Why I Don’t Care About This “Next Big Thing”…

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Late last year, I read an article that left me with that feeling you get occasionally- where it’s like a few loose ends finally tie together, the last remaining pieces of the puzzle slot into place and at last, you can see the full picture…

For me, this hunch had started sometime in 2013, and over the 5 years since it gradually took form at the back of my mind, just beyond full grasp, like that childhood lolly jar on the high shelf. Then finally, here was the answer, laid out clearly in one article:

On the infestation of small-souled bugmen

If you read this piece later (and I strongly recommend you do), what it says is (essentially) that we’ve ridden ourselves of a sense of community or an identity with an underlying culture- instead replacing it with watered-down conformity and a reliance on consumerism and entertainment to define ourselves. It’s made us hollow, lacking a real soul or identity, susceptible to marketing fads and crafting an identity we think is unique, but has (in fact) been planned by clever marketers and advocated by media.

This, apparently, is what we call “progress”. Now, I was aware of all this to some degree before I read the article. I’d observed it, felt something curiously “off” about the type of person described in this article, but couldn’t quite explain why (which is some feat when you write for a living.) But now, seeing those final pieces slot into place, I realise that it’s the underlying reason why I’ve long held the conviction that newer aint necessarily “better”. Let me get one thing straight, though-

I’m not what you’d call a “technophobe”. I’m writing this post from my Macbook, I’m grateful for the gadgets on my iPhone and the opportunities the internet has provided to myself and millions of other people like me, worldwide. Were it not for at least two of the ┬áthree things I mentioned just then, you wouldn’t be reading this article right now!

So my skin doesn’t prickle at new technology, and like I said, I’m truly grateful for all the developments and innovations in communication technology over the last century. In many ways, we’re living the dream. But

I just can’t understand our society’s widespread obsession with acquiring the newest, latest, shiny thing? Like sure, a great marketing campaign works wonders, and I get the appeal of more convenience (even if in many cases, convenience is actually a bad thing for us- but that’s for another discussion altogether). I don’t get the mentality of people who give up a day of their lives to camp out, just so they can be the first person in their social group to own Apple’s newest gadget.

Why?

Does it give their life or their sense of identity something it would otherwise lack? Is it all dependant upon the output of a billion dollar corporation in Silicon Valley for their sense of purpose?

This widespread obsession with the next big thing, with “progress” and automatically assuming progress is a good thing- it sets us on a dangerous path. First of all, it leads us to believe we never have enough, and to never be content. We lose our sense of gratitude and the abundance mentality. If you’re reading this right now and using internet to do so then congratulations- you have abundance in your life. Of course, there’s always room for improvement- I’m glad I don’t need to write this on a typewriter and disconnect my landline to use the internet. But…

Often, an established system or product is there for a valid reason. There may be legitimate reasons to tinker with what we’ve got, but throwing it out completely for the new thing often leaves a bigger void than we think. And it creates more problems that a little patience and foresight might have avoided:

We build faster cars and then require more stringent safety features.

We introduce new lock-out laws and then the Police have to deal with hundreds of drunken people all taking to the streets at the same time.

We develop more personalised internet accounts and communication devices that offer us more widespread use and convenience if we just enter our details- then have to ramp up our security measures to deal with the hackers and scammers.

Basic, obvious truths have to be sugar-coated or suppressed altogether in case somebody takes offence- and then we wonder why there are so many “keyboard warriors” and why simple exchange of ideas and theories has become such a complex, frustrating process.

We want the manual work all done for us by automation and the sweet taste of sugar with everything- then wonder why we’re lacking in motivation and the teeth meant to last a lifetime are falling out of our heads?

And this is “progress”?

We live in an age where we have instant communication with one another, no matter where we are in the world. I could not just talk to my sister and my brother in-law from the UK and hear their voices in real-time. I could see their faces too, see the weather from outside the window of their place in Bath, see the state of their house and the colour of their clothing. We have easy access to gratification of all 5 of our senses, on a near-instant basis. All our basic needs are met. All the information we could want can be found through a simple device that fits in our pocket.

