Leading through Crisis with Wisdom
Niran Jiang, March 2011
Introduction: Simple Logic
The human world is flooded with tragic events, locally and globally, with an ever increasing speed and quantity, at a most pervasive scope and penetration. From morning to dawn, we are showered with horrifying news top to toe from nearby and far away with the most sensational details. Blood is drifting with the wind from the four corners of earth, brushing the fear of loss and death across our faces no matter of our colours, races or classes. There is no safe place to hide no matter who you are and how much you have.
So we cope. We numb our senses by flooding them with sensory overload. We bury our faces under mortgage and work. We count our blessings by our neighbours’ downfalls. We fantasize our superiority at the judgement day. For those who feast on greed, they glee with all the opportunities to make a buck from a drop of tear. Yet for a few brave souls who deem their missions to be world warriors and saviours, they spring to actions as if there is no tomorrow.
Now what? I have the fortune to work with many of these brave souls with endearing qualities and sharp minds around the globe during the past two decades. I learnt a great deal from who they are, their life stories and their work experiences. On the odd occasions when we are able to slump back into our chairs and take a detached look at our services, we can’t stop but lament about what little difference we have made to the world through our work. We dig and dig, inside and outside, with all the mind and heart capacity we have, deep into the night, but find no way out. So we go to bed, wake in the morning and plunge ourselves back into what we do every day, and call that transformation.
What else? When I look into the eyes of my daughter, I have no option but to continue trying with all I am to provide a safe haven for her generation. Often I feel like a mother hen who flips her wings with fierce calls trying to frighten off the tigers around her nest. What invincible and noble instincts, yet the acts are futile and doomed by design. Look around, it is easy to see we are creating more problems than solutions every minute. Crisis in human systems are appearing everywhere all at once, the faster we go, the more entangled we become.
Therefore I begin my search for a better way to change the world. Billions of years of universal intelligence in encoded in us at least from the moment of big bang. This fact gives the glimpse of hope, the possibility for us to find a way forward through crisis, like life has done many times before. I am doing my part by travelling back to my ancestral lines to borrow advices from the long departed, by sensing within my bones and marrows to activate discernment, and by radiating without among us to test resonance coded by the universal intelligence in all life forms.
Reflection: The Nature of Crisis
The outburst of a major crisis, be it of natural, man-made or a combination of the two, often sends out ripples of fear across the globe. Crisis threatens our sense of survival and compels our attention for actions. Fight or flight is our usual modes of response, instinctually programmed in the human psyche, to protect our survival. Yet, it may not be a most effective option.
Crisis is a symptom expressing tension in a system. Tension is a manifestation of accumulated energy stifled and stuck. Yet energy is the essence of change, as energy compels movement and movement life. Such energy can be detected and harvested, transforming a crisis into desirable outputs. Hence the Chinese saying: “there is an opportunity in every crisis.”
To transform a crisis, we must first understand it. Each crisis has its unique energetic dimensions and dynamics, serving a specific purpose as a balancing act for greater good. Within each crisis, there is a big picture, either we comprehend or not. For example, the extinction of dinosaurs enabled the birth of the mammal kingdom. The global economic crisis may induce a new system of wealth and resource redistribution. Attempting to see the big picture allows us to stand back to examine the purpose and root cause of each crisis, so that we may work with it rather than against it.
Resonance: Crisis Strategy
There are three distinctive categories of crisis to be examined and discerned, and each with its strategies to harvest its energy:
This type of crisis is typified by its sudden outburst, its deafening loudness and its electrifying presence. It may be a macro event such as the US subprime mortgage crisis or a micro event of the Exxon executive scandal. Such crisis commends attention near and far, and is news worthy with its glamorous appearance. It travels at lightning speed, and often its bark is worse than its bite. The purpose of it is to warn against systematic issues and to arouse and awake corrective actions. Its nature is creative, movement-inducing and life-giving.
Resilience is the most effective vehicle to work with it, and there are six operational strategies to harvest its energy and opportunity.
This type of crisis is characterised by its enveloping pervasiveness, its stubborn appearance and its seemingly impassability. It can be global i.e. climate change, national i.e. health care system, community i.e. local crime or organisational i.e. bureaucracy. Such crisis is up-close and personal, encountered at every pathway, at every level, by all involved. It cannot be ignored, and there is no logical pathways to fight against it or flee from it. Its purpose is to block the churning of an obsolete system and stop its business as usual operations. Its nature is pervasive, movement-blocking and life-recycling.
Stillness is the primary antidote to work with it, and there are six operational strategies to harvest its energy and opportunity.
This type of crisis is marked by its free flowing forms, its ever shifting depth and its escalating dangers. Examples include collective crisis such as the Middle East conflicts, global terrorism or pandemics as well as individual crisis such as corporate job cuts or personal depression. Such crisis has a vicious cycle, inducing terror and despair to sink and drown one’s spirit. Its purpose is to dissolve and destroy a decaying system, together with its mindsets, belief structures and identity. Its nature is erosive, disasters-inducing and heart-wrenching.
Compassion is the essential pathway to work with it, and there are six operational strategies to harvest its energy and opportunity.
Indeed there are opportunities in each crisis, but we have to choose to ride it and harvest it with wisdom. Otherwise the crisis will run its natural course against us, swallowing us up and spitting us out with no mercy. This is how nature works which is by design not anthropocentric, and human systems are no exception.
The three categories of crisis exist not in isolation. They are live forces of nature, innately connected working together to replenish, renew and rebuild systems and lives for the greater good. Their forms are not fixed but transitory, and are propelled to shift shapes in response to what is most appropriate as balancing acts of nature. They are conscious and intelligent forces, not random events, operating at multiple dimensions with the same universal intelligence coding as we are.
Crisis increases its intensity if not attending effectively, and therefore dials up its knot of impact and destruction from shock to block to abyss. The significant crisis facing human is only at its beginning onset, even so severe and massive they are. Overall they are operating at the level of shock so far globally leaving most people unhurt in their daily life. If we do not work effectively with our collective crisis immediately, its trapped energy shall accumulate continuously to bring abysmal destructions to us all.
This is not a fate but a choice, and we can choose life rather than death. Our alternative path is to wake up from our ego, collaborate with nature, become our inspirations, and harvest prosperity with and for all lives on this planet.