In this episode Addi and Amber talk about Margaret Wheatley's book Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity. The title is a mouthful and the content lives up to the big name. It's a pretty sobering look at the failure of civilization around us, and it also shows a path forward for creating "islands of sanity" through brave and compassionate leadership.
In each chapter you get some science and history to set the stage, and then a breakdown of the topic from the perspectives in the title: Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, and Restoring Sanity, which lays out her ideas on the path through it all.
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Hey everybody. This is Addison Berry, and you're listening to the Osio Labs podcast. The show that explores the question. How can we create sustainable businesses that care for people and make the world a better place? On today's episode, I'm joined by my colleague, Amber Matz. This is episode number six, and we're going to chat about the book"Who do we choose to be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity by Margaret Wheatley. This is a pretty sobering book that takes a hard look at where we are in the world today. We're given a good dose of science and history that walks us through the collapse of civilizations. And the necessary components for survival. Not in a zombie apocalypse way though, but how do we keep our humanity? How do we lead towards a future through dark times? For each chapter, you get some science and then a breakdown of the topic from the perspectives in the title. Facing reality. Claiming leadership. And restoring sanity. Which lays out her ideas on the path through it with a focus on sanity humanity and compassion I actually originally read this book last year and then reread it to do this podcast along with Amber. And I'm super curious to talk about this book because I find this book fascinating. So I'm excited to, to talk about it and with somebody else who's read it on the team. And so we'll just dive straight in. What was your overall impression? What do you think of this book? My overall impression of this book was that it, it was. It's, it was stunning. Not in the like, stunning, oh, this is so beautiful. It's stunning. In the, I'm stunned. Like I am kind of shocked and like, oh, oh, okay. Things are as bad as I thought. It was really kind of affirming in that way. Just having, you know, three years of discussions. Mostly with my husband during the pandemic and everything else that happened, and it was just validating in a way mm-hmm. To have like the things that we were talking about and we're like, am I, you know, these kind of, are we crazy? Or is the world crazy? Like, what, who, mm-hmm. What is happening here? Where's the sanity? Where's the, you know, where's that line? So it was, My overall impression was it was very thought provoking and validating kind of at the same time. So yeah, it was one of those, yeah. Mm-hmm. You recommend this book to other, other people or who would you recommend it to? Might be a better question. I don't know. I would, the thing that kind of keeps me from. Recommending it to anyone and everyone is, the feeling I had when I was reading it was that the audience is for like leader people, like definite leaders. Hmm. And like people who are in kind of leadership roles and that's how they think of themselves, or they're just, they're in that mindset of leadership, whether they have an official role or not. They're in the mindset of being a leader. Okay. Whether that's in their community or their workplace or an organization or whatever. And you know, I haven't thought of myself as a leader in so many years that it was you. I haven't thought in those terms or I haven't had that mindset. In terms of how can I be of service to those around me or like, you know, kind of that servant leadership kind of mindset. That was something that was kind of. It was both interesting, but also I kind of felt a little disconnected, like mm-hmm. Oh, there's a lot behind what she's saying. there's a lot of thought and a lot of people think about this stuff all the time. Mm-hmm. And this felt like, or, or a survey of, of a lot of different schools of thought, you know, and it just felt. It was a little bit overwhelming in that regard and a little bit, I kind of struggled to connect with the, the ultimate kind of call to action, of how can you contribute to this world. You know, it, the world being as what it is so I found that the, kind of thought exercise is interesting and I think it's interesting for anyone to kind of. Who's been struggling to make sense of the world. It, it gives you some interesting things to think about and an interesting framework, an interesting perspective from different you know, his history, science. Mm-hmm. Neurobiology, you know, all sorts of different perspectives. So I think it was helpful in that regard, but, I'm still