Today I met someone for the first time who had read my LinkedIn profile and so pretty much knew what my CV looked like. But then after ordering coffee he asked me what am I REALLY interested in, as if he could see past my CV full of all that digital marketing stuff. "What keeps you awake at night until 3am?" And in the answer to that question, I found that I could articulate for 2 hours the concepts that have been brewing in my head for the last 20 or more years.
I understand from friends that this is one of those questions that interviewers use because it brings out what's bubbling in your sub-concious. And sure enough out spills my inner-most thoughts to a person I've never met before. What keeps me awake at 3am? At first I start to describe my interest in alternative economic systems. This is dodgy ground for me, however, because I am certainly no economist. Recently I bought Thomas Picketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century. I had to admit defeat within a morning, but swear I will be back to this once I've managed some slightly lighter reading.
But underneath this academic interest is the more heartfelt notion that people should be more important than possessions, probably spurred on by my dear Mum who thought that possessions and a detached house where the post-depression pinnacle of success. Many times I have reached financial success only to dash it down because I wanted to experience something more raw, more meaningful than buying more glitz.
We can probably all remember those pivotal moments in our lives that formed our thinking. For me it was the first time I saw Charles Handy talk about the dawn of the portfolio career in the early 1990s, to a book called "Your Money or Your Life", an introduction to Naomi Klein of No Logo fame, to the anti-capitalist ramblings of Russell Brand and the Guardian's slightly more sane Owen Jones. Like a thread through time the themes repeat themselkves; my degree show artwork about the meaning of work as the basis of the meaning of life; a reincarnation through yoga as a means to understand equanimity. Even in my marketing training the words "There is no right answer" was music to my ears and Maslow's hierarchy of needs made so much sense to my 20 year old brain. Surely life was about self-actualisation, not basic day to day needs.
What keeps me awake at night and pondering during the day? It is in finding the answer to human worth when we cast aside materialism, how people can define themselves not by what they own or a job title, but in terms of who they really are. This keeps me awake at night, that and an ever expanding collection of books that I have neither the time to read, nor sometimes the intellect to fully understand. But here lies the crux of my meaning and my work, to think differently, radically, in search of the answer.
What keeps you awake at 3am?