Letting Go and Playing Safe

 

Chicken Man - Sky is FallingThe only way to engage in learning is to risk and because all risk is a step into the unknown, it is also a leap of faith. Even the act of imagining, dreaming or envisioning requires the ability to suspend what one knows and leap towards what is unknown. If you stay safe with what you know, your learn nothing.

When faced with an opportunity to leap into uncertainty, Safety wants to keep it safe. This is how you ‘future proof’ your organization against change. The Unknown and Uncertain is too scary so the best it can offer is zero risk and risk aversion. This is a recipe for stunted growth, immaturity and stasis.

We are all familiar by now with the disaster of ‘helicopter parenting’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_parent). This is the metaphor that captures the parent to hovers over their child robbing them of risk and uncertainty. We know that helicopter parenting is a paradox, it actually makes children more fragile when in fact resilience helps a child become anti-fragile (Taleb). The very act of wanting to protect children from risk robs them of developing a lived life with resilience. Risk aversion does the opposite of preparing children for living! Such a fixation with Safety is a psychosis.

One of the beauties of play is the development of the skill of imagination. Imagination is something that needs to be fostered and nurtured with practice. Imagination requires letting go of what you know and venturing into the unknown territory of what you don’t know. This is the energy of discovery and vision. Children who are allowed to play without supervision, to create on their own and let their minds wander, develop imagination skills that help them mature, grow and gain a vision for living. Playing safe mitigates against such a process. Letting go of what is ‘safe’ is the key to learning through imagination.

The world’s entrepreneurs, visionaries and inventors always affirm the necessity for risk, imagination and creativity. Walt Disney (https://www.investors.com/news/management/leaders-and-success/walt-disney-made-magic-by-mixing-imagination-with-work-ethic/) Elon Musk (https://evannex.com/blogs/news/elon-musk-risk-taking-and-imagination-are-keys-to-success) and Steve Jobs (https://www.riskmanagementmonitor.com/steve-jobs-lessons-on-risk/) are examples of people who know that playing safe is a disaster for learning and innovation. How can one learn, risk, grow and mature when one’s ideology is anchored to zero??? Zero is the grand metaphor for stasis (https://safetyrisk.net/why-metaphors-matter-in-risk/). Do nothing, stay safe. Under zero safety becomes a psychosis. Don’t do anything, someone may get hurt. And if they do get hurt, it must be their fault. Safety is a choice you make!

One of my favourite songs of all time is ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon. If ever there was a risk taker it was John Lennon, he knew how to live life. His life is the story of risk, learning and amazing success (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lennon) and with it came lots of pain and harm. There is no real living without harm and with harm comes learning. As they say in sport ‘no pain, no gain’. Just imagine if Lennon was brought up under the toxic language of zero? No, Lennon knew how to let go and take a leap of faith into uncertainty.

Another of my favourite songs is ‘The Times They’re a Changin’. Bob Dylan was the imagination for an era who could wanted a future of more than racism and war. It was through Dylan’s imagination a whole generation stood up and sought a new future. He knew about Hope and the human condition. I can remember like it was yesterday just how much this scared my parents. The sky was going to fall in, the chooks would stop laying and the moon would go red if Dylan was right. His lyrics shocked the ‘play it safe’ game.

At the foundation of imagination is the hope of something better, something new. This is what vision articulates. There can be no vision without imagination and no imagination without suspending the known for the unknown.

I find it interesting when safety organisations brand something as ‘vision’ and I look at they put out and there is no vision. It’s like the ‘new view’, without a new view or ‘difference’ without ‘differance’. And follows? No change or movement in ideology, more paperwork, more behaviourism and more systems.

Unless there is a fundamental questioning of what is considered by Safety as foundational (behaviourism/positivism) there can not be any imagination or vision.

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

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Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

2 Replies to “Letting Go and Playing Safe”

  1. Dear Rob,

    My favourite Bob Dylan track is Visions of Johanna from his Blonde on Blonde album back in 1966 and as you commented in a previous post we currently have bugger all vision.

    This is quite evident via the numerous safety conferences churning out turgid sesquipedalian sludge that merely regurgitates the blame the victim/system dichotomy using Heinrich’s junk science and Skinner’s black box psychology.

    1. Bernard, the industry is looking for inspiration and vision in risk in the wrong place hence, they won’t find it. The visionaries and prophets are non-compliant. Every breaking away from orthodoxy brings forth a Dylan, Lennon, Blake and a Bosch. The dreamers and seers of the age are often the rebels like Huxley, Elliot, Einstein, Picasso, Marx and Orwell.These are those who prophesy the future not because they know it but as they understand humanity and the seduction of certainty.

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