Life-Experience is the New Work-Experience (Breadth > Depth)
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” ― Augustine of Hippo
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain
My wife’s brother died. Our baby son died. Our foster kids left. My wife lost her memory. Our son was hit by a car. All separate, painful experiences. It was awful. It is still awful. And not just for us — we have three other boys that experienced the suffering of losing an uncle, a brother, bonus siblings, a mom (she lost her memory for a time…her memory came back). Fortunately, we have consciously designed our work and family life in a way that allows freedom.
Our dream is to set up our professional lives to provide us the freedom to be there for our kids: breakfast before school, huge hugs when they come home, and high-fives at their team games. Travel when we want to, significant contributions to the world, and our total availability to serve others are key to our ideal life together.
That’s our dream, and we’re living it. Today.
You see that picture up there in the header? That was just a couple days ago.
My entire family (me, my wife and our three sons) are on a two month trip visiting ten countries in Europe. This isn’t our first family mini-retirement. We also did North America from NY to SD to MX to CAN by car…for fun…for six months. In fact, our entire marriage of almost 16 years I can’t recall there being a time (expect when we had the foster kids for 2 years) when we didn’t go on multi-month road trips, camping trips or just getting away.
Breadth of experience.
If I only had depth of experience, I’d be stuck with my head buried in a hole so deep I wouldn’t see the opportunities all around me. Ostriches are cool, but humans shouldn’t hide from the world by burying their heads in work — we miss out on life (and better work!).
The old adage “jack of all trades, master of none” doesn’t make sense today. In fact, in the 21st Century, if you’re a master of one, you’re a master of none. Why? The world changes so fast that the thing you mastered becomes irrelevant overnight or is automated.
This isn’t new.
Each time throughout history that a new era of rapid advancement happens, the key players to the progress and the winners in this economy have a breadth of experience. Yes, depth is important. Depth gets context when breadth gets attention.
Creativity lives at the crossroads of breadth and depth.
Creativity lives at the crossroads of breadth and depth because depth has little to no meaning in isolation. When breadth is applied to depth people find new applications for deep knowledge. The phenomenon of applied creativity pushes boundaries to the point where there really are no mental borders and anything can become possible if we can only think it up first.
There’s a name for these types of people: polymaths.
Definition: “A polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, “having learned much,” Latin: homo universalis, “universal man”) is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas — such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems…Wower defined polymathy as “knowledge of various matters, drawn from all kinds of studies […] ranging freely through all the fields of the disciplines, as far as the human mind, with unwearied industry, is able to pursue them”.”
The most famous polymath is Leonardo Da Vinci. Da Vinci was many things: a painter, an architect, an inventor, an engineer, a theatrical producer and on and on. When you read that, don’t for a second think that you need to be a genius like Old Leo to be successful. Just take note that Leonardo did not pick a lane and stay in it. In fact, it could be argued that his genius came (or was enhanced) because of his diversions. Oftentimes, a jack of all trades becomes a master of many. Further, a jack of all trades finds what appears to be genius when they cross-pollinate ideas — create applications of thinking to totally new and different (seemingly irrelevant) things.
If you want to experience the depth of life, it’s not going to happen by digging deeper. The depth of life is found in the breadth of living. You need to see more and do more to become more.
Life experience is the new work experience.
It’s those that are creative and can find new applications of thinking to current problems that can find or create new streams of income anywhere at anytime. Polymath-like people are good at figuring things out by leveraging existing resources. The crazy thing is that it’s not always “genius” — it’s just being self-aware. Polymath-like people see the resources and what they can do, while the depth people with the blinders on keep looking straight ahead without realizing they already arrived.
5 Ways to Get Breadth of Experience
Everyone deserves to live in a way that can create money, meaning, and freedom to live life on your own terms, no matter the circumstances.
If you’re ready to revolutionize your lifestyle, here are some quick tips to help you forget the résumé, “identify the gorilla,” and use the seven qualities we discussed to create money, meaning, and freedom for yourself:
1. First, choose where you want to live.
Ultimately, where you live is the lifestyle you choose to have. Many people choose a job first and allow their employer to dictate where they live.
