I know, I know, It’s been a while. But hey, it is a new year and yes, I am here again, back on my bullsh*t about how this is gonna be a great year for my content and all of that. No lies, I really did have the best of intentions last year when I said I was going to create more content across multiple platforms, I really did. But as we all know, life happens.
So what’s been going on over the past year since I published one of these?
Like I said, I really did intend to make more content. However, one real bottleneck around content creation can be technology and gear, and honestly, my setup this time last year was not up to the task of the scale of my ambition, so I decided to focus on fixing that issue first.
Fast forward 12 months and I’ve got a whole new setup, new machines, new gear, all ready to go, and with the freshness of the new year, now is a good time as any to get back on the horse.
Plus with a full year of living under my belt, I should have something to say again.
What to expect next?
Well, there are ideas, many ideas. For instance, I want Life by Design to become its own platform and community focused on helping people live more intentional lives. This is still in the idea phase but more will be revealed in due time. I am also working on a book with the same title.
In the meantime, expect the usual thought-provoking musings on here. The podcast will return in some capacity. and there will probably be some video content as well.
I will also be making more content around design, branding, and business in general, but that will be on the studio website, which incidentally has a bit of a refresh. Check it out.
Finally, I will be executing some form of mixed media art experiential intervention near the end of the year.
Alright, with that bit of housekeeping out the way, it is the new year. Welcome to 2024. Hope you have been well since the last time.
What’s on my mind as the year begins?
Since 2010, this blog has been a public documentation of ideas and lessons I’ve learned, and it has been tremendously useful and transformative. First and foremost, for me.
But as we continue in our journey and practice of self-improvement, and with the passing of the last 5 years, I find it important to bring a critical lens to our approach. We need to review our perspective.
I have criticized and raised a wary eye to the limits of the philosophy as well as the dark sides of the genre previously in my writing. It is why my content in the past handful of posts has sought to colour a bit outside the lines and bring in much needed flexibility.
The modern self-help genre and industry developed as a response to the sweeping changes of the Industrial Revolution. Life as an office or factory worker was very different from life in the agrarian plains. Workers needed new skills and new paradigms with which to engage this new world and thrive. With more social mobility and opportunities available to people, the ideas of personal responsibility, self-reliance, improving yourself, and maximising the exploitation of every part of your life so as to secure professional growth and life happiness became and have remained very attractive.
This field has evolved over the decades, morphing and responding to the changes in technology, society, and media to the place we are now, where most of us seek to be the best that we can be by optimising and monetising as much as we can. It is commendable but it can also be obsessive.
Because life is more than work, life is more than checking off boxes. It is a dance, it is an experience, it is a journey, an adventure, a practice, a calling, a sentence.
And if you subscribe to the idea of Life by Design, then success becomes less about living a prescribed life and more about crafting one that is uniquely yours, richly authentic, deeply fulfilling, and aligned with the principles of this existence.
The paradigm shift before us
Life before 2020 and life after 2020 are very different beasts. In the previous decade, 2010 – 2019, we were drunk on the idea of infinite growth, of the potential of these vastly sweeping changes in technology and society. From how we moved, to how we communicated and how we worked, there were a lot of changes, a lot of promises, and a lot of money to be made.
But since the worldwide pandemic, disruptions and polarisation have spread across the globe. From that initial techno-optimism to today’s generally pessimistic attitude, we seem to have regressed in important ways and accelerated in our worst impulses.
Muted now are our ambitions, our desires to change the world, our faith in our ability to effect change. We have seen economies crumble, pandemics spread, countries shut down, hate increase, coups happen, and wars break out. At the same time, prices continue to increase, and the 99% get squeezed, while the 1% continue to extract value from the economy at rates that would make the robber barons of old blush.
Here on the ground level, our social media feeds get more insipid, and our attention spans contract. Fading away is genuine human-to-human interaction. Now we all sound like bots with our humble brags and posturing, each of us trying to be the king of the heap. Any heap.
In a time of actual abundance, with the potential of billions of connections online, of easy access to food, and products, we face a scarcity of the real stuff – mental wellness, strong social bonds, happiness, prospects, connection.
Let’s not even talk about climate change and that ticking time bomb.
Even Marvel sucks now.
It really be the darkest timeline…
So what then?
Do we give in to apathy and become doom-scrolling addicts? What do we do?
Well, we know what happens out there doesn’t matter as much as how we interpret it and what we do about it. So, first we reclaim ground by focusing on the personal – by controlling what we can. Then we reclaim ground together – by collaborating towards our collective needs.
And that is the true purpose of seeking self-mastery, to become our best selves and offer that in service.
But we are usually sold something else. Society’s messaging and our capitalist system usually condition us to pursue individual happiness through the acquisition of things. That’s all it does, it stimulates our impulses, deepens our insecurities, fragments us, and tells us to strive and pursue to buy things to satiate us.
Now with our smart devices, we can all live in our own personal bubbles, fed by our algorithms and social media AI, all trying in vain to consume our way to fulfillment.
But the things that make a good life still remain more accessible to us than they would have us believe. It’s not more money or experiences, or possessions or clout. It is the simple things – work that you like, the feeling of progress, and becoming better at something you love. It is time spent with friends and family and people you admire. It is in your character, your attitude, your perspective, your respect for yourself, your resilience, your skills. It is in your connection to the divine and sublime.
Focus on the real riches.
Be true to yourself.
What do you value? What is important to you?
The upheavals might be more personal, more close to home. A lot of us face deep changes.
Maybe you are well along with your life, you are settled into the routine, the spouse, the kids, the work, the career, and the holidays. And suddenly there is this scratching itch that something isn’t working, that you are stuck in a career, a relationship, a situation that is less than ideal. Or perhaps, everything comes crashing down.
Or maybe you are just getting started, trying to find your feet, in a fast-changing and unfair world. You feel confused, pulled in multiple directions by expectations, false promises, and opportunities.
Or perhaps still, you are well on in years, in the season of slowing down, of reflecting, of handing over to the next generation. Wondering if you have done enough.
No matter where you are on the path, to live a life worthy of the miracle of being, you have to ask yourself what is important to you. It is a question that isn’t easily answered but can be grown into. Day by day, you can live your way into a true answer.
Instead of mindlessly chasing after everything. Gain a deep awareness of what makes your soul sing, what makes you excited, your passions, your interests, and your quirks and curate your life around these things. Have the courage to do more of that, to give more of that.
Learn to engage with the world on your terms while respecting reality.
Because unlike what the gurus would want to sell you, there are no shortcuts to anywhere worth going. There will still be the work. There will still be the need for vision, for problem solving, for tenacity, for practice, for discipline, for self mastery.
But you will make it, and at the very least, through the storms and uncertainty, you will stand with your hands on the reins of your life, consciously choosing, intentionally creating. And you will be the better for it.
The more of us do that. The better things will be. The better we can lead ourselves and our community. The better poised we are to contribute.
Perhaps then we can use these advancements and tools to connect us like never before. Maybe we can actually listen to each other and build resilient lives and communities together.
So as the year unfolds before us, let us commit to growing ourselves and collaborating together.
After all, we are all on the same team.