Gillage – My Perfect Village
Welcome to the original publishing of “Gillage – My Perfect Village” by Joe Wehbe.
The below will sound some combination of crazy, utopian, anarchic, naive, ‘airy-fairy’, and in the most painful sense, completely logical.
“Gillage” as we have affectionately come to call it, is a dream a few friends and I have of a better world – all starting from one communal village. This dream is a place where we can create what I call the ‘Thousand Doors System’ for everybody (where everyone embraces uncertainty and has limitless opportunity).
The reason for sharing Gillage with you is that I want you to be able to see it too – and if you watch, read or listen all the way to the end, you’ll see what comes next.
“Gillage” may be a pie-in-the-sky idea – completely unrealistic, completely hypothetical. But it is the ideal I strive towards, and who knows? Maybe I’ll see you there one day.
NOTE: A reading of this blog post is accessible by listening to episodes #006, #007, #008 and #009 of the With Joe Wehbe Podcast. Youtube versions of these episodes are available here: Gillage Part 1, Gillage Part 2, Gillage Part 3, Gillage Part 4
It all starts with the schools in Gillage:
In Gillage, school is where students are taught to read, write and count… and then play. They play football if they want, they play with coding if they want. They play with lego if they want. They dress up and rehearse and put on plays if they want. They devote their time to music if they want.
They run around free with no locked doors. They’re at their friends’ houses all the time… ALL THE TIME. You see in Gillage the lines between nuclear families are a little blurred… like it is in the mountains of Nepal, they call a lot of people ‘mum’ and a lot of people ‘dad’.
And in Gillage, children are allowed to develop a wide-array of interests
In Gillage our young are not told to give up their arts, their sports, their musical or inventive dreams. Their curriculum will be more minimalistic, less structured – no they won’t be taught that they’ll be successful in life just by getting into university or college.
University and college will be just a few of many available tools to build out one’s life, and they will be used more sparingly at that. The University of Gillage will have no lectures, but it will have lots of round table discussions.
Students at the University of Gillage will walk around, in and out of these round table discussions.
What do I feel like today? They will ask. A discussion on Anthony de Mello’s Awareness? Quantum Physics? Avant Garde Art? Will I sit down with the Trading society, or the Writer’s Block?
At the University of Gillage, you can walk up to anyone you need to help you do your next big thing. The University of Gillage is the ultimate connecting point.
In Gillage, everyone will be allowed to develop what is known as Interest Wealth or a Wealth of Interests. This means, they won’t blindly invest and commit years of their life into a narrow field they know nothing about, like chemistry or medicine or economics or psychology or an arts degree.
Rather they will develop a range of interests. In this way, if they find that one ceases to fulfill them, they will be able to move to another quickly – no getting anchored to one thing alone, no man-of-the-instrument biases, and no getting planted in heavy ideology.
Oh and these children of Gillage, as a result, become much more interesting people at parties. No more boring small-talk and idle chit-chat.
You will speak to Joe who is interested in film, education, investing, karaoke and more. You will then move on from him and talk to Scott who is passionate about the future of work, wide-ranging conversations and openness. Next, have a chat with Nick who wants to improve apprenticeships, sustainable building practices, licensing and creating the spaces for thriving communities to realise themselves in.
And there is no such thing as intelligence or talent in Gillage
In Gillage, not a single person will ever be described as intelligent or talented. And this is because, if we want to speak in myths, we’ll speak in myths much more elaborate – myths with dungeons and dragons and monsters much more fearsome than academic lecturers and subject-matter-experts.
If we want to speak in myths, we’ll have cruel witches with crystal balls, who can actually tell the future unlike the doctors and professors on the evening news, who never admit to how little they know.
None of us knows anything, and so none of us are intelligent. In Gillage, people are a bit wiser. The good people of Gillage understand that every single ability is a skill they have either in abundance or scarcity.
Math, writing, public speaking, communicating, guitar-playing, scientific thinking, emotional understanding, football ability, attentiveness… all these are skills, built by the wrapping of myelin. Skills can be developed over time – or, we can leverage the skills of others who cover our weak spots.
Maddie might be great at math and managing money, whereas Trevor is not as skilled at managing money but is gifted at emotional understanding. And that is ok. No one lives and dies by how good or bad they are on just one skill – they are a diverse network of skills.
In truth and perpetuity, intelligence and talent are foreign to Gillage. The good people of Gillage have the assumption that almost anyone can get better at and do almost anything.
And children are left to think divergently
In Gillage, there are no tests for our children. No entry examinations or strict grading.
No tests! You say? Yes, NO TESTS. NO EXAMINATIONS.
Because, children are not taught that there is one right answer in Gillage. Finding one truth to pin our flag to has been humanity’s fatal drawback for centuries. At any one time, there are endless outcomes.
