One night, as Mr. P was walking on a side street heading back home, he saw a person searching for something by a streetlamp. Wanting to help, Mr. P asked whether anything got lost and was told that a bunch of keys got dropped. Mr. P began searching.
After quite a bit of searching, as no keys were found, Mr. P asked the person whether they can remember the exact location where the keys got dropped. The person pointed to a dark section further down the street. Mr. P, puzzled, asked the person why were they looking for the keys here and was answered that there’s no light where the keys got dropped.
This story sounds ridiculous and foolish. After all, real people don’t search for a lost article where it’s easy to look. They search where they believe the item could be found. But there’s more to this story than meets the eye.
For many people, life goes on along a general plan which looks something like this:
- School for twelve years.
- Finding something that we like and are good at, preferably in a field where we can make a lot of money.
- Going to college and getting a degree in that field.
- Getting the best grades possible while getting as much hands-on experience working in the field.
- Finding a job that we love or starting a business.
- Moving up the ranks as an employee or having a business which grows steadily.
This of course, is a gross generalization, and there’s too much that it doesn’t cover. And yet for many, this is the general plan. There is much comfort and reassurance in having a general direction to follow. Otherwise, how would we know what to do? And although the above is a gross generalization, it’s amazing how many people actually follow this path.
Sometimes things don’t work out exactly this way, but many of us believe that that’s due to circumstances beyond our control, not due to anything that we do or fail to do. Circumstances such as bad luck, bad genes, bad history, bad relationships, one critical mistake etc’.
But isn’t this treading, in a more or less familiar path, akin to searching for something in the wrong place because it’s convenient?
The word ‘tenure’ is practically history at this point in time, with minor exceptions. The same is true for words like: retirement (that one can actually live off of), work benefits, a full time job defined as a 40 hour week, and many more. People used to go to college for four years and then get a job. It made perfect sense to go to college because that was the key to getting a job. For the same reason, it also made perfect sense to take loans to pay for college education. Later, four years were no longer enough, and many had to get a Master’s degree before they could get the kind of a job that they sought.
But change didn’t end there. The world constantly changes socially, economically, spiritually, ideologically. The giant employers of the past – GE, IBM, General Motors and others – have been downsizing. The same happens with government offices, universities, and generally speaking – with employers and employment. There are simply less employers out there today, compared to twenty years ago, and so there is obviously less employment. Taking a college loan today is extremely risky, when many of those unemployed have – not only a college degree – but also many years of valuable experience.
Additionally, getting a college degree is meant to please an employer; with increasingly less employers available, the price tag, time and effort that’s needed for the purpose of getting a college degree, may no longer justify attending college at all for many people.
And of course employment and college is just one part of a much bigger picture. There isn’t a single aspect of life lived today, that is identical to how it used to be not too long ago: relationships, family structure, sexuality, communication, relocations and much more. Still, the general life-plan that people today envision, looks almost identical to the way it was in the past.
It looks as though something has been lost along the way, and that we are searching for what the unseen future has in store for us, using the familiar old maps. But what are the options? What are the new guidelines for living life in this new and unfamiliar reality? When we look left and right in search for clues – looking at what may work for others – we could become even more confused, unable to get any clear ideas.
This however, is the case only if we search under the streetlamp. Our current experience, knowledge and emotional comfort is based on the past. The past is the streetlamp. But the answer cannot be found there. It can only be found in the darkness, or in other words, the unknown and the unfamiliar.
It’s inconvenient, frightening and risky to go into the darkness, but sometimes that may be the only choice that we have.
Entrepreneurs know this very well, and they live their lives in the dark unknown, utilizing a healthy combination of intuition, knowledge and thought.
What about those of us who don’t see ourselves as entrepreneurs?
Perhaps the answer is not in getting formal education, but in self-education. Perhaps the answer is not in receiving money from an employer, but in giving – by serving society. Perhaps the answer is not in studying and working in “the best fields” where the money is, but rather in slow, painstaking search for who I am, what are my natural gifts, what do I do best and how can I use these gifts for the betterment of society and service. Perhaps by trying new ways of thinking and of seeing the world, we may create an entirely new field, that doesn’t even exist yet. Perhaps for too long, we developed a laxity and an increasing indulgence in convenience, while allowing our mental and spiritual capacities to deteriorate and decline.
To what degree is it us creating reality, versus reality creating us?
It is fear that is preventing so many of us from searching in the dark. But one day, we’ll have no other choice but to realize it. When this happens, we’ll take a confident stride, and with an inner peace and confidence, walk into the darkness of the unknown and unfamiliar, knowing that the answer is now closer than ever before.