Markus Gull
Man looking into huge binoculars in the desert. Almost only the binoculars can be seen in the picture.

Why are shadow divers better off when it comes to POMO?

In a bygone era, when the Viennese coffee house still came close to living up to its reputation as a breeding, training and working place for the inhabitants of the in-between worlds, we become voluntary witnesses to subsequent encounters in Café Stern in the very first of the 61 descriptions from the life of Ferdinand Alt that André Heller collects in his prose volume Schattentaucher:


In the blogcast, I read this recent blog article to you. With emphasis, of course!

"I know you," said the man, "you're Mr. Alt, Ferdinand or something. Your father was a Meschiggen man, but very efficient. I did business with him, not big business, not bad business. Your mother was the most famous dancer at the Hakoah festivals, she and Teddy Herzog. What I'm telling you takes place before the war, after the war there was no more dancing, it died out. When were you born?"

"1944 in Bolivia," replied Ferdinand, who was not in the least bothered by this attack at his regular table in Café Stern.

"Bolivia. In those days, as a Jew you had to be happy if you were born at all. Bolivia was a hot country. Full of swindlers. And now the Nazis are there too."

"Do you know South America?" asked Ferdinand.

"Not directly. But heat spoils your character, everywhere, even in Israel. You get tired, lazy, stupid, and when you realize you've lost a lot of time, you try to catch up by playing tricks. Hands off the heat! Austria is a country where you always have a cool head. If I were as young as you, I'd be a millionaire by now. The money is on the street. What's your job?"

"Piano tuner, actually a composer."

"Actually," the man repeated. "A Meschiggener like his father. Why don't you do import-export? The way you look, people will trust you. An honest face is the best basic capital. You can compose on the side. I think Verdi was also a full-time wine merchant."

"That's not true," said Ferdinand, "but it's a nice thought."

"There you go," said the man. "If you're not famous by now, and, between you and me, I've never heard of you as a composer, and I read all the newspapers, then start a company. With my connections, you'll soon have an empire. And the music will fall into place. Each of us has a protracted illness."

"A what?" asked Ferdinand.

"A protracted illness. A longing that makes you sad. Something that should have been, but wasn't meant to be."

"You're insane," came from Ferdinand. "You know what you're called to do."

"You know exactly a Tineff," sighed the man, whose yellow suede gloves trailed back and forth like little comets in front of the dark gilet of his suit.

The great longing that makes you sad.

The story we tell ourselves about it all too often begins not with "Once upon a time ...", but with "Actually ..." It doesn't end with "... and lived happily ever after", but with "It wasn't meant to be."

"You know what you're called to do," says Ferdinand Alt in Café Stern, and Ferdinand and I are in complete agreement. Deep down, we all know it (or do we?). Something is calling, something is ringing, something is knocking. This famous calling, with which every story begins, including ours, as described in the much-quoted hero's journey is described: The call!

Do you hear it too?

Save the princess from the evil dragon, save the whole world from a meteorite impact, or at least save humanity from destruction in climate hell. Start your startup, take action as an entrepreneur, or organize an NGO. Write your novel, be a mother, father, teacher, carpenter or musician with all your heart, and so on and so forth. There are countless calls of this kind, in different pitches, but there is one in particular in front of and behind everything, one that is tuned to you and only you. This call resounds at varying volumes, even if you (carefully) ignore it - until finally the "Actually, I should have ..." muffles the once bell-clear "It will one day ...".

However, the call never stops, we just hear it less well over time. We overhear it, just as we no longer hear the ticking of the wall clock after a while. But the clock keeps ticking, time runs out, runs out and with it the time of life. In front of you is the time you have left, behind you is your unlived life. Inside you, the foul gas of the poison that is created.

In the hero's journey - i.e. in the mythological course of our lives and its chapters - the call is followed, almost like the Amen in church, by the refusal of the call. Each of us has prepared a well-stocked pantry of protection stories for this. Protective stories in the treacherous disguise of beliefs that we have made up for ourselves, or that have been foisted on us as upbringing, education and socialization, camouflaged in the delicate pink of punch doughnuts, so that we have long since come to believe that they are our own thoughts.

"I can't do this ..."

"Nobody needs that."

"The others are much better than me."

"I lack time, budget, knowledge & strength."

"But first I have to ..."

"What am I supposed to do on my own ..."

"That's just the way the system is."

"This is not the perfect time."

We believe such things.

We concoct such stories and serve them up to ourselves and each other hot off the press. In this way, we simply refuse to stand up for what we are there for - as individuals, as a company, as a community. As humanity in the fabric of what we call the planet on which we think we live, but of which we are in fact micro-mosaic pieces.
We would be there for each other, wouldn't we? For the big picture, wouldn't we? We actually would be. Actually ...

Ferdinand Alt is described as being no exception. Ferdinand regarded the timbre of an instrument, which derives its perfection from technically perfect intonation, as the sacred precursor of composition. Of course, he did not know whether there really was a God who, among other things, harbored the unfathomable desire to be the owner of a composing Ferdinand. He was merely convinced that it was his unavoidable mission to compose a life's work of at least one symphony that could stand up to his criteria, which were based on the entire history of old and new music. Again and again he had asked himself: What is it that I dream, awaken, fever, recover, learn, refuse, seduce, fall, err and seek support for? - For the sake of the work, was the answer. Shining and outshining every objection - for the sake of the work. And Ferdinand ultimately knew that his incarnation, the transformation of all misery into joy, led through the eye of the needle of this work.

