As we get older we tell jokes about "still being upright", or "nice to be seen" or "still breathng".
We know the moment we can't move is when we are dead. We all know about that many sharks have to swim to breathe and live. Humans stop moving and their spirit can die. Our ability to see ourselves evolve, adapt, learn, and engage is essential to living and to life.
I meet zombies all of the time. Lifelike forms who go through the motions. They are usually good people who do no harm but lack purpose and deeper fulfillment. Many of them have given up on the future. Life is what happens and they make the best of that. Getting by and getting through the day, week, month…..is the objective. All of the obstacles, shortcomings, and challenges have beaten them into a corner of settling for "what it is". It is sad when you see this in a boomer but depressing when you see it in a 27 year old!
I am obsessed by understanding how people untangle themselves from their own web of self-imposed constraints. We all lose so much energy, talent, and ultimate creativity in our society because of this malady.
Daniel Pink studies what motivates us in his terrific book, Drive. He said that we all need Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose to keep us motivated and moving.
Po Bronson who chronicled his interviews with almost 1000 successful people in his book, What should I do with my life? He found that all obstacles in people's lives were surmountable. That with very exceptions they were excuses.
Sharks teach us much about the life giving forces of "movement". The need to keep active, open, and curious about what lies ahead. Moving to connect to people and ideas. The need to renew one's spirit and goals by forging ahead.
Sea squirts, of all creatures, teach us something fascinating about human behavior. Sea quirts are these simple opaque tube-like tunicates or urochordates that have been swimming in the oceans since the Jurassic era. They swim in schools and like sharks filter water through their bodies to live and survive. But sea squirts do something bizarre, oh so it would seem. They find a place to attach themselves as a group. They then proceed to digest their own brain and nervous system because they will no longer need them! Now attached to a rock or coral, they can survive by merely filtering water without thinking (not that the sea squirts were solving algebra equations or having deep thoughts!)
Does this sound familiar? It does to me. Once attached to a comfortable place, way of thinking, surrounded by others who are almost identical, the need for a brain and new thoughts are rendered obsolete. I know and have met permanent and temporary sea squirt humans! People who settle. People who give up. Non-profit board members who eat their brains once the meeting commences. People who are so stuck in their ways, their assumptions, habits, and their networks—-part of them dies. Their spirit and energy about change and the future goes into a deep sleep. Their minds are not engaged or necessary!
For the sea squirt, eating your brain et al is an irreversible act. Hope you like the rock selected because that will be your final resting place! But for us humanoids, we still have brains and can choose to keep moving our lives forward. Whether you are 40 or 60 you have a lot more to give and live for. Certainly if you are 27 or 37, you can not be stuck yet.
Are you a sea squirt? Have you lost your mind because you are stuck? Have you settled into your piece of coral and decided that this is all that life can be?!
One thing I have seen is that the network, the school you swim with, can hold you back. Maybe its time you evaluated the people around you. Maybe you are holding yourself back. Maybe you need a different perspective. Maybe you need different priorities. Maybe more connection to your values and loved ones.
You are not done yet. You still have a bunch of ideas about the future, your future, your family's future, your community's future. We need you to move. Don't eat your brain. 🙂
As you can see a sea squirt can be quite beautiful. But as we all know, true beauty lies within and we can not allow that beauty and potential to wither because we are anchored to an immobile rock.
Thanks for reading. John