I’ve been known to speak of the dolphinthinker’s iron fin.

This is sometime confused with the dolphinthinker’s “iron fist,” but they are not the same. That iron fist is the dolphinthinker’s unmistakable resolve and demand to be noticed and be heeded without further ado (e.g., in life-threatening moments). The iron fin is the dolphinthinker’s audacious, all-defining life-view and, as such, fuels the dolphinthinker’s passion (as I noted in, among other works, LEAP!) for “managing the world,” with a focus on what matters, what works, what makes sense—what’s right and fair and ethical and doable.

This isn’t the only fin available to the dolphin. Other fins can be strapped on to navigate the staples and turns of ordinary life: the little stuff. But the iron fin is the heavy-lifting, brook-no-stupidity, tough-as-nails-when-needed, tenacious, future-conscious one.

If you’d like to try the dolphinthinker’s iron fin on for size—a “trial fitting,” in the department store sense—you might consider using the Einsteinian-like “thought experiment” approach.

Think of yourself doing some of the things on this list of activities calculated to raise the dust and dislodge the status quo:

Plan a mutiny where it will be least expected. That is, in places where you are a familiar face and a normally tranquil presence. See if you think a rebellion can make a difference; see if it is worth the trouble. (Your author has twice made sparks in a local school system. In one place it worked. In another it fizzled.) Speculate on whether things are going to fizz or fizzle, so you’ll know what your priorities need to be.

Engineer a difference while in camouflage. Be totally sneaky about it. Cover your traces. Wear disguise. Don’t lie, but use truth strategically. Don’t let up; go into the mission absolutely determined to see it through. Don’t worry about asking permission; just don’t get caught. Don’t worry about winning; you win some, and you lose some. And don’t worry all that much about whether you are doing things in the right way—the point of the exercise is to learn as much as you can about what’s workable on the other side of the ripples you are going to cause.

Be the difference in someone else’s worthy cause—unexpectedly. Your self-appointed task: to see who you think the sharkthinkers are and how you might neutralize them. Pick something you can be passionate about. Nose around in your imagination to see what really needs to happen here. And if there are no sharks? Well, how about other dolphins? Don’t see any sharks or dolphins? Then this must be a community of carps or NoQuiffs (not-quite-flying-fishes). Not a lot of potential here. Move quickly to fade out and mosey on.

Advertise! Advertise what? The fact that you are looking for new people to represent the role of the unknown in your life. Call this The Sandwich Board Approach in honor of all those brave, venturesome people who have put themselves and their needs/views/causes/desires in plain sight the old fashioned way: being the message themselves. Be specific about what you are looking for. That is—dolphins! No sharks or carps need apply. And give ‘em a taste of what (1) alarms you most about the direction the world is going and (2) what you think the next local step should be. Think about an arresting rendezvous point to kick things off (make it intriguing, i.e., the local wrecking yard, a place to eat strange foods, a public place where almost no one ever goes).

Be a contrarian. Trust where others would probably point fingers and cast aspersions. Shrug off both the doomsayers and the utopians and go looking for what works. Accept that there’s a right time to think like a carp or a not-quite-flying fish (“self-sacrificially”). And a right time to think like a shark (“iron-fistedly”). And certainly, more and more times these days when more and more things are going to hell in a hand basket and there’s a critical need to think like a dolphin (”pro-actively combinatorially).

After your thought experiments, ask yourself again, “What is this iron fin and why it is necessary and what is the dolphinthinker meant to do with it?”

The answer is deceptively simple, but it makes sense only if you are willing to understand what makes it so. I believe that is a discussion well worth having. It just might be one of the most important self-insights any of us will ever encounter. Because before a dolphin does anything else with the iron fin, he or she uses it to turn his or her personal world upside down from the inside out. Our dolphin iron fin’s first, main and most critical use takes place in our own heads!

But then if you’ve read any of the dolphin-thinking books, you already knew that.

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