I’ve been thinking about volatility a lot lately, especially as a crypto and NFT investor. Also, as a new dad.
Believe it or not, the two have a lot in common, notably that there are lots of unknowns, but ultimately, the rewards far outweigh the risks.
Does it sound cold to compare digital currency with a child? I don’t think so — in fact, from a neurological standpoint, the experience feels similar. Once you commit, if you’re like me, you’ll have extreme downloads of bliss chemistry at times. And heart-pumping, stress-inducing adrenaline and cortisol at others.
Plus, I’ve heard both crypto and having kids described as volatile experiences. This implies negativity, which bugs me. After all, the dictionary definition of volatility is “liable to change rapidly and unpredictably, especially for the worse.”
If you embrace the fact that change is the only constant (which I completely do), there is no downside to transitions. No “worse” at all. In my opinion, it’s all about potential and possibility.
Yet, when I talk to people with kids, I can’t help but notice a sinister note in their voices when they tell me that my life is no longer my own. Or the random smirk on their faces when they tell me how I’m now beholden to the whims of a tiny human who weighs less than a bag of groceries.
This coming from people who say having a child is the best thing they’ve ever done.
My point exactly. Volatility isn’t easy — if it were, we’d all be zillionaires — but it’s the most valuable currency there is when it comes to creativity.
Unpredictability and the Birth of New Ideas
Creation as a process is a messy, unpredictable thing.
Of course, the OG creation was humans. And honestly, one of the coolest things about becoming a parent nowadays is how technology empowers us to observe the mystical, incredible process of gestation and birth.
Looking at a pregnant woman in the early stages of pregnancy, you might not know anything is going on. But at a molecular level, there’s a continuous stream of wondrous changes happening — from cells dividing during implantation to the development of organs, limbs, features, and bodily functions over time.
It’s a rapid, volatile process. Just nine months or so, and voilà! An entire person, made out of biological material arranged in a unique way.
(Another similarity to crypto — no two units are alike. Just saying…)
And then, everything is brand new. The ultimate Beginner’s Mind. That is, in a sense, its own kind of volatility. When you see things with fresh eyes, everything is unexpected. And delightful, inspiring, and fascinating.
While so much of becoming a new parent is thrilling (and terrifying), as a life-long design thinker who’s always striving to see things from new angles, creative inspiration from a brand new reality tops the list.
As Robert Epstein, a senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research, told Fast Company:
“New ideas arise from an interconnection of old ideas. So that means, at the very least, you have to be exposed to a novel stimulus.”
Yes, babies are indeed a novel stimulus. But that sounds kind of clinical, so let’s look at things from Brené Brown’s perspective. She uses another “v” word that’s completely a part of volatility and is spot on about how it feels to become a parent for the first time.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Finding Sparks and Flow in Uncertainty
Another bit of wisdom from people with children that I’ve heard is that things get a little boring once you settle into a routine. So have all the fun before the kid arrives, they say.
Again, a total misread of the “low” point in one of life’s most extraordinary fluctuations, in my opinion.
As I see it, flow is a state of total absorption in a process that bridges the gap between boredom and anxiety. There’s a certain rhythmic connection that leads into this state.
My take on flow is a little different, by the way, from that of the pioneering positivity psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. He coined the term, “flow,” and called it “the secret to happiness.” His definition has to do with effortlessness and peak performance.
How I often experience flow isn’t necessarily in high-performance mode, however. I enjoy a messy process of coming up with ideas — most of which are trash, but some that are occasionally excellent.
However, it is an easy drop into complete creative submersion, just as Csíkszentmihályi describes it. To me, flow happens naturally when I have some space to take in inputs, remix them, and come up with different outputs.
So, for example, everyone knows babies don’t sleep. I may only be a few days into becoming a dad, but how I see things has already radically changed. Holding my son late at night, I find myself looking at him and watching what he’s looking at, wondering what he’s thinking about. Is he noticing the shadow the nightlight casts on the wall? Now I’m looking at the wall differently, thinking about playing with lighting from an art direction standpoint for an upcoming fitness brand campaign I’m working on…
This is just one example, but even learning about how babies experience color and contrast has sparked new design concepts that I’ll now be able to bring to my clients.
Every day on the journey to parenthood has been an exercise in volatility. And uncertainty. You’d think those are negative factors, but they’re not.
For me, it’s the birth of a new consciousness, a deeper level of creativity. I’m grateful for the fluctuating waves of emotion that have shifted my perspective, what I value, and how I move through the world.
Before becoming a father, I worried about having children. I feared parenting would make my world shrink, limiting my creative and professional opportunities.
Turns out opinions, too, are volatile.
Becoming a parent is like having crypto in your digital wallet — but better, so much more valuable. And the pressure is on to make the world a better place in everything I do.
After all, we don’t inherit this world from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.