New does not nec­es­sar­i­ly mean mean­ing­ful, and new does not always make sense. It is good when both go togeth­er. When the new makes sense in life and work and cre­ates meaning.

Today we have to cope with glob­al prob­lems and afford “us” region­al sideshows. Per­haps this is typ­i­cal for our species. We know what is suit­able, but we opt for the mediocre, the short-term hap­pi­ness, the short-term suc­cess, the pre­tence, for the uncom­pli­cat­ed and for the briefly suit­able. Ways, insights or lessons from past expe­ri­ences should help, too often that is exact­ly what does not happen.

The solu­tion, or so it seems, only has to be just good enough to get us far enough away from the prob­lem again — in pri­vat, at work or in soci­eties. What we don’t see, we no longer have in mind, one might think. 

Most of the time, then, we have not under­stood the prob­lem. Most of the time, the prob­lem lat­er strikes back with all the more force. For exam­ple, if you don’t clear­ly define your goal when you start a busi­ness, you will have to work even hard­er to sharp­en it lat­er. Those who don’t define their own goals or dreams will lat­er wan­der through life with­out nav­i­ga­tion. Those who do not define what they want in life will even­tu­al­ly be defined by oth­ers — in their pri­vate lives, in their jobs and inevitably also in soci­ety. Every­thing has to do with change, with adap­ta­tion, with inno­va­tion and the cor­re­spond­ing behav­iour. We just need to under­stand the prob­lem at hand.

In under­stand­ing, if no one checks it, we humans are some­times just as lazy and aver­age as in acting.

What one sees com­ing from afar is eas­i­ly reme­died. But if one waits until the evil is there, the rem­e­dy comes too late”.

Nic­co­lo Machiavelli

The result of a war like the cur­rent one, a cli­mate cri­sis like the one that has been going on for years — we humans saw this com­ing. But we don’t like to hear that: Hav­ing respon­si­bil­i­ty for some­thing that is going wrong but could be done better. 

In addi­tion is aggra­vat­ed by the fact that mon­ey makes every­thing much more com­fort­able. It hap­pens that we still make mon­ey with things that are bad and most­ly mean­ing­less, not to say mediocre.

We love to make mon­ey in the short term. Even if we pro­duce a lot of prob­lems with it, and also wor­ries. But these seem sec­ondary in com­par­i­son. What counts in the short term is the pros­per­i­ty. The com­fort for you, us and soci­eties. And the fact that our behav­iour today, if we don’t change it, will cause prob­lems lat­er, are most­ly just assump­tions at first that can some­times come under heavy fire — for rea­sons of con­ve­nience. This can be seen in lis­ten­ing to one’s own voice as well as in dis­cours­es on world­ly issues in the media. And it hap­pens the same way in organ­i­sa­tions. Con­ve­nience wins where there is no will to rise above the aver­age. And of course we can always pass the respon­si­bil­i­ty for our sit­u­a­tion on to others.

What real­ly counts in the long term is always the price we pay. But no one can pre­cise­ly quan­ti­fy it today for lat­er. This is an advan­tage for those who can con­vince us now with their cur­rent and con­crete prof­its. Let’s take elec­tro­mo­bil­i­ty, for exam­ple. It’s going well, but how envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly are bat­ter­ies exact­ly? Their pro­duc­tion or recy­cla­bil­i­ty. Do you think that we only pro­duce good things here?

There were enough warn­ings for near­ly every­thing that went wrong. We just have to lis­ten to it. in time. Lis­ten­ing is just as much com­mu­ni­ca­tion as talk­ing. Only those who always have their mouths open don’t learn. I know many peo­ple like that. In the exam­ples like cli­mate or war and oth­er cas­es. In our indi­vid­ual lives and in this world. 

Should we lis­ten, think and act more appro­pri­ate? We have lis­tened and much is being thought and writ­ten in the media in the run-up to the storm­ing of the Amer­i­can Capi­tol, for the abus­es in the Catholic Church, for the Brex­it, for famines, for the death of species, for the clear­ing of the rain­for­est etc. Appro­pri­ate behav­iour seems to be in short sup­ply in ret­ro­spect. And don‘t for­get the money!

We often see many things com­ing but we do not always act, in ret­ro­spect have rarely act­ed in time. We see and hear how we are with oth­ers, are to oth­ers and often we are not hon­est with our­selves that we could have seen it com­ing — the end of the rela­tion­ship, the friend­ship, the seri­ous prob­lems. Often out of com­fort, out of fear, out of paral­y­sis. We become pow­er­less and despon­dent. Becom­ing that is a deci­sion we some­times make, even if it has longer-term con­se­quences for us. 

