We consider philosophers, world leaders, writers, artists, musicians and comedians as good sources of wisdom. But we don’t rate pirates, hackers and gang members quite so highly. Author Kyra Maya Phillips disagrees and thinks we should look to social misfits as sources of inspiration as she describes in her book, The Misfit Economy. The Venezuelan writer spoke in Sydney for Vivid Ideas and The School Of Life. She described how we can receive pearls of wisdom from these rather unlikely sources. We list the top six things we learned.
1. A good exercise you can do with yourself is to stop and think about the section(s) you normally gravitate towards when you walk into a bookstore. This can help you figure out what truly matters to you or what you may be missing out on in life. If it’s the latter, you can take a break from habit or routine as this may help.
2. Gangsters can be just like us. Phillips was surprised to see a photograph of some gangsters meditating on a beach. She realised that they can also have similar aspects in life to our own like experiencing the daily grind and the demands from family and friends. So it stands to reason that they also need ways to make sense of their lives and what better way to do that than to mediate?
3. Pirates were successful entrepreneurs. Some of the most successful ones managed to capture hundreds of ships and in the “Golden Age of Pirates” these vessels were highly organised and run like a democracy. The captains were freely elected, the power was separated among senior officers and the booty was distributed relatively equally. These pirates were former merchant sailors who had previously been subjected to harsh treatment by their former captains as well as feeling no sense of ownership or autonomy on these other ships. In spite of this darkness the pirates were able to remould their pasts to make it into something much more meaningful.
4. Duane Jackson was once told he’d be either a master criminal or talented in business. After a tumultuous upbringing which saw him thrown out of school at 15 and arrested for drug-trafficking he served a prison sentence. This sentence proved quite fruitful for him because he learned that he could be resourceful. He also had so many opportunities for quiet contemplation while inside and this meant he was able to derive meaning. The result was his founding of KashFlow Software Ltd, a company that produced and maintains a successful cloud-based accounting application.
5. You can always find common ground even if the person you are talking to is radically different to yourself. Phillips was able to connect with Jackson because they both have children even though she was opposed to his drug-dealing. Phillips is not alone- the inventor of the essay and the often-dubbed, Godfather of blogging, Michel de Montaigne also spoke to people from a range of different backgrounds and with different social norms. In doing so, he was able to identify what was missing from his own life.
6. It is important to learn how to get lost and to get lost well. In this modern age arguments can be settled in seconds through Google and we get used to expecting immediate responses to our texts and emails. But it is important to take a step away from all of this where things seem limitless because this makes for a much richer life.
Kyra Maya Phillips embarked on her writing project for over four years and in doing so had learnt a lot from a range of different individuals. During her talk at Vivid she was able to convey some of the results and the lessons she learned in all of this. Her discussion proved to be a warm and intriguing secular sermon for the assembled throng who were interested in learning more about emotional intelligence. It was also proof that we can be connected as human beings and find common ground, even when faced with the most obvious differences. This was a celebration of rich and raw emotions and the wondrous idea that variety is the spice of life.
Vivid Ideas is on now at venues around Sydney, until 17th June. For details head to vivid.com/ideas