Finding Common Ground.
Summary of the journey/ideathon/party/campaign/quest so far:
First, I had an epiphany.
Second, I decided I wanted to throw a party.
Now — let’s have a discussion.
Here’s an insight. I used to spend a lot of time at events. Networking events. Social events. Creative-design-thinking-kind of events. I wouldn’t say it was always fun. There are many times I’d show up and not know anybody, and often, the people I was talking to knew way more than I did about a given subject than I ever would.
I forced myself to go to events because that’s pretty much what they tell you to do at uni so that you can get a job… Turns out that was pointless since I now work for myself. But the whole “get out of your comfort zone” thing, that part was helpful.
Going to events was like going to the gym. I have zero interest in going to the gym, but I force myself because I have to.
Over time though, after my confidence built up, I didn’t have to force myself. Getting dressed, sorting out tickets and transport became normal and, in many ways, fun. It became exciting to go into a room talking about a subject I had zero ideas about and stand a chance to learn something new.
Sure free booze and pizza helped, as did having a wingman or woman. But probably the biggest revelation — that made walking into a room less intimidating. Was realizing that nobody else wanted to be there either, except for the narcissistic few looking to draw attention to themselves.
Most people are just as worried about how they appear, about finding someone to talk to, and are just as insecure about keeping up with the conversation and not saying something that makes them sound stupid.
Everything I’ve just described is uncomfortable, and a lot of it is out of your control. You can’t log out. You can’t skip forward. You can’t change track. You can’t switch off your camera.
If you were in a conversation that was less exciting than watching cricket — suck it up and be patient. If you were listening to someone way more intelligent than you — pay attention. If you were laughing with someone you’d just met and just magically clicked with — enjoy the moment.
All of these are ways of being human. Human emotions, expressions, and tolerances. Being bored was a way of showing kindness and patients regardless of how personally that moment was serving you at the time.
Boredom was common ground that we could all stand on, and it was a means of respect. Why? Because when you got bored, instead of rage quitting and leaving, you’d stick it out. I’d call that respect.
Fast forward to now, after two and a few years of lockdown, isolation, polarization, punishment, and being able to pause or change things that aren’t serving us. ‘Common ground’ seems to be very hard to come by. Being bored was no longer unique. We were all bored. Being in the same space became foreign. And my observation is that after having so many freedoms removed, being patient is now an even rarer virtue.
This is a problem. This is an uncomfortable situation. I don’t really know what to do about it because you can’t throw a party when everybody hates everybody. And I have no interest in throwing a lousy party. My ego won’t allow it. I am legitimately at a loss when trying to write the new rules for group behaviour. And nor is it my place to write them on my own.
All I can offer is a question — I know, kind of a disappointment that he hasn’t gotten to a point yet — my question is this. What’s possible? Not in like an airy-fairy this-will-never-happen way. Not in an “I’m suggesting an idea but really just raging about issues on my or someone else’s political agenda” way. What’s possible if we stop focusing on ourselves and focus the conversation on what to Do next?
Not too long ago, words like ‘innovation’ and ‘disruption’ and ‘tech’ were associated with excitement and wonder at what would happen if we put down our pitchforks: a tool used to throw loose material, such as hay, straw, manure, or leaves. And used them for you know… What they were made for?! To work the land?
Because despite the allure of an utterly disconnected Metaverse of anonymity and obscurity. That land is still the common ground we’re all standing on. We just seem to have forgotten how to work at it — for ourselves and others.