We’re all heroes now

Whether we like it or not.

Campbell’s iconic structure covers a compelling sequence, starting in the “ordinary world”, a call to adventure and departure on a difficult Journey. Along the way our hero meets a mentor, who changes our her understanding of the world which leads her in to a road of trials, in unfamiliar and frightening surroundings and inevitably to “a long dark night of the soul” where all seems lost. However, in meeting the challenge, she discovers what she needs, and overcomes the odds. She then has a decision to make- to stay where she is, enjoying the fruits of here courage, or to take the secret back to the ordinary world.

Most of us will recognise that our ordinary world, where we understood the rules, our position and could plan is well behind us.

We need mentors. They are not our normal leaders, they are those who care for you and your potential for genius. They are out there.

We find ourselves on a road of trials, and for many, where we are right now seems like a long dark night of the soul.

We can’t go back to the ordinary world. It doesn’t want us and we have nothing to give it, until we find our way forward through the current difficulties.

That’s our job right now. Individually and collectively. To embrace the frightening, the uncertain; to tame it and use it.

In our own worlds, right now, we have no choice other than to be a hero. Those around you, who share what matters to you, need nothing less

Mavericks

Maverick: a person who thinks and acts in an independent way, often behaving differently from the expected or usual way:

Cambridge English Dictionary

I have always valued Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s work. I don’t always agree with his views, but the provocation, his ability to force me to really think, keeps my curiosity alive.

I find his idea of anti fragility – that we can learn to use unexpected shocks as a means of personal and business growth, rather than a setback we have to recover from – a useful reference point.

I have spent the last fifteen or so years circling the coaching industry, finding ways to work with clients to unlock the value that lies in their unique world views and capabilities rather than force themselves uncomfortably into the conformity of “best practice”.

A lot of coaching is based on a “therapy” mindset, and excellent work has been developed psychology and psychotherapy practitioners.

 Therapy: a treatment that helps someone feel better, grow stronger, etc., especially after an illness:

Cambridge English Dictionary

But I find the base assumption a challenge – the mindset that views difference as a problem. Of course – sometimes it is, but sometimes it is just a difference; not something to be “cured”, but something to be understood.

Therapy, like Fragility, is a convention. Maybe, sometimes when we or our organisation encounter unexpected difference, we need to resist our default response until we understand whether we have a problem or an opportunity.

It can be hard. There are whole industries, well marketed, that rely on our default responses so that they can “cure” us.

Consider for a moment a thought experiment. Around 80% of your organisation or comunity in grounded in “normal” (this figure is rounded, but well supported by numbers of studies). Around 10% is in some way “damaged” – and is helped by therapy, and around another 10% is just different. This latter 10% is where the magic often happens. The crazy ones who think they can change the world.

The problem is, we can often try to “normalise’ them; use a therapy mindset to bring them back into the mainstream when maybe we should be in their slipstream.

Sometimes, perhaps, we need something like “anti therapy” – to be better at harnessing the shock of difference, not preventing it.

In his book ‘Loonshots” Safi Bahcall talks about “Soldiers” – who look after the day to day business and incremental innovation, and “Artists” who bring the genuinely new into being. I think he makes a great point.

I think that between the soldiers and the artists are the “Alchemists” – those who can effectively bring the two areas together productively, and bring the new to an effective presence.

Normal is great, manages today and keeps us funded and safe – but for tomorrow, we will increasigly rely on the 10%.

We need to identify and enable our Mavericks. not normalise them.

Which Middle?

There is rarely a cohesive whole.

In politics we have left wing and right wing, each of which has its own middle ground.. In organisations, we have departments, tribes, factions – each of which again has its own middle ground.

There are lots of middles.

The productive middle ground is tiny. It is those who can access and talk to the people at the edges, in their own language, with respect and find the common ground from to explore the radical thinking on which real progress depends.

Alchemists.

The true middle is not normal. It is exceptional.