kind of grappling with the call to action, like, what does that mean for me? So that was kind of, I don't, I don't know. Yeah. Right. If you, so if you were recommending it to somebody, would you recommend it to people who are in leadership roles already and like for other people, sort of like have a, a caveat or a maybe. Read something else first to warm you up or something, or, well, for example, I, I was camping with my family and my brother is a professor of, you know, in, in the university and he's also recently taken on a, a leadership position in, in a church. So I, I absolutely recommended it to him and I talked to him about it and I thought it would be an interesting thing for him to read and also even something to bring his students through. Mm-hmm. and so I. Definitely recommended it to him. Right. Um, because he's in a position of influencing and, and leading young people who are trying to make sense of the world and what their place is in it. Mm-hmm. And who are grappling with a lot of kind of big questions about the future. So absolutely. I recommended it to him. I kinda struggled to recommend it to other people. I read passages to my husband, but I wouldn't outright like recommend it wholesale to anyone. Right.'cause I think it would just be kind of lost on them. Like it, they wouldn't really see the point. I think the appeal is to See the pers, the different perspectives she was talking about, mm-hmm. Her perspectives on what's happening in the world. I think that's very kind of universally interesting. But like I said, it's like the kind of the call to action, like, right. The contribution piece I think would be kind of just because, interesting, like we're still kind of in this insular, We're just kind of trying to protect ourselves a bit. We're kind of in this self-protective mode where we're just like, world is going a little nuts, and we're trying to kind of insulate ourselves from that instead of in the mindset of, okay, how can we serve in this capacity or be islands of sanity to those around us? So for me it was like a it's a personal growth call to action. Like how can I. Grow and be in a position to where I can be an island of sanity, which is a term she used isn't part of her call to action and so it just kind of made me aware of the gap between where I am personally and where I would need to be in order to contribute in the way that she is. Calling people too, right? Yeah, it's interesting'cause I mean, of course like I guess I'm in a leadership role, right? So for me, right, that is not a thing that sort of occurred to me. And this leads to, and, and we have talked about this and we've talked about this on the team. I want us to do another podcast on what is leadership. Sure.'cause a lot of people don't identify as leaders who actually are leaders. They just don't mm-hmm. Know what to recognize it. So that's a whole separate conversation that we will not dive into here. Um, but I, I find it interesting so I think like that is a critical. Question though, which is why I wanna do whole podcast on it. Mm-hmm. Because I see that theme rising over and over and over again. Mm-hmm. in lots of different facets. but back to having this book feel sort of like a, I don't know, like an enlightening to sort of where you are, where things are and where you might want to be, do you. Feel like it could do that for other people too. To just sort of be like, I'm not a leader, but I get what she's saying and I want to, I want to be able to take action. Mm-hmm. So something's gotta change in order for me to come back to this book in a year and mm-hmm. Or you know what I mean? Like do you think Yeah. Or do you think it's just On average too, too overwhelming for, so my take on it is that I think this book is amazing. Mm-hmm. And it definitely mm-hmm. made me feel not alone. Yes. And not crazy in my Yes. Dark cynicism that I lived in mm-hmm. For a very long time. And, and it sort of validated all of that. And then gave me this thread of hope that I previously had not been able to see in that mm-hmm. Mess, you know? Mm-hmm. but I agree that recommending it is I would definitely recommend it'cause I, I find it just a really fascinating book. And also someone needs to be prepared to be overwhelmed, like, yeah. The first time I read this book, I felt dumped into the deep end. Yeah. like it, it's very overwhelming. there's like a lot of information, a lot of it kind of coming at you, and I find it, I'd be like, I, wow, this is a really good point. And then, you know, three pages later, oh my gosh, this is a really good point. And I would forget the other point because I was yeah, I was just being. But all of this new really interesting stuff and my brain just sort of couldn't keep up. And then on this, mm-hmm. Second, read through having an idea of what was going on. Mm-hmm. And having been book before, I could pace myself better and sort of absorb the things that I wanted to focus