Maybe we’ve moved beyond the first step of the grieving process and we’re looking for a few anchors to steady our organizations and ourselves as we confront this post-election ‘reality’. I stumbled on this 2012 article about the relevance of the teachings of Chinese martial arts — and these 4 concepts:
- Assume a posture of relaxed readiness
- Do what you need to do
- We are defined in relationship with others
- To change with change is the changeless state.
Here’s my translation to our work promoting social and economic equity:
Assume a posture of relaxed readiness
Meaning: Resist the urge to tense up and withdraw but stay keenly alert to potential threats.
Translation: Constantly scan the environment and develop multiple scenarios with clarity about what we know and don’t know – be taut not tense, ready but not reactive, offensively defensive.
Do what you need to do. – no more
Meaning: Pare away the non-essential and focus on your core.
Translation: Revisit your values, vision, focus and theory of change. Be really clear about why you’re here and what’s most important for your organization to do. Make sure this resonates throughout. Stop trying to open up doors that probably won’t yield – look for new opportunities in this shifting environment.
We are defined in our relationships to others
Meaning: Nonprofits are most vital as part of a larger whole, not as isolated entities.
Translation: This is the time to build a cohesive and savvy sector and move from isolation to true partnering. But it’s also time to create the space to listen. The pundits say American is more divided than ever before. I don’t believe this. But I do believe that we need to understand why people voted for Trump and what they want to see happen in their communities. Let’s use our workplaces and communal spaces to understand what moves us and where there are common bonds. I’d like Trump voters to understand my grief and fears – but I need to make the time to really hear what keeps them awake at night.
To change with change is the changeless state
Meaning: Change is a constant. How we react is the variable.
Translation: Some people love change; more resist it. Our job as leaders is to ensure our organizations are both anchored in our mission and values — and posed to change as needed. The post election changes we will see probably seem horribly wrong. But we have to also see them as opportunities.
For example –
I do a lot of work with rural communities that, in the South, are akin to the nation’s ‘rustbelt’. Most of those people and places are being left behind by change with no new visions to give them hope. Many (if white) voted for Trump. But I see this as an opportunity for rural to finally be heard – and the many on-the-ground efforts that are bringing rural communities together around new ways of working – welcoming immigrants, embracing locally-based businesses, recognizing the economic impacts of the public and non-profit sectors and seriously figuring out how to retrain older workers and attract younger ones. There are answers here – we have to listen and lift them up and seize the opportunity.
That’s it for now. I’m heading for my local Kung Fu academy for some more inspiration.