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  • Stephen Scott Johnson

Transformation - from undoing to being

In Emergent, I tell the story of the phoenix, a mythical, sacred firebird that is said to have a 500- to 1000-year life span. According to legend, at the end of its life the phoenix builds a funeral pyre, which it then ignites. Both pyre and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes, from which a young phoenix emerges, reborn anew to live again. The phoenix is destined to live as long as its old self and its ability to be reborn from its own ashes implies that it is immortal.

Transformation is wrought through struggle; an ‘undoing’ of old systems and the status quo that gives rise to innovation and new states of being. I’ve been thinking lately about disruption to people’s routines, rituals, and relationships, mindful that change and growth is rarely without pain and is usually preceded by an element of loss or ‘letting go’. Whilst we have evolved to anticipate change and existential threats, one never quite knows when life is going to turn upside-down. Consider that when freedom and choice disappear, everything we take for granted comes rushing into focus.

There is something special contained within the human psyche that propels us forward in the face of adversity, motivating us to push past defeat and triumph against all odds. According to distinguished University of California professor of biology, David Reznick, “The risk of death alters the ways organisms allocate resources for survival.” Put simply, change occurs more rapidly when survival is threatened. If there’s one thing Covid-19 is proving it is the indomitable human spirit – that we have the capacity to mobilise resources and achieve extraordinary things when life and security depend on it. I’ve done my fair share of ruminating these past few months about the seeming futility of plans, a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions about what I want and value for my life, whilst doing my best to focus energy and practice non-attachment. Needless to say, lockdown has given us an abundance of time to contemplate that which is truly essential for wellbeing.

At the recent Thought Leaders immersion, a 150-person professional three-day event that alternates between Melbourne and Sydney, for the first time in the history of our tribe of thinkers and makers we convened online. A theme that fuelled the event was reinvention, namely how will we adapt and who will we becomemoving forward.

Let me ask you two questions:

1. What holds you back from being the gift you are to the world?

2. If you were packing for the future, what would you leave behind, and what would you take with you?

There is so much uncertainty and complexity on the road ahead. Even so, we still get to choose how we experience this pandemic. Are you being tossed about like a boat without a rudder in a raging sea? What can you change about your situation to rise above the stress and drama and see things contextually from a place of power and mindful action? The chaos and trauma of 2020 is irrefutable. However, the gift in all of this is the courage to heal, create new meaning, and re-write the future.

Until next time,

Stephen

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