A few years ago, I attended a design presentation given by my friend, Von Glitschka. In it, he used a metaphor of matchsticks. He said that everywhere you go, every experience you have, you’re picking up matchsticks along the way, carefully placing them in your proverbial pocket. And one day, one of those matchsticks you’ve collected might light the fire of an amazing idea.
At the time, I really took this lesson to heart and began seeking out new matchsticks anywhere I could. If I had the choice between sitting at home and binge-watching My Secret Neurosis Makeover Challenge, Alabama Edition on Netflix or going out and experiencing something, I’d put on my shoes and head out the door.
And for me, it really worked. Not only did I gather future idea sparks, I gathered what ended up being some amazing opportunities. I attribute my current job (which I love) to a matchstick. I met some incredible people because of it. For years it was a way of life, where I had limited FOMO because I wasn’t ‘MO’ on anything. Speak on a panel? Sure! New exhibit coming to the museum? Let’s go! Plan a ridiculously stressful, logistically-nightmarish, weekend-long event…numerous times? Sign me up! Even activities that sounded less than appealing made it to my date book, and while I might have whined like a four-year-old when I had to put real-lady pants on instead of sweats, I can’t recall a single time I regretted it.
But now, in my quest for peace and with the hope of becoming a low-to-moderately-anxious human-being again, I’ve been reading about another way of life. An opposing way of life. Essentialism. The idea behind it is to “quiet the noise,” say “no” more often, unless, in your heart, it’s an overwhelming “yes,” and emphasize quality over quantity. Part of me thinks this makes sense. I shouldn’t allow others to dictate my agenda. I should live the life that I consciously choose to live, not what the requests in my inbox dictate. But another part of me thinks about all of those great matchsticks I wouldn’t have collected had I been self-serving instead.
A pocket full of matchsticks could burn me right out but passing them up completely could leave me cold. Maybe the real lesson I’m learning is that there isn’t one premier philosophy for everyone, and as I evolve (cough cough, get older), I just need to keep reevaluating what works best for me.