Can’t go round it…….

We are always on the edge of something.

There’s the safe edge, and then there’s the scary edge. Like a black hole, threatening to suck us into that which we don’t understand and don’t control.

I’ve found that much of the time, I’ve been aware of the difference and can choose whether to go, or back off. I’ve got better at going as I’ve done more of it, and realised that the fear is largely illusory. That still doesn’t make it anything other than buttock clenching.

The thing is though, I think that sometimes we don’t get a choice. We find ourselves at some form of Singularity , and we have to come to terms with it. Psychologists call it Liminality. Mythologists term it The Call. It involves crossing a threshold, going over the edge. Once crossed, there is no going back.

We can’t go over it.
We can’t go under it.
Oh no!
We’ve got to go through it!

We’re going on a Bear Hunt. Michael Rosen.

Whatever we term it, it takes us on a journey into the unknown. We will face unknowns, fears and unexpected joys, and moments when we really, really wish we hadn’t started until eventually we find ourselves on the other side of it and know ourselves differently.

Covid -19 is an Edge.

We haven’t had a choice. We couldn’t choose whether or not to be part of it.

Here we are.

Now we’re in it, and we understand we can never go back to “old normal”, whatever those who wish we could say.

We have choices.

We can try to go back, turn around in the white water and try to paddle back upstream,

We can close our eyes, complain, blame others and hope somebody else will sort it out.

Or we can take responsibility, despite the fear and uncertainty, and shape the experience we are in.

My Grandma used to say “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. She was of course right. That’s a Grandma’s job.

This is a matter of individual and collective will.

Over the Edge – The Rollercoaster Ride

So here we are, whether we like it or not. We’ve spent the last three months listening to the “clunkety clunk” noise as we are pulled inexorably to the top of the first dive, and we can feel that knot of apprehension as we come to the point where up turns to chaotic down and beyond.

We have a choice. We can either shut our eyes,scream and wait for it to be over, or we can keep our eyes open, look around and understand what’s going on.

There’s a way of mastering the roller coaster.

Eyes Open

Look at what is going on around you with fresh eyes. All of us suffer to some degree to “wilful blindness” – we sideline the difficult things and ignore the things we don’t like. It’s where the “elephants in the room” live.

It’s where we should start conversations, but don’t. We start them where they’re comfortable, and don’t threaten our status, our relationships, our territory, or our autonomy. We cling on to a sense of certainty and fairness, like those temporary periods of calm on the level parts of the rollercoaster.

Covid has introduced us to the first scary, but relatively gentle dive. What comes next – we’re not sure quite when or how – will be the equivalent of the double loop corkscrew thing. Probably, but not certainly, Climate Change. There might be one before that – a second wave, a destructive recession, or something else. We know the Climate Change ride is out there though, just not quite how we’re going to arrive at it.

That’s why we need to look around, to get a sense of what might arrive, look ahead to see if we can work it out, or for clues that it might be arriving.

To observe it, we need people who will keep their eyes open and face reality, as well as those from outside our own experience to help us. Physics and common sense tells us we can’t understand the the system we’re part of from inside it. We need a view from the outside. The “flat earther” in us needs a view from the space station.

Balance

If we have a better understanding of what’s coming up, we can better prepare. We can spot the parts that might be fun, as well as the parts where we check we know where the brown bag is.

We also probably want to know who’s in the same car as us. Who’s going to scream? Who’s going to help you notice? Who are you going to have fun with and who’s going to hold your hand when it all gets a bit much?

As we begin to get the hang of it, things change. We can anticipate, predict, prepare and no longer fear what’s coming. We can lead.

We can ride the roller coaster on our own terms.

Choose

Is this the rollercoaster you want to be on? Are you with the people you need to be with? Is this roller coaster a bit tame? Is there another that might challenge you more, with better views and new experiences? Where do you want to be?

Do.

