To be a caveman today

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Publish date : March 2020

Written by : Sebastien BAERT

More than a decade ago, I had the privilege to attend the MBA Entrepreneurship course given by Professor Gleen Okun at NYU Stern Business School. From my memories, Professor Okun has his personal teaching style. He was walking back and forth in front of his audience, often very passionate about the case study he was introducing to the class. Sometimes, because of his enthusiasm, he was moving his arms and hands quite energetically in the air. I was often impressed by his extensive business knowledge. More importantly, one could say that he has been very concerned about the faith of his students. 

I, therefore, was not very much surprised to read one of his last posts on LinkedIn where he was sharing his genuine concern about the fact that MBAs students may face tremendous difficulties in entering the job market.

For him and the vast majority of us, to be able to move (i.e. physical mobility) is almost as important as breathing. Indeed, human beings are not trees. 

However, in many parts of the world, physical mobility becomes increasingly restricted. One after another, the boundaries surrounding countries, city, organizations, companies, communities are getting tighter and less and less porous. 

To be mobile in the physical world is even getting so much restricted than a large part of the worldwide population are required to experience confinement. I might be wrong to believe that such an extensive scale of mandatory quarantine had never been experienced before, even under wartime.

In such tightening circumstances, it might be useful to remind ourself that we could still experience some mobility while been physically stuck. 

In his book entitled The Inner Game of Work, Timothy Gallwey defines the word “Mobility” as follows: 

“Mobility is the quest for movement driven by the free human response to one’s own deepest inner urgings.” 

No doubt that according to such definition, mobility appears an endless quest, which is not only a result but also a process and an inner experience. In that latter sense, would learning new skills provide us with a sense of moving or been moved? Would to learn how to be more creative, more empathic or even think more critically provide us with a similar invaluable experience and for some of us some well-being? 

Facing a closed-door, some individuals may easily withdraw and give up while some others may look for a different route. The route could be twofold. One strategy could be to look for a door that can be more easily accessible (i.e. a permeable boundary). Another approach could be to work on scaling up one’s attractivity, waiting for the moment when a more significant number of edges will re-open themselves. 

To learn is undoubtedly not an easy task under such circumstances. In every situation, to learn is challenging. It requires focus, discipline, a curious mindset and, often, the eagerness to unlearn what we already know. On top of that, the current environment makes the learning more challenging due to the overall experience of uncertainty (e.g. Would I die from the virus? Would my dear ones die? (…), How long the quarantine period may last?). Because of the massive uncertainty and raising anxiety, it might be difficult to conclude that what we want to learn would effectively benefit us in the future and, then, to move forward on an action plan.  

Nonetheless, what we might need to learn the most is often to look at the question that is just in front of us. However, for some convincing reasons, we barely dare investigate our state of mind, the sources of our anxiety or even our anger, and how easily those thoughts took over our entire perception of reality.  

An opened world offers us plenty of opportunities to fly away from those inquiries.

I suppose that a long time ago, in their shelter from the thunderstorm, our ancestors, the cavemen might have been more inclined to self-reflect than anyone of us.

Because of the imposed captivity, many of us have become a caveman or a cavewoman again. Like our ancestors, our challenge is to make our life the most meaningful under any kinds of circumstances. 

Hopefully, the on-going thunderstorm would not last too long; either would result in massive losses of life and wealth.  In the meantime, may we remain creative, eager to learn from the present moment, to play with some piece of chalk, and eventually to expand and move our mind.

To be a caveman today - March 2020 - article réalisé par Sebastien BAERT

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