BACKSTAGE

26 Jun 2023

TOFFLER AND BEYOND

by John O’Brien

What does tomorrow hold? Who really knows. You might expect or hope for something in particular, but can you fully guarantee that? No. All you can do is hope for the best and deal with what comes up.

From an early age, we are asked “what do you want to do when you grow up?” Like we’d really know the potential options available with such minimal experience.

Many gravitate to stereotypes of fireman or nurse, no doubt while wearing blue or pink respectively. We are influenced by all that surrounds us, but particularly our home environment, and even more so, our parents.

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My cheeky answer of “I don’t want to grow up” usually met with tut-tuts and raised eyebrows. I did grow up, yet still without a clue of what I wanted to be or do. Not sure what that says about my folks.

I’ve since worked it out and I want to be a good person. Nothing more, nothing less. Jobs have come and gone, and several career paths attempted, but I’ve continued honing my inward and outward integrity. That defines me far more than any employment or vocation ever will.

CUTTING AND POLISHING THE DIAMOND

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Whether by your own design or random good luck, if you find a profession or pursuit that you like, you still have to acquire adequate competence to sustain it. Which leads to learning, training and practise. And hacking through the bad days until good days are more common.

I’ve made up a universal talent formula that seems to apply across multiple sectors. After:

  • 10 hours – you’ve got the basic hang of it but know there is a way to go.
  • 100 hours – you think you are an expert.
  • 1,000 hours – know that you are no expert but are now refining your craft.
  • 10,000 hours – if you are not an expert by now, you are in the wrong game.

That’s your aptitude sorted. Now comes my job contentment matrix. With any new job or activity, if after:

10 hours

  • You love it – come back tomorrow.
  • You hate it – consider options but hang in there, it might yet gel.

100 hours

  • You love it – start boasting to family and friends.
  • You hate it – it’s about time to start looking for something else.

1,000 hours

  • You love it – guess this is your career for the foreseeable future.
  • You hate it – you either have serious financial commitments or change-phobia (sticking with the devil you know).

10,000 hours

  • You love it – guess what your epitaph is?
  • You hate it – seriously, what are you doing with your life?

PLANNING FOR THE POSSIBLE

Even with all the random potential ahead, it’s still wise to make a plan, however vague or loose. Look for tactical approaches that will let you work towards your strategic goals.

As ever in life, be ready to tweak the plan as your situation evolves. And be prepared to throw that all out the window when major life changing events happen.

Personal things like accidents, medical emergencies, health conditions, family breakdowns, or sudden epiphanies can come out of the blue. Global black swans like climate, war, and disease can (and should) be cause for reconsideration of what is important and how to go about getting there.

Comedian Matt Ruby nailed it recently: “Life throws awfulness at you. There’s nothing you can do about that. But you control your reaction to these negative events.” We’ve all experienced this in recent years. My own responses have not always been elegant, but they have been the best I could muster at the time, a timeframe seemingly compressing the distance between past, present and future.

NOT NOSTRADAMUS

Reading, consuming and eating popular culture have long been side projects of mine. Many trends I’ve seen coming but one I didn’t was cooking shows. In the early 90s, a group of us decided to get together for a feast. Nothing unusual about that.

For a creative challenge, we recorded the whole process with video and stills. From that, we produced a short movie capturing the whole market to plate experience and ran off 100 or so dubs to VHS. I compiled a recipe book to compliment all the dishes. For Christmas that year, all of our friends and family received copies of both.

We didn’t see the MasterChef trend coming and went our different ways. Like The Third Bardo, we were “5 years ahead of (our) time”. Coulda, shoulda, woulda. But, didn’t. And that’s ok. We’ve all gone on different paths and are generally happy. I’ve now spent over 20 years hooked up with one of the other participants. None of us saw that coming at the time either!

I like how you cannot directly experience the future. It would be somewhat boring to know the end of the tale before you hear it. Even more so before you live it.

Using the lessons of history to deal with the surprises of today is a fundamental part of the human journey. The only moment that we actually exist in is the present. Enjoy it, and enjoy the journey of discovery as the present becomes the past and the future becomes now.

Which led to me becoming a firefighter anyway. A part-time volunteer one, yes, but still with all the trappings of flashy lights and sirens that so captivate little boys. My inner child really does enjoy driving a fire truck and my grown-up adult self enjoys serving my community. I didn’t see that future coming … but it makes for a rewarding present.

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