In the beginning of 2013 I had a new coaching client. It was a lady in her mid-twenties who was working as a consultant for a large IT company. She had a lot of stress, signs of a burnout and some serious physical complaints. She had all of the signs of a mid-life crisis: didn’t like her work at all, didn’t know what she wanted to do and what she loved, and lacked above all energy. That was strange, I thought. Here was a young lady with all the symptoms of a woman in her forties or fifties who needed a new perspective. Previously people would have worked in jobs for twenty years or so and then they would be open for a new chapter in their lives. But just a few years in a job and already burned out? What is happening here?

In combination with my own experience in having jobs, I started to see that there was something seriously wrong with work, with jobs. What are we doing to (young) people that already f*cks them up at such a young age? That question keeps haunting me since that time. It caused a shift inside of myself that what was supposed to be normal (work for someone else, leave yourself at the door of the office and just deal with the stress), is really abnormal. The way we organize work in jobs and how we manage people is inhuman. Managers have gained so much power that they seem almost god-like and certainly behave in such a way. See for example the widespread use of sexual harassment that has been going on for years. Years of working with many young people all over the world and of research followed, that made clear to me that we are intentionally being domesticated, manipulated, conditioned to fit in. Fitting in is not natural and it is causing a lot of (mental) health problems along the way, especially among young people. Fitting in is based on the suppression of your capabilities, as you are just supposed to do what others want you to do. Can you show your emotions at work? Are you stimulated to share your dissenting opinion? Likely not. Since 2017 depression is the leading cause of disability, globally (WHO). Structural suppression of your capabilities is a main influencer of depression, which is literally the suppression of your emotions. 

How does this fitting or flying out work? In the tables I share the essence of how fitting in suppresses our capabilities and what we can, or better need to do to get out of this straitjacket, this cage and to fly out. 

The Conditioning 
Void<< Not Seen (Lack of Love)
<< Not Good Enough
Suppression of Mental/Emotional/Spiritual/
Physical Capabilities
 >> Stress 
Filling the voidRemoving the void
Fitting In (Living Someone Else’s Life)<< Lavish with Love  
Consumption & Entertainment << Observe Objectively  
Suppressed Capabilities<< Liberate with Learning 
Fueling your future  
Flying Out (Living Your Own Life)  
Conscious Consumption &Entertainment 
Liberated Capabilities >> Happiness 

The Void

There is a void inside many of us. That void is caused by ‘not being seen’ (heard, accepted, appreciated, recognized), which is in essence a lack of love (from parents, from others, and above all from ourselves). That void is also caused by ‘not being good enough’: the method that main institutions and companies use to make us comply by suppressing our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capabilities. 

As we don’t like the nagging empty, painful feeling of the void we fill it up with consumption and entertainment. There is also a part of the void that gets filled up by others (parents, teachers, bosses, spouses) as they have expectations for us. By constantly trying to meet those expectations, we are living their lives instead of living our own lives. In this way, we fill the void with expectations from others. The void gets filled, but that doesn’t make us feel good. Living someone else’s life is not going to make you happy, on the contrary. Stress is always there and growing. Also consuming more and more leads to misery and ultimately addiction. 

The good news is that you also have a choice to fill the void yourself. And that is the only thing that works; only you can fill your void. You can fill the lack of love with self-compassion and the suppression of your capabilities with love for lifelong learning. In that way you will live and own your own life. That is a life filled with happiness, love and health.

You control that choice. It is up to you and under your control. Are you living someone else’s life or living your own life? What do you want? This book is your flight companion, supporting you on your journey to live your own life, to fly out!

When I left my job at KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in 2000 I started the journey of becoming an entrepreneur. I thought that it wasn’t too difficult, as I had been an intrapreneur in large organizations for most of my career. That assumption was incorrect. Being a senior employee from a Corporate is completely different from being the boss of Me Inc. I was used to having my secretary set up meetings with prospects and customers. That was easy. Well, trying to get meetings with those same customers for myself was almost impossible. It wasn’t my name on the business card that mattered; it was the name of the Corporation.

While finding other paid work was in itself a large challenge, at the same time my father died, my wife and I decided to divorce and we had to sell the house. That is when I got in touch with a personal coach, which was life changing. And I found it fascinating to get to know more about my inner world. My mind has always been in full force (and very hard to stop or slow down), but my emotions had been suppressed and spirituality was basically non-existing. There were so many things out there, where I had never heard from. My curiosity was having a blast. And slowly but surely I was starting to feel much better, happier and healthier. It was in that period of exploration and discovery that this question became a burning question: Why was I not taught ‘How to live life?’ There are many topics that I would have loved to have known (and applied) when I was young, for example philosophy; how to fully utilize my mental/emotional/spiritual/physical capabilities; breathing; eating; sleeping; recovery.

Soon the metaphor of the iceberg emerged. The part (9/10th)that is below the surface determines the direction of the iceberg. In life and work we tend to focus only on the part that is above the surface, i.e. the results, the performance, the looks. And we forget what drives these results: our mental, emotional, spiritual capabilities that are largely ignored and suppressed. These capabilities are largely invisible to the eye, but they have a dominant influence on the direction of our life, our health and happiness.

Fitting in or Flying out?

People are robotized means that most work (blue collar as well as white collar) has become standardized and the next step towards digitization is very easy. Fitting in is the norm. You have to adapt to the organization’s way of doing things or you are kicked out. This fitting in approach has become very unhealthy and bad for profitability. At the same time many people are working hard to humanize robots, with for example affective computing and emotional Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). Business clearly prefers automation, as that is cheaper over the long run and has less hassle than dealing with people. That approach is emphasized by the fact that in business people are still seen and ‘booked’ as a cost and machines are booked as assets. Business is driven to decrease cost, and thus to get rid of people. If you are getting fed up with fitting in and the ever-increasing demands for your job, or your job has become obsolete, you might consider to fly out. Flying out, i.e. running your own show, work and life instead of living someone’s life, is the new way forward. It is not easy to fly out as you have to change quite a lot of habits. But it is so worth the effort!

Basically fitting in is a huge habit that needs liberation into a healthier habit: flying out. 

Flight bag

I guess that during your life you get moments of choice: to choose whether you want to continue fitting in or start to fly out. You can notice those moments or you can choose to neglect them. The way you respond to those moments will have an impact on your future.

This book gives you a map and not a manual how to fly out. In total there are 39 steps that I describe. To get started, I would suggest to pick a minimal of one action per category. You can explore new destinations and figure out how to get there. That is much more fun than just flying on the automatic pilot (as that will make you return to the cage).   Kai-Fu Lee saysthere are two suggestions for destinations that have very good prospects: 1. Creativity (in science, engineering, art, new ideas, storytelling, entertainment) and 2. Love & Empathy (caring about people).

“It’s when we focus on running our own race and being our best, that we are at our most creative.” ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

It is unlikely that Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) will impact these destinations soon. Your flight into these areas will make you a frequent flyer! And it is necessary to see that you can’t think out of the box (be creative) when you are in a box, and that you can’t care in a fear-based culture. That is like playing tennis in a straitjacket! The focus is on the flying out ‘lifeset’ (a synergy between your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capabilities).  You need the right operating system to be able to navigate unchartered territories. There are plenty of resources (books, courses, podcasts) available to learn the skills (communication; teamwork) as well as the knowledge (fuel plan; weather reports) to fly out. I will share the essentials (and the lifeset!) that you need to bring with you in your flight bag.

“Curiosity is the compass for your flight”