It’s Friday evening that I’m writing these words. You may read this text on other days. It’s how we connect through time. Your day, whatever it is, connects to my Friday. To the senses, I’m experiencing.
I’m sitting on a balcony in the north of Iran with a cool breeze in the air and a cloudy sky, with the view you see in the picture below.
The time has stopped here. I’m detached from the work and experiencing a pause. It’s a time for reflection. Not the kind of sitting to reflect. Most of the time I’m playing with Tara my 2 years old daughter. She may not know but she’s helping me to quiet my mind from the very noisy days I had.
When I’m working, my time is filled with meetings with clients. Usually, I meet CEOs who want to improve their organization's performance, want to develop their leaders, and want to create and design new strategic directions to increase value, profit, or market share. Most of us are in a go-and-get economy.
One month ago a friend came to me and told me he was frustrated. He told:
I want to build a wooden cottage in the middle of a forest and live there. I’m sick of living in this city (Tehran) with a high amount of traffic and pollution. In this city, we have to compete every day. Compete to arrive, compete to take advantage of economic opportunities and even compete on getting out of the city at weekends.
Well, he’s right. These are the rules of living in a megacity. We were talking and I mentioned it’s like sitting on a high-speed train. You are moving so fast that you can’t see the outside scenes. You just can feel that you are passing from woods, desert, or mountains but you can’t see the details. You can’t make sense from the outside.
In such a high-speed transition, we may forget why we took the train? We may forget why we are here?
To understand the situation, to understand why we are here and what it looks like, we need a break. Sometimes we need to take off the high-speed train, maybe at a small station to make sense of where we are. That station is thinking space. A space to ask ourselves those important questions.
Why do I take the train?
Thinking is the place where intelligent action begins. We pause long enough to look more carefully at a situation, to see more of its character, to think about why it’s happening, to notice how it’s affecting us and others.
- Meg Wheatley
Our economy is based on competition. There's an assumption that competition creates value. The competition economy is based on numbers. We’ve trained ourselves to understand numbers and make decisions with those numbers. We monitor sales numbers, profit margin, market cap, likes, and even count the number of tasks we’ve done during the day to feel productive and valuable.
The competition economy lacks the time to pause and reflect because we are always in a game to increase the value of numbers.
Numbers are the simplest forms of understanding for us. It gives us a feeling about good or bad. But numbers barely tell the stories. They don’t talk about intentions. There are lots of stories between one and two. Between all those numbers.
I work with a CEO who has a habit. From time to time he reserves a room at a hotel far from his office to spend some time there. To just walk, think and reflect.
The act of slowing things down is a kind of bravery. Because we need to overcome our hasty intentions. Because we need time to forget about those numbers. Because we get used to the status quo and you better know than me how frightening is to leave all those daily routines.
While my conversation with frustrated friends reached the end I asked him:
Do you want to move to the woods and live there? Is it intentional?
He replied: I don’t know. Maybe I’m too tired.
I told: What if you rent one of those cottages in the woods and spend a week there?
You know buddy, sometimes we need to ask that question: why do we take that train?
Sometimes we don't need to leave where we are. We're just tired and confused. It takes a brave act of pause.
Amir, Thanks for sharing your reflection on such a hectic lifestyle we may immerse in. Competition and taking advantage are tempting, but those who can reflect on each in a better context may survive. At times, the context would be even more influential on our living experience. I thought choosing a context is a personal preference; however, not all classes can change their context in many societies. I suppose small communities can be the answer to at least share thoughts and create a thriving context.
It's really frightening to leave our daily routines.