On being a self-entrepreneur

It was in 8th grade I think, when I heard my former best friend Tina say: „Ticking off to-do-lists makes me happy.“ I still feel the irritation that came along with those words. I just couldn’t understand what she was referring to. Did she really enjoy this? Immediately I – as teens do – started to question myself: Why wasn’t I that self-organized structure-loving girl that always got everything right, made reasonable decisions and planned her life 5 months beforehand?

As the years went by, I began to understand that it was not the fact that Tina loved ticking off to-do-lists that  seemed so strange to me. It was the logic of efficiency, that I began to see everywhere. Peers trying to „get it all right“, to „avoid failing“. To master their own life as it was some kind of stress test. And to always be ready for the next job interview, a smooth and pleasing CV at hand.

I was and I am a part of that. And it strikes me that this kind of neoliberal thinking of „your life (and your success/failure) is your responsibility“ leads us sometimes to very harsh assumptions about ourselves and our peers.

I can now see all of that in a broader socio-economic context of destabilized markets and societies. We are all, in a way, facing much more uncertain futures than our parents did (while it is extremely difficult to get a full understanding of how this is just a perceived thing or really the case).

Against this backdrop, the topic of mental and emotional resilience seems really a thing we should put our minds to. What does „real“ self-care mean when we are all trained to function? When spiritual practices like yoga and meditation are already a part of improving ourselves, being a good self-entrepreneur who, after a good yoga-session, can function even better, work even longer hours?

I think sharing our vulerabilities and insecurities around failing, missing out and not wanting anymore is crucial at this point. Although there are already some great projects bringing these issues into awareness it seems that for a majority of people the stigma around for example mental illness, burnout etc. is still too big to cope with on their own.

How can we turn sadness, unproductivity and inefficiency into an accepted part of life and how can we help people to cope with expectations they can’t and don’t want to meet?

Efficient at what?

Hello @NeleG, nice to meet you.

Your reflection is recurring in Edgeryders. I guess this is a common thread to the people on the edge. For example, the unMonastery was in part a product of the need for finding one’s own rhythm. It turned out to be very challenging, but at least it was not the usual challenge – it was a different one.

My personal way to look at it is to draw inspiration from biology. In the natural world, there is no one but you to underwrite your pains. Even parasites have to be good at parasitism, or they will die as individuals or go extinct as a species. At the same time, a successful species in biology is definied as one well adapted to its ecological niche, not in terms of how close it is to to the top of the food chain. A frog is not a failed crocodile: it is a successful animal by its own yardstick. Put a crocodile in a European pond, he’ll starve to death, whereas frogs do just fine. By the same token, it would be weird to say that a craftsman is a failed CEO! He is just not.

We should not take the analogy too far, of course. But I guess what annoys you is that you do not agree with the idea of success that mainstream society is promoting. In that case, the first move is probably to accept it, and decide you are going to measure yourself in some other way. Maybe, then, it will not be a vulnerability at all that you do not like ticking boxes! In my experience, it helps to find communities of like-minded people, because it takes a lot of effort to be alone in upholding an alternative vision of society!

Hello Alberto, nice to meet

Hello Alberto,

nice to meet you too!

„But I guess what annoys you is that you do not agree with the idea of success that mainstream society is promoting. In that case, the first move is probably to accept it, and decide you are going to measure yourself in some other way.“ Exactly! Thanks for your ideas and input. I think that your idea of changing my own perception on success and failure is really a good starting point. But it is a piece of a much more complex puzzle, I guess. Building communities of like-minded people sounds good, too, and I see how the unMonastery project contributes to that. Maybe one could also find a way to promote an alternative vision for society within „mainstream culture“, whatever this is…

Looking at the other components of life

I fully recognize myself -maybe a year back or so - in this picture. The advice I’ve been given is to learn first  to go easier on myself if I want or expect others to do the same. Like you say, practicing some sort of spiritual education helps. Supposedly it would also allow you to change the focus from the “professional” aspects to personal wellbeing and better self care to balance your life. The problem is that sometimes you can’t do it alone, and shouldn’t. So the challenge is finding those like minded communities which Alberto mentions and dreaming up solutions to make it better for more people. If you know of good projects do recommend, I’m very interested.

