Black and white or gray?

Tuesday 27th December, 2022

Recently in life I have been spending a lot of time with some very driven people. It is fascinating and also confusing to me. This conundrum was unexpected and I still am struggling to resolve it. I'll try and explain it to you and see what your thoughts are and maybe, just maybe, hearing more views on the issue will allow me to lay it to rest. Alright here we go!

About two years ago to the day I made a series of life altering decisions based on what I wanted out of life compared to what I actually had at that time. I wanted real and genuine conversations that would lead to deeper connections and real love, platonic or romantic. Nothing contrived, no ulterior motives, simply real people having authentic interactions. Sounds easy enough but it is a far cry from what I had in the closed off and judgemental community I was raised in.

I set off to find a life that would give depth and meaning to my time on this planet, knowing full well that I would lose everyone and everything I knew. I didn't know how, where or when it would take shape but I knew that I had to try. Surprisingly, it didn't end up taking long! It started with brief conversations at the grocery store and morphed into extended discussions with new coworkers. I found myself enraptured by curiosity about understanding others and their way of thinking. I would then hold this new information up to my own opinions and patterns. I was fascinated by how this impacted my now expanding world view. It was so intoxicating that my usually introverted tendencies were overridden by a desire to connect with anyone, even strangers on a deep level.

Then, I fell in with my current nucleus of people. This includes my partner, his family, and others that I have come into contact with on various projects. My partner is an entrepreneur and so is almost everyone he interacts or works with. This type of person is a whole new experience to me because work is their passion and what seems to be of chief importance at all times. I was shocked because I had been used to seeking part time employment that was just enough to get by so that more time could be spent "volunteering". Sounds altruistic - I assure you it was not - but that is an article for another time. Now, however, I started to feel as if I was surrounded by greedy workaholics that were willing to sacrifice anything for the almighty dollar. I'm not saying that is how they actually are, it was only my viewpoint of them, and therein lies the problem…

Without realizing it my curiosity about new ideas and people had been replaced by judgment. I deemed this all consuming entrepreneurial mindset to be in direct opposition to my chosen, and now close minded, path. It was as if I had come full circle, in a very negative way. This black and white narrow minded way of thinking I fell into on this topic was what I had tried so hard to escape years ago. I was left wondering, is it possible to make space for ideals that you *think* are diametrically opposed to your own while still holding true to your values?

While examining my reasoning on this topic I was reminded of a quote that I had chosen as my life mantra. "Seek first to understand, then be understood" - Stephen R. Covey.

What was I missing about the work first attitude that I just didn't understand? I needed to get curious about it and try to fill in the blanks. I needed to ask questions and be willing to hear without judgment, step outside my own pattern of thinking. I wanted to be willing to accept the gray area and that not everything is black and white. This is not a strong suit of mine, or so I've been told, but we are all capable of growth right?

In my mind, this work driven lifestyle leaves little time or energy leftover for loved ones and important human connections, which to me is an unacceptable tradeoff. It would be like exchanging priceless heirloom jewelry for mardi gras beads, utterly ridiculous! To others, however, it is viewed as a short lived sacrifice in order to guarantee more time and better experiences for and with their important people. They seek to create a life that can be enjoyed by them and those close to them as fully as possible. If that happens to take a little from their 'now' that is an acceptable and even negligible swap because they have clearly in mind what they are working towards.

Well, now that changes things doesn't it? It may not be about greed like I had originally assumed (and you know what they say about assuming). In fact, the more driven people I spoke to and got curious about, the more I realized we actually value the same things. We just happen to go about it in different ways. Ready for another quote? William Cowper wrote "Variety is the very spice of life, That gives it all its flavor." And indeed that is true! Somewhere along the way of creating the life I envisioned, I forgot that it was about people, and not just people that feel and think the same as I do, but all people.

What do you think? I have concluded that there is, in fact, enough space in this big wide world for a 'grind' mentality, and for the opposite of that. And, since it's not just black and white, there is even room for everything in between, the 'gray'. Next time I meet someone with a completely different take on life and what is important, I hope I remember to stay curious and open while not losing myself and I hope the same for you too!

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