Before moving on to the real narrative, I’ll share this final piece that completes the story of arrival. How I came to a point of crossing over.
I once had to report to a man. One who still believes that ‘corporate education’ is about taking the expertise of academics to the marketplace to help the non-experts in industry, work out how to make more money, “to solve their bottom line business issues“.
I don’t like the smell of that.
It tastes like dry, stale, old bread.
I also don’t believe in corporate education. If you are employed by a large organisation, corporate education (as described above) is the last thing you need. You’ve already been socialised around that thinking. You are much more likely to require ‘human’ education. Besides, focusing on ways to make more money, is not going to make you more money in this next era of economic history.
And, rarely is corporate education actually education, it’s just training. It is skills based, it is not designed for real growth, it is designed to teach non-experts how to go back and control people and processes more effectively in order to make or save more money than they currently are. And even if that is not your intention as an individual or even a team, that is the underlying assumption of the system you are in. Economists assume we are all ‘rational’ in that way.
In much the same manner as you were taught at school, a corporate classroom will have you sitting at desks, listening to a so-called expert (more to come the topic of expertise), trying desperately to remember what you are being told or, you’re completely checked out and catching up on emails…
~ John Dewey
Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.
There are many excellent educators in business schools and many more outside of them, who provide engaging, interactive, real-time learning experiences (shout out to those I’ve worked with and those I continue to work with). But I could not continue to work in this setting under the proviso that I was there simply to translate other people’s research into ways for people (my ‘students’) to make money for more other people who love money (and who don’t look after the people – my students – making the money….). And at the same time, this is how I was being ‘managed’ as well, on the assumption that I was there to be a ‘good girl’; a young diligent, female corporate citizen who knows her place.
Others who experienced this would not criticize me for exaggerating if I were to say; It is a trauma loop that is emanating noxious waves throughout the business and perpetuating cycles of coercive control and toxic masculinity. To a greater or lesser degree this is happening throughout our organisations, everywhere.
Perpetrated and perpetuated by people who think their job is about control.
And control of what? Personally, I will no longer work in an environment where the leaders don’t understand that money isn’t real (we made it up, just like we’ve seen the birth of crypto). I don’t worship false gods. I’m not giving up 40,50, 60+ hours a week of my life to run on the financial treadmill they have so expertly lured us all on to. That is the whole point of economics and politics, as we’ve seen them play out in Australia for decades.
I didn’t get an education so I could get up everyday to play a make believe, yet ruthless game of ‘chase the buck’ (or even ‘save a buck’).
And then go home to my ‘actual life’…? (The one they talk about when referring to work/life balance??)
Education is about growth. It is about exploring what it is to be human and wonder at what is possible if we developed our strengths and talents, work collaboratively with others, and imagine a future in which we have made a positive difference to the world.
Education is not about developing an aspect of yourself that is separate to the rest of you. The idea of a professional identity distinct from a personal identity is a dangerous one, and one key to my thesis: the current global leadership crisis is a crisis of collective identity, both within the toxic circle of leaders themselves, and within the disenfranchised and intelligent citizens of the world.
We have categorised and chunked ourselves into separate identities that don’t require consistency. Our unethical behaviour at work doesn’t need to affect our status as a great dad, a community-minded neighbour, wonderful husband, successful son. We have separated the human side of ourselves from the work side. We even tell people to leave their baggage at home, their work stress at work….Global leaders are in no way immune to this experience; they probably haven’t had a human education either.
A social norm; integrity and authenticity are not required for the job.
An expectation; you will be ‘professional’ at work and in all matters pertaining to work.
And so back to the bottom line; which is love. And that’s not something that we have come to expect from our work. We don’t expect it from teachers and staff at school. And universities, as institutions, have very little expertise in the matter to share or ‘assist’ you with.
Imagine if our global leaders had received human education, the world would be….
Education helps us grow into what we can be. To explore what is possible when we apply effort and energy. This doesn’t happen in a corporate or military style classroom. It happens in a classroom in which the teacher cares about her students. It happens in homes where parents pay attention to their children and each other. It happens during play when we get in flow. It happens when we sit quietly and notice the world around us.
Education is quite possibly not what most people think it is.
It is not going into the same building day in and day out, despite being tired and uninspired, despite feeling worthless and defeated, trying your ‘best’, being told if you are right or wrong and then doing it all some more. Where is the growth? The exploration of potential? The creative, imaginative wondering and delight?
Yet. Where are our children? Almost 40 weeks of every year of their childhood.
They are in the same place I was in.
A place that robs you of the things you love. That takes your curiosity and turns it into compliance, your delight into the need for approval, and your talents and strengths into irrelevant hobbies (unless they fit into one of the existing boxes….usually related to making a buck, or fitting in with those that do).
OUR CHILDREN ARE IN CRISIS.
The trauma loop is real. I loved school. I was a pleaser. I learned what they needed from me, kept my head down and stuck to the rules. I could do this because I was trained by generational trauma to do just that.
