For two days I have been in the Hybrid World Lab working up an idea about measuring individual and corporate contributions to Sustainable Development Goals, inspired by Nobel Laurete Muhammad Yunus challenge for a world of three zeros. Being in the lab with two amazing women was intense in the context of a competition. It is not the way I like to iterate ideas and bring them to fruition, however it is how mostly I have worked over the years with urgency of parliamentary question time, front pages and more importantly the urgency of the changes that are necessary for population well-being or individual well being. Whether it being about getting someone into a service to help them make it through the night in domestic violence or psychiatric care or for the three year old who will be starting school in two years in a location, conspiring against them so they won’t be reaching their developmental milestones – urgency is real. We have the capacity to make decisions in a climate of urgency many times a day – running a red light springs to mind immediately. A sense of urgency is not the same as something being urgent – and not all urgency is important.
In the lab we were exposed to mentors with a wide range of backgrounds to challenge, extend and develop our thinking. They all wanted the best from us so we could make our idea visible to investors. To be surrounded by such talent was an incredible privilege and with it I felt an urgency to make the most of their time and learn from them. We also had some speakers to inform and encourage us along the way. One of those was Dr Christyl Johnson, Deputy Director of Technology and Research at NASA. I was on the only all female team (in fact only 2 other teams had a woman on them out of 13 teams). She could have talking about pitching to government, she could have shared her knowledge of research and investment, but instead she spent her 15 minutes telling us to become masters at managing our fear. She defined fear as an acronym – false evidence appearing real. This is not the first time I have heard that, but this time it resonated me with a sense of urgency and prompted by a question from my fellow team member about the fear of success inviting me to recall Marianne Williamson being quoted by Nelson Mandela at his inauguration speech (it was his 100th birthday this week).
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
My sense of urgency seems to be fuelled by the big issues of our time and my own mortality looming as another decade approaches. There is nothing like a palliative care or sudden death experience to wake you up to living more intentionally with legacy in mind. These are some of the ways urgency shows up. The rate of change is a driver of urgency too. I once worked with a woman for whom everything was urgent and the rest of the developed a code for how urgent she thought something was with the number of times she used really in a directive …. this is really urgent had a lower value to this is really, really, really urgent. We took to treating a 3 really’s as urgent and in imminent danger. I used to call this the Danger Will Robinson moment in the office and if everyone wasn’t ready to deliver in that moment the fallout would have catastrophic consequences for some of us. I took over the leadership role after her and made it clear to all that we knew everything was urgent, but we were not the A & E department dealing with a car crash victim every five minutes, so instead we would have a set of values and guides to get us through all the small decisions before anything came urgent. Inoculation for the everyday and urgency when something we couldn’t see landed in our orbit.
Having values to hang on to, principles to guide you, a squad of people to support you – all help deal with urgency. As Christyl reminded us yesterday, holding tight and having mastery of your fear, and being clear that you know best or what it is that is important to you (whether that is an idea, a change you want to make for yourself or the world), will keep you grounded.
Unmastered fear and unfettered urgency are a nasty combination, but mastery over fear and urgency liberated by truth … well … that is an act of deep self-compassion. Settling into yourself with your feet planted and deeply rooted in your own genius, fabulousness and with fearless unleashed … whoa that is something to behold! I got to see what that looked like in Christyl Johnson and I am deeply grateful for the experience getting into the Hybrid World Lab offered me for that piece alone. We didn’t win the comp, but we won over fear.