And yet…

We’re more disconnected, disillusioned and misinformed than ever before. In an age obsessed with “equality”, there are increasing lines that divide us into micro tribes based on factors that go far beyond our political, religious or ideological leanings. Respectful debate and the art of listening has become an increasingly rare commodity. Who has the patience for that, when it’s much easier to imagine your moral and intellectual superiority to a caricature?

In short- we may live in an age of material wealth, but it’s also an age of spiritual and emotional poverty.

So obsessed are we in our drive for more “progress”, for more financial and material currency, that we’ve neglected interest in our social and spiritual currency. We turn to the personalities on TV for our social guidance and the manifestation of billions of dollars spent by advertisers to validate us, instead of relying on our family, friends and community. In place of religions we’ve apparently out-grown, we now rely on sports fandom, pop-culture obsession and shifting, empty tribalism to give us a sense of belonging and destiny.

What’s the achievement in clocking the hottest new console game if we remain a slave to our most basic impulses and desires?

What’s the point of opening Tinder to find 10+ new matches if we’re clueless and panicky at the thought of approaching that attractive stranger at the train station or the supermarket and engaging them in conversation?

What do we gain from sharing every little detail of where we go, what we eat, what we’re watching or how we’re feeling on social media if we don’t bother to catch up with our friends regularly for a barbeque, golf game, picnic, road-trip or even just to sit on the porch with them, esky at our side watching the storms come in of a summer’s evening?

Like I said, I’m absolutely grateful for this information age we live in- it’s literally provided me with a living and the opportunity to start a business and build up every rung how I want it to be.

But in spite of this?

I refuse to accept “progress” for progress’ sake. I refuse to hand over my identity or sense of purpose to marketing firms or media organisations to shape how they see fit. I refuse to imagine myself a “free-thinker” while demonising anybody simply because they disagree with me.

It’s a journey we must take for ourselves, beyond outside influencers. We listen to those we trust most along the way, and that’s how we find our own true identity, our soul, our sense of purpose.

It’s only then that we find true progress…

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No More Excuses! It’s Time To Make Your Shot NOW:

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I’m 9 years old, and before the discovery of girls, I have just one day-dream-

It’s to become the next Australian Formula 1 World Champion. I imagine a day where in Australian motorsport, my name is recognised on the same level as names like Jack Brabham, Alan Jones, Peter Brock, Dick Johnson and Mick Doohan. I imagine the races I’ll win, the inspiring come-from-behind victories I’ll achieve, the praise from the commentators after another amazing drive, how proud my classmates and everybody who knew me growing up will be to say they knew me before I was famous. I imagine how it’ll feel to be considered the best racing driver in the world, to be seriously compared with Grand Prix legends like Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. There’s just one thing:

I haven’t even raced a go-kart once in my life!

But that changes at the start of Year 4, when a friend at school tells me about an indoor kart track nearby where he’s gone and raced. He shows me his licence when I doubt him. He’s younger and shorter than I am- so surely I could drive as well? I go home and draw pictures of myself racing in a go-kart, wearing my custom helmet design, drifting around a corner sideways with smoke coming off the tyres. I have to check this place out!

The next day after school, Mum has a change of clothes for me in the car- we’re going to the indoor go-kart track. Today is the day it happens! I don’t know what your wedding day or the birth of your first child is like, but I imagine it’s similar to the feeling of anticipation I have, riding along in the passenger seat that summer afternoon…

We arrive at the go-kart centre. Hopping out of the car, I bound up the steps and inside to the fluroscent lights of the brick building. The smell of petrol, the thrum of puttering 2-stroke engines and the shrieking of tyres fills the air. Out on the track, guys older than me race past. They screech around the corners so rapidly, wildly, almost losing control. If I ever want to race Formula 1 cars one day, I have to drive these first…

What if I swerve all over the place and crash into the barriers?

Maybe today, my dream will be exposed as nothing more than a starry-eyed delusion?

