Inspiring Obstacles

The following is my horoscope for the week of April 10th (taken from the WE Vancouver newspaper).

Are you sure you have enough obstacles? I’m afraid you’re running low. And that wouldn’t be healthy, would it? Obstacles keep you honest, after all. They motivate you to get smarter. They compel you to grow your willpower and develop more courage. Please understand that I’m not talking about trivial and boring obstacles that make you numb. I’m referring to scintillating obstacles that fire up your imagination; rousing obstacles that excite your determination to be who you want and get what you want. So your assignment is to acquire at least one new interesting obstacle. It’s time to tap into a deeper strain of your ingenuity.

This is so on the money. Exactly how I feel, especially in light of recent realizations this morning.

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What’s My Identity?

Discovering my deeper passion

Over the past few years, I believed that my passion in life was systems and my purpose was to heal or optimize these systems. Looking back on my life this has made sense to me because I’ve seen these patterns within it, as I shifted from one system to another.

Growing up, I was immersed within and loved nature as an ecosystem. Later I fell in love with roleplaying games and computer games, both of which are basically social systems. Through computer games, I became fascinated with computers and eventually the Web which are technical systems. Finally through building communities in games, I became fascinated with organizations which returned my interest back to social systems on a much deeper level (i.e. culture, aka values, beliefs, behaviours).

Inspiring People

But recently, after discovering Simon Sinek and listening to him speak about his passion, something changed. I related to his passion which is inspiring other people. This in turn reminded me of my mantra from years back (i.e. Connect. Empower. Inspire.) and made me realized that this was a cyclic way of playing, learning, and working through life.

Still, something didn’t feel right though. I related to him wanting to inspire people but using Simon’s own methodology of discovery, I asked why were we so interested in inspiring people? After thinking about this for a while, it dawned on me that I wanted to help people feel alive because this is what sparked my own quest and hero’s journey of discovery. I wanted to feel alive in my own life.

But still, again it felt like something was missing. I knew that figuring out your passion, purpose, and vision in life, helped you to authentically and creatively express your whole self and thus made you feel alive. But what was the singular word that encapsulated this all and symbolized it?

Reconnecting With The Past

Luckily, just the other day, I was fortunate enough to meet up with an old client and friend of mine who I had helped when I did web design work. During our conversation together, I couldn’t help but see the synergy between us both. Normally when I have conversations with people, I’m seeing things at a deeper level than they are but with Peter, he was completely on my level. That’s because Peter understands and teaches the secret of business which is relationships (real ones that is, one’s that involve empathy at their core).

But during our conversation Peter mentioned a couple of things that stood out for me. He mentioned that my conversations with him during the discovery phase of his website design really helped him to understand what he was all about at his core. He also humorously said in a third person narrative way that, “Nollind was my litmus test for authenticity, consistency, and absence of hype or fluff.” I loved that he said that (so much so that I’m going to use it as a referral quote) because it spoke at the heart of what I was trying to do with my web design clients. I wanted to help them to authentically and creatively express what they were all about in a simple yet powerful way, without any superficial flash or hype.

Sparking Conversations

After the conversation, when I was reflecting upon a lot of what he had said, that’s when something sparked within me. All of this time, I had been reiterating that systems were my passion. And I knew that the trinity of systems were relationships, information, and identity. Even more so, I knew that these trinity of words formed a narrative themselves. People connected and formed relationships, empowered themselves through this shared information, and then finally inspired themselves to action when they saw the collective identity and purpose they were all trying to work towards. In effect, the many become one entity, one collective identity.

That was my passion. Identity. Suddenly when I realized this, many things started making sense and falling into place. It explained why I always loved building characters (i.e. character development) within roleplaying games (both online and off), so much so that I laughingly remarked I could spend the rest of my life doing it. It also explained why I loved playing roleplaying games when I was younger and being the game master within them. I loved putting epic challenges and conflicts before people to see how they would rise to the occasion and react to them which in turn revealed their real identities (i.e. conflicts define us).

This also explains to me why so many people love playing online games today. They get to participate in and contribute to solving epic challenges and conflicts that brings out the best in them, their social potential. No wonder it’s so addicting for them and why they feel so alive doing it, in comparison to a job where they are just told to pull a lever like a robot and they can’t really contribute their own ideas, their own creative self, as a human being.

