I love Radiohead. And I love Thom Yorke. (Thom Yorke, in case you don’t know, is the singer from Radiohead.) There is something that struck me when I first listened to Thom’s solo stuff. It’s not Radiohead. You can definitely hear the vague Radiohead-ness of it, but it’s still not Radiohead. You can also hear Thom’s influence in Radiohead’s stuff, but it’s more than just Thom.
There is something that happens when we combine our efforts and create something together. There’s also something that becomes a little easier when we work with others. That’s not to say that working together is easy, but when we have developed a good level of trust with one another, we begin to realise that others have our backs.
Like when gym buddies spot one another, we know that we can go that little bit further, do that little bit extra that might be just outside what we believe our abilities to be. We know that someone is there to help. Sometimes, we don’t actually need their help but the knowledge that it’s there can spur us on to achieve greater things.
So what’s the thing about Radiohead and Thom Yorke? When I listen to their stuff, I noticed that Radiohead is truly a sum that is greater than their individual parts. You can certainly hear the similarities between the solo work and the band’s work, but it felt to me that there were some missing dimensions in Thom’s music. This isn’t to say that it’s not great in itself. Interestingly, Radiohead produced a track in 2003 called 2+2=5. Having listened to the solo work, I got a real sense of how Radiohead are 2+2=5. More complex, richer, more satisfying than each on their own.
In my time, I’d say I’ve had so many experiences that replicate this. I do pretty good work on my own, and when I’ve combined efforts and put in the work to develop good working relationships with others in a purposeful way, it feels that what I do is augmented by others and vice versa. It becomes something different, something richer, something with greater depth, something that little bit more edgy, because I know someone has my back. Someone is spotting me.
This is true about life in general I find. As I approached 50, I found that a number of questions began swirling through my head that I had never really considered before. Scary much? Well...a little.
What have I made of my life?
Have I really made a difference to anyone?
What lies ahead for me?
How will I manage into my later years?
Have I really made good choices about my career?
I was hesitant to begin answering these questions because I was nervous about what the answers might be. They just swirled and swirled and swirled. Haunting would be too strong a work, but you get the idea. It was hard to shake them off and get on with my day to day.
Then, I shared a little of this with someone very close and very dear to me, someone who had 3 years on me and who, it transpired, had also been asking herself those very same questions just a few years earlier. Her sharing made it easier for me to share more. I was with a fellow traveller and, oh, what a relief that was!
Already in a close working relationship and with an enormous amount of trust between us, I felt ease in sharing some of my inner world. That was key. I needed to know that my grappling would not be judged. Sharing my concerns didn’t make the questions go away, but I felt much more emboldened to actually look at them and consider them in depth. They weren’t nearly as scary. Going into them, they uncovered things which I am now very happy about. Neither the questions nor the answers were as awful, nor as difficult, as they initially appeared.
It was the doing-it-with-someone that helped. The questions were mine and the answers my own to discover, but I had a companion, letting me know that I was not alone, that what I was going through was not weird or a sign of some sort of character flaw. When we are going through any kind of change or transition, the support of others can be of immeasurable assistance.
For some folks, there are few people with whom to do the “deep and meaningfuls”. When we get to certain points in life, those uncomfortable questions are also sometimes related to those closest to us and we’d rather not have those conversations with our partners or close family. The sense of alone-ness with those questions can then make those periods of life can feel insurmountable.
They are, most emphatically, NOT.
And now, I’m the same man, but different. I’m still in a very loving and fun relationship 17+ years strong, doing some slightly different things to earn a crust and happier for it, spending more time and energy on the things that really matter (and hardly any on the things I have realised do not) and feeling refreshed for it.
And so the marvellous Helen Green and I realised that this whole business of transition and questioning is something probably much better explored together...and so we are launching a new adventure, called The Art of Emergence. We are as excited as we could be about it. If you want to come and be Radiohead with us and a group of others, click here for more info and to register.
(Appreciation of Radiohead's music not compulsory.)