Help those who don’t understand it like you yet. Reassure them, even while you’re still a bit scared. Tell them what you’re noticing. Go again, choose a bigger ride. Learn. Teach. Lead.

The Ride is not an Option

We are where we are, and we’ve a way to go yet. We can’t get off.

Once we understand what is going on, we can see the opportunities. The things we’ve been sidelining are real – the opportunities in a regenerative economy, simpler living, better living, the end of “more” as a virtue, a planet shared. Respect – for ourselves and others in a sustainable economy, because we can do it if we keep our eyes open.

We’re on the ride and there’s still time to choose which car we want to be in, and with whom, in order to enjoy the ride.

If we do, this will be hard work we’ll look back on with satisfaction.

If not, get in a stock of those brown bags.

Is your toaster plugged in?

I have been trying to win all of my life and in fact considering this fact, I’ve actually done quite well. I passed Royal Marines training with distinction, was promoted ahead of my peers, gained notoriety within the world of therapy quite early on and moved my way quickly to the top with a fair amount of ease. 


But the large goals were still eluding me… you know, the ones that truly mattered to me.


My goals and ambitions, like yours I’m sure, have developed over the years as I have matured and become older. My calling if you will, has now taken the form of a mission statement that reads ‘facilitating lasting positive change within 100 million lives across the world’. A great statement however, as you know, it’s one thing to talk and dream about it but it’s another thing actually doing it. The truth was in fact that in the early days, I wasn’t getting anywhere close to reaching this dream and this was for one reason and one reason only… I didn’t have my toaster plugged in. 


A lesson on toasters… you stick a piece of bread in the slot, you push down the lever and in a few minutes time… you receive a tasty piece of toast. But what if the toaster wasn’t plugged in? What if the electricity was somehow being blocked from flowing through the toaster? How long will it take you to get the desired effect if you were rubbing rocks together? A tricky and time consuming affair I’d hazard a guess!


I, like a huge amount of people in this world, was working without my toaster being plugged in. In other words, I was forcing, I was trying, I was even hoping but without being connected… I was getting virtually nowhere. 


But connected to what? Electricity powers toasters but what powers us as human beings? 


Well, it depends what your beliefs are… a theologian would most likely say God. An agnostic might simply say energy. An atheist might say thought power or consciousness and well the rest… they don’t quite know what to call it!

I don’t believe that the name really matters… the thing I do believe that’s important is that you become aware that it’s real.


No-one on this earth can do anything of any great significance unless they are connected… you must be aware and plugged in to your source if you are to truly fulfil the desires you are capable of. 


How do plug yourself in?


The wonderfully simple fact is that you already are… you  just need to take the time to recognise it. 

Looking for Leadership

Last week at the stables where I ride the owner commented that four of her lessons had lost their jobs this week, and as she does’t teach that many people, that represents quite a high proportion. The reason seems to be that companies are now being asked to apply for the second furlough grant and are realising that as they come out of Covid 19 their business will not be what it used to be. This seems typical of the nationwide picture. So there are going to be a lot of people suddenly wondering what to do next. There is going to be a need for good leadership, but whom will these people follow?

When a horse is taken out of the herd, and is feeling insecure and afraid they also look for leadership. That leader is often us. One of my favourite horse authors, Mark Rashid, talks about how horses choose a passive leader, ” …before a horse (or person) can be considered a passive leader, it must first exhibit the qualities that make it desirable to be chosen. Those qualities are, quiet confidence, dependability, consistency, a willingness not to use force.” These four qualities are what make the horse trust us, (passive leadership does not describe how the leader behaves after they are chosen, but how they are chosen in the first place).

So this got me to wondering do humans have and innate need for leadership? If so what qualities do we desire in our leaders for us to choose them?

Susan Scott wrote in Fierce Conversations, ” In any situation the person who can most accurately describe reality without laying blame will emerge the leader, whether designated or not”.

