Recognizing greatness

Many consider international relations beyond our ability to influence, trusting our responsibility onto others, and thereby avoiding decisions that yet come with the responsibility inherent to our human nature. It may sound like hard work to some, but in reality we have the universe inside us pushing towards greater causes than ourselves and paving the way to greatness. From the early memories of our childhood, just looking at the sky, we know that we are part of something greater than ourselves.

We are all able to recognize greatness in others, from the heroes that land planes crashing to those making discoveries for the wellness of humanity. However, greatness belongs to us all. We could not see it in others if it did not also sit within ourselves. Great things happen because others recognize and celebrate them. We accomplish nothing alone in this world.

Greatness relies on the connectivity of our world. In activating greatness within you, it lights up others around you and catches fire. The display of greatness relies on others to move it forward. It is our collective responsibility that greatness does not remain stillborn. It is incumbent upon us all to stir, awaken, when we feel it, recognizing it inside us.

In fact, connectivity means that by responding to someone else’s greatness, we actually feed our own. The greatness we witness in others belongs to all of us, the same way as our own greatness belongs to others. We cannot act out of greatness without befitting the good of all. It only takes a match – awareness – to light up and create a chain reaction touching us all. The biggest risk lies with indifference – our individual and collective indifference for the fate of each and every one of us, and our world.

Greatness is the best humanity has to offer. It inspires the courage that is required for what has not yet been done. Indeed, when you serve a greater cause, there is little room for fear and doubt because the universe will take over and organize around your success, even if it does not always look that way. The intent alone will create the power and the ability to influence thereby generating change in the world.

Greatness starts in the eyes of the beholder. It starts with the commitment to shine like a beacon from a lighthouse. Let us radiate when we look at our world and think positively to chase the clouds. It is our responsibility to shine even through darkness in our own lives. Uplifting others in a state of gloom, about the state of our world and our environment, will lend our energy to keep the lighthouse shining from afar, and make the world a better place.

Meeting fear with courage, not protection

Fear makes us believe that we cannot keep safe unless protected. In reality, fear takes over our choices and actions. Fear makes us shrink in the face of adversity; hide when we need to be seen; and keep our mouth shut when our voices need to be heard. In fact, fear keeps us at a standstill, and breeds mediocrity. It guarantees that we will never fulfill our desires and robs us of our life!

I cannot deny that fear may be helpful when the time comes to cross the street, making us look both ways before crossing. It warns us against dangers occasionally and thus keeps us safe. Fear has a purpose, but we need to be vigilant against the fear that breeds doubts and takes us away from our heart’s desires. For this kind of fear, we need courage rather than protection.

I want to talk about the courage that exists in all of us, and needs only to be activated to source our choices and infuse our life. This is like a muscle that will pull you out of your past and propel you into a promising future. Through courage, we are granted the ability to safely make new choices and get out of a situation where we have felt stuck, stagnated, or defeated. Courage opens our eyes to new visions and possibilities of who we can be and what we can do in the world.

I devoted my life to international relations but on occasions I have felt stuck in jobs that seemed irrelevant, stagnated in bureaucratic positions, or felt defeated dealing with deteriorating relations that left no other option but to retreat. More than once, I yielded to this voice inside that gave me the courage to jump ship and change continent to start over, renewing my passion for international relations. I exercised this muscle enough to rely on it to pull me out of the past into the future.

While I often found courage in action, I only recently discovered courage in inaction. Transitions in life and work are usually difficult, as they require letting go of habits of thinking which no longer serve. I discovered the hard way that we make ourselves suffer needlessly rather than simply accept that it is sometimes more important not to work, to let go for a while of the notion of being always outwardly productive, in order to be more inwardly active.

I have discovered that the greatest act of courage is to be and own all of who we are.

True courage comes from not just feeling confident and strong, as I once might have said, but from being our honest, authentic self, and that may first require embracing a feeling of powerlessness and despair. This courage exists in each one of us but will remain dormant if we are so protected that it is never activated and brought into the full light of day. You cannot miss it. Once activated, it feels like hope, enthusiasm, optimism, and passion before you even take a step, and chases away fear, cynicism, resignation, and excuses.

Let us overcome our fears; dare to be vulnerable; free our courage inside and make the right choice, even when there is no choice to make and we are faced with outward inaction. The point is to own all of who we are and shine through our vulnerability.

Power relations through vulnerability

Being vulnerable is our human natural state—our essence. Human beings may have sought invulnerability for centuries, but in reality one cannot choose to be vulnerable or not. We may choose to run away from this vulnerability to only immobilize the very foundation of our identities, at great cost to humanity. Indeed, in turning away from vulnerability, we refuse the help of others, when, in life, others are meant to help at every turn of our existence. We also close off our understanding of the grief of others. We are not meant to erect walls and build fortresses. We are not meant to live alone. We cannot become ourselves by ourselves.

This is at the heart of international relations, and yet our international system is built on relations of power rewarding the powerful and burying the vulnerable. The world needs power relations anchored in vulnerability in order to embrace its humanity.

It takes bold, courageous, even painful steps to bring our vulnerable selves into the world in order to achieve for ourselves, and above all give to others. This is not for the weak, nor the faint hearted. It is a human quest to reclaim our true nature: finding strength in vulnerability.

Devoting much of my professional career to international security, I often pondered the illusory goal of developing alliances against a common enemy or defending ourselves by acquiring the capacities to become the most powerful. Indeed we are only powerful until challenged, and this type of power breeds enemies. Sooner or later we have to confront the illusion of power and reclaim our vulnerability.

I had the good fortune to be able to direct most of my professional efforts towards cooperative security, witnessing the power of relations based on a shared perception of vulnerability against a common challenge. The minute we turn away from this vulnerability to reassert our own illusory strength, we close off our understanding of others, and lock ourselves behind shaky doors and crumbling walls. It will not be long before we realize that we can no more achieve for ourselves and cannot give to others, unless we are prepared to courageously accept for ourselves, and to others, our authentic vulnerability. Let us not forget our human essence and rest our strength on our vulnerabilities.