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Pivot toward Possibility: A Mindset Imperative for Today’s Leadership

“CEOs are recognizing that the barriers to boldness and speed are less about technical limits and more about such things as mindsets toward what is possible…”

“People are looking for a different kind of leadership. In a normal environment, it’s about business leadership and setting up strategy…In this environment… it’s about people being prepared for whatever may come in the face of uncertainty.”

— Leadership for a New Era, McKinsey Quarterly, 7/21/20

It’s always encouraging when what is regarded as cutting edge business practice catches up with wisdom that has been present to humanity for ages — wisdom in the writings of the Upanishads, the Tao, the Bhagavad Gita, etc.

Sometimes though, the translation into jargon and buzzwords to make it feel new and attract an audience can diminish the actual massiveness and world-changing nature of the truth being represented. Take the quote from McKinsey Quarterly at the very top: “…barriers to boldness and speed are less about technical limits and more about such things as mindsets toward what is possible…”. Look deeply at that statement. What is it actually saying? Well, what it is actually saying, whether it fully realizes it or not, is truly a reality-altering proposition: that physical world reality is an outcome of consciousness, of mindset. That consciousness is causal to our physical world experience, not the inverse — which is the current belief paradigm of 99.9% of the planet. That antiquated paradigm is that one’s experience, and what one is able to create here, is wholly dependent on one’s outer circumstances, as opposed to dependent on how one chooses to see those circumstances, how one chooses to relate to those circumstances as what is actually creating one’s outer experience and reality. That how we relate to our circumstances determines the size of the field of possibility with which we get to transcend and change them.

This then relates to the second quote at the top, “…the face of uncertainty…”. If I live in the consciousness and mindset is causal paradigm, then uncertainty is met with excitement, wonder, curiosity and adventure. Even though circumstances may have radically changed (COVID), and what I thought was the path forward for my business or life doesn’t even exist anymore, I know that if I relate to it not as disaster but as opportunity, thereby giving myself permission to innovate to create “even better”, my inner aperture of potential realities widens out and I access that aspect of self where a limitless array of possibilities can emerge. Or thought of another way, I access the ability to see the limitless array of possibilities that were always there. With that, my conscious focus can turn any of those new possibilities I choose into a new reality for me. I can even end up with a scenario way more spectacular than my original plans.

Whereas if I live in the outer circumstances are causal paradigm, “the face of uncertainty” is a scary face. What if that which emerges isn’t what I planned, preferred, or strategized? Then I have to live with what I don’t want, and “that is bad”. And given “it’s impossible” for me to turn a “bad” (not what I planned) thing into a “good” (what I planned) thing from the inside out, I have to wait for circumstances to change before I can have a better experience, and how long will that be?

In this second scenario, the aspect of mind called ego which wants to avoid more hurt at all costs, even advancement, reinforces the illusion of a wall, and we stop, circle the wagons, default to a strategy of limiting loss (the ego’s favorite mode), and wait for some event (Vaccine? A headline in the WSJ?) that gives us permission to disassemble the wall we created and carry on.

But in the first scenario, the mindset of the deeper true self generates wings in the form of new possibilities to fly over the seeming wall our ego may have first created, to then bring an entirely new creation into existence that is not a default position to limit loss, but an aspiration to generate an even greater experience of the purpose and mission.

And so we see that how we choose to relate and respond (products of consciousness and mindset) to our reality today, in the now, is what actually creates our reality tomorrow.

It could be that the blossoming adoption of this new paradigm by business is because of the increasing evidence being presented by science. Business, perhaps to its detriment, tends in general to feel more solid footing in white-papers than ancient and spiritual wisdom (we can be very grateful this was not the case for many of history’s greatest innovators, from Nikola Tesla to Steve Jobs).

Fortunately there are elite scientists at this very moment who are bringing both worlds together so that business can feel ultimately comfortable. This from an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review by Dr. Tara Swart, a neuroscientist and senior lecturer at MIT Sloan:

“As geo-political and psycho-social crises are impacting us and our children at unprecedented levels, we are mindlessly creating a dystopian future and future leaders ill-equipped to deal with this… Change starts with us. An understanding of how the brain works, raising from non-conscious to conscious the drivers of our behavior that may be barriers to success; priming the brain to notice and grasp opportunities that may otherwise have passed us by; turning “lack” thinking into abundance; and manifesting the real-world outcomes that we desire for ourselves and future generations, leads to a cascade effect of health, wealth (in whatever form that may be), and well-being… This is where science meets spirituality — a powerful combination that can reap benefits for all.”

