Being the Board

by Simon Goland, December 20, 2011

Today’s Reflection is about what Benjamin and Rosamund Zander call “Being the Board,” in their timeless masterpiece – The Art of Possibility.

I think this particular chapter, or practice as they call it, should come with a warning. It needs to say something along the lines of, “Warning: Once you read this chapter and truly grok it, life will never be the same again. You will never be able to blame anyone for anything, whether you like it or not. Especially when not. You will have to face the fact that you play the lead part in anything that is happening in your life, whether it is happening to you directly, or to those around you. Especially when you don’t like what is happening to them. You will forever forfeit the sentence, ‘I had nothing to do with it’ in any flavour or variation of it. The scope of your personal ownership and accountability will expand exponentially, and oftentimes, this will suck – while you are learning to accept and own this expanded scope. Back doors will permanently close. Everything around you will become a mirror, reflecting your oh-so-non-flattering blind spots of yours. This truth will set you free, eventually. But first, it will really piss you off. Think again before you turn the page, and read at your own risk!”

Something along these lines.

“Of all the virtues we can learn, no trait is more useful, more essential for survival, and more likely to improve the quality of life than the ability to transform adversity into an enjoyable challenge.” – Mihalyi Csikszentmihaly

I have been using this book in teaching a variety of courses over the years, in areas of Coaching, Leadership and Personal Development, and alike. The book is a gem, and the various chapters and practices have always been tremendously valuable. Both to students and to myself. Right now, apparently, the Being the Board chapter needed to be a reminder for me. And not for the first time. Strange how we tend to forget some lessons…

In the classroom, Being the Board means that everything any participant is going through, has a direct connection to what I am doing and, even more importantly, who I am being in that moment. This has been a very rich lesson to keep learning, and I am glad to say that it has slowly been finding its way into my “classroom.” Yet, this might be the easier part of the lesson, merely the preparation for the next phase.

I have known about this particular lesson in various other contexts as well. Still, there really is nothing like a relationship to bring the lesson “closer to home.” As “in your face” close to home, staring me in the eye, noses touching, breaths merging into one. And, when I am facing such a reminder, the answer to “Have I really caused it?” is not the easiest nor pleasant to absorb.

“The Universe operates on a basic principle of economics: everything has its cost. We pay to create our future, we pay for the mistakes of the past. We pay for every change we make… And we pay just as dearly if we refuse to change.” – Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson (Dune: House Harkonnen)

The truth is slowly and ever so gently setting me free. Yet, because of the cyclical nature of my life, I suspect it is not for the last time.

A sunny week to you all, inside and out.