which side are you on?


We place fences everywhere.

Fences between our houses. Fences delineating our gardens. Fences alongside railway lines. Fences around yards, car parks and compounds. Fences to keep the animals in, fences to keep them out. Fences around parks and ponds. Fences marking out the route the country pathway takes. Fences shaping fields and grazing land. High fences around prisons. Low fences around vegetable plots. Fences between thrusting motorway carriageways and their speeding contents. Fences on bridges. Fences at the stadium. Fences at the racetrack. Fences at the top, or bottom, of the stairs. 

Some keep us out, some keep us in. Some are to indicate the way. Some to stop us meandering off the way. Some show possession.   Some deny access. Some deny exit. Some are aesthetic, some very functional.

Which side are you on?

And what about the fences of your mind?

The fences that determine choice. The fences that set out appropriate or inappropriate behaviour. The fences that inform us we can’t or we shouldn’t. The fences that motivate and drive action or tell us inappropriate or unachievable action. The internal fences that keep us safe. The internal fences that restrict our growth and learning. The fences that allow us to see potential, the fences that blind us to reality.

Invisible fences, but often just as effective.

Which side are you on?

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trusting the invisible visibly

 

trusting the invisible visibly

When we place our trust, is it with something or someone?

This is ‘Tilt’. Essentially you stand looking out the window on the 94th floor of the John Hancock building in Chicago. Then the windows tilt outwards. 30 degrees. You are then suspended, lying on a glass window, ninety four floors up.

As I queued to experience this, I was noticing my need to trust someone or something.

I looked at the mechanisms. The four hydraulic pistons that lowered the side of the building outwards. The size of the bolts. The seals on the glass. The steel framework of girders. The computer the operator used. I couldn’t see it, but I wondered about the software on that computer. I know only too well that this is often the weakest point.

Then I considered the operator himself. Could he be trusted? Was he experienced? I considered the designers. Surely they knew what they were doing? This was specialist. Then I considered the people who might have granted permission for this. The safety experts. I considered those who had tested it. Were they thorough? I looked at my potential fellow ‘riders’. They looked sensible.

Then I noticed I turned to rationality. It has been here a while and must have lowered many thousands of people. The safety testing and fail safe mechanisms must be all encompassing. Like a lift, this surely is designed with so many precautions? Glass and steel are used in applications requiring more stress and pressure than this.

Then I turned to irrational logic. Those kids are doing it. If they can, surely I can. Hang on though, those two people in front are overweight, and I’m going on with seven other adults. That’s more weight, what if it’s too much?  I ‘reasoned’ it couldn’t have failed, because I would have read about the eight people falling to their deaths.

By now my waiting time had been consumed by my trust exploration and I was up next.

I loved it.

So who or what was I needing to trust? I couldn’t tell if the mechanisms were sound as I’m not an expert. I would never meet the people involved in designing, testing or installing this.

Maybe I just needed to trust myself? Like I do every day I cross the road, or choose what I eat? Like I do when I choose everything I do and who I do it with?

The need to trust, is tangible in us. Yet trust itself, so intangible.

the misnomer of diversity

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We speak of diversity in reference to gender, sexual orientation, disability, age, ethnic or religious background…

The problem with this is the labelling it creates and the notion that we need to take special steps for this labelled cohort. Diversity, and sister terms like ‘inclusion’, suggest acknowledging groups, often minority groups. But the very grouping, the very labelling of the group, is itself creating a boundary. An us and them.

In reality, we’re talking about difference, and we’re all different. All individually diverse. All totally unique.

The more we pay attention to who we are and how we come to the world, the more curious and open hearted we are; recognising that everyone around us does that differently… the better we will be. Everyone comes as their unique self. Everyone has a place.

Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best

the graduates of today…

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I’ve spent some time today with some new graduates joining the organisation.  It’s day two for them.

Driving to the venue I reflected on being one of them…  thirty years ago.

I was now standing in front of them, much as key leaders had been marched out in front of me all that time ago. Then, the leaders were booted and suited. Ties, business suits and highly polished brogues. Today I am in an open neck checked shirt and chinos. Over or under dressed?

I sat on a panel as groups presented their thinking around a business priority. We questioned them, then they questioned us. They seem more worldy wise than I recall being in my time. Great questions about society, change and cultural diversity. A colleague on the panel suggested our pension was in safe hands.

My session with them explored self, authenticity and learning agility. And it seems that although the graduates of today are more connected, more aware, more socially responsible and possibly smarter, they still suffer everyday human frailties. They were still worried about how they came across, still wanting to be reassured, encouraged. They still wanted to be heard, accepted, understood. They discussed self awareness and being themselves, yet they still had limiting beliefs about what was possible, albeit fuelled by a hunger to achieve and succeed.

It seems that whilst much has changed in thirty years, much is the same.

Their very humanity, their vulnerability, their humanness, no different to ours all that time ago.

Maybe that’s a sign of how we need to develop our education, our learning about being human? Maybe the focus on learning ‘stuff’ is strangling our ability to learn about the nature of being human?

a hanging emotion?

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I’ve just been overtaken.

Overtaken on a blind bend.

The car in question then overtook the car in front, also with insufficient visibility for the manoeuvre.

The area and time of day tell me that half a mile ahead there will be a substantial queue at a roundabout. I know this because I am familiar with the area.

The driver in question had earlier been waiting in a side turning and they had slotted in behind me as I had passed them. The side turning I also know would suggest they live or work in the area, so would be familiar too with the upcoming queue.

What motivates us to get ahead? To take risks to get in front?

Is it time? Lateness or a need to get somewhere quickly?

Competitiveness? A desire to win?

Peacock syndrome? A need to show personal power; to showcase capability or self? Look at me, look at my car, look at our potential?

Or maybe it’s a hanging emotion? Maybe work or life had recently delivered an emotional experience leaving the driver with frustration or anger or some other feeling? Maybe the thrill of speed, the rush of risk is a venting of a hanging emotion?

Whatever the reason, I hope they live long enough to enjoy what was a nice car.

 

 

an actor in our own story

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In a fractured age, when cynicism is God, here is a possible heresy: we live by stories, we also live in them.

One way or another we are living the stories planted in us early or along the way, we are also living the stories we planted – knowingly or unknowingly – in ourselves. We live the stories that either give our lives meaning, or negate it with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives.

Ben Okri