“A Truth Universally Acknowledged — We Need A New Story In A Time Of COVID!”
COVID-19 — ‘Plus Est En Vous’ — And 5 Things You Absolutely Must Start Working On Today!
“Give me a place to stand and I will move the world”, Archimedes
It is a truth universally acknowledged that it is easier to begin a story then to end it and with COVID_19 that is no less true.
We don’t yet know how, or when it will end, but our story starts here.
15th Century Flanders
And “Plus est en vous”, translates into English as, “There is more in you.”
It was the moto of the influential 15th century noble family the Van Gruuthuuse, who lived in Flanders, now Belgium.
The most famous member of the family Lodewijk van Gruuthuuse (1422–1492), was a true Renaissance figure, “Learned, erudite, cultured, well-lettered”. He owned a very large library of illuminated manuscripts which was one of the largest of the time, and the so-called Gruuthuuse Manuscript which carries his name is world famous and recognised as a masterpiece of Flemish art.
Lodewijk found a place to stand, made his mark and moved the world with his legacy.
Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”
Well these are challenging and uncompromising times, but this piece is about creating, or recreating your new future normal with these 5 things that I believe you absolutely must start working on today to craft, hone, dig deep and deeper still to unearth all that is in you.
And it may not be so difficult, or as out of reach as you might at first think!
A Capricious World
Even before Coronavirus the world was a capricious and unpredictable place, predictably so, but even small actions and little adjustments can yield far-reaching results and guide you to a place to stand where you can make your mark.
Where you can build and enhance your inner agency, by just letting go. To some degree we all fear losing control, because that leads us into an unknown territory and that’s where chaos resides, waiting and wanting us to fall and fail.
But do we now have any choice and evolution is cleverer than we are. Success on any level often starts with failure. You’ve just got to learn to let-go and fail-forward, and meaning is found as Confucius well understood, on the edge of chaos and what emerges from the complexity that prevails in the tension and movement between chaos and order.
Where you can build on, &, not shoot down, or allow others to shoot down, your perspective, your curiosity, and your diversity.
Where you can embrace novelty and stand strong in your new future normal & remember this, as far as we know one day spent on earth is the most amazing thing in the universe. You’ve got to make it count!
So, here and in no order are 5 things I believe you absolutely must work-on, craft and bend to your will starting today:
— Allow Big Thoughts
Any intelligent fool can make things more complex, but it takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.
Learn to cultivate your intellect, tend to the garden and nurture savvy thoughts. Indulge your Being and Being Present. Embrace different perspectives and the fecundity of the profound. Be vital. Engaged. Connected.
Your inner agency will grow by allowing yourself to let go, but it is rooted in your connectedness and inner strength lies in the strengths of these connections, rather than in their absence. In celebrating your interdependence, rather than being independent and floating untethered through life like John Donne’s Island.
Remember, “You are a a piece of the continent, a part of the main!” And human connection is even more important now!
Suppose you were able to look through a gigantic, super powerful electron microscope. What would you see?
Well, in fact, what you thought was form and substance, shape and colour, would turn out to be almost emptiness; you would see patterns of subatomic particles as far apart as specks of stars in outer space: And if you looked at yourself, your body would have disappeared.
Taking this still further, if you were then to look through a microscope with even more resolution, you would see that the so-called subatomic particles are actually not particles at all; they are concentrations, or as Neils Bohr describes them in the ˜Principle of Complementarity’, waves of energy without definite boundary.
Known as wu in Chinese and kensho or satori in Japanese, this would be to view and be awakened to the cosmic reality that there is no boundary separating one subatomic particle from another.
No boundary separating you from anyone, or anything else.
In other words, from this viewpoint the whole universe is a continuous spread of energy or consciousness, without any differentiation.
And to help you marshal and prioritise these big thoughts, allow yourself to think differently and try this wee technique.
I call it the ‘3 Buckets Exercise’, and all it requires is a sheet of flip-chart paper, a bold marker pen and some post-it notes. On the flip-chart paper draw 3 buckets and label each in turn ‘Brilliant Basics’, ‘Compelling & Different’, and ‘Game Changers’. And then use the post-its’ to capture your big thoughts and ideas and place them in the most appropriate bucket. Visual. Simple. Powerful!
— Go More Than Just 9 Yards
Cultivate more meaningful chats with acquaintances and colleagues. It’s harder over Zoom, or with Teams, but you don’t have the option of staying in the holding pattern of water-cooler chats, or coffee room banter now, with that all-prevailing, ubiquitous & ephemeral small talk. So, begin to make every conversation count, by giving others your real attention and take a bit longer to ask what someone did at the weekend, then listen to what they have to say and ask a follow-up question, before offering anything about yourself. Authentic relationships lead to better work and a better life.
Don’t settle for second best. Nor should you allow those slings and arrows of outrageous fortune to act as setbacks along your path. Name them friend and treat them as fellow-travellers and buddies in arms.
