Be the Storm: Channeling Intensity


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Thursday, August 24, 2017

"Fate whispers to the warrior, 'you cannot withstand the storm,’ and the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’” – Unknown

Sometimes I forget that I am an intense person.  This is probably due in part to years of work in federal bureaucracy attempting to squish it out of me.  Today I remembered because I was playing the Beastie Boys “License to Ill” album on my commute to the office… which totally brings it out.  I become a force to be reckoned with.  I am not even making that up.

I think we all have it in us, some perhaps more than others.  I say this because my sister-in-law describes one side of my extended family as “persons of intensity.”  It’s true.  We are.

For me, one of the ways the intensity shows up is in how I go after what I want.  I go all in.  ALL in. 

When I wanted to be a federal park ranger, I started out by working outside - just about anywhere.  As a lifeguard at lakes in the summers in high school and college.  At agricultural field and research jobs during college.  At a 4-H camp that helped me check all the boxes for a federal park ranger application.  I heavily researched the application process and applied strategically to increase the odds of getting hired.  I made calls and mailed various National Parks for as much information as I could get. 

Didn’t get hired the first summer I put in, but I sure as heck got hired the second one.  Learned from what hadn’t quite worked and refined it.  Laser focus.

I could give a list of other intensity examples - some of which are definitely more on the reckless side.  Perhaps that’s for a later post, or you know, my best-selling book still to come.  Today, I’m focused on channeling the intensity I've got.  It’s starting to feel dangerous.

I have been struggling with intensity lately, because the intensity has been intensifying.  It’s probably more noticeable because my stress level has gone down so, so much since I left the Washington, DC area in late 2015.  After some moving-related adjustment chaos in 2016, 2017 has been simply beautiful on the personal life front.  It’s quite lovely.  Now, our country is in a bit of a state (major understatement), but in my own life, I am happy as one thing.  Not just content… but absolutely loving my life.  LOVING.  IT.

I think all the happiness increases intensity, because you just want to go around being happy everywhere with everyone.  Not everyone is up for that, so perhaps it gets set aside.  It’s a good problem to have.

I have recently reconnected with two friends who are also, we could say, “persons of intensity.”  More importantly, they are the kind of friends that I just love being around.  The kind where you get all giggly and act like a kid – because you are so in your element.  The amazing thing about that is that I have several friends like that around the area where I live now.  It is freaking awesome, and I count my blessings every day.  I get to see at least some of these people pretty much every week.  Who doesn’t want that?  It is upping my intensity, for sure.

Not all the intensity is of the super-fun variety though.

Here’s the thing:  we’ve got a hell of a challenge in front of us in the US. 

We have a president who was elected on a platform of fanning the flames of racism, who openly bragged about assaulting women.  He is at war with his own national security apparatus.  I could go on, but when he twists the homeland security machine for his own ends and disparages federal agents and agencies, I lose patience.  I poured my damn life into making the US government better, looking after federal land, and helping police and firefighters be more successful.  This guy is fixing to undo so much of that.  So much. 

Among the infuriating things that have happened since the presidential election, this is one I struggle with:  government itself.  It makes me wonder why in the hell I sacrificed my health, my free time, my personal life, my income, my voice, and on and on for this country.  Why did I risk whistleblowing a post-9/11 federal program that was not implemented as required by three laws, when now the government itself is threatened?

This is where it comes together.  I know the challenge for me is to channel my intensity into what I do next.  Into bringing that whole life of intense stuff to bear on how I can help with what’s driving my intensity these days.  So what is that?

It's navigating disruption.   

We can counter fear by navigating disruption - or by creating it where it's needed.  It's how we evolve.

We can navigate disruption, and we're fixing to have a lot of it.  I don't see how we're not.

Even if the current US president was not abnormally likely to cause instability for the country and the world, we have a growing world population living in high hazard areas on a finite planet.  We'll see more disasters, for one thing. This piece notes five considerable threats to national security - prior to the current administration.  They include the increasing number of failed nation-states, increasing world population, climate change, increasing competition for food, and increasing competition for water.

What I know is that I can help with navigating some disruption.  I'm good at it.  We'll need LOTS of folks who are, so we each jump in where we can - in our corners of the world.  We each find our strengths and what we can bring to the table.

I needed to find mine - and be clear on them.  I can better leverage my own intensity when I am focused. 

Going All In On Focus

I channel intensity by, as a friend has said, “going all in on focus.”

My question has been about how we can actually counter fear in the world today.  I have been working with certain counterfear principles for a number of years - principles that came from a post-9/11 world.  We're in a new world now.  It's a world where propaganda is powerful, and the US is becoming fractured.  The danger is that fear mobilizes.  We need powerful tools to for countering fear.  It is perhaps one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime.

It's easy to get overwhelmed.  I had intensity, and a whole swirl of ideas floating around, but it was not yet clear how to put them together in a coherent way, with some resonance.  Hard to move a complex idea forward when you don't have clarity.

Once I figured out that I was stuck, I came up with a plan.  When there is no definition, or when there is overwhelm, sometimes it helps to lay everything out and see what the landscape looks like.

I learned from some work with The Clearing that “wicked problems" need different approaches.  One of those is to look at system-level problems in light of the whole system.  The Clearing is a company whose office walls are white boards.  You can get a better sense of the “big picture” in your own mind by laying it all out.  Sometimes a computer screen or PowerPoint slide deck is not the best medium to address what is in reality a very complex world.  Or mind. 

I dived in to understand my own thinking.  For real:  I locked myself in a room with a huge white board, and didn’t leave until I’d figured out all the stuff I was fired up about, good at, passionate about, and actively interested in. 

Okay, the door wasn’t actually locked.  But I’ll be damned if I didn’t stick it out until I had some focus. 

Through a sea of notes from months and actually years of thought... some clarity emerged.  My question was about how to bring forward approaches for countering fear in a coherent way that was scalable, flexible, and applicable to people, families, organizations, businesses, and communities.  What are the things we need, for the world we face?  What will help us navigate disruption, and in fact cause some?  How do we envision and create the world we want to see and build and strive for?

The answer I found is in 25 core "Focus Areas."  These are the things Wicked Problem Wayfinding, LLC brings to the table for you or you and your people to navigate disruption.  To create disruption.  To counter fear.

To quote Michonne in The Walking Dead, "That's how WE get it done."

Be the Storm 

This piece is about channeling intensity.  My main point is that one way we can channel our own intensity is by getting focused on what to do with it.  Of course, there are a whole heck of a lot of aspects to intensity, as there are a zillion ways to channel it.  This is just one way – but hopefully a constructive one.

Part of the goal here is to provide tools for countering fear, and so this post is a tool.  In my own life, I get so much more done when I have focus and clarity on what I am working on.  It helps with prioritizing, triage, reverse-engineering, planning, and project management.  Essentially:  planning and execution.

When I have focus, I am soooo much better at channeling intensity when it strikes; when it rolls in in powerful waves.  Focus helps point it in a direction.  It helps us put that intensity into the world we are creating.  It brings more power to our work and to so many of our efforts.

Focus can take a whirlwind of intensity, and turn it into a force to be reckoned with.  Into a tornado; a derecho; a hurricane. 

Channeled intensity.

"Fate whispers to the warrior, 'you cannot withstand the storm,’ and the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’” – Unknown

Be the storm.


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