What is a Culture of Play?

Cultivating a daring, imaginative, and adventurous company.

I’m realizing today that many years back, when I started this version of my site in 2005, I wasn’t going far enough in asking the right questions (even though my questions were probably ahead of others at the time).

At the time, I asked “How would a business operate differently if its culture matched that of the Web?”

What I probably really wanted to ask, but didn’t have the courage to openly do so, was “How would a business operate if it’s culture matched that of a high-end World of Warcraft guild?”

In other words, what I’m asking here is “What is a culture that goes beyond just working, beyond even learning, and cultivates playing at its core?”

Of course the initial knee jerk reaction will be “What? You mean a culture of playing games?” No, I obviously don’t mean that (although you could say that it does relate to going beyond playing finite games and focusing on playing the infinite game instead). What I’m talking about here is cultivating an environment of imagination and curiosity whereby everyone feels safe enough to have the courage to step outside of the existing conventional “sandbox” of their work and start exploring a whole new, larger sandbox of possibilities.

What’s remarkable is that at the time I started this site, I also actually came up with a series of words that described this type of culture and this type of company that mirrored the Web (which I entitled “I Work For The Web”). And reflecting back upon it, it most definitely does have a strong resemblance to relating to a culture of play as well.

I work for a daring, imaginative, adventurous, sharing, caring, diverse, open, trusting, honest, flexible, responsible, and connected company.


Playing MMO Games? You’re Ready for The Future of Work

How to go from being a peon to the hero of your life.

John Seely Brown discusses the knowledge economy within the MMO game the World of Warcraft in a 2010 presentation. While many people in the conventional “World of Work” see these community spaces around video games as “just a game”, John helps us see that what’s actually occurring here is people are experimenting with a whole new way of working (and even being). In effect, if you’re an active participant in similar video game communities and contributing to their knowledge sharing and building, you’re probably already ready for The Future of Work compared to most other people.

The Edge is Where It’s At

What’s going on here? Well, if you look at the game itself, you don’t see what’s so exciting about the game. I want to say don’t pay much attention to the center of the game. Look at the edge of the game. Look at the knowledge economy on the edge of this game and you’re going to find ideas of how to get back to increasing returns in this term of the collaboration curve.

This is something I realized about these games back near the same time. What awoke me to this realization was reading Hugh MacLeod’s posts on Social Objects back in 2007 and realizing that these games were just the social objects that people were creating communities around which is something I had been doing myself since 1996.

In effect, the game “at the center” is just a social object. In this case, it’s a completely imaginary online world that’s not real. You hear people saying this all the time. “Chill out. It’s just a game. It’s not real.” What is very real though is the social relationships and communities that are cultivated and built up “around the edge” of these games.

And what’s happening within these innovative social spaces is very, very exciting indeed, as John puts it. Why? Because these large social communities are effectively the same thing as a T-group within organization development, whereby people come together and “use feedback, problem solving, and role play to gain insights into themselves, others, and groups.” To put it another way, these spaces of play are giving people the autonomy, that most conventional organizations can’t, to explore new ways of being on an individual and collective level.

Communities of Inquiry

And one of the reasons why these guilds are so important is there’s so much knowledge being produced every single day that without the guild structure to help you process this kind of knowledge, you would simply be overwhelmed.

If you’re going to do successful, high-end raiding, you got to figure out how to take your guild and get your guild to know— something that the scientific community quite hasn’t yet figured out—how to process tens of thousands of new ideas every week and then try to figure out how to distil them down to new ways to move.

This is why I’ve said before that these guilds go beyond just being communities of belonging and even go beyond just being communities of practice to being communities of inquiry. In effect, you’re not just learning something that’s known (i.e. best practices), you’re playing in a larger context beyond the existing (existential) game itself and learning a new way of being (i.e. emergent practices).

Now take the quotes above and replace the word “guild” with “organization” and replace “raiding” with “projects”. You’ve just described what an organization should be focusing on within The Future of Work. Again though, realize that most conventional organizations could never achieve this because they don’t give their people the autonomy to truly step out and play beyond the boundaries of themselves and the organization. In a conventional organization, knowledge is controlled by gate keepers and thus isn’t shared with everyone openly.

