What Can You Own?

Celebrate the WorldDoes the oil mess in the Gulf of Mexico outrage you? Are you saddened by the recent mine disasters? Are you distressed by the air and water pollution we see on the news or in person if you travel much? Do you drive a car, have air conditioning and heating, and/or fly much? Here’s the biting part – you & I are causing all of these unhappy circumstances. Granted, for most of us our role is somewhat indirect. However, there would be no oil drilling, coal mines, refineries or plastics manufacturers if we didn’t buy and use the products to facilitate the lifestyles we enjoy. Being angry at the owners and executives of the companies involved makes sense on one level, but on another level it is a way to push responsibility off on someone else and comfortably go on with our lives. Large, complex systems will fail periodically, despite our best human intentions. There will be crashes, fires, stock market plunges, and on and on. We are all part of the large complex systems we live within and use to continue our lives as they are. It’s critical we examine this from a larger lens. It’s also important that we start to open to the idea that no matter how small, we do have a role in these large systemic failures that seem to be someone else’s fault.

So what are we to do, or, perhaps more powerfully, who are we to be in the matter?  How do we, as leaders, relate to these seriously troublesome issues of our time? I don’t know if anyone truly has the answers, but I suspect the power may lie in the questions themselves. I keep listening and looking for actions that are the most responsible I can take while continuing to own and be present to the realities of our world, where things are headed with our collective humanity, and the consequences if we don’t own our actions and change directions.

I’m also interested in how this same idea applies to other areas of our lives. What other parts of life are too difficult to face? What is happening in your organization that you refuse to be responsible for in the bigger scheme of things?

leadershipConsider the possibility that stepping up and owning it all may provide new access to solutions and strategies you had not seen before. You may find that owning it all even gives you a new sense of freedom – the freedom to be with the good the bad, and the ugly without suffering about it. The suffering may all come from resisting the way that it is and the way that it isn’t rather than because if it. 

Your inability to cause change where you’d like to see it may be similar. Instead of examining the condition, you may be caught up in complaints, judgments, opinions, and all the other noise around almost every condition these days. What if you give all that up and free yourself to turn your focus to discovery? Would you be unleashed to be creative and interact in a real problem solving way with others? What if you spend time asking questions and examining the “unfaceable conditions” instead of denying, ignoring, judging or being angry about them? Why not give it a try? See what happens if you are willing to be 100% responsible for everything in your life and for everything going on around you. Experiment with questions and curiosity. You might be surprised at the results.