I’ve written a lot about struggles, overcoming obstacles and forming habits, but it is extremely empowering to realise that life doesn’t have to be that hard and that fundamentally we have some choice in how things go.
Listening to a TED presentation by Jon Jandai from Thailand, Jon was telling his story of how he grew up in rural Thailand and then had to move to Bangkok to study and find a living. While there he becomes disheartened with university and the prospect of having to work very hard, compete with others and still barely make a good living. With the prospect of having to work 30 years to pay off a house. Jon remembered how when he was a kid his family used to work two months a year – one month to plant the rice fields and one month to harvest and process the crop. The rest 10 months were free and as he describes it, that’s why thai people have so many festivals.
Jon decides to try and resurrect his childhood’s way of living and moves back to the countryside with his family of six. They are poor, but start planting rice. The family brings four tonnes a year and can only consume about half a ton. Then Jon decides to dig a pond and now the family has a steady supply of fish too. Next they started a garden on less than half an acre and now grow about 30 types of vegetables and cannot eat the whole produce. They also build their own house by using clay from the land to bake bricks (a similar way as my grandparents did their own house 50 years ago). Even thought he is poor in terms of bank savings, Jon has more than one house, rich supply of healthy food, a loving family and he says life is easy now.
I don’t agree with everything Jon Jandai says in his presentation, but there is one key thing I want to take out of it – for many of us, how hard life is is a choice. We choose our goals and how high they are, we choose to wrestle and grind every day to succeed. However, we must recognise that it is our choice, that there are alternatives. I know, I know, you don’t need to go bake bricks from clay to have an easy life, but my point is that if we are blind to the situation and see ourselves as trapped into a one way lane then hard is the only way.
I personally deal with survival courses, studying farming and go outdoors because aside from the enjoyment of being out, it reminds me that I can. I can rely on my own hands, on my skills and still live comfortably. It is one of the fundamental things we want to prove to ourselves – from tribal ceremonies of initiation to start up companies and entrepreneurs – we all crave to prove to ourselves that we can do it. I’m just saying that there’s more than one way of doing that and this is what I took from Jon’s presentation. What about you?
If you want to see the presentation, here it is: