It’s a silly question, if you think about it. How can anyone be prepared? I mean really prepared. We can play at it, and look as if we are prepared. We can do the research, make plans, develop strategies. But does anything really prepare us for what is coming? We live in a world that is increasingly unpredictable.
I was in a brainstorming meeting yesterday with four friends who are each running their own businesses. It’s a weekly event that I have been attending for the past month, and it helps in clarifying objectives, defining pathways, identifying needs and more. We all think we are making progress with our plans, but I think God must be laughing, as the saying goes.
In this week’s meeting, we learned how a key person in one small company nearly chopped his finger off while using a band saw. The guard had been taken off the saw to make it easier to use. Major ramifications—insurance claims, regulatory inspections and a real risk of the business going under. The previous four weeks’ plans were out the window.
Another colleague’s contract had been cancelled so he no longer had an income to cushion his planning. With a family to feed and a Lexus to pay for, he was getting stressed. Different plans were called for. And so on. As each week’s plans were prepared, life happened, creating complications, reassessments, re-evaluations—all of which had to be manipulated to meet our stated objectives at the end of eight weeks of brainstorming.
I’ve become very adept at planning. It’s a kind of respectable activity that gives me the illusion of doing something useful, being responsible and thorough, making progress, establishing solidity.
- If I’m honest though, I think I’m becoming paralysed by it, and there’s pressure building in my head (a brain storm?) that’s going to explode, unless I take some action.
- It doesn’t feel healthy any more and I’m beginning to peek past the illusion of future security that it deceptively promises, and seek a more balanced approach to dealing with future uncertainties.
I decided it was time to turn this problem around and get creative. We plan because we want to reach a certain point, at a certain time, so we try to figure out all the factors that will affect our progress, and engineer a path to it. But, of course, it doesn’t work.
Sense and respond
The last time I checked, I found I didn’t have total conscious control over outside events – or even, a lot of the time, over my own mind and body. So, instead of trying to live in the world of ‘predict and control’, I find I’m much better suited to the world of ‘sense and respond’.
- It’s a big shift—one that every bit of my business conditioning resists with a kind of rabid aggression, but one that definitely works.
- The reason it works is that the only things I actually have conscious control over are the choices I make in this moment.
- Also, there’s only one point I know with absolute certainty I’m going to reach and, when I do, I doubt I’ll be thinking about my business.
If meditation is all about being in the here and now, then premeditation must be something to do with being in the now before we get there, which is nuts. But isn’t that what we try to do? Isn’t that what planning is? Once you realize this, the advantages of being in the here and now start to become apparent. If I can learn to respond to real situations rather than future uncertainties:
- Isn’t that a better use of my time?
- Isn’t that more empowering?
- Isn’t it just a whole lot more sane?
It’s also a lot more relaxing, and it tends to bring into play the other parts of our brain that are suppressed by this largely wasteful, manic activity. That’s when inspiration can come in, disparate dots can be joined together, ambiguous ideas can align themselves into new pathways and we actually make some real progress.
Why do we resist that process so vehemently every day, when we know that every single breakthrough that mankind has ever made has been as a result of creative thinking? In business, it’s the only thing that gets people excited and in the news. In our leisure time, it’s all about creativity.
One evening every month, here in Vancouver, I organize the Vancouver MeshUp. It’s a place where people gather to take themselves into the creative space, push themselves outside their comfort zones, and experience new things that can help move them forward in some magical way. I’m really looking forward to our June event.
The speaker, Isabelle Mercier of Leapzone Strategies is a good friend—a brand-builder extraordinaire, a true professional, a great character and very brave. She called me to let me know that she hasn’t prepared anything for her talk, and she’s not going to. She’s just going to stand up and speak.
For such a diligent, detail-oriented and thorough person, this is really freaky, but I am really looking forward to her talk. As a long-time creative, she’s not afraid to step outside the box and her own considerable creative comfort zone in order to be authentically in the moment—and see what comes. To me, that is so much more powerful than a scripted delivery, a prepared Powerpoint covering all the bases, the selling agenda.
As Daniel Pink so eloquently pointed out in his book A Whole New Mind, we live in an age when being clever is no longer enough.
- Information is just a commodity that anyone can find. It’s what we do with it that counts.
- Now that, for most of us, survival is not such a pressing issue, we must engage our uniquely human, higher qualities to achieve meaningful satisfaction in our lives.
- Design, stories, ‘symphony’ (synthesis, the ability to see the big picture and combine disparate pieces), empathy, play and meaning cannot be driven by technology and left-brain thinking alone.
Related: Five Potential Digital Futures
However, if we can step out of the future and get back to the now, we will realize that we’re naturally equipped with these qualities to thrive, come what may.
“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.” — John Maynard Keynes