What is the correct use of a spoon? Of a paper clip? Why can five-year-olds think of more uses for a spoon and a paper clip than graduates of our most prestigious schools?
Answer: Because we spend decades conditioning them on two illogical conclusions.
First, there is only one right answer.
The second? You must get it right the first time.
But no tests? Who could imagine such a thing? How do we decide who goes to college and university?
Answer: The ones who are interested, who show a commitment to continual learning. The ones who continually emphasise how little they do know, and, the ones who demonstrate how they are continually trying to learn.
The ones who are willing to show us how unpolished and imperfect they are.
Now it sounds like madness to anyone who has not read three or four books. If you read books on failure, on art, on scientific thinking, on investing, on the stories of innovative tech founders, you notice a couple of key themes:
- How powerful a tool uncertainty is when it is embraced
- The value of open-mindedness, and the harm that comes from being close-minded and seeking always to be “the one who is right”.
- The importance of failure, which is different to stopping or quitting. Failures are the essential stepping stones on the essential journey through uncertainty.
- Divergent thinking
What sort of lawyer would you want when your back is against the wall? The one who has been taught only one way out, or the one who has been trained to think divergently, who can run through a thousand ways to save your arse, who sees a thousand angles?
What sort of doctor do you want when you are critically ill? The one who only understands one disease? Or the one who thinks Dr. House – like, with the creativity to see a range of possible diagnoses for your ailment?
What sort of marketer do you want for your business? The one who sells every client billboard advertising? Or the one who has a thousand different and new ideas about how to bring your dream to life and help others?
What sort of builder do you want? The one who sells you one way to build the house? Or the one who can conjure up something creative, new and unique for you?
Charlie Munger taught me that, if you want to change someone’s behaviour, don’t appeal to their sense of logic – change their incentives.
What reason do we have for incentivising narrow thinking rather than divergence?
I’ll tell you one such reason. In normal society, we have industries dominated by people with man-of-the-instrument bias – who have built their entire life and sense of accomplishment around narrow “box thinking” for their specific industry.
For example, the Chief of the Medical Board has the most to gain by saying “this is the way we’ve always done it, and so we will continue in this way (because this is how I’ve always done it)”.
But if you have man-of-the-instrument bias, you’re not welcome in Gillage. If you’re not capable of what I call Without-the-Box-Thinking then you won’t enjoy Gillage anyway.
In Gillage, the entire culture around being right and successful is flipped. No one is ever ‘right’ – no not absolutely. No one can ever be absolutely certain about anything (except of course that 2 + 2 = 4, and not 5).
As such, we incentivise the sort of divergence that will change the world, that will open up the Thousand Doors System for everyone.
And in Gillage, children do not get taught a fear of failure – they are taught never to stop or quit
I said it above, but I’ll say it again because this one is so important. When your child is young, they have no fear of failure. Your infant tries again and again to walk – they hold the couch as a support first, until their muscles have calibrated enough to enable self-sufficient standing.
The infant goes from not-walking to walking, faster than older children go from the alphabet to getting their pen-licence.
Our infants try talking before they are actually ready to talk. They try to participate in our conversations but everything they say, perhaps unbeknownst to them, is babbling gibberish. But critically, they figure out it is gibberish only through their perseverance.
The infant does not simply decide one day I want to learn to speak English, or Mandarin, or German… they don’t know what these things are, they don’t conceive of their existence – yet they learn them anyway.
So how? How can infants learn something that is a) incredibly complex and b) something whose actual existence they’re not consciously aware of?
Answer: They continually try and play, with very little in the way of fear. They develop the core competencies for life through a scrappy process of play and development. This sort of skill development is called an open circuit.
What is an open circuit? This is where all the feedback required for the circuit to fire comes simply through the infant doing the thing. As they continually fire the circuit, myelin wraps around neural pathways in the brain, locking in the skill’s electric signalling, like a rubber sheath around copper wiring.
95% of everything in Gillage is built through this scrappy process. How were the pyramids or giant ruins of Baalbek built, thousands of years ago before modern architecture? We can’t be sure, and that might be because they didn’t quite know what they were building themselves.
Maybe, just maybe, they simply began and figured it out. The same way an author doesn’t quite know what the final draft will look like when they start their first… do these ‘wonders’ of ancient civilisations puzzle us because, as I suspect, we simply can’t fathom that people built things without the same level of preparation and detailed pre-planning that we consider essential today?
As Seth Godin says, you can’t create baseball players by sitting them in a classroom and giving them textbooks to study from, and tests to determine their baseball competency. There is no examination to pass before the baseball students get to graduate to the pitch and become baseball players.
