Cliches are fast to harden during a pandemic.
“In these uncertain times.”
“When things go back to normal.”
“When the economy re-opens.”
The root word for “normal” gives reference to a carpenter’s square. A tool used so the angles will be standardized and without fluctuation.
Although the carpenter’s square of truth will not change, ever, in the crest of massive unrest, many other things will, and that is something to be excited about.
Around the 7th and 6th centuries BC, much of the Jewish population were banished from their home soil and sent to live deep in the desert of modern-day Iraq.
Imagine yourself and your family uprooted with no control and with no clarity in what will come next.
There are many who feel that way right now.
A declaration was made to the about-to-be displaced people in a concise charge,
“Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands.”
William Easterly, Professor of Economics at New York University, writes thoughtfully about the difference between Planners and Searchers in his important work The White Man’s Burden: Why The West’s Efforts To Aid The Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good.
Planners, Easterly writes, “announce good intentions but don’t motivate anyone to carry them out…raise expectations but take no responsibility for meeting them…determine what to supply…(sit) at the top lacking knowledge of the bottom…never hear whether the planner got what it needed.”
On the other side are the Searchers who, “find things that work and get some reward…accept responsibility for their actions…find out what is in demand…find out what the reality is at the bottom…find out if the customer is satisfied.”
Let’s call the next iteration of societal life the “something brand-new” season.
During this “something brand-new season” we would do well to have the mind of a Searcher.
According to Easterly, a Searcher…
- Admits not knowing the answer
- Engages trial and error
- Is connected to homegrown insiders
- Finds ways to get solutions to those who need and want them
- Obsesses about tangible benefits
In this “something brand-new” season, we can respond one of four ways…
First, we could take the backwards looking view knowing that this has never been a healthy strategy long term.
Second, we could stick our head in the sand, abdicating responsibility to others and just coasting through what “may or may not” happen.
Not a fan.
Third, we can try to master-plan the “something brand-new” season: because we are uncomfortable with what we don’t know.
We will try to fashion our own “something brand-new’ reality and seriously risk missing out on the genuine “brand-new” things that we could have never dreamed of!
Or, we could have our head on a swivel and be in a state of searching for those novel roads in the desert, and rivers in the badlands. Refreshing and helpful things that will arise in the most confounding places and people.
The fourth option feels the riskiest until we stop and realize that we have the freedom to dig in and invest in the novelty, innovation, and “something brand-new” reality.
Decades into the “something brand-new” reality for the Iraqi-placed (modern day Iraq) Jews, another charge came to them…
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
May we settle down in this “something brand-new” reality and build our family, our friendships, and our business…on purpose.
Scott Beebe is the founder of Business On Purpose, author of Let Your Business Burn: Stop Putting Out Fires, Discover Purpose, And Build A Business That Matters. Scott also hosts The Business On Purpose Podcast and can be found at mybusinessonpurpose.com.