Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Comfort is the place where dreams die

I love Greek mythology. So in the past, hence it is now. There are many many parallels that you can draw from them. Some serve as warnings and some as inspiration. This one that I'm sharing is quite a well-read one. This is the specific part about Homer's Odyssey.

Odysseus, after losing his ship and his entire army, drifted in the open sea for days until eventually rescued by Calypso in an island called Ogygia. There, Odysseus spent 7 years living a life of comfort and peace, with food and lodging all provided for by Calypso. Now, Calypso isn't an ordinary mortal; she is the daughter of the titan Atlas, which makes her a goddess in her own right. She offered to make Odysseus an immortal and grant him the gift of eternal youth if he stays on the island forever with her.

That is not to be. Odysseus wanted to go back to Ithaca to reunite with his wife Penelope and that is his life's goal. He is not to be swayed from his goals. But he did took 7 yrs to muster up all his courage and conviction (also with the 'persuasion' of Zeus's messenger, Hermes), to leave the safety and comfort of the island of Ogygia to brave the open seas and god knows what may come in his journey back to Ithaca.

That is Greek mythology. But a lot of these mythology are as relevant in life today as they are in the past. Are you like Odysseus, drifting in the sea of the unemployed and eventually rescued by your current employer? Are you also spending long years of relative comfort and peace in your job - boring mediocrity yes, but it does pay the bills doesn't it? Who is going to send Hermes to rescue you from your rescuer, so that you can go on and brave the open seas again in order to reach your life's goal? The Hermes today usually comes in the form of a life changing event - perhaps a close shave with Death, perhaps a recovery from a life threatening illness or maybe a conversation with an inspiring person in a strange land. They can advice or counsel you, but like Odysseus, you will still need to act on your own.

Think about whether your current life is aligned with your values. If not, do small acts to move towards somewhere that is more aligned with your values because that is the secret to being happy and being satisfied with life. If Odysseus can take 7 years to leave a comfortable position to brave the world again, so can you. He is a hero because of his choices and in spite of his circumstance. Always push your limits and move towards the relatively uncomfortable place, because that's where maximum growth is to be found.

If you stay too long in comfort, who knows, maybe that's the place where dreams die.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


Judging by the sound of the pin drop, I think your post has hit a nerve ;)

It's navel gazing time...

Just make a wild guess those with most angst about foreign FTs stealing our cheese are on a REGULAR income or VARIABLE income.

CEOs don't depend on base salary. $1 also can just as long bonus and stock options can kick-in!

Salespersons don't depend on basic salary. "Intrapreneurs"? Entrepreneurs working inside a company?

Self-employed like taxi-drivers must first pay rental - talk about negative cash flow start of every freaking day!

Entrepreneurs? Famine, people kick you. See? I told you not possible! Feast, every acquaintances come out of the woodwork to take credit for encouraging you!?

la papillion said...


Indeed quite quiet :)

This post is to serve as a reminder not to feel too comfortable in whatever you are doing. It also explains why those who are really down in the dumps, with nothing to lose, can suddenly bounce back with a vengeance. I think for them, they are extremely uncomfortable with their present situations, hence the motivation to change is very high.

I like your use of 'intraprenuers' to describe people earning a basic pay with variable component tied to performance :) Best of both worlds :)

Matt said...


I have always maintained that for those working for others, the only times they are in charge of their destiny is when they decide to accept a job or when they decide to quit. At all other times, they are at the mercy of the company.

If you work for yourself, you are in charge of your destiny everyday. You can decide to accept a new job or project or you can decide to fold up as well.

la papillion said...

Hi Matt,

I can't really say, cos I've never worked for anyone before. But from what my friends told me, there are always grounds to be unhappy about. For me, if I'm unhappy, I'll do something about it, so I guess you're right - I'm in charge of my destiny.

But that's where the danger lies too. Being self-employed, it's so easy to fall into the lap of comfort and keep on doing the same routine. Before long, time would have passed quickly without any progress towards a long forgotten goal. There's no manager to nag at me, no boss to appraise my performance and no performance bonus to remind myself to push harder and no colleagues to compare. Hence, this post is really to remind myself not to have short term goals but lose my vision.

I know, because in my first few yrs of work, I am Odysseus. I lived in foolish happiness for 2-3 yrs before my Hermes reminded me that I'm too comfortable.