Football is also an open circuit – the infinite scenarios on the pitch cannot be taught abstractly – what players need to do is develop their ability to react to scenarios on the field, and the best way to do that, it turns out, is by playing.
Letting the neural circuits fire.
Thanks to Daniel Coyle and The Talent Code we know that violin practice works a bit differently. To play Mozart is incredibly specific, thus requiring instruction and guidance from a teacher.
But still, the young girl or boy will never play Mozart if they are afraid of failing. They can only play Mozart if they are willing to keep failing on their way – stopping or quitting, on the other hand, is the only true obstacle to playing Mozart.
In Gillage, we preserve the daringness of infancy – we never say, It’s time to grow up and stop playing now. Why would we?
Thomas Edison created 10,000 failed light globes on the way to the one that worked. James Dyson developed 5,217 insufficient prototypes before he was happy with his cyclone vacuum cleaner. If these inventors looked at their ‘failed’ prototypes as a mark of their competence, they never would have accomplished anything.
How could they have persevered so thoroughly if they weren’t simply playing when they did all this?
And in Gillage it’s like Neverland, in that we never really grow up at all
No, we don’t have the same cognitive ability to adapt as the infant, but that doesn’t mean we need to pause play. When people of any age play football, they don’t question their self worth when they misplace a pass or shot – it does not stop them from trying again and again.
Because they never stop feeling that they are playing. All worthwhile endeavours should feel like play.
There is no need or purpose in Gillage to grow up to become an overly serious business person or parent. In Gillage, the people live in a mode of play not just because it’s the most fun way to live, but it’s also the most productive way to live.
In Gillage, you’ll find a lot of people like me who, grown up they may be, commit to continually and publicly making a fool of themselves.
Yet these same people will be with you at the coffee shop the next morning discussing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and new startup ideas to improve community in Gillage and non-Gillage parts of the world.
No, in Gillage there won’t be much growing up at all.
And there is no teenage delinquency in Gillage
But children still do darish stunts, they still sneak in a drink a bit earlier than they should. Maybe they shoplift a little too.
But there is less of a fixed establishment and dictating system to rebel against.
In the garden of Eden, Eve is tempted by the forbidden fruit because it is forbidden. When less is forbidden, there is less error and wrongdoing. There is less wrongdoing to be done when there is less wrongdoing to do!
In Gillage we understand that young people, particularly males, are young, and that they will try to ‘peacock’ for the sake of impressing their peers. But in Gillage, we will offer a lot more love and affection as a community, going further to create self-acceptance in our young.
There will be less delinquency when we spend less time telling our youth what they can’t do and spend more time telling them that they can do anything. Imagine such a thing? Less time spent being told you’re a failure?
Remember, in Gillage there are less tests and examinations, less finite judgments of competency. There are less instances of youth who say I can’t do this, so I’m going to do that.
And a lot of what we’ve decided is delinquency will not appear rebellious because older people, people like me, will be doing it all the time. Things like making a public fool of myself at the local Hound Dogs Karaoke Bar with a few too many drinks, or running around with my shirt off in the freezing cold at night.
We will treat those who step out of line and hack the system like the FBI treated Frank Abergnale. We’ll say, We’d be more cross with you if we weren’t so interested in HOW YOU DID IT… what if we incentivised you to do this thing in a way which serves and creates value for others, instead of taking from the pile?
In Gillage, we don’t want to minimise the number of twelve year-olds hacking important websites, we want an army of twelve-year-olds hacking important websites. For such children show true Without-The-Box-Thinking – the sort of inventiveness that moves humanity forward.
So instead we’ll say that was incredible, now try creating a system that the twelve-year-olds of tomorrow can’t outsmart! Here’s a good incentive to do so.
In other words, we deal with delinquency and wrongdoing the same way we deal with all failures – as opportunities to apply the Slingshot Principle: failure is the opportunity to make something better than if it had initially succeeded, if it had done things ‘right’ on the dreaded first attempt.
Because, any delinquency or wrongdoing is really the type of failure where something is done in a way we didn’t think to be right, correct, or generally fair.
And the prisons in Gillage are almost the best part
There is no place where the Slingshot Principle gets applied more powerfully and prosocially as the prisons in Gillage. The prisons in Gillage will give the Scandanavian countries a run for their money.
These prisons will do less in the way of stacking wrongdoers on top of each other – these prisons will give people new skills, and new companions that are positive, deep-thinking people. The prisoners will be isolated from negative influences, and placed instead alongside people who are on a learning journey, who they will do meaningful projects with.
Prisoners in Gillage are put in an environment where, without their freewill being able to resist it, they learn to be loved and to believe in their ability to do things in the world that benefit both them and others.
They are conditioned in new ways, given new wiring to compete with the maladaptive old wiring. And while the relapse rates may never be perfect, we will no longer be utilising crime incubators as a strategy for making society better.
