“Welcome my son, welcome to the machine.” These are the opening lyrics to the classic Pink Floyd song, Welcome to the Machine, off the Wish You Were Here album. It was also my theme song for many years. Companies today are undergoing a process called the Digital Transformation. The goal of this endeavor is to digitize as many services and assets as possible and migrate them to the cloud, that mysterious fabric we cannot conceptualize but that is everywhere and connected to everything. By digitally transforming itself, companies hope to obtain greater access to global markets, drastically decrease the time to value (ttv) and become more agile and flexible in order to respond faster to both industry disruptions and opportunities.
I digitally transformed myself years ago. I migrated myself to the cloud and in doing so was able to obtain access to unprecedented global opportunities. Although many people may complain about limited local job opportunities, I can vouch first hand that globally; there is an infinite amount of work that can be attained, at least until the robots and AI take over in another ten years. Within two years of beginning this process, I was managing servers in Canada and Australia. I obtained writing clients in Australia, Russia, Bulgaria, Ireland, Canada and every time zone of the U.S. Oh, and I had a full time job and was a church music director on the weekends. I was a machine!
I needed to be a machine. I had two houses that demanded three loan payments, a car payment and a daughter in college. I was the primary breadwinner of the family. The constant pressure to service a persistently demanding stream of kept me motivated. I worked thirteen-hour days on top of commuting to my regular job. I felt like a well-oiled machine. I felt like there was nothing I could not do. I felt like a one-man global corporation that would soon take over the world.
But I didn’t. Instead, one day, I stood in front of an endcap at the grocery store for five minutes, trying desperately to figure out which box of gratin potatoes was the one on special two-for-one. As I stood there, I began wondering how it was possible that an intelligent adult male with two degrees and a global presence could feel so stupid. Once I realized I was not going to be able to discern which box of gratin potatoes to put in my cart, I did the only thing I could do. I sat on the floor and sobbed. It is a humbling experience to realize that you are only human.
A psychologist I went to, Dr. Davis, refers to this as overload, a point at which the brain is overwhelmed and essentially short circuits. This is commonly demonstrated in high stake political races in which a political candidate freezes in front of the camera, unable to answer a question he or she has answered a thousand times before. It is a not a sign of stupidity, it is a sign of humanness. As humans, we have limitations. We have those limitations because out of self-preservation. We were not created to work like machines; instead, we were created to live as humans. We were created to live a balanced lifestyle. We were created knowing what enjoyment is along with the innate desire to experience it.
In the last two years, I have been undergoing the process of humanizing myself. I have gone from supporting two houses to living now at Airbnb. I used to have two houses with lots of stuff in them. Today, I limit my stuff to what fits in my automobile. By living a meager life today, I have been able to drastically cut my workloads. By drastically cutting my overhead, I have obtained the freedom, flexibility and agility that I originally strived for by digitally transforming myself. In the past eight months, I have been able to walk the Cliffs of Moor in Ireland and ski the slopes of Utah. In three weeks, my toes will curl up in the sand along the beach, and as I feel the sensation of the sand softening the calluses on my feet – I will feel very, very human. And I will smile in celebration.