Here’s my philosophy, a summary of my recent talk at Conscious Organisation.
A gorilla dies of old age at a zoo right before the zoo opens. It is the only gorilla at the zoo since they are not very profitable.
However, the gorilla is their most popular attraction by far, and they can’t afford to go a day without it. So the zoo owner asks one of his workers to wear a gorilla suit they have in storage for an extra $100 a day if he will go in the gorilla cage and pretend to be the gorilla until the zoo can afford a new one.
Quickly, the new “gorilla” becomes the most popular craze at the zoo. People from all over are coming to see the “Human-like” gorilla.
About a month in, the craze has started to wear off. So, to get peoples’ attention back, he decides to climb over his enclosure and hang from the net ceiling above the lions’ den next to him. A large crowd of people gather watching the spectacle in awe and terror. Suddenly the man loses his grip and falls to the floor of the lion’s den.
The man starts screaming “HELP!! HELP!!!” Suddenly a lion pounces him from behind…
…and whispers in his ear, “Shut the fuck up right now or you’re going to get us both fired.”
We exist in vulnerable, insubstantial worlds of meaning, carved out at great cost and effort from an infinity of nebulosity and pattern.
We can try to make our worlds tall, defended towers of perfect knowledge, clarity, and understanding, until the earth quakes or the dragon burns us down — or until our inner snake makes itself known. And you might accidentally remember that we’re all going to die.
Or we can live in a lush garden, with nature’s riotous bounty always to hand — and snakes and gnarled-up roots and deep tenebrous thickets, too.
Conscious leaders know this, and make those choices.
Here are three core concepts from Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the flawed teacher (hence the Tibetan proverb: “The best guru is one who lives at least three valleys away”):
Tender heartedness — being open to the universe and everything that you are afraid of: “Your experience is so raw, tender, and personal that even if a tiny mosquito lands on you, you feel its touch.”
That’s dangerous without its flip side, cheerfulness.
Isn’t it *hilarious* that a small twist in our frame might change everything?
Together, those two open up ‘basic goodness’, intrinsic, ‘there like the earth and the sky’.
We don’t die if our understanding is shaken.
If we remember these, we can challenge ourselves to not be trapped into defending our sensemaking world.
To deal with our vulnerability, and be cheerful about it, is a decision.
“Life is hard to bear: but do not affect to be so delicate! We are all of us fine sumpter asses and assesses.” (Nietzsche)
We can see instead that we are really working on collaborative intelligence — and use diversity, inclusion, justice, and failure to co-create new ways of thinking.
To be truly conscious is to make sense of the messy world in a way that’s always contested and always changing. Rather than clinging on to understanding the world in one way, we need to be able to maintain our ability to review and revise our understanding.
Agency, response-ability, #consciousleadership requires us to have touchstones — not to be perfectly open, cheerful, and determined all the time, but to always know that those things are accessible.
Fluidity isn’t free though, change isn’t free — it needs to be shaped for and enabled, and the cost minimised.
It even needs to be defended against — it’s not right to simply embrace loss, dying and other painful transitions without a fight.
But to fight without adding extra layers of artificial emotion, and to let go when the time is right, is critical.
This means defending against resentment, chips on the shoulder, peevishness, a feeling of superiority, and it means not fooling yourself — admitting when you do feel stuckness, frustration, pain.
#leadership #sensemaking #complexity