“Only when one feels an insight in one’s bones does one own it. Only then can one act on it and change.” - Irvin D. Yalom, Love’s Executioner
On 30th January 2012, I bought the domain “showingmyworking.com”. Exactly 7.5 years later, I’m finally breathing some life into that seed of an idea. What happened back then? What happened during those years? Why now? How will this thing work?
That’s a lot of questions already. Overwhelming. That’s part of the reason why I didn’t do anything with that domain for years. But it’s also kind of the point. Younger Amir knew in his bones that learning is never finished and not optional, not if he were to stay sane and survive, and that learning and making in isolation, without collaboration and iteration, doesn’t work for him. That insight has leaked out in various ways throughout my life, and only now I’m owning it and acting on it. I want to hug the younger me who was so close to knowing himself but had to fight so many demons before he could.
But those stories of the past are for another time. For now, I want to tell you about what’s happening now.
Cue recap montage: I had a job. It made me look good and feel miserable. I had many great colleagues and made only a few friends. My body and mind were ailing and my bank account bulging. My partner moved out of our apartment and I lost my job. Fuck. Now what?
From April onwards I was mostly a sad, angry, debilitated hermit. I forced myself to interview for new jobs intensively because I didn’t know what else to do. I had a minor breakdown/breakthrough, so I stopped and travelled.
Then I stumbled upon Enrol Yourself. The homepage says “Grow Yourself, Together”. It just clicked. I want to grow. I want to be with people. Scroll. “Amidst increasing uncertainty and inequality, individual and collective learning have never been more important.” Yes! Sold!
I applied and now I’m in a cohort of amazing people participating in a Learning Marathon - a 6 month peer-led learning accelerator where each of us is working towards meeting a different professional, personal or societal challenge, guided by a learning question. Oh crap, what’s my challenge? What’s my question?!
I’d love to write about how I arrived at an answer, but for now, here is the shortlist I chose from (I applied to the programme with #9):
How can I combine my experiences (in tech and otherwise) with my desire to help people directly?
How can I make emotional literacy and resilience skills accessible to everyone?
How can I help more people to think better?
How can we enable more people to understand and be kind to themselves and others?
How can we build sustainable communities that optimise for playfulness and creativity over productivity?
How can I create a livelihood that I can get up for in the morning?
How can I achieve a balance of usefulness, curiosity and rest in my life?
How can I overcome perfectionism and fear to produce valuable work that reflects my values?
How can I gain the courage to express my stories in ways that reach and help others?
It’s so nerve-wracking putting this list here for potentially anyone to read (Of course, barely anyone will). Some of them read obnoxiously grandiose, some uselessly fluffy, some so basic how could an adult be thinking them (It’s OK, I know what they mean to me, how I arrived at them and why they’re useful for me).
Later on, I would distill the essence of that entire list into the following: What is my sustainable authenticity?
What is my authenticity? What do I mean by sustainable? How do I connect these abstract and fashionable terms to my actual life? This is what I’m thinking about these days.
What I don’t have any doubt about at this stage is why I need to have an answer, or at least keep searching for one. I need it because otherwise I am constantly facing inner conflict. That conflicts leads me to resentment, depression, anxiety - psychological incarceration. And I’m sick of that. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living, and holy hell, do I feel that in my bones right now.
I hate talking at people. I love engaging in conversation. Start one, if you want :)