I had the stomach flu last week. When I wasn’t curled up in pain on bedsheets soaked in cold sweat, or crawling to the toilet every 20 minutes to relieve myself of watery stool, I couldn’t help but scroll through WebMD to ‘research’ the symptoms of my illness. When you’re self-diagnosing on the Internet, all roads lead to cancer. And even though I’ve passed every one of my health screenings with flying colours, the thought that I might be lying on my deathbed did peek out sneakily from the bushes in my mind.
At some point around 369-286 BCE, the ancient Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi had this to say about how important mindset is:
OK? OK. Not OK? Not OK. Heaven and Earth is one finger. The thousand things under the sky is one horse. Walk in the Tao. Accomplish it all. Say words, and they’re so. How so? Is so? How not so? Not so-so? In Tao they are all One.
The quote might seem mind-bending on the surface, but it contains a very simple message – whatever you say something is, that’s what that something will be. Let’s combine that with the complex nature of our subconscious – even if we know that we’re not going to die from stomach flu, constantly reading about the similarities of its symptoms to those of life-ending illnesses is enough to make us feel like we’re dying.
Zhuangzi’s wisdom is emblematic of the start-up environment. In such an emergent space, where nothing exists yet except for the contents of our minds, anything we say or think has the potential to become something – which is why saying and thinking the right thing is important. It’s been very enlightening to watch the way our managing director, business development director and creative producer operate. Not only do they swing for the fences, the energy they generate drives everyone else in the company to run through the bases and score collective home runs. Seeing our list of projects expand has been very satisfying and morale-boosting – nothing saps my motivation more than sitting around the office with nothing to do but twiddle my thumbs!
Enjoying what I do makes a world of difference to the energy and commitment that I put into my work. As someone who relishes exploring possibilities, the start-up environment has been fertile ground for my personal development and career growth. Not being able to work for the few days I was ill bummed me out a lot, because I truly do enjoy what I do. It’s a far cry from a previous work experience – plenty of times, abusive managers and a toxic work environment made me wish I was actually sick so I wouldn’t have to step into the office – a wish that eventually came true in the form of a nervous breakdown. There is a lot to appreciate about a manager who pushes you to expand your imagination and be creatively bolder, while paying close attention to the size of your workload.
One of the things that kept me from spiraling in the midst of illness was the excitement of returning to the office and working side-by-side with Pivoter Y, a fellow creative and close friend of more than ten years. The assignments might be piling up, but it also means continuous opportunities for us to go crazy with our ideas and most importantly, grow together as friends and professionals. It’s hard to top the camaraderie and shared fulfilment that comes with having a work partner who’s surfing the same wavelength as you are – I wake up everyday feeling thankful to be walking the same path as a trusted companion, and solidifying our friendship further with a plethora of shared experiences. It might be Friday, but I’m already looking forward to the madness that we’ll unleash on the world on Monday and every other day after that!