The Second Curve

At Greenbelt we heard Charles Handy talk about the “second curve”, which is his theory that everything follows the shape of the curve above – initial investment where things get worse, followed by growth, followed by eventual decline.  He talks about the “Second Curve” as being a second of these curves superimposed and offset on the first before it reaches its peak – however, he also acknowledges that in most circumstances people do not know that they need to start the second curve until after the peak.  He told a story:

Many years ago he had been travelling around Wicklow en route to Avoca when he got lost. He paused to ask a local man walking his dog for directions. ‘You go down this small hill here and all the way up that big hill over there and on the far side of the hill you can see Davy’s Pub in the valley’.

‘And is Avoca near Davy’s Pub?’

‘No. A mile the Pub take a turn to the right and that’ll bring you straight to Avoca.’

So he set off, but after he saw Davy’s Pub there was no turn to the right.

One mile before the pub was before the brow of the hill!

This is all very well, but it struck me that this applies to business, and to making a success of things, but I don’t think it applies to the spiritual life.  Most theories of spiritual development have some form of disaster in them; the dark night of the soul, perplexity, the second half of life, Stage 4.  These rely on failure, on going over the hill and letting ourselves do so, rather than hanging on grimly by our finger tips.

I think the second curve is great if you want to continue the same life/journey, but if you want to grow and develop a new life (or even if you don’t) failure is a non optional part.

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