on better. Mm-hmm. So recommending it to someone, but also maybe having the caveat of just don't. Get overwhelmed with the whole thing. Take the bits that you want from it and then maybe come back to it again at a, yeah, at a later point.'cause it's, it's a lot. It's, it's a definitely a huge dump of information and perspective and new ways of thinking and, it can be a little tiring, I think that. I'm glad that I read it all the way through, and I felt those feelings of overwhelm and validation as well. I would like to read it again, but in, in more of a kind of a devotional kind of journal sort of a way. Mm-hmm. Like take one, ES read, it's basically a series of essays. Mm-hmm. And and read one essay at a time. And do and write, write something, you know? Right. Mm-hmm. Like basically journal through it, right. Absorb, absorb whatever was happening there. Yeah. Yeah. she does, I mean, she does recommend doing such a thing, you know, like she does, she does prepare you, you know, she's like, this is going to be overwhelming. You should take your time. That's why there are images through all of those things are, she's aware. Totally of, of how o overwhelming it is. Yeah. Mm-hmm. So I, I feel like it's, it's a good book to spend some time with and to study. Mm-hmm. And if it's not this kind of fast food, quick read sort of a book. It's a good study group book. Yeah. Yeah. Over, yeah. Over, you know, a couple months. Yeah. Of like really taking your time to read, think, write, talk about it. Mm-hmm. Sort of absorb that thing and then move on to the next. Absolutely. I feel like that would actually be a really cool mm-hmm. Cool process, uh, to do with this book in particular. I absolutely agree. I would definitely recommend it as a study group discussion book. I think you, it's. Hmm, this gives, definitely gives me an idea to try and start something like this.'cause I think it would be a, a fun way to get through this book. Fun. Mm-hmm. It, yeah. do you, so you were saying in terms of the call to action didn't resonate as well'cause you weren't, you're like, where, how, where, how, what? And then, so I'm just curious, is there a takeaway from, for you, From the book or an, an action you do wanna take or a thing that you were like, I'll take this one thing from it and sort of carry forward with this for a little while, kind of a thing. Is there anything like that that came out of it for you? Sure. I think that the, the thing I took away from it was that there's an alternative to this feeling of being, that you're being swept along this current of life. At a, you know, I did a lot of whitewater rafting in my youth. Mm-hmm. And it feels like that's how life feels for me right now. And it's felt like that for a long time, where I'm just being swept along and you're just doing your best to avoid obstacles and stay in the boat and when you fall out of the raft, getting back into it as quickly as possible. So that's how, that's the feeling I have in this kind of anxiety, you know, kind of. Thrilling anxiety of survival, you know? Mm-hmm. And that's kind of lessening as you know, things have kind of calmed down in my mind anyway. Mm-hmm. and so just the alternative being to be an island of sanity and to kind of yeah. That alternative is like a complete contrast to mm-hmm. This feeling of being swept along a river. So, mm-hmm. I find that it's important for me to have people who were those islands and so like I see the benefit of it and how much it's helped me. And so To do that in turn for other people is a real, it's a, it's a real challenge. I think that the, the reason why the call to action is hard for me to relate to. It's, it's not so much that it's hard for me to relate to. It's just, it's such a challenging prospect to think about because I still feel like I'm on the needful end of that, where it's something that I need in my life. Mm-hmm. And to turn around and be that for someone else is that. That seems like a no, uh, good thing to do, whether or not I, you know, and really hard to do, and the challenge and hard to do. And so the challenge is, she even says this, like, we need stable people to be islands of sanity. And I'm not trying to say I'm unstable, but it feels like, I do feel like mm-hmm. My, you know, that there is a, a, a measure of instability. And so the, the reason why the call to action is hard for me is because. It's such a challenge to think about. It's just, it's not how I've thought of myself or how I can contribute. So it's just a real wake up call and it's, it's a, it's a, it's something that I am gonna continue to think about. I do plan on rereading this and going through it a little more slowly and doing some writing along with it, some journaling. Mm-hmm. it'd be great to do a discussion group with it too. And, you know, yeah. Have people to talk about it with because it's just, there's just this gap. So the takeaway is yes, there's an alternative to feeling kind of swept along the insanity of this world and that you can actually be, I. An island of sanity. You can be an advocate for other people and you can, you can serve in, in a world that is kind of crumbling around you. Right. So that's kind of a heady call to action actually. It is, yeah. For sure. and I would say like the definitely there's essentially this, this. Idea of, of creating islands of, of sanity as mm-hmm. The world crumbles around us. And my take on that because that is like an overwhelming individual task. My take on that is an island is not a person, right? An island is a community of people who are helping each other. Do this hard work. