Evolving Leadership Through Paradox
10 years ago

We’ve started doing this in the team, we’ve built a culture where everybody is starting to hold this paradox together with each other. So we know what each other’s genius is and we know what people are working towards and it’s just phenomenal, and then all of a sudden screw-ups, failures, none of that is bad. It’s all a learning experience. It’s all part of the process, all part of the journey, and it’s just magical the stuff that happens from it.

—Andy Drish

Andy said this to me in an interview I did with him recently. That happens to be my favorite paradox—to hold and play the leadership paradigm as a relationship paradigm. This moment and you and everything in it is exactly perfect how it is. It needs no changing, no modification of any kind to add to or subtract to its perfection.

Present Perfection and Leadership

A lot of our eastern religious cultures are all about teaching you how to be in the moment and be presently perfect, but a lot of our western cultures are the opposite side of that paradox. And the opposite side of that paradox is something equally beautiful and it’s the evolutionary drive itself.

It’s that force of evolution that says, I believe that you can become even more. I believe that we can all evolve. It’s an ever-changing dynamic universe that never stays the same and is always evolving towards more and more and more complexity and more knowing of itself.

When you can hold that paradox in a healthy way—that you’re presently perfect exactly how you are and with the evolutionary force—I believe that you, we, us can be more and evolve more. And without one eroding the other.

Think about how compelling a leader you become, which you’re seeing first hand. Think about you in a relationship just to broaden and cross contextualize this idea. There’s this beauty in that kind of paradox as leadership, which I often also refer to as mother love and father love.

We love differently. It’s not a gender thing, like women can only love this way, men can only love that way. But there’s this mother, feminine love of present perfection and this father, paternal love of evolutionary drive and I believe in you.

As long as you’re holding them both as true, they don’t appear as a paradox at all. They appear as truth with a capital T. They appear the way that you’re perceiving more the nature of the universe or at least getting closer to it. There’s no separation. It’s just one thing.

The Epicure Vs. The Stoic

evolving leadership through paradox

© Tommy Chheng – Attribution License

One possible orientation is that as an epicure I ignore or compartmentalize planning and future in order to get pleasure now. In other words, the epicure goes, I’m going to eat this donut. I’m going to ignore the long-term negative effects so that I can enjoy it right now and I have to actively shut off a part of experience in order to thrive in enjoyment. Stoic does the same thing.

The stoic goes, I’m going to not enjoy now. I’m going to sacrifice my enjoyment now in order to get my enjoyment later. But both of those paths are eventually bankrupt and unsatisfying. They both occur as a sacrifice and both of them are actually taking you out of the full experience.

However, imagine a fervent epicure who is completely 100% pleasure driven for the now, but is also deeply considerate of all future possible effects, not just for themselves, but for all life and for all existence. So that person could actually not derive pleasure from anything that would cause pleasure now, but proportionally could cause harm later or could cause harm to someone else.

If you’re present to the negative effect you’re causing, you can no longer derive pleasure from it. But if you hold the beauty of both not one is right and the other wrong, but rather both are beautiful and hold that to be true, you can use it as a rope ladder. You’ll climb up into the consciousness where you have full awareness of the future and you actually enjoy the maximum pleasure now that is also maximum pleasure in the future.

I engage in no act that sacrifices now and no act that sacrifices the future. This can manifest a new creativity about options that weren’t even there when you were trying to choose between eating the donut or not eating the donut. You might realize, what actually is more pleasurable right now is sex or is self-expression or creativity.

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