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why lifeshifting?

Lifeshifting came out of an article I wrote for Esquire in 1996 when I interviewed 6 people who had made radical career shifts. I spoke to a lawyer who had become a worker on London Underground, a physiotherapist who became a dive instructor, a criminal who became a disc jockey, a footballer who became an artist and an IT specialist who became a hard access war cameraman. I realised that UPSHIFTING ie. the career, was dead, or at least dying. I knew from my own time living on peanuts that DOWNSHIFTING ie. dropping out was pretty miserable around Christmas, especially with kiddies. So that left this new kind of living where you found exactly what you wanted to do by LIFESHIFTING ie. changing your life so that it centres around what you want to do rather than around a way to make money. The idea is you do YOUR THING during your primetime and earn money at other times, or from your chosen interest. But what really appealed to me, and still does, is that multiple lifeshifting offers a practical application, or one of them, of POLYMATHY. Call it really practical polymathy.We are lead to believe that all 'top jobs' are occupied by smart people. But really smart people don't have jobs.I mean- why would they? Of course at times they (ah the mythical 'they') work very hard. But this work is like the work you do on a hobby that really absorbs you.

And those 'really smart' people don't often seem so very smart when you meet them, rather they appear enthusiastic.

I later found that many of the people I interviewed later went back to their old jobs- but only part time, the rest of the time they continued with their new interests and enthusiasms. I know from writing for a living that making money out of the thing you love can, if you aren't careful, turn into a treadmill which makes the thing you love(d) into the thing you'd really rather avoid...So lifeshifting isn't a panacea, rather its a way of energising yourself into making growth changes in your life.

I've also worked away at something I call TIMESHIFTING. This is very exciting as an idea but a little slippery to grasp but really it is changing your subjective perception of time passing by increasing the amount of learning in your life. It also includes making better use of that time by organising it around ways that suit your life pattern rather than a 'one size suits all' time of time management system.

There is a lot of material on LIFESHIFTING and TIMESHIFTING to be found in the archive or in the sidebar article listing ->



andy warhol's advice

Notice what you like doing.

Do a lot of it.

Find a way to get paid doing it.


trust and polymathy

Specialists only trust themselvs in their own area. In unfamiliar territory they have to rely on other specialists in other areas. So they get used to not trusting themselves. When Story Musgrave became an astronaut (he went on to log more hours aloft than any other US astronaut) he found that his background as a surgeon and an engineer helped in space where you have to rely on yourself. But he noted that it was his farm upbringing, where he learned 'to fix everything' that gave him the right mindset to be a self-reliant person. Being polymathic, having multiple expertise (even the mildest variants help) is therefore very beneficial in improving self-trust, essential even.


trust yourself, trust others

I used to go to a corner shop in Oxford all the time. I'd buy milk, biscuits, newspapers- maybe twice a week for months. One day I didn't have enough money- instead of trusting me the shopkeeper said, with the fake appearance of helpfulness, 'I'll put it on one side for you.' He didn't trust me, or, rather, he trusted his 'system' better- his system being 'never give credit'. In Egypt systems are suspect. No one trusts them much. But they trust people. What that means is: they trust themselves to judge whether someone is a good for their money or not.

I used to think trust was like gambling. Some people have nerve- they go for the big pot and sometimes win and sometimes lose. But trust isn't gambling, it's the real form that certainty takes. (There are myriad fake forms of certainty- all various kinds of obsession or monomania). So, in Egypt, you can go into a shop you've never been to before, have not enough change and they'll trust you to come back and pay. They trust themselves, you see, to know what a trustworthy person looks like. It's not so crazy- in the West we trust ourselves to drive fast on motorways without crashing or losing our nerve, we trust ourselves to hit a ball over the net with a tennis racket even though the racket has no 'sights' or aiming mechanism. The problem is that we face many years of schooling that attenuates our natural ability to trust ourselves, and, instead of developing that ability and growing it, education stunts it and shunts it off into trivial areas such as sports and driving...