My legs shake like they never have before. For a split moment I think of turning around and telling Mum not to bother, that we can just go home. But I know if I do that, I’ll hate myself 5 minutes later when we’re driving back. So instead I stick around, get my licence laminated, get measured and wait for the current session to finish. The karts all divert into the pit lane and pull up with a sputtering halt. The place falls silent. I pull a helmet on and walk through the gate, up to the very first kart in the line as my shoes thud on the polished concrete. I ease my way into the booster seat. The attendant buckles me in…

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I’m 26 years old and out on the town one Saturday night with my mates. We’re at the casino, a few beers in and having a good time as usual, when in that crowded gaming room, a girl across the floor leaps to my eyes…

She’s a raven-haired beauty in a red dress. No wonder I spotted her right away! But, there is a term called Hanker Sore, and it describes the feeling of finding somebody so attractive that it actually kind of frustrates you. That is how I feel right now, because I know if she leaves here and I don’t talk to her, I’m going to hate myself for missing the chance. But…she’s with a whole group of people- girls and guys. What if one of them is her boyfriend? So I’m feeling this intense frustration as I realise that no matter what I do, there’s a good chance I’ll end up feeling like shit. But I have to find a way to talk to her somehow. All I do is say a quick prayer, that somehow I’ll get the chance to talk to this mystery girl in the red dress…

I don’t recall what happens for the following minute or so, but next thing I know, one of my mates is off, talking to this very girl and one of her friends. Here’s my chance! So I go over like it’s no big deal, introduce myself to this girl and her friend, find out their names and ask how their night is going? I’m talking to her, probably gazing into her eyes unintentionally and I’m getting no signs from her as I ask what she does with herself? She’s studying criminology, which leads to me asking what particular field she hopes to go into once she’s finished her degree, relating how I was interested in that stuff when I was younger and did a weekend forensic science course back in Year 6. The conversation doesn’t last much longer than that, and then we’re separated again…

Back with my mates, I glance across at this girl and curse under my breath because I wanted to give her my number- but I can’t “because she’s with all her friends and there’s those guys there”. These days it wouldn’t really matter to me, but back then I was less confident, and things like that still seemed like a deterrant.

The same mate who struck up the initial conversation with them goes “So? Why not? Just go over there and give her your number! If any one of those guys tries to fight you I’ll back you up, ok? Just go down in a blaze of glory and do it! So what?” He nudges me in the back. I decide to put my faith in him. I find myself walking right over towards this girl as she chats with her friends. As I approach, they look at me. She looks at me. I hand her a scrap of paper with my name and number written down. “This is for you- give me a call and we’ll go grab a coffee sometime, hey?” She takes the piece of paper from me and I give her a wink as I turn back around. Retreating back across the floor to my mates, I can feel eyes staring into my back, but thankfully I’m distracted immediately by a pretty, bubbly brunette who comes over and starts chatting with us. I ask how her nights’ turning out and I joke about how she’ll be giving me her number in a minute- and she does, too…

I come home in the early hours with the boys, we stay up for a nightcap and recollect the stuff that happened throughout the night. I mention the girl in the red dress and how I’m glad I at least gave her my number. I’m not hopeful I’ll hear from her, but hey- I gave it my best shot…

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I’m 31 years old. I’ve spent the past 10 weeks in the Fight Like A Pro program, training intensively for Fight Night- and now here it is-

I’m waiting in the wings, the second bout of the night. Then the announcer reads out my name. I take the stage and shadow box as my theme song booms through the auditiorium (‘The Touch‘ by Stan Bush, for your information- a reminder of everything that rocked about 80’s power ballads). I walk through the crowd to the ring, which feels so far away. I climb up through the ropes and pull myself back onto my feet, bouncing up and down and pacing around. Before the night got underway, Gavin (who runs the whole thing) gathered us together in this very ring and said “If you go out there tonight and you’re not scared and wondering what you’re doing here, then there’s something wrong with you”.

Maybe there’s something wrong with me?

