What Totem Poles Can Teach Us About Hierarchy at Work
On a beautiful summer day in Victoria, British Columbia, I had a realization while standing in front of one of the tallest totem poles in the world.
In a totem pole, each animal is sitting on another animal’s head, whether it be an eagle, a frog, a killer whale, or a human. The position on the head is important. In every animal on the totem pole, the head is the location of the most organs of the senses: eyes, ears, nose. And it is the location of the brain.
When we look out through the eyes, for instance, we see every animal and person as essentially “on our head,” or in our brain. The title we give the animal or person. Whether we think they are nice, mean, ferocious, happy, inviting, cute, threatening. These are all traits that come from our heads. The animal is based on (read “sits on”) our own head.
Now picture yourself at work. How do you perceive the people around you? Are they pleasers? Are they out to get you? Are they cooperative? Are they selfish?
We need not look far to see the wisdom of ancient cultures and traditions. Timeless wisdom is available to us. Yet the difference between timeless wisdom and pop psychology is the price of admission. If you want to access the timeless wisdom that is the true bedrock of a successful society, you have to put some skin in the game.
That means that you have to be willing to look inside that head of yours and see that all the yuck you are projecting onto someone else originates inside of you.
The good news is, if you are willing to undergo this ancient human rite of examination (indicated by the dictum “know thyself,” and exemplified by the deciphering of your astrological birth chart) you will come out the other side with true personal empowerment.
Then, no matter where you sit in the vertical hierarchy of your work environment, everyone will simply implicitly know who the real boss is.
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