Our modern day conflicts don’t have big landmark ‘Victory’ days celebrating the end of conflict. Just because the combatant government and military has surrendered, does not mean the campaign is over. As George Soros explains…
- “The world cannot be ruled by military force. Military power is only one of many ingredients that a country needs to exercise influence over others. Imperial powers did not succeed by the force of arms alone. Even the Ottoman Empire, which was built by conquest, had an elaborate system for maintaining peace and justice and the empire disintegrated when the system broke down.”
This observation echoes one of my earliest pieces back at the outset of the Iraq War contrasting the imbalance of Leadership and Management in that undertaking and looking at the executive personas exhibited by Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell.
Leaders conquer new influence; Managers keep the peace. Both are needed for a thriving empire.
Victory in Europe Day today is a time for remembrance of one of the most tragic horrors of our times. It’s hard to imagine such a failure of humanity that was the Nazi experience in Germany could inspire any positivity. But Guardian Religious Affairs correspondent Riazat Butt points out that even the darkest tragedies can have their own silver linings in a BBC2 ‘Pause for Thought’…
- “I was in my room last week, reading about Nazi Germany’s desire to destroy the Soviet Union, when all of a sudden I started bawling my eyes out. As I cried I could only think: ‘I want to get married. I want to have a baby.’ If it sounds abrupt and bizarre, then trust me it felt like that too…I had no idea what was going on, so I asked my friend Sadia for help. She said there was nothing to understand. I was just ready. ‘This is great,’ she told me. ‘Everything starts with intention. You have to know you want something before you can take active steps towards it.’ It made her smile, though, that Hitler, the father of collective societal annihilation, had brought about my recognition and desire for continuity and companionship. She talked about Rumi, the 13th century Sufi mystic, who wrote that God created suffering and heartache so that joy might be known as their opposite. ‘God turns you from one feeling to another and teaches you by means of opposites, so you’ll have two wings to fly – not teaches you by means of opposites, so you’ll have two wings to fly – not one.’ Or as Sadia put it, you can’t know something until you’ve experienced its opposite. ‘Think about it,’ she said, ‘how do you know you’re at a good place in your life unless you’ve been through a bad place? How do you know you want happiness unless you’ve been truly miserable?’”
When Hugh started Gapingvoid a dozen years ago today, little did he dream of the lessons, the reach, the impact, and the creativity it would inspire. He was a blogging pioneer back when it was still a geeky curiosity. Since then, blogging has become passé and then resurgent once again. Throughout the hipness-barometer ups and downs of the medium, Hugh ignored the trends and just plowed ahead exploiting the versatile medium for creativity and connection in his own inimitable way.
Throughout, he has a brought to life all of the themes I explore in my own small corner of the interweb. The power of embracing failure to enrich creativity. The balance of upside and downside in leadership and management. But perhaps the topic where we most connect on is the life shaking cataclysm when dreams die. No matter how impossible the dream and inevitable their mortality, Hugh captures why they are so powerful and essential. The alternative is even worse.
Happy anniversary fellow dreamer.
I didn’t get a free comic book yesterday, but I learned that the Incredible Hulk turns 50 years old this month. Mind you, my superhero has always been the sceptically inspired ‘Credible Hulk’…
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
That infamous question that most of us dread being asked. Cringeworthy recollections one tries to relegate to oblivion. But the latest research says such ego failures warrant an embarrassment embrace. If asked for a big embarrassment in an interview, it is an exceptional opportunity to shine.
According to Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California Berkeley (coauthor of a new paper on the emotion forthcoming in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology), such embarrassment is central to “the fabric of healthy cooperative social life.” Examined by Matthew Hutson in is Boston Globe piece “Embrace the Blush: Feeling mortified? That’s good news, says an expert”…
- “As Goffman and others have argued, the painful experience of embarrassment is not just an awkward hiccup in our social graces, but a necessary, hard-to-fake apology for violating social norms. In the new study, Keltner and his fellow researchers extended these findings to show that embarrassment displays are an accurate gauge of all-around benevolence — and that the rest of us know it. Those who show greater embarrassment, they found, are more generous and less likely to cheat on a partner. And others pick up on this connection; as the researchers found, showing embarrassment leads to being entrusted with greater resources. In other words, that awkward state means you care — and others get the message…’You’ve shown that embarrassment should not necessarily be avoided; it should be embraced.” [asked Ideas] and Keltner responded, ‘At the moment of embarrassment we think, “This is the worst moment of life. I have just given a talk with my zipper down, or I’ve just called this guy by the wrong name, or I farted in my yoga class.” …But it turns out, there are all these really surprising benefits to showing embarrassment. One is, people trust you more. Second is, if you’re dating, people will like you more. There’s an old study, we like people who do mishaps. A third is what we just found recently: People give you resources.’”
