I find myself regularly asking what should I be willing to sacrifice? Obviously the underlying question is for what or for whom should I be willing to sacrifice? Many people are willing to sacrifice for money; I’m not. I look for greater meaning in what I do – it has to make me a better man, husband, and father. If I cannot find the balance to create synergy I have to ask myself whether the sacrifices are for the right reason.
The current position I am in is truly challenging. Since November I am priveleged to work for a first-rate consulting firm in Johannesburg. Our field of expertise is organisational change management. The general response that I get to this is “what is that?” or “how does that work?”. To be quite honest I am still determining that myself but what I can say is the following: When things change (and this is a certainty) organisations have to respond, adapt, and sustain. How do you respond to change and how do you ensure that the changes that have been envisaged will stick? That is where we come in – we make change work, we make it stick. That said and done I would like to talk about me now and there is nothing you can do about it (except not read).
Here is the dilemma that I am facing in our business/field and I strongly believe you will be able to relate this to challenges in your own life. To a certain extent it still continues the discussion on the King and the Clown (just scroll down for thepost). As stated, we manage change. So in other words once the impact of change has been asessed and a desired route has been decided on we (consultants) come on board to drive the process. Very, very nice! Yes indeed, but here is the challenge: to what extent do we as individuals mereley manage the change in our lives without taking part in the strategic decisions of where I am heading? How much is there to which we can simply say C’est la vie?
I attended very good training the other day that focussed on managing polarities. What’s that you might ask – simple: opposites such as work-life and home-life; planning and spontanaity etc. In this regard our current conversation falls nicely into this classification of a polarity. How much of the change in my life can I plan or do I have some form of control over? At the other pole: how much of the change has an impact on me and I can’t direct? Is this at all a relevant question: How much will I impact change and how much will the change have an impact on me?! Is this perhaps the same thing. It would be quite suitable to see it this way because that is another charateristic of polarities – they are interdependant. The one relies on the other for definition. Let me formulate the question more clearly: If I am willing to change will I not effect change?
To continue this discussion and give you some food for thought I would like to suggest considdering the famous words of Mahatma Gandhi – “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
It’s in the Weave
One of the first posts I put up was “The King and The Clown”. I discussed the challenge of forming a synergy between strategic planning and spontaneous action (perhaps I summarise it better now than orignally). Still this challenge remains and my thoughts are filled with these questions daily.
Our minds work primarily on linear thought patterns that pick up speed too quickly and make assumptions too hastily. A good illustration is a magician – in Afrikaans there is an excellent term used to describe the work of such a person: “oë verblindery” – to blind the eyes, i.e. not to see or deceive. A quick move of the hand here, a distraction there and before you know it your mind cannot comprehend what just happend.
Life is a weave that can blind you in an instance and it is then when we make an error in judgement. There are very many different strands that flow together, different colours, materials, strengths, and lengths. All are important but when we focus to much on just going with the weave and not preparing for what lies ahead we get cought up; entangled and the weave becomes a mess. Prepare too much and lose the art behind it. I dread the day I wake up and life has lost it’s colour; the day my mind cannot comprehend and even worse my heart cannot feel.
I need to appreciate the weave, make it slower in my mind and heart and not be deceived. Following the threads but remembering what I am weaveing. Who is being woven. It is in the weave.
My last bit of writing focussed on paradox and I suggested at the end that perhaps we should use this to help us consider where exactly we are heading – individually and together. Seen and unseen, we all need rhythm so that we can time our own progress as we endeavour to better ourselves.
We need a measurement to evaluate our progress – something greater than ourselves that will be able to predetermine certain goals that are not necessarily tangible. We seek it in many different things on this planet and so few actually find it. Those that have found their own unique rhythm are unfazed by the rhythm of this world – the fast, unrelenting pace set by the herd. The clamour of hooves around us can be deafening, distracting, and even deadly. We are not all the same and risking being different is sometimes life threatening.
Even in our post-modern society where the universal has been replaced by subjective pluralism where truth has become something we determine ourselves and it becomes near impossible to establish unifying, protective principles that are relevant for all of us. In this environment the ones that truly stand for others and an over-arching sense of responsibility to which each of us are equally accountable are the ones that seem to bring conformity, restriction, or even dominance. Once again we have a situation of paradox where ignoring the rules brings restriction, division, and pain. Welcoming the universal truths, principles, and rules brings freedom.
