I watched a short video last week of Ukrainian entrepreneur Anton Yermolenko describing business as a deep inner process and some of the stages of his journey so far. (It’s here for a short time if you want to catch it).
He described how when he first just did business to make money, he became depressed and so then he then started thinking about how to find meaning in business.
Classic story right?
It was the next bit that grabbed me though.
His current thinking/position, which he said was fairly new to him, was to stop thinking about his business as his business. To stop thinking about it as an entity that wasn’t him. That he wasn’t Anton building a business, he was “Anton building Anton”. His business is him.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this.
If the things we do in life are ways in which we are building/growing ourselves…
Here’s some reflective questions I’m sitting with based on this proposition:
- When I think about the different activities (work, relationships, hobbies etc) I spend time on, what am I growing/building in myself, through these activities?
- How can this awareness bring more intentionality and depth to the way I do these things?
- Are there some activities that are growing stuff I don’t like/isn’t good for me? If so, why am I doing it and what needs to change?
- Are there some activities where the growing is actually done and it’s time to move on? If so, what makes it hard to leave? What needs to happen to make leaving possible?
- The things I’m doing that I’m grumpy about doing, is it because the growing/building is a bit stuck, or am I at an edge to stop doing the thing?
A personal example to illustrate…
I think about my growing love of knitting and yarn. I’m obsessed by the process of basically turning string, something that feels a little two-dimensional, into a very three-dimensional thing that’s useful and sometimes beautiful. It feels like a kind of magic. And I love the colours, I could gaze at them for way too long.
So what’s this growing in me? How am I not ‘Liz making a pair of socks’, but ‘Liz making Liz’?
I’m not sure I fully know the answer yet, it’s still unfolding, but the first thing that occurs to me is that I am coming to know myself as a creator. To build a connection in myself with the role of one who can transform basic materials into something new (literally and symbolically). Every time I challenge myself to make something that I don’t yet know how to make, to learn new techniques, I am mapping my learning journey as creator in the things I make. The colours I like and don’t like of course also reflect my tastes and therefore identity, but more than that, my love of colour represents a journey of embodiment and sensuousness – that is, to know myself as body in relationship with world through senses, as opposed to the dominant western construction of self as a brain in relationship with the world through analysis.
How is this relevant to cultural repair?
It could be easy to label this process of deep reflection as narcissistic but I don’t think so.
Western culture is easy to critique as a materialist and self-absorbed culture. It’s true, but only superficially – I think we need to go deeper on both.
If we were deeply materialistic, we would deeply value objects rather than treat them as disposable and replaceable. This deep materialism isn’t just about stuff though, it’s also about our attitude to the earth and our bodies (all the same thing). When we’re materialistic in a shallow way, we see our bodies and the earth as endless resources that can be overworked, under-cared for, and fixed by technology when that doesn’t actually turn out to be the case.
But when we deeply value the material world, which includes the earth and our bodies, we act to preserve, enhance, repair, nurture, and nourish it.
And are we self-obsessed? Yes, but again, in a shallow way.
If we went deep with a process of coming to know ourselves over time, our role in the world, our contribution, that would look really different to posting lots of edited selfies on social media.
So what are you building/growing/making?
What are some of the things you’re doing that are you making you?
What changes when you think about the things you do as processes of creating self?
Share your thoughts in the comments 🙂