Do something and get past the jumble in the head. I’ve got a lot on my mind. So do friends and clients. The world is changing. That’s always true, but today’s changes are systemic, redefining paradigms, and are probably permanent. I was overwhelmed before I got out of bed. I stayed under the covers until I sorted out what my first few steps would be. Others I know are entangled with too many choices throughout the day, yet they have to stumble through on someone else’s schedule. We seek stability and clear direction. We seek the next step, but the next step is a tactic, not a strategy. Whenever I can, I remind myself of the goal, the over-arcing strategy; but, in the midst of dodging colliding circumstances the path we follow is chaotic. It may not look refined, but scrambling works. Sometimes that’s the only way to climb the mountain.
A while back I posted about a bit of my scrambling. (excerpt from What Comes Next)
I dropped in on a friend’s shop the other day. The store is busy and business is picking up. They’re scrambling to keep up with demand. As a kind gesture I was sincerely asked what I was doing. Nothing came out of my mouth. Everything tried to spill out at once, and they all collided, creating a blockage in my throat. Eventually I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I’m scrambling.”, and left a while later. It was lunchtime, and in a rare event I went out to lunch. It was a business lunch. I’ll hang my photos in the restaurant for June and July and needed to see how the space was used, where the light fell, and look for anything I might have overlooked in my plan. As I sat there, all of those projects finally lined themselves up and I wrote them out as a list in my notebook. After lunch I went back to revisit my friend and hand over my answer. There were fifteen items on that list, each of which was on the order of writing a book or managing my consulting.
By the way, the photos are up. The Braeburn is a nice place to have them displayed, and yes they are for sale. Drop by if you are on the island.
My scrambling continues. The list is modified. Some items were dropped. Some items were added. Most of them continue, with a disproportionate number coming to fruition this fall. I wonder what will happen this winter. The scrambling remains. The scrambling remains because none of the items have managed to pay the bills. (And because I haven’t found a job or sold the house.) None of the tactics have made overwhelming progress towards my strategic goal of sustaining a thriving lifestyle. Of course, many of them won’t produce fruit until this autumn. So I take lots of steps this way and that in the meantime.
Friends and clients are in similar situations. The details vary dramatically. But changes in the economy, corporate life, the investing community, the environment, and our society are convincing many people to question almost every aspect of their lives. How should they invest their time and money? Should they set goals that are tied to conventional lives with thirty year mortgages, or should they find a new model of living? Most of the conversations are about finding a new way of life.
The greatest variation within the “new way of life” is the degree of disconnection from conventional society. Build a bunker and hide alone? Build an enclave and hide with friends? Go off the grid and find an independent source of income? Buy a piece of land big enough to sustainably feed a family, but stay within a reasonable commute and keep a well-paying job? OR, stay within the city and the system and try to change it from within? One entertaining option is to live aboard a boat. Find a job within a short bus ride of a marina, quite possible beside the Salish Sea, have the city and the short commute; and then cast off if society decides to implode. Most think about sustainably harvesting the land. Why not the sea? (These are the kinds of questions I’ll probably hear more about at the Money And Life conference this weekend.)
Tackling such considerations and choosing a dramatically different lifestyle is impressive. Until we get this immortality problem solved, each life is finite, and the sooner the decisions are made, the longer their benefits can be appreciated. I applaud those that take on the task early in life.
Yet, as impressive and as powerful as such strategic thinking and actions are, worrying it too much, considering too many possibilities, can produce too much stress and may actually get in the way of making progress; e.g. Paralysis by Analysis. It is good to have a sense of urgency, but if that feeling becomes overwhelming it can induce rash moves that aren’t tactical or strategic. I learned a saying in karate, “Do not move unless it is to your advantage.” Don’t move simply to move. That’s where you can lose your balance.
Investors and paycheck employees are in the forefront of change. Corporations have lost some of the public’s faith and expectation of stability. Why buy stock if you can’t trust the management to have similar ethics and morals? Why work towards a retirement plan if you don’t think the company, its industry, or the structure of corporations will continue much longer? Trying to plan a life is hard enough. Trying to plan a life while almost every major institution is changing is impossible. There are too many variables for one person to comprehend.
I have too many ifs in my life too. (Check my previous post.) Rather than try to optimize a path that encompasses every possibility, I’ve decided to take simpler steps because they are more manageable. Each day is a long list of disparate items that are leading to various near-term goals that can all be milestones along the way to my main strategic goal. Live long and prosper. (Thank you Mr. Spock.)
Taking the smaller steps can ease some of the stress because at least some progress is made, and if the steps are small, no one will go too far astray. Each step can be a lesson. If you want to buy stock, buying a little will show you what it’s like. If you want to try changing the system from within, start a conversation with management. If you want to step away from the conventional paycheck world, see if you can take an extended vacation, leave of absence, or a sabbatical. Yes, there is a nice waterfront off-the-grid house with acreage and a dock that I’d like to own, but in the meantime, I am going to take lots of little steps, sometimes in different directions until the fog clears enough to reveal a straighter path. Until then, I’ll continue scrambling, tactically.