Imagine seeing your own life lessons played out in the world of leadership.
In June 1990 while free climbing I fell 120 feet (approximately 12 stories). I landed on my face. Every part of the form in which I’d known myself was completely smashed to pieces. In fact, I have undergone more than 10 reconstructive surgeries. However, directly after they put me back together people would ask me How are you doing?
My response (even with my jaw wired closed) was always, “I’m great!” It was a lie. I wasn’t great. I was far from great! And I would often add, “And I’m coming back!” Another lie.
Over the next nine months, I fell into an ever-deepening dark depression. One night facilitated by a set of painful circumstances, I found myself in the fetal position on my living room floor uncontrollably weeping and having to face the truth that no matter how many times I said “I’m great” or “I’m coming back”…it was a lie.
I was NOT coming back because life does not work backward; it only works forward. There is no coming or going back…ever!
I also had to come to grasp with the realization I was in my own way by resisting the new normal and that nothing was ever going to be the same. I could be angry about it. I could complain about it (and I did), but the fact remained that my life was never ever going to be what had be “normal” again.
I was at a crossroads. I had to evolve or become a victim of circumstance.
Unless over the last few years you moved into a cave for silent meditation you’ve likely noticed that much of the world is at a similar crossroads to the one I was at. Much of what we used to call normal has crashed on the rocks of reality. Today I see too many leaders (political or otherwise) talking about how we have got to get back to normal. As I listen, I find myself silently screaming, “There is no back!”
What follows is not directly about politics but rather using politics as the glaring example.
I realize that people can have rather severe short-term memory loss (particularly when it comes to politics). There is nostalgia for “how it used to be,” with the assumption that “the good old days” were a hellova lot better than it is today. However, this idealized nostalgia for the “good old days” is dangerous. Every single example of the “good old days” is fraught with white-washed realities.
Depending on your politics, the “good old days’ of “normal” might be the Reagan era or perhaps JFK or even FDR. Others will look all the way back to Lincoln. Whatever time period you choose, it likely feels to you that leaders then were more honest, more trustworthy, and more reliable than they are today. It was so better then!
“Excuse Me Would You Mind Dropping Off My Memory at The Dry Cleaners”
The fact is that if we keep looking back, hoping to return to the past, a crash of some form is inevitable. But that’s not the only issue. One of the major overlooked consequences of rear-ward focus is that memory will dry clean the past!
Let’s use a metaphor most of us can relate to. Can you remember dating someone and for what at the time seemed like very good reasons, you broke up? If you can, then it’s likely that you will also have at some time, bumped into that same person or someone who spoke about them. All of a sudden you may have begun to think of your ex in the context of fond memories. It’s even possible that your mind began to “dry clean” all the dirty spots out of your memory until all you can remember is the good stuff. Your memory has dry cleaned the past! It does it in all kinds of ways; it does it with ex’s, our childhood, co-workers, bosses, and leaders.
In scientific circles, it’s widely recognized that human memory is not an exact reproduction of past experiences but a rather imperfect process. The mind both distorts and deletes in order to save energy. This same process happens both on a personal level and a societal level. It’s what is most likely what is happening when you look to previous leaders. What we remember has very little to do with what the times were actually were like, so even if we could go “back” the good old days, they wouldn’t be as good as we remember.
News Flash: Normal Is Over!
The truth is that politics is merely a microcosm of what’s going on in our world. People don’t really want the normal of the good old days. We must all take stock and realize that hoping to get back to normal is simply: Resisting The New Normal! Just take a moment to consider that if people wanted normal they would have voted for John McCain in 2008 or Mitt Romney in 2012. Barack Obama would not have been elected for two terms. If people wanted normal, they would have voted for Hilary Clinton and Donald J Trump would have never been elected.
We can be comfortable or uncomfortable with it, but the fact remains that people don’t want what was normal. The evidence is clear. People want something new (even if they don’t clearly know what that is yet).
Whether you are a Donald Trump fan or not, what we all need to understand is that if any leader who can potentially take the 2020 election away from Donald Trump it will be a leader who embraces a new normal.
If you are doubting what I’m saying you only have to look at the 2018 midterm elections:
- Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, youngest woman elected to Congress
- Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, first Muslim congresswomen
- Jared Polis, first openly gay man elected governor
- Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland, first Native American congresswomen
- Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia, first Latina congresswomen from Texas
And so many more, including the Democrat running for President against Donald Trump who has raised the most money (in small independent donations). That candidate is Pete Buttigieg, a former military officer who completed two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He’s served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana since 2012. He’s a Rhode Scholar who speaks multiple languages; he’s openly gay (and married) and on top of that, he’s a devout Christian… NOT NORMAL!
These are political examples, however, let me reiterate: This is NOT restricted to politics. It’s clear that there is the desire for a new normal exists in all aspects of leadership.
The Mic is Yours:
What new normal do you believe we need?
I look forward to your feedback.
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