On Saturday, 24th September 2011, I rocked up to Wimbledon Library (yes, Wimbledon – as in the tennis tournament!), armed with my British driving licence and a utilities bill with my name on it (for identification purposes). I was there to take the – drumroll with trumpet – Life in the UK test. In order to obtain Indefinite Leave to Remain status – or British citizenship – one must pass this test. There are 24 questions on the test, and you must answer at least 18 questions correctly to pass.
Friends! Not only did I pass the test, I aced this bad boy. Are you proud of me???????? How did I ace it, you ask? Great question. How did I do this thing that really, really impressed the computer that scored my test? You must read on to find out.
But first. We need to rewind the story!
During this period of my life (the year 2011), I had one passport – an American one – and I was keen to transform my 5-year work visa in the UK into Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) status (which basically gives someone the right to indefinite residence in the UK – barring a few exceptions). One thing I needed to do in order to obtain ILR was to pass this Life in the UK test. I was pumped! And ready to hit the books.
As I sunk into studying for the test, I learned quickly that this test I would be taking in 2011 would be based on the data from the census conducted ten years prior – 2001. The census in the UK is done every ten years, and because I would be taking the test during a census year, the 2011 data wouldn’t show up on the test until 2012. No problem. I would simply study data from ten years ago.
Except that an interesting thing happened. As I was studying the 2001 data for the test (amongst other things), I actually became genuinely interested in what I was learning, so I naturally then started getting curious about what was true at present. (And not just what was true ten years ago.) So, I began taking a two-pronged approach. Yes, I would study for the test, but I would also then get curious about the real answers, so to speak, and go search for those. So to give a simple example, in 2001, the population of the UK was clocked at 59,113,000, and in 2011, the population was recorded as 63,182,000.
At one point I started to notice that my being genuinely interested in learning about what was true, was getting in the way of my original objective, which was to pass the test. In other words, instead of just learning one number (in the aforementioned example), I had two numbers in my head now. And having the ‘real’ one in my head, I realized, could potentially cause me to answer a question related to Britain’s population incorrectly. Hmmm – so fascinating!
Friends! Although this story is 100% true, I am actually only using it as a metaphor.
And I’m using it as a metaphor when it comes to our money system.
How the money system is today is like the Life in the UK test that I was studying for in 2011: it is out-of-date, and our efforts to ‘ace the test’ can often come in direct conflict with the pursuit of beautiful, real things – such as knowledge, truth, and genuine learning…to name but a few.
My authentic interest in learning about Britain – which, for example, would have me run around the corner from my office at the time in order to duck into the dry cleaners where my friend Zuhaib from Pakistan worked, and ask him questions about what it was like to practice Islam in the UK. The curiosity to chat with him about this would be ignited from a test question as simple as, What percentage of people in the UK identify as Christian? And as Muslim? And Hindu? etc. This interest in learning was genuine; I knew for a fact that I didn’t need to interview people of various faiths in Britain and then write an award-winning essay on it to pass the test. (I also knew that I didn’t need to take a field trip to the British Museum with Zuhaib to visit a special exposition on the Hajj in order to tick the correct box stating that 5% of people in the UK identified as Muslim.)
Here at Growmotely, to drop the idiom so often used in political circles, we are striving to walk and chew gum at the same time.
We see that we need to do the equivalent of getting 18 out of 24 questions right in order to pass the test and get the thing (Indefinite Leave to Remain). In the world of business – which is what we are technically in – ‘the thing’ to be had is revenue minus expenses = profit.
We also see that the thing in and of itself is meaningless. Both the test. And the profit.
I could have missed the fact that I was supposed to study the data from ten years ago – instead of current data – and bombed the test. Despite knowing more about what is true when it came to the answers to the questions on the test than most people in the testing room.
And at Growmotely, we could technically ‘bomb the test’ by not moving into a model whereby we are consistently bringing in more money than what is going out.
But let’s be clear.
The map is not the territory.
And the menu is not the meal.
The money system in which we live is NOT life itself.
Here at Growmotely, we ‘study for the test’ in an effort to pass it, because we realize that that is what is needed to keep a business alive in the current system. We refuse, however, to conflate this test – which is wildly flawed and man-made – with what is real, what is true and what is good for humanity. So we are trying to walk and chew gum at the same time.
Will we pass this test?
In many ways it doesn’t matter, because no one can take from us what is real. No one can take from me my curiosity, for example, to learn from Zuhaib about how him praying in the UK was different from how he prayed in Pakistan.
Sometimes we flunk the test in favor of what is real. And sometimes we are able to ace the test and delight in everything that is real. Just like I did with this Life in the UK test.
In short, we see The Future of Work as a place where all companies are able to do both. A future where we don’t have to choose one or the other.
Join us in creating this future.
Written by: Vanessa Kettner (Growmotely’s Creative Writer and your Remote Work Cupid)
Dedicated to: Sarah Hawley (Founder and CEO of Growmotely) – thank you for the stimulating voice memo exchanges on money systems!