Picture from Tomorrowland Music Festival, Boom, Belgium, by imgkid.com
During the last summer, there was a sort of house-festival organized in the small village where I live. A sort of Tomorrowland, but then very small scale and for the local youth only.
The organization looked professional, I had been listening to the soundchecks during the hot summer afternoon, and I decided to check it out, very much aware that at any moment one of the millennials may ask “hey granddaddy, what are you doing here?”😉 That did not happen. More interestingly, I started to wonder what inspired these young folks here.
Maybe the weather had something to do with it. After a hot summer day, a thunderstorm had transformed the ground into a muddy spectacle. The moisture was still very much in the air and in the clothes of people, and I could smell a sickening mix of boredom, mud, booze, and a general lack of style and class.
Disappointed back home, I switched on the television set, and stopped zapping at an old Frank Zappa concert on Channel 12. In stark contrast with the boredom on the mud fest earlier that evening, I saw a concert full of technical mastery and pushing the bar in all aspects.
A delight for 2 hours of pleasantly (dis)ordered madness and artistry
And after concert, Frank Zappa back alone in his caravan, exhausted, but with a face full of satisfaction and pleasant mischief.
It made me dream away about work becoming an artistic performance, which is more and more the intention and ambition I have about work and contribution.
But many of us are hit with emptiness.
Not so long ago, I had a chat with an old acquaintance. I knew him for being sharp, original, and fresh, somebody who had found his freedom. Now his eyes were dim, faint and dull. He was a bit pale, and he said it was because of the year-end reflections after a heavy year. And he needed some headspace to think about what’s next.
But I sensed there was more.
He seemed to have become infected by the corporate viruses and antibodies against innovation and change in big dysfunctional organizations he was serving as a business.
There was a need for recalibration, a desire for seeking, a hunger for quality headspace, reaching out for a purification process for body and mind.
I met several folks the last couple of weeks who are all in search for deeper and more meaningful work. Not that we are unhappy and unfulfilled. Writing this makes me at times think it is just a luxury problem. Or is it?
The luxury that it’s more or less all there, but some dissatisfaction with the general flavor of our corporate contributions, goals and ambitions still being very tactical, a list of to do’s, with no or little intention, or what it enables…
Maybe that is a sort of language that is difficult to grasp for some more cognitive and tactical minds on our modern (sic) organizations.
But is still think such a quality language and narrative is important. The internal friction comes when I notice that I have come to a point that I don’t want to convince anymore the others of this new sort of language. I content myself to just use the words they use and understand, and live in an illusion that we are aligned. At least at the tactical level. But I can’t help myself thinking that is not good enough anymore.
We should invite each other to reflect and be self-critical – not necessarily about our individual contributions and the corporate reactions to them – but about our collective company culture in general:
- Where do we want to stop or should we go the full way and really let others look into our soul?
- We should be disappointed if we only get buy-in on a tactical list and not on the bigger “story”, or better “narrative”, that withstands the signs of the time of being fashionable and “street-cred” without credibility
- I know, maybe that’s what the current short-attention-span-culture is able/unable to digest or even give attention. Nicolas Carr just wrote a whole book about it called “The Glass Cage”
- I know, we may get comments about the need for being more pragmatic, not getting too philosophical, etc which is more or less the same as saying “shut up, I am not interested in your depth”
It is precisely that lack of depth, context and intention, looking for a higher ideal and potential, making something memorable and worthwhile, and even having the ambition of offering some moral compass that me and many others are deeply missing these days.
It makes me nervous: having so many ideas and the sensation of something really ambitious coming together in redefining myself. The sort of ambition of the Foo Fighters in putting together their last “Sonic Highways” album and documentary.
At 2:50 “the making of our most ambitious album”. That great spirit of making of your next gig the most ambitious thing you have ever done.
Daring to do complex things. Dare to do ambitious things.
Daring to dream big and kill mediocrity and simplistic goals.
Begin of the 80ies, Milan Kundera wrote a book “The Unbearable Lightness of Being”.
“Challenging Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence (the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum), the story’s thematic meditations posit the alternative: that each person has only one life to live and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again — thus the “lightness” of being. In contrast, the concept of eternal recurrence imposes a “heaviness” on our lives and on the decisions we make (to borrow from Nietzsche’s metaphor, it gives them “weight”). Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual’s perspective.”
I feel I am on a crossroads of doing something with this only-one-life. Unshake the bag of heaviness. To do something where I can leave my full and authentic Petervan “signature”.
Own artwork, Black Ink on old book page
Away from the illusion of depth on/at/in the surface, where “It is all good” but where the fire of ambition extinguishes, quenches.
A place where we can play “freeform Jazz”, where nothing repeats or scales, a new operating model indeed. Away from the emptiness of scribed facilitations, away from the tricks, the manuals and the templates.
What if we would – for once – NOT try to facilitate our way out of a given problem.
What if our agenda is not one of facilitating a solution for a given problem?
What if our agenda is one of being in what Nilofer calls our “Only-Ness”, in my case my “Petervan-Ness”?
What if we would go beyond this Unbearable Lightness of Tactics?