So Far from Home

Lost and Found in Our Brave New World

Margaret Wheatley (Author)

Publication date: 10/08/2012

So Far from Home

Combines penetrating insights into the problems and paradoxes of modern society with a fresh perspective on how to persevere in the face of unending challenges using the skills of insight and compassion.

  • Winner of the 2013 Nautilus Silver Award in Inner Prosperity/Right Livelihood
  • By the bestselling author of Leadership and the New Science, Turning to One Another, and many other inspiring books
  • Combines penetrating insights into the problems and paradoxes of modern society with a fresh perspective on how to persevere in the face of unending challenges using the skills of insight and compassion
  • Wheatley's most personal work to date, dedicated to alleviating the exhaustion and despair of forward-thinking people

We live in a time of increasing polarization and irrationality, like a Tower of Babel with no distinction between fact and opinion, where information no longer changes minds. In cyberspace, we are bombarded with constant distractions and narcissistic self-making activities. Instant judgment and blame have replaced rational thinking. Organizations are bloated by bureaucracy and meaningless measures. Those working for positive change become exhausted, ill, and heartsick as their good work is ignored, underfunded, or attacked.

We need to acknowledge that we're lost in a world far different that we hoped for. We need new maps to navigate our brave new world. In Leadership and the New Science, Wheatley provided encouraging maps for how to design organizations based on living systems' capacity for inclusion, change, and adaptation. But in the twenty years since that book's publication, she's seen that in spite of our best efforts, the world that has emerged is on a destructive trajectory that won't be reversed by our working harder, finding new methods, or forming better networks.

But Wheatley has not written a book to increase our despair. Quite the contrary. Her intention is to inspire us to do our work with greater resolve and energy, using maps that won't mislead us. So Far From Home offers maps of two kinds. Using the newest of the new sciences, Wheatley shows how different dynamics interacted to create this harsh new world. A second kind of map invites us to choose a new role for ourselves as warriors for the human spirit. We develop the skills we need most-insight, bravery, decency, compassion-as we look honestly at this complex, difficult world. Clarity gives us enduring strength to discover our right work and create meaningful lives in this dark time.

So Far From Home is a startlingly honest, profoundly reflective, and yet paradoxically down-to-earth book rooted in the day-to-day experiences we all share but seen with fresh eyes. It is both affirming and provoking, calling us to reexamine our expectations and redefine our role for the work ahead. It is Wehatley's most personal, heartfelt work to date.

  • Winner of the 2013 Nautilus Silver Award in Inner Prosperity/Right Livelihood
  • By the bestselling author of Leadership and the New Science, Turning to One Another, and many other inspiring books
  • Combines penetrating insights into the problems and paradoxes of modern society with a fresh perspective on how to persevere in the face of unending challenges using the skills of insight and compassion
  • Wheatley's most personal work to date, dedicated to alleviating the exhaustion and despair of forward-thinking people


We live in a time of increasing polarization and irrationality, like a Tower of Babel with no distinction between fact and opinion, where information no longer changes minds. In cyberspace, we are bombarded with constant distractions and narcissistic self-making activities. Instant judgment and blame have replaced rational thinking. Organizations are bloated by bureaucracy and meaningless measures. Those working for positive change become exhausted, ill, and heartsick as their good work is ignored, underfunded, or attacked.

We need to acknowledge that we're lost in a world far different that we hoped for. We need new maps to navigate our brave new world. In Leadership and the New Science, Wheatley provided encouraging maps for how to design organizations based on living systems' capacity for inclusion, change, and adaptation. But in the twenty years since that book's publication, she's seen that in spite of our best efforts, the world that has emerged is on a destructive trajectory that won't be reversed by our working harder, finding new methods, or forming better networks.

But Wheatley has not written a book to increase our despair. Quite the contrary. Her intention is to inspire us to do our work with greater resolve and energy, using maps that won't mislead us. So Far From Home offers maps of two kinds. Using the newest of the new sciences, Wheatley shows how different dynamics interacted to create this harsh new world. A second kind of map invites us to choose a new role for ourselves as warriors for the human spirit. We develop the skills we need mostinsight, bravery, decency, compassionas we look honestly at this complex, difficult world. Clarity gives us enduring strength to discover our right work and create meaningful lives in this dark time.

