Truth through Tension
And how it can guide your business through uncertainty.
Tension–specifically sitting in tension–is a continuous thread through most of my life. I can connect so many of my actions, experiences, and beliefs to this. I know this to be true because I actually went through the exercise of writing my personal history and then highlighting the themes.1
I didn’t always recognize this as tension. I used to describe this as balance or contrast, but about a year ago a client introduced me to Carl Jung’s idea of holding the tension of opposites. As my client described it, it’s the idea of holding two opposing ideas in tension to reveal a third way. That’s the moment a lot of things started to click.
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A simple example is light and dark–two opposing forces. What happens if you choose to sit in just one of those? In a room of either all light or all dark, you can’t see. It’s only when you have both (holding those two in tension) that you can see. This is the third way.
A simple example in business is value (good for your customer) and profit (good for you). If you’re only providing value and not profiting, you run out of money and your business fails. If you are reaping profits and leaving your customers in the dust, you lose customer loyalty and your business fails. It’s only when you hold these two together that you have a path to longevity.
In the last newsletter, I wrote about building brands on truth, not trends. We help businesses reveal that truth by discovering the tensions within them. In my experience, all people and businesses have them, whether they realize it or not. Honest values, a fulfilling purpose, a distinct visual brand–these are all revealed by finding and holding the tensions with your business.
There’s one last piece that I think is even more powerful, and that’s the fourth way. As I wrote already, Jung said that when you hold two opposites in tension you reveal the third way (which I refer to as truth). This idea continues that once you reveal the third way, you get a fourth way. There’s probably many ways to interpret this, but I’ll keep it connected to the business and branding. I believe the fourth way is an enlightenment for your business. We discovered tensions and revealed truths (the third way). Now we get the fourth way, the ability to use this new clarity as this unwavering wisdom that will help us navigate all the uncertainties and challenges that will surely come our way.
In the next newsletter, I’ll share one set of tensions I hold that help guide me and my business. I’ll also share a couple examples of how I’ve used this in my client work. Until then, I’d love to hear from you. What are some tensions you hold? Do you find value in this way of thinking?