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Unsettling

Dithered image of glass of water on edge of table

Some mornings, I get up and read Stoic philosophy and a book of aphorisms. It used to be all mornings, and then most, but as Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”.

However, it is another of Emerson’s quotations that I want to focus on in this post, one that’s been rolling around my brain for the last week or so:

People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Settled’ is an interesting word, with many meanings. You can, after all, settle an argument, settle a bill, settle down and raise a family, settle into an armchair, and settle your affairs. To my mind, each definition has an air of being responsible, grown up, ‘conservative’ (with a small ‘c’).

In my own life I’ve definitely felt the pull to be settled. I suppose I am settled, in many regards: we’ve lived in the same house for seven years now — longer than I’ve lived anywhere, other than the house in which I grew up.

For me, there is a balance to be had between being settled in one area of my life and being unsettled in others. Being unsettled is where the sparkley-eyed creative drive comes from, the thing that I can only describe as a ‘wonder factory’. Without that turbulence in my life, I become hollowed-out, an empty husk of a man counting down my days.

To what extent, though, is it up to me to unsettle other people? If I recognise in myself that a need to balance areas in which I’m settled and those in which I’m unsettled, how do I know when it’s appropriate to go about prodding others?

Perhaps, and I suppose this is my get-out-of-jail-free card, by writing about unsettling things, people can opt-in if and when they’re ready. Interestingly, two of my three recent side projects (extinction.fyi and privacy.garden) have been on the unsettling side of things.

Finally, it’s worth noting to myself that being settled in my home life allows me to do unsettling things at work. This is a note to future Doug that when I’m unsettled with things outside of work, it’s time to do more ‘settled’ things in work.


This post is Day 100 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com.

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