And there are few attention disorders or disabilities in Gillage
In Gillage it will be a criminal offence to poison young children with chemicals designed to dull their bright senses.
In Gillage the children will rarely be asked to sit still – because would we want them to sit still anyway?
No in Gillage the children who can’t sit still will simply be given a list of suggested activities, and that list of suggested activities will suggest activities that don’t require children who can’t sit still to sit still.
In Gillage, everyone has a list of abilities and disabilities. Remember, everyone is their own network of skills. Everyone. As a result, our approach to this will not include labelling or categorising people according to these mixed abilities.
In Gillage, we are not heading towards a future where we wipe the extroverts out of existence by genetically modifying them in the womb or at conception. Instead we will sit patiently and wait to see what their gifts are and how they will impact the world with great energy.
Yes we will wait with great anticipation to see what these children accomplish.
And in Gillage we will look at people as people – we will not give them labels.
In Gillage we will do something crazy with people and the way we appraise them.
In Gillage, someone will walk into your shop, buy some bread, and then walk out. And then, here’s the crazy part… you probably won’t remember afterward whether they were black, white or yellow – whether they were tall or short, young or old, male or female.
It sounds crazy. It sounds berzerk. We see this in wider society as such a staple, because all our systems have taught us to encode people this way… but as these distinctions of people won’t be as useful in Gillage, people won’t notice these things about others nearly as often.
You see, attention is a finite resource… it can’t process everything. In Gillage, everyone will get used to discovering and registering much more useful information about people, like who they are and what they think and feel. These cues are not as much visual, they are not as much informed by appearances, and so all the time we spend encoding this new information will force our busy minds to discard any indicators like race, sex and whatever else.
If you think time spent fighting and arguing over the use of pronouns is a worthwhile use of time, you are perfectly entitled to do so… but you will not find anyone interested in these conversations in Gillage.
People in Gillage are just people, and as such they will be looked at and treated accordingly. There won’t be artificial lines drawn between them – purely because no one wins from this practice.
This bias in our thinking comes from an evolutionary past where we belonged to smaller tribes.
In these tribes we wanted to be able to quickly identify the outgroup in case they were a threat to us. But this tendency is counterintuitive – you create the danger you fear when you put people in the outgroup, when you say “stay away, you’re not like me”.
No such thing will occur in Gillage. There won’t be any special considerations because in Gillage, the rising tide lifts all boats. There won’t be labels or categories because labels and categories harm everyone and meaningfully benefit no one.
And there is no domestic violence or child abuse in Gillage
And, ok, this is not one I can guarantee. And this is not one I’ve had personal experience with, nor do I have a deep understanding of it.
But what I can guarantee in Gillage is that a troublesome home will be easier to escape because more doors are open.
And what I can guarantee in Gillage is that abuse will be harder to hide because our lives will become so interconnected.
In Gillage there will be strong social systems in place to keep people connected, to provide people affection and nurture. I can only expect that this will lead to less hate and less tension.
With less tension and the principle of the MVL firmly in place, people will not spend as much time looking for power in their lives.
And there are good social systems in place in Gillage, good systems of living
Karaoke on the last Saturday of every month. $5 a head BBQs on Saturdays where you have to bring someone new every week. 5:30 club every morning to get your day started early alongside good people.
Hello Stranger Dinners, where people show up alone to a dinner with twenty or thirty other complete strangers.
And every three months you go away for a life-pause, where you reflect on everything that is going on, and take time to put everything on hold and just listen… just listen to yourself.
And the last Saturday of every month is reserved for karaoke
In Gillage, no birthdays or weddings will be scheduled for the last Saturday of the month. On the last Saturday of the month, the good people of Gillage filter into their nearest Hound Dogs Karaoke bar and sing timeless classics on the open-mic.
Without any singing lessons, the good people of Gillage will be belting out the ballads of Living On A Prayer, Mr. Brightside and Summer of ‘69 until they can sing no more. And the audience will follow the thirteen rules of Hound Dogs Karaoke, especially in the way they support the singer.
This once-a-month celebration of life will keep the good people of Gillage humble. For there are no egos attracted to karaoke – only people willing to make a fool of themselves, people ready to relinquish a sense of self-importance and status.
Such a system of monthly karaoke is designed to keep people together in a world where it is easy to drift apart. A world where we get distracted our whole lives from the substantial.
But this is what I call a system of living, something recurring that no one in Gillage will have to think about. They won’t have to do the hard work of staying in touch with each of Georgia, Kathryn, Marvin, Andrew, Jordan, Colin and Gab – they’ll see them once a month at karaoke.
And there is thriving nightlife and a buzzing vibe
There are no lockouts or strict guards. No Footloose-style bans on fun. The town never sleeps… there is always somewhere to go, people to see, people to meet. Opportunities to make a fool of ourselves.
