A column about little things that are deceptively similar, yet decisively different. Read and be prepared.
To claim or not to claim?
During the first week of this year I attended Job Search classes. I did it, not because I don't know how to search for jobs – I do know how to write a CV and a cover letter. I did it purely because it was a pre-requisite of applying for unemployment support in Australia, and because I find myself between contracts, which means I am technically unemployed. But I soon decided to discontinue my brief pursuit of Australian government unemployment support, as it is too long-winded (I was expected to do 100 hours of job readiness training), onerous (I had to keep a time-sheet detailing all job-hunting activities and listing the names and contact numbers for every company I approached in search of work). Also, the training was in very basic stuff that I know already, and they wanted too much information about my finances, assets, bank accounts, loans, shares in companies, directorships etc. (Not that I have anything to hide; just that it's a pain to find all the stuff and record it on the prescribed forms in the required detail).
The whole process, it seems, is designed to help people who are not a bit like me. Many of them don't appear to want to find work and would happily live off the system indefinitely. Some have no previous work experience. Some are quite fussy about what work they get. I am no such person. I want to work and be productive, without much regard for the monetary reward. My rewards are intrinsic - the feeling that I have done something worthwhile, that I am indeed alive and thriving.
So that's why I decided to take my chances with the skills that I have and 'walk this tight-rope' of unemployment without the ‘safety net' offered by CentreLink. I resigned from being unemployed, after just 35 hours of training. It's the first time I have dropped out of a class since first year university. And, just like then, I feel more like me this way.
Authenticity comes at a high price in this world, and that is especially so in cultures where collectivism is highly valued. Even in this Western individualistic society, I continually get accused of being too self-reliant. Frank Sinatra sang 'I did it MY WAY', which just about sums up the 'authentic' life. Like I said in my book, Destiny – the Reflections of a Surfing Professor, the only thing I want people to write on my tomb-stone or epitaph is 'I did it my way and I finally found my perfect wave'.
Unfortunately freedom does have downsides. One is best summed up in this quotation from one of Paulo Coelho's bestselling novels, The Zahir: “... it has left scars on my body and on my soul, it has meant hurting certain people, although I have since asked their forgiveness, ……….. I don't regret the painful times; I bear my scars as if they were medals. I know that freedom has a high price, as high as that of slavery; the only difference is that you pay with a pleasure and a smile even when the smile is dimmed with tears.”
But there are evils in the wake of existentialism gone too far: Some people, probably unwittingly, use it as an excuse to be unmotivated to improve themselves, to have no life goals, and even to be downright obnoxious with regard to others, i.e. hurting their friends and family on purpose as if on some mission to prove that they are above normality, beyond responsible social behaviour. In this life, it is always beneficial to at least try to be agreeable, i.e. being pleasant toward others, engagingin conversation that may not exactly be your 'cup-of-tea', or in perhaps doing something that may not be immediately pleasurable (e.g. volunteering for re-cycling clean-up work, or visiting the elderly), because such things hold the key to a more general state of happiness, known as contentment, which is fulfilling and enduring.
To claim or not to claim? That was the question. I made a decision, and I will have to to bear the pain, but feel pleased with my choice, because it was, when all is said and done, authentically me! Besides, a few weeks of frugal living, without the promise of $412 a week from CentreLink won't hurt me. And there are others who need it more.
Dr. Dave Robinson is Principal Consultant for the Academy of Business Acumen and Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship at Bond University, an entrepreneur, director of companies, consultant to business, author of books and academic research publications, amateur musician, lifelong surfer and award winning poet.