Glass: Deliberately delusional
The reaction when power is challenged is to suppress the challenger; divide and conquer; subjugate, humiliate, enculturate systems of oppression and suppression. A norm or standard is created and must be complied with, otherwise the rebel risks social, financial, and emotional reward. Over time, enough people comply to the norm (in order to achieve the associated rewards), and a particular culture forms, along with the legal and social structures that ensure it remains and sustains itself. This is how racism, fascism, communism, and capitalism (and many other isms) have worked for millennia. It keeps the powerful in control, and those without power complicit in their own disempowerment.
In Glass (2019), the sequel to Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016), M. Night Shyamalan explores the suppression of beings who dare to operate outside of the norm. The story looks at the Black Clover Organisation which has existed for millennia to phase out the existence of superhumans – of gods among men. They see their role as protecting humanity and maintaining balance in the world (a balance that favours the powerful).
In this sequel, the Black Clover Organisation detains and institutionalises three superhumans – the Overseer, the Beast, and Mr. Glass – in a psychiatric hospital. The organisation understands that the powers of a superhuman manifest by and through their beliefs about themselves; thus, if superhumans doubt or – even better – no longer believe in their abilities, they would lose them; the threat resolves itself. The organisation attempts to rationalise the experiences, powers, and accomplishments of the superhumans in the hopes of disempowering them, proving their very existence delusional.
“Everything extraordinary can be explained away and yet it is true.”
– Mr. Glass
What is so incredible about the film is the treatment it gives the power of the mind. It is everything – every battle, challenge, and fight is a mental exercise, the physical outcome merely a manifestation of that intellectual, faithful belief. While the Black Clover Organisation attempts to discredit the superhumans as mad or delusional, these superhumans have woken up to the power that lies within. Shyamalan brilliantly provokes a sense of what if … in the viewer; What if … I woke from my slumber; what if … I was superhuman?
We are presented with a choice: we can stay asleep or wake up to our full potential. We can believe whatever we choose. We can choose to be delusional. We can decide what delusional means.
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
– Rob Siltanen (for Apple)
Apple’s Think Different campaign (co-created by Rob Siltanen for Apple) in the late 90s ran for five years. It’s one of the most enduring, associated with one of the most innovative and successful companies in the world, led by one of the most visionary people in the world: the late Steve Jobs. At one point they were called a laughing stock, yet these crazies revolutionised communication, the music industry, and the way business is done across the globe today.
Under Jobs’ leadership, Apple pushed boundaries to create something the world didn’t know it needed and today cannot live without. By 2018 (when they stopped reporting sales figures) Apple had sold 2.2 billion devices. When they release a new iPhone, fans camp outside stores for days to be first in line to purchase. Apple has not created a business; it’s created a religion.
In 2011 Apple become one of the top 15 global brands (by brand value), moving to number one (eclipsing Coca-Cola) in 2013. In August 2018, Apple’s market cap hit $1 trillion – the first publicly-traded company ever to reach that mark. Since 2007 the share price has increased over 1000%. Crazy right!?
Another visionary the world considered crazy was John F. Kennedy. Amid the fear of cold war and two global superpowers contending for dominance, JFK used space to unite the world. As a young senator, he believed that it did not serve the world to be caught up in fear; only possibility made the future relevant. Delivering his We choose to go to the Moon speech, JFK believed the considerable budgetary allocation “an act of faith and vision”, one for the good and progress of all men.
And JFK didn’t leave room to sit on the fence. He stressed to Congress and the American people that if they were not willing to sacrifice for this goal and commit fully to its achievement no matter what it took, then it would be better not to attempt it at all.
If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all. … There is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful.
– John F. Kennedy, 1961
But nine years later 600 million people across the world watched the Moon landing, their eyelashes singed by the glorious blaze of placing a man on the moon. The world witnessed itself uniting behind men first, America second. The psychological impact of bringing divided nations together into one human effort could only have been achieved by taking human life off the Earth and bringing it back again. It truly was a small step for man and a giant leap for humanity that clarified our place in the universe. Who in their right minds could have thought of or predicted that as an outcome?
JFK’s delusional dream to put a man on the Moon asked people to give up their lives; those involved lived in compounds for years … men died. Yet the delusional leader captured the imagination of people the world over, and united them to move humanity one giant leap forward in a way no other single human has ever done.
Delusional is really the only thing that slingshots us forward. It means standing against the norm – the truth at that moment in time – and being irrational and delusional. But madness creates change. Looking at the successes of these superhumans, it seems prudent to deconstruct an equation for delusion.
Common denominators of these delusional game-changers are:
• A large, compelling, seemingly impossible vision
• The recognition that progress is only possible by disrupting the status quo
• The recognition that suffering, pain, and failure are temporary
• A maniacal focus to see the dream realised
• The support of an equally delusional few, whose sole desire is to change the world (… and they do!)
What could we achieve this year if we applied the delusion equation to our businesses, our work and home life? (In a compassionate, positive, deeply humane way?)
It begins with capturing the imagination. We are redefining the landscape for workplaces and people. The workplace today bears alarming remnants of the old Henry Ford-style context of constrain, control, contract, and comply. Ford believed that work was work; one John Gallo was famously fired for laughing on the Ford assembly line.
This stands in stark contrast to the way TPA believes the best work can be done – with joy, stretch, self-discipline, support, and trust. This is ever more important in our current context; one that may force us to work apart and demands that we maintain discipline, stretch ourselves, ask for support where we need it, take responsibility for our joy, and, most importantly, trust.
We are limitless; our capacity to imagine, research, think, and act with an obsessive work ethic is what will manifest the reality of a different work context. Let us be on the fringe of what is normal in business, and leave our biggest year ever with the biggest question: How do we scale our core purpose of creating better workplaces, for better performance, with better possibilities? How do we amplify what we have already manifested for some of the country’s biggest companies? How do we activate the rest of the top 500 companies in South Africa to take on the dare and redefine how they do business? And how do we do this in so different a world?
This question begs asks us to think in a way we’ve never thought before. Our size represents a constraint, but as Margaret Mead so irreverently puts it, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” In changing the face of business, we will change the country, and with it the face of prosperity.
As we move forward into this bizarre year, let’s take the time to mentally prepare for the leap we need to make as individuals and as a business. We need to solve for questions; some enduring and many new. What will it mean for each of us as individuals and for TPA?
Let’s congregate, prepared to grow brilliantly, meaningfully, and as deliberately delusional as (im)possible.
May the great force be with you,