I sensed at our session that some of your team are getting excited by the potential they see for themselves, their families, for Western Engineering and the common good.
Your two follow-up questions addressed below, gave me the opportunity to reflect more deeply on what we are attempting to convey, not only to you and the team but to others interested in deepening their experience of Possibility. These are thoughtful questions.
Can this understanding be taught, or must it be discovered by oneself?
‘Doing what works’ and ‘doing what matters’ are teachable. Doing what really works and what really matters dwells within the realm of Possibility and we must see Possibility and therefore the later for our self.
We can pick up around the kitchen table the basics of ‘what works’ and ‘what matters’. We can also do apprenticeships, traineeships, degrees, MBAs, PhDs and/or our learning in the ‘school of hard knocks’.
I grew up with loads of ‘what works’ ideas about business from my dad. Mum knew more than a little about ‘what works’, and a lot about ‘what matters’. The known is, therefore, being passed on and becomes our known – that is our conditioning – good, bad and indifferent.
However, neither was conscious of what really works and what really matters. I sensed that Mum (one of the sweetest personalities one could wish to meet) searched for that deeper experience all her life. And at one point had a mental breakdown as she wasn’t able to access Possibility and thus make sense of her life which, at that time, she was experiencing as being in disarray.
Like most who become conditioned to be a right-leaning type, it seemed to me that ‘doing what works’ was all that mattered, so long as I figured out what worked best.
However, intuitively, for whatever reason, I still searched for ‘what matters’.
By age 34, I was digging deeper into and exploring many ideas and philosophies around ‘doing what matters’.
My leaning then shifted towards the left.
In recognising that my focus had been on ‘doing what works’ and that this was failing me, I thought that the answer to improving my performance and my life must lie in ‘doing more of what matters’.
Understand, Michael, that this is my retrospective insight on how I was living in the world back then. I didn’t have these phrases, words or ways of looking at business or organisations. These insights popped into my head much later. At the time I intentionally looked beyond the know into the unknown and saw Possibility.
However, before that and for the first time, I felt ashamed of my extreme-right ideas and, as said, started leaning heavily in the direction of the left.
Then in seeing Possibility, in my mid-40s, although I didn’t understand what was occurring within my mind back then, I came to see that the left, in its way – focusing on ‘what matters’ – was making as big a mess as the ‘doing what works’ right-wingers were making.
However, still not seeing clearly enough, I figured that simply merging ‘doing what matters’ and ‘doing what works’ would fix what ailed businesses, organisations, and me, as well as what ailed the world.
However – as has often been the case in my life – I was wrong. I was still trying to take the best of the known (right ideology) and put it with the best of the known (left ideology) and expect that to work and matter. I was still operating at that mechanistic level.
Much later, I came to see that when push came to shove, that so-called centrist approach, didn’t work either. The reasons became clear when I went from the known into the unknown – from my conditioning into the realm of Possibility.
THE PENNY DROPPED
Possibility: the context for creating sustainable design.
As said, it was much later that I saw that I had been looking at what needed to be done to fix businesses and organisations (and my life) at the level of belief, of knowledge, of experience – trying to merge one unsustainable ideology (set of conditioned theories) with another.
Lightning struck once more. Listening to a radio program one Saturday morning while gardening, I saw that there was more to creating ‘sustainable design’ than I, or most others, on the left, right, or centre, understood.
And that more, necessary in creating ‘sustainable design’, didn’t lie in any ideology, in any textbook, and couldn’t be found anywhere in the world of knowledge, beliefs, opinions and judgements.
It was another of those ‘out of the blue’ moments when my mind cleared, and I saw some old ideas that I held in an entirely new way.
During that radio program (which had nothing to do with businesses or organisations) I experienced a flash of clarity. I saw why the application of doing either ‘what works’ or ‘what matters’, or trying to integrate the best aspects of both ideologies, would still miss seeing businesses or organisations (and my relationships) functioning at the deeper level necessary for sustainability – designs that serve the common good.
In that moment of insight, the rest of the jigsaw pieces fell into place.
It hit me: the convergence of ‘doing what works’ with ‘doing what matters’ occurs naturally within Possibility, the context of kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense. That’s what would ‘really work and really matter’. The context is what makes the difference every time, all the time.
That is what I hadn’t seen to that point and had been looking for.
This highly functional, efficient operational context, a context of Possibility, which existed within my mind (and in the minds of everyone else in businesses and organisations), was the answer. Seeing Possibility was the context within which the business and organisational world (and the rest of the world) needed to operate to be sustainable.
It was available and had always been available. I just hadn’t seen it because my conditioned mind had acted as a block. I had been looking in the wrong direction. I had been looking backwards to the known. The answers we seek to the important questions we have are always waiting for us in the unknow
I accidentally slipped into the unknown and saw something fresh.
I felt a little silly that I hadn’t seen earlier what had suddenly become so obvious.
We seem to have many rooms in the house of our so-called mind, and the light goes on in any room or set of rooms, or the whole house, whenever it does. There is no order, and there are no rules.
It was clear in that moment, triggered by that radio show, that the convergence of these long-established ideas and concepts, being worked in a state of Possibility – kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense (that I named ‘doing what really works and really matters’) – would empower any individual or organisation to see business and organisational life, and life in general, in all its manifestations, from a totally different vantage point.
And a vantage point from which everyone could create ‘sustainable design’ for any and all situations.
How can we know when we’re working in the unsustainable realm of impossibility – ‘doing what we think works and/or what we think matters’ – or in the realm of Possibility where we create, implement and maintain ‘sustainable design’ as a result of doing what really works and really matters?
