Sunday, March 15, 2009

Falling, Landing and Humility

I have been thinking of late about change, falling and learning how to land. There is a lot to talk about change. Buzzwords and concepts like "Change Management" used in the Corporate world are about guiding people through change.

Change is hard, whether it's a personal change, or an organizational change. It requires constant care and attention, every day, every moment, at every turn. Change is purposeful. We like to think we can manage change because we have to think that, or we would be terrified to get up in the morning, make a decision about coffee or tea, or choose a direction. But let's be honest. Most attempts at change fail, or at least falter. There is evidence of this every day. Failed mergers. Failed marriages. Failed attempts at peacefulness.

I have been doing some thinking about this of late, and I have come to a Revelation. Change cannot be gradual or passive.It is usually brought about by a cataclysmic event or at least the risk of one. It is profound, at least for someone. It is permanent and for a time, earth-shattering, quake - making chaos. True change occurs when something alters the current state such that it is no longer acceptable.

When changes of this type occurs, we react out of need and instinct. We are essentially jolted out of our complacent coma. This places us in a state of crisis, at least for a time.

If you follow any reading about change, you will have seen titles like, "Take the Step and the Bridge will be There," and "Ready, Aim, Fire", or my personal favorites, "Full Leadership Development" and "A New Life," just to name a few on my own book shelf.

All of these books say the same thing. They are about changing course, or taking charge of one's life. They span every possible theory from the management school of hard knocks and Peter's Drucker's ideas, to understanding the meaning of the universe and alignment of the stars. Change is something that will happen inevitably, yet we are daunted by thought of it.

And I wonder why that is. Are we afraid to lose everything we have a know? Are we afraid the cost is so much more than one can bear? (Quote Sarah McLachlan, "Fallen") Are we afraid of being revealed for the failures that we fear we are deep down inside? Do we want to risk it all to do something that could change our lives and possibly the lives of others for ever?

With all this talk and fear of change and falling, I think there is a bigger question. What about the logistics of landing?

I am discovering that it is not taking the step that is the art form, or even knowing there is a step to be taken. Falling isn't really that tough either since it's really just an act of gravity.

The art is in learning how to land - and then how to heal. It's also about accepting the fact that there will be debris no matter how effective you are at "change management." There will be losses, and yes, there will be gains. There will be memories of times past, and there will be exciting new discoveries. There will be those moments that pull at your heart, leaving you solitude and somber, and make you wish you were back "there", and there will be times when you know exactly why you had to fall.

The art of falling and landing is one that we as humans will continue to fumble through. But when it's all said and done, all we can do is do what is right for now, for this moment, and know that this too shall change. For to think that we are ever in total control of the present and the future is pure arrogance. Successful landing, I think requires humility, and thankfulness.

One of the most memorable poems about falling and humility is "Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Recognizing that kings of kings fall, and so do we. Not a heroic thought, but one worth thinking.

Ozymandias" by Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

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