Life lived under general anesthetics is no life at all. To live, we must feel. To heal - and bring healing - we must know pain personally.
It isn’t the size, but the scale, that is so alluring.
This is my conviction.
Scale is what makes place. Scale is what overwhelms the senses in Las Vegas. Scale is what awes someone over open ocean. Scale is what stuns us at the foot of great peaks.
Scale makes place. And scale that is so unlike our own is the allure of places we cannot re-create with strip centers, neon lights, and more asphalt.
Scale is achieved over time and at great odds with itself. It is simultaneously organic and artificial. It is hope and desperation. It is more in less. It is scale, not size, that is so alluring.
More than a century of gold mining has left towering piles of bleached mine waste, known as “tailings,” throughout Johannesburg’s landscape. The discovery of gold in 1886 led to it’s founding and transformed a small, isolated farming community into South Africa’s largest city. The extraction industry has been part of Johannesburg’s identity ever since, and the mountainous dumps have been a feature of the city so long that locals barely notice them.
“The tailings are the visual foundations of this important city,” says photographerJason Larkin whose project Tales From The City Of Gold digs into social, political and economic forces rooted in the 19th century. “I don’t think many residents even think of them as being made by hand. They see them as just part of the ‘natural’ backdrop to the city.”
But they’re more than scenery. They may be a toxic time bomb.
When I was living in Auckland Park, Johannesburg, there was this cell tower painted brown and green, adorned with false foliage. It was brilliant. It blended into the towering blue gums around it, rising almost imperceptibly above them as a monument to the evolution of digital over natural.
I actually think of that cell tower pretty often.
When I think of it, I think of all of the things I miss in the rush of life. I think of the beauty that is hiding in plain sight all around me.
I somehow miss the cuddles from my still innocent girls, the look of deep affection from my wife, and the proud, assuring words from a friend.
I still regularly overlook the profundity of hot water, electricity, motorized transport, and abundant caffeine. I skip over the joys of sunrises, sunset, and sunlight in general.
(Get to the point, Kyle.)
Life is brilliant. And this brilliance is often hiding in plain sight.
In preparing for my wife’s recent trip to Johannesburg, I found myself digging through multiple bags power converters and voltage adapters looking for the familiar South African shape.
In doing so, I got to thinking about how indispensable such a tool was for a traveler. In our connected world where seemingly everything we own must be plugged in and recharged nightly, how would one spend 10 days abroad in any semblance of modernity without and adapter? These adapters have become essential for the journey. These 9-ounce chunks of plastic are quietly one of the most important parts of a successful trip. The most valuable of the adapters are the universal adapters, the ones that aren’t designated to particular regions, but have all of the regions baked into some Frankenstein-like hull. More than indispensable, these little adapters are quite nearly invaluable to the traveler.
Indispensable. Essential. Invaluable.
Around the same time as I was preparing for my wife’s trip, someone asked me what qualities I’d come to see as truly important for young leaders. To a bit of my own surprise, I responded quickly and without the normal litany of well-known leadershippy-type qualities. Instead I went straight to a quality I’d only recently begun to appreciate. I’d only recently learned how indispensable, essential, and invaluable these people are in our organizations.I was, of course, speaking of…
I was speaking to the need to be able to morph with the years, to grow into new roles, and to roll with the inevitable punches. And the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became. The era of specialization in many industries is fast ending. And the era of a man (or woman) taking a job and doing that same job for 40 years before retiring to a healthy pension…well, that era has been gone since the days of E.T. and Hasselhoff’s Knight Rider.
These are the days of changing responsibilities, evolving job titles, and multi-skilled workers. Organizations will have needs in five years that literally don’t exist anywhere in the world today. Some new technology or typology will come along and make it necessary.
Think about all of the people currently pecking away at a keyboard who are paid, full-time social media managers. They didn’t study to be in that field because that field didn’t exist when they were studying for a career. It just showed up. And then talented people jumped in and wrangled that sucker into a neat, little (high-paying) job.
Consider the mess they jumped into. No rules, no description, no precedent. So the first social media managers didn’t get hired as such. They were accountants, project managers, administrative assistants, and art directors who decided to take on a side project. They saw change. They adapted. They now lead because of it. And when the next tidal shift occurs, guess who will be leading that charge?
The most adaptable among us.
What creates real-time, short-term value is an employee who can do the thing they were hired to do really well. What creates a long-term, value-adding employee is one who can do what they were hired to do really well and can do six other things (including some that don’t exist yet) with reasonable competence. More than that, these long-term value employees look at a growth curve like an F1 driver looks at an S-turn in between two straight-aways. It may require a shift and deceleration to navigate the chicane, but it’ll be a blast learning how to master the angles and the acceleration out of it will be pure, full-throttle excitement.
Your boss will change. Can you adapt to the new reality? Your best employee will leave. Can you adapt to the hole they create? Your best idea will fail. Can you adapt to living out second best? Your best predictions will be so far from true. Can you adapt to the days that are coming that no one can foresee?
If you are adaptable, you’ll not only be fine. You’ll be leading soon enough.
The siren slowly gains volume. You check your mirrors, but are quick to dismiss the emergency. Out of sight, out of mind…
Your boss is harping on you. You look at your productivity, justifying your working existence and largely dismiss the boss’ sniping. Must just be having a bad day…
Your spouse is nagging you again. You think through all of things you DO manage to get done and decide to ignore the gripes. Always something to complain about…
But what if truth, no matter how distastefully it is delivered, is truth? What if that ambulance is bearing down and desperately needs through? What if your boss is trying to save you from yourself - and save your job in the process? What if your spouse is only nagging because you ignored polite pleading for so long?
Truth comes at us in any number of ways. Just because we don’t like the delivery method, it doesn’t mean we should ignore the information coming through. Just because the messenger is wailing or harping or nagging doesn’t mean the message need not be heard.
Where is truth coming into your life? And what are you doing with it?
Preached Proverbs/Friends @GracePointSA & led a sing-along (!!!) about whiskey & beer…