Always Learning Reflectively

By the way, in terms of extreme performance, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. World of Warcraft for the high-end guilds do after-action reviews on every high-end raid.

This is something I noticed myself when I used to play World of Warcraft back around 2006. Our guild always did after-action reviews after every boss attempt in both regular and raid dungeons, thus asking and learning from the question of “what just happened?” In comparison, whenever we played a regular dungeon and needed an extra “pickup” player from outside our guild, we were always shocked at how easily these people gave up on challenging bosses, wanting to just go around them instead. In comparison, we loved the challenge and constantly walked around the problem (sometimes literally), looking at it from different perspectives, to try to figure it out.

Clarification: Upon reflection of this post at a later time, it has become apparent to me that I’m implying a specific meaning to a Community of Practice that isn’t correct. Specifically, I’m implying that a Community of Practice focuses on just best practices which isn’t always the case. A Community of Practice can focus on emergent practices and thus be just as innovative as a Community of Inquiry. See Margaret Wheatley’s and Deborah Frieze’s Using Emergence to Take Social Innovations to Scale to understand how Communities of Practice utilize emergent practices.

No Place To Hide

Totally meritocracies that basically in a high-end raid, everyone is measured, everyone is critique by everyone else in the high-end raid because it’s obviously computer mediated. We can capture everything that’s going on. We have extensive dashboards to actually measure your own performances of how well you’re doing.

This is the amazing thing about these environments and why the autonomy within them isn’t given freely because there is a corresponding responsibility to yourself and the collective group in turn. Since everyone can see everyone else’s performance in real time, there really is no place to hide. It’s not like a conventional organization where you only have to worry about how your work looks from a select few people’s perspective. Your performance is seen and measured by everyone.

This relates to what I said some years back after a Global Peter Drucker Forum, where I said the future is one in which “Everyone is a leader. Everyone is a manager. Everyone is a customer.” You can’t hide anymore, sit on your butt, and be a peon, waiting for someone to tell you what to do. You have to decide for yourself what you want to do—learning to know thyself in the process—and go out and do it heroically.

Creating a Sense-Making Dashboard

And so, a very interesting sense is in this game, in this kind of world, you have after-action reviews and you have a form of play that says you need to craft your own dashboards to measure your own performance. In fact, right now, in Washington, the Obama Administration were actually trying to lift ideas from the World of Warcraft in terms of how do you help people craft their own dashboards.

And these dashboards are, by and large, are not pre-made. They’re mashups. You do it as you want. Therefore, you as individuals, what would it mean for you to craft your own dashboards that actually give you a good sense of how you’re spending every moment of the day, what you could do better, and so on and so forth.

When I heard these words, I immediately thought of a blog but one which is structured and functions in a certain, specific way. So one in which your whole life is being funnelled through it, yet the different streams of it have their own access permissions based upon the relationship the viewer has to you. So if you’re working on a project with someone, your work on it is in one stream which only that person can see. Other streams of yours life though may be completely open and viewable to everyone.

In fact, another way of looking at this would be envisioning everyone building a Second Brain for themselves but with you being able to give different access permissions to different areas of it for those you’re working with. Again this mirrors my idea of Connected Communities in the past, whereby multiple knowledge flows, starting at the individual level (with a person’s different idea streams), come together to not just aggregate knowledge better but to also better distill it into its essence as well.

Just a side thought on this though. As I indicated in my original Connected Communities post, the openness of your work is really what makes it possible for others to cooperatively work off of your work and ideas. If you’re only really sharing your work with people you’re just collaborating with though, this really limits the potentiality and synchronicity that can occur with your work.

A Bigger Context of Play

But I will show you innovation networks in China that are using very much the same ideas and that have figured out how to generate exponential learning within and across their networks.