So Far From Home is a startlingly honest, profoundly reflective, and yet paradoxically down-to-earth book rooted in the day-to-day experiences we all share but seen with fresh eyes. It is both affirming and provoking, calling us to reexamine our expectations and redefine our role for the work ahead. It is Wehatley's most personal, heartfelt work to date.

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Overview

Combines penetrating insights into the problems and paradoxes of modern society with a fresh perspective on how to persevere in the face of unending challenges using the skills of insight and compassion.

  • Winner of the 2013 Nautilus Silver Award in Inner Prosperity/Right Livelihood
  • By the bestselling author of Leadership and the New Science, Turning to One Another, and many other inspiring books
  • Combines penetrating insights into the problems and paradoxes of modern society with a fresh perspective on how to persevere in the face of unending challenges using the skills of insight and compassion
  • Wheatley's most personal work to date, dedicated to alleviating the exhaustion and despair of forward-thinking people

We live in a time of increasing polarization and irrationality, like a Tower of Babel with no distinction between fact and opinion, where information no longer changes minds. In cyberspace, we are bombarded with constant distractions and narcissistic self-making activities. Instant judgment and blame have replaced rational thinking. Organizations are bloated by bureaucracy and meaningless measures. Those working for positive change become exhausted, ill, and heartsick as their good work is ignored, underfunded, or attacked.

We need to acknowledge that we're lost in a world far different that we hoped for. We need new maps to navigate our brave new world. In Leadership and the New Science, Wheatley provided encouraging maps for how to design organizations based on living systems' capacity for inclusion, change, and adaptation. But in the twenty years since that book's publication, she's seen that in spite of our best efforts, the world that has emerged is on a destructive trajectory that won't be reversed by our working harder, finding new methods, or forming better networks.

But Wheatley has not written a book to increase our despair. Quite the contrary. Her intention is to inspire us to do our work with greater resolve and energy, using maps that won't mislead us. So Far From Home offers maps of two kinds. Using the newest of the new sciences, Wheatley shows how different dynamics interacted to create this harsh new world. A second kind of map invites us to choose a new role for ourselves as warriors for the human spirit. We develop the skills we need most-insight, bravery, decency, compassion-as we look honestly at this complex, difficult world. Clarity gives us enduring strength to discover our right work and create meaningful lives in this dark time.

So Far From Home is a startlingly honest, profoundly reflective, and yet paradoxically down-to-earth book rooted in the day-to-day experiences we all share but seen with fresh eyes. It is both affirming and provoking, calling us to reexamine our expectations and redefine our role for the work ahead. It is Wehatley's most personal, heartfelt work to date.

  • Winner of the 2013 Nautilus Silver Award in Inner Prosperity/Right Livelihood
  • By the bestselling author of Leadership and the New Science, Turning to One Another, and many other inspiring books
  • Combines penetrating insights into the problems and paradoxes of modern society with a fresh perspective on how to persevere in the face of unending challenges using the skills of insight and compassion
  • Wheatley's most personal work to date, dedicated to alleviating the exhaustion and despair of forward-thinking people


We live in a time of increasing polarization and irrationality, like a Tower of Babel with no distinction between fact and opinion, where information no longer changes minds. In cyberspace, we are bombarded with constant distractions and narcissistic self-making activities. Instant judgment and blame have replaced rational thinking. Organizations are bloated by bureaucracy and meaningless measures. Those working for positive change become exhausted, ill, and heartsick as their good work is ignored, underfunded, or attacked.

We need to acknowledge that we're lost in a world far different that we hoped for. We need new maps to navigate our brave new world. In Leadership and the New Science, Wheatley provided encouraging maps for how to design organizations based on living systems' capacity for inclusion, change, and adaptation. But in the twenty years since that book's publication, she's seen that in spite of our best efforts, the world that has emerged is on a destructive trajectory that won't be reversed by our working harder, finding new methods, or forming better networks.