So as we emerge from Covid 19, and the demand for leadership is greater than ever, we need to choose our leaders carefully. It is going to be critical that we have given though to the qualities we want from those whom we choose to follow, and that those leaders show that they have a firm grasp of our reality.

Possibility

Leonardo Da Vinci from 1492 .

Are we seeing a return to craft?

Where do we go when we understand volume and scale are losing their lustre, and when the mantra of constant growth becomes recognised for the absurdity it has always been?

When we can make or replicate almost anything, anywhere, and replace even the most complicated routine professional skills from legal drafting to medical scan analysis using technology?

To the spaces between. From woodworking, to food, to clothes.

Not so much the high end of luxury brands, but the beautifully made everyday. The locally bonded whiskey. The denim made by masters in a Welsh village. Coffee sourced with purpose. Accountancy software made for people. Things for which there is often a waiting list, and people happy to wait.

What if the jobs we did were like that? One client at a time, done with care, attention and pride that makes us feel good, feeds our soul and contributes to the success of businesses of people we know.

That generates new knowledge, new ideas and beautiful concepts. Services that work and products that last rather then feed the need for ever more recycling?

If there’s an upside to Covid-19, perhaps its that it has demonstrated to us just how much we don’t need, and given us the time to value what we do.

Of course, not everything can be like this – but more can.

If we start in the right place. With conversations about possibility.

Challenging, joyous conversations about what we could do together to create wonderful services and products that matter to people we know, rather than grey ones about why we’re missing budget selling things we’re not proud of to people we don’t.

Whilst the gaps are being exposed in the old economy, it is opening up opportunities in the new one and we all have a possibility to go there.

It is risky, with nothing guaranteed but worth going for.

On the other hand, relying on the old model hasn’t worked out so well.

We all have a choice. A future we accept, or one we create.

Increased Uncertainty

As we emerge from Covid 19 the future is probably more uncertain than it has ever been. So I’d like to share a story with you about emotional contagion and how confidence can help.

The scene in the the photo above may not look scary, that is unless you are a horse! This is what I encountered when I was on my way to ride earlier this week. My certainty of a nice ride in the sun was changed to a question of will we get through this hazard? Will my horse spook? Will I fall off and be injured? These may seem like small worries compared with Covid 19, but the brain tends to processes them in a similar way.

So how did things turn out on my ride? What did I do to help?

Horses are extremely sensitive animals, and are highly tuned to our emotions, (non verbal communication). They have to be, they are flight animals and their lives depend on it. Sometimes we forget as humans that our emotions can be just as infectious as virus. So as a leader its important we give off the right emotional signals. My horse was looking to me for leadership, to give her confidence and assurance that all would be fine.

So what actually happened when we came to the roadworks was she hesitated, had a look at the bump, I calmly asked her to walk over it, I gave her a bit of time to think about it, and she decided to walked on. There was no kicking hard, no shouting, or trying to force the issue. It was all about confidence, emotional contagion, mine to her, not the other way around!

I once hear a story that in the army troops would be more likely to follow a commander into battle if they had confidence in him.

So as we come out of Covid 19 let us be aware of the effect our own emotions and confidence can have to inspire others.

One of the things we do at http://www.Originize.net is to have inspiring conversations so why not join us?

Communication at a Distance

Whilst not everyone has been able to work from home during the Covid 19 outbreak a significant number of us have been doing so. We have saved time on our commute to the office, and the zoom and telephone calls we have made have maybe been more focused. A lot of people saying that they are more productive.

However we live in a heavily interdependent society and we need others to achieve our aims. We are in fact that we are defined by our relationships with others. I heard a prominent entrepreneur say on zoom the other day that one of the key things to his company surviving and thriving under Covid 19 was the relationships he had built up before the pandemic. So maybe it is worth taking a closer look at the way we are communicating and building our relationships at a distance in the current climate.

Conversations can be of various types.

