I step through the looking glass. Life is not what it seems. Or is it?

I feel as though we step through the looking glass every day in our ever-changing world. Global events turn life upside down for some, right side up for others.

Seven years ago, at a turning point in my life, I stepped into the looking glass, I left an ‘old’ life behind. I started a new life. I had an opportunity to shape the days and years to come. I looked back on my career. I acknowledged successes, failures, revelations. I noticed times when I complied for the sake of convenience, when I rebelled for the sake of creativity. And, there were other times when I just blanked out!

Seven years ago, I looked at my younger son, then nine years old. I struggled to remember his older brother at the same age. I literally blanked out. This was five years earlier. I was at the height of my career. I was consumed by work, office politics, ambition. I lived in a foreign country, had a thriving and challenging career. And yet, my vision was turned almost entirely inward. I had to think about what Alex was like at nine years old?!? I also recall building a trusting relationship with my manager, allowing me to manage my own time and leave 3:30pm on Wednesday’s to take my boys to Karate class. Leaving early challenged conventional work practices. Yet it was necessary and worked. I figured stuff out. Yet, more often than I would like to admit, my mind was cluttered, in sensory overload!

Seven years ago, I asked myself what truly lit me up inside during my years in the corporate world. I had flashbacks of challenging projects and collaboration, hard work and laughter, late night crises turned into high fives. I recalled struggles that turned into adventures.

At the core of my reflections, the memories that really made me feel alive were those when I was alert and focused, fostering progress and disrupting the status quo. These were times when I rebelled instead of unquestioningly doing what I was told. I asked lots of questions. I recall opportunities to mentor, coach and lead teams on pioneering projects. Projects that challenged us yet helped us and our organizations learn and grow.

George Henry Lewes, English philosopher and critic of literature and theatre said: “Originality is independence, not rebellion; it is sincerity, not antagonism.”

The occasions spent being original through challenging the status quo and finding better ways to get stuff done, were the times that had me and my team grow the most.

I also recall the drama. I felt the heart-ache when there was push-back, when relationships soured, when stressors hijacked our humanity.

I found human connection missing at the hardest and darkest times in my career. I experienced noisy, cluttered and ambiguous conversations. I experienced processes, procedures, rules, policies that worked in the past, yet were clearly out-dated. I experienced complacency and inertia that rubbed painfully on my sensibilities for progress.

At times, I rebelled and helped shape new processes, better ways to develop, relate and lead. Other times, I felt ineffectual and watched with horror. Not always, yet often enough.

Today, as I once again step through the imaginary looking glass, I feel the urgent need to cut through the clutter. It’s time to shine the light on what’s most important, to disrupt the status quo, to be purposefully radical.

Mostly, I feel compelled to inspire a human connection. In so doing, we disrupt conventional wisdom in favour of fostering real conversations. Sometimes, the elephant in the room just needs to be seen, spoken about and explored. In those times, we blend originality and sincerity with radical ideas and constructive rebellion. We lead from the present and into the future, with authenticity and with courage.

I step through the looking glass. There’s darkness, there’s light, there’s shades of grey.


Related: Let your Workers Rebel

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