Gillage never sleeps – no matter the hour there is always electricity in the air, always a buzz about. If at 1am you cannot sleep, you can just as quickly go out for a warm meal as you can go to a 24-hour working cafe to work on a masterpiece – and the other night owls in there might walk up to you and say
“What are you working on?”
And you total strangers might decide that for the next however-many hours, you’re going to sit together, and share ideas, and give each other feedback. And “Poof!” – just like that, you’ve opened a thousand new doors at the hour you were meant to be sleeping.
In Gillage, the creativity clock never stops.
In Gillage, every night is Saturday night.
And people don’t take themselves too seriously.
People grow up, grow older, but they don’t become adults. They don’t get too serious or responsible all the time. They all stay playful, lighthearted… fair, but not intense.
Everyone takes the ‘mickey’ out of each other. No one is above a practical joke or well-fashioned jibe. Self-deprecating humour is not optional, it is essential to survival.
And parents get support
In Gillage, the hardest but most important job is that of a parent, although in Gillage, the community raises the children. And so in Gillage parents get support – there is less pressure on them to be individually brilliant and they can instead rely on the strength of the collective, of the community.
Parents won’t spend as much time trying to do the impossible and move mountains for several reasons:
- Because of the MVL
- Because of the very minimalistic approach to housing
- Because of the localisation of sports, play and education
- Because of the minimalistic design of schooling
Because of these factors, life will be more affordable and things will be closer together. Because of the MVL (remember, always MVL!) parents will understand their value is to be found in spending more time with their children.
I can say this to you – your average parent in Gillage will spend two-three times the number of hours with their children when they grow up than your average parent in the West.
And yes, they will have support from the community – the town will be a series of revolving doors and children will have a number of respectable role models in their lives. You see, children won’t be doing much homework (because that’s not how learning is done), they’ll be playing, and this play will have productive repercussions.
So strictness, routine and discipline are less important. “After-school” time will not really exist, but what we traditionally think of as ‘after-school’ time, where children have traditionally done homework, will be instead filled with children going to each other’s houses where they will, completely of their own initiative, be experimenting and tinkering with inventions and projects with their friends.
So you see, in Gillage, the role of the parent becomes easier in every direction. Less time is spent trying to fund and maintain a lifestyle, and more time is spent on nurture and connection.
No society that says so few waking hours are to be spent with your children is a good one.
And in Gillage, the elderly are revered as a source of knowledge, education and wisdom
Instead of being pushed to the margins, the elderly are the centrepiece of the thriving village. They are revered as the village leaders, redistributing a lifetime of invaluable learning and teaching to the next generations.
They pass the baton forward for their descendants to continue to improve on what was done before.
Instead of being most forgotten, they are reintegrated into society right where they belong – at the core, the centre of everything. In Gillage, no one will go out of their way for the elderly, because they won’t need to – the young people of Gillage will not be able to conceive of a world where the elderly are tossed aside.
And there are a few specialised aged care facilities but no need for retirement homes
Retirement is not in the Gillage vocabulary. Why retire, when your whole life is filled with nothing but play? In this way, every day feels like retirement – no one will be looking forward to living tomorrow, because no matter their ambitions, they’ll be living today.
Everything is localised, and the community takes just as good care of the young as they do the old. In Gillage, people retire the day they’re born.
And there are no offices, only spaces of connection
In Gillage there are no offices, there are just lots of cafes and free meeting rooms. Can you see them? Creative and imaginative spaces, some made completely out of shipping containers, others from oaky timber.
These places are open 24/7. All the night owls and creatives always have a place to go to escape, to bring their next big idea to life.
People spend more of their waking hours with family than they do with work colleagues. Except, the line between friends, family and work colleagues becomes a little blurred. The people you work with are the same people you go to dinners, karaoke, pause retreats and play weekend football and basketball with.
And everyone is a freelancer and a contractor
In Gillage everyone is essentially a contractor. Everyone makes their skills available more flexibly, and has more control over their time – from the real estate agents to the writers to the CEOs.
People won’t spend decades working in a job simply because it was available to them when they were young. Each person will be a one-person business, forced to ask, “What do I offer? What are my skills? What am I open to learning? What am I going to get passionate about and interested in?”
Then these people will decide which of their friends’ projects they will contract themselves out to, and for how long. People will work in batches, according to their schedule. And when these people want a break or a holiday, they just hit pause on the contracts marketplace and stop accepting new jobs!
In Gillage there won’t be work-life balance, there will be work-life flow. You will not be a lawyer from 9-5 and then a mother from 5 onwards. Because people will have a very different idea of a job title!
