Our drive to stake claims, invade territories and colonize lands is one that has - thankfully - become a dark part of history. It's not cool anymore to want to invade and take over space in the world. Not long ago, though, this ambition was laudable. Now, the desire to find a plot of land to call one's own is much more couched in modest, personal goals. A place to call home rather than a kingdom to be conquered.
We're not quite there yet with thinking about our enterprises this way. "As big as it can go" is still the overriding principle. Of course, we're seeing more and more people and businesses opt for smaller scale, buck against growth for the sake of growth. But they're rare enough that they're considered oddities, even failures, for not draining all potential.
We want each other to succeed, which is great. But our notion of success always seems tied to a max-it-out kind of proposition. We don't take over land, we take over marketplaces. We don't quash people, but competition. Even brands I love (you can think of your own) seem on a steady up-and-up, always expanding with new products and collaborations. And I celebrate their growth sometimes. But other times I get that creeping sense of expanding greed. And wonder why they couldn't just love making the perfect t-shirt, or greeting cards or whatever it was.
I think about the small piece of turf I have in the world; my job, my blog, my other writing outlets. I too fall into the trap of looking around for some better bit of land to grab onto. Sometimes I think others have been given more fertile lands. Sometimes I feel like they just have a bigger plot. Other times, I feel lucky and blessed that I just have this while so many have nothing at all. Arguably, all of these perspectives are flawed. Because they're all couched in terms of what's happening elsewhere.
The truth is that we often expend more energy thinking about how we might live a different life than our own; no better than imperialists looking at maps for unclaimed lands while their own land goes to seed. I lost years dreaming about where I wanted to get to instead of tending to the place I was at. But, really, there's no better indication of the kind of custodian you'd be for a new life than the kind you are to the life you have.
I've been thinking about scale and excellence. About being excellent at modest and small and (really) pretty meaningless, forgettable things rather than waiting and wondering and holding back that energy for some imaginary brave new world.
I've been thinking about how I can cultivate my own turf; how I can eke out its full potential. About what I can plant and nurture, what I might expect the yield to be, whether it's enough to sustain me (and also sustainable). I've been seeing its beauty beyond these things too, the wonder in the everyday art of just being present. I want to look at my small patch and see it's beautiful and cared for. And that it's a gentle, sympathetic part of the larger landscape I'm part of.
When I think about it all this way, there's so much to do. There's so much I can dig into. There's no need to dream of a different place across an imaginary sea. I don't need to expand and conquer and compete with other people's larger territories. I only need to tend my own small piece of turf.