Category Archives: My story unfolds

Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership

I’ve read 4 books in the last 3 months that have significantly altered my thinking. I’d go so far as to say they have altered what I want to do with my life. I’m still figuring all this out but I feel compelled to share the details of the book so others, particularly lawyers seeking a more conscious approach to their life work, may be inspired too.

Incidentally, today I was unexpectedly given a Kindle by someone who knows just how important books are in my life. (I do wonder if it’s because apparently you don’t have to leave the light on when you read a Kindle!). I look forward to playing with my new toy although it will be weird not holding a book in my hands.

The most recent of these books is: Synchronicity – The Inner Path of Leadership, by Joseph Jaworski

I concur with a reviewer who said:

“Think of this book as the guidebook for a journey that connects you to life and culminates in the gift of leadership. His book takes the premise that leading is serving and gives insight to the transformation we must make internally, not externally to become a leader. For me though, this book was not about leadership or developing leadership. It is a book that helps you understand life in a new context. Synchronicity becomes the goal and the added benefits of leadership qualities become more of an after-thought.”

Jaworski was a trial lawyer in the US for 20 years, who had all the material trappings of success, when suddenly things shifted. His wife left him and in a series of events that unfolded through a process of synchronicity, he was guided or inspired to start the American Leadership Forum.  After perhaps a decade or so he went on to work for Shell as a scenario planner globally, which is where he worked with Adam Kahane who wrote “Solving Tough Problems” one of the other 4 books I refer to earlier.  Adam came out to South Africa to lead the Mont Fleur Scenarios – but more about that at another time.

Currently Jaworski co-owns a consultancy called Generon International. He and his colleagues have come up with the Global Leadership Initiative (GLI).  

An online magazine called Enlighten Next describes this as “so audacious and inspired that it has caught the attention of a new partner, The Synergos Institute, a well-placed international development organization, as well as major corporations, leading foundations, UN agencies, and local organizations in Africa, Asia and Latin America. GLI is committed to creating tri-sectoral projects to find innovative solutions to ten of the most intractable problems facing humanity—beginning with the world food supply and child malnutrition. The brilliance of GLI is that it doesn’t work through the usual channels. Rather than getting embroiled in the labyrinths of existing bureaucracies or caught in turf battles, their aim is to work with key leaders across all sectors to create a shift in consciousness, a leap into the future.

But to get back to the book, Synchronicity, Jaworski’s own journey begins with him describing his father’s involvement as the Prosecutor for Watergate – clearly a very difficult role to be brought into as the one guy tasked with uncovering the truth when it turned out that everyone including the President of the United States was lying through their teeth.  There are stories of Jaworski’s deeply meaningful encounters with nature, a tornado, loss, grief, his own failures and successes and projects of such immense scale that he brings to life. Throughout his story and his becoming more aware the central tenet is that:

“If we have truly committed to follow our dream, there exists beyond ourselves and our conscious will a powerful force that helps us along the way and nurtures our growth and transformation. Our journey is guided by invisible hands with infinitely greater accuracy than is possible through our unaided conscious will.” 

I will post a video of Joseph Jaworski shortly  – which explains much of the book. It is an hour long talk which I think is harder to stay absorbed in than the book was. Perhaps because I love to read. For those who take in more when listening, watch the talk and then see if you want to read the book. I can only say that I finished this book in a flood of tears. It is a book that I think is powerful enough to have a lasting effect on all those who read it and therefore in the interests of contributing to a more conscious world, please read this book.

Secretly (well, not so secretly) I wish to work with Joseph Jaworski some day.  I have the sense he’s who I need to assist me carry out my WIG (Wildly Improbable Goal). Mmm.  And if there were an opportunity to go and work for the GLI – I’d be on a plane tomorrow.

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The Bigger Picture: Why I studied Law

I’m still trying to understand why I studied law. On the surface, it was early in the year 2000, I’d completed a degree in languages, had a gap year, come back to South Africa and wasn’t feeling particularly inspired to join the work force. Everyone kept asking “what are you doing next?”. Pressure was on.

I had lunch with a lovely friend who was studying law, drank 2 bottles of chardonnay and felt inspired by her description of law school. Plus LA Law and Ally McBeal made it seem a good environment in which to be sexy and smart. In a hungover state the next day I wrote to the Dean of the Law Faculty, a slightly bizarre letter saying how I’d always wanted to study law but had forgotten to apply – could they let me in the following week?

