We had the good fortune of connecting with Scott Flanders and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Scott, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
My work life balance has changed quite a bit over the years. Specifically since my son was born. My priorities changed pretty dramatically when he came into the world. For the better too, in my opinion.
These days I spend more time pursuing what I think of as an ‘Anthropological Perspective’ on life, and on being a human. I try to ensure that I’m making time to address what I understand to be ancient baseline needs.
First, I want to be clear.. ’m not a hippie. Or at least I don’t see myself that way. However I AM an ape person. And so are YOU. I’m convinced that we all deny this at our peril. Honor the truth of what you are and your biology will thank you for it.
Second, I hope you’ll trust me a little bit here as I suggest that you might want to try these activities out for yourself. I do them regularly, typically 3-4 times a week. Sometimes more, and seldom less. They’re not especially out of the ordinary activities. Most people on the planet have access to them in some measure, wherever an earnest mind will look. You might want to give them a try sometime. I think you’ll enjoy yourself 🙂
* Sunsets – I make time as often as possible to watch the sunset. It’s free magic there for the taking, and it happens EVERY DAY 😀
* Barefoot Walks – I take long slow walks around the place I live with my shoes off. Usually down to the beach. I always make sure to get my feet wet. Feel the cold water and the rough sand on my feet. It’s the best.
* Observing Wildlife – I spend quite a bit of time with my son out of doors. Every time I pick him up from school we go to a marine reserve in the Huntington Beach area. It’s a fundamental part of our routine together. We’ve observed some incredible things together on our walks there. Hundreds of spawning stingrays beginning in late April, 4 foot long shovel-nosed guitarfish cruising the channel at low tide, the mysterious mating ceremonies of blue herons in Winter, spawning sea hares in early Summer, the life stages of moon jellies (my son even saved one that was stranded with his bare hands!), migrating pintail ducks, marauding turkey vultures facing off with a hunting osprey. Large schools of juvenile leopard sharks, and much more.
* Cookouts – Beach cookouts are one of my favorite things to do with people I care about. It’s an event that brings together a lot of the activities listed above. It’s especially great after a long day of hard work, hike, a day at the beach, or a bike ride. Time spent with people you care about warming yourselves around a fire, under a star lit sky, with the sounds of the sea at your back.
One of my favorite students I work with referred to my activities as resembling something of a ‘sacrament’. And I think there is truth in that. These activities are the closest thing to worship or church that I engage in on a regular basis. But they are not mine. These are some of the most fundamental and ancient forms of joy a human being could experience on a regular basis, and they have been available to us since the dawn of time and the evolution of our most primitive common ancestors.
So I enjoy them. I am deeply thankful for them. And as result I think my life is quite a bit more satisfying. When times are challenging and confusing these routines help to make life tolerable. They sustain me. Like medicine. And when things are going well they help to make my life wonderful beyond words. They enrich my life, and the life of my son. Like blessings.
So to summarize, I recommend you make some time in your own life to get in touch with your own ‘Anthropological Needs’. Get some time up close with nature. Look closely at the animals you encounter. Take your shoes off and walk in the surf. Feel the scrape of gravel and sea shells. Be reminded of the ages past when our feet were strong and hard. Make a fire and cook over it for people you care about. Look up and around, and see the world as your children see it. Through blessed eyes. Through human eyes.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Q: What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
A: Hmm..there are too many to list. But I’ll try to share a few that might be useful to students and others who may be on a similar path in life.
1. There’s not really all that much to be afraid of. Besides sharks, and heights. But seriously I mean in regards to life. To work. To bills. To all the things that people tend to order their lives around. If you develop a vision that is authentic. If you work hard to nurture it. If you focus on brining it to fruition. If you attempt to be honest with yourself and with others. If you can muster up the courage to reject nonsense from individuals or institutions who would attempt to coerce you or manipulate you. If you can do these things, I think you are guaranteed to have an interesting and satisfying life. And come what may, you will be ok. Think about it like this, every single person alive on the planet today is living at the spear point of history. Every single person alive today is the descendant of a long line of successful survivors (biologically speaking). We all have within us the latent potential to push through, and to win. I’m very serious about this. It’s in me, and it’s definitely in you too. Life is amazing and challenging and you ARE up to the task. In fact you were built for it.
2. Pursue only those things you give a damn about. Don’t waste your time on projects or pursuits you know you are not invested in. Be discerning. It’s your life. You only get one as far as we know.
3. Don’t let yourself be a martyr to others, to institutions, or to abstractions. Don’t allow yourself to be swept up in a story within which you’ll only ever be an NPC. Look within. Dig around. See what’s really there. It’s likely kinda ugly. You’re probably a little bit of a sucker, a coward, and a dummy. I know I can be, and definitely have been. But we’re all better off when we can acknowledge that fact. Because then we can actually do something about it. Then we can live from a position of increased authenticity and understanding. Then you will be more resistant to delusion, coersion, or idealogical possession. Self analysis leads to greater honesty. Honesty equips us with the strength to live a life which for all intents and purposes is blessed.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Kristian Nee. Kristian is a friend of mine who has played an important role in helping me re-envision my life.