Being With Disruption

A man sits down at a piano and prepares to play. When he starts, it’s not what you might expect.

Take a few moments to go on this musical and emotional journey with Eric Lewis. You don’t need to watch the whole thing if you don’t have time – just a few minutes will be enough:


Now that you’re done, notice how you responded to what you heard and saw. My guess is you had some sort of reaction! For me, it went against my natural instincts for what ‘music’ should be about. At the same time, I was fascinated, and I stayed engaged, wondering where he would take the music next. I stayed with the discomfort I was feeling.

This got me thinking: how do you respond when things don’t happen how you expect them to happen? What do you do when things aren’t ‘right’?

I think there’s a spectrum – at one end, there are some people who respond with judgement: “this isn’t right, it’s wrong! It’s not good, it’s bad! It’s not nice, it’s horrible!” Plenty of those thoughts are evident in the 560 or so comments below the video.

Judgement Possibility Spectrum

And at the other end, there are people who notice the disruption, suspend judgement, and wonder about what could possibly happen next. They might even enjoy the disruption!

I’ve observed that while we can all spend time at either end, many people have a bias for the left hand side. It’s understandable – we humans are ‘sense-making creatures’ that need some sense of order, predictability and stability. Personally, I’m more comfortable knowing that tomorrow, cars will still drive on the left hand side of the road, my clients will still be in business, and that my bus will be on time.

But in our crazy, volatile world, stuff is happening all the time that disrupts our sense of order, predictability and stability. Cars swerve into your lane. Your organisation goes through yet another restructure. Your bus is ten minutes late.

To operate successfully in today’s world, we need to get more comfortable with disruption. As I often say to my clients, “get comfortable being uncomfortable”.

During times when your life is disrupted (be it big or small), I suggest you deliberately take a walk down to the right hand end. Here’s where possibilities live. Here live the mindsets and practices to create new meaning out of chaos, and to get unstuck from the negative side effects that ‘judgment’ can bring (e.g. staying stuck, being a victim, wasting effort into ‘righting’ things).

For starters, here’s a simple practice to get down to the right hand end when ‘bad’ things happen:

  1. Stop, and notice your response. What is your internal dialogue saying? What judgements are you making?
  2. Put that thinking to one side, and instead say to yourself ‘how fascinating!’ You’ll notice a lightening of your mood and an unhooking from judgement, and the unproductive emotions that judgement can produce.
  3. Ask yourself ‘so what possibilities could this situation create for me?’, and act from that mindset.

This idea was inspired by the many excellent practices shared in Ben and Rosamund Zander’s book ‘The Art of Possibility’.

Being with disruption is part of life. While it’s not necessarily easy, I suggest going down the right hand end is a more healthy and productive way to deal with the inevitable curve balls that life throws at us.


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  1. Digby, if I had listened to that without your blog to caution against my immediate judgement I probably would have zoomed to judgemental polarity and lose the opportunity to enjoy it – which is what I did in the end !

    If we want to be available to new possibilities and not stay attached to our safe framing of the world, we need first to take a stand, to decide that we will be someone who is prepared to see in things that we find disonant the possibility of new learning and experience. Then we might have a chance not to get hooked by our instantaneous judgements and rejections. We may not live through that Stand every time, but the stand opens up the possibility that we choose a different reaction.


  2. Nice piece Digby. Yes, this made me think about how many people judge situations and others very quickly and often harshly without seeing that there are often at least two ways, or infinite ways of seeing or experiencing something. I really like the ‘how fascinating!’ – it resonates with me. I’ve had some great role models to emulate in my life who have opened me up to other points of view. Keep up the good work.


  3. I think my reactions to the music began at the judgement end but as the music continued I noticed that I began to move towards the possibility end of the continuum. I believe this was strongly related to me wanting to ask “what was the musician trying to achieve here?” I

    t also reminded me strongly of the disruption that I find myself working within on a regular basis at work. People try to make the work speak directly to noise however the noise is very rarely related to or reflective of the work we are trying to progress for the end audience, rather it is more related to preferences of those who try to make the loudest noise or to divert our attention away from where we should be focussing our attention.

    Good example of how we should consider different experiences of noise we are often involved in.


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