How To Stay Hopeful In A Hopeless World - Citizens|Think Cloud
Posted on 3rd April 2023 at 09:36
Hosts Leon, Paul and Dean are joined by Jon Alexander Author of The Book Citizens
How To Stay Hopeful In A Hopeless World - Citizens
In this edition of the Hack Podcast, Jon Alexander speaks with Leon, Dean and Paul about his journey in the marketing and advertising industry, where he sold some of the world's biggest brands. Eventually, he realised he was trapped in a narrative that didn't align with his beliefs - the Consumer Story.
In his book Citizens, written alongside New York Times bestselling author Ariane Conrad, Jon outlines how to redefine our roles as citizens and create a better world for ourselves by shaping our communities, organisations, and nations through collaboration, care, and creativity to benefit everyone.
The Power of Citizenship
Citizens trace the history of humanity from kings and empires to our current consumer-driven story, illustrating that, as individuals, we have always been citizens by nature. It provides us with the tools we need to reinvent our organisations, politics and even our species to confront the challenges of this age. It encourages us to discover what we must do to succeed - both individually and collectively and asks some fundamental questions;
What are we doing to ourselves when we tell ourselves we're Consumers 3000 times a day?
What would it look like to put the same creativity and energy into involving people as Citizens?
What would you do at this time if you truly believed in yourself and those around you?
The headlines of our time are enough to make anyone feel helpless. But everything changes when we think and act like Citizens, not Consumers.
Self Interest is a Motivator
Jon's aim in CITIZENS is to open up a new way of understanding ourselves and the intensely challenging time in which we live. He wants to equip us to see and step into the possibility at this moment and believes we can find a way for all of us to thrive - and seeing one another as the Citizens we are is the starting point.
He explains how the consumer story is running out of gas; we face an ecological crisis. We are attempting to tackle it while operating within a framework that tells us that accumulating material possessions is the key to happiness and success. We have an inequality crisis, but our society's metaphor for it is one of a ladder we must climb to achieve more excellent status. This idea encourages competition because consumers do.
Jon believes Andy's Man Club is banging the citizen model because we have a loneliness and mental ill health pandemic that we are trying to solve from within a consumer story that says we are isolated, independent individuals. You just can't fix it this way. You need people to come together as equals and not be judged and just be heard, which Jon describes as the citizen story. It's the idea that we do not just exist to be told what to do; we need to be involved collectively to shape the context of our own lives.
Finding your Agency
The book that set Jon on his way to thinking more profoundly was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a philosophy book from the mid-seventies. It gave him the confidence to realise that a perspective of care is far more important than all the things he was surrounded by in his London Ad agency, his supposedly good job, and all the stuff that goes with it.
He also talks about the book he is currently reading, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Aboriginal Tyson Yunkaporta; he sees the world through a lens that he refuses to be disconnected from and talks about the changes that the world needs to make which are so common sense and so down to earth without taking himself too seriously, making it Jon’s best purchase of £50 or less, which has most positively impacted his life!
Jon's most inspiring song, "A Town Called Malice", by the Jam, is an uplifting and empowering anthem about taking charge of one's future. The lyrics remind us that life is short and challenging, but with willpower and determination, we can bring about positive change with resolve and determination. Rather than be consumed with guilt for never-made mistakes, the song encourages us to embrace our power to create a better world.
Everyone has their strengths, but achieving success is rarely a solo venture. If something doesn't go to plan, remember that even if you don't have the correct skill set, many other people possess complementary skills and different points of view. Jon’s lesson from his failures teaches us the importance of having help from others to find your agency and acknowledging the value each person brings to the table.
Hope In the Dark
A favourite saying of Jon’s comes from the book; Hope In The Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities by Rebecca Solnit, who presents an alternative definition of hope focused on action. She argues that hope exists within the uncertainty of life and inspires us to use our creativity and clarity to create positive change. Solnit's definition differs from optimism and pessimism, which can lead to inaction or resignation. Rather than relying on abstract notions, her idea of hope calls for practical steps such as reclaiming old habits, making time for activities we enjoy and reaching out to others with complementary skill sets.
The reclamation of old habits, such as rowing and sports, has had the most profound effect on Jon in recent years. Finally, he realised he was unhappy and took the first steps to pull away from the dark and painful places he had once been to and make positive steps to change his life. He explains that creating space for yourself is essential if you want to change your life. Setting aside time to explore what you want is critical. It can be easier to make the shift with something to work towards. Finding space will help you find ways to get away from the darkness.
Jon would emphasise the importance of backing yourself and staying positive even when things seem difficult. He has realised that even his heroes are human, and it is okay to make mistakes or feel down sometimes, as it does not make us worthless. Instead of being discouraged by criticism, Jon has learned to find the wisdom hidden within.
We all suffer ups and downs; it's okay not to be okay. We all have good and bad qualities; it's ok to be a bit of both. We don't need to try to live perfect lives or acquire the latest items that capitalism encourages. Instead, we should focus on being our best selves, staying true to what matters most, and being authentic. It is important to remember that we are all flawed somehow, but with understanding and empathy, even our imperfections can be embraced. Our society should move away from this glossy view of perfectionism which frequently leads to feelings of inadequacy and despair. We don’t need to be perfect – let’s come together and celebrate our vulnerabilities and strengths.
This podcast will surely provide listeners with thought-provoking insights and help them better understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens of this nation.
If you enjoyed hearing Jon's story, you could find out more on his website https://www.jonalexander.net/, where you can join his mailing list and follow and tag him on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.
Jon wants to get the idea out: we humans are #CitizensNotConsumers. He’d love to know what that means to you, hear your examples, and celebrate your actions.
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