My Emerging Identity

All said and done, with this new understanding now, everything makes sense with regards to my identity and what value I can bring to others. It even makes sense with regards to seeing myself as a bard whose archetypal characteristics are playfulness, wholeness, and uniqueness. That’s because I help people to see the hero in themselves by playfully discovering their unique identity, thus making them feel whole, epic, and alive in turn. And when that happens, that’s when the social potential within the singular individual and the collective organization are released like a tsunami of social change.

Barn Raising, Wikipedia

Social Capital

Understanding the value of social

For those who occasionally visit my journal here, to see what I’m up to from time to time, you’ll probably notice that I haven’t been posting here very much lately. The reason for this is that I’ve been experimenting and exploring elsewhere, primarily on Google+.

Google+ has been very good to me. It has connected me to people and allowed me to participate within deep and meaningful conversations that I probably wouldn’t have found anywhere else. In effect, it has shown me that there are many people out there just as passionate as myself in wanting to bring about social change.

But that said though, the more I immersed myself within its conversations, the more I felt like I was losing myself, my focus. Don’t get me wrong though. This had nothing to do with the people within these conversations. It had to do with me and what I was specifically searching for and what my intuition was trying to tell me I wasn’t finding there (yet).

Economic vs Social

What made me finally realize what was wrong was reading a new book by Marina Gorbis entitled The Nature of the Future. Within the book, a chapter on money discusses the differences between economic power and social power. It even emphasizes that our primary focus on money is causing our loss of social. And more importantly, there are things that can’t be achieved by economic power alone but require social power.

When I reread some of these points the other morning, everything seemed to click and make sense, not only with regards to the Google+ conversations but with regards to the conversations with myself over the past ten years or more. The crux of the problem was this all consuming focus on money.

It All Comes Down to Money, or Does It?

But what’s wrong with that you might ask? We need money to survive, don’t we? Well that’s just what The Nature of the Future is trying to tell us. Not only is the way we work changing but the way we are rewarded for our work is changing as well. Social power or capital will let you achieve and acquire things that wouldn’t be possible with just economic power or capital alone. It is the Social Era remember.

But again this is why the conversations on Google+ felt wrong to me. People obviously wanted social change but it seemed like the heart of every conversation eventually led to figuring out a way to make money from this social change. But again I was no better than others, as this was always my focus over the years as well, primarily due to internal and external pressures. Therefore if I wasn’t figuring out a way to make money, I felt like I was societally irresponsible and unreliable.

Missing the Deeper Connection

I think this is why for the most part I couldn’t really connect with people on a deeper level because money was a blockade to creating that deeper connection. For example, I’ve repeatedly told some people that I know that I’d like to create a social group, like a guild, that connects, empowers, and inspires us all with a specific intent. For most people though, they don’t see the economic value in it, as it just seems like a waste of time since “time is money”. Even for myself, this has been a big piece of the puzzle that I couldn’t figure out and articulate to people, that is until now.

I now realize that this social company of people isn’t primarily about making money. It is the deeper social value and support that it brings to all of our lives and what we so desperately need right now to overcome these hard economic times, just as the family of Marina Gorbis had to endure while living in the harsh economy of Russia when she was younger. Even more so, it is this social aspect of our lives which gives us meaning in a seemingly meaningless and chaotic time, as we transition and try to make sense of our way from the old world to the new one.

Moving Beyond Money

What I find remarkable about this is that years ago, when I put my resume online upon Craigslist and indicated I was an online community developer seeking a caring company to help, I actually got a wave of very positive responses. Two of those responses in particular were from small companies, one a non-profit, that I connected with on an extremely deep level but they didn’t have the funds to pay me initially. At the time, I chatted with them a bit but eventually parted ways saying I need money to pay the bills. Now I realize, in looking back, I actually gave up the chance to do something socially meaningful in my life, regardless of the economic value of it.

Going forward now, I’m much more aware of this and will not determine my work on money alone. Like Marina Gorbis indicates in The Nature of the Future, there are other ways of trading and barter services that can just be as beneficial. Of course, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to work for money at all. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. For those organizations who can pay, I will be charging a substantial fee because I believe that I’m worth it. More on that in my next post and what value I believe I can bring to my future clients.

Man of Steel

What if a child dreamed of becoming something other
than what society had intended.
What if a child aspired to something greater.

I have to believe that you
were sent here for a reason.
And even if it takes the rest of your life,
you owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.

You will give the people of earth
an ideal to strive towards.
They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall.
But in time, they will join you in the sun.
In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.

Connect. Empower. Inspire.