We are able to act when we want to. We are able to tell oth­ers hon­est­ly what we are think­ing right now, if it would be impor­tant. But because of our lack of courage, we choose inac­tion and thus safe com­fort. In oth­er words, against inno­vat­ing a situation.

There is also the belief, or the faith of peo­ple, that one alone does not count, that one’s own voice is worth noth­ing, that if one does not eat meat, goes to the polls one­self, pro­duces less waste, is kinder to oth­ers, con­scious­ly devel­ops one­self per­son­al­ly, eats, com­mu­ni­cates or lis­tens, noth­ing will change in the world. But this belief is only a mis­un­der­stand­ing — we mis­un­der­stand that the change we have in mind always starts with small steps, always with ourselves.

We often don’t start the change because we lack the exam­ple. Because it makes us inse­cure to give away our idea of a dif­fer­ent world. Some­thing no col­league, no friend, no fam­i­ly-mem­ber has dared to say so far. A lack of courage. Of con­fi­dence. To be the first to walk a new path, one that no one has walked before. To be the first to live anoth­er world. And in doing so, we deprive every­one else of the exam­ple, the inspi­ra­tion to fol­low a bet­ter idea than the pre­vi­ous or the pop­u­lar one. 

Just look at where the con­cept of cap­i­tal­ism, the con­cept of mar­riage, the con­cept of man­age­ment, the con­cept of nation­al­i­ty, hier­ar­chy, monar­chy or reli­gion has tak­en us. And let’s just look at how much fear is released when oth­er con­cepts sud­den­ly become more pop­u­lar or peo­ple yearn for them en masse! For democ­ra­cy, for self-deter­mi­na­tion, for equal rights, for renun­ci­a­tion, etc.

Every­one can be an inspi­ra­tion, an exam­ple, a change in the way of think­ing, act­ing or a new con­scious­ness. We need this not only in com­pa­nies, we need it everywhere. 

Noth­ing changes sud­den­ly. All change was once just a thought. The toi­let, the inter­net, aero­planes, etc. Every­thing ends up in a result after many deeds.

I just say “plas­tic in the oceans”. It did­n’t hap­pen all of a sud­den. It hap­pened also with the hole in the ozone lay­er. The exam­ples are countless.

You can also observe this very well on a small scale, in your own cos­mos. And then just as well in larg­er sys­tems: Think of rela­tion­ships break­ing down, the col­lapse of com­pa­nies, pol­lu­tion, the obe­si­ty of Amer­i­can soci­ety, the increase in alco­hol con­sump­tion, in the down­fall of entire cul­tures, in wars and cer­tain­ly also in the approach to cli­mate change. Noth­ing hap­pened sud­den­ly. Con­se­quences are no coin­ci­dence. Every­thing is the result of behav­iour, of decisions.

We often think we are intel­li­gent just because of the fact that we can think. We know it is more intel­li­gent to act. But we do not behave accord­ing­ly. We humans often do not behave accord­ing to what we know is right. And the world today has more knowl­edge than ever before. But maybe that does­n’t help alone.

Knowledge and behaviour seem to be two indispensable components for one thing: change.

And: we also know that not act­ing is often not pun­ished and that in doubt it is more com­fort­able not to change. You know it. Take equal­i­ty, tax eva­sion, for exam­ple, or cor­rup­tion, or going to vote or quite sim­ply our behav­iour towards our health. Knowl­edge and action are two sides of the same coin. 

Imag­ine: The biggest drug of our time could now be sug­ar. I know we make a lot of mon­ey with it. Just like with nuclear bombs. The whole arms indus­try. Chem­istry. I told you we were absurd.

As long as the prob­lems are far enough away or do not inter­fere with our cur­rent life, it doesn‘t mat­ter for us — pol­lu­tion, war and the crimes against human­i­ty in oth­er coun­tries, the drop in sales as long as my salary comes, the drugs as long as it are not my chil­dren who take them, etc. 

But things change with­out us. Because the only con­stant in this world is change. And those who don’t change for too long fall out — from their envi­ron­ment, from the world, from their com­pa­ny, from rela­tion­ships, etc. 

Some­times we talk about fit in this con­text — of solu­tions, of prod­ucts or indi­vid­ual ser­vices. If some­one no longer adapts to soci­ety, to moder­ni­ty, to a mar­ket, to val­ues, etc., he, she or it is thrown out. Out of the polit­i­cal sys­tem (Rus­sia), out of the val­ue sys­tem of a soci­ety (e.g. prison). Out of a friend­ship, net­work, organ­i­sa­tion etc.

