The Second Flowering
Conversations I have with 30-year-olds (of any age) about making a new life.
Practice listening to your intuition, your inner voice; ask questions; be curious; see what you see; hear what you hear; and then act upon what you know to be true.
Clarissa Pinkola Estés
There’s a ‘mentoring’ conversation I’ve often had people who are around 30.
They’re ready to move beyond the first phase of adult life. They may have completed education and worked a few years in an entry-level job. Perhaps they’ve extended their studies - graduate and postgraduate - and now want to apply their knowledge. Perhaps they’re a freelancer and they’ve completed some jobs, earned a bit of money, achieved ‘their first dream’. Perhaps the career they spent their time training for is not everything they thought it would be and they’re searching for a new direction.
They ask a simple question: ‘Now what?’
Go back to University?
Live for the weekend?
Start a side-hustle?
Stick with what they’ve already got?
Put up with work but take great holidays?
Growing up, we have dreams. Part of leaving childhood is proving (to yourself and the world) that you’re an adult: you CAN earn money, hold down a job, leave home and get your own apartment, establish yourself.
These achievements are important. They’re thethreshold between childhood dependence and adulthood independence. They’re the first phase of adult life. I call this the ‘First Flowering’.
During your First Flowering, you take your place proudly in the world. It’s a rite-of-passage — but it often happens without too much thought.
Perhaps the course you followed was the one that, at the age of 14 or 15, a teacher, careers-advisor or parent pushed you towards. Perhaps the job you got was whatever was available locally, because you didn’t quite have the courage, or permission, to move away from ‘home’, family and the community you grew up with. Perhaps your career choice was primarily intended to satisfy expectations from parents or family.
Often what we study at university is a compromise between what we want and what other people expect of us (I know it was for me — I wanted to study Theatre, my parents permitted Literature). The same is true of the jobs we first choose to take — often enough we fall into what’s available.
We seek safety. Leaving the protection of family, we need security. Unless you’re born rich, you need to earn the food you put on the table. You need to do it AND prove you can do it.
Then, one day, you realise it’s not enough.
Perhaps you’re a performer, (which is my background) — you’ve had a few jobs, enjoyed getting through auditions, earning money, but find you’re not getting the sort of work you want. You’re just a body being told what to do, while you always wanted to be a creative artist.
Perhaps you’re working for a company. The first year or two feels great: you’re part of a team making new friends, applying your education in the real world. Then you see, stretched ahead of you, decades of slowly increasing income and occasional promotions: a lifetime of incremental change or, worse, stagnation.
Inside you hear a little voice asking: ‘Is this all there is?’ The voice reminds you of your dreams and unique qualities, the things you put aside as you grew up, because they were ‘just hobbies’. It asks what happened to ‘creative you’: dancing or acting, drawing, music or design - things you used to love but somebody told you: ‘You’ll never earn a living doing that’. Perhaps it points out you always wanted to set up your own business, invent something, create a product, change the world. Or travel, live in the big city, or the country or by the sea.
We’ve all got dreams, and while we can’t always leap straight into our dream-life — because there’s always that need to put food on the table — to ignore your inner voice is to ignore a vital part of who you are.
Let’s return to the ’30-year-old-conversation’.
During it, often, people say there’s nothing wrong. But also they say that something’s not right. There’s plenty they’re happy about, but also a nagging inner doubt, a sense that this is not the life their young self dreamed of.
I never tell someone how to live their life. If I told them that, they wouldn’t be living their life, they’d be living the life I told them to live. I can’t make somebody else’s dreams come true. I can, however, guide them. I can help them trust their inner voice.
How to do this?
Well the first step is to validate — to say it’s okay to have dreams, it’s okay to have an inner voice. I en-courage.
Then I ask what stands in their way. What voices argue against that quiet, determined inner voice of theirs?
Usually they talk of fear and the need to be sensible.
That sort of makes me smile. It’s not as if there’s any security to hold on to these days. The pandemic has shown us we never know what’s around the corner. The economic cycles of late capitalism (more like a roller-coaster than a gentle walk in the hills) mean a job that’s secure one day, six months later could be obsolete. The best training in the world might not stop you being replaced by Artificial Intelligence 10 years from now.
Parents and elders, though frequently with the very best of intentions, describe how they made their way in a world 30 or 40 years ago. The world has changed. They ask you to exchange today’s dreams for yesterday’s ideas of security, not realising there is no security any more. Though they don’t acknowledge it, they ask you to live a life they think you should live, even if it makes you unhappy.
If you’re going to follow your unique journey through life, you need to hear and trust YOUR guide.
Your guide is you.
There’s a second half to this conversation. I ask questions to help translate the inner voice into a real, practical vision of a day-by-day life. What will it feel like to be living your dream? What will you actually do each day?
If your dream is to sell cute doodles, that means SELLING as well as doodling! The texture of your life is likely to be getting up in the morning and finding people to buy stuff from you. A large part of your day is going to be marketing. If you hate marketing, then selling doodles is not a great idea. Instead, find a company to work for who’ll do all the marketing and let you sit at home and doodle.
Dreams need detailing.
You need to imagine the texture — the actual practical texture — of your ‘Second Flowering’. If you don’t, your dream can easily become nightmare.
Transformation involves vision combining with the practical steps of acquiring skills, changing mindset, making new networks.
The outcome of all of this — what I’m aiming for when I have these 30 year old conversations — is to help people move beyond their First Flowering and achieve their Second Flowering.
I misquote a Japanese philosopher called Zeami Motokiyo. My version of his quote is:
The first flowering is free.
The second flowering you must work for.
If you have the courage, you can move from the first phase of adult life into a more conscious, constructed, authentic, second phase.
A Second Flowering.
Nobody can do it for you. But someone can validate, encourage question, provoke and travel some of the way with you. That can be invaluable.
We emerge from pandemic facing the inevitable breakdown of the late capitalist system. It’s ecologically, socially and financially unsustainable. We’re witnessing the replacement of massive areas of human labour with Artificial Intelligence. Now, more than ever, it’s time to give up once and for all notions of playing it safe, and to hear, develop, celebrate, and act on the promptings of our inner voices.
It’s no longer a smart deal to swap your soul for security.
There is no security.
Let’s cultivate conscious, creative, community-orientated ways of living, which honour each other, the planet, and our uniqueness. Your greatest gift to the world is your authentic genius — the things that no-one but you can give. That’s what your inner voice points you to.
I believe passionately people are intrinsically good, noble and mutually dependent. That’s the guiding philosophy behind the mentorship programmes I run — encouraging people to move beyond their first flowering and trust the voice that tells them it’s time to enter a new phase of life.
I can offer perspective, but they are guided mainly by the rightness of their vision.
I have this conversation often with people aged around 30. But — as they say — ‘age is just a number’. We’re all thirty as often as we choose. There’s no end to the number of flowerings you can pursue in your life:
‘You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream’
New on Thinkific — an online, video-based Consultancy Programme: ‘The Second Flowering’ — for those in the process of starting a new phase of life.
It’s heavily discounted until August 1st 2021
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I’ve spent three decades as a performer, teacher and director across Europe, the Americas, India and Australasia. My particular focus was on deep-level training of performers, specialising in presence, interconnection and creativity.
I now work as a consultant, teacher and mentor across corporate, educational and community fields, mentoring individuals in applying the 8 Principles of Presence and training people in Communicating With Confidence.
My approach to training is called Self-With-Others and forms the basis of all my work.