I recently watched a documentary about the Yellowstone Caldera and supervolcano. If Yellowstone were to have another large eruption, it would likely be the end of the world as we know it (TEOTWAWKI). The three historic eruptions in Yellowstone were about one million years apart with the latest being 640,000 years ago, so we probably don’t have anything to worry about in the near future.

The term “TEOTWAWKI” is often used by survivalists and in apocalyptic stories. Think “The Walking Dead”, “Deep Impact”, and the 1987 song by the alt-rock band R.E.M. In those contexts (well, not the R.E.M. context as much), something has happened that literally makes it impossible to continue to exist in the ways we have historically.

However, we experience “end of life as we know it” moments throughout our lives. Many times, the people around us are not experiencing the same disruptions to their lives as we are, which makes it worse. There is something comforting about being in the boat with others, even if that boat is taking on water and surrounded by sharks.

Other times, our community is experiencing a disruption, and we suddenly find out what the people around us are made of and what we are made of. The element that made “The Walking Dead” so mesmerizing was not the zombies; it was the way people became their true and honest selves without the constraints and consequences of social constructs.

This is the most difficult part of significant change. It reveals who we really are. Significant shifts in the structure of the world around us always create opportunities for us to grow. We will grow the seeds we have sown.

If we have planted and nurtured selfishness, we will grow into a person who is capable of harming others to meet their own wants and needs. If we have planted and nurtured being other-oriented, we will grow into a person willing to sacrifice for others.

The secret here is that we are always encountering TEOTWAWKI. My life today is not the life I knew yesterday. Life as I know it today will not exist tomorrow. Maybe the shift is minor, and therefore the growth movement is also small, but it is there. I am either becoming a better version of myself every day, or I am becoming a worse version.

The same is true for our cultures and communities. When leaders sow the seeds of selflessness by their actions as well as their words, the community moves toward a better version of itself. Sometimes the change from day-to-day is hard to discern, but it is there. Likewise, if we are planting selfishness and discontent, we may fail to see the shift until it is too late.

I am not worried about Yellowstone blowing up and killing us all. I figure statistically we have another quarter million years or so—which is significantly longer than recorded history. What keeps me getting up and coming to work every day is the realization that my role as a leader is to guide our community through the daily changes that disrupt the world as we know it, so we can grow to be better.

We are all constantly “becoming.” Great leaders use their time, talent, and resources to encourage those around them to become more caring, respectful, and tolerant.  Understanding that every day is the end of the world as we know it and seeing that as an opportunity creates healthy places for people to thrive and is The Bison Way.