I finally arrived in Beirut on January 13th, 2017. I’d been dying to explore ‘the Paris of the Middle East’ for years. Lebanon did not disappoint. I made incredible friends doing inspiring things with their lives, from journalism to wine bars. I discovered Lebanese cuisine, which I thought I knew about all my life but clearly didn’t (imagine Indian food in India versus Indian food in the food court). I left with new perspectives on war, conflict, and hope after talking to people deeply affected by Syria. And it was the 22nd country I’d been to in three years.
Leaving a successful career in Sydney three years ago and putting a great deal of effort creating a location-independent lifestyle, I now work on projects I love, sans office. I vagabond around the world while building skills, relationships, and work experience. The diversity of my projects – producing Instagram content for airlines, directing social media for reality TV shows, crafting communications strategies for tropical getaways – is matched only by the diversity of my workspaces– a cafe in Singapore, a wooden cabin in a remote Ecuadorian village, a balcony in New Delhi, a New York-bound Qatar Airways cabin.
So please don’t judge (not just yet) when I say: my status quo needs disruption. I want the next three years to be way more adventurous, bold, and creative than the last three. This doesn’t (necessarily) mean that I want to climb the world’s tallest construction sites or move into the Amazon rainforest, but I do want push my mind out into previously unimaginable places. To do so requires going right back to square one and becoming a beginner again.
Working in the advertising universe for three years, my status quo slowly crept in as a subtle complacency, and eventually the money become a safety net that took precedence over new creative ventures. If I kept my job, I’d use it as an excuse not to expand my horizons. And so Beirut evolved into a space to explore my innermost needs. Did I want to venture out, yet again, into uncharted territory? Did I want to start from scratch again and make a fool of myself? The questions scared me. And thrilled me. By the end of my visit, the answers were a resounding ‘yes, yes, and yes’. The brave young people I met, chasing their dreams in a region all too familiar with life-threatening conflict, certainly inspired me. And so February marks the first month away from advertising and the first month dedicated to writing.
Now, the reason why I say I’d like to disrupt my status quo is because everyone experiences a unique state of affairs that they’ve become just too comfortable with. A lot of people hate their desk jobs (or don’t quite love them). But not everyone’s status quo is the oversimplified corporate ‘9 to 5’ way of life. And the status quo isn’t just work related. It’s about personal growth in all areas of life. It might be your health. Your sense of adventure. Your relationships. It might even be your sex life. Most importantly, it’s about your state of mind.
What’s your status quo? Take a moment, a few moments, or a few months to define it. Seriously. It’s worth thinking about and then making a commitment to disrupt it. Pretty incredible things can happen with reflection and inspired action.
Once you shatter your status quo by doing things differently, you’ll eventually notice things getting a bit too comfortable again. For some people it’ll take years, for others much less. But once you get there, you’ll know its time for reflection and disruption once more. In fact, you’ll probably notice that personal evolution is complex, messy, non-linear, and ongoing. It never stops. And that’s beautiful. Embrace the beginner mind. As Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki says, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”
Here is a small selection of books, podcasts, documentaries and other resources that informed and guided me deeply over the past few years, helping me define and disrupt my status quo:
Shunryu Suzuki: Zen Mind, Beginner Mind
Tim Ferriss: The 4-Hour Workweek
Julia Cameron: The Artist’s Way (in particular the ‘Morning Pages’ practice)
Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now
Tara Brach: Radical Acceptance
Ashlee Vance: Elon Musk
Josh Waitzkin: The Art of Learning
Gabriel Garcia Marquez: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Herman Hesse: Siddhartha
Aldous Huxley: Island
Richard Bach: Illusions
10-Day Vipassana Meditation Retreat