As much as I try and avoid it, it seems to be pretty much everywhere. This ‘it’ Im referring to, is : the news.I could go on for hours about my thoughts on this topic, yet Ill leave that for another day (or just read this fantastic book). Yet before sharing a few thoughts, I wanted to share one of Alan de Botton, who goes on to say the following:
“The news has become our new ‘teacher’. It is the single most significant force setting the tone of public life and shaping our impressions of the community beyond our own walls. It is the prime creator of political and social reality. As revolutionaries well know, if you want to change the mentality of a country, you don't head to the art gallery, the department of education or the homes of famous novelists; you drive the tanks straight to the nerve center of the body politic, the news HQ.”
When talking to people about the importance of keeping up to date with ‘the news’, the general response that I seem to get is that enables one to be connected with reality; with the real world out there. Wait. Really?
How is that so, when it could be argued how it is one of the unexpected disasters of the modern age that our new unparalleled access to information has come at the price of our capacity to concentrate on anything much. The deep, immersive thinking which produced many of civilization's most important achievements has come under unprecedented assault. We are almost never far from a machine that guarantees us a mesmerising and libidinous escape from the true reality - the real world around you.
Wayne Dyer, author of the fantastic book entitled ‘The Power of Intention’, famously noted how “if you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. With that thought, I have been reflecting on the key ‘things’ in all of our lives, and aimed to use this write up as a means to make you, the reader, challenge the norm. To take a step back, switch of the news, and think about the following.
I do not think I could ever believe in a God who is all powerful, all knowing and all good.I just do not think that you could reconcile those three beliefs with the world that we see in this day and age. People are seemingly trying all the time, yet I am not quite sure what they are truly getting out of it. I think that it is important to have a view of the world that allows for random acts to take place, otherwise if you believe in a God you almost have to believe that aspects of that God are monstrous in some ways. And so the view of life that we seemed to have been brought up with that everything that happened, happened for a reason does not appeal to me as the healthiest of beliefs. I feel that if they did happen for a reason then that reason was often dastardly. There are often too many awful things in the world for it to be someone reason behind it: I mean, who planned all this?
Yet at the same time, I think there is extraordinary mystery in the world. It is not quite clear to me how the one reductionist view of the scientific story is all that there is to be said. That there just are these atoms, and forces, and we are chemical scum on the surface of a random planet somewhere - and thats it.
That story though, has not yet given a good account of consciousness, and of the actual human experience. The experience of what it is to be alive, to feel, to love - to do all these things. There is so much mystery in the world, and with that I think that it is possible to be on a journey where you believe in spirituality, you believe in a quest for connectedness, you believe in a search for a deeper story - without accepting the simple answers that we were brought up with, channelled through the mainstream religions.
On Success (and failure):
As humans we find it very hard to let go. Even though there is no evidence that having stuff, having wealth, having success, it doesn't actually bring you happiness beyond a certain level. Yet we live in a culture where that is the way it is. Who doesn't let their personal happiness get tied up in business? We seem to want our personal happiness to be tied up with business - because that is where we feel we can contribute - so many people feel that that is all that they have. This ‘opportunity’ to do well in the world, make money and buy things.
Now stop for second, and think about this.
If we could change the race that we all run, and score different points - I truly feel it would make the biggest impact on the world. Do not chase after just money. Chase after impact. Chase after knowledge. There are so many more things that we need to be ranking other than money. I truly feel that if we did, people could easily pursue that as a goal. Someone leaving university now should ultimately be pursuing different goals. Stop and ask yourself - what is the race that you want to win? It actually is one of the most fundamental to ask, because your own self esteem and actions are going to get tied up in that. It you tie it to a company, you are guaranteeing that you are at some point going to get crushed, because no companies continue forever.
Life, work, whatever you may want to call your journey, should not be a sole journey. We spend far too much time digging our own trench, and focusing on our own work, not nearly spending enough time looking at the broader context of how what we do connects with what other people do. When you do that, surprising things happen and that is where you get catalysed, you get excited, that is where innovation comes from, that is where collaboration comes from. We do not do that enough.
‘Many of our assumptions about the value and purpose of knowledge and how to acquire it, including the structure of our entire education system are left overs from the industrial age’ Chris Anderson
There is an old view of education that people come into school, with empty buckets in their heads that need to be filled with knowledge and that it is educations purpose to gradually fill those buckets with knowledge so that that person can leave school, go out there and do stuff.
And in a world where we had to train people, to do specific kinds of jobs - that may have been an effective way. Yet the world has changed now, and knowledge is not in shortage. Anyone with a smart device has access to more knowledge than one could possibly imagine. And any form of work that can be automated in future is going to be.
So, with that, what are humans for?
We have to stop ‘creating’ humans who are set for routine tasks. We need to think bigger than that. That is why we need to empower people to be curious. Because if you are curious about something, you could find out anything that there is to find out - you just need the motivation to do it. Most importantly, you need to understand why you should care. I think that we too often give children a narrow set of possibilities about what their life could be. We underplay creativity, snuff out the flame of curiosity and we try and cram syllabuses into people - and the spark goes out.
Reflecting on all of the above, I truly feel that we all, each and every one of us has a duty. A duty in this messed up and confused world, to be a leader. A leader in any shape or form. Yet a leader that is not going to do work for others, and funnel us all into the same path. Rather the duty is to help others figure out how to do whatever it may be themselves. To get things done and ultimately, succeed beyond what they thought possible.