“There are two rules I’ve always tried to live by: turn left, if you’re supposed to turn right; go through any door that you’re not supposed to enter.
It’s the only way to fight your way through to any kind of authentic feeling in a world beset by fakery.”
– Malcolm McLaren
Getting fired should become a ritualistic behavior for more and more people.
We live in a day and age whereby the punks of the world set the tone for breaking the status quo, for kicking it right in the arse. Punks are innovative. Punks are expressive. Punks are honest. Punks get fired.
Punk is about being alive.
To me, ‘being punk’ means having the integrity and perseverance to do what makes you happy, in a system that often challenges every fiber of our being.
The simple truth is that most ‘jobs’ cause stagnation and complacency. Even if a workplace culture develops (or imposes) levels of ‘innovation’, there’s usually a limit, a threshold, to what a person can achieve on their own, or what he or she can achieve with others. People typically aren’t motivated or inspired by the prospect of creating things — they’re motivated by losing them. That’s the way we’ve been socially engineered, so to speak.
There’s also the idea of meritocracy, which is mostly counterintuitive to the way businesses currently operate. I used to think that if I did great work, if I exceeded expectations, I’d be rewarded for it. Sadly, that’s rarely the case.
My parents always taught me to never cut corners or to cheat the system. They had a tremendous work ethic (still do), and instilled in me a prideful way of doing things, of making things. They also gave me the freedom to create and experiment. That was probably the greatest gift they bestowed upon me, and the fact that I didn’t have to build a career.
Instead of a career, I’ve developed a vocation, a passion for an overall craft. What is that craft? It is a multifaceted desire to democratize information systems. I’ve effectively created my own system of merit.
That’s ‘what I do’: I democratize information systems. I do it through skills built in developing technologies and telling stories. I do it with the intention of transforming businesses.
Maybe that sounds hokey, maybe it doesn’t. Fact is, I’ve never held a title that did my intentions justice, so in telling the truth about my intentions here, that is my declaration. Naturally, a recruiter wouldn’t have the foggiest idea of what that means. You don’t typically ‘place’ someone into a job with that kind of descriptor. Then again, I’ve had more than a few headhunters represent me, and not one of them ever landed me a job. I’ve always created my own opportunities, including the positions I’ve held at companies.
If I know what I do as well as I should, then I also know that as an ‘outsider’, I bring a ton of value to companies. As an ‘insider’, there’s a tendency to become a commodity. I’ve been rendered a commodity for the majority of my career. A lot of people know that story. Of course, there are great exceptions to the rule. I’ve held some good jobs. Nevertheless, playing the higher odds never afforded me the chance, a real chance, to build my craft. Which is why I’ve always created my own opportunities.
Being vigilant, being punk, has, over time, enabled me to attract people I really respect and admire — good people with strong values. Those are the people with whom I work, and I’m very grateful for that.
I do what I do for living, not just for ‘a’ living. I do it as a way of seeing. Seeing is the ability to understand what drives you, and, what about that drive motivates others. Getting to that place — developing an ‘eye’ for the way things are and the way they can be — has been quite a trip, to say the least.
One of the main reasons why I don’t hold a lot of fear is because I’ve built up my muscles for risk and uncertainty. A lot of people constantly live in fear.
Fear of success.
Fear of failure.
Fear of losing a position to someone else.
Fear of responsibility.
Fear of self-expression.
Fear of the unknown.
The fear that doing the right thing will cost you something.
Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. Maybe it doesn’t really matter.
When you experience enough loss, enough ‘losing’, your perspective shifts. You lose your fear. You let go.
For now, I can honestly say that this realization changes your relationship to the world, to life, to people, to beings and all living things. When you don’t fear things, you embrace life. When you embrace life, you focus on what’s important, which is to become the best person you can be. You learn how to make those left turns in the face of seduction, or in the heaviest moments of adversity. You develop the skills and perspectives in becoming human. You manifest them as a human becoming. Becoming, like anything emergent, is a constant state of awareness, of higher consciousness, a form of refinement that propels you to think and act on behalf of other people.
