Being Afraid to Live a Small, Ordinary Life

Within the last year, Colin and I have realized that our law firm should support “small, ordinary lives.”  These people aren’t small or ordinary to their loved ones or the people they work with, employ, and/or support.  They aren’t small or ordinary to us.  However, living in Seattle, which is bustling and hurryingly becoming the “next Silicon Valley,” it’s difficult not to get swept up in the hype. It brings with it this idea that we should all be going for VC funding and trying to create the next Uber, or Facebook, or Amazon. They will be the overnight success. The flipside of that is that people who do not have those ambitions are somewhat ignored or at least given less importance. Oh, you have some sort of mom-and-pop business that provides you with a decent living? It would be a lot better/cooler/more remarkable if you were trying to take over the world with a billion dollar valuation from a VC company.

And there’s nothing wrong with the people who are!  More power to them AND we need those breakout successes to push industry forward and to work on the “big ideas.”  It simply seems like a minority perspective to focus on the people working on smaller ideas or to focus on the people supporting the people who work on the big ideas.  And this tendency to push aside those working on smaller, but often no less interesting, ideas touches on the scarcity mindset Brene Brown touches on.

I’m reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. I loved her TED talks. I’ve been trying to get Colin to watch them and to read the book, but so far, I’ve been unsuccessful. That’s a different story/argument. In Daring Greatly, she talks about the scarcity culture that we’ve created for ourselves. For people familiar with the life coaching industry, you may be familiar with the term and think to yourself, “oh yeah, we should have an abundance mindset.” Sorry guys, this is not that.   In Brene Brown’s book, the opposite of scarcity culture is being Wholehearted and thinking that you are enough because scarcity culture stems from a “shame-based fear of being ordinary,” that what you do and who you are isn’t good enough. She says it more eloquently and over many pages, but my takeaway is that we are often hurting and lacking true connection in our lives. As a result of our fear of opening up, being vulnerable, and truly connecting with those around us, we seek to emulate celebrity and grandiosity in some way.

But there’s nothing wrong with a lifestyle business. In fact, it’s quite remarkable. Being a business owner is tough. It can also be incredibly rewarding but it’s an immense amount of pressure. To create a business that provides for you and your family, or even just for you, is truly a remarkable feat. Not only that, but you’re having to build relationships, have people rely on you, put yourself out there in ways that most others do not. You worry about your business, your clients, your employees even after “clocking out” for the night. At least, Colin and I do, and I doubt that we’re alone in that. And we’ve been sucked in by the bright lights of stardom or that celebrity lifestyle. Sure, I’ve fantasized about creating some multi-million dollar business (is that even cool anymore? Maybe a multi-billion dollar business)…and when I reach this level of achievement, I will also magically be thinner and more beautiful, with big sunglasses, stepping out of some fancy tinted-window sportscar in a fabulous outfit at a trendy hotspot. And then I think about the fact that…well, will any of those things actually make me happy? After reading Stumbling On Happiness, I can say that the chances are that it will not make me happy. Or, at least, the happiness felt from those things will be ephemeral at best. My friendships and family make me happy though. I want to be secure. I want to be surrounded by family and friends. And I want to be interested in and fulfilled by my work.

That idea touches on the themes in this Economist article.  The idea that our work often gives us purpose and community in an often-disconnected world.  If you were to ask Brene, though, she might say that burying yourself in your work is a way to avoid the vulnerability of being lonely and disconnected.  So, I suppose it comes back to  what we each value?  For me, though, I’d rather live in the authentic world Brene Brown paints a picture of then the faux-busy world of the Economist journalist.

I have my own plans for world domination, but I don’t expect fame and fortune to follow. It won’t in the fields that I am pursuing. I’m more likely to be vilified than vaunted, but the ideas and journey excite me. The problems intrigue me. And whether my pursuit of world domination gives enough to buy an island or a small home (or neither)…well, it will be enough for me.  Especially if it’s full of my family, friends, and a furry creature to pet.