Every day we are programming our brain.
With the content we consume. The conversations we have. Even the thoughts that occupy our minds.
We’re living now in an age of instant gratification.
Boredom is a thing of the past.
Equipped with our smartphones we’re never more than a swipe away from the next dopamine hit.
But there is a cost!
Short term thinking.
Our brains are being programmed to chase these short term rewards.
This is very much the case if you’re starting a company. A focus on Instagram followers or money in the bank comes at the expense of the bigger picture and building something that lasts.
Do the social media giants make the world a better place? I’m not so sure.
We’re not built for 21st century life.
Biologically, we’re no different from our hunter gatherer ancestors. Yet we find ourselves thrown into modern day life.
When making lifestyle choices it’s a useful framework to ask: “What would a hunter gather do?”
Let’s talk about social media.
There is no doubt that social media has revolutionised the world. It has enabled millions to better run their businesses and billions to connect.
But at what cost?
Since the dawn of farming some 20,000 years ago we’ve seen a number of huge shifts in the way we live. Social Media is perhaps the latest.
For all this invention and innovation, are we better off?
There has been extensive research in the last century on the native tribes that are still found dotted in quiet corners of the globe.
The research offers a valuable insight into the lives of the hunter gather- our lives, before it all changed.
The findings are truly remarkable.
They are happier, healthy and get far more joy out of life than their more “advanced” relatives.
And not just marginally!
It’s a landslide.
Farming. Social Media. The internet even. These all seem like great ideas.
Sure, there are clear benefits.
But at what cost?
Just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should.
I find there is nothing quite like pen and paper for easing my worries.
Whenever I feel uneasy or stressed. Grabbing a pen, some paper and writing whatever comes to mind does wonders!
There’s something about writing that helps objectivity the situation and make a mockery of my, usually irrational, concerns.
All of my good days seem to have one thing in common.
They are the days I get the basics right.
The bad days? The days I get the basics wrong.
Understanding this is one thing. Doing something about it is something else entirely.
We’re built to be active, to meaningfully connected with each other, to eat, to get enough sleep, to switch off.
As far as I can see we each have vices against these basics.
For me, I tend to overeat, I spend too much time sitting at my desk, I waste time on social media & messaging platforms.
Whatever is going in on the macro of my life I find it’s these mirco battles that set my happiness level.
I get sucked into my laptop some days and lose the day. Not a good day!
Likewise, if I can resist the instant gratification of whatsapp or emails, and get outside, spend time solving problems, or having proper interactions with friends and family, then the days become richer and more enjoyable.
In quarantine this is tricky! The battle is fought everyday, and despite being armed with this insight, I get it wrong time and time again. There’s a lot to be said for leaving the house and changing environment.
Roll on post lockdown!
It will be a different world post lockdown.
In what way? That remains to be seen.
Will restaurants return to their former glory?
Are cinemas a thing of the past?
Will we drive and fly as much?
These questions will no doubt be decided by us, the people. And how we vote with our wallets.
It’s a blank canvas! To do with what we choose. It will be fascinating to see what we paint.
You’re feeling optimistic. Months of hard work. Countless customer interviews.
Your new startup’s launch is just a couple of short weeks away.
You stroll outside. The sun is shining.
“Maybe this will work ok after all”.
You’ve got a hair appointment.
Halfway through the hairdresser asks how the new startup is going.
You chat away, excitedly updating on the progress.
A throw away comment by the hairdresser: “Hmm I’m not sure that’s the right approach.”
That’s all it takes.
The conversation moves on but you feel the sense of dread welling up inside you.
“F**k… I knew we shouldn’t have gone for that.” you think.
“That’s it. We’re ruined.”
I find this situation playing out over and over again in my ongoing effort to launch a startup. Every opinion sends my head spinning.
But this is daft!
Do we need everyone to want what we’re making? Absolutely not! It’s impossible to please everyone.
It’s about finding those who do want what you’re offering and building it for them. Everything else can be figured out later!
When launching a startup we’re putting all our cards on the table. Going all in. And as a result, we’re often fragile.
The stakes are high!
It’s helpful to remind ourselves to enjoy the ride.
Amor Fati- a love of fate.
I find myself coming back this phrase again and again.
When things get tough. Or worry sets in. “Amor Fati” is a great reminder to not take life so seriously and enjoy the ride.
This is one I’m frequently guilty of.
Potentially dangerous when launching a business!
Last year I finished a fantastic three years working at a tech startup, working a number of roles from Sales to running the Marketing team.
Every single forecast I made during that time turned out to be wildly optimistic.
Every single one.
A combination of not baking in a buffer for inevitable problems and “best case” guesses.
Each time I sat down to make a forecast, I’d simplify the complex reality of the business into 4-5 variables and have a stab at each. These guesses were optimistic, but not overly- tending to be the best case.
The problem arouse as the best case of one variable with the best case of another and the best case of another, leads to an overall picture that’s an order of magnitude higher.
In practice, reality hits. Countless over looked problems spring up.
Will my next forecast be any better? Maybe slightly. But probably not!
Perhaps the most liberating three words in the world.
No one cares.
We go through life a bundle of nerves- a curse of the human condition.
Wondering what everyone thinks. Worrying about our appearance, our actions.
No one cares!
Everyone is going through exactly the same preoccupation with themselves.
A simple idea, yet counterintuitive in practice. It almost seems strange to us that others aren’t think about us as much as we are.
There’s a lot to be said for reminding ourself of this once in while. It’s really quite liberating!