To succeed as an individual or as a firm one must have roots and wings.
Roots provide stability, a place to stand, a passed along tradition and a sense of history.
But roots alone which are important to ensure one does not get blown away by the winds of change might anchor one too much to the past and to a status quo which may no longer be relevant.
Thus, the importance of wings.
The ability to raise oneself and see above the horizon, to look down with new perspectives and to ensure that the roots which feed us do not wither by failing to adapt to a new world.
Roots nourish via what we were and where we came from and what we did.
Wings encourage us to go where we need to and to blaze new trails which will lay down tomorrows roots and are a highway to what we will accomplish.
Why roots are critical.
We are stories.
Whether we are individuals or companies.
We all have beginnings.
Origin stories either real or concocted.
Once upon a time.
In the beginning.
This past for companies creates rituals, motivational stories, moments of crisis, provenance, proof, and a reason to believe. Tales that encrust every key financial event like barnacles. The almost went out of business moments, the eureka breakthrough moments, the IPO moment, or the key acquisition.
As time passes, people move on, and locations change the stories linger often shape shifting with the passage of time, with who the story teller is , and the quality of the telling.
Remembered history may not be history but in it is rooted much.
Roots are critical for not just companies but individuals.
Personal roots shaped by the people and places we grew up, first losses, loves, jobs and mentors, help make us what we are. Then key decisions and roads taken or not taken that bring us to the present. We plumb, narrate, garnish, and embellish these roots to explain why and where we are today.
The tattoo moments that we wear as invisible scars or badges that nobody sees but that mark our days.
People, skills, relationships are forged and become part of our roots.
Reputations, brands, trust, and networks are built by time and help us navigate the sway of change by keeping us rooted to what matters, disciplined in skills, protected by a trampoline of earned trust.
Over the years we are forged in the foundry and furnace of experiences that enable us to become the force we are. This enables faster action and movement than the uninitiated since what others must learn comes as second nature.
Roots matter in relationships, in honing of skills and much more.
The magic of wings.
While every individual and firm start somewhere, every life and firm are also a journey.
Just as a tree that begins with a seed initiating a root, many of us are lucky to be nourished by the water and light of life provided by families, school, and friends to reach upward and branch out.
We take wings.
Wings are fueled by dreams. By crossing the horizon to go where no one has gone before. To do the unimaginable and the impossible.
It is the fuel that drives not just entrepreneurs but all of us who take a risk, switch careers, leave a city or country to go to another. It fuels immigrants who leave with nothing but a dream for a better life. Wings beat and provide the wind for artists who start with a blank sheet of paper, a piece of rock, an empty space which they convert into stories, songs, plays, paintings, movies, sculpture and more.
While the roots, the status quo, and the ground below us are all real we often take wing to the unseeable, the unknowable.
We take a leap into the void that sometimes results in innovation, creativity, the un-status quo when we land.
Every individual has wings.
It is just a question of when and if we get the chance to use them.
Combining roots and wings.
If every individual and company is a story with a place we came from, every individual and a firm is also about a place we are going to.
We all integrate the dualities of roots and wings.
Too rooted and we may wither way as changing times and climate bring drought to the place and way we were.
To winged and we may be blown away in the gusts of change.
Too rooted and we may be seen as old school, hide bound to tradition and inflexible.
Too ready to fly with change may find us painted as unreliable, undisciplined, and short-term oriented.
Transformation is twisting ourselves and companies into new shapes with the clay of what we were and new skills and pieces we acquire.
To believe and better understand where you are going people want to know from where you are coming.
If you wish to record a new track it helps, especially once you are no longer a beginner, to have a track record.
So next time ask yourself, your friends or your company or the companies you wish to partner with:
a) What are the tattoo moments that made you what you are?
b) What do you believe is key from the past to your future and what should you be willing to or need to leave behind?
c) Where are you going and what do you believe about tomorrow?
d) What leaps of faith or acts of courage are you going to take to get there?
And many of us will get to where we are going.
This is because we got where we are today by continuously integrating, balancing, and unifying yesterday and tomorrow, safety and risk and what we are/were and what we want to be.
We are a mix of roots and wings…
Art by Bisa Butler.
Rishad Tobaccowala (@rishad) is the author of the bestselling “Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data” published by HarperCollins globally in January 2020. It has been described as an “operating manual” for managing people, teams and careers in the age we live in and The Economist Magazine called it perhaps the best recent book on Stakeholder Capitalism. Business and Strategy named it among the best business books of the year and the best book on Marketing in 2020. Rishad is also a speaker, teacher and advisor who helps people think, feel and see differently about how to grow their companies, their teams and themselves. More at https://rishadtobaccowala.com/
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