Whale song and maverick thinking
“A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate”
I once found myself at a large convention centre in Virginia. The end of a massive two-day conference was in sight. Suddenly a candle was lit on the stage and everyone in the audience was handed a candle and invited to light theirs.
Almost instantly I found myself in the enormous car park. I was shaking.
The other delegates saw this as unity and the sharing of the light. I saw a major fire hazard and torch-lit rallies. To me, live fire and conventions have very negative connotations and my instincts took over and I left the building.
It didn’t surprise me, or anyone on our team that day, that this was not for me. Where others seem to find comfort in being a member of a group, I often see danger. You see a tribe or a group, I see a mob that can turn nasty. My faith in human nature has been more informed by our genocidal history than by picture book images of camaraderie.
I am not good at following rules anyway. My parents were both involved in haute couture dressmaking and made valiant attempts to get me to learn to sew. I briefly joined the Brownies, despite my misgivings about groups (never mind groups with uniforms) only to be thrown out when I refused to take a sewing badge. I had joined for camping and woodcraft, not domestic drudgery.
This inability to do what was asked of me was instinctive and almost pathological.
My mother used to say to me later in life that if she wanted me to do a thing she would order me not to do it in the certain hope that I would do it. She was a smart woman. At some point, I worked out that my contrariness was as open to manipulation as obedience and decided for myself that would not decide to do a thing or not simply in response to what I had been told to do.
The whole one of the crowd thing passed me by. I knew there were ‘sets’ and ‘cliques’ around me, but I drifted in and out of them without commitment or long term interest; neither bullied nor rejected; nor interested in being at the heart of things.
Whale song and maverick thinking.
When tribe became a marketing concept as opposed to something to do with ethnicity if you’d asked me what my tribe was I’d have said I don’t have one.
Or I am in the tribe of people who don’t do tribe!
I can remember endless management team ‘pick your spirit animal’ stuff where everyone chose lion, wolf, eagle. I picked sea mamittee – and promptly bought a house with a pool! I must admit all that marketing technique, jargon, funnel, avatars rather pass me by. It makes my head hurt.
Now, having expanded my business and my waistline, I see myself more as a whale. Here I am deep in the ocean, singing my whale song. Far away I can hear other whales singing. I love to hear their song. Each of us is doing what we need to do and keeping in touch. Up above us as lots of brightly coloured canoes. Lots of paddling, lots of splashing going on. Each of those canoes, is a fad, an idea, a gimmick, a big new idea. There is always a lot of activity going on.
When the need arises, I rise and breathe air and leap and turn in the sunshine. Sometimes several whales are near me and we do so at similar times. I mean no harm, but if the canoes are there, they sometimes get swamped when whales rise. We don’t really pay much attention to them.
There is a deep song in me that is usually very clear in my mind and my heart. As long as I do what is congruent with that song, I have no need to paddle canoes, or try to be the biggest or the brightest or shiniest canoe.
Everything comes from that song. I work from the inside outwards. All the whales do as far as I can tell. It makes it extremely difficult sometimes for me to interpret people who work from the outside in. People who start a conversation with me by trying to fit me into the correctly coloured canoe, or want to engage me in the best plans for canoe maintenance are bewildering. An awful lot of conversations feel like that to me.
Whale song and maverick thinking. I can hear their song, but it is on the wrong frequency for me and just disrupts my own song. I tend to swim away. Sometimes if they have irritated me I smack my tail.
But I have discovered something unexpected in me. I, of the no tribe clan, do have a tribe. It is a tribe of whales, who have literally a long tail of experience and work in what we do. It is a thought to ponder as I continue to swim my way through life. Another joyful thought to add to the pleasure of the whale song.
We have so much at stake in our planet, our businesses and our lives at the moment. So many brightly coloured canoes after our money and promising to help us with health, business or spiritual problems. Those tiny canoes are often very unstable. And they are not going to accommodate you at all if you are truly a whale.
Make sure your tribe sings a beautiful song and be ready to rise and breathe. Try not to harm those canoes – but whatever you do – don’t try to sit in one if you are a whale.