I finished my PhD at the age of 27 with many questions still unanswered, and so I started the 43 year experiment. The aim of the experiment is to spend some time (okay, a considerable amount of time) learning about how people work together, then to pass on that knowledge.
Human behaviour is complicated: why do some of us hit snooze (multiple times) on Monday mornings, yet others bounce out of bed? What drives our decision making? Why are some work teams a joy to work in while others seem to drain everything out of you? All these questions deserve an answer, and thus the idea of a life long experiment: When I turn 70 I should have some answers. Stay tuned (don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted along the way).
I will devote 43 years of my life to this project. I plan to speak to the most influential people I can find and ask them about how they interact with others. My initial questions are (1) What is the best strategy for working with people? (2) What makes an influential leader? (3) How do we become better communicators at work?
I aim to speak to influential leaders, public servants, politicians, teachers, entrepreneurs, doctors…anyone who is a good communicator and is willing to share some strategies on working with others and how to do it better. I hope to learn as much as I can, then share it with you, for free!
On a personal note, somewhere between the ages of 19 and 23 I lost myself. Anxious and uncertain of who I really was caused immense stress and depressive thought patterns. But I got through it. I got out. I found something to hold onto, something to chase after. I found a reason to live.
That reason (and the motivation behind this experiment) is to focus on learning. Discovery and sadness cannot co-exist. We can’t be sad and curious at the same time. And I am fascinated by the minutiae of human behaviour; the subtle things we do that can have a tremendous impact on those we love and those we work with. Sometimes all that’s needed is a tweak in our tone, or the ability to re-phrase a statement. A kind word or an unnecessarily harsh tone can have a huge impact on others, especially our work-mates. Why not choose the former. Kindness is free. However, learning to do these things automatically is the challenging part.
The reason we don’t get better is because we don’t focus on it. We don’t give it the attention it deserves – and as this world becomes more globally connected, learning to get along with our neighbour is no longer an option. Humans are social creatures and we are influenced by those around us (and a lot of this is done unconsciously, without our permission).
Learning about people is a worthy endeavour, well in my opinion at least, and that’s why I am committing to this experiment. The goal is to share what I’ve learnt with the aim of helping others to apply the knowledge to their own unique situations.
Far too many of us are unhappy at work and struggle to interact with others. I would suggest that learning to master the skill of communication is paramount. Not only is it important to learn how to communicate better with others, but perhaps more importantly, how to communicate with ourselves.
And we CAN learn! If we can learn how to count, or how to tie our shoe-laces, then surely we can learn how to work better with others.
We spend a lot of time at work. I believe if we are unhappy at work, we are unhappy at home. So the 43 year experiment will focus on workplace interaction, starting with a discussion on toxic emotions and how they can be contagious.
If we can enjoy going to work on a Monday morning, then we can start enjoying life, the way it was meant to be. Living life to the full. Appreciating every moment for what it is, not what we wish it was.
If this blog helps one person to see that life is so much more, then it has been a success.