At the end of last year I wrote a post about the downside of Hyper Expectations and Ambitions (HEA). I guess living in silicon valley it’s easy to get jaded with the negative effects of our fast paced journey to change the world. It also didn't help that I hadn't had a holiday for 3 years. Since then, however, I’ve visited my hometown in Brisbane Australia for 3 weeks. The truth is they live a very different lifestyle there. The government and other institutions help provide a powerful safety net for those who are sick or unable to find work, the environment is beautiful, warm and welcoming and the people expect (or in some cases demand) less from each other. Those that stand out or show off can even be shunned (a phenomenon we call Tall Poppy Syndrome).
The result is that things there are more laid back, the lifestyle is more comfortable and people suffer the downsides of HEA far more infrequently.
This can be a very fulfilling way to live and many people there are (rightly) happy and healthy.
It was, however, a cold splash in the face having just written about the negative aspects of our Silicon Valley ambition to be confronted with the opposite. It reminded me in stark ways how different our lives are and what some of the advantages to living with HEA are.
So in counterbalance to my previous post, let me try to summarize some of the advantages of HEA.
Fulfilling your potential
If there's one thing that upsets me the most and keeps me up at night it's the concern that I or someone I know is not living up to their potential. One of my defining characteristics is a thirst (some may some lust) for the potential in things. I am far more interested in what could be than what is. A great example of this, in fact, is my very poor relationship with times, dates, orders of magnitude or 'rules'.
The great thing about HEA is that it vacuums out most of the reasons/excuses for someone to not live up to their potential. All of us here are insisting to ourselves and each other that we do the next great thing we know we can do; Or better yet, to do something that scares us.
Remove the roadblocks and put aside the excuses. We attempt to extract every last drop of potential and turn it into outcomes.
Extraordinary and Surreal Experiences
While there's great value in routine and tradition, we with HEA are far more interested in doing things that are extra ordinary. I split those two words on purpose. Things that are outside the realm of an ordinary life.
Backstage at a concern. VIP at a party. Hanging with a personal hero. Writing a line of code that affects millions of people. Writing that blog post that might influence the influencers. Living in beautiful places. Meeting with smart people. Disrupting that tired business model. Changing the way people live.
There is no patience for the mundane here. Instead there's a strong hunger and appreciation (and for me, real-time nostalgia) for doing things that are out of the ordinary.
These moments are priceless. And if you're lucky, they happen often in Silicon Valley.
Changing the World
People with HEA get to change the world. With a line of code, a great piece of UI, a new business model or a conversation with the right person.
Through our skills, ambitions, ideas and access we have the smallest possible gap between our intention and their manifestation into reality and this is not only the ultimate super power (think Neo/Matrix) it's also a precious gift. We use this super power to make a real dent in the universe (#namethatreference).
The heading here might be fairly grandiose but in many ways it's true. In San Francisco this town has thrown out most notions of 'right and wrong' and embraced philosophies that are radically different than most of the rest of the world. From Gay Rights to massive temporary communities in the desert based on the sharing economy, we are forcing open the definition of what it means to live, love and be human.
Almost every day here I have conversations that vacillate from short term tactical business concerns to wide sweeping philosophical quandaries - and back again. Relationships here are just as likely 'non traditional' (open, polly, casual, gay, bi, whatever) as they are traditional.
These are all related attempts to leave dogma in the past and explore what the future might look like.
For some of us with HEA we're not just trying to ship software or make millions of dollars, we are trying to better ourselves.
Leverage and scale.
Through all of the above, and much more, we get to live high leverage lives. In some ways our work is no harder or easier than the work of coal minors or brick layers (in other ways its obviously very different, but go with me here). We work long hours in back breaking postures and rarely see our families or have enough emotional capacity to invest in some of our relationships. We get to invest similar energy and sacrifices yet touch more lives than most and, for some, make a lasting impact. That's the gift of leverage and scale.
So there we have it. Like with all things there are both upsides and downsides. The trick is moderation in all things (my mother taught me that - hi mom!).
Up and to the right.