Benevolence means being well meaning and showing kindness. It is an older word that became a bit disused. The concept however, I believe, is becoming very important in today’s world.
We are always wondering what are the motives behind the actions of people. In particular in the daily office world, this question is always lurking behind in our minds. And this is becoming increasingly so.
However we know that some people, and some actions, are only motivated by goodwill and kindness that does not seek anything specific in return. We struggle sometimes to recognize this fact in particular in today’s fast paced environment full of unknown motives.
Showing and recognizing benevolence is an essential element of goodwill and credibility. It is important sometimes to do some actions without seeking any advantage, just for the pleasure of helping, supporting, creating stuff.
How much benevolence do you demonstrate on a day-to-day basis?
In the Industrial Age, job title was very much one’s social identity, in particular related to the position in pyramidal organization charts. In many countries like France, the studies (university, degree) and grade achievements was also very much one’s identity. It is still the case at various levels.
However, this easy-to-relate identify definition will disappear in the Collaborative Age as the importance of conventional organizations will progressively disappear, and as we will be increasingly on our own without a fixed ‘job’, or at least only with temporary ones.
This situation creates a lot of stress on personal identity. It is thus a high barrier for those that hesitate to jump out of traditional organizations; or, those who get retrenched or lose their job and have to reinvent themselves. It is possibly one of the biggest stressors in society today.
One needs to realize how defining oneself in terms of job title and university degree is limiting. In particular after a few years’ experience, our personal identity is much more complex and full; and it involves both personal and professional elements. We need definitely to find other ways of expressing our complete identity. It could be through our own creations or on social media.
Transforming the way we express our identity is a mandatory skill for the Collaborative Age.
Our society seeks the Flawless Record. Our resumes have to be flawless and have no holes, and in general we are suspicious of people with any hint of controversy. However as Seth Godin reminds us, this is a paradox. Success only comes from creating things that are criticized.
Being criticized means that we try to move things forward. It means we have tried something new, something disruptive. As Seth Godin reminds us “If your goal is to be universally liked and respected and understood, then, it must mean your goal is to not do something that matters.”
I would like to add that it is great to be criticized and controversial as long as there is no integrity issue related to the matter (although sometimes adversaries might appeal to put our integrity, so that it is sometimes difficult to discern).
Flawless is not an objective. Consistent and courageous is. We need to choose – and maybe not make it through the usual filtering criteria of the Industrial Age!
Human behavior doesn’t always conform to what seems sensible to us, and that what seems sensible to us isn’t necessarily valuable in evaluating how a person thinks or acts.”
This makes any kind of judgment on people’s behavior difficult. As explained in the book in certain situations, suspension of judgment is required. That is the case for example during coaching, or during interviews to determine trustworthiness.
“Many years I sought happiness. […] I perceived that if I will do as well as I can the tasks for which life has made me, I shall find fulfillment, and a quiet lane of happiness for many years. Gladly I surrender myself to nature’s imperative of love and parentage, trusting to her ancient wisdom, and knowing that, as Dante learned when he entered Paradise, “La sua volontade è nostra pace — in her will and service is our peace””
Om Swami concludes: “Each one of us has a certain purpose. It can’t be and is not the same for everyone. Sometimes, we keep battling for a different life, hoping that we’ll have a life of our dreams by clearing all the hurdles in our present life.
The truth is, if Nature has given you a certain strength, talent, capability, whether you like it or not, it’ll put it to maximum use. No matter where you go or what you do, it’ll pull you back into your natural play field where you add the greatest value to its functioning and apparatus.”
Thus we’ve been warned and gently guided to find our happiness.
If we try new things and get out of our comfort zone we’ll be confronted by failure more than once. It is tough psychologically and practically to overcome failure. Still we always need to dig further to discover what is worth saving, or what nugget of success lies there in the rubbles.
Scott Adams concludes, “Failure always brings something valuable with it. I don’t let it leave until I extract that value.”. Do you have the discipline to do that?
