Wednesday 27 October 2010

Are you being yourself, am I?

This post has been inspired by Neils Hermus, a guy who I've gotten to know more about over the last few weeks since. Like me, he decided to quit his job, jump into the unknown, and write about the whole experience. His blog stands out because of it's honesty. Neils is writing exactly what he is thinking and feeling, and if some people don't like it that's fine by him. In fact he's so keen to ensure his true message and personality come across that he's dedicated a whole post to it.
It made me think about a couple of things...

1) Why do we pretend to be people we are not?
Everybody wants to be loved, liked or appreciated and it's very easy to change the way we act, speak, dress etc.. in order to please others. In fact sometimes it's very scary to truly admit to being the person we really are and show that to others. What if we offend someone, what if they laugh at us, what if we are exiled from our tribe or country even! Since the days in the school playground it's always been a safer bet to fit in than to stand out. Conforming to the norms of a society or a community might make it easier to 'fit' within it. But isn't that cheating ourselves and importantly also cheating others out of who we are?

Wouldn't you feel better if you could be yourself, wear what you wanted to wear, spoke like you wanted to speak, act like you wanted to act, ALL the time? What if you were totally honest, what would happen? Maybe people would get upset, maybe people wouldn't like you anymore, but maybe just maybe you'd start to attract like minded people. People who liked you for who you are, not who you pretend to be. Wouldn't that be better?

2) Why do people need to be experts?
Another great point that Neils made was that he wasn't an expert who lectured to his audience. He admits he doesn't have the answers and neither do I.

We are both simply documenting and discussing what is happening, what is working well and what is going badly, drawing a few conclusions and sharing them. I can tell you now that I am not an expert lifestyle designer, I'm just experimenting and seeing what happens. There's an excellent post about on the philosopher, Montaigne that talks about how as he became older and wiser he would use the phrase "Que jais se?" (what do I know?) more often, followed by the answer "Nothing!".

In a world that is changing as fast as ours is now (and as his was back then after the French civil war) being convinced you have all the answers is quite a stupid position to take. Surely it's much braver to admit you don't know all the answers and are able to change your point of view depending on what's happening. Wouldn't it be good if more people in positions of power or authority thought this way?

The real me
So now it's time for me to be honest with you and if you don't like it that's totally fine. I'm starting to understand it's better to have a few like minded readers rather than a massive following anyway. Here are some of my deep dark secrets so you know a bit more about me and why I'm doing this...
  • I don't have all the answers. Sorry if any of my post seem condescending or patronising, they're really not supposed to be.
  • I love music, no seriously I get so addicted that I will often stay up all night surfing YouTube for tunes I've heard one time in the distant past. It's a problem! I used to DJ and make music and would like to get back into that again.
  • I'm a clean freak and start to get anxious in dirty places or even if things are out of place. I have a physical revulsion to certain things my mind considers dirty, yes I need help!
  • I have a love/hate relationship with alcohol. It's ruined the lives of many people I know, yet I love a glass of wine, beer, saki anything. It's one of life's pleasures, yet part of me want's to never drink again. Confusing!
  • I question everything, probably too much!
  • I love food and have a hunch that I'll end up as a farmer at some point. The idea of growing my own food is very sexy!
  • I got bored of what I was doing so decided to do something about it. This involved selling stuff that I didn't need, living within my means and saving an 'escape fund' along with cutting out buying all the stuff that I didn't need. So now I'm able to live for a while without having to be employed and am trying to make the most of it.
  • I prefer to have a small to medium sized group of friends that I really trust and enjoy being with. Trust is a big deal for me and really can't be bothered with people who have an agenda or  obviously lying. 
  • I have a love/hate relationship with cities. When I'm in the city I crave nature and having the earth beneath my feet. When I'm in the country I miss the energy and convenience of the city. Having lived in the city for the last 10 years, I'm currently craving the country.
  • Some of the most important people in my life have died, some before they were old, and that has made me realise you should make the most of every moment you have.
  • Being from Manchester a town of excessive rain and melancholy music, I don't always have the most positive outlook on life. Happiness doesn't always come easy and I have to work at it, but strangely this is useful as it's made me realise what things truly do make people happy.
  • I like girls in outdoor clothing, is that weird?
  • Im 39 but look at least 5 years younger. This used to really bug me, but now I love it! I think it's genetic as my mother often is mistaken for being 10 or even 20 years younger than she is.
  • I want to make the world a better place somehow. This is one of the reasons that I decided to do this. I just think we all have something big inside us that is waiting to get out and make a difference. I have no idea yet what this will be yet, but I can feel it and hopefully soon will discover what it might be.
  • I want to have children but haven't got any yet.
  • I have the most amazing girlfriend, Hemmy, who is a constant source of happiness and inspiration for me. I actually think she is some kind of enlightened being as I've never met a happier person. I feel extremely grateful to have her in my life. She also looks great in hiking boots!
  • I can be a perfectionist and often wonder why things aren't as good as they could or should be. Friends sometimes joke that I'm from the future where everything is clean and has perfect design and user experiences, because that's how I expect everything to be. Well at least Steve Jobs understands me!
  • I'd like people to remember me as someone who is a good person at heart just trying to find a way to have a fun and interesting life.
  • I've learned that money doesn't make you happy, but I also have experienced not having any, which isn't very nice at all. Part of me would love to be a stoic, but a bigger part loves a bit of luxury and indulgence.
  • I think there's a lot more that I can do to make my life extraordinary rather than ordinary. I really don't want it to be ordinary so I've decided to get off my arse and do something about it.
  • There's a lot more but thankfully I also know when to shut the fuck up!
Thanks to Neils for his honesty and inspiration and if you have time, read his excellent post on Time vs Money, it's a really excellent read and agree 100%. All the best and never be afraid to just be yourself, admit you don't know everything or tell people about the real you.


  1. Hey Michael, glad to have inspired you to write this, gives a clear view on who you are.
    And you are right, we are only travelling, don't have the answers, but at least we are looking for reasons......

    Ow, and it is Niels btw, I know you English lads only know Neils, but that really is not my name ;-)

    All the best,

  2. Hey Niels, very sorry about spelling your name wrong, how annoying. Thanks for writing such great post lately it's very inspiring. When is your interview with Leo by the way?

  3. I'm not an enlightened being - I just feel lucky for all the great things and people in my life... including you x

  4. You're pretty close, would love a guest post from you by the way about technology, happiness and the future :) x

  5. Really enjoyed this post Michael. Very brave.

  6. Cheers Steven, appreciate the nice comment but I'm not really brave at all, people like Maggie Doyne make you realise what being brave really means
    I wish I could be as brave as her and she's only 23!!