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So that it's not, I have to become this like island of sanity that others can then attach to. But it's more like, can, can two or three of us hold onto each other Right. And help anchor each other mm-hmm. And help build each other up. Yeah. You know, and, and like that. And like, I think that's where, for me, that's really. What the community part of this is that she's speaking of is like mm-hmm. You're not gonna do this alone. Yeah. And how do we, you know, provide this? But like, you know, nobody's perfect. Nobody's gonna be able to be this perfect island of sanity themselves. But if you have multiple people who are working together to create this island of sanity, you don't have to hold it up a hundred percent of the time all by yourself. and, and support everybody. Then you can like get tired and others will support you. Right. And pass it around, you know? yeah. That does sound a a lot more appealing. Trying to transform myself into some sort of magical superhero beacon of foundation doesn't seem possible. Totally. Yeah. I think my takeaway again, beyond sort of what you're saying, like this, this idea of. It's all going to hell in a hand basket, but here is something that you can still do that is mm-hmm. That is meaningful in the midst of that. And that's such a, it was such a, a light that came into my life. and so that is just a wonderful takeaway from the book period. In terms of more practical aspects of it, I guess the whole, like she has like, you know, chapters and she works soon, but she starts off essentially talking about identity and then perception and all of the various ways that, we identify and that you have to have this permeable barrier. So you have to have a barrier, you have to have an identity, but it has to be permeable to information in order to survive. Yeah. That's like sort of the thrust of a lot of her like scientific, uh, social stuff. Mm-hmm. It just really made me this time reading and it really made me stop and think about what identity is. and how do you identify an island of sanity? How do you keep that identity healthy? Right. You know? And of course, you know, I mean, I think about this in terms of my whole life. Also specifically here. Talking about it with, with you and reading in the context of this podcast. Mm-hmm. I think about it at work, right? Like, we have this team or this tiny little company and we have an identity and we, we are building our own island of sanity in mm-hmm. In this world right now. So what does that actually look like in me in terms of what she's talking about? Mm-hmm. Um, with identity and perception and This permeability and you know, information is not data. Like there, there, those are two different things. And so any, anyway, for me, I'm like, huh, this is something I really wanna think about within specific context of identity in my life. And you know, we have an upcoming retreat in about a month or so, and I'm like, I, I want us to sit down and talk about our identity Yeah. As a, as a group and. You know, what we're doing and how we are learning and how are we surviving and how do we, how do we see that happening? And just bringing it to consciousness. yeah. Instead of, I mean, we have our values listed and we have our mission and our vision, but that's part of identity, but that's not all of it. And I feel like it's a, mm-hmm. I think it's a good thing to explore in multiple places, like, you know, within your family, within your, you know, various groups. Mm-hmm. So that's one of the big things I took out of this reading of it was, Hmm, really just sort of stopping and taking a step back and really thinking about this identity and, and what is an island of sanity from that perspective that she actually raises in the book. So yeah, that's, mm-hmm. That's what's kicking in my head these days. Really good. Yeah. We'll be showing up at the team retreat in a few weeks. I look forward to that. Yeah. I guess we're, we're already sort of running down on time. I mean, we could launch into the whole thing about the progress trap and technology, but I think that's gonna take a lot longer than the time that we have left this podcast. Yeah, it's, so that could be an interesting, potentially an interesting future