Monday, December 11, 2023

darkness and light

Most people who know me (professionally) tend to associate me with stories about wacky props in zoom calls; encouraging people to play with Lego in workshops; and awarding prizes for whoever on a conference panel I'm chairing, delivers their presentation in the shortest time (or risk being chased off stage by me with my water pistols...). 

What some may not know about me is that part of the reason I try and bring such frivolity and apparent disregard for the accepted ways in which things are usually done by injecting more fun into proceedings, is that I also work in some very dark places: for example - researching trends and influences on the reasons why and how people choose to end their life by suicide to inform national policy; supporting refuges and services rescuing survivors of domestic abuse on how they can scale the number of women and children they're able to work with; coaching founders of start-ups who've just received a terminal diagnosis on how they think about their legacy; and consulting with Boards as to how their organisation should respond to their chief executive (or similar) unexpectedly dying in their sleep or in an accident.

Despite what may appear to be my default/usual positive and encouraging attitude that the world and (most) clients see, I'm always aware that however hard we might wish otherwise, there will always be suffering around us (albeit usually hidden just beneath the surface).

It's there for all of us to see if we choose to recognise it - or we can choose to ignore it; we can hope someone else deals with it; and we can hope beyond hope that we might never have to face those issues in or own lives.

Personally, I choose to recognise it - and in doing so, to try and break the taboos that surround it which means it remains hidden, and acknowledge it as part of the messiness of life. A choice that many people with lived experience of issues challenges seem to also share, based on the origin stories of so many social entrepreneurs, and founders of charities. 

However, if we do decide to accept these harder things that all around us, and try and figure out what our role might be in lessening the pain they cause, we need to be careful that we don't end up becoming overwhelmed ourselves (research shows that social entrepreneurs are the group of people who are the highest risk of burnout). For me, part of trying to figure out that balance involves encouraging apparent silliness whenever and wherever I can: because there's enough darkness out there already. We all need to try and bring what light we can for the benefit of all of us.