You Are The Portal

Stepping into a larger world(view) by stepping into a larger sense of self.

While searching within my knowledge base today, I stumbled across a page I had saved from Kyle Pearce’s Social Creators website some years back, with the following quote standing out for me.

Social Creators is a new kind of do-it-yourself online education where you get to unleash your creativity by telling your stories, develop your creative confidence by testing your ideas on other members and build an online audience that is excited to hear from you.

When I read the words “unleash your creativity by telling your stories“, I immediately thought of Dick Bolles talking about taking the stories of your life and breaking them down to their “atomic level” to understand yourself better, so as to “take an inventory” of yourself.

Since I hadn’t been on Kyle’s site in a while though, I decided to browse around and found a great article on Steven Kotler talking about flow, with a great listing of quotes on the subject. What I was seeing here was a new perspective of an old familiar quest I had been working on, particularly with the quotes emphasizing turning “work into play”, “tinkering our mindset”, and stepping beyond our “restricted circle of potential being” by stepping “out of the way” of our sense of self.

After all of these thoughts collided within my mind for a few minutes though, something emerged visually, a metaphor that provided a language of understanding for what I was struggling to try to articulate. What I was seeing was the portal again. But this time, I was understanding what it was, how it was constructed, and what it achieved (again in a metaphorical or symbolic sense).

Illustration by Matt Rockefeller

Think of the portal as a symbolic representation of the unknown within you. In effect, we think we know ourselves but there is a deeper, more intuitive being below the surface of ourselves that we can feel but often can’t find the words to articulate. The reason for this is because this greater sense of self is often beyond the language and mindset (aka worldview) of our current sense of self. At the same time, this unknown self also represents an unknown larger world of possibilities, as our world is just a projection of ourselves.

What became apparent to me with this collision of thoughts was that this portal—this paradigm that we’re trying to understand so we can step through it—is constructed by “closing a loop”. Yet this isn’t some simple daily metric on an Apple Watch that we can easily accomplish. It is a deeper understanding of something that is beyond our current framework of mind. Thus the best way to try to understand this unknown is to “walk around it virtually” within our heads to fully understand it from multiple perspectives and see it as a whole.

What I realized I was talking about here was creating a new world(view) by seeing the greater overarching narrative of it from the multiple different stories describing it. This mirrored how I was understanding my life as a whole on a much greater level as well by overlapping the multiple different stories within it and seeing the narrative that emerged from the brightened triangulation of them, revealing my passion and purpose in turn as this narrative.

The last thing that evidently emerged from these thoughts was the process of “teleportation” through this symbolic “portal”. Again these words are just metaphors to help provide a language for this creative process of transformation and social innovation but nevertheless the words and their meaning, while not literal, hold a certain truth to them. That’s because the process of teleportation through this portal requires one to “disintegrate” oneself and “reintegrate” oneself on the other side. In effect, one has to deconstruct one’s sense of self first, so that one can reconstruct oneself in a larger, broader way.

The simplest way to understand this often painful process of letting go of one’s sense of self is more commonly known as unlearning. Another way of thinking of it is visualizing yourself as a network with nodes as experiences and links as relationships between those experiences. The social construct of ourselves, our identity, is not based within the nodes but within the way we relate our life’s experiences (nodes) to one another, thus making connections and insights between things. So to reconstruct our sense of self in a much broader way, we “just” need to shatter these relational links between our life experiences and make newer connections.

As I was told by Valdis Krebs some years back, “You are the bridge.” Well it appears another way of describing this is, “You are the portal.” In effect, by questioning our world and stepping beyond the status quo, we are not only deconstructing our world but our selves in the process, creating a new self and a new world which provides us with a larger space of possibilities to step into.

By Nollind Whachell

Questing to translate Joseph Campbell's Hero’s Journey into The Player’s Handbook for the roleplaying game called Life, thus making vertical (leadership) development an accessible, epic framework for everyone.

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