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The Season of Returning Value

The Season of Returning Value

Once the boomers were raving idealists. They believed in magic – just as the Lovin’ Spoonful tune suggested. The world could be transformed into a more fair, caring place with opportunity for all. And that care extended to our wounded world – and an environmental movement was born. Out of that time came an abiding theme of equality of access for women and people of other than the white race. It has been a remarkable legacy.
But look at us now. More complacent and obsessed with comfort and indulgence than our parents. Sold out. Totally concerned with material welfare. Social concerns ‘way in the background.
I know you might bristle at that description. You may feel it’s unfair. It’s meant to be provocative and I hope it is unsettling. And I’m there with you. But I’m annoyed at myself for it.
Particularly at this time of the year. This is when the edge of maxing every moment takes a breather. We open up – allow a little more give into our rushing lives. Lives that are rushing by us.
We have a second to think of others. We attempt to express our care for them through material gifts. We can appreciate the color of the decorations. We can allow some flush of association with generative memory to enhance our day to day. And we are easier with people who co-travel through life with us. It’s a warmer, easier time.
And one that is an opening to some reflection.
– how’d we do last year?
– where was the impact of actions, intentions and programs?
– what can we do to expand our reach in 2014?
– do we need more accumulation?
– can we carve time for more meaningful additions to our lives?
– such as giving back?
Back to my own annoyance.
I was excited when I watched a PBS documentary on the Department of Extreme Design at Stanford University. 25 young students are marshalled under able direction and pointed at situations where an urgent solution is needed somewhere in the developing world. One was babies dying of pneumonia in Bangladesh hospital wards. Another was access to fresh water on an island in Indonesia.
They assembled these brilliant students and turned them loose – to build a solution and working prototype in one term. And they all did – to a more or less satisfying level.
It brought me right back to our belief in magic – that projects can be done that can contribute good in this world.
Some believe that new passion at this age and stage will come into our lives with trumpets and banners proclaiming the arrival of this new galvanizing force that will drive and transform us. Good luck with that one.
My experience is otherwise. We have to recognize, that, at this stage, we are overborne with priorities and admitting another is next to impossible. The question is – are the ones we’re serving the right ones for us? Are we going to regret we didn’t open up to more generative options and allow them significant sway? Can we take some less relevant, older ones off the table to make room for something new?
And where are the clues to that something new – something that will make a difference? When I talk to people about deep motivation, that’s always there – to make a difference – that’s what folks want from their lives.
These students sure did. And watching them get involved was watching new passion being born for them. One young women realized maybe she didn’t want to be an investment banker in Silicon Valley. She wanted to build a startup to take her project to full adoption. Later she said maybe she would adopt a new model for affordable health care for the developing world as her rallying cry. I’m sure that brought tears to the eyes of the prof’s.
That’s how new passion happens:
– you allow yourself to get engaged in a structure meant to provoke you out of your comfortable set – and something starts to agitate you.
– as you open up to a little looseness, a little freedom – say at this time of year – something creeps into your awareness that grabs a bit of your interest
– you meet new people and they set off a train of thought that whispers potential in your ear
– you think back to your idealistic youth and some older theme of meaning is rekindled.
An enemy is grandiosity. We don’t want to create another United Nations. We want projects – small projects – out of which great impact can be created – eventually. Significance comes from projects, at first small, that gain greater scope and impact as they go. And if you are part of it, as it grows, so does your engagement and commitment [passion!]. It doesn’t start with the grand theme first. That’s for later.
The other enemy is our hugely attractive comfort and ease. Why perturb myself? I worked hard to gain this nice life where everything works. Why are you bothering me?
Because that’s my role. I’m here to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. For their own good. Because in the end, regret of the unlived life is cold comfort.
So now is the hour to see if some new quiet front can be opened to potential significance. We have such capability at this stage to contribute. Impotent yearnings can be converted into real action by looking for small starter projects to lean into. Let them come – and grace your season with a new aspect of greater giving.

‘Tis the season!

Doug Bouey
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

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Bringing out the best in you, your company and your people.

Doug Bouey, President
Catalyst Strategic Consultants Ltd.

Calgary, AB // Phone: 403.777.1144


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