The West in its current form is largely, in its official capacities, centred around dismantling trust situations and replacing them with machines, systems, ideas, questionaires, 'transparency' and other forms of evading the issue. Which is: learn to trust yourself. It starts small: can you trust yourself to get from A to B with a map? Without a map? Trust yourself to make money from a business? Trust yourself to bring up children? A great traveller, Helena Edwards once told me, 'On every journey there comes a point when you just have to trust.' You have to trust yourself at that point without any help from google, friends comments, ideas, theories- you have to take the plunge and trust. And in those situations it always works. Trust me.

Governments don't trust us? Why? They don't trust themselves. People who want to 'change the world' imagine that if they got a new government things would be better. But who governs us, in the West, is far less significant than learning to trust yourself. This is the beginning of a real world changer- trust yourself, trust others. It's catching.



Freedom, anger and violence

The violent man, meaning, usually, the angry man is a man who has been denied freedom. Or has, through some self destructive urge, propelled himself into places where freedom is denied. Prisons make men angrier, that energy, though negative, spirals back through society- hence the ubiquitous cool of prison garb as a street fashion- sagging belt-less jeans, grey trackie pants- I'm angry, give me space. Lebensraum, camps, the strategic inculcation of violence- all part of the same dynamic. How to break it or use it healthfully?

Anger and its obverse, depression affect the body as inflammation. We become enraged, inflamed. No wonder that inflammation, often cited as an auto-immune disorder is so widespread. what have we got to be angry at- we're living longer than ever, better than ever? Freedom, of course. Our sense of personal freedom is under constant attack - we can go to fewer places without permission, we can say fewer things without offending someone, we need more money just to have a roof over our heads. Many realise there are a great many freedom opportunities out there- more than ever before in some ways. At the weekend I met a man who has walked round Britain- along the beaches- 'It's the freedom, isn't it?' he told me with that urgency that commands attention - yes, he was on to something. Art, too , brings immense vistas of freedom. Making things brings the joy of endless childlike occupation but also great possibility.

So we seek travel and we do art and that helps. But we are forgetting that man is a tool user with a capacity for necessary violence. Chop a tree down, fashion a hand axe, use a bow drill to make fire- all these require a certain measured violence. Percussive bursts where you MEAN it. No shirking, bang. It's why we love chopping when we cook- it's the first thing kids want to do when they see a real chef- chop carrots as fast and well as he, or she, does. It isn't a wholly male thing but through the strange distribution of hormones and brain patterns men seem to need more chopping than women.

At Wigtown festival this year I met Lars a friendly Norwegian who promoted axe work and chopping wood as a universal cure all. He was on to something for sure. I had simultaneously discovered that using a mattock- which looks like an adze- to clear my vegetable garden was far more beneficial in mind and body than using a spade or fork. The adze chops. Not in a crazy aggressive way, in fact if you watch women using axes in the third world they do so with a minimum of fuss and wasted energy, they raise the axe and let it fall. The axe does the work, they add direction and a little committment. That little extra, directed violence, is what has built this overbuilt world we live in. We chop, we pick axe, we break down walls- we escape to freedom and then build those walls all over again.

Every exercise routine needs an element of simple percussive action- chop wood, do karate or aikido, break the soil using a mattock, do press-ups on your fists, chop everything before you cook it. Control and use the violence. Find freedom.


Failure is rare

Failure, as applied to human effort, is rather rare in my experience. Much much more common is simple giving up. A decision taken that it is 'not worth' continuing. People persuade themselves and others to give up. Later they may call it failure, but the only failure involved was the failure to keep going. And that point, when giving up is most attractive, is almost always just before a real breakthrough, an opening that reveals a downhill ride to completion and success.

Hang out with people who forestall and minimise the attractions of giving up, who, when you leave their company, leave behind a verifiable trace of optimism, light, and interest in renewed effort.


which would you rather be?

Someone who never loses their balance; or someone who is quick at regaining their balance when they have lost it?

Much of our education and unconcious 'life training' inclines us always towards the impossible fantasy of never losing one's balance. Yet have you met anyone who has achieved this without becoming a rigid fool who controls their environment in order to avoid appearing foolish?

In order to practise regaining your balance you must also practise losing it. Not all the time, but from time to time.

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