And you will have a thousand job titles
Any given person will be a lawyer, and a mother, and an amateur comedian, and an amateur journalist, and an unpublished writer, and a friend, and a sister, and a daughter, and an amateur musician, and a deep-thinker, and a philosopher, and a rugrat, and so much more…
Each person will have a list as long as their arm of job titles and tags… if not longer! And this will change how small talk at parties happens, because people will no longer ask what you do for work. Instead they’ll ask, “what are you working on at the moment?”.
And people will no longer ask what you do for work. Instead they’ll ask, “what are you working ON at the moment?”
Because in Gillage everyone will assume that you do more than one thing. And this question will be a constant call-to-action to make the most of your time as well as a much better conversation starter.
People will respond with such a wide-array of responses. They’ll say things like “I’m working on becoming a better mother at the moment” or “I’m working on becoming a better son”.
There will be absolutely no corporate culture in Gillage, so people will not ask “what you do for work” in the hope that they will get to tell you what high-status job they have. Nothing I’ve seen in my short years on this planet forces us to live in a more counter-productive manner than highly corporate work environments.
If you had tried to sell our ancestors on the idea of sitting in boxes and cubicles all day without natural light, with people who you had to have very strict, scripted and policed relationships with, yet whom you had to spend most of your waking hours with, away from family and friends, they would have told you to drown yourself in the river.
Meanwhile they would have gone back to spending all day outside in the sunshine – then by night telling stories and dancing around the fire.
There will be no corporate madness in Gillage.
And the architecture is minimalistic
In Gillage there are no mansions or unwelcoming gated houses in Gillage. If you’re not happy without a large spacious and luxurious mansion, you might have to stay away – this is not for you. Instead, Gillage is decorated with minimalistic, modular creative homes.
They are cheaper.
They are faster to make.
They have more mobility.
Their design is more creative, artistic and stimulating.
There is a light on the outside… when it is red, the occupants are busy. Red means ‘DO NOT DISTURB’.
Green means, ‘COME ON IN. WE WANT TO BE WITH YOU’.
These homes will provide the bare essentials, and then a lot of the key services and luxury add-on spaces are shared, bringing more people out into the community.
And everything is localised, and old currency is phased out over time
Gillage only works if the good people of Gillage subscribe to a positive-sum game. They must truly believe that a rising tide lifts all boats – that they help each other with their projects, that they take an active role in supporting one another and getting to know one another.
In Gillage, the wall between strangers and friends does not exist.
Everything becomes localised and self-contained. The produce, the investing, the industry, the community… they are all located within a tight radius. There is no need for long commutes or traffic. The base essentials are all within walking distance.
This all sounds like it is not viable economically. But in this village, the competition to be the best is abated. The only competition is what I refer to as utilitarian competition – the competition to provide the most value, to contribute the most to others.
And not others on the other side of the world, who the people don’t understand at all. The people who are local, who we understand completely.
And an education about meaning is made available to all.
People are taught about how to build meaning, and what actually builds meaning.
They’re taught about the Pleasure Treadmill.
They’re taught about Maslows’ Hierarchy of Needs, the Comfort Ladder and the Luxury Trap.
They’re taught about the robust finding that is the Happiness Curve, and they’re taught about the very predictable phenomena of the Expectations Gap.
They’re taught that social connectedness and a deep sense of community and belonging are the most predictive features for objective quality of life.
They’re taught why they feel lonely at Christmas and on New Year’s Eve.
They’re taught about Astro the Dog, the animal who doesn’t speak english, yet runs 90% of their brain.
They’re taught about their psychological biases, and why they so often feel bad when they think they should be feeling good.
They’re taught how to find and fill their time with the things that provide substance and meaning to life. They’re taught how to master Astro the Dog, and take control of their lives.
They’re taught why they feel like they often don’t belong, and why everyone else looks fine (when really they’re not). And, they’re taught how to deal with that.
And we’ll get back on track
In Gillage we will start the very important work of getting back on track. You see, our older ways of living were more meaningful but less comfortable – we were not as protected from predators or the elements, but we were together in intimate, interconnected tribes. We belonged, we lived co-dependently, and this was meaningful.
But there were and are a lot of brutal, violent rituals in such tribes – and we were exposed. So what happened was, we focused so much on improving the comfort of life that we forgot about the meaning. Our ancestors didn’t realise how different these things were.
When you’re hiding from bears and tigers and warring tribes, you’re striving for the ideal of big villages with high gates and walls to protect you from outsiders. Yes, this is the Gillage they dreamt of.
If you had told them that building big castles and walls between one another, with surveillance and security guards, would be isolating and promote emptiness, they would have once again told you to drown yourself in the river.
But I’m afraid we have over-optimised for comfort. Modern society’s biggest oversight is failing to recognise that the ideal level of comfort is whatever the MINIMUM, most ESSENTIAL comforts are – that so often after this, climbing the comfort ladder leads us into the Luxury Trap and away from meaning.
