To Be, or to Do?

Sometimes, a quote is so powerful it needs no embellishing.

Tiger, one day you will come to a fork in the road and you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go.

He raised his hand and pointed.

“If you go that way you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and you will get good assignments.”

Then Boyd raised his other hand and pointed in another direction.

“Or you can go that way and you can do something- something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself. If you decide you want to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get the good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself. You will be true to your friends and to yourself. And your work might make a difference. To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call.

That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?

“John Boyd – the fighter pilot who changed thar art of war” R. Coram.

Stepping Stones

I’ve just had the pleasure of working with an extraordinary group of people considering the bigger pictures we are all part of. Four days away in a glorious quiet setting, in the countryside.

I always find it astonishing how noisy silence can be. The questions it asks of you, The things it brings into focus. The areas we notice that we just don’t understand, and happy for our ignorance to be a trigger.

I felt humbled and inspired by those in the group – some of whom had jobs of huge potential impact for our safety, sanity and survival, others in roles that didn’t really demand of them what they could offer. All of us giving space for clarity to lend a hand to our efforts.

What struck me was the difference between people’s goals and their vision. The former often very clear, the latter constantly emerging. A little like stepping stones in the mist – the ones near to us giving us clear but limited choices, our the vision for the longer term clearly affected and shaped by the ones we choose, and the destination always an aspiration.

Physics tells us that without noise we cannot detect signal. What we need are the right filters. Some of those are frameworks. I have a huge collection, from Marcus Aurelius to John Boyd, all of which help, none of which provide the answer.

The answer always emerges from the quiet, when that part of us that is always there can make its voice heard. our genius, our muse, our soul. Take your pick.

It’s never been more important. The noise factories are in full production, shouting in our ears and assailing our attention with a mix of disconcerting messages.

None of them are right for us.

Our truth, our next stepping stones are known only to us. They will take us where we need to be, if only we take the time to look for them.

Not Knowing – a critical business skill

There’s an interesting, and I think important theme emerging. As we tiptoe out of the caution of the last seven years, and entertain the idea of ambitious business growth, rather than survival and incremental growth, the rules have changed.

We are discovering the limitations of expertise.

Expertise and knowledge are great in relatively static conditions, and we come to rely on the “schemata” – ways of thinking, built on experience, that govern what we take notice of. Expertise gets us promoted, makes our businesses work and allows us to train people to do things. And that is now a problem.

Almost all of the clients I work with are trying to deal with a paradox. How do they make the most of today, knowing that it is becoming obsolescent – but not knowing with any precision what is coming next.

We like certainty (uncertainty, unless it’s nature is properly understood, generated the same reactions as fear), but in order to thrive tomorrow we need to develop confidence in “Not Knowing”. (If you want more, Google “Flawed but Willing” by Khurshed Dehnugara, and “Not Knowing” by D’Souza)

When we can lean into not knowing, we can lose the fear of being wrong, and fully engage the real capabilities we need going forward – imagination, creativity and collaboration. We can find allies in adjacent areas. We can reimagine.

“Experts” are useful for what you do today, but a liability if they are relied on to guide you into tomorrow. they don’t know either. Your best guide to tomorrow is you.

We are in the middle of massive change that will see that majority of routine accounting, legal, insurance and medical skills replaced by technology. Accountants, Lawyers and the rest will not disappear – we’ll just need fewer of them, with deeper understanding of and imagination regarding the field.

Success tomorrow will be driven by real purpose, joy in what we do, creativity, and the ability to imagine and explore with the confidence of a four year old.

At GrowHouse, we are working with clients on how to explore and profitably occupy this emerging territory. If you’d like information mail me richard.merrick@growhouseinitiative.uk  and we can talk more.