I am nobody.
We’ve had an amazing week at work — we were invited by our national association to speak on a panel about mental health and creativity, the Future of Work Conference by Melbourne University also invited us to speak on the future of work and specifically, how we’ve created a business that moves against the status quo of our creative industry.
FYI: In our business we have flexible working hours where anyone can work part-time, from home or remotely if they chose to, we have more than the average annual leave and mental health leave allowance, core hours of 9.30 - 4.30; mental health leave, a diversity policy and an accountability policy that sees anyone, irrespective of experience, own and run their own projects and initiatives.
The list goes on — I’m proud of it.
This week also, I sat with a friend and we recorded a test session for a podcast. Wow, was that an experience.
Discounting the technical issues (room echo was one of them), we had a good time and the conversation flowed.
We're thinking that we’ll talk about the key themes that are common in my weekly journal and his work in leadership and entrepreneurship. It won’t be an interview-per-episode type of thing, but something more conversational and off-the-cuff. Fun
Recently, my son and I have begun sharing a pathos for Ancient Greece — his 9-year-old curiosity and his own Ancient Greek name have him asking me a vast number of questions as well as initiating his own research on the subject.
He has already read the 2800-year-old Odyssey and will soon begin its precursor, The Iliad.
Proud dad moment...
Together, recently, we spoke about the power of a scene in The Odyssey where the main character exercises power not through his fame and heroic accomplishments, but through anonymity.
Odysseus, King of Ithaca, lost at sea for ten years as he journeys home after the Trojan War, he meets a range of mythical characters, all of whom are analogies of some kind to our daily human frailties.
During the journey, Odysseus meets a Cyclops. A one-eyed giant of a man, who drinks too much of his own Cool-Aid. The meaning of this name (Polyphemus) pretty much sums up that he is famous and often spoken of, yet he has the intelligence of a rock and is completely full of himself. The original script used different wording, but... 2018.
When Odysseus arrives, the Cyclops asks him a question: “Who are you?”
Odysseus answers: “I am nobody.”
And with his answer, King Odysseus wields his power. Not of his persona as King, or as the victor in a war, or as a strong and accomplished veteran at sea — but as an anonymous person whose mere presence holds power.
He was nobody and that was enough.
I can relate, because I am nobody too, or at least that’s how I feel most of the time and I’m OK with this.
In fact, I quite like being nobody whereas so many of us look to be somebody. For me, nobodyness is powerful.
I don't work long hours to win awards, please a client or get my work to a place that makes my inner weakling feel good about itself. I can talk about things that nobody else talks about because I am nobody.
I'm a nobody from nowhere and thus, I have power.
People sometimes roll their eyes at me because I call a spade a spade, and I point to the elephant in the room. A nobody can do that, a somebody will pander to the room.
I’ve learned to focus on personal bests, not my competition, and I'm a little rough around the edges.
I was called names when I was young and even worse; mostly by bullies who bullied me to a place where I discovered my sense of nobodyness. But I was also bullied by the system who thought ‘Dimitri’ was too ethnic so it called me ‘Jim’ so often, it stuck.
No wonder I'm confused about who I am.
The education system I needed — when I needed it most — didn't need me, so I forged my own path like hundreds and hundreds of other nobodies. Yet, we are here, together in the same place, occupying the same industry having journeyed, like Odysseus, many different paths.
A bunch of nobodies.
I pushed and I pushed because I am nobody and when you are nobody, you can push, you can take risks and wield power through your invisibility.
Your quietness. Your calm.
Yet, I'm in love with an industry that I feel compelled to support even though, I forever feel like I don’t fit in.
I don’t get giddy over custom fonts, I don’t collect rare design and the Bauhaus lessons I sat through 30-years ago bored me to tears. I don't enter awards because mostly I can’t afford them, and I chose to put the money I earn elsewhere, yet I celebrate those who win them, have judged many of them and even spent eight years of my life sitting at the association table that creates them.
Yes I’ve won quite a few awards, but I’m not an ‘award winning designer’ if you get my drift.
I don't get invited to many fancy things and when I do, I introduce myself as a father of three first. Because that is the only somebody I truly care about.
I don't have grand, audacious goals. I'm simply happy to stay in business and do meaningful work with good people.
I’ve re-sculpted, re-founded and re-shaped my own business from the inside out because of one simple reason. The people I loved weren’t happy and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I wasn’t happy too.
And now I am, and now they are, because I’ve found my nobodyness and it is good.
I hear from nobodies every week, we share stories and together we accept the power of simply being.
And through all the noise, all the clutter, all the tweets, all the posts, all the accolades, all the boasts, all the roasts, all the reviews, all the presentations, all the clients, all the designs, all the witty twitter banter, all the association events, all the folios, all the stuff... we smile to one another because we know.
We are nobody.
And that's OK.