A month ago it felt like the Covid virus was losing its capacity to disrupt our well made plans… but along comes Omnicron and the maths change again.
We are living in the era of predictable unpredictability. All plans are flexible and adaptable.
It is a state of existence that puts great pressure on our mental well-being.
For two years we have lived with shifting regulations around masks, tests, travel restrictions, lockdowns and vaccine certificates. As new variants arise (and that process is guaranteed) these regulations come and go… leaving us all living in permanent limbo.
We have canceled our own travel plans at Christmas. It almost feels a relief to have clarity, even as we and our kids accept the loss of the imagined joys of Christmas presents and time playing with cousins.
A decade ago online shopping, distance learning, home office and video conferences were the stuff of sci-fi and a few techie nerds. Today they are our lives. The advances in how we use technology to allow hybrid classes in IESE and hybrid meetings in Vistage have amazed me. I believe that the rapid acceptance of technology to facilitate communication, work, teams, advances in new organisation structures, crypto (as a store of value and with NFTs as a means to distribute equity, ownership, trust or revenues over a large group) is going to open up some massive steps forward for humanity.
Healthy Humans Need Meaning
We get a lot of the meaning in our lives (in the west) from activity, from progress against plans, from the feeling of forward momentum. We can find meaning in other ways. If we are to stay sane in times of unpredictability, we need to find meaning in other ways. A daily gratitude list – “3 things I am grateful for” is a very powerful meaning and mindset shift. Setting 10-20 year goals is another way of keeping a sense of meaning (and progress) even in the face of short and medium term unpredictability.
What are the activities, conversations, focusses that give a sense of meaning to your own life?
“You can take my life, but you cannot take my freedom” William Wallace (through the mouth of Mel Gibson)
Freedom sounds like good stuff. Generations have fought and died to allow us the individual freedom that we enjoy today.
Freedom is not the freedom from something, it is the freedom to choose to do or not to do something. Freedom comes with a price: you are responsible for your choices.
Freedom is a burden.
Freedom is not fun. Freedom is a challenge for individual human beings to handle. Few accept complete responsibility. Existential psychotherapists say that people will go to extreme mental contortions to avoid seeing two truths: we die and we alone are responsible for our life.
Andy Warhol said that if he could hire anyone, it would be a “boss”. Someone who would tell him what to do each day. It is tiring to have to personally decide what is important and what to work on each day. Much easier to outsource the challenge to a boss, or a political party, or a guru.
It takes courage to live with the responsibilities inherent in freedom. We have the power to shape our lives, and we have the capacity to take action to create and to destroy. We are responsible for our lives.
Gandhi said that all rights come with corresponding responsibilities. All rights can only be earned by carrying out the required duties. The right to be free comes with the duty of full responsibility for your actions.
Edit 14/12/2016: Added this wonderful animation of this post by @Saminsights
The Source of Passion in our Life
I’ve been meeting a lot of CEO coaches over the last 6 weeks in order to develop my business Vistage Spain. I am interested in meeting all of the people that CEOs can turn to when they need clearer vision, greater commitment and significant change.
Who are the top leadership coaches in Spain? Who should be on the list?
I had a wonderful coffee and discussion with Rabieh Adih, executive coach and founder of Shine Coaching, today.
We discussed passion. What it is, where it comes from, how it dies, how it is brought back…
My personal position is that passion and meaning can only come from within an individual human being. It can only come when that person knows that they have given more than has been demanded. It is only this Chosen Sacrifice that can result in a feeling of meaningfulness in a life. If you give only the bare minimum, if you treat everything as a transaction… you will kill passion and find your way to apathy. It is only by choosing to give more than is necessary that you use your freedom in a meaningful way.
“It all starts with Love” Raul Cristian Aguirre
My friend and entrepreneur Raul Cristian Aguirre wrote recently in the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Octane magazine. His message “It all starts with love”.
Now, I’m the first to hate hippy slogans and idealism, but Raul’s message is not about Love in the US Romantic Comedy sense. He speaks of another meaning.
We often confuse love with liking or love with lust or love with enjoying being in someone’s company. These are not love. They can help you get to love. Love is not a response. Love is action. Love is giving when not being asked to give. Love is to give without waiting for anything in return. Love is Chosen Sacrifice.
It is only through daily acts of giving more than is asked that we live lives of passion.
These acts must be chosen. We must give freely. Thus, freedom is the burden… but it is the path to a life of passion.
The Freedom to Give More than is Asked by Life
Life places demands on you. You can pay the minimum price. There are a whole legion of workers in business that are the “Working Dead”, the “Quit and Stayed”… day after day after day they deliver the necessary minimum work. They achieve exalted states of Apathy. (In Harry Potter, these might be the “Dementors” creatures who feed off your fears).
You can use your freedom to choose to give more than the asking price.
I don’t mean that you pay €5 for tomorrows newspaper. I don’t mean that you pay €10 for your next bus journey.
The next email you write… take 10 seconds to make it 1% better than necessary.
The next person you pass in the hallway… take a few seconds to really look into their eyes when you ask “how’s your day?”
The next person you meet with… ask them about why they work, what is going well, what is not going so well.. and take interest in who they want to become.
