Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Slow Living

It's been a full on month.  I'm in Melbourne at the moment - my projects are on track, I've had some incredibly productive inspiration and reflection about my business, my information streams are under control, and I just need to get down to the necessary low-value administrative crap.  Perfect time for a blog post.

Some themes are emerging in my life and practice, like a desire for simplicity, complementarity and cumulative investment of energy.  Perhaps the most interesting is the desire to live slowly.

I know a lot of people loathe the pressure and effort of high pace living.  But this is not where I'm coming from.  In fact, my life is not energetic enough.

What I'm coming to loathe is the futility and narrow-mindedness of the short term, and the corrosive influence of the cults of busy and fast.

I've spent a lot of time since leaving my job, more than twelve months ago now, doing things that have been great and worthy and valid by themselves - and a great personal experience... but haven't added up to much.  You probably noticed that in my reflection on 'helping' where it's not wanted.  Short sightedness played just as much a role as my misguided idea of 'helping'.

I'm not hard on myself over this, because I frankly didn't know where I was going - nor could I have.  It was one of those necessary, foggy periods.

But now, as things settle into a slower and longer-term rhythm, everything is coming easier.

A materialising sense of purpose has not only given my efforts a frame, but driven my perspective outwards into the longer term.  All of a sudden, the things in the now don't need to deliver value in the present, as long as they're an investment in the future.  And they don't need to happen now either, if they're best off taking the time to mature.

Living slower doesn't mean I'm doing less.  But it does mean I'm doing better - especially in the long term.

An example. I'm organising CoCreate Adelaide - an unconference to enable community members to cocreate their visions.  It's had a longer effective lead time, is coming along way easier, and is better organised than anything I've done in the past... but in the now, that doesn't even matter.  Because my goal isn't to realise the amazing potential of CoCreate Adelaide in April... it's to realise it in April 2015.

Some may take that as permission to take two lazy years to get it done... but far from it.  I still need to work hard now, and for the next two years... it's just the rhythm and perspective that have slowed down to stretch out beyond the present.

Iteration, reflection, growth, learning and 'sustainability' are no longer luxuries at the edges, but integral to the core.  The experience is de-stressing and empowering.

I've invented a contrary challenge in fact, to encourage me to stetch my mind - instead of working out how to speed everything up, as is the customary imperative, I'm exploring how to slow it down.

Last year I wrote a book in a week. It was a good exercise, but if I could write that book in two years it would really be worthwhile.  Can I write a book in two years?  Or perhaps if I am writing a book, what book can I write in two years?  (The fact is, I couldn't possibly take that long to write the Open Handbook, my One Week Book.  If I find a book that I can write in two years, I'll aim to do that - and because I've done the one-week exercise, I know I can knock over the first edition in three or four days.)

Sometimes it feels like a curse to have a big picture, systemic perspective on doing good.  There are so many amazing things in the world that I could get excited about... if they weren't doomed to insignificance.  The vast majority of 'good' done achieves little in the long term (even ignoring the dubiousness of its impact now).

But our efforts don't need to be futile.  Be patient.  Slow down.