(from inspirational people with incredible stories)
It all started out as a way of doing research and investigation for the writing of my book, “The every-year itch”. Finding and interviewing people with unconventional lives and businesses for The every-year itch Podcast; people who had overcome adversity, created their own path and thought and acted outside the famous box. People who had scratched their itch and were still doing so. In interviewing these people, I found and continue to find the most fascinating human stories of expressing an original, hard fought for, personal way of living and working. Stories, recognisable and honest, that will hopefully leave you with the feeling that it’s all possible for you too. Experiences of breaking the rules and deliberately swimming against the current, which it turns out, is full of risks but rewarded with wisdom, creativity and innovation.
We are accustomed to read the news stories of how someone made it to the top, how they reached their medals, made their money. We have this incessant focus on the end result and want to learn ways of how to get there too. We want to know the mechanisms of success, a summary of how they did it so we can copy. Like an instruction manual which will enable us to follow the chronological steps to inevitable fame and fortune. Yet so many people are in search of more meaning and connection than a bottom line result alone.
Every single person I had the privilege to interview for my Podcast did not see their own story as finished. Which is possibly the reason they were surprised to be contacted by me. They had embarked on this journey one step at a time, sometimes moved by big questions such as “how do I want to be remembered?” or “what is life all about?” Some had given up secure, pensionable jobs or degrees to travel the world, start their own companies or create a more meaningful existence. Some were motivated by the “is this it?” question, or felt literally like two people in one body, one doing what was expected, the other dying to escape the rate race.
Some jumped and others dipped their toe in the water, but all exercised their ability to make a choice and all chose the route of the most resistance. “You are taught to be a robot” actress turned wellness inspiration, Danni Tabor, told me, “but you’ve got to learn to be you”.
None of them were done, bought the t-shirt having it all figured out. “It’s not a fairytale” award-winning documentary maker Alex Bescoby said. “I’m a workaholic, but my work doesn’t feel like work now; I remind myself often, that I chose this!” When I asked people what obstacles they had overcome, some asked me why I posed that question in past tense. “The world simply doesn’t move at the pace you want”, author and social media the Giving Guy, Chris Strub said. “It’s a life long journey in which patience is a virtue. If only we could value the mistakes we make. Success could be NOT making the mistakes you made three years ago”.
From the outside it might seem that all these contributors to the Podcast had achieved great things, they had somehow made a success of “doing life differently”. Yet, there is no destination when you follow your itch. “It’s like writing your own script”, one person told me. “If you previously operated on unhelpful assumptions and belief systems, then realise that you can train your mental muscles and re-construct something that works for you”.
Without exception every single person had travelled what I call in my work the Bridge of Change and found that there were still many bridges to cross. Dan Furlong left behind a long battle with anxiety and addiction, deciding to turn tough times into fuel for the future. Because “purpose needs fuel” according to entrepreneur and environmentalist Bill Liao and “you can do well and do good”.
In all these conversations purpose and meaning featured. The celebration of being yourself and putting those unique talents to great use – “digitally detox and protect your assets, which is you!” Having Time director Lesyia Li suggested. People frequently said life is short, you only live once and follow your heart. This might be easier said than done, and there certainly aren’t any off-the-shelf solutions, but no participant in this Podcast would change what they have conquered. All of them said they were less drained and more energised by working creatively and by following their gifts. If that means being less secure and having more ups/downs, it also means more personal development, professional richness and diversity.
Every single conversation re-inspired me. It taught me that the biggest obstacles to figuring out your personal story and potential is the fact that we feel alone and a bit crazy for aspiring to want something that sits outside mainstream living. More than once people told me to “find your tribe”, and to surround yourself with like-minded people. But even though each single person’s story is unique, it didn’t seize to surprise me that there are so many of us. Even though the stories are different, the sentiment of needing to find a personal, suitable way was the same. Whether driven by meaning, purpose, a bigger picture or just by enjoyment all these people could not just work for money alone. They desired to exchange their time for other things as well, such as engagement, inclusion, diversity, learning, adventure or doing good.
Not one person I have spoken to about the every-year itch, was keen to put others off. Many said, go for it, do it, because doing something that is chosen by you is so much easier to maintain. Why don’t we ponder upon the following questions more, as suggested by the interviews: What is your super power, what makes you feel alive, what are you curious about, what -to you- is the other side of failure, or what would you do if you stopped worrying about what other people thought?
Life can feel prescriptive, as if you have got to go from this point to this achievement, before you can unlock other doors. Maybe we are all in search for something similar and it’s scary to go after it, but we can all do with a dollop of lightness. “Do something that tickle your taste buds”, “put on your red lipstick, you’ll feel different”, “life is like going to the gym- you need to keep it up”, “I get tired, but I have elation!”, “Burpees remind me that in life most pain will end” and “take a big grin wherever you go”.
With gratitude to everyone who was open enough to have the every-year itch conversation with me. Continue to inspire and be inspired.
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