The Prestige Women of Power Summit was held on 8 June 2023 to a full room of empowered women and men. Here is the original draft of our Chairperson speaking under the heading of Leadership and presenting a talk on “Mind Control.”
It’s been less than one week since a lesbian couple was brutally stabbed to death in a shopping centre in Diamond Hill. The victims were aged 22 and 26.
My partner Jenny had a love of shopping malls since a very young age. She was fascinated at how by manipulating access, shop mix, even cleanliness levels, she could profoundly impact the movement of people and how long people stayed in a certain area. Needless to say we were more than shocked by the murders last week. I thought immediately, “that could have been us under that knife.” That could have been my blood washing the floor of Diamond Hill. Another gay couple shared the same horror when he said him and his husband visited that shopping mall regularly, and it’s difficult to understand why it was Fang and Liu, and not someone else.
My talk today is on leadership, and how the world that we live in, crazy people and all, demands that we each take on a position of leadership in organising our lives, in caring for others, in responding to crises. As I stand here before you, it seems this message is more urgent than ever. We live in an era of VUCA which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. When we are faced with VUCA only one thing is certain, survival is not attributed to only the fittest, but the most resilient. Resilience is our only sword and shield against the craziness of this world. This talk is about how women, can learn mind-control. Not only controlling our own minds, but in it, influence others.
In 1863 Emily Dickinson wrote The Brain is wider than the Sky:
The Brain — is wider than the Sky —
For — put them side by side —
The one the other will contain
With ease — and You — beside —
The Brain is deeper than the sea —
For — hold them — Blue to Blue —
The one the other will absorb —
As Sponges — Buckets — do —
The Brain is just the weight of God —
For — Heft them — Pound for Pound —
And they will differ — if they do —
As Syllable from Sound —
Dickinson maintains that the brain is wider than the sky and deeper than the sea, because in here we can contain all these wonders of nature and still have room to enjoy our cup of tea. But over and above Dickinson’s famous poem, I’d like to assert, it’s not in the mind, but the heart that all these powers reside. In traditional Chinese medicine where biopsy was unavailable due to taboos connected to cutting up one’s body damaging it to the detriment of the eternal afterlife, TCM practitioners thought the heart was the seat of all intelligence and emotion. It is here where I would actually agree. The strength of our conviction and the intelligence is indeed the heart, for it is in the heart where most our humanity is felt.
When we are faced with complexity and ambiguity, its easy for our brains to go into “safe mode” like when your computer is overwhelmed by what’s happening, and just wants to shut down all non-essential functions to figure out what’s going on.
Since 2019, Hong Kong has been through 4 years of craziness where our perception of reality seems decoupled from what we see is going on in the world. We’re definitely overwhelmed and operating in safe mode.
There are days when I feel, nothing I’ll ever do is gonna be good enough. There are days, I feel like I dropped the ball.
A few years ago when I was the president of the HK Aviation Club, it was quite common to invite accomplished pilots, from civil, general, or even military aviation to share there experience of a section of flying called Human Factors.
A particularly useful area for aviators and general high performers because it deals with the psychology of stress, attention, and complacency and how that can be detrimental to someone handling an piece of metal zooming through the sky.
SERE stands for survival, evasion, resistance, and escape. and its a training that teaches people like air pilots how to survive a hazardous landing, survive in the wild sort of Bear Grylls style, but also more importantly handle the psychological aspects of survival like loneliness, guilt, losing the will to live.
One of the key tenets of the training is having a core principle which establishes one’s identity, and all ourselves to be driven by that purpose.
We have to learn how to channel the concentrated energy that is emotions and steer them in a way that creates the result that we want. Anger, Sadness are strong emotions. So are Fear and Disgust as emotions of action. The amygdala are activated, and the body seems compelled to act. While traditionally the media have been especially strong at stimulating fear and outrage, fear mongering will only get you so far. When we see acts of inequality and bullying all these centres are triggered. Yet, what we as a tribe of concerned women powerful women, mothers, daughters, and change-makers need to do is to build effective institutions.
In our minds the world, the media, social media feeds, they trick us into feeling despair, rejected, confused, bored, lonely, frustrated. We react to these feelings automatically, almost like a stomach ache after too much ice-cream. What we need to learn, and to do effectively is to take that ice-cream and build a nuclear reactor. We need to figure out what is important and be sustained in our efforts to build the movement. We need to identify and build our allies, and empower the team to make a difference. We take the threat that is the world, and make it an opportunity to make something better.
So what is something we can do straight away? Empower our bodies. Recent studies have shown that 5000 years ago our female ancestors has such superior upper body strength exceeding that of elite athletes today. A new book “The Earth Transformed” by Peter Frankopan quotes this study and goes as far as saying that: as early humans adopted grains and cereals into their diets and women adopted a more sedentary lifestyle of house chores while men and oxen did the “breadwinning,” gender roles where segregated and gravitated towards the stereotypes that we struggle with today. This was also a time when climate scenarios and settlement into farming communities increased the fertility of women and populations increased.
Strengthen our bodies. Strengthen our minds.
Be not afraid that our bodies don’t conform with the traditional ideologies of beauty, instead, know who I am and live out the strength that is myself.
Allow that power that is within our hearts to sing the song of change, and our world will be better for it.