This is why those of our brothers and sisters who live in ‘untouched’ rural communities around the world appear to have lives that are more richly interconnected.
Because as Jonathan Rauch said in his book, The Happiness Curve, “The truest form of wealth is social, not material”. In Gillage we use this sort of common sense to build a community that prioritises, well, being a community.
The priority is not making money, but being connected. Why should such a crazy idea exist in Gillage? Well consider it this way…
If you were looking to entertain yourself, you’d choose to read Harry Potter and not the Oxford English Dictionary. That contest is not even fair, and the comparison sounds stupid. You’ll say to me, “Joe, that’s not a fair comparison, because the dictionary was not designed to entertain people”.
And that, my dear friends, is precisely the point. Money, like the dictionary, was not designed to make life meaningful. We go to the dictionary when we need to find a word – our use of this text is transactional.
But reading Harry Potter, and great books like it, is the very point of being able to understand words and read.
In Gillage, everything we do prioritises what is the best return on investment in life – the opportunities to learn, and to be connected to other people.
And in Gillage, the rising tide lifts all boats, and we subscribe to the Intentional Sharing Movement
Being the one who had the big idea seems to be the very point of being an author, inventor or entrepreneur. Many will disagree with me on this, but I think we need to focus less on ownership (my idea) and more on quality (what is the best idea?).
But in Gillage, the rising tide lifts all boats. People care more about seeing great things happen than being the one who made a great thing happen. People in Gillage are very content with playing a backstage role in a grand production, and don’t have to be the star of a one-man show.
I’ll tell you this – the greatest source of motivation is intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation means, you would sing the song or perform your show to an Audience-of-None – you would simply do it for the love of doing it, requiring no external praise or validation from anyone.
But if one or two people come to your show it is certainly a bonus, and you get more joy. But you will not get much more joy from having one or two people see your show as you would from having one hundred million people see your show. You would rightly find widespread attention a diminishing return.
In Gillage, there are two important questions.
THE FIRST – what to you is so worth doing that the mere act of doing it is reward enough? That is, what would you happily perform for ‘An Audience-of-None’, to an empty theatre?
THE SECOND – what to you is so worth doing that you would be a backstage member to someone else’s grand production? That you would receive no credit at all?
But these questions are just a useful trick for the good people of Gillage. Because what this creates is a fairer marketing system, where things that are worth sharing and supporting actually get shared and supported.
And, people don’t promote bullshit or try to sell you ‘magic beans’. People help each other not expecting to get help in return, but knowing that these symbiotic relationships will inevitably return more anyway!
Yes, people in wider society are so used to going it alone, to doing their projects solo… so-low that no one sees or hears of them.
In Gillage, it is almost the opposite. Life is so interconnected that good ideas and creations are sucked out of you and into the world. This is a welcome alternative to the current state of affairs, where trying to be creative and innovative feels like pushing shit uphill.
People are so interconnected and ready to share good things that the barrier is lower. With a rich network of second degree connections, you very quickly find the people you need and the smallest viable audience for your great work.
And there are no limits – everyone lives the Thousand Doors System
In Gillage children do not inherit fear from an industrialised culture. The determination to try and try until they get it right that is present in infancy is retained and galvanised. These children will not have to unlearn their limitations because they never learn any bogus limitations.
They learn to embrace uncertainty rather than fear it. They’re taught that opportunity lies buried in uncertainty, and so, they learn the disciplines of scientific thinking, artistic creativity and investing so they can harness uncertainty to their advantage.
They’re given permission to think they can do anything (because once you think this way you can). They’re given permission to think-without-the-box, and so they don’t have the craving towards certainty that is so rife and poisonous everywhere else.
That is, not everyone grows up competing to become a lawyer.
And religion and spirituality are fluid, not evangelical or institutional.
In Gillage religions and spiritualities of any great variety are welcome – but ritual heavy institutions are not. Any church, temple or mosque must embrace uncertainty and adapt the flavour of their beliefs to the open-minded philosophy of the town.
No one can claim ‘they are the one who is right’ and live without doubt. The only people welcome in Gillage are those who are open to education and who are open to showing themselves to be wrong.
Religious and spiritual beliefs in Gillage are challenged to be more relevant to more areas of life, to the new and developing.
And no one fears death.
Anthony de Mello taught us that one sign we’re awake in this life is that we don’t care about the next life. He taught us that eternal means time-lessness, not endless-time.
The good people of Gillage live by this, and they use their time well. For this reason, they never fear death.
And everyone lives by and adheres to their MVL
In Gillage the most simple, overarching emphasis is on the MVL.
