Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Cul-de-sac and the Indian Culture

Written by: on June 14, 2013

One of the issues with ‘quitting’ in the Indian culture is related saving face. Quitting is mostly equated with failure.  Leaders quite often fall short of their accomplishments because they fail to quit or change direction.  I must confess my own guilt in this regard.   Much  positive outcomes have been  missed and wonderful opportunities lost in circling the Cul-de-sac simply to save face.   Godin skilfully explains that quitting is not the same as failing. On the other hand it is choosing another path toward success.  That is very helpful to know.  This is a radical lesson for leadership in my cultural setting.

My first thoughts after reading Seth Godin’s The Dip was that I wish I had known earlier about the Dip, the Cliff and the Cul de sac.  I am one who shares that deep longing and desire that most individuals have, to be a more fruitful; to press on to achieve just a little more.

Looking back at the past, there may have been several instances where I would have just stayed in there longer and pressed on if I knew it was ‘the Dip’ and other times I would have quit sooner instead of wasting time, effort, energy and resources; going in circles had I known I was stuck in a ‘Cul-de-sac’.   Reading Godin’s description of the Cul-de-sac reminded me of Peter Drucker’s wise words, that it is absurd to repeat the same actions but expect different results.  It sounds quite plain and simple; yet an oft repeated mistake that has simply burnt up an immense amount of my precious time, energy and needless to say resources as well in the past.  But then that’s hind sight.  What happens from now on is what matters. The past cannot be corrected but the future can be well directed.

Last evening I concluded a conference with 120 front line church planters in the city of Patna in Bihar.  This state of Bihar lies in the central eastern part of India and has the infamous reputation of being the ‘graveyard of missions’. At the end of the conference, a plaque was presented to me engraved : “The graveyard is now a vineyard”.     Our organisation has worked in this region for over a decade seeing very little progress and results until two years ago when a breakthrough was experienced.  It came as a result of initiating some major changes that involved quitting certain practices, moving away from certain areas,  shifting our emphasis and changing strategy.  Letting go of age old practices, traditions and beliefs is just not easy.  It is easier to stay with them than quit.  But quit we did.

We had to take some drastic corrective measures.  Some of them were painful and unacceptable to a few.  As a leader, there were a few difficult calls to make. They were made nevertheless.  Looking back, that situation can be exactly described as a Cul-de-sac in Godin’s words. We were getting no where; we were in a rut.  The efforts were draining everyone and every resource.  I even dreaded visiting this field.  However, with all the bold changes made, immediate and dramatic results were experienced.  It was like a breath of fresh air and the dawning of a brand new season.  We experienced the remarkable results of quitting the Cul-de-sac.

Two years  later the inital excitement is gradually fading and now it is time to press on.   I realize we are in the Dip.   We are past the first stage and at a place where we have to simply keep pushing on without giving up.  Our goal is to plant 500 house churches in the unreached villages of Bihar in the next five years.  This week’s reading and gaining an understanding of the Dip and its implications was very timely.  In fact, I quoted Godin as I closed the conference with a challenge:  “it’s not enough to survive your way through this Dip.  You get what you deserve when you embrace the Dip and treat it like the opportunity that it really is.” CITATION God07 l 1033 (Godin 2007)  Our quest as Godin explains may seem like a dead end at times but we will move forward with his encouragement to pursue this Dip and see measurable progress made toward a clear vision – A church in every village of Bihar – no longer a graveyard of missions but a vineyard with busy, bold and deliberate labourers.

Godin, Seth. The Dip. London: Penguin Books, 2007.


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