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08 Letting go: How to turn failure into personal profit

by Achim Feige

Dear Transformers, dear Co-Creators, dear creators of a new time!

There are those moments when everything goes wrong and nothing seems to work anymore. We Germans are collectively experiencing just such a moment. The renowned London magazine The Economist just wrote on its cover, “Is Germany the sick man of Europe again?”

The economy is stuck, the forecasts are gloomy, the country has lost optimism. Germany’s schools are getting their worst scores in years, with only 27 percent of Germans trusting their education system – the Ifo Institute found out this week. The German women were knocked out of the World Cup in the preliminary round, and the German track and field athletes achieved nothing at all at their World Cup – for the first time there was not a single medal. The trains are late and our government is an embarrassment. We haven’t been this weak in a long time.

Sometimes everything seems to go wrong, and then the “Burning Man” festival sinks into the mud. Once groundbreaking – now a disaster – it’s not just us Germans who can do that.

Now the good news: It’s great when fate throws us into such situations. Because there is a lesson in them that we need to understand anyway.

It’s about the question of  how you react when the crisis grabs you. Do you go on as before and hope for the best? Maybe you can get away with that on a medium level. But is it enough? Do you even ignore the storms and thunderstorms out there and refuse to see the problem? Then you are exposing yourself to the danger of going down with the old order.

Or you are ready to give yourself a jolt now and set out into the unknown – that also means to possibly seize your big chance.

For this I have a piece of advice: Give up!

But do it right. Let go completely. Let go of the old and look at what is now. Take the Latin word seriously: resignation. It already contains the new, it is the re-signing. Re-signation also means to make a new deal with yourself. To make a new contract and to travel on a new basis.

I give you four questions as a mantra:

What dies?

What is growing?

What do I consciously let go?

What do I conquer?

They help you to look ahead. It is a good thing if you dare to do it! Everything else would still be holding on to the old. I know that the departure can be frought with fear and uncertainty. We all feel that way at such moments. Letting go hurts. Maybe you need a safe framework for this transition. A retreat, a trustworthy companion, where you can show yourself completely undisguised.

In this context I like to remind you of the lobster – as a metaphor for us in such life situations. A lobster has to shed its shell again and again. He is then vulnerable, actually in extreme danger.  He is vulnerable and totally unprotected without a shell, but must shed it or there will be no growth in his life. In the European and American lobster, it has been observed that during molting, other conspecifics stay near the defenseless lobster to defend it in case of emergency. They are social animals. So are we. Weaknesses are part of life for those who want to create real transformation.

If you go the retreat route, that is, retreat before the big change, there are some techniques that bring more empathy and self-care. Body exercises, bio-feedback, Breathwork – you make yourself more aware, you open up, you can better recognize old patterns and let them go. There are many answers in the body, this is a basic insight for us in the Transformative Class. If you approach the challenges in this way, it might turn out to be easier.

Keep in mind what part of the journey you are at. Think about your position in the triangle of Waking Up – Growing Up – Showing Up. I see it as a journey, a hike over a mountain, so to speak. The situation we are in now is: I’m coming down from the mountain, now practicing “sensemaking”. I’m putting things into a new context. This always involves the question: What do I have to let go of, what remains on the mountain? Some things will have to go in order to make room for the new. That’s why I call this point of our transformative journey the catharsis – the cleansing.

Transcend and Include, is a phrase from the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber. Transcend, and then include again. Detach first, and then recombine the elements. I mean: If you want something new, you will also recognize something new. Here is an example from personal development: When young people grow up, they see at some point that there is more besides their parents. Other opinions, other attitudes, other authorities. They then also have to let go and they differentiate the world anew. At first, this usually happens in rejection of the old. They want to do everything differently. Possibly they develop rejection – for some time. Later, they will see their parents again through new eyes, accept their origins again and accept what is good about the parents. But in a new, adult way.

The big danger we see a lot of right now is persisting in total rejection. The woke scene essentially works like this. Everything old is demonized. I recently read an article in a lifestyle magazine where even the great comedian Loriot was condemned as a petit-bourgeois racist (which of course he never was). This is how you overshoot the mark and smash everything, this is how you fall completely into a binary principle: making your own worldview absolute. This is not our way. The “Big Mind” – our great goal of a renewed and expanded mindset – always holds both sides, can endure contradictions, can form an unbiased picture of the world. Old structures can then still be broken up – but with appreciation of the other, not with hatred.

The other danger is clinging to the old, which actually has to go. Why is Germany the “growth laggard” in Europe? We are clinging to the old world. We no longer allow ourselves to be surprised, no longer try something new with an open mind. We believe that complexity can be regulated with even more standards. So far, we don’t want to see the thinking error. We still have to learn to let go. This is not about devaluing everything. It went well for a long time, and has its value, but those days are over.

This is also true for every single person, even when we look at ourselves: It’s good the way I used to be. We can also value that, and should not discredit it. We are always the representation of our culture, our ancestors, the past of the social system. It is not bad to have belonged to it. But it’s good to realize that something doesn’t fit anymore. That we need to recode individual connections. That’s how we become a post-cathartic leader.

We can’t do it without resignation. We have to learn to resign well. We may have to cry, go through grief, endure pain. Without that, transformation is not possible. The Buddhists say: you die into life.

As long as you don’t do that, you keep repeating your old patterns. It doesn’t matter if it’s your job, your relationship, your circle of friends. If you don’t really face the transformation, you only change something on the outside. Then the partners and the jobs might be different. But the problems remain. It’s like in a Hollywood movie: The hero has a deep crisis, has to go through a deep valley, and comes out of it all the brighter, soaring to even greater heights.

The deep crisis is the point labeled “Fucking Up” in my diagram (see above). That is the failure. We will go through failure more than once. That’s just the way it is with new paths: You can’t make it work right away, after all, it’s new. We will only start to find security in the new reality through small experiments. We will take small steps. And then we will find a real way out to the top (symbolized by the orange line). This will be our Showing Up: We are there! As a new, bigger version of ourselves!

At the end, we can then discard the outdated operating system and install a new one, so to speak. You just have to ask yourself what is standing in your way. How many more defeats do you accept before you wake up? What are you fooling yourself into not knowing? The answers are there. All that is missing now is the decision. Let go!