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

Gradually, then Suddenly

“How did you go bankrupt?
Two ways. Gradually, then Suddenly.”

Ernest Hemingway. The Sun Also Rises

Any of us who have been involved in a failed venture will identify with this. Things happen at the edges, small at first. They happen in several areas, still small, but becoming slightly bigger and more numerous. None big enough to be a crisis in their own right, because we have other things, “noisier” issues to attend to.

Promises and assurances from partners and suppliers (particularly Banks, as they position you as carrion) suddenly evaporate.

Then, we have a “Suddenly” moment. Obvious in retrospect, but almost sneaky in the moment.

The lesson, once learned, is obvious. It isn’t the noise that will kill the project, it’s the quiet insidious intrusion of calculated self interest. For those with practice, it’s part of the game. For those new to it, a surprise.

The same is true for most areas; Business, Politics, Careers. The signals are there long before the event eventually manifests.

What’s interesting right now is that we are facing the challenge simultaneously on several fronts, all of them interdependent.

Business, Climate, Politics. All of these have been exhibiting signal for a while-decades in some cases.

I’m an optimist. This has been coming for a while, and is probably as necessary as it will be uncomfortable.

The “Suddenlies” will test our values, our purpose and our relationships, as well as determination to come out of this change stronger.

We will be presented with choices. We need, individually and collectively, to make good ones.

Old Game, New Rules

For just about all of my working life, over four decades, organisations have held sway. They had the resources, the status, the networks and the power. When I left university, the conventional wisdom was to look for the “solid organisation”.

That makes it quite strange to suddenly realise that it’s changed. Quite disconcerting really, like the transition from winter to spring. One minute snow and Aga, and what seems like a few minutes later, shorts and grass mowing.

Organisations no longer hold sway. People do. It’s no longer about who you join, it’s who you travel with.

That makes for really new rules. Not adaptation. More like revolution.

Individuals can cope with this far better than organisations. Organisations want stasis, certainty, or at least change on their terms. It rarely works. Most change initiatives fail, and those that succeed rarely do more than keep them in the game.

I believe that means we need to reboot. The realisation that the organisation cannot look after us, for anything other than the shortest of terms, is disconcerting. It’s not that the organisation is malign (though I can think of several exceptions) it’s just that they are not capable. Culturally, structurally, spiritually. They have been designed to make money, and that is no longer enough.

We are in the age of the connected individual. Some of them, the Musks, Bransons, Rhen Zengfeis’, combine connection with capital to create new entities. Others combine connection with politics to develop power. Others combine connection with influence, from the mundane stuff of social media to the dark side of insurgency.

Some, do all three.

I think it creates an uncomfortable imperative for us. If we cannot belong to an organisation, what do we belong to? To what are we “hefted”? What, when all around us is uncertain, matters? Do we have a compass to guide us?

Then, do we have a community who we support, and who will support us? People at our shoulders?

If we do, then are as potentially powerful as anyone else, and we can make a difference to something that matters. If we don’t, we are in danger of becoming refugees, looking for somebody to help us.

It’s uncomfortable, but right now, inevitable.

The infinite game of business remains unchanged. The finite game of traditional organisations is melting beneath our feet.