Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chill Out and Work Hard (Jonathan Winter)

I caught up with an old friend and colleague in Jordan Springs on the weekend. Geoff had left Aus as teenager and has recently returned. He took me past the school he went to as a lighty. He says there were 72 of them in the school. His class was mixed with each row a different grade and the teacher teaching them all at the same time. I love the idea of that. When I was at school, a lot of the learning came through asking peers for help. Often the best teachers are those who know only a little bit more than you. They remember what it was like not to know! Living in residence at university gave me the chance to mix with some of the guys who had been at school with me, but a few years behind. Jonathan was one of those guys. I would have loved to be in a mixed classes with some the guys above and behind me like him. Good thing learning doesn't have to stop when school stops... a guest post from Jonathan Winter is coming.

Chill Out and Work Hard
by Jonathan Winter

Long term goals have not worked for me. Does that make me a failure? I’m not asking this question of you, dear reader. I’ve at least accrued enough wisdom to know that what you think of me matters less than what I think of me. So, do I think I am a failure? I live a comfortable lifestyle in a first-world country. I have sought-after university education, a supportive, loving network of family and friends, and a decent job that pays the bills. Yet, in the past, I have sometimes pontificated over the aforementioned question. Am I a failure because I haven’t lived up to expectations? The expectation that I will achieve the long term goals that someone of my ‘ability’ should be able to reach.

Stuff that!

I don’t think this is a unique trap that has befallen me. I, and many of my brethren in this vast, interconnected, globalised (western) world, have been taught to dream big. And when those dreams fall through, you and I are going to feel a bit shit about it, aren’t we? So I’ve decided that the real question I should be asking myself is: “What motivates me?” The answer is goals; short term goals.

I’ll let Australian comedian and musician, Tim Minchin, elaborate.

I advocate what Tim advocates: be micro-ambitious! Increasingly I’ve found that the successful people whose example forms the basis of our carefully formulated dreams are (a) exceedingly lucky and (b) successful not because they followed a dream but because they seized opportunities that arose whilst in pursuit of something they found stimulating. Consider the career of Jack Black. His background is fairly unremarkable, but what I take away from his story is that if opportunities had not come his way he would still be happily jamming away in his apartment with his buddy, Kyle Gas. Happy. You’re not going to seize opportunities if you’re not happy.

I suspect that the complex of chasing unrealistic dreams has worsened in the digital age with a previously unheard of degree of immediacy and access into the personal thoughts and lives of those we idolise. I’ll refrain from pointing to the egregious popularity of certain reality stars and socialites, but the opinions and commentary of the uber-successful tend to betray a truth that ostensibly says: these people are ordinary folk. Why can’t I be uber-successful too? The answer is (of course): Stop thinking like a damn fool. Paint that picture; invest $1000 in that stock you’ve been eyeing up; take that first kite-surfing lesson; reread that family law handbook. Set the finish line over here not over there. Keep busy and derive satisfaction from your micro-achievements. Let the bigger picture take care of itself a little bit.

One of my mother’s favourite idioms is “how do you eat an elephant?” (one bite at a time). I say forget about the elephant. Focus on finishing that chewy morsel on the elephant’s hindquarters. Maybe you’ll eventually eat the whole elephant; maybe a delicious minty slice of roast lamb will show up instead. Mmmm, roast lamb! Ok, ok, that tasty metaphor has run its course. In the interest of wrapping things up I’ll list a few other expressions that I think should be stricken from ‘common knowledge’:
  • You can do anything if you put your mind to it
  • You can be anyone you want to be
  • Follow your dreams
  • Do something you love, and you won’t work a day in your life (Ok I still quite like this one – doesn’t seem to work out very often though, just don’t let it get you down!)
I’ll leave you with the inspired ramblings of another comedian, Jim Jefferies (language warning)! Meanwhile, I’ll revel in the satisfaction of achieving the micro-goal of finishing this little article.

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