“Remember at the end of the day, play is far more important than work. Work is a myth that was invented for consumerism.”
Andy Middleton grew up on the very west coast of Wales, submerged in the wonders of the wild almost from his very inception. The thirst for nature’s adventures trickled through his DNA from his grandparents, who Andy shows pictured caving in the biggest pothole in Great Britain back in the 30’s. His mother is also captured, aged six, casually dressed in school uniform as if lowering herself into giant holes in the earth was an every day occurrence.
“I’m interested in the idea that what we do is part of our DNA. We inherit it from our parents and we inherit it from other people.”
His childhood was spent on the beaches of St. David’s with no money, no tents. Instead he and his friends would build houses out of drift wood, scramble around the coastline and jump off cliffs, surf the waves and climb the rocks. In their most formative years, they were discovering the true meaning of the word ‘play’, away from televisions, subliminal advertising and force fed brands.
“There’s something much more interesting about watching water and watching fire and watching sunsets, which is better than anything that’s on TV.”
It was an intimate friendship with nature, one that would teach him the fundamentals of life. Spending the majority of his early years with his back turned to the corporate market and his eyes absorbing the intricacies of the earth around him allowed Andy to come to the conclusion that all the knowledge we need for a sustainable survival is growing under our feet, above our heads and all around us.
“Whatever we do, whatever our purpose is, if we connect that to the rules of nature and copy those in the way we design our constitutions, our businesses and our projects, then we can do things that builds on this 3.8 billion years of evolution.”
Andy is now focused on biomimicry, the method of learning from the principles of nature and applying the solutions to every day life. He refers to ‘the perfect tree test’ and how many aspects of surrounding life an oak tree has to be connected with in order to survive. In nature, perfection isn’t a predetermined scale, every tree is not destined to be the same height, in the same conditions and live to be the same age; all of this depends on many infinitesimal variants.
“That acorn will sense the acidity, the temperature, how deep the soil is, what the competition is, what the light is. A whole bunch of factors in determining how perfect it grows. And if nature knows what perfection looks like in a tree, how do we get to understand what it looks like in our projects, our businesses, our life and our community.”
If perfection in nature isn’t uniform, why do we as a race consider perfect success to be the same thing, no matter the region, conditions or scale? The oak tree does not begin its life only aiming for the tallest height. Nature decides when it’s tall enough to survive and it bases that decision on core values that never wane. It needs food and light. That’s all. So instead of creating businesses that focus on constantly climbing profit and growth, maybe we should be embedding in our own core values – determining our purpose, our role and what’s important to us – and use them to navigate our way forwards.
“Only the person that knows the meaning of the word ‘enough’ will ever be rich. It’s not about maximizing, it’s not about making a business that you can sell up or sell out, it’s about doing what’s important.”
Andy’s message is one that is relevant to anyone involved in a start-up because we’re at a point in time where we need to be more conscious of the impact our actions have on what could be our greatest teacher. Unlike nature, we’re not adapting fast enough to counteract the damage that has been done to the environment and all future businesses will play a part in where we go from here. As Andy says, before we can start-up, we need to face up, shape up, grow up and stand up … and if we can embrace what is really important, the rest will be child’s play.
“Remember at the end of the day, play is far more important than work. Work is a myth that was invented for consumerism. The day that we connect with the most important things in our lives, with the best people and the right purpose, is the day that we realise we’ll never work another day in our lives.”
This article originally appeared on the Do Lectures blog. You can read it here.
Andy Middleton is part of the The Life Adventure advisory team. We’ll be filming some exclusive content with him mid – late September so keep an eye on updates for more