To solve problems we need to go back to the root of the problem not just the bad fruits. Take our current situation in South Africa with our constitution (I know this example is controversial): we have one of the most liberal constitutions in the world that tries to ensure that we all have equal rights. My question is that in trying to ensure that everybody is as “free” as possible we ignore interdependence and focus on independence. I.e: “I don’t need you and stay out of my way – it’s my right” rather than: “I acknowledge that we have to rely on one another to be significant and I am willing to sacrifice to ensure that all of us are better off”. Do we have leaders that stand up for justice no matter what or is it merely a power struggle between the power hungry?
Training for Defeat
In our Formula One lifestyle we are orientated to be prepared to take every turn in the road at life-threatening speed and be ready to overtake! We are flooded by books, TV, films, and myriads of direct and indirect messages that tells us to step up the pace or be left behind. I always thought that it did not affect me – I was invincible!
To my utter disapointment I realised the opposite. We picture that there are people out there that were born that way. By ‘that way’ I mean they were born with a remote in their hand, a mobile fone in the other, and a overpowering desire to prove themselves. We are so fortunate not to be like that! I discovered that within me lies potential – for great things and for terrible things. None of us just wake up one day and realise that we are now that dark figure hiding away somewhere finding delight in all the world has to offer yet never finding de-light (literally and figuratively).
Disgusted, I realised that slowly but surely I was starting to place my hope in things that will most definately disapoint. My desire was after that which does not fulfil. I had to be brutaly honest and ask myself ‘what do I desire’ and because of this ‘where am I heading’? Simple, yet difficult; because you need to become quiet – almost detached. This is not about taking a pit-stop. This is about parking the car and getting out of the race because the finish line could in fact be the end of the line. I thought I was OK just taking the pit-stop every now and again – refueling, new tyres, wipe the helmet – there we go! Now everything is the way it should be and this lap is going to be the best yet. I’ll pass everyone by, leave them in the dust. Oh man I got excited!
…But excited about what?!
I felt defeated, ashamed, even lost. This life is not about a race – it is most definately a journey in which we have the pleasant privelage of stopping, helping others stop, and enjoying that which lies behind (the good and the bad), where we are now (the good and the bad), and where we are going (yip, you guessed it THE GOOD AND THE BAD). I am not a masochist but life will have challenges and our character is determined by how we react to the challenges.
I am therefore gladly training for defeat.
The King and the Clown
Young as I am I have a natural sense of urgency and seriousness about life and hence the focus on strategy in my day to day work. I do however feel the tension within myself which is evident in the world around us: On the one hand we need to plan, look into the future and try to make some form of predicitons so we can adequately apply our resources. On the other hand we do live in a world of uncertainty and applying constructs that are too rigorous around us will smother creativity. The chinese have long looked at this problem and we are all familiar with the Ying and Yang – it is a philosophy of synergy, not balance. Balance is taking a little from both to act as counter weights in order to reach a desirable position/situation.
Synergy on the other hand is where the two actually compliment, or coexist to form a interdependent relationship. This is true in my personal life as well – off course whatever you learn in your personal life you will apply in your professional career (and vice versa) and in this manner it is also synergy. It becomes a kind of synergy within synergy. Knowing how much planning is necessary to guide spontaneity to reach greater levels of effectiveness is necessary in your professional career. It is also necessary in your personal life where yo need to grow – structure – yet you can’t do it without spontaneity, e.g. humor. What would life be without humor?! The two spheres then interact to form an interdependent whole that creates the synergy, not balance, to generate growth. In the end it is like the king and the clown: we need visionary leadership that can prepare responsibly and yet be as spontaneous as a clown to overcome the unseen challenges.
What are you?
To type or not to type?
This is the question I asked myself recently. At first I thought it useless to add my voice to the jungle of information an knowledge on the web already available. On the other hand…in history there has been no-one like me, the words I type have never been typed before and that in itself is reason to put them down so that many years from now when truly intellectual beings visit our desolate planet they are able to observe another part of a colourful rainbow that spans history. Sometimes it’s the little dots and odd marks that can lead to great things.
Welcome to The Konstrukt! Based on the adventures of Jan-Derick Nel. This blog is a challenge to everyone out there that believe there is more. More to life than being born, growing old and dying. I believe there is more; much more! I however cannot define ‘more’ on my own – I need help. That is where you come in. I do believe it was Socrates that said: “An unexamined life is not worth living”.
I enjoy traveling but there is no greater journey than the one inwards. Change is the only constant and being prepared is what this blog is about.
Please hang around while I develop this blog into an area where we can change minds and hearts, especially our own.
Stay tuned for further konstruktions.