Adaptation. Why didn’t my high school teachers and college advisors tell me this would be the one skill I should hone? Why were they so obsessed with making sure I could multitask? Studies now show that multitasking can be damaging to our brains. Especially, media multitasking. You know, the type where you are Candy crushing it on your phone, texting with a friend, and also watching Project Runway on your big screen because you can’t resist Tim Gunn’s warm, honest nature. But, adaptation. Well, that’s something that has allowed animals to evolve and thrive despite a myriad of destructive forces. It’s a whole other skill-set.
Learning how to be adaptive is hard work especially for someone who likes to learn a pattern, follow the rules very closely, and then execute the rhythm. I will do that with great care and most days with excellence. Just leave me alone. I’ll get it done. I don’t see that giant iceberg about to break up my ship leaving Leonardo and myself to ultimately slip away into the dark, frigid waters. I’m too busy going through my to-do list to pause, reflect, ask good questions, and then share ideas.
Our staff is currently reading Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Unchartered Territory by Tod Bolsinger. In preparation for next year’s journey toward a new building, we will work and live in a mobile community. We will be dislocated. We will have to work harder than ever to connect and communicate well.
And, it might seem like multitasking would be a great skill to have in your tool set for this phase of our journey; however, I’m really seeing that adaptive leadership will aid us much more. In the book, Lewis & Clark’s expedition seeks a route from the Pacific Ocean to the Mississippi River.
After a 15 month-journey upstream, Meriwether Lewis believed that at a certain point they would see the Columbia River, which would easily take them to the Pacific. He was wrong. The author writes,
What Lewis actually discovered was that three hundred years of experts had all been completely and utterly wrong. In front of him was not a gentle slope down to a navigable river running to the Pacific Ocean but the Rocky Mountains. Stretching out for miles and miles as far as the eyes could see was one set of peaks after another. (26)
And, the Christian life calls us to adaptation. Perhaps we don’t see it quite that way, but to be turned toward our neighbors, requires that we must open ourselves for the possibility of change. We need to ask new questions.
When new opportunities present themselves to our congregations and our communities we ought to ask new questions, not the old ones. We must adventure. The world is changing at a rapid pace. We can sit and lament that, or we can push ourselves to learn how to adapt. We can see those glorious peaks and determine how best to traverse them. And, as we do, we will learn how to be a part of the need and joy all around us.
Yes, we still need the people who will enact and possibly even multitask to get the vast amount of details done to make an expedition work. Those people get stuff done. And, I am one of those people. But, I am also called to be an adaptive leader. And, so are you. I believe God is calling us to imagine a world with creative solutions that care for the whole of creation. Leading with an openness to change can be life-giving and refreshing. It’s the kind of leading that can tame the mountains.
We have a lot in front of us, but Tim Gunn’s words have recently been playing in my mind. In almost every episode he says, “Designers, make it work!” Those words ring true to me more than ever.