Recently I talked with a former colleague about the gracious way our community had held space for both of us to outgrow and leave it.
“It’s been like an incubator,” she said.
“Like an eggshell,” I said.
If you’re a growing chick, there’s no point in getting attached to your shell. It nourishes you, makes you strong, and then you have to break through it to live a mature life. If you never push against your shell, you don’t become strong. If you never break your shell, you actually die.
And if you’re the person who’s called to care for growing chicks, there’s no point in getting attached to any of them. They eat your food, soak up your heat, break their first boundary, and will fly away if unhindered. It’s not that they’re flying away from you; it’s that when they do what they’re designed to do, they will fly.
Non-attachment, then, is a gift. It isn’t indifference but rather full and non-grasping presence. It keeps disciplining tools like rules, forms, and organizational structures in their place—secondary to people. And it also applies these tools as much as they’re needed to hone and amplify people’s contributions for wider benefits.
A shell serves its chick, and not the chick, the shell.
It’s non-attachment that allows a grounded, healthy mentor to teach, guide, and counsel mentees without becoming bruised by mentees’ choices or learning process. We learn to invest in our groups and peers without being overly bonded to their outcomes; we practice giving our best without trying to wrest others’ stories away from them.
“Non-attachment” can be deeply challenging to live when all our brains want to say is “Please don’t change anything!”
But as I talked with my colleague, I realized that this was the leadership mode that has had the best consequences for me and other real people who still have growing to do.
How does non-attachment show up in your work? Send me a note to tell me about how you’ve seen it in action.