And: We will not be able to solve problems that we do not really understand. A principle that we are quick to underestimate for the sake of convenience. 

We always have to be able to think very far ahead to under­stand the com­plex­i­ty of prob­lems, the large as well as the small — how it actu­al­ly comes to them.

Under­stand­ing — that is very uncom­fort­able and dif­fi­cult for most of us. That’s why we pre­fer to put a cross on the bal­lot paper every few years instead of get­ting polit­i­cal­ly involved. That’s why we’d rather back­bite supe­ri­ors than dis­cuss with them. That’s why we pre­fer to con­demn rather than understand.

It almost hurts to leave one’s own per­spec­tive and allow oth­er argu­ments. It hurts to do with­out some­thing that we always have. We pre­fer to take many things for grant­ed and con­sid­er pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures to be super­flu­ous. Unless we are Ger­man — then we insure our­selves against every­thing as a precaution.

In the short term change — which always also means adap­ta­tion — is uncom­fort­able. In the long term, it pays off. Just think of vac­ci­na­tions and our immune sys­tem. Because long-term deci­sions rarely show short-term results — for exam­ple, quit­ting smok­ing. But we like to make short-term deci­sions instead of long-term ones. Less effec­tive ones instead of sus­tain­able ones — that’s what you see in our soci­eties, pol­i­tics, in terms of our envi­ron­ment and in ourselves.

Change has to do with leav­ing the prover­bial com­fort zone. We get new things at the ear­li­est when we are ready to part with the old (behav­iour, ways of think­ing, prin­ci­ples, struc­tures, process­es etc.). Those things that hold us back from achiev­ing or work­ing out the new, the dif­fer­ent, the more appro­pri­ate. Think, for exam­ple, of the ener­gy transition.

Every­one knows that, if you think for a moment about your own life and the prob­lems you have expe­ri­enced in it so far. Most of the time, we then did not want to give up the com­fort and did not want to let go of it. Pri­vate, pro­fes­sion­al or social. No mat­ter for what. 

For the dis­rup­tion of some­thing we val­ue — fam­i­ly, friend­ship, com­mu­ni­ty, team, com­pa­ny, the city we live in, the coun­try, the con­ti­nent or this world — I by myself have blamed heads of state, church lead­ers, my father or friends, strangers and col­leagues for those dis­rup­tions, those prob­lems for which I would have had no solu­tion, or worse: whose prob­lems I had a part in through my behav­iour or non-behaviour.

Of course, it’s easy to blame some­one. Easy to attribute a prob­lem to one man / woman, to a man­ag­er, a leader, to one state, to pol­i­tics, econ­o­my, soci­ety, etc. Because it is not only much more dif­fi­cult to find the root of all the prob­lems in all the actors who have con­tributed to them. Not least to find a cause in one­self. It’s easy to hand over respon­si­bil­i­ty and blame — it makes life so damn easy. But some­thing inside us knows the truth.

One would have to deal with the his­to­ry of issues and in the end, we will almost cer­tain­ly find out that we our­self were involved. The world is the result of our deci­sions or not decid­ing. We are always a part of the world we live in. We are meat eaters, veg­e­tar­i­ans or veg­ans. It is all the result of choic­es, of leav­ing com­fort zones, of renun­ci­a­tion, of the belief that some­thing else is better.

For sus­tain­able solu­tions, we all have to make an effort. That means first think­ing dif­fer­ent­ly, hav­ing a dif­fer­ent aware­ness, but then also act­ing accord­ing­ly. Some­times I am shocked when my friends, when choos­ing flow­ers for their bal­cony, find it absurd to con­sid­er bee-friend­li­ness. Or that con­stant alco­hol con­sump­tion is harm­ful to the body, or that the com­pa­ny we work for was cho­sen by us. Some peo­ple don’t even see these connections.

In my work on myself and with com­pa­nies, I notice how stol­id peo­ple are. I notice how we like to blame oth­ers when we find prob­lems. And I notice how we shine in dark­ness as human beings when there is only a spark of hope, a sequence of steps to move away from the prob­lem towards a solu­tion. We are so hap­py when some­one gives us good advice or asks the right ques­tions to find the solu­tion our­selves. Quite with­out advice sometimes.

Only with­out liv­ing dif­fer­ent­ly — in con­sump­tion, in trav­el­ling, in vot­ing for pol­i­tics, in par­tic­i­pat­ing in soci­ety, in stop­ping to see only our­selves and to fol­low only our own truth, we will not change any­thing sustainably.

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Marc Alexander Holtz
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