Monday, May 14, 2012

Anaesthetised

I had an insight yesterday that has made me rethink and revise my own levels of self-awareness and self-criticism.

After a particularly long and complex business meeting I was returning into the city centre on the Luas Red Line yesterday. In stark comparison to the early morning commuters whom I share a train with every day, a significant cohort of the passengers on this mid-afternoon Luas were peering out at their world with the disheartened vacant stares of anaesthetised people. Observing these passengers I was noticeably struck by their approach to their environment: a confused torpor where even the most commonplace everyday tasks seemed bafflingly confusing and overly complex. Buying a ticket from the automated teller, reading the route map, navigating around inside the carriage. All of these tasks seemed to take a disproportionate amount of effort, protracted conversation and negotiation.

I had a double-edged pity/superiority reaction to all of this. At first I wondered what their world was like. Why had they chosen to be accepting of so little and to seemingly narrow their scope of possibility so much? (Obviously for many more complex and multi-variant individual and societal reasons than I could ever address in a blog post.) Secondly, I smugly felt that my own world seemed more expansive, engaging and interesting in contrast to that suggested by their behaviour.

I began asking myself questions such as why they do not just get themselves together, broaden their horizons and pull themselves up to whatever their next notional level of awareness, activity and experience would be. What was the lack of vision implicit within their personalities that was keeping them within the narrow parameters that they had chosen to define for themselves?

Then the proverbial thunderbolt hit me.

What about all of the people who could legitimately look pitifully at me as being an anaesthetised, blinkered and delimited person from their own vantage point? There are always admirable individuals that one can learn from and aspire to. What would, say, the Steve Jobs and the Mark Zuckerbergs of this world think if they ever evaluated my own choices and my achievements? Just another nine-to-five commuter drone with a dwindling pay check, scribbling blog posts into his iPhone?

Wouldn’t they ask themselves why do I not just get myself together, broaden my horizons and pull myself up to whatever my next level of awareness, activity and experience could be. What lack of vision within my personality keeps me within the narrow parameters that I have chosen to define for myself? Am I lacking the imagination, the intelligence and the drive to fully achieve my own innate potential?

These are fundamentally difficult questions indeed, but ones that we all surely need to constantly be asking ourselves. It is counterproductive to rest on one’s laurels. Perhaps I have settled for less and limited my horizons.

If so, then one of my first actions should be to set some clearer goals and more focussed ambitions for myself.

A secondary remedial action would be to identify some of that class of successful mentors and to seek out those people and gain some critical perspective from them that I could purposefully build upon. Who would such people be? Where could I best locate them and learn from them?

ADDENDUM

While drafting these thoughts I also re-read this challenging post by Jason Calacanis on self-awareness. His complete article is worth a read, but this piece of career advice is a good postscript to my thoughts above.
“Being self-aware enough to rate yourself on a brutal scale of one to ten, and then figure out what it will take to move slowly up the leader board, is critical to being an entrepreneur.”