Tension

There’s a space between what we’re doing now and what we’ll be doing next. Some of that gap we can measure in time, like the timing between two notes on a musical score.

Then there’s a more complex, nuanced version. The quality of what is happening in that space. The energy. The things that affect the nature of that change.

The combination of these two qualities – time, and nature- create a tension, an energy, between one beat and the next.

That tension cannot be measured, only sensed. To sense it, we need make space for it.

That tension is increasing. For any given time period, the change energy is increasing. The difference between 2020 and 2021 is likely to very different to that between 2018 and 2019.

The issues we are seeing are not isolated from each other. They will combine and morph into new forms in a similar way to viruses adapting to defeat antibiotics.

We need to pay attention to this liminal space in which these issues combine. If we pay attention only to the symptoms, we’ll miss the cause and if do that we are far more likely to be disadvantaged than energised.

Whatever time you put aside for reflection and research, double it.

The Well Trodden Path

We like well trodden paths. They are familiar, comforting and we recognise the scenery. We know them so well we could travel them with our eyes closed.

That’s the problem. We become wilfully blind, seduced by our habits. The scenery may not look as if it is changing, but it is.

Changes small enough not to be noticed day to day, but which like compund interest, build until they are huge.

If we’re investing in the future, compound interest is wonderful. If we’re borrowing from it, it will probably kill us.

We need to know the difference. Although the market sometimes changes quickly and disrupts us, more often it changes incrementally until we find ourselves irrelevant..

We need to understand where we are, and to do that, sometimes, we just need to get lost.

To step off the well trodden path.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

Terry Pratchett – Hat Full of Sky

Perspective

When we are searching for insight, particularly in the realms of contemporary subjects such as business, we are often tempted to search latest thinking.

There is much to to be said for that, but not at the exclusion of older wisdoms. The challenges we face are rarely new, just presented in different forms, and a singular focus on the new can lead us astray.

There is a lovely passage in one of my favourite books, “The Master and his Emissary” which I think captures it well. I’ve copied here in full, as I think it’s worth it.

“There is a story in Nietzsche that goes something like this. There was once a wise spiritual master, who was the ruler of a small but prosperous domain, and who was known for his selfless devotion to his people. As his people flourished and grew in number, the bounds of this small domain spread; and with it the need to trust implicitly the emissaries he sent to ensure the safety of its ever more distant parts. It was not just that it was impossible for him personally to order all that needed to be dealt with: as he wisely saw, he needed to keep his distance from, and remain ignorant of, such concerns. And so he nurtured and trained carefully his emissaries, in order that they could be trusted. Eventually, however, his cleverest and most ambitious vizier, the one he most trusted to do his work, began to see himself as the master, and used his position to advance his own wealth and influence. He saw his master’s temperance and forbearance as weakness, not wisdom, and on his missions on the master’s behalf, adopted his mantle as his own–the emissary became contemptuous of his master. And so it came about that the master was usurped, the people were duped, the domain became a tyranny; and eventually it collapsed in ruins”

I think it captures nicely when we think we can forget the heritage of what we have learned.

The impact of the internet is in many ways less powerful in relative terms than the impact of the printing press, and that of quantum physics compared to the assertions of Copernicus when he challenged traditional religious thinking, and of Martin Luther when he published his 95 theses.

As we enter the disruption that will doubtless be caused by machine learning and articulate intelligence, we might do well to remember this.

We’ve been here before, and we can learn from those who were there. We are not smarter than them, just more recent.