And finally John describes how in the same way that guild communities are generating exponential learning both within themselves and with others guilds, this same process of exponential learning is already occurring within the real world as well. This isn’t just fun and games. This is a new way of being within a new world, whereby playing, learning, and working are occurring on a constant, creative, daily basis (thus happening cyclically in our lives versus just sequentially, as is the conventional norm).


Learning How to Play Outside the Lines

Never fitting in because you’re having too much fun exploring outside.

No longer are we in an era that’s just about deepening our individual expertise within our silos. That game no longer works.

John Seely Brown

I just finished watching the above 2017 speech by John Seely Brown (discovering it indirectly when searching for “work not being transdisciplinary”) and I’m completely blown away. That’s because over the past few weeks, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been moving closer and closer to the edge of something at the core of my being that is going to give me a vista of my life that I’ve been struggling to put into words for the past couple of decades. Unbelievably enough, this video of John opens up this vista and helps me understand what I’m looking at.

If I could put this feebly into words right now, it would be this. Our lack of innovation, our inability to change and adapt to the times, is inherently found within our lack of imagination, our ability to play outside the lines, borders, and boundaries of our existing mindsets. This is what is limiting most individuals and organizations to adapt to these times because their very structural sense of identity prohibits them from doing so. In effect, we are standing in our own way (A. Montuori) because we are fearful and lack the courage to step into the uncertainty of the unknown.

To get around this (and ourselves), we need to stop thinking within the lines, borders, and boundaries of our mind. Yet every single one of our relationships, especially within the world of work, are based upon putting you within a box and keeping you there. This is for the most part why I know I wouldn’t fit into the context of most conventional companies today because I’m no longer specializing myself to fit into a single siloed discipline like others but rather enjoy exploring the in-between liminal spaces between them.

For example, if someone looks at me on paper, I look like I’m all over the place, lost jumping around aimlessly, because I’ve added domains of knowledge to my life that I’m not only still exploring but, more importantly, I’m trying to weave together in a single integrative way, combining my knowledge of games, computers, the Web, communities, culture, organizational development, personal development, social innovation, creativity, and play to do so. So I’m not lost so much, as I’m following and exploring a definitive purpose to my life that is pulling me along.

I do this because when I look at all of these things, I see an emerging bridge to The Future of Work that is being woven right now. For example, I imagine the possibilities of creating a web platform that, when combined with AI, could allow individuals to discover their untapped potentialities just by simply using it like a social network. And once they discover these unseen potentialities, this platform would allow them to be seen and to see other individuals, connecting up and working with them in the same way that the individual’s own ideas are connected up and woven together in new ways.

I see these things because I’ve been talking about these things for the past couple of decades of my life. But I’ve been talking about them within a specific context (i.e Connected Communities). Yet when you let go of the context or blur the lines of it, you suddenly see how these patterns of life can be applied within a larger context, a bigger picture. This is Miyamoto Musashi’s famous quote of “From one thing, know ten thousand things” personified.

This is why for the past decade of my life, I feel like I’ve had exponential personal growth in understanding myself and learning new knowledge but at the same time feel more and more restricted and limited because I can’t find a company locally that operates in this same curious and open way as I do. A company of people that accepts me as I am unconventionally am because they themselves are unconventional as well.

For example, you hear that lifelong learning is critical for The Future of Work, yet most companies that agree with this don’t actually practice this belief internally. Why? Because if you believe that lifelong learning is critical, it means accepting people who don’t have formal degrees or titles, thus being open to anyone that can just prove themselves and their knowledge. Yet most of the companies that I’ve researched that promote Creativity, Social Innovation, and The Future of Work, often seem to function and work very conventionally within, wanting the person to have a prestigious conventional degree or work background, so that they “fit in” to that perceived mold.

Because of this, I feel like life is showing me a sign and making me realize that if I truly believe that future organizations should work openly and curiously then I need to embody it in my own work, creating my own company in the process. In effect, I need to stop looking for the leadership that I want to find out there and instead take the leadership in following my own beliefs. I mean why put your life on hold waiting for someone else to come along to “discover you”, when they may never appear at all. Discover yourself by just being yourself.

