As contemporary technologies, communication tools, global relationships, and lifestyle options develop at warp speed, injecting themselves into our daily lives almost at the moment they come to exist, a new evolutionary meme is emerging that I call “hacking culture.”
As an active and somewhat obsessive observer of people, communities and organizations, I’m intrigued to explore a great shift in how we curate our lives and our work to blend everything that matters most to us. We are learning to accept our contradictions, which is causing a convergence of how we work, create, and live our day-to-day lives. The democratization of information is spawning a growing legion of global citizens who are choosing to design a radically different approach to their lives, ultimately forging a culture that is unique to the individual, not defined by the collective, as has historically been the case.
What we’re experiencing isn’t a trend, it’s an anti-trend. Traditions aren’t being challenged, they’re being ignored. Rituals are no longer an expression of what “we” do, but rather an intensely personal expression of who “I” am. This is a new modernism, defined by what a person cares about most today rather than what she hopes to achieve or obtain for tomorrow. It’s a “now” culture versus the culture created around an aspirational future.
Consider the people who are choosing to live “outside the lines.” They’re moving away from cities and suburbs and choosing rural communities-sometimes outside of their own countries-where they can live and grow their own food and care for their families. Leaving behind the conventions and restrictions of traditional society, many have created self-sustaining communities. Consider Finca Bella Vista, a fast-growing community in the Costa Rican rainforest where expats are living in tree houses.
This is a big, bold example of hacking culture and literally building an existence centered on leveraging and enjoying the journey of life along with other co-conspirers with shared values. Breaking all kinds of rules, crossing borders, erasing all confining lines, innovating new social and economic realities for themselves where less really is more.
People are hacking culture – they’re rejecting the conditioned mindset of conformity and mediocrity and instead are experimenting and finding practical, creative workarounds that enable them to live unique, fulfilling, extraordinary lives. They are engaging in subversive disruptions of the status quo and setting themselves apart from others, ultimately living life more freely. Free of the expectations of others, culture hackers are comfortable at the fringe and don’t aspire to be anywhere else. Many were always outsiders, minorities, rebels, game changers, geeks, and freaks who are now leveraging that outsider mindset to create original, modern approaches to life and work.
When we talk about culture, it’s generally assumed we mean the art, literature, and music kind of culture or the customs associated with the native environment in which one was raised. Webster’s defines culture as “enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and aesthetic training” and also as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group; as well as the characteristic features of everyday existence.” While I don’t quarrel with those traditional definitions, I would insist that in just the last few years, culture has expanded to mean the unique way of life an individual chooses. For one person, that may be expressed through the lens of design, yoga, and ethnicity. For another, it might be sexual orientation, entrepreneurship, and community service. It’s a custom formula that changes from person to person and is fluid and variable, not fixed.
Hacking is by nature a word that combines its purpose (finding practical workarounds, turning something broken into something better, or just plain blowing stuff up) with the characteristics of the person doing the hacking (playful, clever, curious, restive, obsessive…and on and on). Hacking is at heart a solitary act of defiance. It’s just you, the hacker, pushing aside old assumptions, asking yourself new questions, and finding the quiet genius inside you to cobble together solutions. It’s just you – what you care about and what you want to do about with what you care about. da Vinci was a hacker. Edison was a hacker. Frida Kahlo was a hacker.
Culture was asking for it
The Arab Spring has arrived for many of us. No more waiting for “things to change” before we find satisfaction in our lives. No more senseless restrictions we put on our own futures. Instead we hack culture to level the playing field in front of us. If our society can’t figure out how to reconcile the haves and the have nots, and the separates but never equal, we have the tools, motivation, and inspiration to get it done by radicalizing our own day-to-day lives. We’re making choices that are reimagining and reconfiguring what our lives look like. Self-made millionaire entrepreneurs are choosing to live in ghettos. Ghettos are choosing to be centers of art and music. DJs are composing symphonies; groups of unrelated people are living together in urban communes. Scientists are collaborating with artists; technologists are playing with environmentalists. Gender bending and diversity is the new normal.
