Going deep — what are you afraid of?

For want of a better definition, here’s Wikipedia’s short-form take on philosophy — love of wisdom.

Apparently coined by Pythagoras (and we all recall THAT other theory right?) philosophy is an art-form practised and made into study by the likes of Socrates, Sun Tzu, Kant, Plato, Nietzsche, Marx, Voltaire, Machiavelli, Russell, Confucius and Aristotle.

It’s not something to bandy around lightly “Oh I love philosophy of Eminem.” Or “How philosophical is Little Mix’s latest song?” would feel like an inappropriate use of the term. However, Barack Obama and Malcolm Gladwell in modern parlance can be considered to be very philosophical at times, if not worthy of the title of philosopher. Alain de Botton, Charles Eisenstein, Bernadette Jiwa and Jaron Lanier can perhaps be put up as modern-day philosophers.

I’m also reading an interesting sounding book by Anthony Gottlieb — The Dream of Enlightenment — it feels promising on my first few pages. Alongside this, I am working with a group of amazing people on a venture that (before it gets carried away with business plans and methodologies) is centring around a philosophy for the work we want to do together. It feels like big ticket stuff and therefore, the philosophy is perhaps a little Obama/Gladwell/Jiwa over Little Mix/Eminem.

Ok, so where am I going with this? An increased sense of philosophy in me and my work? Yes. An enhanced understanding of the word and how philosophy and philosophical ways can improve the world? Yes. An increased NEED for philosophy in the way we live and work? I believe so.

Depth. Deeper thoughts. Wisdom. In the world of fake news, alternative truth and countless arguments over what is real, philosophy may need to enter the fray again; big time.

So it is in the world of work, leadership and making sense of this thing we do for 40+ years to earn the money to live our lives and fulfill our purpose and our destiny, that philosophy is joining in with trend analysis, models and theories of practice at work. Certainly for me it is. I doubt I’ll be going down the PhD route any time soon though. I’m philosophical about that.

A sense of depth is, I think, needed more than ever. We’re facing the tearing apart of our existing order to a new form. So whatever you think about the rise of things we thought long gone, there’s a crack in the cosmic egg (HT the Joseph Chilton Pearce book of the same title). We’re seeing something right before our eyes that we normally read about in history books. It’s maybe NOT unprecedented change but it is a shift from one version of the world order to another. I’m sure our big previous shifts felt like this and that’s why the World Economic Forum’s labelling of the 4th Industrial Revolution may not be far wrong. And why I’m more drawn to philosophy — modern or otherwise — to help me through that “love of wisdom”.

When there is a crack in the cosmic egg, we get scared AND excited. As Joshua Cooper Ramo declared in his book The Seventh Sense, as leaders we see and act on threat AND potential in the same way. With a degree of fear.

It’s the depth of feeling that causes that fear which is interesting me. Fear of admitting we’re in a big changing situation for so many of the orthodoxies we’ve known for a while. Fear of allowing the exploration of this new in favour of holding on for dear life to the old. Fear of letting go and being wise about where to put one’s energy into the new that’s emerging and appearing before us.

Fear is the topic of a WorldBlu event coming to London and one I will be taking an active part of. It is fear of the unknown that holds many of us back and stops us from making progress.

Progress which was called out in a piece of work published in 2014 which significantly shaped my views on the emerging world we’re headed towards. Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux. Next-stage organisations were named using the colour-coded phrasing of Teal. Influenced by the work of Dr Clare Graves and his spiral dynamics theory of human evolution from the 1950s and built upon by Cowan and Beck in the book Spiral Dynamics from in 1996 and by Ken Wilber in his Integral Theory work of the early 2000s.

It shows deep and philosophical ways to look at Human Evolution and Laloux transposed this thinking from individuals to organisations using the same colour coded evolution to explain the next-stage organisations — ones who achieved a higher sense of consciousness and — as he called it — wholeness. Many would call it humanising organisations — which have, for many people, been operating in a machine-like manner since the turn of the 1800s industrial revolution (or the 2nd Industrial revolution in World Economics Forum parlance).

So this next stage is scary. It means letting go of a lot we think of as truths. That people need structures in hierarchies in order to perform and co-operate to deliver on the organisations goal of profit or financial stability in order to produce or service customers in a market (even if NGOs or Non-profits).

And scared means fear. Creative entrepreneur Henri Hyponnen has uncovered much of this in his book Why We Fear, which was featured on stage at the WorldBlu 2016 Power Question Summit in Miami. His fascinating 23 minutes philosophical and research-led download in May of that year (watch it here) struck me deeply. We lose 8 points on our IQ when we’re in fear state. We lose energy and our ability to be creative when we’re frightened. We lose a lot of our ability to empathise, collaborate and tune-in to our fellow humans when we’re in fear. In essence, we’re not as good when we’re frightened.

And it’s this point that Traci Fenton (CEO and Founder of WorldBlu) has devoted much of her life to working on. So much so that Traci has formulated an approach to working on and through this with her approach called The Power Question.

What is such a powerful question? What is the philosophy and wisdom that orients you through moments of heightened anxiety and amygdala hijacks?

“What would you do, if you weren’t afraid?”

Of course we can ALL ask that question and either respond authentically, trick ourselves into a delusional state or bypass the impact of such a question with excuses, opt-outs, mitigating factors or whatever.

But genuinely, facing your fears takes, not surprisingly, some guts. And determination and guile. And whilst we’re not talking fire-walking acts of overcoming the fears of flesh-burning coals, we ARE talking about the fear of failure at work. The fear of speaking out at work. The fear of taking a risk at work.

We don’t need to look very far to feel the sense of fear in many of our modern workplaces. Short term profiteering; shareholder/investor pacifying acts and knee-jerk reactions to desperately cling onto market share or product development.

So, what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

It’s that philosophical approach to a potentially debilitating mental model that is fascinating me along with the love of wisdom and philosophy that frees, liberates and charges up my very being to push on through.

It’s the very essence of what I believe is causing the tearing of old and the creation of new to be more painful to many of us than it could be.

When we have no philosophy to help us understand the new, we tend to cling to the stories that are known to us that make the old more our place of safety. Quite literally, though, what if our iceberg is melting?

Fear may be a debilitating state to be in, but perhaps more so are fear’s bedfellows in a state of inertia: Willful ignorance; uninformed denial, and purposeful misguidedness.

What we don’t know may frighten us but overcoming the fear of the unknown and embracing discovery, open-mindedness and curiosity may help us more than we’re prepared to admit.

That first step comes in creating a new mental model and scenario to play with by simply asking ourselves what would you do, if you weren’t afraid?

Join Traci Fenton for this unique opportunity to learn more about the Power Question in London on 7 April 2017 and find out more by clicking here

It will be philosophical AND practical. It will be searching AND deductive. It will be dark AND light.

It could well be the most philosophical way of going deep and spending a day working on your fears that you will experience for quite some time.



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Perry Timms

CEO PTHR |2x TEDx speaker | Author: Transformational HR + The Energized Workplace | HR Most Influential Thinker 2017–2021 | Soulboy + Northampton Town fan