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Jennifer Sertl Headshot

Familiarity Can Be Dangerous

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I remember when Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat came out in 2005. Like a lightening bolt the work hit me and caused me to change my entire business model. What hit me so strong was the motto that Thomas Friedman shared was on the wall in a Chinese manufacturing plant:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you'd better be running.

In that very moment I realized my focus had been on helping individuals and companies compete. The World is Flat and especially the gazelle message made me realize the issue is not competition, the issue is conditioning. A central question in uncertainty is what will transcend the economy, politics, and technology? Here at least is a glimmer of what can be practiced:

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The macro is now celebrating "mindfulness" and "self-awareness." There is a big difference between self-possession and self-absorption.

Awareness is not enough!

I know too many smart people who have read Jim Collin's Good to Great for us to be in the state of fracture that we are. Too many people are comfortable being good not great.

I know you have heard Erasmus' "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." Even if you are successful doesn't mean that you are the best model or that your leadership is what is required to take your life, team or company to the next level.

Nietzsche reminds us that "We only hear those questions for which we are in a position to find answers." There are a whole lot of questions that need to be asked outside of our experience.

What is needed beyond awareness is courage.

Courage to name and claim the demons that you struggle with and the habits that you know you must break to stop the sabotage causing you to work harder than you need to.

Courage to surround yourself with people you don't understand that make you feel inferior and ask questions you have never heard asked.

Courage to be the dumbest person in the room to feel the pressure of not knowing and wondering if you belong.

Courage to interrogate reality and say, "I am limited by my awareness as my awareness is incomplete."

Courage to admit you are lost or do not understand.

Courage to realize the world around you it too homogenous for you to gain proper perspective.

Familiarity can be dangerous. In a world where you can download "the world according to you" we have lost our tolerance and patience for things we don't like, don't understand, or feel waste our time. In our personal customization we are being more self-absorbed and aware in a myopic framework. We are losing our ability to be confronted by external forces that are foreign. There is value in friction and perhaps the greatest friction of all is our humility.

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