podcast maybe. but so, Maybe we can just wrap up with sort of, do you have any other sort of last thoughts or, anything that we might have missed talking about points that you wanted to, to raise? I was just remembering one of the, the other kind of main things that I thought was really helpful about this book was the different ways and different perspectives in which that. That she provides help, help you to accept reality for what it is. Hmm. To not be sugarcoating in. And she, you know, has this little thing on Hopium. And as an optimist myself, like a lot of who really had my optimism dismantled in the past few years, it was, I think it's a really important. Thing to, especially in the world of generative AI and all of the things, and all of the misinformation and disinformation, and she talks about that in the book as well, and all the propaganda and everything, how. How challenging it is to discern reality and Oh yeah. To discern truth, and it's so hard and it's getting, it's going to get harder. It's really chaotic and intentionally made difficult, it's not even subtle. It's like fun for people now to like distort reality, to mess with you. It's like entertainment mess with, yeah. Mm-hmm. So that was a really important, that was one of those validating things like, yeah, it is hard to figure out what is reality and what is the truth. And it's very difficult and there's a lot of different disciplines out there. Mm-hmm. you know, history, science, you know, many different things. That can contribute to helping us understand how we're perceiving the world and how those lenses affect our perception. And just being aware of what, how you're perceiving things so that you can step outside that getting even more perspective, get perspective on your perspective was really kind of meta, you know, to really understand how it is that you're taking in the world. And. Question that, so that you can be a better, so that you can better understand the actual reality and to not feel like, to be, to be able to contend with that and just accept it instead of sugarcoating it or anything else, like mm-hmm. Trying to believe that it's going to be somewhat different and, and I, that really resonated with me and it was something that I felt was critical during the last few years especially with, with the pandemic, is understanding reality like, Yes, this is reality and yes, it's this bad and this is what, how we need to respond and how we need to support each other. So in that sense, I absolutely, I think that's what she's saying. Mm-hmm. Is we need to understand reality and all of its truth and all of its harshness and thus this is how we need to support each other and Right. And respond. But don't pretend this isn't happening and then behave as if it isn't happening. Yeah. Right. That's. Yeah, that's where the conspiracy theories, theories and the, and the communities that are just kind of living outside of reality in their own bubbles. That's how those are born because they're not accepting reality. So, yeah. Yeah. I would recommend this book if mm-hmm. Especially if you can find someone to discuss it with. Mm-hmm. And if you can read it with someone or like, I'm going to do Spend some time with it and be journaling through it, so mm-hmm. understanding that as for an audience of leaders, but you don't necessarily like for me. Mm-hmm. Like, maybe I just am not, maybe I'm a leader and I just don't even know it, you know? Oh, and yeah. Just not to like, Spoilers, but you are. So, but we'll talk about that on another podcast. We'll talk about that later. Yeah. Because everybody, everybody on this team who's been on this podcast needs to have this conversation apparently again, but yes. Yeah. Anyway. Yeah. Cool. And I would say for anybody who's listening to this podcast, if you are curious about this book or if you've read this book and got completely overwhelmed by it, if you want to have. Some kind of discussion or study partner or group mm-hmm. Or something like that. Reach out to us and let us know, like we are, yeah. We are down for that. And for sure, I would love to have other people read this book and talk about it and try to Yes. Muddle through it together, so. Mm-hmm. Anyway, if you're listening and you're interested, drop us a line and and we will, we will definitely respond and, and mm-hmm. Help with open arms. Well thank you very much ma'am. Thanks for reading it. Thanks for, for getting through it. Yeah. And and the conversation and you know, obviously there will be more conversing on this one for sure. absolutely. Coming soon. Hey, so thanks for listening and let us know if you have questions, comments, or suggestions for what you'd like to hear more about. You can find all of the various ways to reach us on our website at osiolabs.com. That's O S I O L A B S.com. Also, please make sure to subscribe to the podcast on your podcast provider of choice. We'll catch you on the next episode.