Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Sustainability Paradox

Sustainability image light bulb at sunset

How often do we hear people question our practices or lifestyles in terms of sustainability? I feel like this topic is often paired with questions of what is scalable.

Can you sustain this? How does this scale?

These are important questions. The answers often feel staged but can equally hold a lot of weight for the decisions we make in moving towards a larger vision. These are bigger thinking questions. They take visionary leadership and processes that move beyond tomorrow and into forever. It isn't work that just anyone can do, and often the percentage of people that can do this work successful are even fewer.

Today I had the pleasure of thinking with someone new. A person I barely know on a personal level but whose work with which I am very familiar. A new friendship and partnership potentially. This is something I love to do. Reach out, make a connection, ask someone to take a risk with me. Whether that means just an hour meeting, a phone conversation, or joining a group of friends for an informal dinner. These spaces, causal and easy, are where my thinking is pushed the most. In a world that is fast at best, and heartbreaking at worst, new friendships are risky. These can blossom into our most meaningful connections, though, and that is always a risk worth taking.

Never believe you have too many thought partners. But never believe you don't need to dive deeper with each partner you develop.

In this discussion, my thoughts about sustainability were challenged. What if sustainability is more about the present than the future? This seems like a paradox, and maybe it is in a lot of ways. What if sustainability is knowing about what you can maintain and grow for the foreseeable future? What if we were all self-aware enough to know that what is sustainability today might change next year? What if sustainability is more about adaptability rather than a long flat-line? It seems that maybe we should be asking how long can we sustain this until we have to readjust.

We need to be constantly evolving. The pats on the back are great and we want the great movements to last forever, but that allows the greatness to dull. The pats on the back are only good for today, they grow stale tomorrow and they die if we aren't constantly getting better. And the failures, those don't determine our future either. What we do in the moments of failure are a better indicator of success than our most praised moments.

So let's adapt. Let's partner. Let's grow. Let's fail. And then let's evolve and be better tomorrow.

Maybe sustainability is overrated in the end.

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