What we Talk About When we Talk About Love

What we talk about when we talk about love


Together is the word of the year. As Copy Chief Vikki Ross says, Christmas 2021 Brief: Togetherness. Gap: All together now. Uniqlo: Warmer together. Pandora, Lufthansa, Extra Gum: Together again. So much in common. Toyota: Let's come together for the holidays. Guinness Storehouse: Together at last.

We're in this situation together, yes. But each of us is living it separately. A genuine together is not a slogan. It's a demonstration that one cares, and a context that provides that experience. Perhaps all brands' narratives have run out of steam. Former Unilever CEO Paulson says current executives and boards are ill equipped to deal with today's challenges.

Or perhaps the enthusiasm for purpose statements is getting ahead of their embodiment. Which is a shame. Technology, education, work seem to want just our head. Yet we learn, experience, and thus should lead with our entire body. Because our embodied experience drives so much of our lives. When it doesn't, it should. 

Back to the together sentiment. It's convincing, it rings true. But convince means win together (from Lat. cum + vincere). When we win together, that's when we're together at last. Until then, we're not walking the talk. Think about how people are together in the real world.

Philosopher Ted Cohen says

“When we laugh together, that is a very special occasion. It is already noteworthy that we laugh at all, at anything, and that we laugh all alone. That we do it together is the satisfaction of a deep human longing, the realization of a desperate hope. It is the hope that we are enough like one another to sense one another, to be able to live together.”

When you're writing that purpose statement, it bears being mindful. Because

Purpose is not an exercise,
it's a practice.

One where an outside consultant could guide you and call bull on trying to copy rather than discovering what an organization really is and does. There are entire blogs dedicated to shiny mission, vision, and value statements that are absolutely lifeless: nobody is acting on them.

Action from intimate knowledge, not unthinking reaction like in social media. Social media first seduces you, to come out from behind the screen and join in real time. Then bam! sends the mob after you. Because the blog right has turned everyone into an action figure.

However, you can look better when you're centered and have clarity around who and what creates value. That is your true power. And until you embrace it, you will miss the positive impact of that energy. Culture can be a wonderful repository of energy, available to draw on to keep renewing the business. But you've got to put it there in the first place, the energy. Through embodiment.

This will be the last issue of the letter for 2021. So I want to talk about love. Because “all you need is love,” as the evergreen Beatles remind us. The new documentary has been dissected and analyzed. My take is that sometimes, one can just enjoy. Which brings me to a wonderful essay by Geraldine on food and love. 

Food for Soul is the apt name of a non profit that creates connections between overstocks and people who need a meal. The way they cook and present the food, as they do at their Michelin-starred restaurant, is the embodiment of love—for food, and for people. That creates energy for positive change. Because you can't have change without energy.

At the end of 2020, I selected the words of the year. One for each month of that strange year. 2021 has been a year of deeper reflection, exploration, and longer form writing all centered around culture as a repository of energy to create positive impact. Peter provides a preview of best use.

2022 will be about networks of practice. Make no mistake, love is part of those collaborations, and honing the craft. You don't need a lofty vision statement, just a big heart and willingness to roll up your sleeves. My goal remains that to find, connect, and amplify the people who are converging on an emergent narrative of value-creation in the ancient meaning of use value.

When I'm lucky, I also get to work with the people who are imagining and creating a new narrative arc. Meanwhile, some of the people I love to work with, are building a new scientific arc. See what I did here? My intro is a recap of the stories in this issue.


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