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The Icarus Way

Problems are everywhere. And the solutions?

THE ICARUS WAY Humanity’s problems are not only unresolved but with time they have become more acute. Even famine in the world has worsened. Though we possess the most advanced means and techniques, paradoxically, we are now producing less food for the third world then forty years ago. The possible way out comes from the myth of Daedalus which recalls the condition of man imprisoned by his own creation. The solution is the problem seen from the top. The way of Icarus. Minos closed all the doors to us However, he could not close the sky

Man’s self-created Prison
The myth of Daedalus, the man imprisoned in the labyrinth, his own creation, is the oldest myth that our civilization recalls. Its origin is lost in the mists of time. In the western culture there is no prototypical idea more emblematic of our own condition. Humanity is enclosed in a labyrinth. It languishes since time immemorial in a prison of repetitiveness without ever finding a solution to its age-old problems. The calamities and global challenges we have to face are innumerable and grave: from world pollution to the poverty of countries, from the death of a child every seven seconds due to hunger to the thousand conflicts and hatred between countries and different ethnic groups. Man’s problematic reality seems to be without solution. Men, governments, civilizations would like to know the way out of this labyrinth, to possess Ariadne’s thread and the wings of Icarus. In the sphere of research conducted on leadership and of the studies on the decision-making process I have tried to explain why humanity’s problems are not only unresolved but with time they have become more acute. Even famine in the world has worsened. Though we possess the most advanced means and techniques, paradoxically, we are now producing less food for the third world then forty years ago. Since millennia we shift our problems to another place or postpone them to another time and then we call this solution. We were inadequate in the Stone Age when we could only count on our bare hands and we still are now in this digital era with atomic energy and internet. It is time to identify the reason of our impotence.

The problem seen from the top
If we were able to rise above ordinary vision we would realize that the solution is not divided from the problem. Problem and solution are not opposites but they are in fact the two faces of the same reality. They are the same thing. The only difference is the levels on which they stand. The solution is the problem seen from the top. This vision is what distinguishes a leader. This discovery is revealing itself to be of huge practical value in the preparation of a new generation of leaders, visionary men, pragmatic dreamers that do not believe in the search for an external solution but in their very own capabilities. ‘It is your vision; it is your pace that creates the path. A leader does not need to choose a direction because he is the direction, the inventor of the dream that is unfolding itself and that takes on the appearance of reality’ (from The School for Gods) These men know that what others commonly call problems are in reality solutions in disguise. There is always a solution, it comes together with the problem, it is one with it, but only a leader, through hard work on himself, can identify the solution where ordinary people only see the problem.

Waiting for Godot
Man searches outside himself. He runs around and looses breath all his life following external solutions that with time transform themselves in problems and in this way a ceaseless perverse cycle is formed. For an unhappy destiny, humanity will never know that outside ourselves there is nothing and no one that can help us out. As the characters in the tragicomedy of Samuel Beckett we will be endlessly “waiting for Godot” believing in a deus ex machina that can resolve us from the outside. Never realizing that we are the solution. Like reindeers we run after the fragrance of musk, enraptured by that essence without ever discovering that it is not out of us, but secreted by our own glands. Man searches for freedom, happiness, love, he searches outside himself but the journey of the “prodigal son”, man returning to the wholeness, to the unity of his being, is not external, it is an internal adventure. Man ceaselessly tries to regain his integrity, a state of completeness, of interior unity but nothing seems capable to bring him back to his paradise lost. There is no help coming from anywhere at all. There is nothing out there. Outside you, there’s no force, whether it be known or unknown, whether natural or supernatural, that can solve your problems, that can influence your destiny. You are alone facing yourself.

 

The Art of Decision Making
All organizations, and companies especially, live as arks scourged by an ocean of problems. Their life could be defined as a set of intervals of apparent success from one crisis to another until the last one, which will mark its decline and consequently its death. Organizations, aware of their fragility and vulnerability, are continuously searching solutions and looking for the best way to take the right decision under various circumstances. Decision-making and problem solving techniques were formed due to the need to have guidelines to follow when it is time for taking a decision, a ritual to follow that can appease this exhausting, stressful condition of continued uncertainties. There is no executive education program or master in Business Administration and neither a very least certificate in management that does not provide the teaching of decision-making with relative curriculum, books and exam. The goal of these courses is to equip the manager with a variety of techniques to render him able to identify possible solutions and be able to weigh disadvantages, limits, strengths and weaknesses attached to them. A leader is always vigilant and totally aware of his inner states because it is there that he can create and transform the world he is living in. You cannot change the outer conditions without changing the inner ones.

