Thursday, November 1, 2012

Undoing My Scarcity Paradigm

For work this week, I had the pleasure of visiting the San Francisco Friends School. It's been quite awhile since I've graced the halls of any independent or private school, and it just amazes me what smart people with tons of resources can accomplish.  In many ways, it's this kind of exposure to endless possibilities that drives me to business school. My imagination feels a bit stifled by the frame that non-profits operate in: the scarcity paradigm. Even visiting this school and experiencing  an incredibly resource-rich environment were enough to fire up my ambition to bring creative thinking and solutions to social woes.  I want to retrain myself to lead an organization where possibilities are not pushed aside because "there's not enough money, time, people, etc." but rather where they can be embraced because "we believe they're worth trying."

A former Levi's production space, the school is a sight to behold on the inside: hardwood floors, riveted walls, and vaulted windows made the interior appear immense.  It's interesting how a manufacturing plant could be converted to a space that gives off so much good energy.  Those Quakers can turn oats into oatmeal that's for sure!

The loveliest part of the visit was "Worship" time.  Many of you may not be familiar with the Quaker tradition of silent reflection.  Basically, every day the whole school participates in 30 minutes of more or less complete silence.

Now, I'm not a religious person, but the experience was wholly meditative and refreshing.  It was a time to think, reflect, sit, listen, and smile.  I can't remember the last time I "did nothing" for 30 minutes.  While at first it felt like an escape, like my mind was running away from the pressures of daily life, in the end it was actually the opposite.  I felt myself moving closer to the pressures of daily life and sorting them. I could find value in the something small like the smell of wet rain on the pavement and I could laugh about the inflated anxiety of waiting for business school admission decisions.

To say the least it was very pleasant.  And one of the nicest parts was that I got to think about where I'm going with my life.  I probably won't be good about making silent meditation a habit in the future, but I do like to think of school (and business school in particular!) as a time to sit back and look at what I've accomplished and dream of where I want to be.  

I have high hopes that business school will untrain some of the limitations imposed on my mind from so many experiences of working with scarce resources. Children always remind me of endless potential, and I am grateful for them allowing me to share in their silent meditation. We shouldn't operate within a scarcity model when kids deserve so much more.  

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