I’ve always shied away from calling myself a philosopher. It’s snuck into my bio from time to time, but I feel brash using it to describe myself. Pretentious. But recently a friend graciously indulged my inner philosopher, opening in me a new permission to take up that label. Just in time….
Steve’s a fellow social entrepreneur whom I met about a decade ago. For as long as I’ve known him, he’s been interested in some of the same questions that inspire me: What does it mean to run a good business? What is a healthy definition of wealth? What is a good life?
Over the years, Steve and I have shared of our ideas, our experience, our successes and our failures. We’ve struck a friendship that puzzles many of our fellow entrepreneurs, in that while our companies have been competitors, we’ve also been incredibly open with one another about our plans and performance. We’ve talked a lot about the stresses and strains of entrepreneurship, exploring more than once whether it was time to ‘throw in the towel.’ And we’ve celebrated together as we navigated challenge, and settled again into smoother seas.
Recently, Steve has launched a new venture, Nature of Work, and a new podcast, NOW with Steve Rio. NOW is a platform for rich, meaningful conversations and a portal to practical wisdom. For this week’s episode, which we recorded a few months ago, Steve invited me into a conversation about life, business, ‘the next economy,’ our interconnectedness, and more.
Neither of us could have predicted that the topics we would cover would be so relevant and vital to the moment we’re in today, as our conversation is published.
“Be joyful, though you’ve considered all the facts.” — Wendell Berry
Since our conversation, COVID-19 has stormed around the planet, putting pause to millions of lives, and taking others forever. What is being revealed to us in this terrifying, tumultuous time is the fragility of our economies, our organizations, and in many cases ourselves. It is a moment of apokalupsis—the Greek word meaning to uncover or reveal, and from which the English word ‘apocalypse’ is derived.
As so many of us are frightened to protect our health, as we wonder how to put food on the table for our families, we are at the same time wondering what the world will look like ‘post-COVID.’ None of us alive today has seen such an overwhelming, global pandemic, so we have perhaps not imagined the potential of a new era. Of upheaval on a global, societal scale.
How are we to respond? How are we to be in this time—the “great pause”?
I’ve been thinking about my responsibility….
With privilege comes responsibility. What’s your responsibility, in this time?
I want to start by acknowledging the great privilege I have in this time. To take pause to be contemplative, while others are sick, or caring for loved ones who may not live through this pandemic, is inherently unfair. This makes me take the question very seriously: what is my responsibility—now in this moment and more broadly in my life?
Steve and I talked at length about this, and I spoke to my own sense of purpose, which I’ve articulated as ‘to host juicy, generative conversations in service to life.’ Juicy in that they’re courageous and deep; they don’t sidestep the hard stuff. Generative in that they search for something new—a better or healthier path forward. And in service to life in that they’re about connection, support, and making a positive impact.
What conversation do we need to have?
During these past few weeks, Viktor Frankl’s words have been on my mind: “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.” Frankl wrote during another time of horror, and the timelessness of this quote echoes now, these eight decades later.
Each of us is experiencing this outbreak in our own way. Perhaps you’re feeling anxious. Perhaps you find yourself frustrated by little things that tick you off. Perhaps that frustration bubbles up and out as a criticism of those near and dear to you. Or perhaps you shut down, going quiet, as if you might wall yourself off from it all.
Or perhaps you’ve recovered the capacity to notice that space between stimulus and response. Perhaps instead of reacting, you’re able to respond with purpose and in a way that manifests your fuller values and intentions. Perhaps in this way you’re better able to influence the outcomes of this moment, for you and for those around you.
As we navigate this crisis in ourselves, in our organizations, and in our societies, what will it mean for us to respond, instead of reacting? To manifest the values that unite us, rather than those that fragment us?
How will you respond to this moment of crisis? How will you lead? How will you serve?
Who do you want to be, as we emerge together from this hard, frightening time?
Will you take up the labels that you’ve been hesitant to give yourself?
I will, if you will….
Mike Rowlands is President & CEO at Junxion. He holds a degree in philosophy and political science, so he really does have every right to call himself ‘a philosopher.’ Reach him for a ‘juicy, generative conversation’ via [email protected]
Access the full podcast here.