Practice giving a tiny little extra in these small things.
This is where passion grows.
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Mother Teresa
If you are going through something just to get the diploma, then by all means take short cuts. You don’t really care about the journey.
If you are determined to grow a life that becomes more and more fulfilling and you have a sense of growth and contribution – pick an important problem and don’t take any short cuts.
Maybe, we should pick something we really care about and take the long cut. We choose to make the full journey with no short cuts, no skipping sections, no jumping ahead. (The term “long cut” comes from Seth Godin. Here is Seth Godin’s interview on the Tim Ferriss’ podcast.)
Don’t spend your whole life picking some thing you don’t really want and then take short cuts to get it finished and get the piece of paper or diploma.
At least once, pick something you really care about and commit to the full journey taking in all the steps, all the hills, all the stops.
Imagine looking back at the age of 75 and realising that you chose the wrong thing to live for? Realising that all those years of work and sacrifice were for something that you now do not value?
Living to Please Elizabeth
Over at the excellent Art of Manliness blog there is a recent post about Walter Raleigh. He was of the best of his age: smart, connected, quick-witted and strong. He sought a life of fame and fortune.
He decided that pleasing Queen Elizabeth was the path to success. He sacrificed time with his family, sold himself short on his own values… anything to keep pleasing the Queen. He found riches and fame for a time…
Eventually Elizabeth tired of him and had him thrown into The Tower of London. He never left the tower.
The Razor’s Edge tells the story of Larry, an American pilot deeply changed by his experiences in World War I. Larry rejects the conventional, safe path that awaits him and lives in search of meaning.
He is surrounded by 5 main characters: Isobel, Gray, Elliot, Sophie and Maugham himself (who is both author and a central character in the book).
Isobel seeks financial security. Although deeply in love, she breaks her engagement to Larry once she sees that he will not follow the path of financial security. She marries Gray, a millionaire stockbroker and heir to a fortune. She sacrifices love for money. Gray will go on to lose his fortune.
Elliot wants to be part of aristocratic society. He will do anything to be invited to the right parties and will sacrifice anything in order to be around people with titles. As he lies dying, not a single one of his aristocratic friends makes the trip to visit him. Elliot dies alone.
Sophie drifts into Larry’s life. She has fallen into alcohol and promiscuity after her family life fell apart. Larry tries to save her, but triggers Isobel’s jealousy. Sophie is alcohol-free with Larry, but Isobel tempts her back with a bottle of vodka. One bottle triggers a collapse into complete alcoholism.
Maugham ends suggesting that all the characters got what they desired: “Elliott achieved social eminence, Isabel achieved a secure position, Sophie, death, and Larry found happiness.”
What are you searching for? You will find it.
* Photo of The Razor’s Edge – Source Wikimedia under Fair use
No written word, no spoken plea
Can teach our youth what they should be
Nor all the books on all the shelves
Its what the teachers are themselves
Anonymous, quoted by John Wooden (at 4:12 in the video below)
What is True Success?
John Wooden’s simple answer: to know you did your best. It is not to win, it is not to accumulate material possessions, it is not to be famous, it is not to be better than another… it is to know you did what you could do. If his team won, but had not given their best he was disappointed If his team lost, but they each knew that they had given of their best – he was a happy coach.
John Wooden, affectionately known as Coach, led UCLA to record wins that are still unmatched in the world of basketball. Throughout his long life, he shared the values and life lessons he passed to his players, emphasizing a concept of success that’s about much more than winning.
In my interviews of people that have achieved, it seems that they all share this concept of success. Killian Jornet is a winner in ultra-running because he doesn’t do it for anyone else, he does it to test himself. Miquel Suñer is a winner in open-water swimming because he doesn’t do it for anyone else, he does it to test himself.
In life we start where we are. I often wish I was somewhere else, was a year or two ahead in my career, was a little bit younger/stronger/taller, had a bit more hair these days… but I am not. It does not serve me. I can start where I am and take the best step that I can. Nothing more is asked.
I have read massive quantities of ancient myth in 2012. I have debated purpose with many people of many persuasions. I am moving towards clarity around an idea that a meaningful life is based up a chosen sacrifice.
Success and The Chosen Sacrifice
Kilian pays the price that ultra-running charges. He makes his chosen sacrifice. He is committed, there is no half-measures.
There is a little irish story about going “all-in”, committing 100%.
A man has had a pint or two of Guinness and needs the toilet. He makes his way to the back of the pub. He enters. Approaches a urinal. Begins his relief… and a €5 note falls from his pocket into the urinal.
Just at this moment another guy enters the toilet. He sees the €5 in the urinal, he sees the moment of indecision and he asks “You’ve got a problem. What are you going to do?”
The man quickly takes out a €50 note and throws it in on top of the €5 that is soaked in the urinal. He turns and says “there was no way I was getting piss on my hands for a €5, but for €55 I will do what it takes.”
What is your €50
The €50 is the chosen sacrifice. The €5 was life’s contribution. The €50 was his chosen sacrifice. The meaning in a life comes from choosing this sacrifice. Choosing to pay the full price willingly. Not by waiting to see if life charges the price.
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