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Archive for December, 2012

Edinburgh 20062005-02-07

 

I wish I knew! But…

I’ve been contributing to a discussion thread in a LinkedIn group. For a change, it’s NOT a Henley group, but one of those with a lot of members, where it seems no-one can start a discussion thread if it doesn’t have a number in the title, such as “7 Horrific Mistakes in Your Job Application Cover Letter”, “Overcome the Top 10 Causes of Workplace Stress”, or “21 tips for email etiquette”, you get the banal idea… 

The topic there was a thread begun in someone’s posting of their own list of “tips for Networking”. Nothing wrong with that, you might think, and I might agree with you. Except that they had labelled this as ‘the most basic missing MBA skill’. I had to question this, and so I asked what assumptions lay behind the assertion. This prompted the original poster to concede that networking was just a skill among many, but in the course of the reply he asked me what I thought the most basic missing MBA skill was. That didn’t take too much thought, if I’m honest. This was my reply:

“It’s true that it is often said that “it’s not what you know, it’s who”, but i think this becomes a game when reduced to equating the quality of an MBA graduate with their gregarious credentials.

I would say that as a manger(or a leader) the key person to know is yourself, and therefore the most basic MBA skill is Self-awareness.”

Well, as usual, I was off, and then got into a lengthy discussion with others on what the hell I meant by that. But, why self-awareness? I know I go on about this ad nauseam in the Personal Development workshops at Henley, but my correspondent in the Linkedin discussion thread was of the view that Self-Awareness is pretty much sorted by the time you finish your first degreee. I couldn’t disagree more. In my experience, self-awareness is often the thing that has been shelved, put away, ignored or assumed to be finished with by people starting the Henley MBA (though paradoxically it is the thing that makes most sense about why they are choosing to return to school). Self-awareness is something that matures with you through life, and actually becomes more, not less, important the more you go through life. What other question is there?

I was reminded of this the other day listening to another Alan Watts audio recording on YouTube, this time part of a tribute to Carl Jung, who at the time of the recording had been dead for just a few weeks. Watts speaks in his usual eloquent way about what he thought was remarkable about Jung, and in so doing quotes verbatim the following passage about self-awareness and about the illusion of the idea that there is an absolute good and an absolute evil that is separate from us (which is not to say that one cannot take sides). Jung wrote (and don’t be fooled into thinking that Jung is arguing for a religious belief here, he is master of metaphor):

“The truly religious person . . . knows that God has brought all sorts of strange and inconceivable things to pass and seeks in the most curious ways to enter a [person’s] heart. He therefore senses in everything the unseen presence of the divine will. This is what I mean by “unprejudiced objectivity.” It is a oral achievement on the part of the doctor who ought not to let himself be repelled by sickness and corruption. We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation does not  liberate; it oppresses. I am the oppressor of the person I condemn, not his friend and fellow sufferer. I do not mean in the least to say that we must never pass judgment when we desire to help and improve. But if the doctor wishes to help a human being, he must be able to accept him as he is. And he can do this in reality only when he has already seen and accepted himself as he  is.

Perhaps this sounds very simple, but simple things are always the  most difficult. In actual life it requires the greatest art to be simple, and so acceptance of oneself is the essence of the moral problem and the acid test of one’s whole outlook on life. That I feed the beggar, that I forgive an insult, that I love my enemy in the name of Christ – all these are undoubtedly great virtues. What I do unto the least of my brethren, that I do unto Christ. But what if I should discover that the least among them all, the poorest of all beggars, the most impudent of all offenders, yea the very fiend himself – that these are within me, and that I myself stand in need of my own kindness, that I
myself am the enemy who must be loved – what then? Then, as a rule, the whole truth of Christianity is reversed: there is no more talk of love and long-suffering; we say to the brother within us, “Raca,” and condemn and rage against ourselves. We hide him from the world; we deny ever having met this least among the lowly in ourselves, and had it been God himself who drew near to us in this despicable form, we should have denied him a thousand times before a single cock had crowed.”

(C.G. Jung, CW 11, Psychology and Religion: West and East, Chapter V, “Psychotherapy or the Clergy,” § 519-520)

What I took from this is a lesson in what an enormous task it is to find “acceptance of oneself”, which is the aim of self-awareness.

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