Tag Archives: Charles Handy

Promises to tomorrow #28 Sigmoid Curve

Morning breaks with the first slivers of sunshine as the moon completes her journey. The smooth sine waves of night and day come through my window, one cycle beginning before the next one has ended.

Charles Handy first introduced me to the concept of the sigmoid curve in his book The Empty Raincoat. According to Handy, the best time to start a new ‘curve’ is before you reach the peak of your existing one. His advice was to start something new at a time when you still have the resources, and the spirit, to take it to new heights. He juxtaposed this to those who only start something new, when you are at rock bottom or something has ended. Handy advised this was a way in, to make sense of the future too. Having a preparedness and openness to the future long before it is dawning is the instruction of those darkest moments before the dawn. A new day is always going to arrive and there will be darkness before that, and preparing in the dark is preparing before it is too late.

Preparing means reading the signs of the times, understanding the elements and variables, it does not mean knowing how it will end or what will remain from one curve to another. It means holding the emergent and decaying together in the flow of the sigmoid curve so they co-exist, neither detracting from the other, just as the moon is setting and the sun is rising, they both hold their own space in a single sky. Contemporaneously co-existing no signs of competition between the two.

So it is too with the one I love who prepares for death in equal measure to continuing a practice of living. The sacred night, a school offering different lessons to the day time classroom, Eve and Dawn, concierge sisters sometimes tease with a menu of what is on offer for the next bit of time in dreams and memories. Forecasts and backcasts.

My promise to tomorrow is to live at that point in the curve where the two waves meet, not to get too far ahead or too far behind. To try and hold steady to live in that place and give it due respect and acknowledgement. Adaptation and departure means signing up fully to membership of our species means fully embracing our mortality. As I have written before echoing the work of Stephen Jenkinson, imagine if we actually lived each moment in the full awareness death is always on our shoulder.

Invited to hold and sometimes create the space to enable these co-existing moments to be blessed, sanctified, I too prepare for the future, in the here and now, knowing the energy I have now, may not be accessible to me further along the curve.

As Handy says:“The world keeps changing. It is one of the paradoxes of success that the things and the ways which got you where you are, are seldom those that keep you there.” While he was talking about business, it is true for our times in so many ways – professionally, personally as a planet and a species. Looking to what got us to where we are will not provide the answers to how we will get to the next part of the journey.

The sun gets brighter and the moon disappears.   The sun sets and the moon rises with twinkling constellations pirouetting around her. Distinctly day, explicitly night. The in-between times, the paradoxes, places of co-existence, transformational intersections – this is that.