Whereas at first sight the title of this post might not be associated with my main themes of Curiosity and Creativity, it secretly is about that. You’ll see. Bear with me. I do have a point :-) There have been many inspirations for snippets in this post, but in the end it is the aggregate of at least 10 years of mental bubbles interacting, i.e. bubbling. If you recognise some elements, that’s most likely because we live on the same Planet.
Why Balance may not be all it’s cracked up to be
In this era of overwhelming complexity, the usual tip that I receive and I have a strong suspicion you do too, to deal with the complexity, is to “Find a balance”. I have always disliked that term, for one because it implies a status quo, or static situation, or in very negative terms a MAD-situation (Mutually Assured Destruction, a stalemate that allegedly brings you to not destroying each other. Yeeah, sure, if that’s what you want to bet on?)
The word “mix” is a bit better but also not very exciting. My preferred term to signify the general attitude on how to deal with all the seeming and potential contradictions that we find on our paths, is therefore another one: Harmony.
Now some of you may think they recognise the hipster-cheerleader-buzz book Art of not Giving a F***? In fact, I think it’s the (much) more subtle: Art of Turning seeming contradictions into new Pathways, or even making them irrelevant. As you may observe by the end of this post, when you master this Art it will be hard to deny that you are mastering Creativity. To Live, that is. And making the link to Creativity is how my writing becomes full circle, or as I call it: spiral. Because this new step brings us to a better place than before, not the same. More about that in another post.
From Battle, i.e., balancing the extremes
Now more concrete. Below I share a list of dilemmas and seeming contradictions that I regularly encounter, and that are usually formulated as stated here. I am sure you recognise some of them in your own life. These are common, and seemingly maddening dilemmas for which we usually choose to “sit on the middle”, “find the balance”, do “a little of this and a little of that”:
- Taking a rest vs Being Dynamic: rest does not bring you anywhere but being in constant motion is tiring physically and mentally
- Knowledge vs Intuition: going by what you know provides certainty but is intrinsically limiting, venturing beyond your known world creates uncertainty
- Deep expertise (Elevators) vs Broad interests (tunnels): you want to avoid looking superficial but you can’t know eberything
- The 3 Ps of Sustainability: they need to be “Balanced”, i.e. be exactly equal, implying, be expressed in one unit which in our system means money. If you can’t translate polar bears or clean water or education into money, forget it.
- Knowns vs Unknowns: you know that there are unknowns but it’s counter-intuitive to work with them
- Solving vs Opening up: should you focus on convergent or divergent abilities?
- Targets Vs Uncertainty: making goals explicit provides focus, but how do you know what will happen to make choices that are sensible in the first place?
- Zooming in vs Zooming out: Focus & scope give meaning but what is meaning without a bigger picture?
- Questions vs Answers: do you want to open up the search space or close it?
- Linear vs Circular: we need to think more circular but the current system is mostly still linear so use framing that points at the future or that stands in the now?
- Useful vs Novel: if something is New(ish) how can you make sure it is also functional?
- Polite vs Direct/ Blunt: being polite keeps the door open but little may move, being direct might shake up things but can close doors
- Simple vs Complicated: oh how we wish things would be simpler but well, Life is Complicated
- Altruistic vs Selfish: most of us would like to do nice things for others, but own survival remains prio #1
- Shy vs Cocky: “Cocky people own half the world”, so that implies that the other half is still ub for grabs?
- Product vs Process: what should innovation prioritise, a replicable process or an excellent product?
- Vision (high level) vs Focus (concrete): we need an awe-inspiring Why, but without good execution forget it.
- Moving fast vs moving broad: implementung ideas without consultation means they cannot be stopped prematurely but consulting others may take (too) much time.
And so on, and so on. It might actually be interesting if you take this list and run with it to add potential dilemmas that you think are relevant and interesting. Not that I want to impose, but, well… just do it…
… to Harmony, new pathways that make contradictions irrelevant
Ok, so these every-day dilemmas are probably recognisable. As is, I for now assume, the practical ‘solution’ to do a bit more of one or the other depending on the situation. Basically, when making that choice, the painstaking question is simplified to one dimension, with two extremes. Apparently, because that is how life works. One dimension, with two extremes…
Now, what I propose is to abandon that one-dimensional choice-space. I’m no expert but many of these issues are not solved by Yin-Yanging the bastards. It’s what I use the term Harmony for: respecting the complexity that we face and actually adding dimensions to the choice-space, that help to reframe the dilemma or make it irrelevant altogether. Let me give you some examples:
- Taking a rest ‘vs’ Being Dynamic: sometimes you sleep and other times awake, aren’t you? You need both. Do what suits you, your body will tell you when you have had enough of one.
- Knowledge ‘vs’ Intuition: Intuition is in fact very much based on unconscious knowledge build-up, they are not only related but entangled. Dilemma gone.
- Deep expertise (Elevators) vs Broad interests (tunnels): what about making cross-connections (diagonal ladders)?
- The 3 Ps of Sustainability: need to be expressed in their own units to keep their strength. Feel free to fight for polar bears, or orphans, or the rain forest, or whatever. And feel free to keep counting them as such. Value is subjective, always. So trying to express polar bears saved in monetary units, and then tress in a rainforest and then deciding which has most value. It’s almost like a surreal painting. Nice on canvas, but to take decisions: cut it out!
- Knowns vs Unknowns: Not Knowing is an Invitation, not a hurdle
- Solving vs Opening up: Navigate your way through the search space, too much focus on “solving” distracts from seeing the real problem or the unexpected way forward. The perfect is the enemy of the good. And at the same time, don’t take yes for an answer too quickly. How’s that for a dilemma? And yet, it can be done.
- Targets Vs Uncertainty: work with Intent and assess whether performance is in line.
- Zooming in vs Zooming out: similar to rest and dynamics, consider this as Breathing: the two belong together, if you have one without the other you die. Period.
- Questions vs Answers: both can be inquisitive or Lazy, so make them both the former instead of choosing betweentwo evils.
- Linear vs Circular: circular implies that you end up where you started. Think in upward Spirals instead. With every cycle something should have uimproved, not stayed the same,
- Useful vs Novel: apply satisficing: to be adopted, an idea needs to be new enough but still conceivable, i.e. it needs to reside in an area called “the adjacent possible” (a well known innovation-term)
- Polite vs Direct/ Blunt: if you are vulnerable (humble) and constructive direct comments have a context.
- Simple vs Complicated: Life is Complex, which basically means: embrace connections
- Altruistic vs Selfish: be Generous in ways that you consider to be appropriate
- Shy vs Cocky: be assertive, but realistic in knowing that imperfections are beautiful
- Product vs Process: both mean nothing without considering People, so focus on them then the rest will follow
- Vision (high level) vs Focus (concrete): both vision and focus can be born out of Curiosity or not. Be more aware of that than doubting about the Why vs the What
- Moving fast vs moving broad: “Without Friction it remains Fiction” but of course, only meeting friction is no fun. You can probabably sense when it’s too much, there is no real chance of realistic dialogue and move on.
It should not be too difficult to derive some overarching patterns from these examples. Looking from where I am sitting, such a pattern would be dominated by explicitly acknowledging elements that are abundantly present if we only want to seem them, and use them: Rhythm, Co-existence, Inquisitiveness, Tilting to get a different Perspective.
And now I’m getting on too familiar ground, so time to stop. I just hope that the concept of thinking in terms of Harmony to put dilemmas in a new light and to work around them strikes a chord. Feel more than invited to apply it, and if you think you have interesting examples to share, by all means.
As most other posts, a previous less developed version of this one was published on The New ABC site