Constant Principles in Uncertain Times

There is a lot going on these days, just to understate the scene completely. Politics, economics technology, the planet, education, ways of working. A perfect storm. Few if any are untouched or oblivious.

Taking the long view, it’s also true that major new ideas have taken hold in the crucible of troubled times.

We are already mid a lean-agile revolution in the areas of work and organization. The surrounding forces amplify the need for this revolution (in my opinion) but can also increase the challenges faced in moving forward.

Given these challenges, it can be helpful to have some reliable orientation points. Here are a few that I have found useful in case they might provide you some mileage as well. Many or even all of them may be familiar.

Have Purpose

You don’t have to look far to see the results of organizations who have clarity of purpose being productive and fulfilled. Consider Tesla, or even Toney’s Chocolonely, and many others like them. The works of Simon Sinek and Daniel Pink are great references on this subject.

When it comes to the personal level, one Japanese model, ikigai, has become popular.

Ikigai (生き甲斐, ‘a reason for being’) is a Japanese concept referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose, a reason for living. (Wikipedia)


“Ikigai” by Kenneth Cox is marked with CC PDM 1.0

You can get the idea from the graphic. The idea is to find convergence of these elements. In the un-named gray areas there is a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction but also of something lacking. You could argue that ikigai goes beyond purpose to help you align to and align the world around you.

Another exercise is to look at each dimension of your life, such as your family, your community, even mankind. Focusing on your “personal” situation is just one piece of the puzzle. Consider your role and responsibility in terms of help and contribution to each.

Be Competent

Periodic awakenings to the fact that you know nothing can be an upward spiral.  I recall hearing about legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa who, upon receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars, simply said, “I am just beginning to understand film making” (paraphrase).

When things get rough I tend to strip it back to focusing on this point and actual productivity. It’s a bit of a blunt instrument but one that rarely fails and is always valid in its own right so sort of a win-win.

You could name a number of contributing factors to competence, like willingness to know, and observe, diligence, practice.


I prefer to use that word rather than the phrase “team player”. To be more specific, if you broke it down to just 1) Share what you know, 2) Listen, and 3) Help, you’d have covered a great deal.

Have Ideas

Maybe this is easy for you. If so great. If not, have some ideas anyway; work at it. It’s part of being alive.

Make Your Own List

What action-based principles would you choose to be your stable reference points through any waters? Write them down.  Use them, refine them. See where it goes.

In the end, that’s the main suggestion this all was leading up to.

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