Walking the line

On the brink of finishing P1 now, a delightful anticipation is building inside of me because I know that I will finally have some time to sit back, relax and continue reading (hopefully until the end, before the intensity of P2) Jordan B. Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Yeah, I know, it sounds like an instantly forgettable Buzzfeed article, or the type of title you would expect to find on one of the badly conserved books you encounter in a hostel in Cambodia. But the book’s content couldn’t be farther away from forgettable. I actually gave a hostel book a shot once, after a trip around the US when I spent some days in Miami before returning to Brazil. The book was about a woman getting over her divorce. Sort of depressing? Sure. But it was a Portuguese translation so I felt almost obliged to read a little. As expected, it was not that good. But I couldn’t put it down. It was a strange end to a remarkable trip. 

Jordan B. Peterson is a clinical psychologist and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and, in his research and writings, he explores topics not only from psychology, but also from philosophy, sociology, mythology, ancient traditions and religions. In his new book (and also in his previous one, which I read before coming to INSEAD), he shares a remarkable way of interpreting reality, relying on the idea that, like the scientific world of matter, with its atoms and molecules, the world of experience also has primal constituents. Two of them being order and chaos.

Order is where you are when what you are doing is producing exactly what you expected. Chaos is where you are when what you are doing is producing unexpected results.

Order is what you already explored and feel safe around. Chaos is the unexplored, filled with threat, but also promise.

Order is opening a final exam and instantly having a smile on your face as you acknowledge that you know how to solve each question as you scan the test in a quick first glance. Chaos is opening a final exam and frowning.

I vividly remember grinning (not so much on some other occasions) during CDC’s kickoff session in Welcome Week, when I saw the word Chaos on the screen, as we were presented with their new Four C’s Career Model, consisting of Curiosity, Chaos, Clarity and Celebration. The first one leading to the second and so on, until the fourth leads back to Curiosity, forming an eternal loop of professional self-discovery. There they were, order and chaos, once again, helping to model the adventure of finding a job you love. And soon, as expected, these two forces were all over me, all I saw and felt as P1 started on fifth gear.

Coming from an engineering background and mostly inexperienced to everything business, I tend to say that I inhabited chaos way more than I would have liked.

So many events, people to meet, study group meetings and discussions. So many classes, assignments, cover letters and cases. When I started feeling more secure and adapted to my MBA reality, some events just shook me and I was deep down in chaos once again.

As a Singy starter, being surrounded by Chinese culture, I would remember every day of the yin and yang symbol, as it can be interpreted as exactly what I was going through on a daily basis. The two snakes, black and white, can represent…... Bingo! Order and chaos, our usual suspects. Black for chaos, white for order. And the little black dot in the order side and the little white dot in the chaos side display precisely how, from a chaotic situation, clarity and structure can arise, and how, from the secure embrace of order, things can get confusing and challenging once again.

As I was involved in this egregious dance of emotions, I was also reminded of the third primal constituent of the world of experience, as they are threefold according to Peterson. Besides chaos and order, the third element is, using his words, “the process that mediates between the two, which appears identical to what modern people call consciousness”. It is the line that divides the snakes in the yin and yang symbol. By walking it, putting one foot in the secure and the other in the unexplored, one can consciously engage with reality in a transforming manner. Self-transforming first, as limits are pushed, personalities strained and pre-conceptions demolished. Shaping the world following, as collaboration and diversity can be positively explored and businesses can be used as a force for good. This is why I chose to do an MBA. This is why I chose INSEAD.

Therefore, here is to a remainder of the MBA, especially a P2 of walking the line (maybe with a little more weight on the order side, for a while at least ;)).