When we think about it, it takes quite a time to figure out obvious things such as where we come from, who we really are and why we are acting that way.
Then, how can we reuse all that knowledge about our own self to make plans for the future?
This blog post is part of a 2014’s New Year triptych:
- Past — Year of the Truth
- Present — Self-awareness Thirties
- Future — The Plan
In this post we will discuss about the combination of the meaning, the time and our own needs. Blended in a word, this could be called the purpose of living.
Tale of a Traveller
31st of December 2013. We stand on a rooftop in Lisbon. People are around, waiting for the fireworks. The mild temperature makes the night easy to bear with a tee-shirt. One of the guests shares his story, how he traveled, his memories from those moments and ends on the fact it is now the right moment to settle down.
I then asked the following question:
How do you know this is now the right moment to settle down in your home country after having bounced for 10 years around the world?
He smiles and answers he had learned enough. That there is no point at travelling for travelling or at accumulating visas for the sake of nice landscape photographs albums. He can now bring back this knowledge to his home land and make an impact around him thanks to this experience.
To Build a Home
David Bruant once wrote a blog post entitled Building in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux is the city in France where I’ve spent 18 years of my life before flying to London the 1st of March 2013. This is where David and I have met, twice ; where we have worked together and tightened our bonds.
His words triggered something in my mind as they coined something I was missing at the time: it is not just about doing nor making: it is about building. And as importantly, with whom you are building.
In the two previous blog posts, I deassembled and reassembled the past and present. The goal was not to uncover my life but rather to prepare yourself to this reading, in order to provide an extended background of how significant the next lines are.
To Fork & To Improve
I really love patterns, lines and loops. I spend a lot of time observing them everywhere I go. I eventually match them with unrelated domains, like software and organic growth cycles.
You then start to notice patterns within a single domain due to your accumulated experience. This is also one of the benefit of bumping into different communities rather than sticking exclusively to one. You have already seen the same story happening elsewhere.
I’ve noticed this tendency to start something new rather than to contribute to the existing. New is shining. New is attractive. New is easier. Existing is more difficult. Existing is understanding. Existing is rewarding.
The benefit of the experience is you can infuse it to strengthen an existing component. Starting something new is like seeding: it takes more time and effort to reach the same stage you originally left.
Building is contributing. It is doing with a meaning. Most of my decisions are now regulated by these middle-term and long-term factors. I want to emphasis that during the next ten years.
To Listen & To Transmit
I explained in the past articles how I naturally organised stuff to gather people so as they can spread content and knowledge to a broader number of people (newspaper in school, retrogaming website, technical meetups at work etc.).
This has nothing to do with fame. Of course we want a reward. The most basic one is the satisfaction of having done something good. Good is not the proper word. It is the satisfaction to have achieved something matching our values.
At some point in the lifecycle of this blog I stopped writing about technical stuff. Because I thought I was not good enough. Because I started following people way better than me on the technical field. Because at the same time I spreaded my focus on less technical things, and out of the software industry fog of war.
When I joined the Sud Web conference in France in its early stage in October 2010, I did not know that this measure would have given me a very strong direction as of today. Of course organising an event is cool. Of course people say thank you at the end. But I wanted to stop, I wanted to quit.
One day I realised I was not organising Sud Web to be congratulated or for the sake of happy people’s face — yet it is emotionally rewarding. I wanted to continue because that way, every year, 170 people - audience, speakers and staff - go back home having learned something insightful. Because they have met people. Because every one of them transmits something that did not exist days ago.
Even if it is not cutting edge knowledge. Even if it is not a technical knowledge. Especially because this is out of reach as an individual.
I want to spend the next ten years transmitting helpful knowledge at a human scale. And we will go back on the human scale notion later because it is fully intended.
To Understand & To Empower
Understanding has such an advantage over reacting. Where is the problem coming from? Is this acceptable? Any way to fix this, now or later? Can we prevent that to happen again?
All the nice things we congratulate are the results of a long run effort. A joint effort of several people. It is rarely an outcome of a single dude stuck on his computer in a creepy basement. Any. Single. Iconic. Person. Has been helped by others. Period.
