Looking back is easy.
Recently I found myself semi-lecturing a friend on what direction they should take in their working life. But reflecting on it after the fact I came to the conclusion that in reality I’m not even remotely qualified to be giving people life advice. Well no more than the average Joe on the street in any case.
In reality before I set out on my self employment journey, I had no idea whatsoever about what I was going to do, I toyed around with the idea of management consultancy until an internship proved to me that I was a profound mismatch for that type of job. To this day I often refer to my business as an “experiment”. It just happens to be an experiment I am five years into.
“We’re all making it up as we go along.”
I read the above recently on twitter, and you know what, it’s pretty spot on. No one really has a clue what’s going on so we just make the decision that seems most correct at any given time.
When you really look closely at anyone considered “successful” in any field they have, more often than not, taken a fairly unpredictable journey to get to where they are! And those that claim they did have a plan all along are usually just retrospectively drawing a bullseye around an arrow they threw randomly a while back.
So, while we should probably just acknowledge that we are all just making it up as we go along, there must be some set of guiding principles or values that can keep our decision making on track, and if so what would they look like?
Two books that I have read in recent times have struck a major chord with me and I think in places offered a look into what those values/principles could be (for me). The first book was “Let My People Go Surfing” by Patagonia clothing founder Yvon “the reluctant businessman” Chouinard, and the second “Sacred Hoops” authored by arguably the greatest basketball coach of all time Phil Jackson.
So here goes the philosophical stuff… (I fully realise I am out of my depth on all this)
Choosing the mountain.
“A players responsibility is to execute the type of game he is best designed for”
– Phil Jackson, 9 NBA championships as coach, 2 as a player.
At one point or another you’ll probably realise you are better at one thing than another. Different people have different skills, different personalities, different wants and desires YET will choose to willingly ignore or suppress these facts so they can pursue the path they are “supposed to”.
Jackson has it right in saying that your responsibility to both yourself, and your team (friends/family) is to pursue what you were built to do!
Climbing it the right way.
“My dream was not just to win championships but to do it in a way that wove together my two greatest passions: basketball and spiritual exploration.”
“Winning at any cost didn’t interest me… I’d already learned that winning is ephemeral. Yes, victory is sweet, but it doesn’t necessarily make life any easier the next season or even the next day.”
The “win at all costs” attitude seems pretty prevalent in most business arenas, some maybe more than others, but is equally flawed no matter what the situation. “Winning” really is only ever temporary, because as soon as any driven individual achieves their goal they usually have another one teed up straight away. If you don’t enjoy the process from one short burst of happiness to the next… what’s the point.
Why bother climb it at all?
There aren’t all that many waking hours in a day, so if you don’t feel that beyond a pay check you’re getting nothing out of it… why would you ever stick around? Similar to Jackson’s points about “winning”, it isn’t really the attainment of an end goal that should be viewed as the objective, rather than the taking part in the adventure/journey. You can in theory be flown by helicopter to the top of Mt. Everest. But that’s not quite the same thing as climbing up yourself.
Throw loads of arrows
Probably the easiest to understand and most easily implemented of all, just being open to new things! Coach Jackson says it about as well as anyone could!
Huge, giant caveat:
I’m not saying that I live up to any of the above, I wish. These are quotes that I have read from people who have achieved true greatness, on terms I think are pretty agreeable, so I only put them here as a way of sharing their wisdom!
So, yep, there you have it. We are all making it up as we go along, but there are things we can aim for.