It was Yogi Berra[i] who said “When you reach a fork in the road . . . take it.”
That’s all fine and dandy, but doesn’t that raise some questions for you regarding the significance of that fork in the road? For example, Why does the road you’re on bifurcate at all? Why here right where you are today? Why should you be forced to CHOOSE? Why can’t you just keep doing what you were doing all along? How do you know what lies ahead of either one of the choices? How to CHOOSE what to do; stay where you are, go left, or go right?
The Hero’s Journey
I believe the fork in the road is synonymous with the Call to Adventure; a personal invitation to embark on a hero’s journey—a quest for human maturation. This quest is not academic but experiential. It’s not about things or possession but it’s about exposure to new and different thoughts and perspectives on life itself—humanity or spirituality; the notion that there is something bigger and other than oneself.
Here’s what I think. The call to adventure is about QUALITY as it was described by Robert Pirsig in his book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: “the continuing stimulus which our environment puts upon us to create the world in which we live.” The environment in which we grow up is different for all of us. Hence, we have different experiences and thus different examples of what constitutes good or bad quality. So, there are no different kinds of quality only different examples of what constitutes quality for each of us individually.
Exercise Your Freedom to CHOOSE
Although we cannot change those individual experiences, we can CHOOSE to change our understanding of those experiences. Understanding has to do with principles of cause and effect that explain why certain phenomena occur, and predict outcomes of our decisions and behavior. This is different from knowledge, which prescribes how to create certain effects.
At the fork in the road you can CHOOSE to be a slave to the environment in which you grew up—follow traditions, stick with what you learned as part of your schooling, and never question assumptions; be a team player, a careerist, and CHOOSE whatever advances your own best interest. Alternatively, you can CHOOSE freedom from convention, think critically for yourself, and explore principles to gain insight and understanding. After all, in order to PERCEIVE quality differently, you’ll have to THINK differently. Freedom from dogma, doctrine, and ideology is not just a dream. It’s there, on the other side of those fences we build all by ourselves. And, to tear down those fences is the actual meaning of being a disrupter!
On the Other Side . . .
“Never Let Schooling Interfere with Your Education” is a quote attributed to Mark Twain. Note that schooling refers to the formal process of being taught at school, whereas education refers to its Latin origin “educo”, which means to develop from within; to instill understanding.
So, when you find yourself at the fork in the road, you can CHOOSE your guiding principles; your North Star, your perception of quality, or the values you hold to be valid and true. These are the qualities of your personality on which others will judge your character.
Schooling is about exposure to knowledge and skills; it tends to be analytic and specialized. Education may have exposed you to many other experiences, topics and areas of interest that help you UNDERSTAND what you were taught at school, by way of correlations, analogies or synchronicities. Understanding is something you need to do yourself; others can teach you but they cannot make you understand it.
The more extensive your education—personal experiences, exposure to different cultures, learning about a wide variety of topics―the better your understanding of your environment and appreciation for its continuing stimulus to create the world in which we live.
The late Col. John R. Boyd USAF warned everyone around him against what he called Incestuous Amplification. Those who tend to socialize only with like-minded people, have their perception of reality distorted by each of their preconceived notions. As a result, their observations provide justification for those preconceived notions, which in turn validates their beliefs.
Their certainty of personal infallibility prevents any learning from mistakes. While persisting in the soundness of their own judgment, these ideologues risk piling one mistake on top of the other, causing a chain effect of unwanted results, without knowing it.
What I perceive as their biggest mistake is failing to perceive a business as a singular, unique, integrated, and open system. A system is a network of component parts AND their interactions. Focus―analysis and specialization―on individual parts in separation and isolation of all other parts negates the synergistic effect among component parts; their interactions or interfaces. One simply cannot understand the complexly interdependent nature of component parts from the perspective of a single part! Back in 1937, Napoleon Hill described this inability as the “missing link” in all systems of education known to civilization today. Alas, not much has changed! No disruption there!
Hence, to be a disrupter requires CHOOSING to think differently; CHOOSING deliberate action towards UNDERSTANDING principles that explain and predict. Your education must have given you the realization that, for example, your car is one piece; an integrated whole as opposed to a collection of parts. What makes those parts into a whole are their connections, relationships, interactions, and interdependencies. But, that’s not all; the car needs an environment in order to function. Think of roads, refueling stations, service stations, body shops, driver’s education, licensing, registration, insurance, etc. Why would business be any different?
Don’t let your academic degree (MBA) interfere with what you already knew to be valid and true; CHOOSE to expand your orientation to enhance your understanding! Make sure your disrupting is intentional and not the result of NOT understanding cause and effect.
[i] Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was an American professional baseball catcher who later took on the roles of manager and coach. He played 19 seasons in Major League Baseball, all but the last for the New York Yankees. Wikipedia