This talk on vulnerability really hits the nail, I wholeheartedly recommend it, if you havent seen it already:

Discovery channel rebels

Hi guys!

One time I sat in grand écart position for 48 hours so that I could join the pro gym team. Just to illustrate: I’m very disciplined and am applying to be Tina’s new best friend. But the latest skill that I’ve been training is to do nothing. The saying goes that a little hard work never killed anyone, but after a burn-out and a crushed nerve at my young age, I’m not prepared to take the risk.

When the going gets tough and I feel guilty about my time spend doing non-productive things, I remind myself of two things.

One: when you look at discovery channel, animals don’t spend all their time chasing. Most of it is just lying in the sun. No judgement necessary.

Two: doing nothing is very rebelious these days. Why think of myself as a lazy-ass when I can think of myself as bad-ass?

On the question of how to help people to cope with expectations they can’t and don’t want to meet -  I think it’s something we each do for ourselves. Personally I draw a lot of inspiration from people who don’t give too many fucks. So I try to be that person, too.

Afraid of relaxing?

I feel your plea, and as @KiraVde says I also wish I would not give too many fucks.

Myself, I am afraid of taking things easy and slowing down, because I feel that if I am not going forward I am going backwards (by whatever standard!) and… what if I stopped caring? That scares me the most I guess.

At the same time I see a spiritual path in finding new ways of changing yourself to overcome challenges. I see these situations like signals telling me to adapt and find a new way to fit better.

Saying that, the best strategy I have found up to now is to try to be rested, eat well, exercise, pursue some hobby and be happy. In exactly that order. As you build up energy the number of fucks given dramatically decreases and you are psychologically more resiliant. Sometimes very resiliant.

The really hard thing for me is to realize when I am eating too much into my energy and I can become tired, grumpy, worried, overworked… and then fearful without even realizing I am getting there. So, when you are there… just press reset and rebuild your energy, then much of the fears of failing and checklists will just evaporate.

Don’t try this alone

Inspiring, @KiraVde and @ivan (welcome back to both of you!). But I don’t think it’s quite that simple. “Being different”, going by a different value system, is itself entropic. Here’s why: to accomplish anything, we humans need other humans. Other humans are attracted by “successful” (as per the dominant canon of what “successful” means). Moreover, we suffer from a documented psyhological bias called the halo effect, that makes us assume that success trasfers across domains. If you are a successful marathon runner, I will rate higher your chances of starting a viable company, even though the skills involved with running marathons are not the same ones needed to run a business. People will help more gladly others when they think they are winners. By doing so, they will increase the chances of success of these perceived winners. So, being perceived as successful increases your chances of actually being successful.

That’s not to say you cannot define your own measure of success. But it does mean this is a lot easier when done in tribes. If you inhabit a cluster of the global social graph that goes by different rules, you are kind of OK being different, because your social network is also different, and that means you can mobilize those people to help in whatever it is you are doing. You can enjoy a reasonable measure of social esteem, even if it is localized in your corner of the graph.

An unfortunate consequence of this is that, the more different you want to be, the more energy you need to invest promoting yourself. The message is “look at me, I am not a failure, I am a success by my own measure”. Social media are full of this, often cloaked in hyper-individualistic narratives, of the “I quit my day job to follow my dream” type. Which is ironic, because hyper-individualists (if they exist) do not care about what people on Facebook think of them. Self-promotion is, in my opinion, the expression of a deep need for social acceptance.

expectations and value systems

Hello friends,

Very interesting topic and quite a common problem as well i believe. I will share with you few things in hope it is beneficial :).

