Working Notes of a Practising Neo-Generalist (#26) — On my ‘philosophy of ’ing’

Vincent van Gogh’s Almond Blossom (Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, February 1890) was a gift for his brother Theo and sister-in-law Jo, who had just had a baby son, Vincent Willem. In the letter announcing the new arrival, Theo wrote: “As we told you, we’ll name him after you, and I’m making the wish that he may be as determined and as courageous as you.” Unsurprisingly, it was this work that remained closest to the hearts of the Van Gogh family. Vincent Willem went on to found the Van Gogh Museum. (Oil on canvas, 73.3 cm x 92.4 cm; courtesy of the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam / Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

“If anyone can refute me — show me I’m making a mistake or looking at things from the wrong perspective — I’ll gladly change. It’s the truth I’m after, and the truth never harmed anyone. What harms us is to persist in self-deceit and ignorance.” — Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 6:21 (translated by Gregory Hays, The Modern Library, New York)

On my ‘philosophy of ’ing’

Luckily, in Do Design: Why beauty is key to everything, Alan Moore shares, what he calls, The philosophy of ’ing. So I thought I might give it a go and craft my own list of ’ing’s.

My work with senior executives and leadership teams is an emergent blend of:

  • Coaching
  • Facilitating
  • Catalysing
  • Searching
  • Exploring
  • Listening
  • Observing
  • Noticing
  • Experiencing
  • Sense-making
  • Connecting
  • Questioning
  • Thinking
  • Knowing — Not-knowing
  • Pausing
  • Doing — Not-doing
  • Reflecting
  • Mind-wandering
  • Flâneuring
  • Rising
  • Falling
  • Meaning-making
  • Becoming

Or, in the words of Richard Buckminster Fuller, it is “a process of emergence by emergency.”

Learn more about my work with senior executives and leadership teams here (Dutch) or here (English).

With her sensitive, astute compositions about interior revelations, Mary Oliver (1935 — 2019) made herself one of the most beloved poets of her generation. (Photograph by Angel Valentin for The New York Times)

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Mary Oliver, from Evidence: Poems by Mary Oliver, Beacon Press, 2010

helping senior executives and leadership teams navigate complexity with wisdom & clarity of thought