Dr. Swart cites a Harvard study that unveiled how a more opened brain where three functions (default, salience, and executive — also framed as mind-wandering, selective attention, and focused thinking) are simultaneous activated and collaborating together to generate more possibilities and creativity than when the mind is more closed, as in the ego’s fear and survival mode, and operating without cross-sector collaboration.

There is an urgency right now in the world of business leadership for an understanding and adoption of what Swart is saying, and well, ancient and inner wisdom has been saying. As we look at one of the currently most accepted models of what a COVID recovery will look like, the K-shaped model, we see something of concern:

We see the creation of an even greater gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” after a recovery. And we see an inevitable correction happening in an eventual convergence between the two with the question being at what level of elevation for both?

In the crux of that, a choice is portrayed that is centered in consciousness and mindset: Will we simply “Reopen” what has been (wait for permission to disassemble the wall and carry on), or will we use this moment to “Re-imagine” (access a deeper true self of limitless possibility and make wings) so that “what has been” becomes a brand new and better now, that in Swart’s words, “…leads to a cascade effect of health, wealth (in whatever form that may be), and well-being…”

To choose “Re-imagine” is to embrace the consciousness is causal paradigm. To choose “Re-imagine” is to embrace this inner narrative: “What if this isn’t happening to us, what if this is happening for us? What if something new and better wants to be birthed through us in this moment? Can we access a more limitless self and open our inner aperture to see and allow bigger and better possibilities?”

A powerful and very current example of this is Sam Polk and Everytable. Enso has had the privilege of being an impact/brand partner for Everytable and I the privilege of executive coaching with Sam. With the mission of “Healthy Food is a Human Right”, Sam started the social enterprise of “Everytable”. Through an innovative business model he enabled underserved neighborhoods access to healthy and delicious pre-made meals for at, or under, the price of fast food, at Everytable self-service restaurants. When COVID-19 hit, it looked like disaster but Sam, by his own description was made with an almost inner automatic mechanism to pivot away from the “circumstances are causal” paradigm, to the deeper aspect of self that allowed, “What if this is happening to more greatly serve my purpose, mission, and impact? What would that look like if that was true?” He reached out to the Cities of Los Angeles, Compton, etc., with the question, “How can we be of service to in feeding the people who can’t get to food right now?”, and obtained contracts to provide meals to multiple populations made vulnerable to food scarcity by the virus. Not the original business model at all, but in its first three months alone, Everytable served as many meals (1M+) as it had in the previous, quite successful, three years. Since then it has continued to grow, and Sam expects 2020 to have a 6X revenue growth from 2019. The Fast Company story about it is here.

Lastly, an exchange from a few months ago with someone who has become a coaching client:

Almost precisely at the moment COVID massively hit the world, we were to begin an engagement in service to facilitating a new ascent for this high-impact leader, whom I will call, Jane, toward something of purpose that truly brought her alive in this world. The event of COVID initiated a conversation that went something like this:

Jane: “I am wondering if we should start now. With COVID, nothing is going to be happening — the world is on lockdown — everything is stopped. Perhaps we should start in nine months to a year when things pick up again and opportunities are actually present.”

Me: “We can certainly do that. It depends on what you want to learn. If we wait, we’ll embark at that time, do the inner and outer work, and you’ll emerge living your ideal experience. You’ll have learned how to do that. If we decide to start now, if we proceed with the belief that the circumstance of COVID does not have to have impact on your success in actualizing your ideal experience, you’ll realize your ideal experience AND you’ll have learned something even greater: You’ll have learned circumstances are not causal to your experience, but that your own consciousness and mindset are, and that a new ideal experience is always possible for you regardless of circumstances.”

This is a particularly brave and resilient client and so she accepted the challenge of starting at that time. Last week, a few months into it, we had our mid-month session. The topic of discussion was not how to deal with the enduring dearth of opportunity in the wake of COVID. It was how to choose between surreally aligned endeavors being offered that were surpassing what had even been imagined could be possible.

I’ll extend the challenge to you in this moment. You don’t even have to believe in what’s been said or offered here, you just have to be willing to run an experiment for your own discovery and curiosity.

Where is the seeming wall for you?

What if you moved from the place in you that believes in the wall as real and impenetrable, to a deeper place that sees it as just another experience in life that can be converted to an opportunity to grow into a higher level of creation — from stormtrooper to Jedi? What if in that place, the wall actually turns out to be a springboard made specifically for you to rise to the level where a limitless array of possibilities exist that serve your personal mission even more?

What would those possibilities look like?

Is there one worth putting energy behind — worth giving yourself to, even for a short time of investigation and action, and see what it becomes?

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