This article is an extract from the book ‘Switch On’ by Nick Seneca Jankel.
Although we might initially react to an intense crisis, once we’ve had a chance to chill out and reflect, we all have the choice to own it or not. Thisis the moment we get to switch on. We spot a problem or a crisis for what it is: The beginning of a breakthrough opportunity. If we repress or deny it, we risk entering the Way of Breakdown, where we are stuck merely surviving.
Breakdown often happens when the effort it takes to repress or react to our problems takes too much out of us. We all show breakdowns in different ways. Most of us have weak spots in our body.mind that ‘go’ when overwhelmed. A bad back, a bad cold, burn out, an old condition, exhaustion, panic attacks, and the blues can all be symptoms of breakdown (which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek professional help for them). It does not have to be something spectacular. Many of us live in breakdown for years, putting up with it rather than using it as a stimulus to take ownership and ride the Breakthrough Curve.
We live in a complex world, where small differences—in our genes, early experiences, decisions, and environments—can all play a large part in how our lives turn out. We are subject to the rules of Chaos Theory. One different problems decision can radically alter the future. In the same way a butterfly’s wings flapping in the Peruvian jungle can trigger a storm over Chicago, hitting on a hottie, rather than leaving the party having felt too shy as usual, can end up in marriage. Speaking up in one average meeting could lead, many years down the line, to you running the firm. This is what makes life so exciting. Breakthroughs are non-linear. A teeny-weeny break from our usual reactions can turn our lives around.
The Way of Breakdown
Each choice you make, at every turning point, opens up a unique field of possibility within which your future will play out. Some futures are simply not possible if you make certain choices. Push away your problems and you push away possibilities for a more meaningful, thrivadelic, and connected life. Own them, and you get to co-create a fulfilling future with whatever curve balls come flying your way. When you own your problems, you enter the Way of Breakthrough where you can thrive (see diagram opposite).
The Way of Breakthrough
Response-ability is the prerequisite of opening up positive fields of possibility. To reiterate, ownership is absolutely not about blame. It is impossible to blame any one person or situation anyway because every problem has been created by a complex interplay between multiple perspectives, actions, beliefs, stories, habits, and much else besides. In a world of complexity, singling out one cause of any event is misguided, inaccurate, and often quite unhelpful. This is linear thinking, looking at the world as if it were a machine in which predictable outputs come from known inputs. Put the foot on the gas pedal and the car goes faster. Sell more products on your website, at a higher margin, and you make more profit. However, we human beings are anything but predictable. Some people can undergo a traumatic event and come back stronger than ever. Others crumple under the weight. Some develop AIDS with an HIV infection. Others never even know they have it. Every situation is ‘over-determined’; it has multiple causes, influences, and origins.
Switch On for a Very Different Future
When we give up knowing who is right and wrong, we can focus on creating something different.
The same is true of organizations. A leader of any organization can only open up possibilities for non-linear breakthroughs once they take response- ability for everything that happens in and around it. A leader cannot control employees, competitors, or the stock market. But they can take ownership of the problems the organization faces and find new ways to perceive and react to them. If a boss tries to blame things ‘outside their control’ (which seems to be the majority of the time if you listen to corporate trading updates), they are simply stating that they don’t have the power to make changes and they cannot be relied upon to do better in future. If you’ve invested your entire nest egg in a company with a string of bad results, do you want the boss to blame the market? Or take response-ability and come up with a new strategy to break through?
If you are curious about exploring the different stages of the Switch On experience, take a look at Switch On.
Nick Seneca Jankel