I feel no fear. But everybody is watching me, sizing me up, as my opponent strides out. I’m younger than Glenn and I’m fitter than him. I’m quicker on my feet. But his punches are like sledgehammer blows. If I’m not careful, he could smash me and wear me right down, game over. There’s no second chance. I have to remember everything I’ve trained for over the past couple of months, remember everything Tony (my trainer) and my cornermen have told me tonight leading up to this moment- but I only get one shot. There’s no turning back now. Glenn steps into the ring. In our corners, we get strapped up, then brought together in the middle. The referee tells us the rules of the bout, we bump fists and return to our corners.

Then the bell tingles. Round 1:

Fight!

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Maybe you dream of expanding your business- taking on more staff, going into coaching, launching a great idea for a side venture and funding it from start-up. Maybe you want to become the #1, nationally or worldwide- but:

You dread the idea of getting up to give a presentation in front of a crowded room.

The thought of attending workshops, seminars or networking events and having to chat to a room full of people causes your heart to race.

Or you’re hesitant at the idea of going bust and losing tens of thousands on something that (ultimately) doesn’t pay off in abundance like you hoped it would.

In order to get there, to live that dream- you have to do this confronting, uncomfortable, risky thing first. Ugh!

But as much as we might hate that obstacle for standing in the way of our true desire, as much as we risk making ourselves completely vulnerable- sometimes there’s no other option. So what’s it going to be?

…That first lap in the go-kart, I’m surprised how easy it is. I turn the wheel, the kart goes where I point it. I hit the brake, it slows right up. I put my foot down, it putters away- and I’d be comfortable if it took off faster! I complete the session only crashing once, just exiting a corner too wide and slipping the front under the barrier. The attendant pushes my kart out, and I’m on my way again. He tells Mum how well I’m doing. I must rave about it when Dad comes home, because we go back that same night. This time I race against Dad and a bunch of adults with their drivers licences- and I beat them all. Nothing feels uncomfortable, and I go faster, faster, faster…

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…I’m headed out one night with some other mates to a Latin party at a club in town. Near the station, my phone rings. I don’t recognise the number, but I pick up. On the other end is this girl- the one I dared give my number to, in front of all her friends at the casino a month back. Funny, I’d nearly forgotten about her! She had my number in her handbag, she says. She’s out with her friends, she tells me the venue they’re at and says to come and find her- she’s wearing a red dress. But I already have plans, so I tell her we’ll catch up next week maybe? I later find out (from her cousin no less) that she’d been talking about me, had “loved that I was talking to her about her degree” and (apparently) she liked what she saw, too…

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…3 rounds later, and despite Glenn having the weight advantage over me, I got more hits in. At last the final bell came, we were brought together- and my hand was raised- winner! It was then Tony told me how proud he was, because I’d gone and done exactly what he and my cornermen had told me to do, the whole bout. Despite fatigue, despite the punches I copped- I stuck with the plan- and it paid off. Trophy in hand, I did the only thing you could expect and went off to grab a beer or 3…

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So why do I share these three scenarios with you?

Because in all of them, there was something I desired. I really wanted it. But to have a chance of getting it, I first had to risk being found out, I had to risk failing publicly and my ego copping a hiding. I had to put myself in a vulnerable position. And I felt tempted to take the easy path, to hold back and not take the risk. But regret hurts much worse in the long term than failure. Because unlike the bruise of failure, regret kills you slowly inside, like a cancer of the spirit. And I won’t live with that.

Sure, if you try enough new things and take enough chances, you fail some of them. I’ve flipped karts over in races. I’ve been openly shut down by girls. I’ve lost bouts in the ring (to guys I’d given tips to, no less!) But even so, I’ve never felt regret about taking the shot to start with.

When you fail, the feeling doesn’t even compare to that feeling when, despite your greatest fears or doubts- you ask yourself “Why not?”, do it anyway- and succeed. Maybe you do even better than you’d hoped for?

I don’t know exactly what that “one thing” is for you- or if there is that “one thing”. But I know that, right at the top of another year- now is the time to ask “why not” and go for it. If you go down, at least you go down in a blaze of glory.

To borrow from an old quote I heard in this motivational playlist I used to have: “The man who says ‘I failed’ is 10 times more of a man than the one who wonders ‘What if?’ Because ‘What if?’ never went to the arena!”

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