Paging through Fast Company Magazine, years ago, trying to answer the gnawing question: “Gray, why aren’t your living the life you wish?” There is an ad for a resort in Northern England. Not the tropical kind of getaway, obviously, but playing on the beautiful scenery of the region. It shows a man in a white shirt and dark slacks sitting at a small table in the middle of a pastoral green field. His cordless laptop is open in front of him, along with the incredible vista of sunny fields and mountains. The ad copy reads something like “What if this was your office?” and I find myself asking “Yes…what if?”
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An idle fantasy comes to mind one afternoon as I’m contemplating my “ideal house.” What I come up with is a Roman-style villa, with four buildings surrounding an open-air courtyard, perhaps with a nice fountain in it. I can picture my grandkids playing there, and I indulge in the fantasy of being able to provide a comfortable home for my children and their families as they grow. It’s all balderdash, of course – we don’t live in that kind of culture – but it’s funny how my Fierce Warrior fantasies have been replaced by the Pater Familias.
Plus, It’s Good Ground for the Zombie Apocalypse
I am writing this in the middle of the courtyard of the apartment complex where I live. There is green grass and the whistling of birds mingling with the whistling of groundskeepers. The buildings are laid out in a rectangle surrounding the courtyard, with a pool, business center (free wifi) and well-equipped gym within easy walking distance. While my partner and I were walking to workout the other day I commented that it was an easily defensible compound, especially if you felled the trees between the buildings to hold back the ravenous zombies.
She commented that my brain is kind of strange.
Regardless, I’m looking forward to getting Harvey and Victor our on this field for some touch football, or to ride their bikes around the walkway that rings the courtyard. It’s conveniently on the way to my daughter’s work, so she can drop him off occasionally on her way to work. There are other kids his age in the complex, and it’s shaping up to be a nice sociable summer.
In other words, while it’s not precisely what I fantasized about – either in pastoral setting or family compound – it’s remarkably close, especially considering that I wasn’t actually trying for either one.
Living the Life You Wish with Bonus Features
The interesting thing to me is not that my life resembles these fantasies I’ve had. It’s not even that I seem to have gotten here more unconsciously than through any planned event. No, what I find fascinating is the “undocumented features” and “unintended consequences” that come about when we stumble into what we thought we wanted all along.
An easy example relates to the “What if this was your office?” idea. I am fully aware of the luxury of having a flexible schedule, of being almost entirely location-independent in my work. My friends in cubicles read about me working out in the sunlight and practically glow green with envy.
What you don’t hear about is what happened after I wrote that last heading: my iPad screen suddenly blanked and a “Temperature Too Hot” alert came on the screen. Apparently the sun that I’d been enjoying on my back had been too much for the machine. Moving to the shade fixed the problem after a few minutes, but they didn’t mention that in the “What if this was your office?” ad. If my iPad breaks down, I don’t get to just requisition a new one; likewise, there’s no IT department for me to call if I have problems with my computer.
There is a bit of a Marxist revenge here. Workers now own their own means of production.
– Daniel Pink, Author, Free Agent Nation
I’m not complaining; truth is, Google and the wisdom of crowds is a far better tech support team than any in-house team or consultant I’ve ever worked with. But there are other costs to this kind of work and life that are rarely considered. For example, “Free Agent Nation“, a manifesto published in blithely talks about “alternative healthcare plans for individuals” without admitting that these are usually far more expensive and far less comprehensive than employer-subsidized insurance. As a result, I live under the Great American “Don’t Get Sick & If You Do, Die Quickly” health care system, and take care of my body as best I can.
In general, most of the “knowledge worker” success stories seem to run along the lines of “If you want to be a successful independent knowledge worker, write a book about how to be a successful independent knowledge worker.” That kind of Ouroborousian system doesn’t appeal to me, and so you get posts like this rather than “Five Steps to Financial Bliss.”
Instead, the best I can do is say “Yes, wish for what you want! It will probably end up in your lap.” But it might be worthwhile to also follow Jay Easton’s example from his comment on my last post:
Love what is. Find where and how I am profoundly grateful for whatever is arising in my life – now, and now, and now, and now. Become obsessive in my love affair with truth and reality. And when I can’t manage that in the moment, then I diligently look for how I can at least accept and live in harmony and integration with reality-as-it-is-right-now until I find the clarity to be loving it again.