Everything else that is important has been designed into the Gillage by systems of living. These systems, like karaoke, pause retreats and the like, mean that people don’t need to think hard about and go out of their way to maintain balance. The systems do the hard work for them.
But the good people of Gillage must individually take responsibility for their MVL, their Minimum Viable Lifestyle.
Everyday people ask themselves what do I really need? And when they have applied the 5 Why’s to those needs, they focus on acquiring those needs. And once they have those needs, they are encouraged to relax a little.
Everything after this point is a bonus. Everything hereafter is not as powerful a return if the MVL is already in place.
Because of the MVL, people don’t fall into the trap of envying their neighbour (that was so problematic in the time of the Ten Commandments). They learn to judge themselves not by the trivial achievements of their neighbour, but by their own bare essential low standards.
They still shoot for the stars, but they don’t care much if they miss. Once you have your MVL, you can get back to playing.
And ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ is the anthem.
In Gillage, I will become the old-timer sitting in the pub or the park bench lecturing the youth. I will be the old-timer who talks about his beloved football team, the great Liverpool FC, and their anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone – the song they sing at the start of every home match.
In the words of the larger-than-life title-winning Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp:
“Where did you ever hear a better message than You’ll Never Walk Alone? It’s the most beautiful song in the world, everybody feels it, everybody loves it and everybody gets the message; in your darkest moments you are not alone. I love that.”
In Gillage, the anthem will always be You’ll Never Walk Alone. Like a giant football community, this will always be true – every time you see someone wearing the jersey of Gillage, you will connect with them immediately, and without saying it, you will both be reminded that you are there for each other.
That you are never alone.
Like any football or sporting team fanbase, everyone who wears the same colour is on the same side – no one fights amongst themselves, and no one stands on the hill alone.
Except in Gillage, there is no opponent. Just the one big team.
No, the opponent is indifference, isolation, and ignorance. That is the common foe we unite against.
And young boys don’t grow up feeling lonely
There was a young boy I once knew who spent a lot of time when he was growing up feeling lonely. He so often struggled, and he so often struggled to make sense of why he struggled.
He was talented, high-achieving, popular and widely liked. He had a loving family and a warm home. Why did he feel lonely so often? Why did he feel out of place?
I must be the problem he thought.
He did not understand his world back then. He could not see that the world around him had been designed, rather accidentally, to make it very easy for him to feel so painfully lonely.
In Gillage, the world is designed to bring people together in an age where we are all drifting apart.
I still hear his voice from time-to-time. Not as often as before, but there still, in the deepest and darkest of corners – often on solitary Friday nights or Sunday evenings.
In that voice I hear from time-to-time, the lonely young boy asks me to build a place like Gillage where he can feel free again.
Because what is the point of technological breakthroughs, advanced economic systems and wealth if loneliness is so rife?
And Gillage is not perfect, but it follows the 85% rule.
Athletes will run faster when they’re trying to go at 85% capacity than they will when they try to go 100% of their intensity. When pushing too hard, we lose the grace and honesty of our truest and best performance.
There is no utopia, and perfection is asymptotic – it is the horizon, something that always appears visible but that we can never reach.
Once we are 85% of the way there, that is good enough, and that is what Gillage will be. The first utopia that doesn’t try to be Utopian. After all, without a bit of roughness, controversy and adversity, our young will grow up without the tools needed to truly make themselves their own in the world.
And people don’t just write things, they do them.
And in Gillage, people don’t just write things about Gillage without actually making them happen.
And, true to my word, this dream of Gillage has started with me and a few others. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was just the naive dreaming of an unproven young man.
But I can assure you, though it has started with just three dreamers, it will spread. Gillage will become a REALITY.
We are building Gillage piece-by-piece in our everyday lives in Sydney, and we are building it with the projects we are doing at Doohat Labs.
And if you want to help us build Gillage, if you want to participate in its creation, you are certainly welcome. There is a lot we will need, and you can either sign up for Conversations That Matter below or follow any one of us in any way you prefer.
But first I hope you give yourself permission – permission to think, and believe, that something like this is not just a pie-in-the-sky idea, but something that is actually possible. That will make all the difference.
This was first posted July 2020 – let the record state it. For I don’t know when Gillage will become a reality – it could be twenty years, forty years… perhaps not even in my lifetime.
But it will happen.
If you believe in things like Gillage, stay in touch with us. You can do many things, the first of which is signing up below.
And we will open a thousand doors together.
If you think Gillage is worth sharing, bring it to someone who will want to join you in Gillage.
NOTE: A reading of this blog post is accessible by listening to episodes #006, #007, #008 and #009 of the With Joe Wehbe Podcast. Youtube versions of these episodes are available here: Gillage Part 1, Gillage Part 2, Gillage Part 3, Gillage Part 4