Jennifer Sertl | Awareness is not enough


I remember when Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat came out in 1995. Like a lightening bolt the work hit me and caused me to change my entire business plan and approach. My business had been Customer Service Alliance conducting employee and customer satisfaction surveys. What hit me so strong was the motto that Friedman shared was on the wall in a Chinese manufacturing plant:

What was impactful about this was that I realised that my focus had been on helping individuals and companies compete. The World is Flat and especially this message made me realise that the issue was not competition it was conditioning. In order to “run” when you need to, you have to be in great condition.  This new awareness made me realise that I wanted to help individuals and companies be in great mental condition. What would be timeless regardless of advances in technology and macro influences?Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle: when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

That was the central question that was answered by Agility3R. I wanted to help individuals and businesses be in great mental condition by helping them build capacity and practice with resilience, responsiveness and reflection:


However, I have been hit by another mental lightening bolt.  Very recently I read an a Harvard Business Review blog by Anthony K Tjan: "How Leaders Become Self-Aware“. A few years ago I would have nodded my head eagerly in agreement: “Yes! Awareness is the key.” However, I have new scars and new context and this is the bolt that hit me: 

Awareness is not enough!

I know too many smart people who have a great deal of intelligence and self knowledge. They, however, have not been able to slay the wild beast of the habits that keep them less than they can be. Too many people have read Good to Great  and comprehend the concept of Level 5 Leadership for us to be in the state of fracture that we are. Too many people are comfortable being good not great.

I know you have heard Erasmus’ “in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” Even if you are successful doesn’t mean that you are the best model or that your leadership is what is required to take your life, team or company to the next level.

Nietzsche reminds us that “we only hear those questions for which we are in a position to find answers.”  Which means there are a whole lot of questions that need to be asked outside of my awareness. 

What is needed beyond awareness is courage. 

Courage to name and claim the demons that you struggle with and the habits that you know you must break to stop the sabotage causing you to work harder than you need to. 

Courage to surround yourself with people you don’t understand that make you feel inferior and ask questions you have never heard asked.

Courage to be the dumbest person in the room to feel the pressure of not knowing and wondering if you belong.

Courage to interrogate reality and say, “I am limited by my awareness as my awareness is incomplete.”

Courage to admit you are lost or do not understand. 

Courage to realise the world around you it too homogenous for you to gain proper perspective. 

Familiarity can be dangerous. In a world where you can download “the world according to you” we have lost our tolerance and patience for things we don’t like, don’t understand, or feel waste our time. In our personal customisation we are being more self absorbed and aware in a myopic framework. We are loosing our ability to be confronted by external forces that are foreign. There is value in friction. And perhaps the greatest friction of all is our humility.

I wish you bravery as you go deeper beyond awareness into the complexity of your unknown capacity.

Jennifer Sertl

Download Thomas Friedman interview (2006) here. (mp3 15mb) 

Profile Author:

Jennifer Sertl is a thought leader in the emerging field of corporate consciousness - the convergence of neuroscience and existential philosophy fostering inspiration and subsequently creating strategic advantage and enhancing value. Jennifer is an internationally respected author, keynote speaker and the president and founder of Agility3R, an organizational effectiveness company which primarily focuses upon the optimization of customer value by aligning corporate objectives with the individuals responsible for delivering results.  Over the past 12 years Jennifer’s expertise and keen insights have dominated paradigm shifts in executive leadership, employee engagement and shareholder responsibility in both privately held and publicly traded corporations in the transportation, telecommunications and health care industries. Jennifer runs a business simulation strategy game called Interplay® that facilitates awareness and personal accountability focused upon quantifying intangible assets and human capital. She has advisory role for Susan B. Anthony House, Global Diversity & Inclusion Foundation (GDIF) and Center for Policy & Emerging Technologies (C-PET).

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