That is, if you so choose.
Getting back to the subject of work, and getting fired, this is, of course, a game-changer. You start to reconcile with the fact that business is just a lens into the human condition, and if you treat it properly, you can transcend all the bullsh— resident in ‘the system’. Living in higher consciousness is an amazing thing, but it is also an incredible responsibility, and often times, quite a burden.
The word ‘business’ is funny, when you think about it. Separate it and you have the words ‘busy’ and ‘ness’. Those two derivations essentially translate to “the state of being busy”. That contradicts the forces of life, of being or becoming. So we need to be careful about what we want from business, and what business means in our lives.
I just mentioned that the responsibility piece isn’t easy. Living and working within the system allows you to check out, as it were, to deflect ownership of certain roles and responsibilities, to not be responsible for yourself or others. This is basically why many companies, and some of the people who play certain roles within them, are so royally screwed up. Being responsible, or becoming accountable, is a choice you are free to make, and it doesn’t mean anything other than you’ve made that choice.
However, if you want to enjoy the benefits of becoming, you must choose to become. And there’s lots of meaning in that. Sometimes we suffer on account of it. But that’s okay. That’s why we’re here.
There are three really important things I’ve learned about being punk and evolving as a human becoming. Perhaps they might mean something to you, in your own way, and through your own intentions.
1. Artistic expression is a necessary virus to allay the fears of the masses; (‘We’ are the mass; let’s stop living in fear, and be our truest selves, together.)
2. Stories are genomic and ribonucleic in nature; narratives literally shift consciousness and manifest certain outcomes (‘dark’, ‘light’ or ‘other’). Whether it’s your story, or ‘a’ story, what each of us says and does really matters;
3. There are multiple realities through which we experience ourselves becoming, and through which we experience truths “on the part of the other”. This is essentially the journey of life, in all of its grit and glory; more importantly, it’s how we become ‘we’.
Being punk liberates the self from imposition and limitations tied to “what isn’t” or “what can’t be”. So, if you start a company, or spawn an idea, cherish it, because it affects everything around you. Everything you say and do affects everything around you.
When we create ‘businesses’, we are actually activating a type of intent, an intentionality of sorts. We are making declarations to the world that “this is what we are doing” as well as “this is who we are”. But remember, when we do this, we are also confronting the busy part of consciousness, most commonly experienced through the unconscious part of ourselves. So, we must always try to be our word, and be present to our actions. We must also be accountable for those actions. As companies, we must be who we say we are, and do what we say we do. Some people call it ‘showing up’. And the reality is, successful companies do just that: they show up, despite all the bad stuff we experience within the system.
Joseph Campbell said that if you want to change the world, change the metaphor. In business, if you want to change the world, or disrupt a market, become the metaphor, or the intention you seek to manifest.
Companies spend a lot of time jockeying for position, and manipulating scenarios to achieve certain outcomes, and making false declarations about who they really are (we see this a lot through advertising, as just one example). We’ve all witnessed scattered results and nefarious policies borne from that approach. Look no further than the current economy for a live use case of why it’s not sustainable.
The punk part of you, as a member of any organization, insists on becoming a catalyst through some form of artistic expression. I believe that artistic expression saves the world from itself. It can certainly save businesses from themselves.
People — especially young people — are often told that they aren’t artistic, or that they can’t create things, or that they are strictly ‘right-’ or ‘left-brained’. That’s nonsense. I’ve personally witnessed accountants completely transform themselves with certain tools, in the right environments. I’ve seen programmers step outside of their shells and look at their work as art. People are capable of truly incredible things when they allow themselves the chance, and when the conditions for being comfortable to create are made available to them.
Artistic expression is everything. Even in making money. Hell, Warhol thought making money was the best kind of art.
So go make art. Be punk. Be you. Make great stuff, and be earnest about it.
And if you decide to work for other people, get fired as much as possible. Captains of industry and a world mired in transition will thank you for it, sooner rather than later.
Written by Gunther Sonnenfeld Dec. 21 2014