From Prepack to Craft

Last week, I wrote about the idea of originising – becoming ourselves in an age when we feel under pressure to be someone else. 

Some great responses to that idea and other discussions with clients since then, got me thinking about what we do as we become ourselves – how do we contribute and find our way in the world that brings us both fulfilment and a living?

A big subject, but here’s where this last week took me. It was catalysed by, of all things, CoronaVirus, and in particular the variety of reactions to it.

We find ourselves living in a prepack age. We are always on, busy with making a living or worrying about what else is happening whilst we’re doing that.

We cope with the load through prepacks. Prepacked problems, prepacked solutions and prepacked opinions. In much the same way as we can feel pressured to fit in through what we do, we can feel pressured to fit in through how we think.

We absorb the opinions of “experts” we have not met and who understand little of our lives or circumstances. Experts are clever (which I guess is why they’re experts) but their offerings apply to the average of all the people who identify with that problem. The problem is often exacerbated by our tendency to believe them by default (Malcolm Gladwell talks elegantly about it – here’s a short summary)

They often contain great insight and wisdom, but in a raw form. If you consume it raw, it will most likely make you worse off.  You’re going to have to prepare what they offer so that it best works for the unique combination of molecules, environment and energy that you are.

Daniel Kahneman’s wonderful book “Thinking Fast and Slow” offers a good way of understanding this. He talks about our fast brain – the one that uses heuristics, biases and experience to rapidly categorise what we are experiencing and act accordingly. It’s hugely powerful, right most of the time and enables us to function. If we thought about everything we do, we wouldn’t be able to function. 

He also talks about our “slow” brain – the place of our attention and where we work things out, by considering, reflecting, wondering. Its equally powerful, but slower, and much more energy intensive. It is challenging – often to our received wisdom, or intuition. It’s hard, because we have to consider that we might be wrong. 

That’s good news and bad news. Good news, because when we are faced, as now, with multiple uncertainties we have a way of processing them. Bad news, because it’s hard work, energetically and emotionally. It slows us down (and if we’re approaching a sharp bend, maybe that’s no bad thing)

Back for a moment to CoronaVirus. All the indications are that this is going to be an extended issue. It seems likely to be a real inconvenience (more for some of us) but it will not be the end of the world. We may well have to behave differently, travel less, go to face to face meetings only if really essential (otherwise use video). It will force us to address our fast brain reactions, maybe even enough to start changing habits (fewer meetings, anyone?).

If however I look at the press and social media, the four horsemen are just around the corner, limbering up. The amount of fake news, fake product, and attention seeking is staggering. It can also divert our attention from other, more important but longer term pressures. Climate change isn’t going to take time off whilst we deal with CoronaVirus. Artificial Intelligence is not going to stop encroaching on how we work. We need balance.

We need our own place to stand.

Our lives are a work of art. Each one is an original. We shouldn’t let other people design them.

Collaboration and co-operation is at the centre of a good and effective life, but doing as we’re told, or shaping ourselves to other’s expectations will only in the end create a fake. A crude copy of what might have been. Whether it’s our lives, our careers, or our businesses, the same applies.

We have a choice. We can live easily in a prepack world, or we can do the work to craft our own. 

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