2. Choose work that gets you excited.
Work that gets you excited may or may not be work you’re good at, but it’s a great place to start. Once you’ve identified what excites you, then you can choose work that excites you AND that you’re good at.
3. Start a project independent of anyone else.
Put your dreams to work. Pick a project that is aligned with a career path you want to pursue. Start a project that actually fills the needs of the people/organization you want to work with.
4. Invite influential people and/or organizations that you’d like to work for to help you complete your project by a certain date.
You’ll develop genuine and lasting friendships with the people you want to work with. This is an authentic way to bump into future employers from your field of choice before they even know you want to be hired.
5. Build a business model (way to make money) around a successful project.
If you want to work for a company, your business model is to get a job with the people or organization that helped you with the project you started. If you’re already in business, your business model is to earn the trust of more paying clients because people love you and are willing to spread your message as a result of your project. If you want to be self-employed, your business model is to earn (not get) mentors as a result of your project to help you start up.
Either way, HOW you get paid dictates your life. Therefore, you need a job or a business that doesn’t require geo-specific tasks to make money if you want to get greater breadth of life experience.
Your goal is to operationalize polymath-Like thinking to gain breadth. This is done through self-concept clarity.
Bonus: Self-Concept Clarity — What You Must Know
I can see it in my kids as they become more self-aware by experiencing newness. It’s called “self-concept clarity” — a clearer sense of self. Traveling the world with kids is no joke AND it’s imperative. Don’t wait till they can “remember it.” You’ll remember it. Something happens to your character when you travel. You change.
Seek out new things to do, to listen to, to study. The more you seek newness, the more you actually learn about yourself. We actually don’t know much about ourselves until we see someone else doing things differently. At that point, we can decide to embrace it, scorn it or change it to be applied to our own situation.
The more you learn, the more creative you become IF you apply breadth to your depth.
These concepts are consistent with HSBC’s “Expat Explorer” survey which concluded that overseas living has benefits from a young age. Around a quarter of expat parents found their children’s confidence and self-reliance improved.
I published an article two years ago on Medium that is still making it’s rounds called Here’s How to Thrive in the MillennialEconomy. Embrace this or Die.
The advice is truer than ever. The article is like…seeing the future or something. It’s not though. It’s quick to adapting to new opportunities. If you don’t embrace breadth, I promise you…you will be one of those wondering “what just happened” when you don’t have a job and nothing to fall back on.
Sorry to be a warning voice. Someone has to. The older generations created this opportunity for us. The newer generations will grow up thinking this is just the way it is — like color TV.
The new economy is less a warning of disappearing in relevance with old systems and more a happy solution to greater happiness in temporal things.
From two years ago:
“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” — Milton Friedman, Nobel Memorial Prize Winner in Economic Sciences
Imagine you’re a 13 year old kid, right now. In 10 years from now, you’ll be 23 and in the labor force.
The question is, will you want to drive an hour to work, sit in a cubicle from 9–5, and then drive an hour home?
Will that make any sense whatsoever to you?
Does it make any sense right now?
With everything you need at your fingertips (i.e., your personal computer or cell phone) and being connected to people worldwide in seconds (i.e., email, social media, video conferences), you can get increasingly more work done remotely.
As I write this, I’ve been on a five month road-trip with my wife and three kids. My business has actually grown during this time. I have two main companies 1) A business development company and 2) an international sourcing company. I have no office and barely use my laptop and work with a couple dozen contractors globally. My work is done from my cell phone and my leads come from being a podcast “guester,” social media, and automated email marketing.
It’s never been easier to work from wherever you want.
And it’s only going to get easier.
So let’s go back to you being a 13 year old kid. Imagine where you and the world will be in 10 years from now.”
Note: We finished that North American family trip back then. We are now on a European tour. I have also added a third company to my freedoms ecosystem. FYI — that third company pays for my rent on a beach on the north shore that is more expensive than the teachers salary plus benefits that a university offered me…and it’s run by Eastern Europeans who I met online who are now earning from what I understand 3–4x their precious monthly income.
Welcome to the breadth of life in the 21st century.
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