On a deeper level, law had always intrigued me. I had studied philosophy as part of my undergrad degree and I was drawn to questions like why we need a legal system, who decides what is right and wrong, is the death penalty a deterrent/ morally acceptable?

On a very much deeper level, I am starting to believe more and more in notions of destiny. And studying law was part of my destiny.  I think it is our duty, maybe our privilege, to determine the work we are born to do. And I mean “work” in the widest possible sense.

Herman Hesse wrote this in one of his books Demian “Each man had only one genuine vocation – to find the way to himself. He might end up as a poet or madman, as prophet or criminal – that was not his affair, ultimately it was of no concern. His task was to discover his own destiny – not an arbitrary one – and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one’s own inwardness”.

I’m trying to find once again, where my destiny lies. It’s not easy. This is not a well-trodden path, for anyone!

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” Joseph Campbell

Someone sent this Campbell quote to me 2 years ago and I liked it so much I stuck it on my wall.  Since yesterday I have been devouring Synchronicity: the Inner Path of Leadership by Joseph Jaworski, a most amazing book and I noted that Jaworski mentions Joseph Campbell’s  frequently as he describes his life journey, from trial lawyer to setting up the American Leadership Forum to scenario planner at Shell – which I shall definitely write more about soon. Campbell was a “brilliant scholar and maverick of sorts who saw a common thread in all of the world’s mythological traditions and religions. Through his meticulous studies, he helped to bridge the gap for the layman between the outer cultures and traditions of the world with the inner journeys and experiences of sages, shamans and mystics.”

I know that Campbell’s thinking is important to what I am meant to carry out. As is the work of Herman Hesse, because suddenly his work and quotes are popping up everywhere. And the woman who lent me the Synchronicity book – well she is also part of what I am meant to be carrying out. How do I say this without sounding like a New Age nitwit? I knew, deep in my soul, when someone told me to call her, and I walked into that first meeting, that I needed to work with her. She feels the same. We’re figuring it out.

On the one hand there is a slightly cheesed up version of the whole destiny/ synchronicity thing. You can see this in The Secret – which tells people they can have, do or be anything they want. Unfortunately some very potent ideas have been dumbed down for the masses – making the susceptible believe all they need to do is believe hard enough and their Ferrari will arrive. On the other hand, there is a plethora of writing of the world’s greatest thinkers from the Greeks to Einstein to more recent writers and thinkers including Eckhardt Tolle, Martin Buber and Joseph Campbell, Peter Senge and Joseph Jaworski and thousands of others which is all pointing  to the same things:

  1. Thoughts are where all reality begins – if you cannot dream it or conceive of it, you cannot do it.
  2. Most people are too scared to dream of what might be possible for themselves.
  3. When you commit absolutely to a meaningful vision which is not about self-gain, when you begin with willingness and stand in the state of surrender, you alter your relationship with the future. (Joseph Jaworski)
  4. Once committed and open, the universe will move to help you and put all the right people in your path and the resources you need to carry it out.

These ideas are entering the mainstream through talk show hosts and business coaches and actually this is a very good thing. This should not be the preserve of a privileged few.

My destiny is not to be a lawyer.   My intuition told me strongly to leave the law firm I was at as soon as my articles were up. I ended up doing some really interesting and totally unexpected things by following my heart and gut instead of my over-used head.  For a while at least, I knew absolutely that I was doing what I was born to do at that time: running a college for some very disadvantaged students.

But I came and I left. And I did other things. And now I am wondering what is next? I know that although I am not meant to be practising law, I am meant to be linking different disciplines like law and psychology and leadership and spirituality. Of this I am certain. And I needed to teach law, if only to realise we teach law all wrong!  And that there are a lot more important things we need to be teaching besides the law itself. The existence of the internet has changed studying as we know it. It’s all there. No one needs to remember random stuff anymore.  It’s not the “what” that matters anymore, it’s the “how”. Law Schools should be cultivating the “beingness” of lawyers, not so focussed on the “doingness”.

The entire picture isn’t clear yet. I read a wonderful metaphor of impressionist paintings, more specifically the pointillists – where up close the painting actually makes no sense, it’s a lot of splodges. Only when we move back, does the picture emerge. Life’s like that. It doesn’t make sense up close when we’re so deeply enmeshed in the details of each hour. It only makes sense when we get perspective, and that can take years.  Right now I’m stuck with the splodges but I am trusting these are all part of a much bigger, and very beautiful, picture for my life. And Shark Free Waters is part of that picture.