“We are lost—as a global culture, as organizations, and perhaps as individual leaders. We are in new territory, this brave new world that operates at hyper speed, hyper stress, and hyper irrationality. Our old maps for creating capacity no longer apply; in fact they only get us more lost. So I’ve been focused on how we get “unlost,” how we open to the information that will tell us where we really are, the very information we need to create new maps that offer us a way forward. Laurence Gonzales in Deep Survival, lists the four behaviors of people who are lost.
1. People who are lost at first deny they’re lost. They’re confident that they do know where they are, they just can’t find any familiar signs. Gradually, confronted with strange and unfamiliar sights, anxiety seeps in. They speed up their activities, urgently wanting to verify that they’re not lost.
2. At this point, doubt and uncertainty creep in. People become angry and impatient, pushing aside any information that doesn’t confirm their map. They become desperate to find the smallest scrap of information that proves they know where they are. They reject all other information; they treat as enemy the very information that would help them get unlost.
3. When this strategy fails, people reach the point when they can no longer deny that they’re lost. Fear and panic set in; stressed and scared, their brains stop working. They can’t think straight, so every action they take is senseless, only creating more exhaustion and more problems.
4. By now, confused and panicked, people search frantically for any little sign that’s familiar, the smallest shred of evidence that makes them feel unlost. But they are lost, so this strategy fails and they continue to deteriorate.
Gonzales writes, “Like it or not, you must make a new mental map of where you are or you will die. To survive, you must find yourself. Then it won’t matter where you are. Not being lost is not a matter of getting back to where you started from; it is a decision not to be lost wherever you happen to find yourself. It’s simply saying, ‘I’m not lost, I’m right here’”. Being lost is frightening only until we admit that we are lost. Once we stop denying our situation, fear dissipates.
From Margaret Wheatley, “Lost and Found in a Brave New World” in Leader to Leader.