There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “What the hell is water?” – David Foster Wallace
I like this joke a lot.
It’s very important to notice what’s going on around you. But ironically, if you’re constantly immersed in the thing you’re supposed to be noticing, you can actually become blind to it.
I spend most of my time around humans working hard on building a company – specifically its marketing arm. Everything I do on a daily basis seems normal to me. I do it every day, after all. But when all I have around me are the trappings of work (the good and the bad), I can become blinded to both the uniqueness of my work and the bigness of the world outside of my work.
These are two dangers: assuming your life is what it is and assuming there’s nothing else going on.
It’s the times I get to go into the woods that are exceptional for me. When I leave the human world of marketing and startups and software behind for a bit, I can get a fuller perspective on all of it.
Time spent in nature – around hooting owls and growing trees and grazing deer – helps me remember myself and my rawest creative potential. Like other humans, I’m an (admittedly advanced) hunter-gatherer descended from hunter-gatherers. Nature is my primary creative canvas, and mastering nature’s elements is my primary task as a human.
It’s for that reason that when I’m in nature, I remember that my existence is about more than my job (or whatever else is top of mind). There is more going on in the world and in me.
And that’s actually pretty important to know so that I can do my job well. I need to be able to detach my ego from my work so I can make effective critiques and strategies and actions for improvement. To be as bold and reliable as I need to be, I need to have stable sources of meaning and refreshment and encouragement that are bigger than just my job.
These are not things I would get from extra time at the office.
If you can’t imagine what I’m talking about, spend some time where the wild things are. Because if you want to live well in the human world, you need to spend some more time outside of it.