2021. A year to live brilliantly.

As we teeter into a new year, we could do worse than to remember that we all have enough to be brilliant at what we are meant to be brilliant at.

There is no course, no therapy, no guru who can make us brilliant. Some of them though, often unintentionally, will touch a part of you that is trying to get out and shine. It’s often really inconvenient for our parents, or our school or university, or employer and later on even our family and friends.

In The Alchemist, Paolo Cuelho nailed it. In the introduction, he highlights four reasons why we shy away from our brilliance:

  1. We are told from childhood everything we want to do is impossible. That story builds up in layers until our brilliance, our calling, is covered in so many layers of discouragement it feels smothered.
  2. We convince ourselves that if we disinter our brilliance it will hurt those we love, without realising that call is one of the reasons they love us. They often see what we think they cannot and want to see it appear.
  3. We are afraid of the suffering and defeats we will experience as we bring our brilliance to the surface. It is the classic “Hero’s Journey”, and the road of trials is no picnic. It’s a big decision.
  4. The thought of surfacing our brilliance fills us with guilt. Who are we to be brilliant when so many around us suffer?

The challenge is that not exercising brilliance has brought us to now, with the latent brilliance that will drive the change we need for the planet and all of us on it smothered by the temporary triumph of privileged mediocrity. It will last only as long as we let it.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Edmund Burke in a letter addressed to Thomas Mercer.

2021 is not just another year. It follows on from a very messy 2020 that forced us into a time warp that compressed many years otherwise incremental attitude change into a few months. 2021 will see the crystallisation of those attitudes into action, and we all have to make decisions on how we relate to that. It is a great, if slightly scary, challenge.

  • For those of us who have been brought up in a world of “do this, like that, measured in this way, for this reward”, we need to realise it is dissolving. Algorithms are much better at “do this. like that, measured in this way” – they just don’t need the reward.
  • Organisations capable of responding in the timescale needed – to be “agile” – are those who choose, equip and enable those who work with them. They become less “control centres” and more “resource centres”. That’s a huge move for control centric managers and directive dependent employees.
  • We’re seeing the rise of a form of “hybrid employee” – one who is perfectly capable of working independently, one who defines and develops their own career path and chooses to work with a particular employer in a spirit of conscious interdependence. Hybrid employees right now are scarce. It’s a good time to make the transition. (clue: It’s all in the mind)
  • When what we’re facing is complex and confusing, “sensemaking” is a prime skill. There are no predetermined answers or solutions. Sensemaking requires highly developed capabilities in observation, conversation, synthesis and collaboration. There are no courses for this, only practice in community.

2021 is a year to learn to trust ourselves and take responsbility for our own development. It requires new ways of thinking, of being and doing. A chance to be brilliant on our own terms.

Tomorrow is the beginning of a New Year.

I hope it’s brilliant for you.

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