For those of us heavily engaged in Lifestyle design, it can be tempting to feel like we’re cheating the system. I mean, obviously “they system” (as Tyler Durden and a slew of counter culture characters, fictional and living, have told us) is rigged… rigged to keep us unsatisfied, so we’ll buy stuff we can’t afford, and have to keep working, generally at jobs we’re not passionate about, which allows the system to produce more stuff to sell us because we’re unsatisfied with working all the time. Money and man hours keep getting fed to the machine.
That’s the capitalist organism, and it can be a fun sort of game to see how much you “can get away with”, when you play just outside the normal ecosystem.
Maybe it’s credit card signups to travelhack all your flights for the year (check). Maybe it’s spending months reading tax material in depth, to learn how to best file for your advantage (check), maybe you had a sales manager at some previous job guide you with the effective-if-dubious maxim “sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.” (Check. Said manager would soon fire me over another issue… guess I should’ve asked permission first, on that one!).
But, left unchecked, the desire to quietly hack the system can entangle its way into your identity until it becomes another attachment… another compulsion… another distraction from the things that matter — a pull in the exact opposite direction of whatever your particular value-driven goals are. It becomes a weed that has to be pulled from our overcrowded garden where we want joy to be.
It watched this at play in my own psyche today.
Someone my company does business with has brought a third-party into their relationships with all their vendors. This equals new costs for us – financial, temporal, and intellectual, to revise our processes and jump through their new hoops. As you can likely hear, this hasn’t thrilled me. I’ve seen the change coming down the pipeline for a little over a month, and I thought we might be able to dodge it. I did some early research, and then stayed really still and hoped it wouldn’t be able to see me if I didn’t move. It got foregrounded in our interactions this week, and isn’t something we can ignore anymore.
The system hacking side of my entrepreneurial personality is pissed. Maybe it’s my profound attachment to running a lean operation, or maybe it’s the splash of anti-authoritarian spirit that runs in my blood (“hi dad!”), but there is a definite chorus of torch wielding voices in my head insisting that this third party has no business whatsoever in our dealings, and we shouldn’t have to bother with their burdensome requirements.
Fortunately, those voices aren’t the only ones in my head…. And fortunately, those voices don’t win, in me. They might be the guiding internal advisors for our current political leadership, but that’s another post altogether.
The truth is, I’m able to see why it benefits our business partner to have this third party involved, and most likely, none of their requirements will prove insurmountable. But I had to stop flying around the room like an untied balloon, spewing out all my righteous babble, in order to be able to put order to next steps.
When I was thinking “maybe we should try to sneak under the radar a little longer” or “maybe they’ll keep not noticing we haven’t enrolled in their systems yet”… my channels for cooperation and communication were completely blocked. My brain was set to “Stealth Mode”, and an entirely unreasonable portion of one’s energy in Stealth Mode has to go to staying stealth. That blocked my creativity from being able to see any next steps beyond how to best stay hidden.
I’ve been alive long enough to know now, that a plan to stay hidden isn’t sustainable, and is incredibly taxing to everyone involved.
As I drafted my email to my team this morning, attempting to provide guidance and recruit support in taking appropriate next steps, it became clear that I had to let go of my attachment to “outsmarting” the new policies. These new costs are now the costs of doing business in this particular marketplace, and they will most certainly be less than our costs would be if we let go of that venue altogether.
AND, even trickier for me to recognize and internalize: No one is out to get us. When we’ve habituated the idea that we live in a hostile universe, every move around us feels like an attack. I’m working on rewiring this now, but I still have to really slow myself down and help the scared parts of my personality see that really – I’m not under fire. The addition of this third party to this marketplace will ultimately be good for the customers in that market, and I can empathize with the decision to incorporate them. I may not like having other people meddle in my business, but I certainly don’t want to live in a world where company owners can skate around consumer protections because it inconveniences their business systems.
What I didn’t anticipate was the immediate availability of calm, resourceful awareness that was freed up, as soon as I decided to set down the “Stealth Mode”. I sat down, beginning to draft that email, as a bubbling pot of frustration and confusion. Once I removed the “don’t call any attention to us” variable, next steps became easy. I laid out the steps of compliance that were unclear and recruited our appropriate (and awesomely capable) team member to get on the phone with the third party, and figure out how to make this work with them. Easy. Clarification, communication, and delegated cooperation. Once we’ve opened a collaborative relationship with this new entity, it seems obvious that we’ll have their support at successfully integrating into their systems (why would they want us to fail at supporting them?), and the next steps will each unfold with help, instead of hiding.
Instead of a flailing balloon, I felt like a boss.
It strange, as I write this, I notice that the virtues I”m extolling are those of transparency, authenticity, empathy, and collaborative intent. Their guiding lights have shined the way to better-than-I-could’ve-believed connections in my personal life (maybe I’ll blog about that later ;-)), but somehow my penchant for strategy, and identification as someone who “outsmarts the system”, still sneaks up in the way of these other areas of my life. I think I’d rather have the extra energy. I think I’d rather drop the fight, and have creative clarity.
My mind challenges me now: Does that mean I’ll stay transparent, on my upcoming #vanlife roadtrip? Does that mean I won’t pull up into random parking lots, to quietly jump on unsecured wifi networks when an opportunity arises? Does that mean I’ll be able to resist the urge to try to hide from Park Rangers, and sneak into that perfect, secluded dispersed camping spot? Does that mean I’ll always put in the work to find a legal place to park my home-on-wheels overnight? I don’t know. But as far as I can tell, I kind of hope so.
Just like I’ve said in my relationships, I won’t be perfect. I will mess up. I’m sure I’ll slip into stealth here and there again and again…. But now that I’ve clearly identified the peace and productivity that are available best the identification, past the fear, past the cunning, I suspect I’ll get better and better at setting it down again.
As for parking my mobile mansion, I can just remind myself this: sleep really freaking matters. I’ll give up my stealthy sleep for a deep sleep, any day.