Despite the protestations of those who depend on forecasting for a living, the very best of them – and there aren’t many, can see no further than a year ahead with any credibility. The vast majority can do a little over three months. (If you haven’t seen her talk on it, watch Margaret Heffernan) She wrote on this a few weeks before the pandemic hit, and used pandemics in her book as an example. Prescience.
The question uncertainty asks of us is how we prepare for many years of probable tumult. Our default is to believe that it won’t be our business, or us that gets affected. We suffer from what MH termed “wilful blindness” in one of her previous books. The reality is that it will, indirectly or directly, and we would be better if we’re both aware and ready not least because there will be as much opportunity as threat. We need to be able to recognise them both for what they are.
Conflict like this – when what we had hoped would be diverges from what is calls into play our character. Our character is the judge. (Leandro Herrero wrote succinctly and beautifully about it yesterday, when he described our characted as an imprint etched on our soul).
Many people, including me, believe we are born with a soul in search of an opportunity to shine and learn whilst we’re here, and much of our life is a struggle between what we were born to do, and what we end up being conditioned to do. Whether or not it’s true, I still find it a valuable metaphor. When we are aligned with an inner sense of purpose we can do remarkable things; the less we are, the more stressed we become.
Right now, when we are faced with chronic uncertainty in our lives, on many fronts, it is character that will guide us through the fog. Character is not some sort of optional extra, we all have it. It’s often inconvenient, and asks us questions sometimes quietly, some times noisily, about the direction we are taking. Often, we ignore it because it’s easier to do what is expected of us by others. The difference with leaders is that they surface their character, and introduce it to others.
The challenge with character is that I think we often can’t see our own. Other people notice it better than we do, and help us to surface it. Those people are essential, the relationship we have with them is gold, and right now is essential. Growing and developing our character is a life’s work.
As we struggle with uncertainty, we need to trust our character, and pay attention to those who can see it in us.