"All in or Nothing" was the Adidas tag line a few years ago, and largely how I've lived my life to date.
Black and white is easy for me. It's easy to understand, easy to execute, very straightforward. Grey, on the other hand I find challenging - it's just never clear where exactly the line is - in grey there is no line.
I eat meat, or I don't eat any.
Zero grains and dairy, or pizza on the regular.
Zero alcohol, or heavy drinker.
Full time job, or no job at all.
The problem with all of these things is they leave no space for us to be human. They leave no room for exceptions, for life to just happen as it does. They create a life which is always within bounds and leave no room for exploration and experimentation. They're just too fixed.
It's like the slogans of the big players pushing us all to quit our jobs and live lives that have meaning, do work you love, etc., etc. The option of ditching a full time gig and running off with a backpack to Bali, or living super cheap on a mate's sofa while you figure it out just isn't an option for most people.
Surely there must be a middle road? Might there be a way for us to find meaning in the work we are already doing? To make incremental improvements in our lives and our work which will allow us to feel better about ourselves?
Must grey be drab and boring, can it not be murky, whilst simultaneously defined, beautiful, with clear direction?
I come to you not as a man with an opinion, but as a man with experience. Last year I quit my full time job so I could become a yoga teacher. That sounds pretty drastic doesn't it?
For me, it was the only way out, black and white, "All In or Nothing".
The reality it seems is much more grey. Six months later I teach a bit of yoga, and earn some money from that. I also do a bit of consulting in The City, and earn a bit of money from that. I juggle Airbnb and DIY to reduce my housing costs. I am laying the groundwork for business that combines adventure, flow state, yoga, and business strategy.
Essentially, I'm living in the grey area: one foot in the 'old' version of me, one foot in the 'new' version. What's most interesting is that the business I really want to create combines aspects of old and new - in fact embracing grey.
For me though, I had to go all in before I could find this space. I needed to fully let go of The City life for a time in order to come back to it with fresh eyes and a new perspective. That is largely my character despite my efforts to change it, acknowledging fully that although mindset is not fixed, shifting it takes consistent effort over time.
This doesn't have to be the case for all of us; it may not be the right path for you. Just because you don't want to completely throw in the towel in your current career doesn't mean you can't find meaning in what you do.
I say this with hesitation, because one must mind the fear. We must be cautious to see clearly which limitations we perceive are the result of fears and are not in fact real. I have a central London mortgage, and I'm a father - these are very real responsibilities, but they don't have to be limitations as is often the view; instead they can be assets if thought about differently.
With such an appropriate lens in mind we must evaluate what it is we really want. Ask ourselves the question of what we want our lives to look like and begin to move in that direction, incrementally, making small steps over time.
In that process we may find meaning in the work that we already do, or perhaps we can shift into something slightly different which more aligns with our vision without throwing the whole career in the bin straight away. Maybe we'll define a vision that combines both.
Perhaps we can increase the adventure in our lives, find the joy that comes from fully immersing ourselves in something we love and how that brings perspective on life and all it's challenges. Maybe in that enhanced state, the state of flow, we may see the vision we've been struggling to see from the seats we are now in.
I find flow in adventure sports and yoga; I also find it in writing, cooking, and chatting business strategy. Maybe yours is in art, music, running, or otherwise - the only real requirement is full immersion, total focus on the task, and a drive towards mastery.