“No Path Mind” is a phrase from Alan Watts that has encouraged my thinking to stay fluid. Like when Bruce Lee says martial art is simply the free expression of the human body: punch when you want to punch, kick when you want to kick, fake when you want to fake.
Another phrase from my friend Tullian: To progress is always to begin again.
But when your kicks are your own, then there’s nobody else to blame when you let your guard down and get smacked.
When you quit using someone else’s metric for your progress, then you must face the freedom stark naked.
When the path you choose is new, then you’re suddenly vulnerable to new problems.
I came to a place where I was convinced the best way to change the world was by building a team to accomplish a goal. The goal in particular didn’t matter, as long as it was something that was somewhat tangible, and as long as it was in conversation with a local market. The next step was to force that team to become more and more agile, more and more able to accomplish different goals, quicker on the fly. Now, I am trying to add in the important part: out-execute anyone in any market we choose to go after while living a decently-paced, healthy, communal, and spiritually-meaningful life. The team is there, the ability to solve problems, the intellect and experience are in play at the moment, but the health of every individual member has become my obsession.
To change my orientation as a founder from task manager to person who is obsessed with the quality of my team’s life has been taxing. But I came to a place where I could no longer tolerate a hint of insecurity about whether a person wanted to be on the team. I want to create a place where the second a person feels like it’s time to move on, the team is so healthy and they are so certain that they can be vulnerable that there’s no question that we will support that person however we can..
We all have a mission, but sometimes we can’t see it, we can only catch a faint scent of it.
My team is beginning to understand that their job is to create a political and cultural revolution that empowers folks to infuse their world with ingenuity and enjoyment. Right now that means they run two coffeeshops and make a ton of products from scratch and throw parties and host conversations and learn to make things more efficiently. We are creeping towards a new mission though that goes even deeper and will require an entirely new path. We had to cut the fat and kill some projects because we are realizing how to reframe our mission, how to begin again, how to deviate.
It’s weird when you’re putting something new out there, you feel like a failure all the time. In a sense, you are one, by definition. People assume if you do something, the reason you’re doing it is because you saw someone else do it. Humans are mimetic, so it’s our nature to copy people around us. Therefore someone sees you start something that — as far as they know — hasn’t ever existed, well, you must be bad at whoever you’re trying to copy because I’m not familiar with it so either its a poor copy or you’re copying someone who I don’t know and is therefore probably an idiot..
Maybe the rationale varies on that a bit, but the effect is the same. If you are doing something different, embarking on a new path, or generally not doing exactly what’s expected of you, then people around you are bound to freak out in odd ways. We live in a society. People want you to play along. If you deviate then it puts pressure on them to decide whether they should deviate. People hate being faced with decisions that they don’t want to make.
Go With the Flow is a lot different from Do What You’re Told. The flow takes into account your movement through time and space, your instincts to deviate when you need to deviate. Someone telling you what to do is about power and authority which has more to do with insecurity and fear of chaos and protecting the status quo than with your life mission. After all: We live in a society.
Begin Again. If this time you want to deviate and do something new, then do it. If not, then don’t. Just flow.