02/16/2011 10:24 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Lessons from Cairo, Part 2: Stand and Be Counted!

For nearly thirty years, the people of Egypt had settled for living in fear, under the rule of a harsh dictator. And then one day they decided, "enough is enough," they took to the streets and in 18 days, took down the oppressive regime.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the people found their voices, long suppressed. They stood up and spoke out. Armed with only the courage of their convictions and a passionate intention to be free, the people of Egypt changed not only their world, they changed the world.

A "Black Swan" Event

This revolution is a perfect example of a Black Swan event, named after a theory put forth by Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his book, Black Swan, (not to be confused with the movie).

Taleb regards almost all major scientific discoveries, historical events, and artistic accomplishments as "black swans"--undirected and unpredicted. He gives the rise of the Internet, the personal computer, World War I, and the September 11 attacks as examples of Black Swan Events.

A little background on the term from the New York Times:

What we call here a "Black Swan" is an event with the following three attributes: First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

The fall of the Berlin wall was another Black Swan event. No one saw it coming, there was no organization around its unfolding, no leadership. It was a "perfect storm"; a confluence of desire, passion, and willful intention towards freedom.

In the aftermath of a Black Swan event, it's possible to put together the pieces and speculate a plausible explanation for how it came about, but no one knows for sure where the truth lies. Just as no one knows for sure just who was responsible for the Berlin Wall coming down, no one knows absolutely who is responsible for the fall of Mubarak. It took a "perfect storm".

But can perfect storms be created by intention? Or do they just happen? Can we will a perfect storm into being? Or is more that we must remain vigilant and aware, awake to the conditions wherein perfect storms could be brewing? Is there one brewing in the wings of your life right now?

Looking at the events taking place in Egypt, Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian journalist, and Arianna Huffington both appearing on 'This Week' with Christiane Amanpour last Sunday speculated about the spread of social media across the Arab world helping to bring about that perfect storm. In the eye of that storm, Ms. Eltahawy opined, the Egyptian people altered their perceptions of who they are.

In a region where only the vote of the king, dictator or the autocrat had ever mattered, the Egyptian people came to an important discovery about themselves and the world in which they live. The old message of "you don't count", that only the dictator counts, no longer had relevance. In the streets of Egypt, the people discovered that not only do they count, but that in order to be counted, they had to have the courage to stand up and be counted. And they did, while the whole world watched.

A "Black Swan" appeared. People stood in the streets and together, made their voices count. The chorus that chanted "Mubarak must go", was made up of voices from across the spectrum in Egypt: middle class, professional, educated, labor unions, old people, children, men, women, youth. As members of the same choir, every voice counted. It was the coming together of voices, wills, and intentions, coupled with passionate action in which the people stood firm, throwing off the blanket of fear that had shrouded the Egyptian people for 30 years, that turned the tide. In the blink of an eye, a time span of only 18 days, the ground shifted. A new paradigm was unleashed.

In the streets of Cairo, we saw a demonstration of what's possible when courage steps up and deposes fear. The Egyptians have opened this door for others as well. This is an important and powerful moment for each one of us, for it is in claiming our own authority to count in the matters of life, that conscious life begins.

Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball said last week, "One does not get handed their freedom. One must claim it." In other words, freedom always exists as a possibility. It's there for the taking, but it must be taken. No one can claim it for you. Your own freedom has your name engraved on it. It's right there, awaiting your acceptance. Will you take it?

In last week's post: Lessons from Cairo: Making Peace With Yourself, I asked the question: What's worth fighting for in your life? In the context of our discussion this week, we could reframe this question to ask the following:

1. Where do you take a stand in life?
2. Where do you have the courage to count?
3. Where have you already settled in your life?
4. What prices have you paid for settling?

See what arises in response to these questions. And then ask yourself, if you have the courage to stand up and be counted where it matters most. Will you claim your freedom and overthrow the forces of tyranny within?

Please do leave a comment below and let's have a discussion.


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And as always, blessings on the path.