7 years is a funny length of time. A lot can change. But it also disappears in a flash.
It feels like a meaningful timespan too. I’m not sure why.
Maybe it was ingrained through school (like many things). Primary School goes from ages 4-11 and Secondary School/Sixth Form from 11-18. Years of formidable (and somewhat unimaginable) change and formation, at both half time (the first 7 years) and full time (the second 7 years).
I’ve been in a reflective mood this week. Perhaps even more than usual…after it dawned on me that it’s seven years since the first version of The Haven landed in the world. It started in June 2014 as a clumsy area behind a paywall on my main website (called Sheep Dressed Like Wolves back then). The ‘SDLW Members Haven’ was a clunky experiment. At a relatively early stage in what has become a rapid development of membership platforms and plugins.
The seven year realisation conjures a whole mixture of feelings. So much has changed since that first version. The screenshots and videos are pretty funny to look back at.
The Turtle Head of Shame
Yet at another level I have noticed some shame poking its little green wrinkly head out of its shell. I heard a critical voice saying, “you’ve been doing this for 7 YEARS…the dream hasn’t really happened has it? If this was going to succeed it would have done so by now, don’t you think?”
“Yeah maybe I SHOULD pull the plug on it”, I think to myself, accepting this pretty calm judgement as valid. “Hold on”, I pull myself out of my daze. “What’s the dream again?”
“Oh it’s worse than I thought!” My inner critic exclaims. “Please tell me there’s a dream…a plan!? What’s wrong with you man! Look around you. Everyone else has it sorted. They’re accomplishing personal, work, health, business, community, family goals left, right, and centre. And what are you doing? Wasting your life. You’re an embarrassment.”
Whoa, alright mate, where did that come from!?
I’ve noticed that my shame gets loud (a bubbling tunnel vision feeling that rises through my stomach) when I’m talking to particular people about ‘progress’. It jumps in with responses about numbers, progress, and the reassurance of future success.
My shame leaves me talking about things that don’t drive me as if they’re all I care about. It’s desperate to fit in with the assumptions, demands, and expectations of an ‘up and to the right’ world.
It doesn’t care about the true joy I get, often from how things already are. And it doesn’t believe that I’m generally pretty happy without constantly striving for another magical destination.
I enjoy experimenting more than accomplishing. Seeing what happens and iterating as I go. I prefer finding a steady rhythm more than chasing after big goals. And I have absolutely no desire to be famous, rich, or in control of anyone else’s life. That’s someone else’s dream. I don’t know where I picked it up.
…Oh wow, that felt freeing to write.
By recognising ‘The Dream’ that doesn’t belong to me, I have space to think about what is actually important to me.
“I suppose you can say that if somebody doesn’t spread themselves too much they can have a more solid and enduring and established success, and if that had been what I wanted, which it never has been, then I shouldn’t have tried so many different things. But I’ve been always more interested in experiment than in accomplishment” – Orson Welles
This quote really resonates with me. It’s as true within our endeavours as it is across the sphere of our endeavours.
‘Society’ provides us with measures for solid and established success. This is the default ‘Dream’. The most efficient route to the highest measurable result.
We know what accomplishment is supposed to look like. We frame our questions and responses around it. And we see experimentation, not as an end in itself, but as a tool in the pursuit of the overall dream.
But what if it’s the joy of experimenting and not the accomplishing that makes life meaningful?
I Don’t Need to See For Myself
When you stay somewhere long enough you start to observe patterns and apply the lessons.
Over the past seven years I’ve watched a lot of projects burn bright and fizzle out. I’ve seen other people rise quickly and fade fast, selling the fact they had discovered ’the one’, ‘the secret’, and how to ‘live the dream’ like them.
But eventually the inevitable happens as they realise that their dream had made empty promises. It was insatiable. And just kept demanding more and more from them. Sometimes taking down other areas of life too, like relationships, health, and the integrity of their character.
You’ll see this pattern again and again if you keep watching for long enough.
I sometimes wonder if, like a number of highly sensitive people, I have been occasionally able to skip the part of the journey where others need to ‘see for themselves’.
For example, it didn’t take an experience of fame and inconceivable wealth for me to know it won’t bring me happiness (it’s never been a drive in my creative work).
I don’t have to rise through the ranks of a company to realise I would miss the role that attracted me in the first place (I loved staying on the bottom rung of the ladder as an undertaker for 6 years).
And I don’t need to go all in on material accumulation and the high life to discover that true meaning is found in the little moments we share in the margins of life with other people.
I love learning, growing, and connecting dots. Experimentation brings me joy and creativity is its own reward. What I realise is that The Haven is actually a genuine reflection of all this stuff. It’s grown slowly, strengthening and deepening over the years. And that is something I am really proud of.
Despite momentary lapses that has led to a few slightly embarrassing marketing decisions, the Haven community has flourished into a place of gentle meandering in genuinely meaningful transformative ways. We are connecting with rhythms, building relationships, and discovering the creative playful parts of ourselves.
A Moment of Gentle Transformation
All this to say that this past seven years has led to this point. Another moment of gentle iterative change at the start of a new season in The Haven.
Along with the epidemic of harshness that Helena Roth and I talked about on the podcast recently, I’ve noticed another insidious and creeping epidemic. One of loneliness, isolation, and scarcity.
It has become a growing burden upon some of the loveliest people I know. People attempting to navigate how to make both meaningful work and a sustainable living, on the backdrop of our precarious world.
I have a deep urge to respond to this nudge. And I know The Haven is somewhere with a strong enough foundation (after 7 years of reinforcement) for me to do that. It’s a place of real support and encouragement to the human spirit. And I want to gently expand this vision. Somewhere other quietly rebellious creators, artists, and helpers can take refuge, build themselves and their work/practices, and connect with fellow human beings at the level of our human being-ness and becoming-ness.
Where we can experience the benefits together, both as individuals AND as a collective of creative misfits and gentle rebels.
In this week’s podcast I share my vision for this gentle shift with Lindsay-Celeste Graf. Lindsay is the first of what I hope to be a number of creative partners joining me in The Haven over the coming months.
I guess only time will tell what the next seven years will bring…
Come and join us. Learn more about The Haven here.