These are not the choices of dilettantes, hipsters, or people who can afford to make outrageous choices. These are acts of survival. We hack culture to make room for ourselves in the history of humanity. We hack culture to make our lives work in complicated times. We hack culture to make our lives matter.
It’s okay to be rattled by all this. When you think you’re seeing life as we know it fall apart, look a little closer and you’ll see that dysfunctional stuff is being deconstructed and reconstructed to have meaning and purpose. People are doing it for themselves, their families, and their communities. They’re finding the point of true convergence, where their unique values are acutely expressed in every aspect of their lives rather than in just one area. They know that there’s no win-lose, no pass-fail, no right or wrong. There is no “correct” destination.
A critical aspect of living a life of convergence is identifying the partners, employers, and communities where one can practice, experiment, and curate. Take this extraordinary young fat brain Eliana Murillo I’m working with at Google. Challenging the expectations of parents, friends, and managers, she collides all aspects of her life as a Latina hyper-creative digital expert. Challenging her cultural legacy, she hacks the personal and professional aspects of her life, all at once, in a way I have to admit I have never seen before. As a bold matter-of-fact, she blends all that matters most to her without apology and almost without being aware of it because her employer – Google – lets her hack everything around her.
A traditional organization would not know what to do with this young woman. But at Google, she is a beautifully rebellious rising star who is impacting business and communities in a multi-dimensional way. Google is a unique environment, to be sure. But it’s not the only organization where culture hackers can flourish.
I hope you will stay tuned as I explore the concept of “hacking culture” further, introducing you to people who can show you how it’s done and what might be in it for you! In the meantime, enjoy these resources that I like to call “proof points,” which demonstrate what hacking culture can look like.
2013 was a year filled with great life lessons for me. In the spirit of sharing what I’ve learned during what was the most transformational year of my life, here are a few insights worth considering.
1. Only you can make yourself happy. The secret to happiness is to realize happiness is a state of mind, a kind of deep level of centeredness that is achieved through intrinsic value and never dependent on external factors.
My husband and I recently attended a retreat on Happiness at Esalen in Big Sur that was facilitated by author-psychologists Charlie and Linda Bloom. We learned that there are ten needs that are essential for one’s well being and happiness. Let’s pay attention to these needs in 2014:
2. Rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation
3. Safety, security, and protection
4. Community and connection
7. Creative expression
8. Purpose and meaning
9. Learning, growth, and challenge
2. Practice mindfulness. As you enter the new year, commit to a meditation practice. I have learned that it only takes five minutes of mindfulness a day to experience the mental benefits of quieting your beautiful mind. So don’t wait until you “have the time” to incorporate meditation into your life. It doesn’t take time, it just takes the will and discipline to do it.
“Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in eternal awareness or pure consciousness without objectification, knowing without thinking, merging finitude in infinity. “ — Voltaire
3. Embrace your mistakes. I made a boatload of mistakes in 2013 and instead of beating myself up about them I gave each of my mistakes my undivided and loving attention in order to learn as much as I could from them. Don’t sweep your mistakes under your personal rug. Instead, own them, love them, learn from them, and know in doing so that you won’t ever repeat them.
“Take the challenges that you face in life and use them to grow.” — Eckhart Tolle
4. Courage, clarity, and consistency make for a remarkable leader. Reflecting on the life and passing of Nelson Mandela, I am reminded of his leadership lessons. Mandela taught us that we can change our lives, our communities, and even the world by being courageous, having clarity of purpose, and by staying relentlessly consistent in our efforts. And if you don’t think of yourself as a leader, think again. You are in a position to lead others in big ways and small ways every single day. Take that to heart.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela
Happy 2014 Tribe!
“Stay curious,” advised Martha Stewart recently at the Invent Your Future / Indiana Governor’s Conference for Women I attended. I sat front and center to hear the amazing Martha speak along side lifelong friend Charlotte Beers and was inspired by their candid, sharp humorous advice. Both women spoke of the importance of living healthy and staying true to your passions alongside your talents, but what struck me most of all that was discussed was the great importance on staying curious.
