That Critical, Invisible Hug

It started out rather unpleasantly. A group of well-meaning folks, in what was initially described as a ‘venture capital’ (VC) company, trying to find footing in an office environment — that had an unrecognisable expectation structure. It’s hilarious in retrospect. We were as far removed from any traditional definition of VC then, as we are now. Which meant that we were (and in some cases, still) trying to exist in a nebulous state of ill-perceived corporate-ness.

We were all uncomfortably swimming in open water, while holding on to an imaginary life raft.

Then, it became unnervingly unpleasant. A group hug then, would have been nice. But neither the group nor the hug was ready for what was to come. Now, we had to talk about ourselves — in horrifying historical detail. The first few iterations of ‘Foundation Design’ (FD) and later on, ‘Intensive Foundation Design’ (IFD) conversations, left most of us in a state of post-pseudo-therapy confusion. Never have so many colleagues from the same office, been in a simultaneous existentialist crunch.

It’s a little TOO uncomfortable

I didn’t deal with it well at all. As a mission-oriented, ‘let’s get shit done’ kind of person — my resolute approach to this was, ‘I need to change to be a better person and everyone around me will have to change as well’. This, is not so hilarious in retrospect. Unfortunately, my long-suffering marketing team bore the brunt of my misdirected desire to manifest this mad mission — “to change ourselves to make the marketing world a better place”.

Although noblely motivated, it was but alas, a terrible misalignment of self. When you have a love-hate relationship with marketing, forcing undefined change upon your team in the hopes of marketing excellence, was foolhardy and worse still, inauthentic. Many post-sessions were spent decompressing my manic thoughts with my wife — and she too inevitably got dragged down into this rabbit hole.

It was about this time that things started getting real — and by ‘real’, I mean ‘confrontational’. Despite me knowing the inevitability of this confrontation — it still blindsided me in ways I could have neither foreseen nor prepared for.

You are your own worst enemy

The current and arguably the most refined iteration of IFD is also its most uncomfortable version. Not only was your stark reflection unavoidable — it was there for many to see. This newest version was even harder to explain to the uninitiated, for it’s near impossible to not sound paradoxical when explained out loud.

“Your journey towards Mastery via Co-creation With Society (MCCwS) will be a non-linear one, peppered by critical milestones, that although sequential, may not appear in that manner. The closing of your IFD is very important, but may or may not be a definitive indicator of your potential life mission. Now share with us your earliest childhood memory — if you can.”

Wait, what?

And on top of that mind-bending premise, the aforementioned confrontation that happens when you do embark on the initial conversations, was between you, and your own inner demons.

It was exactly then, that I realised how insufferable I was. I can’t speak for the others — but the reflection I saw, was that of a flawed individual who had been scraping through life, solely dictated by seemingly feral desires. I was a strange, brutish, hedonist; who was an annoying ideologue as well. While my newly unravelled reflection often made me want to look away, the facilitated discussions on the other hand, kept the mirror front and centre.

It was then abundantly clear, that this was not for everyone, even with the best of intentions — and so the ones who did remain in the organisation, soldiered on. To which ‘soldiering on’ became quite the understatement. Especially considering that, as of 2022 we were to make it our objective priority to close, and if not, continue to conscientiously struggle-forward with our IFDs.

It was a recipe for both collective, and individual chaos.

This is who you are

At some point however, this meta-articulation of yourself starts to change. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when — especially since we are all built different. But the thing was, the more I looked at myself, and the more I spoke of my behaviour, the less confrontational I became. It were as if I was starting to accept the stranger in the mirror. He was no longer so foreign to me. His actions and motivations were no longer categorised as positive or negative. It was all simply tendencies and patterns of behaviour — all borne from his history, upbringing and environment. I was now empathetic because I understood him better.

It was at that pivotal moment that I realised, no matter how complicated, obtuse, or impossible a premise was — it was ultimately my choice to decide if I wanted to take it on. The stranger, who now seems closer, was going to be with me, regardless of the choices that I made. And so I made the choice to embrace him for all that he is.

Let’s go, bro

Hugging yourself is weird. But it is essential if the journey you are about to embark on is perilous. And life is all about the peril. So here I suppose, is the starting point for me. It’s been objectively difficult so far, but the worst is probably to come, but Imran and I will do it together because it is a choice that was made through agency and clarity of purpose.

Unsurprisingly though, I still can’t explain the process with any degree of enlightened comprehension — but I can say what it’s not, if it were to help:

  • it’s not ‘a-ha’ moments at every discussion/session. The epiphanies come only after the articulation of behaviour and self-reflection; and will pop up when you least expect it. Like when you notice all your underwear is of the same colour
  • it’s not a good idea to assume anything, philosophically, or as a matter of principle alignment — or even that you will ‘become’ a better, happier person at the ‘end’ of this (whatever it is) - simply because you need to know yourself first and foremost
  • it’s not an academic or intellectual exercise or discourse: it is fundamentally a series of intense, focused conversations that lead to deep self-reflection. To which in a non-linear fashion, critical realisations are made, and a decision to proceed can be crystalized

So yeah, if you think MCCwS is intriguing and worth diving into, buckle up. There are absolutely no guarantees for so-called ‘success’ or ‘wins’, only realisations. So get those warm hugs ready.

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