But Wheatley has not written a book to increase our despair. Quite the contrary. Her intention is to inspire us to do our work with greater resolve and energy, using maps that won't mislead us. So Far From Home offers maps of two kinds. Using the newest of the new sciences, Wheatley shows how different dynamics interacted to create this harsh new world. A second kind of map invites us to choose a new role for ourselves as warriors for the human spirit. We develop the skills we need mostinsight, bravery, decency, compassionas we look honestly at this complex, difficult world. Clarity gives us enduring strength to discover our right work and create meaningful lives in this dark time.

So Far From Home is a startlingly honest, profoundly reflective, and yet paradoxically down-to-earth book rooted in the day-to-day experiences we all share but seen with fresh eyes. It is both affirming and provoking, calling us to reexamine our expectations and redefine our role for the work ahead. It is Wehatley's most personal, heartfelt work to date.

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Meet the Author


Visit Author Page - Margaret Wheatley

Now in my 70s, I can look back and appreciate what a rich and blessed life I’ve lived. I’ve been able to give my curiosity free rein and to be with extraordinary teachers. I’ve been able to explore a wide range of disciplines and lived in several different cultures. I’ve learned from an incredible diversity of people, from indigenous peoples to the Dalai Lama, from small town ministers to senior government ministers, from leading scientists to National Park rangers, from engaged activists to solitary monastics. This access to so many sources of experience and wisdom, held in the container of friendship, continues to deepen my resolve to bring whatever I’m learning into my books and teachings. For me, privilege is a responsibility, rather than a source of guilt.

Having experienced so much, I want to find the best means to communicate with all of you as we aspire to do meaningful work and be of service to others in this ever-darkening world.

I have been a consultant and speaker since 1973, and have worked, I believe, with almost all types of organizations and people. They range from the head of the U.S. Army to twelve year old Girl Scouts, and include Fortune 50 corporations, government agencies, healthcare institutions, foundations, public schools, colleges, major church denominations, professional associations, and monasteries. I have also worked on all continents (except Antarctica). Invitations to work in so many different places, with all types of people, fed both my curiosity and ability to recognize patterns of behavior common across cultural and institutional differences. And it kept me alert to changing trends in leadership. I am fond of making generalizations, sometimes to the annoyance of others, but they feel genuine and accurate to me because of the scope and depth of my work.

I have served as full-time graduate management faculty at two institutions, Cambridge College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and The Marriott School of Management, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. I’ve been a formal advisor for leadership programs in England, Croatia, Denmark, Australia and the United States and, in Berkana, with leadership initiatives in India, Senegal, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Greece, Canada and Europe. For the past nine years, I have had a formal appointment (President approved) to serve the National Parks as one of twelve citizen advisors on their National Advisory Board. My portfolio has been leadership and culture change within the system of 400+ national parks. This work has been among the most rewarding of my career, both because of the mission of National Parks and the dedicated and smart people who work to fulfill this mission under increasingly difficult circumstances.

I am co-founder and President of The Berkana Institute, a global non-profit founded in 1991. Berkana has been a leader in experimenting with new organizational forms based on a coherent theory of how living systems adapt and change. Berkana has worked in partnership with a rich diversity of people around the world who strengthen their communities by working with the wisdom and wealth already present in their people, traditions and environment. These pioneers do not deny or flee from our global crisis; they respond by moving courageously into the future now, experimenting with many different solutions. Berkana’s newest work is to train Warriors for the Human Spirit, leaders from around the world who engage together, learning-in-community, training with discipline and dedication to develop a stable mind and skillful means. These spiritual warriors do their work with compassion and insight, vowing to refrain from using aggression and fear to accomplish their ends. www.berkana.org.

My newest book is: Who Do We Choose To Be? Facing Reality, Claiming Leadership, Restoring Sanity

(June 2017, Berrett-Koehler). This book is born of my desire to summon us to be leaders for this time as things fall apart, to reclaim leadership as a noble profession that creates possibility and humaneness in the midst of increasing fear and turmoil by creating Islands of Sanity.

Each of my books has been an invitation to explore new ways of being and thinking based on wisdom drawn from new science, history, and spiritual traditions. Leadership and the New Science (1992, 1999, 2006, in 18 languages), is a voyage of discovery into an orderly universe where relationships are the basis of everything, a world that organizes itself according to unchanging laws that modern humans ignore. A Simpler Way (1996) continued that journey, asking whether we could organize following life’s example so that our lives and work would be less difficult, more delightful.