There are those with an agenda, that are focused on achieving a goal or outcome. Others have no agenda, they are unstructured, informal, born out of curiosity and a need to just understand something. Finally there are those more like conversations around the coffee machine, nothing to do with work but discussing how you feel about something, what matters to you. These help define who we are. All are necessary and it is important to ensure we recognise and make sure have all three. However it is the second and third type of conversation that is more likely to build relationships, come up with creative ideas, and maintain mental wellbeing.

Whichever type of conversation you are having when it’s not face-to-face it’s easy to miss some of the more subtle forms of human communication. It is the gestures, the tone of voice, small movements that tell us how a person is feeling about the subject.

As basically all the decisions we make are emotional decisions, being aware of how a person is feeling about something is key. By actively looking, listening and asking the right questions we can have better conversations.

So with this bit of extra time we have got, as well as increasing our productivity, why don’t take the opportunity to focus on the type and quality of the conversations we are having, or maybe talk with someone we wouldn’t normally speak with, and find out how they are feeling. Maybe there is something we can do to help?

One of the things we have been doing at Originize is seeing where conversations can go, and it’s been a bit like Alice down the rabbit hole…..

So make you have the right conversations, and get the most out of the conversations that you do have.

If you want to you are welcome to join ours at www.originize .net

A Time for Artists

The time was, only a few months ago that the economy was still considered stable enough to pay us in anticipation of us doing the work .

An employment contract, a supplier contract, it was all based on our record of delivery. Defined jobs, with clear specifications, in a marketplace that was familiar.

Of course, the first harbingers were there, for those who chose to look. The easy outsourcing, the gig economy, reliance on low margins and the satisfaction of regular dividends. Nice. Better not to look.

The Lure of Continuity.

Getting the message across was difficult, and it always has been. When the Impressionists first started out, they could not get their work displayed in the Paris Salon, because it was not considered “Proper Art” by the establishment, who did of course, know. Later, the Beatles could not get record deals “four boys with guitars, really?” the list, we know in retrospect, goes on.

“The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible

Reaction to Fred Smith’s proposal for what became Federal Express.

Over time, we built an economy predicated on staying the same.

Of course there would be product innovations, and occasionally disruptions, but the market would accomodate them, and those who understood the way the market worked would always win. Bankers, Consultants. Lawyers and others.

Oops

In 2013 David Graeber wrote an article on “Bullshit Jobs”, followed in 2016 by a book of the same name. In it he argued that a large proportion of jobs were “bullshit”-adding no real value to the economy, and even less to the lives of those who did them.

He included Bankers, Consultants, Lawyers and others.

He was easy to dismiss. A renegade and an anarchist even if he was a recognised if controversial academic. Even if he was at the heart of the Occupy movement, and coined the term “The 1%”

As we look at “Essential workers” and the dreadful toll on jobs caused by Covid-19, it appears he had a point.

The huge amount of noise and demands for subsidy are in those areas that he identified as bullshit. By no means all, but enoough to make the point. Jobs that are, in effect hosted by those parts of the economy that create value, rather than just move it around. The part that the Physiocrats, the precursor to modern neoliberal economists, called “sterile”.

No Time for Templates

Art is about seeing things differently, and finding ways to explain that. About reframing, and paradigm breaking.

In the world of puzzlers and mystics, it’s time for the mystics. Logic will not see us past this crisis, or tackle the ones emerging, it is the mystics – the language of artists.

This is no time for templates, from powerpoints to consultants business models. they were built for a different time, by smart people and used parrot fashion by those didn’t. Leadership Books written by those who defined their style in retrospect rather than in advance on values and beliefs.

A Time for Artists

This is a time for originality, conviction and the pursuit of what really matters. A time for the long game of beautiful businesses our children and grandchildren will admire for what they did at this time, not the short term obsession with ugly, unsustainable returns.

We were born original, and only became standardised through education, training and habituation in more stable times.

What we need now is the artist in you.

To be paid for what you create that only you can do. To make a difference to what next. To not watch passively and hope others will sort it.

