On being human

I really enjoyed Tom Jacob’s post The Four Habits of the Highly Unconsolable. He weaves together his own experiences with some inspired quotes from sources as diverse as Robert Frost and Monty Python. It’s a great evocation of how complex rich and frustrating all of our lives can be. Do read the whole thing, but here’s a snippet:

There are some things that arise and emerge from some part of us that is unknown and that are probably better for not being known or even knowable. The idea and feeling of not knowing is one of the best things in the world; to relinquish the reins of knowing and control to the vagaries of whim is a lovely, impossible, and necessary thing. This, in my experience, is what love is and is like. Not knowing what you’re doing or where it’s going and not really caring. It’s all so full of history and memory and nostalgia and hope.

Just managing one human being (oneself) is no straightforward concern. I certainly see myself as a mass of contradictions and I have come to the conclusion that everyone else is, if you scratch beneath the surface. A quick browse through David McRaney’s You Are Not So Smart provides plenty of evidence that our understanding of ourselves is really quite limited and flawed.

Call me naive, but if managing just one person – my/yourself – is so challenging, managing more than one should really be at least as hard, challenging and paradoxical, shouldn’t it? And yet read most management literature and you mostly find it reduced to simplicity. Just establish five core values/key behaviours/whatevers and bob’s your uncle. Utter tosh… and tedious, banal tosh at that.

When “leaders” reduce life to this simplistic ideas, they invite their followers to join them in a denial of reality. These ideas promise to empower but really they have the opposite effect. I much prefer the way Tom Jacobs approaches the business of living.

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