Our 10th foundational principle is by Viktor Frankl from his book Man's Search for Meaning, which next to Elie Wiesel's Night, is one of the most enduring first-hand accounts of Nazi concentration camps. The quote is:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Our immediate, visceral, instinctive reactions are the ones we often regret. They are the ones where we forgot what has lifted us above our animal past: the ability to use our rational mind and the power of our will.
The fight or flight reaction is a very helpful one when faced with a tiger. It is rather problematic in a board room setting.
Morality is a triumph of will over our natural urges. There's a segway here, a very contemporary one, about the reality of free will and how we make decisions. Whether, for example, decisions are mostly rationalized after they have already been made by bias or intuition.
I'm more optimistic about the potential of human nature and I find proof of it in much of civilization. The ability to collaborate, to sacrifice today for tomorrow, the ability to plan, to accumulate, to build, and to create, are at the base of this grand human project of which we are the heirs.
Frankl's quote reminds us that we are called upon to respond, not react. That there is indeed at least the potential for such a space.
Much of the journeys of personal growth that I see happening around me exist to create and enlarge that space in which we can choose our response. Meditation and contemplation mainly concern themselves with instilling the equanimity that helps grow this space.
People act on two planes simultaneously: that of the material and that of the spiritual. There's no duality here: hence depression is best treated with physical exercise, and hence better well-being comes from "doing the right thing."
Each moment of crisis, in which we are tempted to react, is an opportunity to instead respond with what we believe at that point to be ideal. Each moment of such crisis is an opportunity for growth.
And it is this growth that elevates our lives above the merely "natural." It is the expression of our consciousness in the way we face stress, temptation, heartbreak, disappointment... and most of all, death. Here lies freedom - the true dignity of the self-realized, sovereign individual.
As leaders we do well to cultivate our ability to create the space and choose our response.
Founders first. Always.
#1 No fear, no greed
#2 We're the coach, not the athlete
#3 It is only with the heart that one can see rightly
#4 Energy attracts like energy
#5 “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
#6 "Love people, not things. Use things, not people.”
#7 Ask, don't tell.
#8 "Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be generous; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men."
#9 The best way to teach is to listen. The best way to lead is to be.