Cari Nierenberg provides more material on this perspective in his article “Upside to embarrassing moments: They make people like you”
- “Although these flubs may leave you red-faced, avoiding eye contact, or laughing nervously, a new study suggests that embarrassment can be a good thing. The upside of being easily flustered is that people are likely to perceive you as a kind and caring person — someone that others are likely to trust and want to be friends with, says study lead author Matthew Feinberg, a doctoral candidate in psychology at the University of California, Berkeley.”
If you need some inspiration, ‘5 embarrassing office stories that will make you cringe’ are a few tales to put your own travails into perspective. My favourite was the email mishap…
- “Unfortunately, he has a sense of humor and the email said ‘This is my test email b-tches.’ We sent out a ‘We Really Screwed Up’ apology…We ended up getting hundreds of emails, but the ironic thing was 99% of them were overwhelmingly supportive — people just wanted to let us know that it made their day, or how happy they were to know it was real human beings and not corporate robots behind their service.”
- “Leadership requires ‘an absence of shame around personal failures and imperfections’.
Being ridiculously remarkable, means being shameless about ridicule.
Friend and digital cohort on the subject of Leadership, Dr. Bret Simmons, buttressed Hugh’s perspective with the recent Tweet above. It is an excerpt from a book he recommends by Justin Menkes called “Better Under Pressure: How Great Leaders Bring Out the Best in Themselves and Others” It unites not just the Leadership/Management and embracing failure themes here, but also the issue of ‘black box’ complexity…
- “When you as a leader possess the kind of humility that enables your awareness of true circumstances, you can face all kinds of stimuli, from negative personal feedback to challenging market fluctuations to employees’ or customers’ emotional reactions, without experiencing personal disruption. This utter absence of shame around your miscalculations or outright failures is the critical differentiator of someone acutely in touch with actual circumstances and someone who is not.”
This humility is what Scott Adams was talking about with his ‘ordinary superpower’ of ‘enduring embarrassment’ is particularly useful for a leader…
“My observation is that people such as Richard Branson or Elvis, or just about anyone famous, has willingly taken on a career that promises a lot of raised eyebrows, shaming, humiliation, and ego attacks. Some people shrug off that sort of stuff. They have that ordinary super power. And it makes success more likely because they get to compete against a smaller field. My hypothesis is that people who display a lack of embarrassment are seen by others as natural leaders. I suppose a lack of embarrassment looks like a form of bravery, and we’re wired to respond to it. When someone gives a speech to thousands, and shows no signs of nervousness, their confidence affects us. We assume good things about a person who is so cool under pressure. And when someone does something monumentally embarrassing, and shrugs it off with a smirk and a twinkle in the eye, we are in awe.”
- “We embrace ridiculous as the sign that maybe, just maybe, we’re being generous, daring, creative and silly. You know, remarkable.”
Seth Godin offers a fresh perspective on being a remarkable boss…try a bit of ridiculousness. His post “Ridiculous is the New Remarkable” is illustrated by Hugh MacLeod in both artwork and example…
- “It turns out that most of what we choose to talk about today is ridiculous. The dramatically overproduced music video. The business model that is so generous that we can’t imagine it succeeding. The painter who produces a new painting every single day…Hugh’s cartoons are ridiculous, of course, as is his promiscuous non-business business model. The audacity of caring too much, sharing too much and connecting too much…Ridiculous isn’t safe. If you do something ridiculous and you fail, people get to say, ‘you idiot, of course you failed, what you were doing was ridiculous.’ Which is precisely why it’s so rare. Not because we are unable to imagine being ridiculous, but because we’re afraid to be.”