Open Thinkering


Tag: Eylan Ezekiel

No management but self-management

The robber of your free will does not exist. (Epictetus)

Eylan Ezekiel shared a Twitter thread (single page) with me recently from former monk Cory Muscara. In the thread, Muscara explains that he meditated for 15 hours per day for six months with one of the toughest Buddhist monks on the planet.

To me, one of the overarching themes of the 36 things he shares in the thread is that you can’t outsource self-management. I’m a world away from the level of meditation and discipline that Muscara details, but my background in philosophy, a lifetime of self-reflection, and some therapy have enabled me to get to a stage when I mentally flinch (and almost physically recoil) when some refers to another human being as their “boss”.

Despite the existence of HR departments in larger organisations, humans are not ‘resources’ to be ‘managed’. We live in a world with many problems, but also one of abundance. The biggest problem that seems to plague people and organisations across the world is one that is often referred to as ‘time’ but which, upon further investigation, often turns out to be ‘prioritisation’. We all, after all, have the same number of hours in a day.

The ability to make decisions is almost like a muscle; it withers without practice. When we employ individuals to make choices that affect others (instead of collaborating on a process), we create systemic bottlenecks. I’ve always felt constrained when working as an employee, finding that people making decisions that affect my practice are often one or more steps removed from the thing under consideration.

This is not an argument against expertise or experience. In fact, it’s the opposite, as often the people with the most relevant understanding of the situation are those closest to the problem. Finding ways for them ask for relevant input and come to alignment isn’t a problem that requires hierarchy as a solution, but rather one that requires collaborative processes.

Last week, I helped facilitate as a group of people without a clear hierarchy came to a decision to form a new organisation. The process we used was one that I’ve discussed here before and which we use at WAO: consent-based decision making, or Sociocracy. I understand that hierarchy is the ‘default operating system’ of how groups of people organise themselves, but it doesn’t make it the best.

We now live in a time where people, across arbitrary borders can collaborate with one another using technology tools that are increasingly prosaic. They can make decisions without hierarchy using consent-based decision making processes. And they can raise and disburse money through platforms such as Open Collective.

The idea of a ‘boss’ is a collective fiction. We can and should do better. Of course, we need leaders but that’s an entire other post…

What day is it? What date?

Unable to get back to sleep, I got up and continued reading Wintering this morning:

Then, we enter that strange period between Christmas and New Year, when time seems to muddle, and we keep finding ourselves asking, ‘What day is it? What date?’ I always mean to work on these days, or at least to write, but this year, like every other, I find myself unable to gather to the necessary intent. I used to think that these were wasted days, but now I realise that’s the point. I am doing nothing very much, not even actively on holiday… I go for cold walks that make my ears ache. I am not being lazy; I’m not slacking; I’m just letting my attention shift for a while, away from the direct ambitions of the rest of my year. It’s like revving my engines.

Katherine May, Wintering, p.149

The book was a gift from my friend Eylan, an unexpected but very welcome source of joy during this yuletide period.

This post is Day 78 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at