Nobody is going to resue you

Ta’mara Leigh

If you want somewhere to explore that possibility, join the discussion at the Originize Project

Overcoming fear

I have suffered from fear all my life… haven’t you?

Not surprisingly, I have experienced this subjectively on countless occasions. Some of the more interesting ones are skiing down a mountain in Norway before having lessons, landing on a hot LZ in Afghanistan where I was highly concerned that I was going to be being blown up and wondering if my son would come out with all his fingers and toes (we worry us parents) as he was being born. 

I have also examined the subject of fear objectively through my study of psychology in my preparation to become a psychotherapist. I learned that fear was two things… it was either a survival trait, or it was a human construct due to the environment you were inherently part of. It’s what we talk about in psychology as something either being subject to nature or nurture.

So I thought… I suppose, if it was under those circumstances I could let myself off for feeling fear couldn’t I? I mean, it wasn’t really my fault… it was either something I was born with or something that I could blame my parents for?

Wasn’t it?

Let me digress for a moment or two… I was always one of those curious children… one of those children, teenagers, young adults and now middle aged man, that very seldomly took things at face value. I often questioned the validity to any so called truths… I often asked why?

So I did this exact thing when I questioned my thoughts around fear. I, like many others, suffered from some level of fear around what might happen to us all in the middle of a pandemic with no solid ending on the horizon. The fear of uncertainty does this to us… it’s a powerful thing because, well, to state the obvious… we don’t really know when it’s all going to end and that’s not a comfortable thing for anyone to be a part of. 

But then I began to question… what’s driving my fear in this instance? Is it rational… have I been born with this fear… is it a construct of my mind… can I do something about it?

My answers came not from science this time but from metaphysics… the philosophical study of self. 

I came to understand that yes, fear is quite necessary if we are to survive. It’s what stops us from holding our hand over a burning stove or walking too close to the cliff edge but if it’s fear around something existential, then we always have a choice. We always have a choice to do something different…

I then realised that in this type of situation, if we wanted to take back control of our lives we needed to ‘step out’ and do something different. We needed to start telling a different, more hopeful story… we needed to have courage… quite simply we needed to have the courage to act.

Colleagues and Co-workers

What is the difference between a colleague and a co-worker?

The practical difference is maybe that a colleague can’t fire you.

In these days of turbulence, authenticity and honesty is prized, even when it hurts.

The days ahead will be full of difficult decisions, and we will be swamped by lots of statements along the lines of “it has been a difficult and painful decision to let our colleagues go”.

Of course it’s painful, but let’s not add insult to injury by calling them colleagues. They had no say in the decision.

Beautiful Conversations

Conversations, at their best are beautiful things.

They are a dance of possibility as we pass ideas backwards and forwards, help each other shape them, notice things in the space between ideas and create the start of something.

In the search for efficiency however, we appear to have weaponised them. We treat them like processes, looking at value extracted versus time spent. Dialectic. Not a dance, so much as a tennis match, hitting with ever greater force as we look for weakness in our opponent.

There is a place for this. In stable conditions, with known rules, like the Law Courts, or a manufacturing process this type of dialectic is powerful – testing ideas and improving them.

However, in conditions of uncertainty when the reality is that none of us know what’s coming next, it’s dangerous. We create false certainty to bolster our case and make assertions based at best on assumptions, and at worst on manipulation.

Doubt is uncomfortable, but Certainty is absurd

Voltaire

It seems right now, we’re having far too many of these ugly conversations. Trading off the balance between saving the hospitality industry against the likelihood of a second wave; trying to restore an economy that was dysfuntional rather than using this shock to shape something new.

We have huge opportunity the other side of the pain that is now inevitable. It could be a great story, but it has to be crafted, not bodged.

To craft it we need to bring to it what makes things beautiful. Grace, Gratitude, Intent, Generosity and Courage.

We do not have time for the destructive power of ugly conversations