Are you an Island?

We are all probably familiar with the famous John Donne quote "No man is an island". The quote comes from such a potent paragraph it actually contains two world renown sayings. The other being "For whom the bell tolls". In today’s hyper connected, hyper busy world it would seem more real than ever that we are not alone. And yet many of these connections are fleeting (re-tweets on twitter, comments on Facebook). How do we effectively invest in relationships and get done what we need to get done?

Many of us rely on others whom we have never met face to face (email, teleconferencing) to do our jobs. Building relationships and partnerships in such a medium is harder than the luxury our ancestors had when they could simply focus on their village. We are interacting with and managing relationships with more people than John Doone ever did. Does his philosophy still stand? As such the relative depth of our connections are spread far thinner. It’s actually become more important to recognize the importance of partnerships. In a highly networked, dispersed world if we are not effective in connecting into that flow we will not be able to attain our goals. We rely on inputs from others to develop ‘our’ ideas. We rely on others to help us put those ideas into action. Being harmonious with this requires sacrifice, and generosity.

Consequently the explosion of connections and relationships makes it more difficult to know which relationships to assess and invest in. Partnership by definition and tradition is quid pro quo. A win-win for two parties. The concept of ‘pay it forward’ is one where you do nice things simply for others not expecting a return. It speaks to Karma. How can we incorporate this into our highly interconnected world view. If we expand upon that Indian philosophy to bring Dharma into the equation one could argue that the Dharma for each and every one of us should include tending to our shared matrix of existence. That by executing on a pay-it-forward action into the network we are maximizing our positive input and increasing the likely hood of systemic reciprocation.

It might be tempting to take a highly competitive view of living in this massively networked world, that we must act, execute and deliver at all costs and that there are enough bridges to burn a few. I would propose quite the opposite. Rather than looking at a positive investment in outbound generosity as a waste of bandwidth it is in fact highly valuable, beyond its moral or feel good implications, both of which are fine reasons. And if more people act in this way it has an amplifying impact on all the other connections. Even when there is no apparent quantitative material gain from a specific investment. The more positive energy in the system the more it will output, even when you least expect it. There might after all be some physics to this (David Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order).

So the next time you are weighing up the pros and cons of ‘getting it done’ vs. ‘spreading a little bit of love’ realize the equation is both larger and far more non-linear than you will be able to grasp. Find time for both. It seems Boone’s philosophy is more relevant than ever.

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