To quote Rich Armstrong in his brilliant take over the manager responsabilities:
Good management culture is your immune system against douchebags.
What if we remove the management word?
Good culture is your immune system against douchebags.
I will dedicate the next ten years to infuse a good culture in any community I share enough values with. This is how you empower people: by understanding them and by reacting properly. Simply by being gently helpful.
To Explore & To Deepen
The twenties of one’s life is that moment in life you spawn your attention over the surface of knowledge and various experiences. We follow our guts, friends and random opportunities popping up wherever we go. And it works for plenty of domains, including friendships (have you ever met your best friend in a party you did not want to go to?).
By reading technical books and technical blogs, I aquired my knowledge on how to build with Web technologies. By reading accessibility blogs, by attending conferences, I improved my knowledge on how to build with Web technologies. By providing tuitions, by reading essays about psychology, history and sociology, I improved my knowledge on how to build around Web technologies.
Because I have a bit of knowledge about humans, I have been able to make technical decisions taking in account the human factor.
I will continue on that trail the next ten years: local and global history, travels, the evolution of photography, computer science, Eastern philosophy. Books and peer recommendations are a great fuel to this.
To Craft & To Be Creative
Last year I enjoyed participating to photography courses. It triggered a lot of interesting things. It altered my vision on my own work, it unveiled new directions and unlocked new crafts I never thought about beforehand.
These learnings positively altered my travel habbits, the meaning of my actions (even more one would say) and gave me this excuse to experience analog film processing and film printing. This helped to deepen my photographic experience even though analog photography previously changed my relationship with my cameras.
More recently, and because I told a couple of friends about those experiences, one of them recommended me some bookbinding courses she enjoyed very much. I found a lot of emotional similarities between processing a film in a darkroom and binding a book on your own.
The next ten years are going to be a field for new experiences: calligraphy, wood framing, paper making, more analog photography stuff, paper-based creations and other stuff I am not yet aware of.
All this cannot happen only by doing things on our own. The generated energy of a close collaboration is joyful.
To Disconnect & To Reconnect
Even though we read a lot about realtime collaboration in an always connected world driven by worldwide corporations, even though the human condition improved drastically over the last century — yet unequally — I have this feeling we also got disconnected from the ground.
Cities and especially metropolis are fast-time places. They protect us by providing everything, at any time of the day. They protect us from the outside, whatever the outside is.
How many of the supermarket products we buy are we able to make on our own, with raw materials? Butter, cheese or bread? The emphasis on tech and newness makes me feeling dumb regarding the making of essential things.
I really want to spend the next ten years at going deeper in a sustainable life: producing vegetables in a urban environment, recycling wastes to create tooling, being able to cook every processed food I buy in a supermarket (no one complained about my houmous so far).
To Build & To Depart
I have given up on the idea of changing the world or making an impact. The change needs to be incorporated by closer, smaller and enclosing groups between ourselves and the world. It will bubble up naturally as you deepen your roots in the relevant communities.
Empowering, motivating and helping will generate smaller but longer term outcomes. Which can make bigger impacts in the end.
Building is enabling locally. It is making the ability to replicate ourself at a human scale. Other people around share the same values. They will replicate your effort if they feel strong enough to do so. Building is making the effort of one to be an outcome for 10, 70 or 150 people. Seeding and peer to peer.
I cannot pretend I will stay ten years in London as I cannot pretend I ever planned to live eighteen years in my previous town. But as far as I can say, I want to spend the next ten years building locally — wherever the local is — not looking for growth but for sustainability.
There will be no going back to France. It will be a choice to choose France as a next destination. Maybe. Later.
It’s All About Time
Time is limited, and never granted: I started witnessing my body aging. You never care about it until you notice those details. This also helps you making better decisions: we can only make a limited number of decisions. Let’s make the good ones, the ones matching our values.
We will see in ten years how much of this is (still) relevant, and if it was worth spending some time sharing this vision with you.
Tonight I will take a picture of myself with an analog medium format camera. The first on a roll of twelve exposures. Every month. For a year. For ten years. I will have to wait one year to process a roll. You will have to wait ten years to discover the outcome.
It is the pattern of making a line from dots and bending the line into a circle, into a swhirl… into myself.