In Turning to One Another (2002, 2009), I invited readers to explore the power of conversations to create strong relationships and meaningful change. Finding Our Way (2005) offered a variety of roadmaps for how to navigate the different aspects of our lives, from nations to organizations to family, as the world grows more uncertain. When I observed how difficult it was for good leaders to not lose their way, I wrote Perseverance (2010) as a daily guide for maintaining our commitment, presence and energy no matter how hard the work is. Walk Out Walk On (2011), co-authored with Deborah Frieze, described the work of communities daring to live the future now, in conditions much harsher than ours, bright beacons illuminating what’s possible when we humans commit to working together. In 2012, I offered So Far From Home where I detailed the dynamics of global society that have emerged to create a world far distant from the one we were working so hard to create. I strongly encouraged us to notice what’s going on, and to counter this downward spiral by standing up as Warriors for the Human Spirit.

In 2014, I wrote How Does Raven Know? Entering Sacred World, A Meditative Memoir. Unlike my previous seven books, How Does Raven Know? invites you to see the world anew informed not by science but by sacred wisdom–a world we modern ones have dismissed or ignored, but still held for us in the ancient wisdom traditions of most cultures. It is not a call to action, but to relationship with forgotten companions and animate Earth which, in my own experience, willingly offer us support, encouragement, and consolation.

My articles appear in a wide range of professional publications and magazines, and can be downloaded free from my website, www.margaretwheatley.com. On the website, you can order DVDs and CDs that I’ve produced on topics ranging from personal to organizational.

I was raised on the East Coast of the U.S., first in the New York City area, and then lived in Boston for 15 years. In 1989, my family and I moved west to the mountains and red rock canyons of Utah. I have two adult sons and have raised five stepchildren, all seven from the same father. There are now 21 grandchildren (and counting) and three great-grandchildren. My family, friends and work bring me joy, and so does the time I spend in the true quiet of wilderness or wandering deep into the red rock canyons of Utah.

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Table of Contents

An Invitation to You as Reader

An Invitation to Warriorship

Part I

New World: Oh brave new world!

That has such people in it!

1 Seeing What Is

2 Do You Want to Save the World?

3 New Maps for Lost People

Part II

Home: We cannot change the way the world is

4 Everything Comes from Somewhere

5 Emergence: Surprised by Newness

6 Identity: The Logic of Change

7 Relationships: Endlessly Entangled

Part III

Lost: Opening to the world as it is

8 Are We Lost?

9 All-Consuming Selves

10 Distracted Beyond Recall

11 Controlling Complexity

Part IV

Found: Discovering gentleness,

decency, bravery

12 A Prophecy of Warriors

13 Choosing for the Human Spirit

14 Warriors at Work

15 No Hope No Fear

A Path for Warriors

A Dream of Warriors

Notes

Index

About the Author

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Excerpt

So Far from Home

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1

SEEING WHAT IS

I’m sitting on the banks of the Virgin River in Zion National Park, my favorite place on the planet. The river is confidently, casually flowing through this magnificent canyon that it has been carving out for about two million years.

The canyon has created one of Earth’s most sacred places. It has been a dry winter, so the river is low, ambling peacefully along. I’ve been here at other times when it’s fierce, flooding, destructive. Next time I’m back it will be different again.

I’ve learned a lot from rivers, starting with the teacher stream I wrote about in Leadership and the New Science. That lovely mountain stream taught me about process structures, things that have clear identity and intention yet constantly adapt to circumstances and conditions, changing their form as needed. Streams take many forms yet never lose their way, which is unerringly to the ocean. Along the way, they create magnificent canyons, wreak terrible destruction, provide sustenance to farms and communities, provide pleasure and pain to those who live along their banks. This is the pattern of life—changing, adapting, creating and destroying.

