Wednesday, 5 November 2014

The power of choice

(Today's office - SLOW lounge @ ORTIA international departures)

It is a fact that different people lead different lives, and you don't need a degree from Harvard university to come up with that gem of wisdom. But what is amazing is how significantly different people's lifestyles can be and how they ended up in their particular situation.

Take for example, the career that you find yourself in. Or, for those of you that wouldn't call it a career, the thing that you do to bring home the bacon. How did you end up where you are now? What would you much rather be doing if you could make a living out of it?
Career possibilities are endless. You can make money doing the strangest things these days - not all of them fulfilling by any means, but none the less, weird jobs can make enough money to get by on. Ten years ago, a "Social media marketing expert" was unheard of and certainly not going to make enough money to keep the bailiff at bay. Then there are people making a killing out of simple blogs - do yourself a favour and google it. Online marketing has created a whole new industry that never existed when I was growing up. Then there is that guy that gets paid a fortune to manage some exotic island! (Seriaaaas)

The other day, I called around to try to find storage in Stillbay for some of our furniture, only to be told that at R600 per month, all the space was full and there was a waiting list. So, essentially, someone with a little foresight, built a couple of storage garages a few years back and now enjoys the fruits of this without too much hassle - how difficult is it to manage a couple of locked garages! Easy money, maybe, but somewhere along the line he took a measured risk and made a choice. It seems to have paid off.
With all the travelling that I have done around SA over the last month, I have come in contact with so many small business owners. From people developing software solutions, innovative guys starting out with little more than a good idea and a heap of faith, people selling a myriad of goods and even some clever marketing companies. What do they all have in common. Well, in my opinion, very little. Except that they all made a choice to do what they are doing. Some may have had less of a say in the matter than others due to circumstances, but still it was a choice to some degree.

The internet guru flavour of the day seems to be to tell people to follow their dreams. "If you can dream it, you can do it". Well, yes and no. Yes, you should be doing something that you truly enjoy and find fulfilling. But does that mean that just because I love watching old cars being rebuilt on the Discovery channel, that I should go and start buying a bunch of scrap Landrovers (leave the jokes) and rebuilding them. No, it doesn't. Allow me to digress for a while to explain...

About 5 years ago, I was working at Sishen Mine in the Northern Cape. The Discovery channel sent a film crew to the mine to do a story around the colossal mining trucks that one of our contractors was using at the time. Being one of the few English speaking miners, I was given the task of accompanying them for the 2 day shoot and assisting them to set up the shots that they needed. It was both an interesting and trying time! A cameraman, I discovered, will do almost anything to get the perfect shot - not a good thing when you have the worlds largest trucks running around the mine. None the less, the shoot went off without a hitch and I got to see a reality TV program in the making. The real lesson came a few months later when the program was aired on Discovery. The result ....... very little, if anything to do with the real situation that was filmed. The story was concocted and aimed solely at creating suspense and a good story for the viewers. I suppose I should have guessed that, but the extent that the story differed from reality was a real eye opener. Since then, I believe very little of what I see or read in the media.

So back to the point .... What you see on TV, Facebook, twitter, the Sunday papers etc is not always the reality and probably only reflects a small version of reality. The media dictate to an extent what you think you want to do. They have become the authorities on what the perfect life is supposed to be.

Think about Facebook. When I go on holiday to outer eastern Mongolia, in all likelihood I won't post the photos of me being subjected to a full cavity search at the airport. No, you get to see all the wonderful Instagram edited images and you think ... "Wow, I wish I was there". That's how most people portray their holidays and even everyday life - the happy times, and mostly they are, but you get the point. The media these days is more fantasy than reality.

What I have found is that so many people let the media shape who they are and what they do. I think that is why life was so much easier 50 years ago. If you were living in Pofadder you would never have heard about the crime in Hotazel, let alone Johannesburg.  You wouldn't know who Oscar Pistorius was and you would care even less what he got up to in his prison cell. Today, you get second by second updates on his daily routine. Think about it,  does it have any influence on your life whatsoever? Should it? I for one, feel pretty down after I read about a boat accident that killed 200 refugees trying to get out of some poor country in Asia and into the promised land of Australia. Yes, it is a terrible and tragic event, but just think about it. Should I really know about  this? Should it affect who I am? In my simple opinion, no. And before someone jumps on a high horse,  think about spending that time and energy on changing someone's situation a little closer to home, where you can make a difference. Do something positive instead of reading or watching something negative and see what a difference it makes in your life and others lives.

Am I saying bury your head in the sand? Perhaps a little. Switch the TV off. Forget about Facebook and Twitter for a month. Don't pick up a newspaper. Get involved in your local community projects. Work in your garden. I can guarantee you that you will find more peace. You will enjoy your job more, or maybe,  just maybe,  you will spend quality time thinking about what you really should be doing... If nothing else, your family will welcome the change.

So, enjoy what you do, or get moving on doing what you should be doing but, and here is the punch line... be sure to follow your own dream and not one concocted by the media.

I'm off to practice what I preach...

Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.

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