The Atlas

Inspiring a plan

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I am an inspiration junkie. I always have been. And as someone with -- at best -- a belligerent relationship with institutionalized religion, I've always sought my inspiration in work. When it's taxed me, run me over and wrung me out, I've envied moments of truly envying people who can go to work, punch a clock and leave at night to return to a family and hobbies that they can pour their passion into. I have never been able to do that.

Of course, that's come at a price. And the older I get, the more I question the real ROI associated with those trade-offs. But even more than that, I recognize that I can't keep looking in the same places for inspiration, because the circumstances that created it no longer exist. It's time to look elsewhere.

There is a new podcast I love called Unholier Than Thou. In it, Phillip Picardi, a queer, historically-identified-as-atheist journalist chronicles his quest to figure out his relationship with spirituality. What I love about the show and his search is that he doesn't limit his search to just the traditional options, but opens it up to activism and science and recognizes that the search for meaning is rooted in connection, something that feels especially pertinent during a time of social isolation.

As a notoriously cerebral person, I've historically struggled with the cognitive dissonance associated with my intellect-first way. of looking at the world and my visceral craving to feel overwhelmed by an all-consuming inspiration -- much, as I imagine, deeply religious people frequently feel. The older I've gotten, the more into my brain I've settled, and the more cacophonous that need has felt.

Twenty-five years ago, I gave up the career path I'd always envisioned for myself and shifted my rather singular focus to a new, exciting industry in its early days. I fully appreciate that there is a parallel universe out there where another version of me made a different choice, but this version of me can't fathom that. The fingerprints the early days of the tech industry left on me are indelible and unequivocal. I couldn't change them if I wanted to.

But what made that time and place such a stimulating, life-defining influence on me was a combination of factors that I can't recreate -- my idealism about the potential of a new industry to be an economically democratizing force for small business, the great unknown about what would work and who would build it, the crazy assortment of hard-working, creative, tenacious people who would be drawn to the challenge, and the Wild West nature of an industry unencumbered by best practices, white papers and A/B testing.

Joseph Campbell once said, "We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us."

While my quest continues, I have started settling into a renewed awareness that the year prior to the Zombie Apocalypse set a pretty amazing stage for me to return to this quest: my six months abroad answered some critical questions about what I want in my life, my relocation to Miami last year has now settled several more, and as I now face a white board of my life, several key questions are erased and a whole lot of empty space for some new options. But in a new social, economic and political paradigm, what exactly does that mean?

Damn good question.

And while I am far from figuring it out, I have silenced the mind monkeys enough to register one, essential criteria: my hunt won't be over until I am inspired.

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