It’s actually pretty likely that the people reading this are not the people they’d imagined being, when we all grew up. Maybe it’s different for some Masai guy on the Serengeti, but if we live in the modern world then it’s very likely we’re going to end up accidentally being someone.
That’s what people routinely do. They wake up at some time in the next seven or eight years and go, what the…? Whose life is this?!
How does this idea come alive in our everyday world? In reality people need to survive. They finish school, they’ve got their school debt and likely a car payment and some insurance and a chunk of some rent somewhere. And eventually we want to date, maybe get married and think about maybe having enough resources to support a family.
All of a sudden our life vanishes and it’s replaced, bit by bit, with surviving. We just hope by the end of the month to be able to make ends meet, to get a few moments of rest, and to not do too much damage. ‘Making ends meet.’ We stop living and we start making a living. It can get a bit desperate.
Of course, we all want to be good people, so we’ll do our best. We’ll work to become a better salesperson, a better people-manager, a better task-manager, being more organized —whatever.
We need the money, so we’ll start developing and competing between companies, or between fellow employees for jobs. Before we know it, that is who we are. We become a blind competitor and we lose our soul.
Our lives should be about who we are. And yet we’ll still get forced into unnatural positions through work, or school –or any other system, including nature herself. In those cases, we can ‘sell more for our boss,’ or ‘put together bigger deals,’ or we can work toward a new identity as a ‘promoted person.’ But these are all egocentric victories that only exist in thought.
To manifest ourselves in an difficult position like that, we must become more interested in the best sales technique, rather than in the results alone. And we cannot do that secretly to increase our numbers, we must sincerely do it as a way of expressing our character and its connection to nature.
Like every natural system, we refine ourselves as we go. And the more consciously we go, the deeper we go. So even becoming a ‘better salesperson’ can be a rich a experience if we stay focused on our growth as a human rather than just adding pages of numbers.
Today, too many aren’t even seeking the best product, or to develop personally. They’re only looking at the most effective and quick means to turn a profit. Yet nature seeks efficiency in its attempt to conserve energy. When humans achieve this we call it ‘flow.’
To have a more fulfilling life, instead of just getting our money, we can seek what Robert Pirsig called the moment before a ‘quality’ emerges; or what Eckhart Tolle calls The Power of Now –the present moment.
The Now moment cannot care about any given sale because there is no way to travel in time to create a ‘subject and object’ comparison. In the present moment, there is only being. There is no seller and no buyer. There is nothing to be bought or sold, and there is no act and result. Everything is combined. This is why the best salespeople focus more on their relationships than their numbers.
If we continue to care about that kind of quality we won’t lose track of who we are. But if we want to satisfy our ego by trying to be ‘good,’ or if we just seek to make ‘more money,’ then the blinders go on and we invisibly climb onto a kind of autopilot treadmill.
That’s why everyone looks half-dead today. They’re not adding any real value to the world. And if it’s happening to us, what makes us notice it is the monotony and the futility. See? Even those things have advantages. They’re signs we’re going the wrong way.
One day we wake up and realize, whose life is this? When did I become this person? Yet, if we loved acting in school, it’s not like we had to get on Broadway or TV. We could have just done community theatre and enjoyed our major in school like a hobby. A lot of places in the world would think that quite sane.
It’s less so now, but I found it refreshing living in Europe and seeing how students there were propelled to be who they wanted to be through their studies, whereas in North America it’s always felt more about training for what we’ll do. That’s a hard thing to define, but there’s something rich about pouring a bunch of education into ourselves instead of a career we might depise in a few years.
I’ve written it before —human lives go in roughly 7-9 year stretches. That’s about as long as I see people being anyone before they’ll eventually stumble into being someone else. There are those moments of becoming.
It’s hard to remember those early ones —where we got our first real independence, or went into puberty, or shifted into young adulthood— but by 25 or 27 years old we’re getting a bit more conscious and we notice the change into actual adulthood (which is about when our brain stops growing at around 26 —no joke intended).
One of the people we can accidentally become along the way is; a person with a job trying to stay ahead. Not get ahead in many cases. Just keep the wolves at the door for another 30 days.
Some people watched their parents resign themselves to that treadmill too, but that’s like handing over our lives to slavery. Our work day is 50% of our waking life. If we can’t turn it into something meaningful then we’re surrendering way too much.
Fulfill yourself. Change jobs. Create your own value-based company. Or if that feels impossible at least go to your job as a salesman invigorated by the standing ovation you got last night in your community theatre production.
Start a dance class for the disabled where you work as an orderly. Teach singing to poor kids at the school where you’re the custodian. There are a lot of ways to be the thing we imagined being when we were younger. It doesn’t have to be our work. It can still be a big and nourishing part of your life though.
We have to stop dividing work and our personal life into those two separate groups as though they’re different. We’re always us being ourselves, no matter what context we’re in.
There was wisdom in our youth. Before you were told about responsibilities and obligations etc., we could recognize a kind of freedom. We had ideas about how we would expand the world, not fit into it.
What were those dreams? And is some aspect of them still alive? Do we still want to write that novel? Do we still want to learn to build a computer, or ride a unicycle, or play on the sports teams we had dreaded as a kid? Then do it. Any pain we feel —any boredom or frustration or lost-ness— all stems from us doing rather than being.
It is a risky thing to trade our life for money. It hurts us to do work we can’t find personal ways to invest in. So as we look to our future, we should do things that allow us to genuinely enjoy our day, even if that’s via our customers and co-workers, versus the work itself. Because as long as a lot of our days are spent joyfully creating worthwhile things or experiences, then we will continue to expand as is our nature.
We should avoid being anyone accidentally. We can be intentional about our life. We can choose a lot of it, we can choose how to act, and we can choose to be okay with however we feel. So we should beware not to complicate things. We simply have to find ways to be ourselves. That would be perfect.
To close, I’ve posted this on a past Friday Dose, but despite some of the language it’s just too appropriate to this issue not to re-post, so here’s Joe Rogan’s video The Society Trap. If you don’t mind some swearing, I recommend taking the time to take a look, because creating value is worth far more to us than just earning a living:
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.