Gut-Feeling. The Decision-Making Instinct
From Harvard down, from the colleges of the American heavy league to the eighteen noblest British universities of the Russel Group, in the academic and scientific circles the world over we find that the domineering conviction is that the solution is external to ourselves. If we only knew how to handle, if we had the right  techniques, everyone could discover the way out, the solution; become a decision-maker, a leader. This belief in choosing the right solution between all possible solutions is just as incorrect as it is undisputed. The reality is that if we abandon the academic towers of ivory and we poke our noses outside the classrooms, we discover that decision in modern contexts, in the background of high competition are taken in a completely different way. Outside of routine decisions on simple questions that can return to the discretion of an employee, for the vaster and more complicated questions, and in general for the decision making processes of complex systems where the variables are innumerable like in the case of big multinationals, the only solution is instinct. Think with your guts. The invitation to managers to think with their ‘guts’  announces the revolution in the way of viewing leadership and in the preparation of a responsible governing class, a decisional aristocracy. And while all universities in the world still believe in techniques and mental approaches to the “problem solving” and are in fact intellectual gyms, there is a need for new schools and universities of being, capable of preparing decision-makers, pragmatic visionaries, equipped with an intelligence of the heart and of new senses: a sixth sense, intuition, and a seventh sense, ‘dreaming’. ‘A man pointed towards the top, impeccably aimed at his improvement, can find solutions for situations that appear without a way out, transform adversities into events of  superior order’.

The Decision of Washington 
Towards the end of 1776, veteran of a series of conflicts: Harlem Heights, White Planes, collimating in the abandon of New York, the American army is adrift, exhausted, deprived of everything. Followed by 20.000 ‘red jackets’ rested and well equipped. Washington tries to flee towards the south, toward New Jersey. His goal is to save his young soldiers that would have been otherwise hanged or executed as rebels. The English did not take prisoners, as they did not see them as enemies. On the eve of Xmas Washington arrives on the banks of Delaware, he takes over all the boats that he can find and he crosses the river hoping that it will not freeze completely and that it will slow down his followers. He manages to transport all his soldiers but once on the other side he receives bad news: Trenton, one of the last bulwarks still in the hands of the patriots has been taken by the army of German mercenaries at the service of the English. Five hundred patriots have been executed. At that point, with a decision that was anything but rational and that will go down in history, George Washington re-crosses the river and attacks Trenton on Christmas Day. The conquest took just one hour and was done without the use of guns as they were without ammunitions. It is the beginning of what then be called ‘Christmas Campaign’ that overturned the destiny of the war until the Victory of Yorktown and the birth of the United States of America.

 

Before any solution comes our change 
Who knows how to produce intentionally in himself the smallest rise in his being can move mountains and projects himself like a giant in the external world.Intervening on our being, on the quality of our thoughts, our ways of feeling, to circumscribe negative emotions- starving some while nourishing others, not only do we modify our aptitude and therefore our way of reacting to the events that come from the external world, but it is also changes the very nature of events that follow one the other, day after day. Only a man capable of betting everything on himself, only a man guided by integrity and seriousness is constantly accompanied by a ‘sense of safety’. In the apparently most risky situations, only he knows that in reality is not risking anything. In business, as in any undertakings that appear as reckless, he who has this certainty cannot be attacked, cannot fail. Whatever he touches grows richer and multiplies; under any circumstance, even the most desperate, he always finds a solution. He is always successful because he himself is the solution.

To Decide
The very etymology of the word ‘decide’ has something mysterious to it. If we take the root, caedere, to fall down, to be knocked down, or if instead prevails the element cida, which means to eliminate, whichever the case, we hear in it a terrible warning. That human feature which we proudly consider our noblest ability, indissolubly tied to our free will, in reality hides our fall, our ruin. One of the most diffused prejudices, and in truth the architrave on which the common description of the world lies on, is that there are objective decisions that any of us could take provided we had all the necessary information and all the decision-making techniques to assess, read and weigh them out.  In truth, the most extraordinary thing to discover about decisions and decision-making processes is that good decisions, objective and valid in absolute, do not exist. Solutions are as good as the individual that takes them. America would not be here and it would have been impossible even to imagine its existence for centuries if the certainty in the greatest and most wonderful of all miscalculations did not support Christopher Columbus who until his death remained convinced that he had discovered the route to the Indies. The American Indians still carry the legacy of this erroneous certainty registered forever in their names. In the world of events, in the realm of opposites, you cannot encounter solutions. Solutions are not on the same plane of the problems. Solutions come from above and not in time! We have to know how to enter into the world of solutions. When you raise your being all that looked blurry becomes clear and the apparent problems that seemed unconquerable mountains reveal themselves to be nothing more than light protrusions, humps on which to step on and go further.

Become the solution…inside! – commanded the Dreamer – Outside this there is no problem to fix, nor is there any villain to defend from or any enemy to fight. To give an answer to the world you have to become the solution… Enter in sincerity, simplicity, lightness of your being…. If you are able to see the problem from the top you will discover that for a real leader, for a man of integrity the solution always comes before the problem. When you meet difficult situations rub your hands and rejoice because it is the very reason why you are here for. When you see a problem coming down the road, say to yourself: I was waiting for you. I have been training for you all my life. We must realize that all man have in themselves all the power to turn things around.