Now I am a cycle breaker, and I can see how desperate our children are. And I believe that those who don’t experience crisis during school, will be in a world of trouble once they get to the workplace and discover the world they have been prepared for, no longer exists. Automation and digital transformation will be developed rapidly now, and once corporates see themselves through the worst of this wave of the pandemic, the technology will be deployed as a matter of urgency. As a way to ‘future-proof’ production and distribution and other aspects of the supply chain. Control. The ripple effect and unintended consequences never made transparent, just left for the rot to creep as it will.
“If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.”~ John Dewey
If we, as the current generation of leaders and decision makers at the societal level, don’t start working together on a narrative of a sustainable future, we also rob our children of today. They are experiencing an existential crisis far greater than us.
Our children don’t know who they are. The crisis is one of collective identity, in the context of volatility and uncertainty. The mental health system is collapsing under the pressure and parents are desperate. Some fill their kids with experimental drugs, wait months to consult experts, all so they can get them back to school, get back to work, and back to the job of making someone else’s bottom line as pretty as it can be. What about your bottom line? What about love?
To our children the corporate ‘bottom line’ is so much more than a corporate mantra, a meaningless phrase. It is the reason their parents are tired, distracted, absent, irritable or downright mean. It is the reason they are sent to school despite it being so damaging to their mental health, restrictive of their growth and disruptive of their play.
You know how you check out and catch up on your emails during corporate training workshops? That’s how so many kids feel at school everyday. Is this what you want for your children? For anyone’s children? For our future?
You think that’s air you’re breathing now? Hmm. – Morpheous
You think that’s an education they’re getting?
So let’s take another look at that old manager’s thinking…
He believes that education is about taking what the ‘experts’ say and using that to help the ‘non-experts’ to work out how to make more money (or waste less) from what they are doing (and we’ll get to the bit about what an ‘expert’ actually is…); apply this thinking to our children’s school setting and we get something like this:
Education is about taking the expertise within the curriculum into the classroom and assisting children to become good citizens who will one day help organisations with their bottom line issues…
Children are intelligent, before we educate it out of them. They don’t want to help some stranger make money. They want to know who they are and what is possible in a world where anything could be possible.
Schools, universities and corporations, a series of institutions that have ‘evolved’ to be somewhat aligned to create a simple, linear progression from kindergarten to C-Suite. All within budget, all with a respectable nod to a healthy ‘bottom line’. Our education institutions have become corporations. An assembly line for good democratic and/or corporate citizens.
And this is why there is little love to be found in executive suites (or suits). It has been ‘educated’ and ‘assembled’ out of them.
If you have followed the straight line from school to work, the one they laid out so clearly and conveniently for you, then you are probably arguing with me in your head right now, or talking to your screen, “of course money is real’, ‘I love my corporate job and the people I work with’, ‘yeah, well do you have a better idea?’.
And if you got rejected from the system, told the path was not for you, you may still be carrying a sense of failure, or perhaps you experienced the relief of shedding a a burden that need not be yours. The norms and the expectations haunt you nonetheless.
Money is a social construct. We forget. If you don’t value them, those little coins and notes are worthless. Just try using hard currency from one country in another. First you have to turn it into something the people you want to trade with value, most likely their own currency.
People are starting to joke about trading toilet paper for a ‘RAT’ (covid at home test).
People are buying houses with cryptocurrency.
Neighbours are trading home grown vegetables and eggs from their backyard chooks; as they always have.
There is no real value in money per se. The value is simply in what you can trade for. Money makes it easy for people with nothing else to trade, to get what they need. Money is nothing more than an ‘in-game’ token. And our kids know this better than us because our beautiful, not so little anymore, digital natives have been trading in-game tokens almost since birth.
They get it. They see the game that has been built up around us and they are making up their own games with new rules. And they are leaving us out.
I believe we (the working, decision making adults) need to re-educate ourselves. We need human-education. We need to be reminded what it is to be human. To notice and explore our impulses, our intrinsic desire to know something, do something, be something. Something more than a slave to someone else’s false bottom line. Someone free, connected and open, someone who is compassionate and works in service of others…
To do this we first need to disassemble the corporate citizen we have been trained to be, and then reassemble the human that was born for love. Our schools and institutions need to be reimagined as institutions that help us explore what it is to be human. And then our organisations can be rebuilt to be fit for the humans that work there. The ones needed to create the value that other humans are wiling to trade for.
I share all this with you because, just like everyone else in our society, my family has been caught in this trauma loop. We have been scarred by the ‘system’. In believing that we were doing ‘all the right things’, and in our attempts to continue doing so, we forgot to prioritise love.
And so we transitioned and transformed ourselves. We we home educate our teenagers. They both pursue their passions, practice their craft (their strengths and talents) and talk of a future where work is about passion and play, where it is something you do with people you love. A future in which gender is irrelevant, money is just a tool, and love is the bottom line we work on.
And so I say, to all the managers, the controllers who’s minds are still filled with old, stale bread:
We’ve decided to take things in a different direction.
It is time to transcend.