Compass

Fresh Perspectives You Can Use.

Make Your Own Decisions

eBook 'The REAL Facts of Life'I thought I had seen it all.

But now we just stood there, mesmerised : right in front of St. Jakob church on the medieval paving in the old town of Villach, a young man – alone, totally absorbed – played his guitar and at the same time juggled an array of electronic devices with his feet, making some really beautiful instrumental music. Multiple instruments, mind you!

The contrast to his venerable surroundings couldn’t be bigger. He turned out to be an Australian in Austria and personally handcrafted his unusual four-string guitar from an old, precious piece of piano. He composes his music as he plays along and sells it on CDs.

An unconventional fellow, like many others we saw at Villach’s annual StreetArt Festival last week : very friendly, utterly passionate about what they do, and very non-conformist. I like people like that.

For adults it takes courage, though, to be different and stick out from the crowd – I wonder why sometimes.

After all, it’s a fact that we are all different – nobody is exactly like anyone else, not even ‘identical’ twins. And that’s a good thing : just imagine how boring life would be if we were all the same.

If it is natural to be different, why are most of us afraid to show and express our uniqueness?

Because from the moment we are born, there is enormous pressure on us to ‘fit in’, to behave in a way that’s ‘acceptable’ to the people around us.

And there is a good reason for that, too : the urge ‘to belong’, to be part of a group is also natural for human beings. In the early days of mankind, nobody could survive on his own – the different skills of the members of the tribe, combined to achieve a common objective, defined the success of the community, and still do.

So there is no conflict here : everyone makes a unique, valuable contribution and lives happily ever after …

If only it were that easy : if we want to fit in, why does it take pressure to be accepted in a group, and where does it come from?

Most of the influence to conform is well-meaning and comes from family and friends at first, meant to help you do well in life. They taught you the facts of life, what worked and what didn’t, and helped you avoid many painful experiences.

Later, peers and superiors largely with their own agenda join in the chorus and steer you in a direction that suits them best, rather than having your interest at heart.

That’s where the pressure sets in : different interests are trying to dominate … it’s all a power-game!

Wherever we turn, there is a swarm of institutions and lobbyists these days telling us that the world is a dangerous place – selling us a safe berth in their harbour and convincing us that we can’t live the dreams we are having.

Many of our cultural influences are strong, others are subtle – we need to be fully aware that part of their mission is always to keep us in the herd.

Staying alert is not easy because our natural filters against the information overload in the media cannot cope anymore – we can’t switch off altogether to escape this game, so we develop an attention deficit to protect ourselves as best we can.

Initially, we have set up our social, commercial and political structures in a way that used to enable a small group of naturally courageous, resourceful and talented leaders to guide a majority of followers.

But with the power of leadership comes responsibility and I get the impression that personal accountability often gets lost these days, somewhere along the way to the global village.

Leaders don’t seem to think of their followers as individual persons anymore – for them they are groups, markets and voters … herds. It’s a lot easier to direct and manipulate a few uniform, labelled masses than to convince six billion people individually to buy the flavour of the month or go to war.

And the prestige of leadership depends on followers – if there are no followers, where does that leave the leaders?

Every self-professed expert hands out his glossy brochures these days and makes us believe that he alone has the power to make our dreams come true, whilst the decision to follow is always made by ourselves.

In whose hands is the real power then?

Value, just like beauty, is in the eye of the individual beholder. There is nothing wrong with being selfish, in fact it is a lesson we all have to learn : to listen to ourselves and to our own innermost desires in the face of so many other options offered to us.

I am not suggesting that there is a conspiracy to prevent us from making our own decisions, but our generation has been conditioned in such a massive way that we no longer recognise the influence of a belief-system that denies the importance of personal feelings.

Ready-made ladders are put up for us everywhere and we are hypnotised to climb the rungs en masse – only to find out at the top that the ladder is leaning against a wall we never wanted to be on.

Don’t get me wrong : I am not condemning this system, just observing. We have all agreed to follow the rules of this game, we chose our place in the cage – and now it’s difficult to see the exit, although it is wide open.

But some do and get unplugged, like the young musician at Villach’s StreetArt Festival – I just love it!

Until next time, all the best from : Berend

Wednesday, 1 August 2007 - Posted by | 1. COMPASS eNewsletter

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