Getting Unstuck

We all get stuck, particularly those of us who try to help others get unstuck.

I know when I’m getting stuck when I find myself repeating the same message in creative new ways. It means I’m not moving on, I’m making camp.

Amongst those I know are those who notice, who can’t be fooled, will call me out and move me on. I value them enormously.

Some of them I don’t know personally, but they have a talent for communicating that I get the same kick as if I did.

I was reminded of this listening to Margaret Heffernan on Radio 4 “Thought for the day” on Sunday. A good way to spend ten minutes listening to here challenge the ease with which we accept what we’re told.

Charles Handy has been a mostly unwitting mentor all my working life. A gentle but incisive philosopher of business, I find his work has a way a centring me when I’m stuck.

Rumi, Marcus Aurelius, Antoine de St Exupery. These are just a few amongst many. What I value is their honesty, their lack of lecturing or trying to be right. They question themselves as much as me, and in doing so create a way forward.

In the times we find ourselves in, a search for answers is much less productive than finding those asking great questions.

You don’t have to know them, just make space to spend time with them.


Obscurity gets a bad rap. As though it’s something to be avoided, a social “black mark” and that celebrity is to be, well, celebrated.

I see it differently. Once we are a celebrity, people see us through a filter; defined by what brought us to celebrity and which established a base from which we are expected to develop. In many ways it’s a trap. The burden of the second album.

Obscurity has real benefits. It allows us to plough a furrow that we want, in pursuit of what interests us and what we believe in. We don’t have to worry about whether our followers will like it or not. We know why we are doing what we are doing, what we are trying to find on our own terms, and that’s enough to live a contented life.

We can experiment in obscurity.. We can be creative. We can connect things without having to explain why we’re doing it. We can begin to understand ourselves out of the public gaze.

Those who pursue celebrity for to own sake need to be careful what they wish for, as it’s easy to become the vehicle for something we don’t really believe in, and find out we’re being defined in ways that both label and trap us. (Right now some politicians spring to mind). We might be able to wear the mantle of the things we don’t believe in, and get the kudos for as long as it lasts, but at some point we will have to explain and that may prove to be difficult, not least to ourselves.

If celebrity happens to find us whilst we’re on our journey, driven by a search for something important to us, so be it. It is likely to be because something resonates with people. I still think it may reduce our options at the same time as it’s increasing our wealth. (I wouldn’t know, but it would be interesting to find out…..)

It seems to me that to achieve celebrity as a goal, and then have nothing to deliver is a dreadful fate. On the other hand to find out something important to us, even if only a few people recognise it is far to be preferred.

The first is as lasting as cappuccino froth. The second retains the probability of discovery at some point, and it may just change things in a way you would approve of.

Plans vs. Scenarios

By definition, plans need a degree of anticipated stability to be of any use whatsoever.

That forecast stability is in rather short supply as I write this, not just in the UK as we go through a remarkable period of transformation, but pretty much everywhere across everything from climate to politics.

One of my “go to” reflection tools at times like this is the Cynefin framework:

I like it’s simplicity. Right now, it feels to me like we’re on the cusp of complex and chaotic.

There’s nothing to be worried about in that (worry, after all is a poor use of imagination. Fear has a purpose, worry just drains us)

It makes planning difficult though. We are best thinking in terms of scenarios- what might happen, and what signs would we expect to see if that scenario was coming about? It’s at the heart of agility- the ability to act on a combination of a minimum of evidence and finely tuned intuition.

It has to be grounded. Be cannot be agile in response to something that’s happened (it’s too late), so we have to be willing to take risks.

Risks have to be worth it. Something important enough to risk failure for. Something far more meaningful than just money. Something bigger than just us. Something that will still matter even if our part in it fails.

When we’re creating scenarios, that meaning has to be at the heart of it.

Otherwise, we’re just passing time.