Haven’t felt depression in years, sadness very rarely and short termed. I believe sadness comes from our inability to accept a certain situation, our resistence to it. If there is a situation we don’t like we have only two choices: Accept it as it is or change it or at least try to change it. In both situations we shouldn’t be depressed. If de did all in our power and failed to change it, we should be satisfied with ourselves and accept the outcome, since there is no alternative. However i do believe once sadness comes we should not try to supress it, let it run its course because anything else would be commiting violence upon our own nature and sadness would still manifest itself somehow.

Good at school, always calm and good kid, inventive, reading since i was 5, playing chess since my 6th year…i can’t really tell how many times i heard my family members say this dreadful phrase to their children: “just take Jasen’s example, can’t you be like him”.

Than i was 27, married, hated my job, didn’t love my wife, i was miserable and had a lot of health issues. I started wondering: “how did i end up right here at this moment in life?” I knew i totally went off my path but didn’t yet realise how or where is my path.

After realising the community in which i grew up actually applied huge subconscious pressure on me through their projections of myself, through their expectations especially, and that so many of my life’s actions were led by those thoughts in my head which were not really my thoughts. (i actually got married because everyone was telling me it’s the right time and after some time it made sense…how crazy!).

My next step was selfexploration, i had to get to know myself. I stayed at home reading books for months, Carlos Castaneda’s books were an amazing discovery at that time. I went into nature for periods of isolation where i spent my time in silence and thought, and finally after some time i started meditating.

As far as success is concerned i agree with Alberto. Should we measure ourselves in comparison to others or by finding our own system of values and definition of success? For example i have 0 debt, built my own house by the age of 28, a good car and pretty much anything i need materially now…most of my friends think i am succesful. I would however consider myself succesful if i could succeed in creating a well balanced family full of love and respect, or if i could be nothing but a positive and inspiring experience for anyone who meets me. Or if i could attain permanent state of meditation for example. Also i have been with many women, and ofcourse friends i went out with always considered me lucky or succesful with women. Well again my definition of success is very different: i would have preferred to stay with the first one i loved…or with any i loved. Now, in retrospective i rather think i failed miserably with some of those women and brought really bad kharma on me through those “successes” :).

As I remember you…

… Hi @Jasen_Lakic thank you for your candidness. and welcome back, it’s been a while since Brussels! I think there is somewhere a click one must do even to say: “i’ll stop and think and find myself” as you said you did… and that moment is so relative that a lot of the time you don’t recognize it and think that maybe you should push yourself a little more because the problem is in something you’re doing wrong.  Unless you have gurus around you who can push you into that realisation. Did any of you try seeing a therapist at any point? Or @ivan, did anyone advise or help you get to a strategy of taking better care of yourself?  (btw nice to see you back as well!)

Apparently doing nothing has become a sport in South Korea

I came across this article about a competition in South Korea where people do, well, nothing and immediately thought of this conversation thread…

“Since the first competition was held two years ago, it’s evolved into a full-on pageant with a panel of judges and a set of strict rules—no phones, no talking, no checking your watch, no dozing off. WoopsYang said more than 2,000 people signed up for the 70 contestant slots this year, and she had to hold qualifying rounds to select the best candidates.”

Full article available here: http://www.vice.com/read/doing-nothing-has-become-a-sport-in-south-korea

Also, brainball (later mindball)

Years ago I came across this hilarious and frustrating game:

“Brainball is a two-player game where relaxation is counterbalanced with the desire to win. The little ball on the game’s table is telekinetically controlled through the use of each player’s brainwaves. Both a calm state and a stressed state have a direct influence on the match. The player who is most passive can watch the ball roll away towards the opponent’s goal and a prospective win.”

Slate wrote an article about it a while back: Bowling with Brainwaves


Full self-acceptance is very hard. Often we need the support of others to be able to see our “shadow” (in the Jungian sense).

To me, sadness, unproductivity and inefficiency are symptoms of not having found satisfying connections in life. But the answer to that is often not “trying harder” to find something. It might more often be letting go of images of oneself that one has taken on from other people. Finding oneself is easy to say, and really hard to do. Let go, be open, listen, accept help…