Re-orienting to (im)Possibility
Working for Shannon Thompson, Shakti’s Founder and Visionary Director, for nearly one year has been a powerful lived experiment and experience of re-orienting to possibility. And just when it started becoming my naturalness – not only an integral part of the way I orient to and respond to the world, but the place from which I respond from first – Shannon threw me a curve ball!
The ‘curve ball,’ as a concept, is important to leadership development, regardless of the content and implications of specific curve balls, because they keep us on our toes. Leadership is never passive. The moment part of our job or life becomes habituated, it’s an indication that we are not fully engaged and not noticing or responding to the truth of the nuances of our lives. Being fully engaged and responsive is how we grow the most and quickest, as well as how we create the greatest impacts.
Good leaders know exactly when to throw a curve ball and exactly what kind of curve ball it should be (it’s never the same for everyone). They know the exact moment to say the exact thing that will cause another leader to stop in her tracks – possibly stumble a bit, or even fall down – and then re-orient and keep going with a new awareness, still flailing from the shock of whatever it was that stunned her to begin with, until she can integrate the knowledge and lessons and eventually be prepared to have another curve ball thrown her way. One of the most generous things good leaders can do is throw the perfect curve ball. Curve balls help leaders take gigantic strides in their lives and leadership that are far more powerful than the slower, incremental change that occurs otherwise. Part of being on the leadership journey is asking for and inviting in curve balls that we know will shake up our sense of identity, our lives, our understanding of the world – especially from those we admire and want to learn from!
So the curve ball Shannon threw me was perfect. Only a day or two after our first Shakti Feminine University core course gathering for the fall, the topic of which was re-orienting to possibility, she shared with me something that, although I had heard her say before, I had never quite realized the implications of. She shared about the art of impossibility, and that this is at the core of Shakti’s leadership and social change model. Throughout Shakti’s herstory, Shannon has always done the impossible. She created a model and programs that transform young women society has labeled and claimed would never ‘make it’ into leaders who change their families and communities and who are sought after across the country by organizations and companies that want what they have to offer. She started a grassroots women’s leadership and social change organization during a time and in a city that was hostile territory. She redefined recovery, mutually-beneficial community partnerships and women’s leadership among other things in this same city, and the Shakti movement is now growing and replicating in multiple places across the country.
These are just a few examples of impossibility, of course, and in many ways, Shannon did not do these things alone. But what she did do and has always done is take on the very things others said were impossible – the unreasonable, illogical things that require deep faith and unwavering conviction and commitment to act. This is what sets her apart from other leaders. This is what makes her a visionary. And inherent in her vision for the model of Transformative Feminine Leadership Shakti is stewarding in the world, is that as the leaders of this new paradigm, we must do the impossible. The impossibilities have to be our ultimate goals, our ultimate vision; they must guide our work daily and we must return to them over and over – not because ‘it makes sense,’ because it doesn’t, but because with the state of the world, environment and women and girls, anything less than the impossible is not enough and will be too late.
By speaking about impossibility just as I was beginning to understand and live into re-orienting to possibility, Shannon rocked my world in a powerful way. What if all of the leaders within Shakti, and all of those who come to Shakti seeking to learn about and practice leadership in their lives, families, communities and workplaces, actually oriented to impossibility? What if we built a network of women leaders across California and the nation who believed, unreasonably, just like Shannon always has, that the things everyone around us says are impossible are the very things the world needs the most and that will create the most radical change? And what if these same women took the boldest actions they could, stopping at nothing, to make these things happen?
Well, these aren’t ‘what ifs.’ This is the truth of what Transformative Feminine Leadership is. This is the truth of the work of Shakti Rising – what it is and always has been. This is the truth of what we are up to in the world.
What is your impossibility today? This week? This Fall? I dare you to do the impossible!
In the spirit of impossibility,
Breyn Hibbs, Advocate for Alchemy