It used to be, when a person didnt
get back to you, you knew why: you were being dissed. You werent
interesting enough, or important enough, to warrant a reply.
Now you cant be sure. Its just as likely, nowadays,
that they havent found the time. And that creates a problem.
Hows a person to know when to feel insulted? Ah, for the good
old days, when one could nurse ones grievances with confidence!
There are many reasons why people can no longer find the time to
honor basic protocol. Id name them all, only I havent
got the, um, time. Instead, Ill focus on the mother of all
time-accelerators (and quite a mother it is)technology. Remember
how personal computers were supposed to make life more efficient
and save gobs of time for us? Things didnt quite work out
that way, did they? We now live in what I think of as techno-time.
Because of the personal computer, most of us are our own secretary;
thats an extra job were doing, without any boost in
pay. Computers also amplify our networks of connection enormously.
While thats enormously beneficial in many ways, its
a stressor, too. It means that many more relationships to sustain.
Speaking of sustaining, you may be wondering what this has to do
with sustainability. The answer is: a lot. As Ive often argued
in these pages, sustainability isnt only about fixing things
out there, in the external world. Its also about
developing the internal resources to recognize the challenges we
face and confront them appropriately. Its about capacity-building,
inside ourselves and also in the world.
This need to build interior capacity requires us to confront our
relationship with time. Is it possible to lead a sustainable life
when were racing as fast as we can to keep from slipping off
the treadmill? Can businesses be sustainablecan they even
begin to be sustainablewhen the people who run them are caught
up in this manic (okay, crazy!) world? Under these conditions, can
right relationships be developed? Can right decisions be made? Can
right connections be discovered? Since Im immersed in techno-time
myself, I cant say for surebut I suspect not.
I address this problem in my recently published book, Out of the
Labyrinth (title in flashing neon, please). In that book, I propose
that we all have three subpersonalities: the strategist who occupies
the objective domain, the citizen who inhabits the social
domain, and the seeker who explores the depth dimension.
Two of these subpersonalities are especially relevant to this discussionthe
strategist and the seeker. The strategist strives to achieve goals
as quickly and as effectively as possible. Get there fast,
faster, fastest is that persons mantra. The depth dimension,
which is where the seeker lives, is very different. This is where
time slows downstops, even, for the depth dimension is where
we experience eternity, which is what we are left with when time
Our world is dominated by the strategists way of doing things.
In consequence, we are immersed in techno-time. Or, better said,
techno-time consumes us. Its like a monster smacking its lips
as we slowly disappear.
Serving as fodder for a time machine that is hurtling ever faster
into an unpredictable, but seemingly ominous, future is manifestly
unsustainable. The objective domainthe strategists waymust
not be allowed to dominate. We must integrate the rhythms and intuitions
of the depth dimension into our policies and practices. Sustainability
requires this. And that means, among other things, slowing down
You may have heard of the slow food movement, a counterpoint
to the fast food culture that has transformed eating
from a leisurely social event into a fast track to obesity. Why
not a slow business movement, too? Call me a dreamer,
but I can imagine such an approach building brand reputation and
being a striking success. Strategically, a slow business
would focus on going deeper, not spreading itself too thin. It would
mean fewer, stronger, more stable partnerships. It would mean steady,
solid growth, products built to last, and tremendous customer loyalty.
It would mean values that had time to ripen in the balmier air of
a less hurried, more reflective way of being in the world.
And, oh yes, one more thing: it would mean basic civility, like
people getting back to you. It would give us back the simple pleasure
of knowing when weve been dissed.
Carl Frankel can be contacted at:
firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about Out of the Labrynth,