A WORLD OF NO PROMISES
The sun finally came out the other day and the temperature soared past 70 degrees. Birds were singing, my flowers have started to bloom, and I was delighted to spend time outside enjoying the springtime weather.
Unfortunately, when I returned inside and turned on the television again, it suddenly felt like “Winter is Coming,” as they predict in the popular Game of Thrones show. It seems as if every hour of every day, we are confronted with another example of a seemingly dysfunctional world, one marked less by hope and optimism and more by confusion, controversy, and chaos.
In just the first quarter of 2018, we have witnessed the Parkland shooting, as well as almost daily acts of violence on St. Louis’ streets. We’ve been bombarded with tales of sexism and sexual harassment in Hollywood and even here in our own state. We tune in daily to learn of the latest staff turmoil and turnover at the White House– the ongoing Mueller investigation– and allegations of Russian involvement in our elections. Then there is the ongoing battle over DACA, a missile scare in Hawaii, budding trade wars, and the roller coaster that is our stock market. Plus, there are the recent Facebook troubles, the shuttering of Toys R Us (which is certainly depressing for the younger generation), and the revelation that the plastic trash in the ocean stretches across an area larger than Texas.
We are not immune to bad news on the local front either. There’s Governor Greiten’s troubles, Express Scripts being sold and Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto, the Blues missing the playoffs, and St. Louis falling out of the Top 20 among the largest US cities.
All in all, it’s enough to make one want to crawl back into bed and hide until it all goes away.
Of course, we can’t do that because life goes on. Frustrated and depressed though we may be by current events, we have to carry on. I’m reminded of a story by Paulo Coelho, The Devil, and Miss Prym, in which he wrote, “When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. (It is) time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
The fact that so much has happened in such a short time supports the belief that we live in a world of no guarantees. A few years ago, I had the privilege to listen to the late management/leadership guru — Warren Bennis — address the challenges that people face in a world of no guarantees. He shared six points he found on a company’s bulletin board, which speak to the corporate culture in our country today:
- We can’t promise you how long we’ll be in business.
- We can’t promise you that we won’t be bought by another company.
- We can’t promise that there will be room for promotion.
- We can’t promise that your job will exist until you reach retirement.
- We can’t promise that the money will be available for your pension.
- We can’t expect your undying loyalty and we are not sure we want it.
Bennis’ point was that there is a changing dynamic among corporations, who are no longer willing to make the kind of promises that corporations have historically been known to offer. So, how do workers develop the psychological fortitude, leadership and managerial skills needed to navigate this perilous landscape?
Some may find Warren Bennis’ perspective yet another sign of the societal decay we are facing. I, however, find it refreshing and realistic. True, employees, especially millennials, will face a very complicated business environment in which there are no promises. But, knowing that there are no guarantees and having realistic expectations is the first step to dealing with chaos and change. When change is the only constant, we can plan accordingly and remain open to new ideas and new directions. As the late, great Stephen Hawking told us, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
Adapting to change in a chaotic world that offers no guarantees will require not only intelligence but patience, persistence, and creativity. Those are qualities that our American society is built upon, and I am confident that they remain our path to better days ahead.
I take joy in seeing our young people expressing their views openly and loudly through their nationwide anti-gun advocacy. I marvel at the strength of the Me Too movement and the courage of women to speak up for their rights. I marvel at the technological achievements our country consistently delivers, symbolized perhaps by Elon Musk’s Tesla rocketing into outer space.
Finally, I look forward to the warmth that Mother Nature and our own good natures have in store for us. As we see with the weather, there are no promises or guarantees, but there is always hope.