I am often astounded at how we as the human race have assumed trust of each other. We trust that the driver at the next intersection won’t run through a red traffic light to end our day, we trust that the bank will hold our pennies in a safe place, we trust that the ingredients in our soft drink will be safe and unaltered from the last 500 times of consuming it.
Are we merely naïve or have we been designed to trust?
I have a passion for designing structures of belonging; be it through one-on-one dialogue, the design of social space or how we convene as groups – I am therefore overjoyed at Peter Block’s book Community: The Structure of Belonging that speaks to all of this. I am relieved that social entrepreneurs are sensitive to how we relate as people to each other and to the planet (although I hope that in the near future we can drop the word “social” with moving to a mainstream approach to doing business). I do however skip a few heartbeats when we forget how we treat each other in our everyday that detracts from our grand intentions of creating this alternate world we want to live in.
As a wannabe social architect, I conform to the belief that every conversation we have, every action and inaction either contributes or detracts from the greater good of humanity. We cannot outsource our personal behavior to the organisations we work in, or hide behind those brands. Our values are integral to our personal development, our ability to relate to others, our roles in organization and society. It determines if and how we do our part of an agreement, be it a written or social agreement. It determines whether we become armchair critics or roll up our sleeves in shaping society or merely the block where we live.
Through my work and circle of friends, I see many people battling with relationships. The choice between retribution and forgiveness is not an obvious option to select when an injustice has occurred. Applying integrity at work with quality delivery does not come easily when uninspired. Many of us begin our journey in life with hand-me-down values based on the religious principles we were born into. Through the knocks and bumps we receive in life, we may let go of a few and adopt a few new ones. I love the saying that a diamond is simply coal that handles pressure well. It’s through adversity that our true values, and thereby character shows up. This is when our ore (also core) is sharpened in the flames of life and our convictions are refined.
Who are we when nobody is watching? Are we bringing our gifts into the world without thought of punishment or reward? Are we showing up as our authentic selves regardless of the consequence? Perhaps we should not wait for the conditions of operation to be ideal. We face a gap in society where we as citizens need to be the leader examples that we need in order to overcome the state of corruption and selfishness that we find ourselves immersed in. We need to create this alternative future by both stepping forward, but also merely practicing our values.
I don’t think this is an overwhelming ambition for any of us; it starts by merely giving thought to how we show up. Are we contributing or detracting in any given situation? Take a moment to pause and breathe before acting and speaking. What good would that piece of gossip bring? Seeing that you tarnish your own character by tarnishing another’s.
While this is a constant practice in my life, I have been met by a few surprises. As an entrepreneur, I speak with the passion of intention of what my work will offer the world. While I truly believe it, the future is uncertain so any promise that I make will be done on a shaky foundation of uncertainty. I have however on more than one occasion received investment and an invitation to paid work because of the belief that I would practice integrity and perseverance in delivery. While reward is not the aim, the circle of life gifts it to us :)