The Restlessness of Work... - Common Sense Living Newsletter
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The Restlessness of Work...

Sep 13, 2016

The Restlessness of Work... 

'We have to finish the painting, Anu,' my niece says lugging with her an enormous canvas with a complicated impressionist countryside painting we have been working on irregularly for months.

She's spent all morning in the kitchen playing Masterchef with her father as she does every Sunday. This week we've been treated to a stack of pancakes smothered in chocolate syrup. She's also had tennis lessons as she does several times a week, will go for a craft-making play date this afternoon, has turned up the music channel and thrown herself a rockstar dance party, will go for a swim and work on her school project. 'I'm Michael Phelps today,' she announces when she pulls on her swimming goggles.

And she is. She is Phelps and Van Gogh. She is an actress and a musician. She is a chef and a scholar.

And what am I? A managing editor. And that's pretty much it.

My head sometimes casually peruses the shopping aisles of intriguing career opportunities. Sometimes I run a charming little bistro with the best coffee in town. Or a vintage specialty bookstore. In other daydreams, I paint murals on some of the ugly walls in the city, or am an architect restoring ruined old buildings. I might travel across the country identifying interesting traditional textiles to design clothes with a unique boho-chic appeal for the savvy Indian. Or write scripts of independent films with a social message. Or speeches for Obama.

In my head live at least nine other professional versions of myself. Residues from my childhood where I could be, and was, everything I wanted to be every day.

But now, for most of the productive hours of my day, every day, I am trapped under a sign. Managing editor.

And I will bet that inside you also live nine other versions of yourself.

You never set out to be Regional Distribution Manager of biscuits, or a corporate lawyer reading contract after contract for business deals that all sound the same after a while. Or maybe you were excited to be an architect and now between matchbox buildings, each uglier than the last, you start to think about the beautiful innovative designs you created when you were a student.

It's not even that you don't like your job and don't want it. I certainly like and want my job. It's just that you're suffering from one of the fundamental characteristics of the human condition: restlessness.

You weren't born with just the specific talent of designing brand packaging for toilet fixtures. You, and all of us, were born with a multitude of talents, too many aptitudes, a wide-ranging set of interests, and the way the world is designed today, we simply do not get to explore our many selves.

This affliction is pervasive. From lawyers to artists. Advertisers to shoe salesman. Everyone suffers it. It's not you, the problem. It's the world.

The world is obsessed with specialisation, expertise, and maximum productivity (blame Adam Smith). You have to specialise in a subject, you have to become an expert in a field, you have to devote yourself day after day to one thing...or the world will think you're a fool. You're unfocussed. You're unsuccessful.

But as Stephen Shapiro, author of 24/7 Innovation: A Blueprint for Surviving and Thriving in an Age of Change, said in his TED Talk at NASA, 'Expertise is the enemy of creativity.'

We often get so bogged down by our own need to be perfect that we talk ourselves out of trying things we are not already good at. We need to remind ourselves of our younger self who didn't think twice about jumping in the deep end of the pool or singing at the top of our lungs because we weren't afraid we would sound awful or look like a drowned rat in the swimming pool.

Children do not look fools to us when they fail. And truth be told, nor do adults. We do not routinely go around laughing at people who fall on their faces. Often, we actually applaud people who fail. At least they tried, we think. They're brave. I wish I were... are.

Barbara Sher, author of Refuse to Choose!, calls people with eclectic passions and multiple talents 'scanners', people who 'love to read and write, to fix and invent things, to design projects and businesses, to cook and sing, and to create the perfect dinner party...'

There's a little bit of a scanner in all of us...curious about trying new things, wondering what else is out there, worried, perhaps, about stepping out of bounds and trying something new (except as a fleeting hobby) for fear of failing or being mocked.

You can do more than your 'job'. But to give expression to the multitudes in you, you have to create opportunity for yourself. If you must give voice to the music inside you, you have to reach out.

'Most people will die with their music still in them.' - Benjamin Disraeli

Don't die with the music inside you.

Image Source: Unsplash/Jordan Whitt


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3 Responses to "The Restlessness of Work..."


12 Jul, 2017

Great idea Anisa. Keep writing. I share your post.


16 Sep, 2016

Very well said, dear Anisa!  Now you have set yourself and  us a pretty ambitious target to hit. I sincerely hope this course will do all this for all of us, i.e., help us play all those melodies in a nice symphony. Not let the music die.  Amen.


14 Sep, 2016

You hit the bull's eye. As one grwws "up", fear failure diffuses into the curiosity and urge to try. Giving strength to the "music" inside is the beginning of passions and talents. Only developing the "right" brain can help go beyond the "job" (which gets taxed by the "left" brain) -- more so with all professionals!


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