Our obsession with rationality

“Hindsight 2070” is an initiative by Vox.com in which they asked 15 experts to answer this question: “What do we do now that will be considered unthinkable in 50 years?”

One of those experts is Krista Tippett, the founder and leader of the On Being Project. Her piece begins like this: “Our obsession with rationality will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now. We’ll look back and cringe at our conception of humans as fully rational beings.”

What she expresses and how she does so gets to the heart of what I aspire to, both personally and in my work with students, teams and leaders. She is precise and thoughtful in articulating the astonishingly high cost of taking ourselves so seriously for so long.

Here’s a selection to chew on before enjoying the whole thing (it’s not long and hers is an eminently worthy voice to bring to your own ongoing conversation about who we are, where we are and what’s to come):

“The great frontier of this century is to finally reckon with the hazard and the bounty of what it means to be human. That is to say, as we are on the cusp of creating artificial intelligence, to mine the intelligence we already possess, the embodied consciousness that is already ours to work with. To build a better politics, a more humane and sustainable economy, and while we’re at it better schools and prisons and health care, we have to design with sophisticated emotional intelligence and social technologies.”


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Disproportionate Influence

If you are a leader, you have influence that is disproportionate to that of the people you lead. By definition, you have the responsibility to see and do that which is necessary to help your team members be successful.

You are tasked with establishing a vision, providing resources, negotiating roadblocks, offering guidance, recognizing accomplishments and setting both a behavioral and emotional standard from which all others take their cue.

It’s absurd to think that this kind of influence – this level of responsibility – can be achieved and maintained without an equally disproportionate commitment to continuous learning.

A leader of any merit knows this and acts accordingly. There is no more valuable currency than that of continuous learning.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Achievable Challenge

I started playing piano in early January. For the first month I did scales for 15 minutes a day to build up some strength and dexterity in my hands and fingers. But I didn’t decide to learn piano for the sake of scales so eventually I started messing around with some real songs.

My daughter recommended one of her early piano books in which I found a straightforward version of “Scarborough Fair,” the English tune made famous by Simon and Garfunkel. It’s been a perfect first test of my nascent piano skills. It requires me to get my left and right hands working on different things at the same time, has just enough changes to be challenging and is just easy enough – because a familiar tune – to be rewarding.

Well, just the other day my daughter sat down to the very same piece of music and played it in a way I had no idea was even possible. It was just beautifully interpreted, this simple piece of music so artfully rendered by her capable hands.

Immediately I had to try it just like her. And immediately I discovered that I couldn’t do it. Which is when I remembered an important piece of information: she’s been playing piano for 7 years and I’ve been playing for 2 months.

I believe that one day I will play the song like she did. And I also accept that where I am is good enough for now. The gap between here and there is probably pretty wide but it will shrink every day proportionate to how willing I am to do the work.

It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves, to go after things we’re not yet ready for. If we’re not careful that’s a path to discouragement and disengagement. The right mix, for ourselves and for our teams, is what I call “achievable challenge.” It’s got to be hard enough to keep our attention, inviting us to rise to the occasion, but well within our capability to actually accomplish.

{If you’d like to hear my version of the song you can do so here.}


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

Hang Out With People Who Make You Better

I first played racquetball in high school and loved it right away. It’s intense, fast, highly competitive and an incredible workout.

Less than a year later, not too far into my first semester of college, I befriended a guy who mentioned that he played racquetball and that there were courts on campus just a short walk from where I lived. I brightened up right away and suggested that we play together sometime.

It wouldn’t be accurate to say that I was cocky or even overly confident about going up against my new friend on the court, but I had developed some skill in the short time I’d been playing and my friend, well, he just looked too big and slow to be much of a player.

He demolished me in our first game. And in our second game, and in the third one, too.

After the beatings he decided to mention that he had played in a semi-pro league for a while. I didn’t know that was a thing.

Sensing that he was about to lose the possibility of establishing a regular game with me due to my utter humiliation, he made me a deal. A right-handed player, he offered to play left-handed until I beat him.

And I did beat him. Six. Months. Later.

And then he switched back to his right hand and destroyed me all over again.

I never did win against his strong hand but the six months it took to break through against his weak hand saw my game improve by leaps and bounds. Beating him that day, conditional though it was, filled me with pure joy because I knew that I had played beyond myself. And I did so through the willing partnership of a very talented friend.

[HT to Anna Schrag for inspiring this post.]


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world.

 

 

The Tyranny of “They”

fullsizeoutput_1860

There are many, many bright and thoughtful people who will be happy to tell you which path to follow. It’s much easier to play armchair quarterback with someone else’s life so opinions come freely and often.

The tyranny of “they” afflicts us in two ways:

First, it supports our reservations about declaring our path through an invasive voice that asks, “What will they think?”

Second, it muddies our efforts at clarity by allowing too many theys to have a say.

They are vital for support, strength and guidance. But only a select few. For my money, this is a combination that works well:

One person who loves you unconditionally; a person who only wants the best for you and will take extraordinary measures to make sure that you get it.

PLUS…

One person who respects you; someone who is familiar with your work but has an arm’s-length distance in personal matters. This person believes in you and holds a broad and diverse perspective.

PLUS…

One person who challenges you; someone who has a track record of telling it to you straight. They don’t suffer fools and aren’t concerned about offending. You’ve probably disagreed with them before and will again.

When I finally decided to leap a number of years ago, my wife said “Of course…we will make it work.” A former boss said “Let’s talk this through” and coached me to the strategies vital to successful first steps. And an associate spoke plainly about the potential pitfalls ahead.

In the end, the decision was mine. And it was made with loving, respectful and challenging support.


DAVID BERRY is the author of “A More Daring Life: Finding Voice at the Crossroads of Change” and the founder of RULE13 Learning. He speaks and writes about the complexity of leading in a changing world. Connect with him on Twitter at @berrydavid.