Sometimes he moved through the piano room like a spider weaving its web. He thought, I won't go down any path in this room a second time. When I've gone all the ways, I sit down at the piano and strike a G sharp with my ring finger, the rest will follow of its own accord. The whole work hangs on the G sharp. He heard an orchestra caught up in one sound, playing all the notes of a huge composition at the same moment. The summary of the symphony in a single, short dissonance. ...

... But then again he doubted whether more time would pass before he found the sesame-open-thou than the time he would need to invent and arrange the parts of the individual orchestral instruments neatly on music paper, moment by moment, hour by hour, month by month.

The call never stops. Never.

Do you know your concert pitch?

The call only changes its form, changes from major to minor, sounds dark and threatening, changes from a concert pitch to the dissonance of the wailing tone. In the beginning, we are still concerned with chasing after the things in life that are important to us, or that we consider important, with a searching gaze and quick step, so that we belong, are in, are on trend and can therefore successfully shape our lives with everything that is to be understood by the word prosperity. So woe betide me if I miss something! Miss something! FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out, is nipping at our heels. And yet many - and it is to be feared: most - simply listen away when something else calls, there at the crossroads where we decide every day between what we want and what we actually need. To be a piano tuner or not to be a composer? That is the question here.

No, the call doesn't stop. Never.

The FOMO, the Fear Of Missing Out shoots up and grows into a POMO, into the Panic Of Missing Out. Because what we miss out on while we are at the front, in the middle and on top, what we really miss out on, is our real, very own task. We feel this with discomfort, a guilty conscience, burnout, thoughts of futility and much more.

In the previous blog article "Why is your FOMO becoming a POMO?" I wrote down some thoughts on this. I have rarely received as many responses as I did to this one. Thank you very much! Especially to Ulli, Christoph and Jeanette for your flash of light: "The better POMO would be the Power Of Missing Out!"

In your words:

"Not being there everywhere, simply not commenting on anything gives you strength and the opportunity to find strength and security within yourself."

"When your inner compass says, I don't want to do that, that's not my story, then a conscious decision gives you great strength and inner peace."

"... especially in times of constantly being online and wanting to be there and in the thick of it, to abstain from time to time ..."

Viktor E. Frankl comes to mind, who warned "If a person cannot find deep meaning, he distracts himself with pleasure."

Are you freeing yourself?

The Power Of Missing Out - this is the liberation from such distractions that seductively lure us like the sirens lure the errant Odysseus on his way home. The Power Of Missing Out focuses our attention on our lighthouse, where nothing but our inner fire shines on the distant horizon. For every siren that falls silent, we now have an open ear for our voice. Every distraction that we plough into our field with a clear 'no' is transformed into a green fertilizer for our task, for the fruit that we can ultimately share.

Joseph Campbell called out to us to "Follow your bliss!" and: "We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned so that we can find the life that is waiting for us."

Yes, the clever ones are those who know the fine art of diving into the shadows. Because our really important matters usually lie in the darkness within us. Hidden, concealed, dusty. The clever ones dive boldly into the shadows, they go under, they turn the shadows into dragon's blood and emerge transformed: unwavering, invincible, unyielding. They bring to light everything that is important, everything that is essential, in their very own truthfulness. They succeed themselves.

In this way, they turn their two life signposts "What I want" and "What I need" in the same direction. The arrow now points to "Who I am and what I am here for". They finally want what they need. This has recently been called Meaning, Purpose or Why. In fact, it means: meaning.

It took me decades to hear, understand and accept this, including a splendid shadow career and two severe burnouts on top of my "protracted illness". And I'm still not quite sure whether I've transposed everything to my own personal tone so that it doesn't just resonate with like-minded people. But luckily I have a number of mentors whose wise wisdom accompanies me. Some have been with me for many years, some as life mentors, most of them in the form of their books, which remained on earth after them. They helped and still help me to understand my history, my story, and not to be deceived. Saint Viktor Frankl, Saint Joseph Campbell and Saint C. G. Jung - these are three of the stars I tie my plow to.

Incidentally, their mentoring programs are still open to everyone, and the participation fee is the same as the purchase price of their books (in many cases even available second-hand) with an ROI that would make even Gordon Gekko blush. For while it is well known that even dwarves cast long shadows in the setting sun, these giants of the mind make you & me climb the robber's ladder so that we can see beyond our shadows on their shoulders, to our possible path, which they illuminate for us with their bright thoughts. Priceless, actually.

If you feel for yourself, your profession, your company, your team or your brand that the Power Of Missing Out is growing within you and that you finally need a new story, if you, like many others, are on the move, ready to take the leap into the shadows and transform yourself, you probably wish you had the support of an earthly mentor. And if you have the feeling that I could be this mentor for you, it would be an honor for me to accompany you with my New Story programs. You can find everything about this here, here or here.

Mentors can be found in many places, sometimes in the Café Stern, which was inhabited by Ferdinand Alt, in the neighborhood and in the very best company of countless shadow divers, metamorphosis travelers and full-time ragheads, in their chairs in this university of real life, which a decent Viennese coffee house once used to be. Many of her lectures in the whirlwind of stories and the maelstrom of G'schichterln resonate in him to this day like an unfinished symphony, but the brightest is the one with the drumbeat of my grandmother, the old Story Dudette, under the auspicious title: "New Story. New Glory."

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