Same, same but different

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There’s something really special about family holidays, maybe it’s the sleep; or the time; or maybe it’s the sea… whatever it is, the soul is somehow enriched and we most often come away remembering who we really are. It’s the “who really are” part that seems to be my focus right now and then that nagging question: “how do I keep remembering to be me when the holiday is over?” And: “why do I need to anyway?”

My particular family beach holiday has given me time to explore old stories: stories of my youth shared with my teenage son, and even more wonderfully, stories from my folks – of their youth, of growing up then, of what it was like and how they got to be who they are today.

Some of these stories I’d never heard – and some of mine I’d never shared.  Some because we’d forgotten, some because they were hard, mostly because they were stories about how our lives were different.  Different to the fairy tale, different to the TV show or the book or the movie about “how families are”.  Interesting really, that it’s these stories – some of struggle, some of growing up differently, all shared with laughter – that have had the greatest impact, these are the ones that make us exceptional.

We spend years learning, and then teaching our children, how to fit in.  How to adjust, how to be part of crowd, the gang, the team… And yes, all of that is important.  Finding sameness allows us to connect, to collaborate, to share our journey with others.  This is vital for our own sanity, for our happiness for our success in our chosen careers. We know that human beings are social creatures and that we need community to thrive.

We (I…but I suspect some of you too) must also remember though, that in order to thrive we  also need to be different, and that our difference is by design.  Each of us are unique.  Not only are we created differently physically (for my scientist friends), down to the tiny details of physical attributes, but we also are created differently emotionally, mentally and intellectually. Some of that by design, some by experience, some by choice.

But how does all of this matter in our working lives?

Much of how we work today has its roots in the industrial revolution circa 1820.  Certainly the 8 hour working day, the rise of capitalism and the status of women in society stem from that time.  Whether you believe Alice Clark who maintains that when capitalism arrived in 17th century England, it lowered the status of women, who went from being engaged in many aspects of industry with a sort of equality, to division of labour with the husband taking paid labour jobs outside the home, and the wife reduced to unpaid household work. Middle-class women were confined to an idle domestic existence, supervising servants; lower-class women were forced to take poorly paid jobs. Or whether you believe Ivy Pinchbeck who argues that capitalism created the conditions for women’s emancipation as women were employed in large numbers in retail and clerical jobs to support rising standards of consumption. Either way, the industrial revolution changed our society, especially the role of women, and 200 years later we still haven’t managed to find the ability to discourage this need for sameness.  Same working hours, same way of work, same social “norms”, same role of women – we are still plagued by our history.  We are still trying to be the same.

Why haven’t we noticed? Or if we have, why haven’t we created the way of work for the new revolution? Today we are living in whole new world – in this postmodern world, whether you call it the social age or the big data age or the multimedia age –I’m a bit more from the activist camp – so let’s call it the thinking revolution. In this revolution, we are differentiated by what we know and how we think, it’s an era of change and one of embracing the unknown. It’s one where we learn something new every day. Now, more than ever, thinking differently and being different are essential. So why do we keep forgetting? Why do we still yearn to be the same?

Now that the history lesson is over let’s get back to my original point “how do I keep remembering to be me when the holiday is over? And: “why do I need to anyway?”

The second question is easy, because we are in a revolution and you don’t want to be left behind (keep up for goodness sake!).

The first is more difficult.  On this I can offer some lessons that I have learned from people much smarter than me.

  1. Run your own race

I once read a quote that went something like this (google and I couldn’t find the exact words – I think it was John Maxwell but I’m not certain on that either) “when it feels like everybody is running faster than you, it may just be that they are running in a different race”.  It’s as simple and as a difficult as that. You have to keep being the you that you were meant to be…every-single-day! We need to remember to keep running in our own race.

  1. Listen to your drumbeat

I have the privilege of working with an incredible wise and talented woman who has become a very special friend.  She taught me that we all have a specific drumbeat – a special call in our heart, and when we live that drumbeat not only to we outperform, we also have unending energy and the ability to inspire change. We all know that drumbeat, sometimes we just chose to allow it to dull. Don’t!

  1. If it’s too difficult you are doing it wrong

My mother taught me “if it’s too difficult you are doing it wrong”. That lesson applies as much to opening a package as it does to relationships as it does to the work we choose to do every day. If it feels too difficult you are probably in the wrong race or you’ve let your drumbeat dull.

I’m going to carry the memories from this holiday and these delightful history lessons with me as I return to my race. I know the temptation will be as great to switch as it always is, but I also know how hard it feels every time I do.  So if you know me, and you love me – when you catch me switching events – please remind me of these words! And I’ll do the same for you.