Where the horizon meets the stars

Berry's newsletter this month on navigating for possible futures through the three-horizon framework.

min read
Berry Liberman
Share this post

Dear Friends,

Apologies in advance — today’s thoughts are a wee bit on the darker side, but I promise it doesn’t stay that way.

Truth is, I spent the weekend afraid of the outside world.

I decided that the cosy warmth of my home, wrapped up in my children’s busy happenings on the weekend, absorbed in the everydayness of life, was the only place I wished to be. I had a deadline for this newsletter, and try as I might, I felt inadequate to ‘speak’ about anything really. My voice was silent and deep down in my throat. My soul had closed up like a clam shell and wouldn’t pry open for anything.

My 16-year-old son was also under some pressure to perform – he had to construct a literature essay in preparation for his exams. When he brought me his practice essay, I got really irritated with him, “How can you write such nonsensical drivel? It doesn’t make sense! Get it together and write like both of us know you can. Stay focused on the question and be ‘like a dog with a bone’ – don’t take your eyes off that provocation. Every sentence is precious real estate, don’t waste it generalising or pontificating…” As my therapist rightly pointed out, it begs the real question – who was I frustrated with? Our children become this outer projection of our inner struggles and a profound mirror for how we see ourselves and the world.

What if we take that to heart? That the whole world and all relationships and the overarching outcomes for ourselves and this beautiful world are the outer projection of our inner visions.

Let me explain. The weekend felt so dark for probably two reasons: one, I needed to rest. Danny is away, and I’m on full-time parental duties. I’ve cleared my schedule so I can be present for the three humans I shlep around every day. Being in service doesn’t leave much time for writing. The second reason is that, for some hellish reason, I keep turning to the news. I keep hunting on refresh for a vision of the future, or even the next half an hour, when my soul isn’t crushed into paste, watching us all collectively race to the bottom. Last week, a friend said that focusing on nature was a luxury in such a time as this. It honestly took my breath away, and I couldn’t suppress the rising panic. If nature is now a luxury, what chance do we have?

There is a difference between luxury beliefs and ideologies and a deep understanding that a re-focusing to nature is what will save us from this hellish nightmare we keep doubling down on. War, conflict and polarisation distract us and make everything triage. If everything is triaged then all outcomes will have the flavour and tenor of urgent and immediate, and we will have no room for what’s possible, which leads me to the three-horizon thinking that saves me and helps me find my place in it all.

At Small Giants Academy, we teach and work with the three-horizon framework by Bill Sharpe – it suggests there are always three horizons in play, offering insights into possible alternative futures. Horizon One is Business as Usual, the dominant way of doing things today. It contains the seeds of it’s own demise. Horizon Two is where disruptive innovation lives. This horizon throws up new ways of doing things. Horizon Three is the future we want – a way of replacing and improving upon the system we have.

Another way of thinking about it is Triage, Transition and Transformation.

It is essential to understand what kind of a conversation you are in, or it can quickly feel muddled. The news itself lives in Triage – as they say, ‘If it bleeds, it leads’. That should tell us everything we need to know about how the news is training our minds. Social Media most definitely lives here – it’s what gets our adrenaline and cortisol pumping so that we feel ‘we must act!’. Similarly, it degenerates complex thinking and promotes urgent and immediate action from a binary position to save lives, stop the bleeding, protect and defend. This mode of thinking is what had me in the deep funk on the weekend. I was mired in it. If that’s all that’s left, for a person like me, that is a kind of death.

It is NOT a luxury to move into Horizon Two and Horizon Three. That is what we need to understand and commit to. Of course, when there is war and conflict, everything is triage – although I know there are incredible human beings who are able to hold Horizon Two and Three even in those contexts (I often think of Viktor Frankel and even regular folk like Alla Olkhovska who saves precious clematis flower seeds in the Ukraine while bombs go off overhead). Or my beloved friends in Israel and Palestine who persist in talking about peace with the Pope while millions around the world push for more violence and deeper entrenched conflict.

Horizon Two is vital – that’s where the transition to a Beneficial Future is possible. Those are the bridge builders. The innovators who get us from the petrol car to the Prius Hybrid to the Tesla. We need them to shepherd us out of Business as Usual and into... something else. Something better. Something more hopeful. Possibilities abound here, but it cannot be shaped by triage – it must be free to land in What’s Possible. I’m not amazing in this landscape – I’m happy to hang out here, but I’m a bit useless, to be honest.

It's Horizon Three that lights my fire and tickles my fancy. This is the intergalactic shit I live for. This is where Rewilding is. This is the heart-exploding space of unseen, unknown possible futures that emerge out of dreaming, out of play, out of deep love and diving into a space beyond what is and into what could be. This is the horizon where judgment cannot be present, where form and content do a different dance. 

My mentor and friend Lydia Fairhall once shared with me the image of her Old People being so deeply connected to the land and the cosmos at the same time that they would stare into a lake or body of water so they could see the stars reflected, and the landscapes merged into cosmic Oneness. That some kind of transmission was happening there; that is, in many ways, the essence of Horizon Three. It’s here, which feels very far removed from Business as Usual, that we need to honour a space for magic. This is where the world gets reborn through Dreaming it into being. This is where we let go of everything that is and lean into what It Could be.

In a world turned upside down by rampant greed, species loss, nature destruction, war, fear, hate and division, it can feel like a betrayal of what it is to be human, to leave the trance and trap of Horizon One. It is not the only place. Of course, we need people in Horizon One. We need the triage nurses and doctors and firefighters with hoses! We need people in the other horizons as well, or we will never get out of the situations we find ourselves in. This note is just to say that we need the architects and engineers of Horizon Two to stay focused on their bridging work and to be designing from a Horizon Three playbook laid out by the Dreamers, Weavers and Transformational thinkers.

So that Vision for the Future I keep hunting for in the news – it’s not a read-the-tea-leaves kinda gig. It requires hard, deep, thoughtful work across Horizons to map our way out of this territory and into something that can pierce the veil of bureaucracy, denial and obfuscation currently blocking any real, hopeful path forward. It’s spiritual and practical, creative and tangible.

The Horizon was always how explorers navigated the vast oceans. We must do this again from the same place of awe and humility.


See you out there, where the horizon meets the stars.

Berry xox

//---Read time---// //---Share social---//