Living in Beta

My most critical insights from 2012

Precursor – these insights follow 11 years on the Edge, 7 followed the money and I was insecure (financially and morally), 3 followed meaning and I was insecure (financially and morally).

Key summary: Don’t compromise money for meaning or meaning for money – demand both only do meaningful things that create value in your life/meet your needs. Identify what YOU value/need.

This year I began an experiment.

Only do meaningful work

I resolved not to take on any work that I didn’t consider to be meaningful, that I could contribute to in a way that I was happy with my input.

For me “meaningful” translates as the following:

Environmentally and/or socially beneficial
Interesting – a very personal thing i’ll admit for me areas of passion include: experiments with anarchic processes
community empowerment, opportunity to make tangible things, challenges that people don’t think are possible, chance for unexpected outcomes, chance of failure – Fear and Excitement combined.
An opportunity to learn

My first act upon making this decision was to turn down the opportunity to tender for a contract for £60+ K.

The proposed work was a pointless endeavour – to do something cool to promote a brand. It’s net contribution to the world was sweet fuck all. Therefore in my consideration – a meaningless waste of my energy, but more importantly something that I could not do well – because I did not believe in it.

I had 1,000 EU in my bank account and needed work, but I turned it down. It felt awesome.

I resolved not to sell myself to anyone, but instead to simply state – “I enable projects that interest me, and if you’re doing something interesting then we can work together”. This put me in a strong position of negotiation with all future partners, one where I was obliged to challenge, question and provoke them to gain my interest if they wanted to work with me.

Money was only a part of the deal, if you couldn’t offer me meaningful work then you would have to find someone else.

When negotiating with you people have to search for new forms of value. It changes all the rules. It’s an entirely new game, and one that more of us are playing.

Always get Paid

On the flip side, and this is a message for my fellow edgeryders, and anyone still living in position of financial precarity. I resolved to only work for something that created value for myself.

Now to be clear value is not just money. It is something that enables me to live as I wish, to meet my needs.

In order to ensure that I didn’t take on projects just because they were interesting, I began a series of projects for myself which I could devote my time to, something against which other projects could be measured. Projects which would satisfy my own desires and meet my own needs as described by Maslo above, albeit with a luxury twist (I’m fortunate to be able to satisfy most tiers of the pyramid – present absence under lover) – that I can live guilt free.

The first of these was my Treehouse project (Shelter, Warmth), and provided me with a suitable comparison for how I could be using my time. In other words I stopped working for free and started to value my time.

Additionally to this other people started to value my time – Payment of any kind is a feedback mechanism, if you’re working for free then how can you be sure people value what you do.

The results were remarkable. This change communicated – “I only work if it’s meaningful and it’s well paid”, changed my engagement with the world around me. Friends and collaborators aware of my needs only brought me projects that fit the above brief. Money came without me looking, without me selling. I took work to my friends and they brought work to me.

A by product of the project itself was I discovered that when I shared my surplus space, I enjoyed a better lifestyle. Which brings me to my next insight.

Recognise when you have Enough of what you need.

I find myself with a new conundrum.

I now have an excess of something that if not handled correctly could become socially and environmentally toxic (money).

I find myself in a position where I’m not limited by capital (within my own modest social bubble, and certainly not to the point where my judgements are made based on them). However many of the things I want do not yet exist.

Recognising when you have enough is essential for contentment. It means you also no when to stop. Increasingly we consume without monitoring, we take more than we require to satisfy us and as a result we are left with indigestion and social bowel disorders – our lives our clogged with excess.

Identify what you really need + want

There are things I have too much of, and things that I don’t have enough of. Balancing and correctly identifying these aspects is one of life’s greatest challenges. We must filter through the expectations and desires of others, and those artificially created needs and insecurities arising from “Social Status” and media led conformity.

My desire is a strange one – I want to live well without guilt. I want pleasure without the knowledge that the by-product of that pleasure is the suffering of others. Ignorance is not an acceptable means of attaining this.

This need will guide some of my ongoing life experiments going forwards this year. I look forward to sharing the outcomes.


As always in Beta.

Image Credit:


3 thoughts on “My most critical insights from 2012”

  1. Thanks Jay! A very welcome insight. We spoke about this when you were in Amsterdam, but this write-up gives it even more clarity. I thought you used a certain terminology back then to describe a person who is morally and financially insecure. Do you know what that was?
    Would you take a temporary job, that feels problematic on the meaning-side, in order become empathic with the field and the people working there? For instance to bring change to that field with a startup afterwards? Can a personal longterm strategy give it meaning?


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