Tulip Love Triangles
As many as three million men around the world, including over 20% of men in northwestern Ireland, are directly descended from a single medieval Irish king according to a genetics study published in December 2005 and some follow-up studies. That king — Niall of the Nine Hostages — through some combination of luck, learning and inborn talent, wielded a tremendous amount of power and had many offspring… who in turn, wielded tremendous power and had many offspring… et cetera… et cetera… for a bunch of centuries. Today, as many as 2% of white New Yorkers have Niall as a direct ancestor. The percentage rate is especially high for anyone who was born into the traditional family lineages of O’Neill, O’Donnell or O’Reilly… or Gallagher, Doherty, Flynn, Campbell, Egan, Quinn… and a few other families.
“That explains a lot,” muttered many a female.
Yes, it’s true that powerful people propagate profusely, and that the traits that made them successful will appear with greater frequency in subsequent generations. It’s also true that the founder effect is a useful metaphor for understanding top-down cultures within organizations.
However, one of the bigger lessons of Niall and Genghis may be this: We need a lack of diversity in some places in order to gain the benefits of diversity overall.
There is a paradoxical relationship between diversification and specialization, as one tends to cancel out the other, but both require each other in order to exist. As a general rule, the smaller the population being considered (a nation, a company, a family, a single person), the trickier it becomes to navigate this paradox.
In the case of a larger group, diversity can be achieved by ensuring there are the right types and amounts of differences between the constituent smaller groups and individuals. As long as group cohesion can be maintained — which can be really hard to do if the group is truly diverse, not just superficially diverse — specialized individuals provide a reliable source of efficiency and resilience for the overall group.
However, for the individuals who are providing that diversity, being specialized is (at best) a useful compromise providing some immediate upside but with longer term risk of obsolescence or becoming a ubiquitous commodity… particularly in a rapidly changing landscape. At worst, being specialized is a recipe for a lifetime of exploitation by a larger group.
King Niall and Genghis Khan are exceptions who prove the rule — exceptional individuals who ruled so powerfully that they left a lasting imprint on the overall group.
Despite the risks it often poses to individuals, specialization is necessary and inevitable. The creative tension between specialization and diversity exists at multiple levels of human experience and plays out across multiple time scales.
The art of being diverse is in how to combine (and continuously re-combine) differences, without losing the concentrated potency that made those differences strong in the first place.
Conversely, the art of being different is in how to harness the strength and potency of that difference, without losing the ability to self-critique, adapt, blend, grow and evolve.
Because it’s no fun if it’s all just the same old same old.
“Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”
― James A. Michener
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Yesterday morning, I woke up and wondered if I should cancel some side-project / networking meetings that I had set up for later in the day, because I already had so much to do… so much on my overflowing plate. I really didn’t have the time to be starting any other pursuits, let alone be out there sowing the seeds of potential.
Then I read a headline about how UK scientists and the BBC put together a concept plan for sending humans on a return-trip to Mars.
That’s right, we haven’t quite figured out how we’re going to live on this planet, but anyway, let’s send some people to start digging up ice deposits on Mars so they can burn it as rocket fuel.
This is human nature… or rather, all of nature.
We survive and flourish by testing the waters constantly, by exploring new possibilities, by sowing the seeds of potential into the small moments of opportunity that present themselves, like the DANdelion™ Effect of a plant growing in cracks of a sidewalk.
Conditions will never be ideal… don’t let it stop you from growing anyway.
We’re born into this world and immediately begin reaching for the sun…
..and become mindful of who else is also reaching for that same sun.
Take a close look at any family tree and you’ll see how each branch seeks out its own direction to grow and flower…
..partially in response to the opportunities presented by the sun, wind and rain… and partially in response to the competition of the other branches vying for those same things…
..and sometimes, in response to the branches that have been broken, bent, cut off, or otherwise compromised.
One of the things that I love about meeting people is learning their stories. More and more, I hear a much larger story — often unspoken — that they are a part of.
Like a rare and unique palimpsest, you can read the traces of that other story between the lines.