This is the fourth newsletter of Book Lovers sent on August 31, 2015, focusing on one misconception concerning the notion of la raison d'être, it features Stanley Kubrick, Michael Mauboussin, Pierre Louÿs, Albert Einstein & Rabindranath Tagore.
Don't miss the following letters:
However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
-- Stanley Kubrick
The voices of the Internet reminded me the richness of your identities. You love books but you also are avid dream builders: you are not birds caged in a library, the sky is your playground.
You’ve asked me for a rebalance between pure reading enjoyment and business matters. Let’s try that by sharing a misconception I’ve discovered lately.
In our quest to make better businesses, we’ve realized how important was the raison d’être of a firm. It was key to fully involve the people working in the firm and to stand from the crowd of opponents for the consumers. What exactly is a raison d’être? Let’s figure it out by looking at the act of creation.
The foundation of a company is just like any meeting. To grasp the essence of a meeting, I cannot but think of the wise words of Diderot in the very first line of the book Jacques the Fatalist: “How did they meet? By chance, like everybody“.
When you wonder the raison d’être you are asking for the Why. That’s exactly what Simon Sinek reminded us in his famous TED Talk (and in his book): start [any stories about your activity] with why.
But what appears to be our best ally might become our worst enemy. Let me explain you why.
If I ask you “Why are you late?”, what are you going to answer? You are going to find the cause. You don't say "I'm late to be able to finish reading Book lovers' last letter that I love", you say "I'm late because I wanted to finish something". (By the way, if you keep that in mind you can radically change your emotional state and the way people will take your answer)
Why do we answer that way? It is very well explained by Michael Mauboussin in his wonderful book Think Twice: “humans have a deep desire to understand cause and effect.”
The ambiguity of the why lies exactly there: it is either and both an asking for cause and for motif.
But causes are not that compelling. We like to understand the world around us but we are not moved by the understanding of causal chains. Who cares about a market opportunity or the dysfunctioning of your relationship with one’s parents? We are moved by the possibility of a new world that we want for us and our peers.
A raison d’être is not the story of the creation. A raison d’être is the story of the world that we want.
So next time someone ask you what you do, or next time you try to decide between two alternatives that seem right, just consider the world you want to be in. And this world is not the necessary future rooted in our past and present, this world is what you build with every decision you take, personally and professionally. A business doesn't sell services or products, it offers to the world a way of life.
And that is precisely what Stanley Kubrick was talking about, it is the act of creating the meaning out of indifference:
The very meaninglessness of life forces man to create his own meaning. Children, of course, begin life with an untarnished sense of wonder, a capacity to experience total joy at something as simple as the greenness of a leaf; but as they grow older, the awareness of death and decay begins to impinge on their consciousness and subtly erode their joie de vivre, their idealism — and their assumption of immortality. As a child matures, he sees death and pain everywhere about him, and begins to lose faith in the ultimate goodness of man. But, if he’s reasonably strong — and lucky — he can emerge from this twilight of the soul into a rebirth of life’s elan. Both because of and in spite of his awareness of the meaninglessness of life, he can forge a fresh sense of purpose and affirmation. He may not recapture the same pure sense of wonder he was born with, but he can shape something far more enduring and sustaining. The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent; but if we can come to terms with this indifference and accept the challenges of life within the boundaries of death — however mutable man may be able to make them — our existence as a species can have genuine meaning and fulfillment. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light. (Stanley Kubrick: Interviews, Gene D. Phillips)
What about my book recommendation of the week?
This week again I'll invite you to read poetry. I recommend you The Songs of Bilitis by Pierre Louÿs, who has been perfectly describe by Aldous Huxley as the incarnation of the "expression of pagan sensuality with stylistic perfection". From the collection, I have chosen the more SFW piece, Rain, which is an exquisite odd to nature. The 142 others poems are for those "whom Beauty might appear nude without exciting laughter or false shame"
Softly and in silence the fine rain has moistened everything. It is still raining a little. I am going to stroll under the trees. Bare-footed, not to soil my sandals.
The spring rains are delicious. Branches laden with rain-soaked blossoms daze me with their perfume. The delicate skin of the bark shines in the sun.
Alas! how many blooms have fallen to earth. Pity the fallen flowers. Pray do not sweep them up, or crush them in the mud: but leave them to the bees.
Beetles and snails promenade in the pathways between the pools of water; I do not wish to tread upon them, nor frighten this gilded lizard which stretches and blinks its eyes.
--- Rain, The Songs of Bilitis, Pierre Louÿs
The articles that most impacted me this week
1. A mind-blowing discussion between Albert Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore: can there be a conception of the universe that is not strictly human?
2. In The Company Cultures That Help Digital Transformation (HBR), Jane McConnell gives us advice to build a company more adaptable to the always changing environment. She highlights 4 pillars:
- a strong, shared sense of purpose
- freedom to experiment
- distributed decision-making
- openness to the external world.
3. In How to separate learning myths from reality (McKinsey), Artin Atabaki shares misconceptions about the brains.
The 3 myths?
- critical window of childhood (action: Meditate!),
- multi-tasking (action: remove distractions, especially notifications!),
- learning styles & lift/right brain hypothesis (action: engage all your senses!)
And start the conversation by replying to this email or by sending my a quick tweet: @willybraun