What is happening in the world today? I believe that, among many things, there is a tectonic shift in the landscape of trust.
Historically, we have placed our trust in authorities - politicians, business leaders, spiritual leaders and leaders in the scientific community. We have an unflagging trust in rationality. And we are living in challenging times amidst global recession, climate change, loss of jobs, pandemics, terrorism, war, etc. These are times of crisis. And in the midst of these crises our trust is being shaken. What can we trust? Whom can we trust?
When we feel our trust being shaken many of us are thrown into one of three different moods. We are either resigned that things aren't going well and they will turn out however they do. We are resigned to that and there is nothing we can do. Or we are resentful. We get angry with those in positions of authority in which we placed our trust. We are angry with them for their limitations (e.g., not being in control of things) and angry with them for their abuses of power and their violation of our trust. Or we deny that what is happening both locally and globally has any impact on our lives. We say to ourselves, "It doesn't matter, I'm going to live a fine life anyway." Those of us in denial are living in the misguided notion that it is possible to live in a bubble detached from the impact of what's occurring around us.
Neither resignation, resentment, or denial are moods that compel us to invest in building a different future. Instead, they compel us to continue ceding power and trust to others.
We need to cultivate a different mood: hope. Obama brilliantly did this in his campaign. He stood for the possibility that the future can be better; that the abuses of trust and power can be overcome. He stood for the possibility that together we can design and build a lifestyle that works better for all.
Of course, there is a danger that we will again place our trust in Obama as the latest authority figure. And when he fails to deliver what we expect, then we will find ourselves being resentful, resigned, or in denial.
Each of us must take responsibility for cultivating hope and optimism in our own lives. Each of us must step forward ... trust ourselves ... and be a leader in our own lives and the lives of our loved ones.
I think we are in the midst of a tectonic shift in the landscape of trust. From a historical perspective, this shift is more like an 8.0 earthquake. We are being called more and more deeply to find the part of ourselves that is not afraid and in which we can trust without question. We are being called to find our source of inner guidance, our source of true leadership and express that. In a significant way, this shift is a call for a kind of collective spiritual awakening.
I'm not saying that this earthquake will do away with political leaders, business leaders, spiritual leaders, or scientific leaders. They will still exist and we will still need to trust them for their expertise, their unique viewpoint, and their positions of empowerment to affect certain actions. However, in the future we will not cede all of our trust to them so blindly and excuse ourselves from the table. Instead, we will take our place within the conversation, within the collaboration, within the decision-making and the action.
Already today we see patients taking their medical care more fully into their own hands. Patients are researching options for addressing their medical concerns on the web so that they can more fully participate in the conversation and decision-making with their physicians.
Given what has happened in the financial services sector, I imagine that more transparency (and regulation) is just around the corner. This transparency will be demanded of people like you and me who, trusting more fully in themselves, seek to enter the conversation with their banks and financial advisors in a more consciously empowered way.
Hope compels us to take responsibility for the way things are and step forward to build things anew in a spirit of collaboration and community. However, we can't wait for hope to arise before we take action. In fact, it is in taking action to build a future that works better that we evoke hope in ourselves and others. This is a great act of Self-leadership and if we quiet ourselves enough we all hear the call to take this step forward.
No action is too small. You can do more with what you have than you think. The end of these crises will not, in my opinion, leave us back where we were before they started. That life and lifestyle is gone. This earthquake will leave the landscape of trust permanently and fundamentally changed. We will need to find new paths, new approaches, new collaborations, new communities in order to survive and flourish both locally and globally. We will be living in a new world. And, in a very real way, we already are. Day by day more of us awaken to the realization that we are already in a new world.
In this new world new capabilities and skills will be needed to survive and flourish. Today I can see at least three broad capabilities that everyone will need.
- Self-leadership - everyone will need to be a leader in their own life. Everyone will need to learn to trust themselves and to face into life's challenges as true leaders do - simultaneously in contact with their fears but also able to bring forth a constructive response from the depth of their capacity, their resourcefulness, and their creativity. In this new world, spectators won't last very long.
- Entrepreneurship - everyone will need to see and respond to the world the way an entrepreneur does. They will need to see emerging unmet needs and re-vision and re-fashion themselves and their collaborators and communities in ways that offer to fulfill those needs.
- Self-education - everyone must learn how to learn. Change is occurring at an ever increasing rate. Novelty is winning by leaps and bounds. Those that cling to "the way things have been" will stop being competitive. In fact, the ability to learn and develop yourself, your organization, and your community faster and more powerfully will become the primary competitive advantage.
The world that we are awakening into is the world of the "compassion worker." Many years ago noted management theorist Peter Drucker coined the term "knowledge worker" and heralded that knowledge work will be the primary unit of production in the coming age. Well, the coming age came and went. Of course, I'm not saying that knowledge work will disappear just as Drucker wasn't saying that industrial labor would disappear.
What I'm saying is that knowledge work has to grow up and mature. And that will and is happening as more and more deeply care is being brought into the mission and structure of work. Riane Eisler has a new book that looks to speak to this (I haven't read it yet but it is on the stack :-) called The Real Wealth of Nations. According to the blurb she proposes a reinvention of economics in which caregiving is central. And, most curiously, she propses this as an alternative to both capitalism and socialism.
So the world as I see it will be filled with entrepreneurial leaders who see their primary business as caregiving of some kind and who are able to learn and adapt to emerging unmet needs and invent new possibilities to fulfill them. Pehaps this is just my dream, my hope. It may be, but this is the world that I am personally investing myself in building.