And why you should steal, too.
Rules are good. They keep our society organized and decent. But sometimes you have to bend, or even break, the rules. When you are really hungry, for example; but that is not what this post is about. It’s about control. Even in circumstances where you have very little control (for example when you are a prisoner, or when you foolishly signed up for a reality TV show) you feel much better and keep your dignity when you take control over small things that you can influence. Instead of feeling and acting like a victim, you will (secretly) be directing your life within the given circumstances. Here’s a story of how I applied that principle.
Journalist accuses me of stealing
One of my digital nomad friends in Estonia got interviewed about his e-residence. The journalist was Dutch, so they found out they both know me. The journalist then claimed that, many years ago, I stole his food. Multiple times. Even after he had put a padlock on his lunchbox… And that I was proud of it! My friend captured the ‘accusation’ on video:
And you know what? The journalist is absolutely right.
In 2005 I participated in the European Survivor show (Expeditie Robinson). I was hidden in a deserted cave for two weeks (!) with one other participant: Marnix. We were on our own, away from the other two teams, who were unaware of our existence. We had no information, hardly any food and had to stick to stupid rules preventing us from getting any food. We felt we were being ‘used’ by the production team to create ‘spectacular’ TV. Then we found a new ‘hobby’ that gave us a feeling of control over our weird circumstances…
In my book ”What is your excuse?” I describe our situation and our relationship to the reporter ‘Rudi the Rat’ you see in the video:
Months later, after all episodes had been aired, Marnix and I met Rudi again during the live filming of the final show in a TV studio. We had been looking forward. Rudi had always suspected I stole his food, but he had no proof. And he had no idea Marnix was involved as well. We were going to reveal our secret to him, in style.
I had a baker bake a huge cookie, with almonds on top forming the code to Rudi’s padlock: 631. We presented it to Rudi. There was the proof that we not only stole his food, but even managed to open the padlock he put on his lunchbox. The look on his face was priceless… ????
Moral of the story: take control!
Now back to the bigger picture: do you see how Marnix and I turned a bleak situation around? We were not prisoners; we could have stepped out of the TV show if we really wanted. Because we decided to stay, we had to live and deal with the boundaries the production crew had set. But within those boundaries, we wanted to feel free. And by stealing the food, however little it was, we gained a sense of control. It filled our days with purpose and fun. It brought us closer together. And it provided some necessary calories.
What are the rules of your life? Who set the boundaries? Could you get out if you wanted to? How much room is there within those boundaries? Use the space you have; find a way to take control of the things you can influence. Be the director of your own TV show.
PS Don’t steal. (Unless you absolutely must…)
Read more adventures in ‘What is your excuse?‘