Don’t be overwhelmed, or become inhibited, or allow yourself to be shot down by others. Seek advice rather than feedback, because advice is progressive, forward-looking and interdependent, future orientated and uses linguistic constructs like, I Would/You Could/Why Not? Feedback on the other hand can be regressive and independent. Its backward looking and uses linguistic constructs such as You Did/This happened/Why? It focuses on the felt, rather than to feel or to find, which you will discover on your journey is to be found by being courageous and doing different.
The poet Robert Browning opined, “What is a heaven for if a person’s reach cannot exceed their grasp.” So, find your place to stand then allow your reach to exceed your grasp!
— Have Overwhelming Heart
Celebrate the capacity to care and live with kind compassion directed to yourself and to those you meet daily.
Vulnerability creates stronger connectivity, so embrace your vulnerability, and accept it as part of who you are. There is no better time than now to embrace that perfect imperfect You!
The Japanese philosophy of Wabi-Sabi is predicated on accepting the beauty of the imperfect, be that a wonky piece of pottery, or crumpled bedsheets, or the less than perfect You & Me!
Another Japanese art form which also belongs to the Zen ideals of Wabi-Sabi, is Kintsugi.
By putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold, it is believed that you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art — So, by embracing flaws and imperfections, Kintsugi reveals how to heal and shows that things can be better if we accept the “Golden Cracks” — Be that in a cup, a plate, or within ourselves!
Learn to be grateful for all you have, rather than mourning what you don’t. The American essayist, poet, philosopher, Henry David Thoreau rather nailed-it with these words, “I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with just a sense of existence”.
Start keeping a daily Gratitude Journal. Practice Mindful Living & Mindful Breathing!
Be aware of Awareness and make it your intention to pay your full Attention, moment-by-moment-by-moment-by-moment.
And widen your Circle of Compassion to, as Albert Einstein wrote, “Embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its’ beauty.”
Compassion is not weakness and to be compassionate is not to be lacking in something. It is a strength and we need to recognise and accept that compassion towards oneself can lead to an increased sense of Happiness and Well-being on multiple levels.
— Take The View From The Top Of The Tree
Different perspectives can lead you away from stale assumptions towards deeper and more powerful thinking. So, start practicing extreme noticing and rise above things to become singularly effective rather than being plural-y efficient.
The author and leadership guru, Stephen Richards Covey tells a story in his seminal book, ‘The 7 Habits of Effective Leaders’ that absolutely nails the difference between being merely efficient and the game-changer that is to Be truly effective, and it goes something like this: “Imagine a group of wood cutters getting ready to cut down trees in a forest. They could try to cut the trees at a 45-degree angle, and this would be a good move. It would allow them to cut trees faster and optimise the task. But what if they were cutting down trees in the wrong forest?”
Be clear about your starting point. Ask the questions you need to ask to get all the information you need, to act and develop your power to rise above and look further. Don’t just settle for what is!
— Steal Back Time
Pablo Ruiz Picasso famously said, “An amateur borrows. A genius steals!”
So be a genius and steal back time!
Many of us endure a time deficit, but so often it can be all our own making. Allowing the motion and commotion of daily life and the clatter and chatter of this and that, to dissemble and distract and lead us up blind-alleys and down dead-end streets.
But some argue that time is a construct, because with relativity theory everything flows, no past, no present, only the now!
Well that may be true if we are studying subatomic particles using quantum mechanics; however, for all practical purposes in our day-to-day life, time and it’s passing is a currency we all trade in. 86,400 seconds of it each day. With no reinvesting, stockpiling, rain-checks or returns allowed!
Time on the mortal plane is a hard reality and constant reminder of things passing us by. So, steal back the time to turn your ship around, and there’s no better time to do it than now — In the eye of the storm!
Become a leader leader in all areas of your life. Accept responsibility. Act with authority. Innovate and exercise judgement. Be trusted and acknowledge the difference, albeit oft-times subtle, between ends and means. Don’t forget as Aristotle believed, it’s actions that count, not words, so neither let the means become the thing. You must always start with the end in mind!
Touching the Surface
This is not a rule book for living, nor even a ‘How To’ guide. In many ways this piece only touches the surface, but it is a call to action and simply by working on these 5 areas you can begin to create and craft a new future normal.
One where you are front and centre and can become fully engaged, connected, empowered. One where you can be a rule-maker, not a rule-taker.
So, find your place to stand as our friend Archimedes suggests and in the words of the late Steve Jobs, “Be ready to make a dent in the universe.”
It’s your life after all!
Paul Adam Mudd is a Trusted Adviser, Leadership Provocateur, Savvy Thinker, International Keynote Speaker, Best Selling Mindfulness Author, Global Well Being & Well Doing Influencer, & Co-Founder and Director of the Mudd Partnership.