And so, we wear our brown pants…

My desire in research, speaking, this blog, and vocation is to equip
people to effectively migrate through the quandaries of extraordinary
change. I am working on a new presentation with corresponding resources called "Crunch Time: Seizing the moment of extraordinary change".

The following is my introduction to a planned ebook focusing on the core competencies needed to navigate intense predicaments.  Here are a few (heaven knows there are many, many more!!) quandaries I believe are bearing down upon us with accelerating urgency. 

I would appreciate any feedback you can render…

And so, we wear our brown pants…

There was a treasure ship on its way back to port, ladened with gold, silver, and precious gems.  About halfway there, it was approached by a pirate ship, skull and crossbones waving in the breeze, intent on seizing its valuable treasure.

    "Captain, captain, what do we do?" implored the panicked first mate. 

    "First mate," said the captain calmly, "go to my cabin, open my sea chest, and bring me my red shirt."  The first mate did as he was told.

    Wearing his bright red shirt, the captain exhorted his crew to fight.  So inspiring was he, in fact, that the pirate ship was repelled without casualties. 

    A few days later, the ship was again approached, this time by two pirate sloops! 

    "Captain, captain, what should we do?" asked the first mate again, this time with greater urgency.

    "Bring me my red shirt!" the captain insisted.

    The crew, emboldened by their fearless captain, fought heroically, and managed to defeat both boarding parties, though they took some casualties.  That night, the survivors had a great celebration.  The first mate asked the captain the secret of his bright red shirt.

    "It's simple”, he said, “if I am wounded, the blood does not show, they see no weakness in me and the crew continues to fight without fear."

    A week passed, and they were nearing their home port, when suddenly the lookout cried that ten ships of the enemy's armada were fast approaching.

    "Captain, captain, we're in terrible trouble, what do we do?" the first mate pleaded and looked expectantly at the miracle worker.

    Pale with fear, the captain commanded, "Bring me my brown pants!"

Approaching Marauders

As we sail into the twenty first century, there is an armada of fearful marauders confronting us on global currents at an ever accelerating pace.  Each comes equipped with boarding parties ready to wreak havoc on our lives, plundering our precious safety, happiness, and security (so perceived).

Called quandaries – these muddled, awkward, messy, and very daunting predicaments are challenging us at every turn.  These dilemmas often can and do render us pale with fear, stealing our confidence and emotional resources.  They appear ominous as we stare them down and downright terrifying as we await their arrival. 

And so we wear our brown pants.

Though not exhaustive by any means, there are a few quandaries I believe are conspiring together to generate a crisis of extraordinary urgency, forcing us to migrate our way from a previous place of settled orientation to an entirely new place of unknown orientation in the future.

Educational: Given the globalized, interconnected reality of our world, the way we receive and disseminate information today is vastly different than even five years ago.  The method and model of instruction still seems to be caught in a mechanistic, factory type paradigm that served its purpose well during the industrial revolution, but not at all in today’s informational, bio-tech century.  In addition, competition for jobs that don’t even exist today, will be intense in a global market.  The looming question of what does it mean to be well educated and how to accomplish that will be a looming question for years to come.

Generational: There are five generations alive today in North America.  That has never happened before in the history of our society (or the world for that matter). The increased life span and pace of change today provides fertile soil for clashes to erupt between the broad spectrum of ages today, alienating us further from one another.  With divergent values vying for attention, each age is attempting to define what the world will look like in the future.  In addition, an aging demographic will create challenges never before encountered. Current projections for 2040 in the United States put the population of those 85 years and over at 54 million.  That is a twenty percent increase from the 4.2 million in that age group currently.

Technological: Technology has progressed at a breakneck pace.  The birthday card you might receive this year with the electronic little “diddy” of the song “Happy Birthday” has more computing power than existed in the entire world before 1960.  In fact, the computer that helps your car navigate and function is exponentially more powerful than the one that landed the first men on the moon. This quandary stems largely from the ever increasing pace and dependence of people on technology, while the human psyche remains as vulnerable than ever at a time when moral values have lost much of their solidity.

Environmental: Degradation of our landscape, global warming, and the disconnect from our land and neighbors is ever present in our lives.  We’re in the sixth biggest extinction in geological history – the largest species depletion in 65 million years. The planet is losing an estimated 30,000 species a year, which breaks down to about 3 species per hour.  We are nearing what many experts are predicting is the peak of our oil reserves. The burgeoning growth of global population is challenging not only energy supplies, but threatening food distribution, economies and health. 

Financial:  The 2008-2009 economic downturn is unprecedented, and so there is no way to know how steep the decline will be or for how long.  More and more financial institutions suffer from global financial stress, making the road to recovery treacherous and dependent on foreign markets. Consumer confidence is plausibly at the lowest level since the Great Depression. The emergence of China and its ambition for global dominance will be the economic reality of this century. In addition, how to create an economy that is sustainable and just is a huge for economists and governments alike.

Spiritual: There is a precipitous decline in confidence in the human spirit. The brutal twentieth century dramatically eroded our understanding of what truly constitutes humanity itself.   For people functioning without an ambition of spirit, events will be dangerously ahead of our thinking and contemplative capacity for thought.  Depression has a tight logic, and it takes hope and a transcendent perspective to keep from falling into an acute nihilism.

And so we wear our brown pants…

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Jeff Vankooten is a speaker and author focusing on the power of resilience to effectively engage the challenges of change. He helps leaders, businesses, and organizations develop the skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly unpredictable business environment.
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