my chalk, oblivious of anything else until my great uncle called me over and asked what I was doing. I walked up to him and softly whispered that I am drawing a horse. He asked if I like horses and I said yes, I love them. At that moment in my life, I could not have been more passionate, more completely engulfed by my adoration and desire for my own horse. Which is why the next sentence out of his mouth hit me like a whirlwind. “Well, would you like to have a horse?” I was stunned. I stood frozen for a while there, trying to stop my jaw from falling to the floor. I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. I remember all this clearly because my dad had placed the family video camera in a corner at the start of the day, leaving it to record, lens fixed on the table where everyone was sitting. I remember, because I played that part of the video over and over, several times after that day, trying to make sense of what had happened.

I finally regained the ability to respond and nodded vigorously, in utter amazement. “Well then, I’ll get you a horse. No problem at all. My little girl wants a horse, she’s got it.” He carried on fueling the conversation, asking me what colour I’d like it to be and what I would name it. By the time our chat ended, he had mentioned the name of a friend of his who owns a few horses and said he’d go talk to him first thing Monday. I could not sleep that night. I was beyond excited. And so, Monday rolled around and I couldn’t wait to go and see my great uncle and ask him what the man had said, but I thought I’d wait and give him time to talk to him later in the day. Tuesday came around and I rushed to find him. With a giant smile on my face, I asked him what the man said. He briefly glanced down at me, half distracted, and said, “What man?” I realized I probably was being a bit vague, so I said ‘about the horse’. His reply? “What horse?”

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you what my reaction was to that. This was the first time in my life that I was truly and utterly let down by someone, on a scale that left me completely devastated and questioning absolutely everything anyone said from then onward for a good while. I couldn’t understand how anyone could make a promise about something that meant so much, only to just forget it ever happened. In retrospect and, as I grew older, I realized that he had quite a few drinks that day and was just running his mouth, absentmindedly. Doing what many adults do when they see a kid looking sad: say or do something to make them feel better in that moment, because it’s just not cool seeing a child not smile (this was actually a thing with my family elders, children were there to bring happiness to their hearts, so it was very unacceptable to have the source of their happiness not be happy). He must have been pretty chuffed with himself that he managed to pull me out of my quiet retraction from the group and gave me a reason to smile again. I doubt he had any idea of the effect that decision had on the greater scale though.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I  believe it’s a lesson we all need to be aware of in life. It took me several years of really trying to understand people before I could put it into perspective and understand that there was zero hurtful intention behind his actions. I tell you all this because the older you become, the more important it is to remember that your words may not mean much to you, but it could mean absolutely everything to someone else. Especially if that someone else is a child, or if the promise is something that they feel could change their lives in some way. We get so damn caught up in life, trying to process a hundred thoughts and tasks at once, that we make promises or say things without truly understanding the sincerity of our words versus the depth of the impact they make on those we say them to.

Ground rules? Never make a promise you don’t ever intend to keep. You might as well be planting a live bomb in their hearts. This goes from telling your child you’ll go to the movies and not going, and then repeatedly doing this, thinking it’s not a big deal. Maybe it isn’t to you, but it plants and grows a seed in that child’s mind that you are an unreliable person who doesn’t keep your word. Never abuse someone’s trust or use your words to gain favor or lighten up a situation temporarily, when it could actually have very far-reaching consequences. And never forget that it takes one bad move, however thoughtless and  unintentional, to create a very permanent impression in someone’s mind. To this day, even though I know he was a man of many achievements and many other things come to mind when I think of him, a part of me has always seen him as the man who broke my heart and let me down when I was at my most vulnerable. You may never get another chance if you screw up this one.

Horse

 

Why I chose to break away

I had barely even handed in my resignation at my last ever ‘job’ when friends and colleagues began eagerly asking me to write a blog about how to escape the rat race and become a successful entrepreneur. I decided then and there that I couldn’t really write about how you break away from an employee lifestyle and propel yourself into being an entrepreneurial genius, because I have yet to fully achieve this. Also, everyone’s experience and the factors that help them reach success, are very different.
So instead, here are my reasons for why I took that step, instead of how. These are my personal reasons but maybe they’ll get you thinking about your own, in turn.

I had three very solid reasons for needing (not just wanting) to leave permanent employment:

 

1. The time and effort I spent served no purpose. I was not feeling fulfilled or doing anything I could be proud of in the long run.

Purpose is a big thing for me, ask anyone who knows me and they’ll agree. So sitting in an office, churning out work at a rapid pace, all the while knowing that it serves no greater good to people, nagged me to the extent that I got angry at myself for even allowing my time to be spent in this way. I’ve left a few jobs for this very reason alone.

