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I Need Your Story, Not Your Solution.
How leadership has replaced elder-hood and crippled your capacity to learn
I find my sense of Self being flipped upside down yet again, as I continue to strip away everything I thought I knew about what has transpired over the past three years. Specifically my ideas and beliefs around leadership and Elder-hood.
I want to preface this by stating that I don’t claim to have the answers, but I am choosing to get raw and uncomfortable in pursuit of what feels honest, true and authentic for me during this season of my life. One of my superpowers has always been my ability to rapidly ingest and distill complex information into compelling stories that creates powerful action. Learning how to embody the role of both student and teacher by breaking down exactly how I do this, is my current challenge.
I Need Your Story, Not Your Solution
We live in a society that values the ability to be hyper connected, informed and navigationally adept, yet as Beings called humans, we have never been more disconnected, unwise and directionless. This disparity between what we as a society have allowed and thus created versus who we were created to Be, has placed humans at the top of the endangered species list and is fuelling our self-extinction.
In the midst of the mayhem you will find a plethora of self-anointed leaders masquerading as experts, gurus, guides, teachers, coaches (insert your favorite persuasive title here) instructing the masses away from unity and deeper into division. Using talking points, checklists and carefully curated personas to fix perceived problems instead of allowing the medicine contained within their own stories of navigating self-accountability, responsibility and forgiveness to empower others to discover their own.
I say this as someone guilty of fanning the flames of the infowars throughout the pandemic, who is now being confronted and humbled with hard truths.
As I seek to listen more than I speak, I find myself craving the insights and distilled wisdom of storytellers and philosophers after being left uncomfortably full by various experts toting courses, checklists, instructions, how-to’s and hacks that ‘solve your problem-of-the-day’. Instinctively trusting those willing to lay bare their raw stories versus those hiding behind filtered, photoshopped and carefully edited outcomes.
I know that I know nothing.
One of the biggest lies we appear to tell our Selves is that information alone equals learning. Even worse, that the accumulation of information equals knowledge and that from this knowledge viable one-size-fits-all solutions can be derived.
Learning is the direct result of information in action. Knowledge is born inside of the trial and errors of learning. Accumulated information without action is merely a hypothesis or idea. Even if others are actively putting the same information into action and achieving the expected outcome, until you do the same, you cannot say for certain whether the information is valuable or wise.
No two people experience the same reality. So to believe that another can have the solution to your problem without questioning or vetting it yourself is short-sighted. The wisest people I know allow one simple question to lead them; “Why”. They intrinsically understand that why is not a question to be answered, but a sacred invitation to cultivate your capacity to learn and an opportunity to separate the ego from the higher self.
To better understand this statement ask someone, especially the self-anointed, Why and pay close attention to their response. Do they immediately drop into ego and hit you with a wave of information, facts, data and feelings, or do they actively call in and welcome a deeper sense of inquiry and pause? Do they hold a point of view, belief or ideology that requires external validation or do they invite you to examine your own conclusions based on your experience and current level of awareness.
Are they attempting to lead you or simply show you how they are learning to lead them Self.
Why, oh Why
Meeting Why with further inquiry, pushes us to excavate deeper truths and invoke critical thought. When confronted with it, our response reveals our beliefs, biases, blindspots and triggers.
Asking Why holds the power to separate the imitators from the initiators as it becomes either a beacon to lovingly illuminate a path through tumultuous times, or a weapon used to mask and deflect attention from our own fears and shame.
When we attempt to answer Why for another, we fundamentally impede their ability to learn, by projecting our perceptions onto their canvas. This is particularly evident in how we approach the inquisitive nature of children, as your response can be found imprinted inside of how they grow up reacting and responding to life.
True wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us. ~ Socrates
This is why I believe we need to unburden ourselves of the notion that we are, have or need leaders, teachers, gurus, coaches, guides, etc. To be one implies that leadership is a noun – a person – instead of a verb; a function and capacity that you must consciously cultivate over the entirety of your life.
Further it indicates that you learned from and were cultivated by one, and I’m not convinced any truly exist, because if they did, Elder-hood in its truest and highest form would be apparent, and we wouldn’t currently be co-creating our collective demise.
If the past three years have taught us anything, it's that the only thing more dangerous than a self-anointed leader, is one who comes bearing more answers than questions and solutions instead of their story. Further it has exposed the lost art of learning and the imminent extinction of the Elder.
Resurrecting the Elder
In modern times, Elder has become synonymous with age, not wisdom; an identity instead of a function. It appears that our growing inability to patiently learn has stripped us of the knowledge required to self-lead in an ethical, moral and just manner.
As I write this I am reminded of the Seven Fires prophecy of the Anishinaabe. The teachings of the Seven fires prophecy state that when the world has been befouled and the waters turned bitter by disrespect, human Beings will have to choose between aligning with God or with men who believe themselves to be God.
The degradation of the role of Elders and Elder-hood have long been prophesied in the sixth and seventh fire:
In the time of the Sixth Fire it will be evident that the promise of the Fifth Fire came in a false way. Those deceived by this promise will take their children aways from the teachings of the Elders. Grandsons and granddaughters will turn against the Elders. In this way the Elders will lose their reason for living ... they will lose their purpose in life. At this time a new sickness will come among the people. The balance of many people will be disturbed. The cup of life will almost become the cup of grief.
In the time of the Seventh Fire New People will emerge. They will retrace their steps to find what was left by the trail. Their steps will take them to the Elders who they will ask to guide them on their journey. But many of the Elders will have fallen asleep. They will awaken to this new time with nothing to offer. Some of the Elders will be silent because no one will ask anything of them. The New People will have to be careful in how they approach the Elders. The task of the New People will not be easy.
For Elder-hood to re-emerge and become trusted as the wisdom keeper of our society, we must redirect our attention into cultivating our capacity to learn, and stop instantly gratifying the narcissistic inner-child who feels entitled to their wants and demands.
To be worthy of Elder-hood, we must work on honing the patience, fortitude and focus required to not only learn, but extract, apply and embody the invaluable wisdom birthed inside of the act of learning. The Elder is always created, never anointed or appointed.
Our capacity to learn is contingent on developing the skills to self-validate, accept what is and forgive our Selves for times when we didn’t know or do better, so future generations do not inherit the cycles and systems we’ve been held hostage by.
This re-emergence of Elder-hood requires that we know when to shift from speaking to listening, instruction to observation, seeking into learning and Being back into doing.
The Way Forward
When you choose to dedicate yourself to cultivating your capacity to learn instead of leading, you create opportunities and increase the capacity for Elder-hood to make itself known. The Elder and the Student are one and the same. Neither is a title that is bestowed, but a capacity to be consciously cultivated through curiosity and love, occupied in the present moment, and stewarded by village-mindedness not tribalism. The Elder-Student represents a symbiotic relationship in which there is no separation - they are the embodiment of the Alpha and Omega. A representation of who is, who was and who is to come.
The essence of what it means to be Human embodying the Spirit and Spirit in Human form.
until next time,
Sharing is Caring
Share this article and/or drop a like or comment below if you have, or are currently undergoing a paradigm shift. What triggered it, how are you feeling, how are people around you responding to it? I want to know all of the things and your story could also help or empower others.