The Hopi Native American elders describe this time—our time—as a river flowing now very fast, great, and swift. They warn us not to hold on to the shore, the place of security and old ways, because those who do “will be torn apart and suffer greatly.” They encourage us to push off into the middle of the river and to keep our heads above water.3

These river images, even the most turbulent ones, no longer describe this time for me. I need a more violent image of disruption and dread to describe what I’m seeing and how I’m feeling. It is Yeats’ dark vision that speaks to me, written in 1919 in the troubled years after the First World War:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

A Confession of Innocence

Many of us—certainly I’d describe myself in these terms—were anxiously engaged in “the ceremony of innocence.” We didn’t think we were innocents, but we were. We thought we could change the world. We even believed that, with sufficient will and passion, we could “create a world,” one that embodied our aspirations for justice, equality, opportunity, peace, a world where, in Paulo Freire’s terms, “it would be easier to love.” (The gifted publisher of this and all my books, Berrett-Koehler, aspires “To create a world that works for all.”) This vision, this hope, this possibility motivated me for most of my life. It still occasionally seduces me into contemplating what might be the next project, the next collaboration, the next big idea that could turn this world around. But I’m learning to resist the temptation.

This is not a book that contemplates what we might do next, what we’ve learned from all our efforts, where we might put our energy and experience in order to create positive change. I no longer believe that we can save the world. Powerful, life-destroying dynamics have been set in motion that cannot be stopped. We’re on a disastrous course with each other and with the planet. We’ve lost track of our best human qualities and forgotten the real sources of satisfaction, meaning and joy.

This book was born from my clarity that greed, self-interest and coercive power are destroying the very life force of this planet. I don’t know whether such destruction is intentional or not, but I observe it happening everywhere. I was hit in the face with this while in South Africa in November 2011. South Africa is the country of my heart, always teaching me about the depths of human experience. I’ve been working there since 1995 and this was my fourteenth visit. In the years of Nelson Mandela, hope was palpable. Everyone seemed to be starting projects to tackle huge social problems, eager to work with others to create the New South Africa. They understood the complexity of all the issues, they knew it was “a long walk to freedom,”4 and they had great faith in their future.

But now, for many reasons, hope is hard to find and the good people who have created successful projects and built effective non-government organizations (NGOs) are exhausted and demoralized. They keep doing their work, but it’s now a constant struggle. They struggle for funds, they struggle with inept, corrupt bureaucracy, they struggle with the loss of community and the rise of self-interest, they struggle with the indifference of the newly affluent. The dream of a new nation of possibility, equality, and justice has fallen victim to the self-serving behaviors of those with power.

Please do not think this is only true in South Africa. It’s happening everywhere, as you may have noticed.

Indestructible Motivation

Yet I have not set out to write a book that increases our despair. Quite the contrary. My intention is that we do our work with greater resolve and energy, with more delight and confidence, even as we understand that it won’t turn this world around. Our work is essential; we just have to hold it differently. This was beautifully described by Václav Havel, leader of the Velvet Revolution, the poet-playwright who then became president of the new Czech Republic: “Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”5

How do we find this deep confidence that, independent of results, our work is the right work for us to be doing? How do we give up needing hope to be our primary motivator? How do we replace hope of creating change with confidence that we’re doing the right work?

Hope is such a dangerous source of motivation. It’s an ambush, because what lies in wait is hope’s ever-present companion, fear: the fear of failing, the despair of disappointment, the bitterness and exhaustion that can overtake us when our best, most promising efforts are rebuked, undone, ignored, destroyed. As someone commented, “Expectation is premeditated disappointment.”

My great teachers these days are people who no longer need hope in order to do their work, even though their projects and organizations began with bright, hope-filled dreams. As “the blood-dimmed tide” of greed, fear, and oppression drowns out their voices and washes away their good work, they become more committed to their work, not because it will succeed, but just because it is right for them to be doing it. I watch their inner struggles and bouts with despair, but mostly what I notice is their perseverance and confidence. They see how bad it is, they know it is getting worse, they realize their work won’t create the changes they have worked hard for all these years. Yet they continue to do their work because they know it is theirs to do. Sometimes they say, “I can’t not do this.” Other times they ask, “What else would I be doing if not this?”

These brave people are true warriors. Seeing as clearly as they can, hearts as open as they can bear, they keep doing their work. They know how systems of power work and they try to discern wise actions. Though in frequent battles with politicians, leaders and bureaucrats, they strive to keep their hearts open and not to succumb to anger and aggression. Work is filled with constant challenges, and they know there will be many more.

Perhaps you see yourself in this description. Or perhaps you still rely on the hope that it’s possible to save the world.

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