VUCA is also for Vulnerability, Understanding, Compassion and Advocacy

Several years ago Bob Johansen of the Institute for Future described the life conditions we find ourselves in as “VUCA”; Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous.   I have been sharing this VUCA perspective for a few years now as I have witnessed what seems to be the intensity and pace of life and business keeps ratcheting up.   It is true, that after a very long period of relative stability and incremental, slow change our life conditions have become much more, well…..VUCA.   The acceleration of technology alone has been far outpacing our capacity to integrate and understand fully the implications of many of the technologies we have adopted.   While the advances of technology have brought value to our lives and global well-being, it has also brought us elevated levels of stress and reactivity as we are all stretched to understand what it all means.   Our cultural and individual health status has been de-graded as we grasp for a narrative that will makes sense of where we are.    

And now, we are confronting the most volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous circumstance of my lifetime, the COVID -19 pandemic.   The intensity of VUCA conditions has been turned way up and the question becomes ‘how will we respond?’    As the reality of pandemic set in a few weeks ago, I was somewhat expecting to hear stories of fear, agitation, denial, distress, and anger from the clients I serve in business, organizations and families.   What I heard and continue to hear is something quite different, a different kind of ‘VUCA’; Vulnerability, Understanding, Compassion and Advocacy.   Consistently I hear stories of people speaking from their heart about what really matters to them.  Honest and open about the emotion of fear that becomes courage and creativity.  For those who own and operate business, understanding, compassion and advocacy for the people who are the community of their business and the communities they operate in.   Families who are discovering new and meaningful ways of really, really connecting.   I have primarily been witness to this very adverse circumstance bringing forth the beauty of our too often hidden true selves.    It is as if this unfolding tragedy has created a circumstance in which we can more clearly see what really matters and what does not.   Simply said, love is outpacing hate.   Creativity is outpacing rigidity.   Finding beauty in our shared struggle.   We must be remembering who we really are at some level.   Our ‘consumer’ identities are falling away and compassionate, collaborative true selves are showing up.    

We are walking a dark road, for who knows how long.   We are losing people we know and love.  The fabric of lives as we have known it is being torn.  As I walk with you, I see you picking up and holding the threads of vulnerability, understanding, compassion and advocacy, making new patterns of beauty for the days to come.   It is a privilege to walk this dark road with you.   In closing, a poem.   The words of the poem I have recited so many times over the years take on new depth of meaning on this road; “The Way It Is” by William Stafford.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread

~ William Stafford ~