Sunday, 17 August 2014

Hindsight + Foresight = Insight

It was my 30th birthday yesterday. I have never been one for big parties, but deciding that it's a milestone, my wife and I organised a poker night for some close friends and ended up having an amazing time. 

I am listening to a second audiobook at the moment, "Start" by Jon Acuff. This is the same author that I had referenced in previous posts. His stuff was recommended to me by a friend. He has an engaging way of communicating, and even though the content is not life-changing, it is thought provoking enough to keep listening. 

His idea in this book is about following your dream... I think. He goes on about finding the thing you really enjoy and discovering that which brings meaning to your life and then how to pursue this life's purpose from beginner to expert level. 

Let me take a step back before I get to him, and get to what I want to talk about. 

I was driving in the car on the day before my birthday. I haven't had any depressing thoughts about being 30 until it dawned on me that I was on the last day of my 20's. I started to think about the last decade and realised that the me that I have got to know as a twenty-something is on the cusp of fading into history. Danie will never be a twenty-something again. That is a weird feeling. 

I was having this thought and was calmed by Jon who was babbling into my earphones that your twenty's are about learning. A time of your life where you would have done your studies and have jumped from one interest to another. You would have had a couple of jobs but you would have a better idea of what you are good at at the end. You have a whole bunch of experiences that you can sift through to find out what your talents are, what makes you happy, what makes you unhappy, what you suck at etc. 

He continued that the next phase of life is the editing phase. This means you that learning has brought you to a point where you know what the handful of things are that you can see yourself doing in life. Your passions. In the editing phase you hone in on these and start applying yourself more intentionally. You become better at the things you want to spend time on and you leave behind the things you have tried and just didn't fit.

This made me not feel so bad as I realised that I had undergone this process and that I'm now at a pretty decent jumping off point for the editing phase. I never wanted to believe that music would only be a hobby and not a profession. At 20 I refused to believe I wasn't going to be a career musician. At 30 I am extremely grateful that I am not a career musician. I have rediscovered an interest in mathematics and I had also realised that, as enjoyable as teaching was, I did not want to make a career out of education.

Thanks Jon. You saved me from not having an answer, or excuse, for myself as I sat thinking about this last day of 20's. 

Later that day I told my mom about this strange feeling, jokingly asking her if there is anything to do on the sunset of your 20's! Much later she told me that a friend of hers just found out that his wife had only 3 months left to live, and how this is so similar, but also has such a sad, sharp contrast to my feeling.

Wow. So terrible how jumping from "what do I do with the last day of my twenties' to "what do I do with the last three months of my life." 

I won't pretend that I know in any way what that it feels like to stare finality straight in the face like that. But with me looking back at my twenties and then having the realisation that life definitely is finite made me feel like I had a clear view for a moment of a person's journey. 

I haven't given it much more thought than that. I will be thinking of my mom's friends often though. Stories like that do something strange to me  and I keep thinking about how no one knows how they must feel, or at least very few do. This won't stop their story from playing out in public, and the group of people that they interact with taking part in their tragedy, whether they want it or not. Some onlookers will be empathetic and others insensitive, while others will just be human. Placeholders of the population, just like they should be. But the degree of suffering must be so great, hurt so much and make them feel so lonely. 

Back to the moment. 

Simply, we need to be the analyst (have hindsight) and the entrepreneur (have foresight) to have clarity in the moment (have insight). This is what I am discovering at work these days. My boss had some figures that the group had all decided were our targets for the financial year. They were great targets and they were very intelligently broken down into the different arms of the sales business where the money was going to come from. 

In the last week I spent some time working backwards from these targets, but I simultaneously played a numbers game where I looked at which metrics needed to change in order for these targets to be reached. I discovered that some drastic changes in the status quo were required. There was great tension between two specific figures. The numbers of transactions per month and the average transaction size. 

The assumption was made that the average transaction size was going to be larger. But how much larger is something that wasn't really addressed. If frequency of transactions increased, then the transaction size was relieved of some of the pressure. 

I shared this with our team and it felt like we were seeing things through new eyes. A new urgency hit our department of what needs to be done to make sure the targets are achieved. 

If we only have hindsight we will never dream. If we only have foresight we will only be dreamers. If we have both then we transform into exactly what the moment needs us to be. We have the wisdom of the past and the vision for the future. 

I think about the past. I hope it has taught me what I needed to learn. I am a natural analyst and I struggle to dream. I have to now start dreaming and then I will be able to edit my life and find more in the next decade than I expect at this moment in time. I hope that if I then find myself in the sad situation of my mothers friends, hopefully years from now, the tragedy will feel defeated by a story of purpose when I look back. It will still be sad and will still hurt. Death is mercilessly awkward and desperately cruel in its finality. I would like to think however, like a curtain drawn back to let some sunlight in, that I wouldn't have regrets in how I have loved and how I have lived. I hope that the warmth of loving relationships and living life with meaning will make that moment one where I don't feel like fate is bullying me, but one where I am standing in a room filled with souvenirs of a good life. 

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