Monday, October 17, 2011

Rise and Shine

I received a comment from an anonymous blawg reader who wondered why I didn't write about more serious matters these days. Surprised I didn't have anything to say about the protests happening in Portland, for example.

Anonymous, it's true, I've chosen to spend less time that way on the blawg. I tend to write lighter entries that I can complete in ten minutes or so. I'll occasionally use tweets and FB to share my thoughts, but mostly I've been doing my blawging and thinking and doing off-line in the form of speaking engagements and consulting and conversation and in my work.

But if you're a loyal blawg reader, I bet you can guess how I feel about the protests, and how the Occupy movement fits into my view of what's happening in the world.

The stories we've been depending on for 60 years or so are broken or bent or distorted. We're struggling to find a new narrative, a common purpose, the deep story that informs our culture. To a lot of us, the Occupiers and the Tea Partiers and the Hope'08ers, it's become increasingly obvious that something's not working, and we're struggling to work out what's next.

I did attend a day of the protests. First impression was that the crowd didn't feel very inclusive. Seemed fringe. Impressed by the signs though, and the slogans. Walk like an Egyptian. Great.

Have asked people around me how they felt about the demonstrations. "At first I was cynical - I thought, Oh wow, Generation Y discovers that life isn't fair," the manager of my local coffee shop told me. "Then I realize, I agree with basically everything they're saying."

We're hungry for a new story, one we can all share. 99% is too small, even. If it excludes any of us, it's not big enough.

This morning as I was getting receipts out of my wallet I pulled out a few old-fashioned bills that I've received in change over the months. The designs date back to the thirties. I hold onto them because I like how they feel, the stories they tell about our country and our intended character.

The style evokes strength and equity. Balance. Reason. Points to our political roots in Greece and Rome, in a government for the people.

Lincoln's portrait. So determined. The farmer/lawyer/poet who did what it took to hold the country together. What a bad ass.

In the Fourth Turning, William Strauss and Neil Howe talk about the collapse stage that Americans regularly confront in our historic cycle. This 'Fourth Turning' happens every 80 years or so, or four generations. First it was the American Revolution, then the Civil War, then it showed up as the Depression/WWII. The authors predict - the book was written 1997 - that our fourth Fourth Turning would begin around 2000, possibly precipitated by a terrorist event, or a global economic failure, and last until 2020-'25.

The book is sobering but hopeful. The authors tell us that it's by discovering our shared purpose and reasserting our common values that we make it through the hard times, and if we commit to coming through it together, we can even emerge strengthened.

Marshall Herskovitz told me the story of the U.S. discovering its purpose during World War II. We were a hurting, poor and struggling country, just out of the Depression. Suddenly the stakes were raised, and if we wanted to save the world, we had to make thousands of tons of high-tech weapons using untrained female workers.

We set an unattainable production goal, simply unattainable, but we tripled the shifts and the workers knuckled down and what do you know, we accomplished that goal, ahead of schedule.

So we doubled the goal, and accomplished it again. Doubled it again, and accomplished it again, doubled it again, and well, you know what happened.

Human beings. Miniature Universes, R. Buckminster Fuller calls us, able to create anything, do anything we decide. Miracle machines. Endlessly regenerative, particularly when we identify our purpose.

So, yes, I agree with the protesters and the pundits and the philosophers and the poets, Strauss & Howe, Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Friedman, Eckhart Tolle, Steve Jobs. Something is unfolding out there, we're all invited to play a part in it, it will demand our best, and the the quickest way in, individually and collectively, is to identify and answer the call to our deep story.

There's been a lot of talk about story these days. Deep story is different. Deep story is the place your story connects back to the timeless story. Deep story means answering your heart's call and seeking a goal bigger than yourself. Deep story is the overlap between what you love and what the world needs. The world is full of people creating abundance for the world by living their deep story. Could we all be invited to live our deep story?

At the end of a couple of recent speaking events, I've handed out this small red journal. There's a sticker sheet tucked in the back pocket with three questions to help you think about your own deep story. The journal also contains a card with my email address so people can write back and report what happened when they filled it up, if anything.

I've been surprised by the response to these little journals. I've made them available on my website. I also include a little letter-pressed card with my deep story model. You can order a journal and fill it out and see what happens.

Story has power. As I heard Van Jones recently say, our greatest power is our imagination. By living our deep story, we imagine possibilities for ourselves and the world.


Ashly Stewart said...

This is exactly what I needed to read today.
Thanks, Jelly.

drcarala said...

I like this post. I'm interested in what Van Jones said. The keynote student speaker at our HIP graduation this year (Claudia Nada, single working mama of two girls, caught between a rock and hard place) urged us to dream big as well. She reminded us that the bigger the dream, the greater the possibility. I love it that these two are having the same conversation. Great minds think alike.

I'm principal of a said...

Anonymous commented that Friedman's inclusion in my list is questionable, and that Tolle is cringe-worthy and I shoulda just said the Buddha. Maybe. I know E.T. doesn't work for everybody. There's no accounting for taste or for who speaks to you. I never understood the popularity of Pink Floyd or Genesis or the Who. I think there's plenty of wisdom to be found in E.T. and Friedman, personally, but best is thinking for yourself, of course.

Anonymous also commented that personal purpose has to be connected to serving humanity, and yeah, I agree. But I think your personal purpose, answering your heart's call, when combined with intelligence and empathy, is a great door in...

I remember this verse without remembering the source:

And yet for all this help of head and brain
How happily instinctive we remain
Our best guide: upward, further, to the light
Passionate preference, such as love at sight