Excuse the flowery metaphor here but time is like a blank canvas, you can literally spend it in any way you choose to and make of it whatever you wish. Your first thought in reading this now is probably “No I can’t. I have to work. I have to look after the kids. I only have two or three hours to myself a day.” Yes, there will be repercussions if you suddenly don’t show up for work but this isn’t what I’m getting at. There are no constraints that physically force your body or mind into a box and shuts you down for 8 hours a day to ensure you get your sleep. There are no mandatory amount of hours in which you have to do things you don’t want to. You choose to be there for whatever reason, even if it is just because you need to make a living. Even if your job sucks, you choose to get up in the morning and show up at work, because of the end goal of wanting to survive another month. But is that really enough, in the grand scheme of things?

 

2. It was dangerous to my well-being on many levels.

After years of illness, introspection and plenty of unusual experiences, I’ve become extremely attuned to how and why my body reacts to external and internal influences. I don’t just become a bit tense and tired after months of putting energy into something that’s not right for me, I become physically ill. My immune levels take such a knock that I end up calling in sick every three weeks because I just can’t keep going. That’s the extent to which the wrong life path affects me.

Not only that but my mind was just not cut out for sitting in a little office, staring at a screen for 8-10 hours straight. Heck, none of us were designed for that. It’s just plain unhealthy and yet we’re all expected to perform at peak in a completely unnatural environment. Put me in a situation where I have a guaranteed income and an unchallenging environment and I become borderline morose. I lose all my ambition and feel all too cushy and lazy. For someone like me, the guarantee of a safety net is probably the worst possible thing at times. Because instead of leaping between buildings like Spiderman, you end up lying in the net as if you’re in a hammock on a island getaway. Cool as that might sound to some, I cannot stand myself being that lazy. You get to have a super lazy day once you’ve earned it through hard work, not just because it’s an option.

 

3. This job thing wasn’t in alignment with my life’s end goal.

I don’t know how other people plan their lives or even if they do. Some girls have only one end goal in mind for all their lives and that’s getting married and having a family of their own. Some highly ambitious and successful people have mastered the 5-year plan and 10-year plan thing. Me, I’ve always had only one thing in the back of my mind, constantly haunting me. As I’ve mentioned earlier, purpose is a big thing for me. What goes hand-in-hand with that is leaving a legacy. As a kid, I really never even thought about family and marriage too much. In my mind my partner, if I was fortunate enough to one day have one, would be ambitious and have a big heart and just like me, believe in his life serving the greater good at the end of the day.

My end goal is still leaving a legacy, making a change that is substantial enough to better the lives of others who might never have had an opportunity to do so under normal circumstances. I don’t have delusions of grandeur, I don’t expect to be the next Oprah or Mother Teresa, but I do believe we all have the potential to leave echoes of change in our lifetimes. And it’s that very awareness that always made me feel restless and entirely dissatisfied with sitting there, churning out words that nobody would care to think about after reading them. Even in this very moment, I do the work I do, not so much because I enjoy the heck out of it every minute, but because it is a stepping stone towards reaching the end goal. This is my means to an end, even though the two, from a distance, appear entirely unrelated. You’ll find that if you are passionate about what you believe in and want to do, a means to convergence will appear in time.
Those are the three great reasons for why I left. There are many others as well. Like how I have serious trouble with authority figures who don’t have respect for those they are meant to guide and nurture, who don’t step up with a leadership perspective but rather a selfish one. I also don’t believe any of us truly have time to waste. Every decision should be an active, conscious one, not that of a habitual drone. Other reasons are pretty obvious. I have flexible hours now. I get to work when my mind is at its peak instead of being forced to deliver on cue. I get to have an actual life now…one where I have the freedom to visit the people I love back at home, just as much as being able to have friends down the road to take my mind off work a bit and just laugh with.

 

The final reason, and one that always comes to mind lately, is accountability and pride. You can’t leave your job if you aren’t able to discipline yourself and be mature enough to take responsibility for when things go wrong. You need to be able to take ownership and deal with the consequences. The litmus test here? What’s your first reaction when something goes wrong at work – do you duck under the desk, blame someone else for what they failed to do, or do you accept that you screwed up and work towards fixing it? Everyone wants the fun parts of being self employed. They want the flexible hours, the ability to sleep in, to not answer to a boss. But very few are able to take accountability, in whole, for their own actions or inactions. There’s something very scary about standing and facing the world, uncovered and completely open to all it has to offer, and saying “Bring it on. I’m ready to give my all and be completely, solely, accountable for whatever happens next.” This is true not just in work but in life as a whole. You choose to either go to gym or not and accept, in the moment you make that decision, that you own the consequences and have no right to complain later on if you chose to take the easy way out. The sense of pride you develop as a result of successfully balancing out your life and achieving success on your own terms though, is beyond anything I can explain.