Tranquillity in Chaos – Navigating the New Normal.

A blog update from Simon Kidney

It started around the 20th January 2013. We just didn’t know it then. Nine years later it is still going, with the conflict in Ukraine the latest eruption in what so many considered an established world order.

Did you know that less time elapsed between the T-Rex and the iPhone than between the first dinosaurs and the T-Rex? No? The ‘reflection points’ that a five year-old can give you are immense, simplistic yet profound. We are here for just a heartbeat in the world’s cycle.

Ah, so, back to 2013. What happened? As I recall David Cameron told the House of Commons that the British people must have their say on the future relationship with the EU. Whether in or out, they must have the vote. Subsequently the Conversative party won the forthcoming election, and we didn’t suffer chaos and confusion under Labour and, particularly, Ed Miliband. Phew.

The last nine years following that have been relatively quiet and calm. Honest.

Now of course we cannot blame the Brexit debate and some of the social divides it created for COVID 19, various invasions, global recessions, global supply chain shortages, energy crises and widespread anxiety but we can pinpoint it as a significant stake in the sand, a moment from which we can identify, bluntly, that ten years isn’t a long time in history. It is likely to have been the first time in generations where society had been so divided, yes or no, certainly the first time such polarisation has been coupled with social media, with the great expertise debates a familiar thing on feeds and threads. Everyone has an opinion.

Conversation is great, debate is great, both should be rational, considered and measured. More importantly it should be encouraged. The challenge with such black and white terms such as right and wrong is they discourage conversation. Nobody likes to be wrong; everyone wants to be right. Yet science, and the literature tells us, that you can be right and wrong at the same time. It tells us further that a good deal of the time the debate is far more generous in benefit than the conclusion. Furthermore, humans tend to invest their emotional capital much more wisely without risk of conflict. The human mind is tired and its emotional capital needs to be used sparingly. There is so much to think about and consider in today’s world. The brain is an organ but acts very much like a muscle. Recovery time is paramount. Bandwidth is currently at capacity and strained. Dopamine appears, on the face of it, to be in short supply. (Other friendly chemicals do exist, so don’t feel left out Serotonin, Endorphin or Oxytocin)

If you could indulge me briefly, when I was a boy I grew up with a poster in my lounge with the words from Desiderata, a poem by Max Ehrmann, from 1927. For ease I’ve copied and pasted for your consideration,

“GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

A text that is 95 years old, from a very different world (albeit inter war) from today but the same encouragements are relevant today as they were yesterday.

As an owner of a business that employees 250 people who rely on you daily, I can confess to ignoring Max’s words. But at a personal wellbeing cost. Following your own code, or a code like the above gives you your own personal strategy without which, aimlessness can manifest and a sense of purpose and belonging diminish.

If I can share some last thoughts to try and assist navigation through the chaos,

  • Take a break. Take a walk. Take time out. Remember to give your mind time to recover. Healthy body, healthy mind. You aren’t invincible as much as you like to think you are.
  • Social media is great for connecting but we are information rich and conversation poor. Manage it, delete it, mute it. Engage with channels that make you feel happy. Exclude channels that make you feel anxious.
  • The world is not normal. But normal is a perception. The world is now perfectly normally but it is a normal that we aren’t used to or comfortable with. Whilst it is important to have a say and utilise your freedom to air those views, freedom of speech isn’t freedom of consequence. Consider where the views are targeted and how perception, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
  • You can’t control the uncontrollable. You can only control how you react. We have become socially poor at managing our own risk, or at least considering risk vs reward. We can’t stop a Syrian, Libyan, Afghanistan, Ukraine invasion and war but we can empathise and demonstrate humanity. Controlling how we react will shape how others react, don’t underestimate your personal influence. History tells us that the good always does out. Take comfort that will never change.
  • Reset your own personal values of what good looks like. Is it realistic (I’m not expecting your own SWOT analysis!) Set yourself little, tiny wins. One today, two tomorrow. Make someone else smile. Write them a note. Everyone is involved in their own personal battles.

There are of course many more and the idea behind this blog is to inspire a little thinking, a little conversation and a little context.

The couch to 5k for some people is an absolute horrific thought, me included, but it sets realistic targets daily to improve your fitness.

The brain is no different. One smile today leads to two smiles tomorrow including making someone else smile, nothing beats that feeling. Before you know it, the chaos is normal, the resilience is stronger and you’re smiling. A bit like you’re doing now.

Embrace the new norm, and remember what opportunities there are in chaos.

 

Simon Kidney is Exec Chair of Robinson Manufacturing alongside other entrepreneurial activities across several sectors. Simon is currently researching entrepreneurial exit motivations through internal and external forces as a Doctoral student at Cranfield University School of Management.

 

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