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#14 Midlife crisis? You’re not the only one…

A shift in values during the pandemic; how to pull off a successful launch; building an open-source publishing platform; the downsides of WFH; the future of co-working?

As you reach midlife, your values shift. Maybe you’ve achieved what you set out to do, but now you can’t see the point of it all. Or you feel like you haven’t done enough compared to your peers. You’re halfway through your life and feeling a bit restless. What next?

Psychoanalyst Elliott Jacques coined the term ‘midlife crisis’ in 1965 in a paper on the working patterns of creative geniuses. It was a small part of his life’s work – he had loads of big ideas – but this has become a cultural phenomenon and what he’s best known for. For most of us, it’s not really a crisis, more like a persistent feeling of dissatisfaction in our 40s/50s. “Is this it?” has come up frequently in conversations with friends.

What’s interesting about the pandemic is that it’s left many of us feeling like this – not just the midlife generation. 

New research reveals a seismic shift in consumer values across all ages during the pandemic. There’s been a rapid fall in values like materialism, power, status, wealth, ambition, self-promotion, adventure, and excitement. 

New values taking their place include protecting the family, duty, thrift, helpfulness, simplicity, honesty, self-reliance, and stable personal relationships. It’s the same trend we saw during the Great Depression of the 1930s. And it’s happened fast – over the last four months of lockdown. 

The pandemic has also shaken up how we think about our finances. According to Charles Schwab’s annual Modern Wealth report, we’ve drastically lowered our markers for financial success.

This shift in values has big implications for consumer brands, says Afdhel Aziz, founder of Conspiracy of Love, a brand purpose consultancy. We need to listen to stakeholders and stay in tune with the public mood, to make the right market decisions. Companies need to show a sense of duty & responsibility and look after their employees’ wellbeing. Offer practical solutions to the new challenges we’re facing. And understand and empathise with what we’re going through, given that millions of us are out of work.

The good news is that at midlife, you’re well-equipped and resourceful enough to take on whatever challenges and economic uncertainty lie ahead. If the traditional markers of success like ambition, power, money and status are no longer as important, it creates space for new ways of living & working: change and transformation. More collaborative leadership that bring people together from all age groups to get stuff done. 

Now is the time to work out what you really want to do with the next half of your life. Get building! Test stuff out. You don’t need to have it all mapped out.

I’m working on it!!

Simple pleasures this month. Beach, swims, walks, books, friends, podcast therapy. We have two new restaurants in town – a seafood bar and a Japanese kitchen, and the new St Leonards Makers’ Market – everyone’s been making stuff during the lockdown and now they need to sell it. I’m also celebrating a small win – The Science of Growing up Happy book I worked on last year is finally here!

The downsides of working from home 

Do you claim expenses for WFH? Will you claim more this year if you’ve been doing it full time? Has your employer or client offered to help out with costs or provided equipment? Interesting thread on Twitter by Timandra Harkness, on the downsides of working from home and the pressure to turn your home into a rent-free workplace. Should trade unions be pushing back on the assumption that employers can use your home as a workspace for free? Ask your client/employer about what they can offer.

Creative Spotlight

Sapphire Bates is the founder of The Coven Girl Gang, an online membership platform for female-founders and freelancers. She’s also a business coach and offers monthly coaching as well as an eight-week in-depth training programme on how to start & scale your own membership. She hosts the Witching Hour pod and edits The Coven magazine – open to pitches! Q&A here on the key elements of pulling together a successful launch. Find her on Twitter @covengirlgang and @sapphirejbates on Instagram.

🔗 the links

🎧 Listen to John O’Nolan, founder of Ghost, on building an open-source publishing platform that makes $63,000/mo. Some good advice here – none of us knows what we’re doing, even the big brands. Don’t feel you have to know it all before you get started. It’s easy to get stuck in a loop of reading countless books on startups and not take action. 

Be terrified. If you have the initial drive to jump – take a leap into the unknown and test stuff out – it’s Beta! Don’t be afraid to monetise things early on – a mistake we often make is waiting until we feel we have a ‘freemium’ offering. Pay attention to your feelings. You’ll know when you’re on to something as people will respond.

I’m enjoying Rediverge – his new online publication about remote work, world travel, and building a different kind of life. Also liking Ghost’s ethos – a non-profit, open-source publishing platform that’s crowd-funded rather than VC-funded. I’ve been testing it out and it’s fast – how WordPress used to be before death by Plugin! I’ll be migrating over shortly.

📝 Try the London Writers’ Salon. Daily writing sessions from 8 – 9 am. Set your intention, grab a coffee and off you go. It doesn’t matter what you’re working on – it’s about having a regular practice and doing it with a community, which feels different from writing on your own. After the session, I had a chat with a PhD student and a theatre director in the breakout room. I appreciate the effort Parul and Matt have put into organising this. It’s given many people a reason to get out of bed in the mornings.  

📆 Check out Birch – a new co-working space/hotel/events venue/membership community set in 55 acres of nature, 11 miles from London. You have SPACE to work, rest and play, an extensive events programme and it’s family-friendly – kids & dogs welcome. Go for foraging walks with ‘Farmer Tom’ (nice branding!), bake, make pottery, & enjoy talks, films & masterclasses.

I think we’ll see a lot more of this kind of thing. Holistic working. Much more appealing than a cramped, soulless workspace in the city. 

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By Nicci Talbot

Director, freelance journalist & copywriter

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