The mirror, the dress, and the digital paradigm

In a hurry and feeling impatient.

There I was, standing in front of the mirror attempting to tie an attractive knot in the long cloth belt of the taupe colored wrap-around dress I had chosen to wear that morning.

I needed to be out the door; I didn’t have much time before the beginning of a meeting with a group of clients.

I tied the knot, stood back, looked in the mirror, frowned, untied the knot and tied it again.

“This one”, I muttered to myself, “is worse than the first”. I let out a sigh, and then something unexpected happened.

I had an immediate impulse to go to the menu and select and click Undo. To go back to the previous knot with the quick, simple click of a mouse. 

The urge was not only mental, it was also undeniably physical.

When I realized what had happened, how my mind had deftly organized reality as if it were a digital Word document, I was momentarily disoriented. For a few seconds, I just stood there in confusion with what must have been a curious expression on my face.

Looking back at myself in the mirror, the awkwardly tied belt clutched between my fingers, I mused to myself: “My, now wasn’t that interesting. What just happened here? I cannot go back to anything. I am a physical, living being, not a digital document. I can’t go back to the way things were just before now with an easy, smooth edit—not in real life”.

I chuckled to myself in an attempt to shake off the deeper tug of bewilderment; and it was then that the realization came to me. A simple yet resounding idea: we have to go forward, always. It is our only viable strategic course as humans.

We cannot rewind, cannot undo, cannot delete, cannot cut or paste.

Within our lives, our projects, businesses and whole economic systems we make mistakes, we make bad decisions, we suffer from external forces, and we have the wrong strategic map, or no map at all.

These are the processes of life.

And life is a continuum of learning and creating, unique for every person. It is not mechanically or digitally organized; it’s organic. This distinction is important to keep in mind and will help us not to apply a digital paradigm to our life events—to our projects, our businesses or even to our economy.

We must not treat life as if it functioned like a digital file, trying to swiftly rearrange, to delete a specific part, or to copy from another story and paste into ours. Being seduced by the ability to re-order or undo the present can be a fruitful activity for organizing data on a computer, but it will not produce the same results for our human projects nor for our social and economic models.

We must go forward with new words, ideas, questions, analysis, inspiration and strategies, with new maps and new creations.

Our world and economic orders are changing. There is no going back to the times we have lived before. There is no return to a model of work or economy we have experienced in the past.

However, from the grips of nostalgia, uncertainty or fear we can get to strength and clarity by asking the right questions, nourishing a spirit of curiosity, courageously analyzing the present and lifting our gaze toward the future.

We must make new maps. Resist the urge to copy and paste from the past.

Resist the urge to undo.

Untie the old knot, and tie a new one that is more creative, more beautiful and stronger than the one before it.

It is the only strategy that will truly lead to progress and change, in our very human life.

And yes, I was late for my meeting. But it was worth it. My dress was drawn tight around my body with the most superb knot in town.

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