Keep On

That's Where!

If you know when to quit, you are lucky. Or you have thought about it a long time, or you are weary of it not working out. Or an epiphany struck. One of the above.

However you tripped upon the decision, it is good.

It is good because even if it is the wrong path, at least you have chosen. The fog of weighing pros and cons can be as debilitating as the act of continuing down a dead-end path, so simply upending the process feels like a win.

I write about this in reflection upon my own big quit. After a seventeen-year career, I quit to move here, to the USA. What I did right was to look at it this way: I could have spent twenty more years doing the same thing (and being ever more resentful of bosses and the company in general), but chose not to. Living the same year twenty times is not a way to lead a life.

Another easy to say but not so easy to pull-off achievement was to leave at the top. No-one ever tells you to leave the party NOW. NOW is often only THEN in hindsight, in the haze of the morning after. And I left at both my top and that of the company (as it turns out years later.)

And probably the most difficult was that I decided to leave behind the security. Thinking that a job gives you anything more than an option on tenure is a mistake, but it never seems that way. Cultivating resilience, energy, flexibility, new skills, adaptability, willingness to try – these are the elements of mental skill that will keep us in decent shape until we die.

Oftentimes there is no choice but to build up to decisions to quit. Whether there is a shortcut will be up to us. But keeping on keeping on is a decision to to be taken lightly. If the spark is there for change, it might be worth indulging.

Survival

South of Adelaide lies the Fleurieu Peninsula, a fertile, undulating place of mild climate and lonely roads, rising no more than 800 feet above the sea. It juts out like a witch’s chin, pointing south-west towards Kangaroo Island. The peninsula has around sixty or seventy miles of coastline along the Gulf St Vincent and the Southern Ocean. There are sandy beaches, but it is mostly a jumble of rocky outcrops, bluffs, cliffs, coves, estuaries and windswept valleys. There is some development, but inaccessibility foils much human effort at such things. It is a beautiful, wild, raw kind of place.

I spent a lot of time there as a child. We lived at the beach near the city, but for vacations we went to other beaches. Oftentimes we went south, to the Fleurieu. Over many summers and school field trips, you learn a thing or two about nature, and the nature of life in water and near it. As a place to discover such things, there are few peers.

For a while, the life that lay beneath rocks near the water fascinated me. There are many tessellated outcrops between Adelaide and Cape Jervis, replete with tidal pools, corals and all kinds of life. I loved the crabs that live in this semi-sea, semi-land environment. Nothing made me happier than overturning a shoebox-sized rock to note the crabs living underneath. They scuttled away, but I caught them, sometimes paying for it with nips.

How did they squish themselves into such small spaces? Did they grow into big crabs or stay palm-sized? (Child’s palm-sized!) What did they eat? What did they do when the tide came in and covered their house in seawater?

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We live in a time when the tide is coming toward us. We are living under a rock for the moment, more-or-less dry, more-or-less happy, kinda doing okay. But I fear that we will need to quickly adapt when the sea truly begins to roll in, as it will. That is the lesson from those afternoons spent fooling about in rockpools – some crabs survive, others don’t.

Which will you be?

Even the Smallest Thing

Sometime in the last twenty-four hours I heard or read or maybe even half-remembered the following concept:

When we stretch ourselves mentally, physically or spiritually, you cannot undo it. We’re forever stretched.

That’s my summary, but the idea is clear.

It reminds me of an older – again, stolen – thought about achievement. When Roger Bannister first ran a mile in fewer than four minutes, it sparked a rush of others doing the same. He gave athletes permission to break a previously unsurpassed barrier.

We all need to give ourselves permission to break barriers, especially the smallest ones closest to hand. They are the most important.

The Power of Small

I am mid-way through Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Outliers’. This is another in his oeuvre of shining an inquisitive light onto ideas that we thought were settled…but that actually rely on folklore to survive. He’s a truth-teller I guess, applying clear-headed logic to neglected parts of our social civilization. Outliers attempts to figure out how mega-success in business (like that enjoyed by Bill Gates and Larry Ellison) can be applied to our own lives. It’s fascinating. We all like the stories of others’ fame and fortune so we can dream.

At some point the book will turn to applying one-in-a-million rocketship rides to our own less glittering lives. If you weren’t born in the right year, if you didn’t take up computer coding, if you didn’t struggle with out-of-fashion business ideas, then your life will not be as shiny. Don’t despair: there is something from Jeff Bezos’ life we can harness.

Which does not jive with my view. Yes, people might wonder what it’s like to be Donald Trump. Yes, they might even find themselves envious of the private jets and beautiful suits. But most of us understand that life’s just not like that. We think that mega-people leave sadness, disappointment and tears behind…but that is nuts. Of course they don’t. Money allows you to say “no” more often, but doesn’t exclude you from the complex up and downs of our social and physical universe.

So let’s not spend any time thinking we need to emulate the big boys. We all have our own pathway to bliss. First we need to define that, of course. Then we need to work, study and create the right attitude to stay on that path. Lots of small successes on that roadway will do more than any completely unlikely lottery-win one-off. The process is the thing.

Money is the mortar holding our house together. That’s where I’ve found myself, understanding clearly that the less time you need to spend making the money to keep your life moving forward, the sweeter the path. The other way works too; reduce your need for money as much as possible and you can do more with less. (This does have a limited possibility of improvement though. There is a floor defining the least amount of money your budget requires. You have to make some dosh to buy socks.)