I have to admit, I have an insatiable curiosity about how the world works and that curiosity has framed how I work, live, and parent but sometimes I wonder if my curiosity gets me into trouble.
Curious about curiosity, I pondered the notion of whether too much curiosity can be a bad thing. After six hours of racy-brain thinking about this, I realized that while curiosity—the need, thirst, or desire for knowledge—does divert energy and focus from other aspects of your day-to-day life, it is never a detrimental trade-off. Curiosity by nature demands your undivided attention, but the benefit of the time spent in curious pursuit is by far more valuable than the same amount of time focused on the mundane. The ordinary aspects of daily life require enough of our energy already; the turbo-boost benefit of indulging your curiosity is undeniable.
All explorers, investigators, inventors, designers, problem solvers, and research junkies are just curious souls spurred on by nothing much more than the charge they know they will experience as they gain knowledge and perspective from their pursuits. Curiosity combined with motivation lead to the extraordinary revelations—both personal and public.
Consider this: how can one be motivated if she is not curious and how can one ignore her curiosity without having a negative impact on her motivation. The two are dependent to the core of who many of us are as entrepreneurs, artists, writers, journalists, small business owners, chefs, scientists, and technologists. Yes, we are curious and we ask questions, and yes, we have a major crush on research but you know what? That’s okay!
Ultimately I believe that exploration of the unknown has no downside—in spite of the unfortunate outcome for that curious cat! In truth, you can never be too curious.
When was the last time you gave yourself or someone else a second chance? Whether it was a second chance at love, a new venture, a friendship, or a family relationship, second chances are part and parcel of being human. They allow us to mend fences, get unstuck, and move forward with our lives. And yet second chances have a high failure rate because of the lack of understanding in what goes into enabling a second chance to actually have the potential to succeed.
Relationships are more important than most of us pay attention to when it comes to the general happiness in our lives. In hopes of encouraging couples, business associates, and bickering family members to give each other another try, here are a few things I’ve realized about second chances, having recently gone through the process with someone who has been very important to me.
Invest in the risk
Second chances at the core are about taking risks for the sake of the relationship and not about the individual egos involved. Many defer to their ego, never letting go of the resentment around the conflict, realizing too late that second chances have nothing to do with the individual and having everything to do with something greater than the ego—the heart.
The heart is a risk taker
The ego, which speaks from the logical mind, will always tell you to flee and break away, while the heart although often silenced during times of conflict, will always guide you to forgive and to consider taking a risk for the sake of love. In fact, the heart is where the risk taker in you resides. Only your heart has the authority to give you the permission and strength to take the risk on a second chance. The heart is also there to remind you that love is always worth a risk.
Reboot the relationship
Acknowledging what brought about the break in the relationship, venture, or project in the first place is important in order for you to move forward. But once you’ve aired the particulars, move on. If you belabor the post-mortem, you will find yourself right back where you started. Instead, charge ahead with a new approach to the situation. Big change doesn’t happen passively. It should feel like a jolt to the system, a rebooting of the your hard drive. If you continue passively along with the same thinking, assumptions, and behavior patterns of the past, nothing will change. The key to the second chance is letting go. It ain’t easy, but it’s the only place to start.
Write a new story together
Once you have rebooted the relationship, its time to co-author a new chapter together. Out with the old and in with the new. Delete and then empty your mental trash bin and start with a blank page, which should be filled with new shared experiences, energy and intentions. Only the two of you can craft the relationship you want to have. If you’re both committed to this new chapter, then you both should actively participate in choosing the way you’ll approach having a healthier, happier, and sustainable relationship together.
Bring in a third party
The last recommendation I have is to bring in a professional therapist, marriage counselor, relationship expert, spiritual advisor, or life coach when you decide to give a relationship a second chance. A facilitated approach can make the experience more productive, effective, and rewarding, and help to set you up for success in your efforts. You don’t have to do all of the resolving, healing, and forgiving alone—a third party can play a critical role in making it work.
Take it from me— your bountiful, abundant heart and wants what is best for you. You already have what it takes to give someone important to you a second chance. Go ahead, take the risk. It’s worth it.