The main reason according to him is the conservation of personal energy: “Goal-oriented people exist in a state of continuous pre-success failure at best, and permanent failure at worst if things never work out. Systems people succeed every time they apply their systems, in the sense that they did what they intended to do. The goals people are fighting the feeling of discouragement at each turn. The systems people are feeling good every time they apply their system. That’s a big difference in terms of maintaining your personal energy in the right direction”
I find this viewpoint very interesting and challenging. Establishing a system that works consistently and reliably allows to avoid focusing on challenging goals that might never be reached, and allows to focus on a daily routine that will bear fruit. Hence for 2016 I have decided to focus my effort more on setting up a system than setting goals. And you?
I find that it is a very interesting point of view that is worth considering. Mastering some technique is a way to elevate self-confidence, something that can found one’s identity, and become a real passion that defines oneself.
Passion would then not be just intrinsic, but develop as a response to external feedback.
Truth probably lies between those two opposites: we may be attracted by certain things irrespective of our experience or capabilities, and passion may develop around mastery of certain techniques as well. When both meet somehow, a miracle will occur. It is probably quite rare, and remarkable.
Seek your passion in what you master, and master what interests you. And find the sweet spot at the confluence. Do you see it?
According to Scott Adams, this advice would be an illusion, fostered by the fact that successful people assign their success to passion but it is not proven that it was the origin of their success: “It’s easy to be passionate about things that are working out, and that distorts our impression of the importance of passion”
Moreover, he believes that passionate people are less susceptible to be successful, because “passionate people are more likely to take big risks in the pursuit of unlikely goals, and so you would expect to see more failures and more huge successes among the passionate“.
Finally, he remarks that “If you ask a billionaire the secret of his success, he might say it is passion, because that sounds like a sexy answer that is suitably humble. But after a few drinks I think he’d say his success was a combination of desire, luck, hard work, determination, brains, and appetite for risk“.
This point of view is definitely contrarian in a world where ‘follow your passion’ is a basic advice (in particular since Steve Jobs “follow your heart” famous speech in 2005), and I think it should make us think a bit about this element of popular culture.
It is true that passion only can’t be the single recipe for success. It is also important to have skills that can be sold, and sometimes people are very happy having their passion develop outside a more common salaried job.
The next time you see ‘follow you passion’ advice, stop a few minutes to think if that is reasonable when it comes to what you are really passionate about!
In the excellent book ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind‘, Yuval Noah Harari writes: “One of history’s few iron laws is that luxuries tend to become necessities and to spawn new obligations. Once people get used to a certain luxury, they take it for granted. Then they begin to count on it. Finally they reach a point where they can’t live without it.”
In the book he applies this law from the very start of the Agricultural Age to all sorts of new belongings and constraints imposed by the sedentary lifestyle linked to having fields to care for. But of course it is also widely applicable today to all sorts of modern life items, from cars to mobile phones. They were initially luxuries and have become things we can’t live without.
Today we can’t live without a number of contraptions that impose on us a tremendous burden in terms of maintenance and replacement. We can’t live without them because society also takes them for granted. For example, not having a mobile phone nowadays for professionals is something of an heresy!
It is at the same time the result of progress, and it comes also with obligations and constraints. The thing is to keep some balance so as to not become hostages to all those luxuries. How do you fare?
Following up on our post on ‘How Leadership is a Relationship‘ on how you can’t be a leader without a relationship with others, one of the quotes from Barry Posner’s talk was that “Leadership begins with belief in yourself“.
Now this made me think about the importance of self-confidence in leadership. There is an issue though – in my experience, it is difficult to reach a 100% self-confidence, but in any case at least a significant amount of self-confidence must be projected out to the team for leadership to work.
How can we manage self-doubt at the same time we need to project self-confidence? It might be one of hardest issues in leadership, in particular in situations where failure is quite possible (e.g. in a startup or during some experimental project).
Authenticity is, I believe, the solution. Authenticity with oneself (acknowledging one’s doubts), and authenticity with the team (acknowledging uncertainties). However it is always a difficult path to be sufficiently open while at the same time not be discouraging. The solutions lies in the quality of the personal relationship with the team, that can acknowledge difficulties.