A Time for Soul Searching

"It causes everyone to do a little soul searching...and that is very healthy." (Photo by Jason Schuller, courtesy of Unsplash)

“It is wonderful to have you digging into our corporate culture. I think it causes everyone to do a little soul searching, at least for their business soul, and that is very healthy.” This comment by a wise client, voiced a few years ago, echoes resoundingly amid the crises of 2020. In normal times, history seems to draw bright lines between past, present, and future. But this year, those lines—which are perhaps little more than an agreed-upon illusion—feel not just blurred but strangely distorted.

Soul searching is happening within us and around us; it feels as relentless as the tide. The process is rarely comfortable but almost always transformative. I find myself rereading The Art of Worldly Wisdom, written in 1637 by Baltasar Gracián, a Spanish priest. Almost 400 years later, this classic still resonates. It may have been the first self-help volume. I turn to it whenever I do public speaking or write for public speakers. Dip into the public domain version, translated in the late 1800s, and marvel at the relevance of advice such as:

  • “Do not believe, or like, lightly”
  • “Do good a little at a time, but often”
  • “Use but do not abuse cunning”
  • “Know how to play the card of truth”

Another observation that echoes: “In moments of genuine crisis, be ready to abandon all ‘practices’; follow your own instinct.” This lesson from a writing mentor, Pat Schneider, contained in her book Writing Alone and with Others, also seems vital now. It’s why I put aside the more typical post I’d planned for June. Soul searching feels more important.