Left-leaners Michael, focus more on the process – e.g. how people are treated and how they are feeling. Right-leaners focus more on the outcome – e.g. what is the goal and how and when are we going to reach it?
Possibility-seers understand what to do in any given situation with any given problem, taking into consideration both process and outcome. The forgoing is an over-simplified explanation, but it gives you a clear sense of the distinctions.
The way we tell what state we are in is by how we feel. Our feelings are our inbuilt compass pointing to our state of mind – a state of Possibility or impossibility.
If we are thinking kind, understanding, wise and common-sense thoughts, we will experience the corresponding warm feelings. We’re in the head and heart space of doing what really works and what really matters.
The deeper emotions, such as kindness and understanding, supersede all others. The higher vantage perspectives of wisdom and common sense supersede all other perspectives.
When we are feeling fear, anger, stress or anxiety, we entertain thinking that creates those feelings. The thinking and the feelings that accompany those emotions do not, in the main, serve us or others well.
Equally, when we are being driven by our knowledge, beliefs, opinions and judgements around doing ‘what matters’ or ‘what works’, we will feel driven like a human machine, disconnected from our deeper experience of kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense. In its extreme, this state is what allows humans to commit inhumane acts.
A way of understanding whether we are limiting ourselves to doing ‘what works’ and/or ‘what matters’, or whether we are unleashing the power of what really works and what really matters, is outlined in the following two lists that describe the corresponding states of mind.
BEING STUCK IN THE CONDITIONED REALM OF ‘DOING WHAT WORKS’ AND/OR ‘DOING WHAT MATTERS’ IS FLAGGED TO US BY ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING:
- Operating from a context of fear – however subtle;
- Feeling worried, concerned, lacking clarity or being preoccupied;
- Mindlessly doing what we have always done – imprisoned by what we have been trained, educated or conditioned to do as if it’s ‘the truth’;
- Being driven by any ideology – we are certain that this is ‘the truth’;
- Pretending to listen to others while judging what they are saying as wrong or right;
- Vacillating, giving in to perceived or actual pressure;
- Having no sense of distinction between substance and style, what is true, or what is false;
- Promoting our greater glory;
- Promoting some external authority as the ultimate one;
- Swayed by either maintaining the status quo or popular opinion;
- Doing our best to control others and/or life in general;
- Feeling separate or disconnected from others and nature;
- Exploiting others and nature;
- Seeing ourselves as special;
- Thinking the circumstances of our life have or are in this moment creating our experience;
- Being self-absorbed.
In summary, we are lost in and limited by our conditioning and therefore lacking the free-flow feeling of unlimited Possibility.
FROM THE REALM OF POSSIBILITY, ‘DOING WHAT WORKS’ AND/OR ‘DOING WHAT MATTERS’ ‘REALLY WORKS AND REALLY MATTERS’
In any aspect of our life, being in a state of Possibility enables us to see what works and what matters in every situation.
In creating ‘sustainable design’, we:
- Operate from a context of love, understanding, wisdom and common sense;
- Feel confident, clear-headed, passionate and present;
- Do whatever we do, free from the limitations of what we have been trained and/or conditioned to do;
- What we have been trained to do is still ‘on tap’ but not ‘on top’.
- Listen deeply to ourselves, others and to life;
- Are in alignment with our wisdom and common sense and thus not subject to pressure;
- Champion the advancement of the common good;
- Don’t follow blindly or ‘toe the party line’;
- Act in the best interests of the greater good – standing to be counted when we see the leader or the party line ‘out of alignment’;
- See beyond the status quo and therefore to what is possible;
- Know that Life seems to have a mind of its own, and don’t try to exert power and control;
- Feel connected and a part of others and nature;
- Experience a reverence for others and nature;
- Understand that we are unique individuals but ordinary in the grand scheme of Life;
- Are awake to the fact that we are creating our life via our thinking;
- Embrace both ‘outcome’ and ‘process’ in the context of kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense;
- Embrace both the imperatives of the ‘financial’ and ‘human’ costs in the context of ‘doing what really works’ and ‘doing what really matters’ in finding a way forward that supports both.
What really works and what really matters is discovered or rediscovered by surrendering all that we believe to be ‘the truth’.
So there you have it, Michael! After almost 65 years of my life, 50 (believe that or not) of which have been involved in business, I discovered that, in the commercial or organisational world (and in our personal life), ‘doing what works’ and/or ‘doing what matters’ are ideological constructs. Thus they are mechanical ways of looking at and engaging with life.
They neither build sustainable organisations nor create sustainable relationships, other than with those that agree with and collude with us in our mutual or collective blindness. These are relationships based on our mutual dependence and are thus weak and unsustainable.
The convergence of both, within the context of doing what really works and what really matters – the realm of Possibility – is the way of being in and contributing to a world that is ultimately sustainable.
Presenting this understanding has its challenges! It is such a simple solution to solving such monumental problems. I know from experience that, at first blush, it can easily be dismissed as simplistic and unworkable.
The more entrenched or sophisticated the opinion or belief, the more ‘pie in the sky’ this seems – though, in reality, it is pragmatism at its best.
The only way we will know if this is the answer we are looking for in our business, our organisation or relationships is if we see into the realm of Possibility and look from that vantage point at ‘what we believe works’ and/or ‘what we believe matters’. From this state of mind, our perspective is imbued with kindness, understanding, wisdom and common sense.
To see Possibility requires us to suspend all belief. That’s what it takes to access that state of mind. However, for your sake, the sake of the people you work and live with, and for the sake of humanity, it is worth dedicating your life to its unfolding and transformative power. It will create not only wonderful organisations but also a world that is begging to be created.
Warmly … John