A guide book to sanity.
As you may have noticed things have been a little quiet here for a few days now. My apologies. Lots have been happening outside of the computer screen. Some have been good things, one sad, and a few were productive. Anyways, I was off visiting my good friend Katie from EcoBling at her tree top home in the Sunny Coast hinterland when I happened to come across an incredibly apt book for a woman who lives in a constant state of change (due to hubby and I’s non-conventional career paths) called Staying Sane in a Changing World: A Handbook for work, leadership and life in the 21st century. Sanity is a big promise from one little book but fortunately for the author Margot Cairnes, in this 24/7 Western World there are many folks (myself included) that are willing to try out a book like this one for some clues on navigating the daily grind in a zen-style. Fortunately this little book lives up to it’s lofty promises and does so in a thought provoking way.
What’s sanity got to do with sustainable style?
While it’s ok to dress a little crazy and chaotic, it’s pretty hard to get through the day when you feel like your life is spinning out of control. As many of the people who follow Sustainability in Style are change-makers and fashion-world-shakers I like to offer some insights into how sustainable living fits with daily life, work, and positions of leadership. In a way we are all leaders in some parts of our lives, whether you run a ethical business (like Jemma who was kind enough to share her thoughts with us here), you are busy parent trying to set a good example, or you just happen lead your dog around the park every couple of days, it’s important to take time to know your own bearings in life so you can better serve others. There is very little chance that you will look stylish and composed if you haven’t taken the time to enable yourself to navigate life in a sane and stress reducing way.
Onto the book
I’m going to launch this bit by saying that I fecking loved this book. As someone who has been sitting down for weeks on end compiling a bunch of totally random semi-related stuff into a book (FIY the book is called The Closet Scientist and there will be more info on it here very soon as it now has a start a middle and an end but still needs editing) I was thrilled to read another book that approached writing in the same manner. Staying Sane in a Changing World is part personal empowerment, part business management guide, part yogic/mindfulness/wisdom and part leadership manual which makes it 100% unique and 100% relatable in one way or another for most people. Now we are on a statistically sound 200% for uniqueness and reliability (geez I’m a great scientist) I can let you know a little more about the inside bits of the book. It’s broke down into a bunch of sections; Work, Work Relationships, Personal Development, Leadership, Spirituality in Business, Women in Business, Personal Development II and Social Issues. When you look at it like this it sounds a little dry and boring but Cairnes (who works with business leaders across Australia) manages to do some literary magic to somehow create a book that works the importance of living a balanced, calm, loving and open life into the working World. Reading it is like a discussion with your (very wise) best friend about all the things that are happening in life, how they fit together and having that friend give you some sound, workable, and logical advice. Each chapter offers the opportunity to assess your current situation with a series of critical thinking questions that you can ask yourself. From thinking about changes in the global business community and what this means to you, to simply asking yourself if you breathe shallow or deep, the questions Cairnes poses are great for provoking holistic thought.
The bits I liked
As you may have already noted ‘fecking loving’ a book makes it hard to narrow it down to just a few favourite bits. However as there are only limited amounts of words that one wants to read in a blog post (and copyright laws that prevent one from blabbing on about the WHOLE book) these are a few take home points that I enjoyed from Staying Sane in a Changing World. I’ve sort of chosen points from each section and mashed them all up.
- Busy does not always equal productivity. The rhetoric surrounding our lives is that we are all very busy. We don’t have time for anything anymore. As you may remember from this book review, this isn’t necessarily true. Technological advancements have allowed us greater convenience and more time than ever before. It’s just now we have a culture that associates busy with success so we keep cramming more stuff into all the gaps in our schedules (ahem… I’m looking at you Pokemon masters). While you might be a super productive busy person, there is a good chance most of us could cut back on the busy work and still get the same amount of success (AKA getting shit done). Be selective and make time for cups of tea or beach walks with the kids. Relaxation is important.
- Choose your partners well. In life or business it’s best to follow your gut instinct. While it might be tempting to take all the offers thrown at you (be it a million dollar deal or an offer to whisked away into the sunset by a handsome stranger on horseback) you need to assess if these relationships will be worth the time and effort. If your instinct suggest no, then go with it. Nothing worse than being stuck with a flakey million dollar deal that goes sour months in, and you don’t want to be stuck on a beach with a case of horse riding chafe when the handsome stranger gets bored of you and leaves you behind to fend for yourself (just so you know the author does not write about chafe, I’ve added this in because I am disgusting).
- Bullies and dinosaurs suck. We have all been there. Be it a sucky co-worker who makes you feel bad about yourself on a daily basis or perhaps a dinosaur boss who refuses to do things differently even though the ‘way we do things around here’ is killing team moral and loosing profits. It’s pretty tough to surmise Cairnes suggestions for these issues but it goes a little something like this. Release the bullies and dinosaurs from your life but don’t tap out. While you might not agree with the ‘office politics’ that occurs in your workplace it’s important to play a part in helping to change it. Don’t be a bystander, stand up for what you believe in and help shape a more honest, caring, and effective workplace. It’s not likely anything will change unless someone says something to start the ball rolling and this goes for life outside work too!
- Work on you. When I was studying my sustainability education masters subjects the important of personal development really hit home for me. You cannot give your all to others if you don’t know what ‘your all’ is. While it might be seen as selfish to work on yourself it’s more selfish to go out there and try to help others when you are just offloading your personal issues on them. It’s a lifelong experience to really ‘know’ who you are but the sooner you get started the more ‘you’ you can give to help others.
- Practice personal responsibility. Many of the issues we face as a global humanity have come about from a lack of personal responsibility. We like to think others are in charge of the World around us. Placing the responsibility with others is a worry when often our leaders really have no idea what they are doing (our current election results here in Australia is an example of this). Fortunately when we start to work on ourselves we realise we have a huge amount of power over our daily lives. Being personally responsible for your own actions brings a great deal of relief and a sense of control in a world that seems out of control. After all, who do you think is responsible for voting leaders into power or funding large corporations? It’s you and ever dollar you spend is a vote for the World you want to live in.
- Think outside the social norms. One specific piece of advice I loved is that we need to step outside the limitations of ‘what do you do’? This question is a common one at social gatherings but often tells us very little about who a person is. It might sounds a bit wanky but Cairnes proposes we ask ‘what do you contribute’? Which makes more sense in that it’s more inclusive of contributions outside of the economic measures of gross domestic products. It forces people to think outside of their 9-5 to include what they give back to society. It also makes for a more interesting conversation than ‘Oh I work in a bank’, or ‘I’m just a stay at home Dad’. You could suddenly find yourself immersed in a conversation with a bank teller who likes to contribute happiness to others day’s by paying for the person behind her’s coffee at lunch time. Or a Dad who likes to contribute to his child’s learning experience by taking ten minutes out every morning before school to discuss different religions with them in hope that his child will help foster a more culturally tolerant society.
I recommend this book to pretty much anyone but it’s especially good for those who might find themselves looking for some business management or leadership assistance. I purchased my copy of this book (along with another one of Cairnes publication) secondhand from an AMAZING book store that I only just found out exists, Berkelouw’s Eumundi Bookshop and Cafe. If you are in the area check it out cause it has some awesome rare stuff. A true book-nerds delight.