Engineering Your Success - Inspiration & Lessons You Don't Want to Learn the Hard Way

Dragos_Photo“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble
Is what you know for sure that just ain’t so”
– Mark Twain

In our modern society, we like to believe that we are independent to think as we want, that we are free to decide how we live our lives, that we are fundamentally good people, that our character is under our control and that we are free to make the choices that we want. And then, there’s reality.

Why did 909 educated Americans willingly committed suicide one night in the jungle of South America simply because their spiritual leader told them to do so? Why did good American soldiers committed unthinkable atrocities in Iraq? Most of us would immediately rush to judge them as evil people, strongly believing that we would never be capable of similar actions and behaviors. Then why do we, as modern citizens, witness crimes and tragic accidents and simply look at how the victim is dying without us doing anything to help? Why did the very best minds at NASA launch Space Shuttle Challenger that killed seven astronauts even though engineers warned them well in advance that the spacecraft will explode. Investigators didn’t find any sign of evil will but the question still was “why did they do it?”. In the 1990s, Korean Airlines was crashing at 17 times the international norm, claiming the lives of hundreds of victims. Why didn’t the best Korean officers say a single word when their Boeing 747 jumbo jets were crashing and they knew they were dying? Advertising is powerful but could advertising have actually sank the Titanic?

Are all these acts of a few evil individuals or is there a more powerful, subconscious and invisible force that drives our thinking, decisions and behaviors? Recent scientific studies, combined with painful lessons have proven that the thoughts we think and the decisions we make are more the result of the social context in which we find ourselves rather than our own independent thinking or values. I know, we all want to be independent, to know we are good, responsible people wherever we go, but it’s just not how nature works. Why do you clearly see severe problems in your life, in your office, in your community and even in your family and feel powerless to speak up, tell the truth and make a change? The same happens to the very best.

Around the world, across cultures and throughout history, hundreds of lives have been taken and billions of dollars have been lost because of this latent force that unconsciously drives our thinking and behaviors. Without exception, all investigation reports concluded that these disasters were not acts of evil will, but rather the effect of flawed and invisible social contexts.

All these accidents initially appeared to have technical failures as the root cause. However, the engineers, managers and pilots responsible were technically competent – in many cases the most technically qualified individuals in the world, thus the individuals’ technical abilities were not the root cause. Actually most often, outstanding individual technical abilities exacerbated the situation because this allowed them to rationalize problems away and placed them in the worst possible position, in which they simply dismissed the very piece of information that could actually save them: awareness of how the invisible social contexts affected their minds. They simply confirmed what Mark Twain had said, “it ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, is what you know for sure that just ain’t so”.

It is hard and painful to acknowledge our personal and social failures but it is more painful and extremely risky to continue pretending otherwise. Until we accept the responsibility and the power we hold as individuals and as well as groups, reality will keep hurting us. Leadership is obviously important as hundreds of other books show every year. But there is one parameter that is fundamentally more important than leadership: the invisible social fields in which we live and work are critical for our companies, our teams, and our families.

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Dragos Bratasanu is an award winning scientist, public speaker and consultant. He’s been on stage on five continents – Europe, North America, Asia, Australia and Antarctica. Drawing from his experience as a space scientist, combined with state-of-the-art discoveries in leadership intelligence, Dragos bridges the languages of science and spirituality to support people & discover their wonderful potential locked within their minds and hearts.

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