You have to understand your own center of gravity. You have to understand who the hell you are. You have to understand your forces that you can do.

John Seely Brown

The Ongoing Evolution of Our Identity

Personal growth is not normally thought of as a “skill.” But the world is now changing so fast and so unpredictably that it needs to become one. Our grandparents had one job for life; our parents had multiple jobs over their careers; our generation will have multiple careers. This demands that we learn how to grow not as a one-time event, but as an ongoing evolution of our identity.

Tiago Forte

Résumé 2.0: Revealing the Meaning of Our Work

Breaking down the silos and connecting up our lives as a whole.

Last night before I went to bed, I started jotting down things that defined the essence of who I am. I broke these down into What I Do, How I Do It, and Why I Do It.

This morning, I was thinking about how a résumé is structured and how different parts are separated into silos, like your education from your work experiences.

Yet when I started jotting the progression of my life out, something interesting revealed itself to me. I started by writing out my interests as headings (ie games, computers, web, communities, culture, etc). And below each heading, instead of listing What I Did or a How I Did It differently from others, I instead listed Why I Did It. In effect, what compelled me or pulled me into learning each new thing.

When I wrote it out this way, two things happened. I suddenly started seeing connections between everything I was doing and why I wanted to explore and learn new things. And more importantly, I saw a common narrative to my life emerging as a whole. Here’s a small example of what I mean.

Games – As a kid, games let me role “play” with the concept and identity of myself and, in doing so, helped me figured out who I was and express who I wanted to be.

Computers – I got interested in computers because of computer games. I saw a way to explore newer digital worlds and role play within them which again helped me figure out who I was and who I wanted to be. I even learnt how to code to create my own games and simulated worlds to play within, letting me express myself in a whole new way. Later, I found I could use apps for writing, artwork, and music, helping me to express myself in other mediums beyond games. Finally, I got so good at using computers that I helped others with computer problems which impeded them in expressing themselves. I even created a backup system whereby I could remove these impediments for anyone in a few minutes, even if they were of a catastrophic nature.

Web – When the Internet became more prevalent in the early nineties and people started using the Web, I was immediately drawn to it as another medium to express myself but especially one in which I didn’t need any permission to do so, compared to print and television which were fairly gated mediums. Playing computer games, I found the Web was the optimal platform to share my knowledge of the games I was playing, sharing tips and tricks in the process to help others. As a highly introverted person, while playing computer games online with others really brought me out of my shell, it was the Web which really catalyzed this even more so, moving things from an individual nature to a collective one.

Community – Of course the naturally next step after learning how to use the Web was building communities with it online around the computer games I was playing. This was a highly transformational moment in my life. In sharing what I was learning online, I had attracted the attention of others and collectively together we combined our knowledge and created a community for others to learn within and put that knowledge learnt into practice. In doing so, my leadership capabilities naturally seemed to emerge and I started intuitively cultivating the communities I was a part of in a particularly positive way, using knowledge from books I had read decades earlier (ie Tao Te Ching, The Art of War, etc).

Culture – After the Dot-com Bubble burst around 2001 and the web firm I work for imploded, I began to question everything in my life, particularly the way that work worked. After finding and reading The Cluetrain Manifesto and seeing it as a beacon of change that was sorely needed, I reflected back on my online community experiences around playing computer games and wondered why those experiences of teamwork and collaboration felt so amazing in comparison to the conventional offline world of work. The word that emerged for me as an answer was culture. In effect, the patterns of behaviours, beliefs, and values were radically different within these online communities compared to the conventional offline organizations I was working within. To me, the culture in the communities I had helped cultivate felt very natural and open, whereas the culture in companies often felt very stifling and unnatural. What I was beginning to experience here was a way to express the identity of myself not just individually but myself as part of a group collectively.

Now if you look at everything I’ve written above collectively in this small example set, you’ll realize this ongoing connectivity and a sense of “building upon” everything. It wasn’t like I was letting one thing go and starting something else. Each new thing I learnt was added to and expanded upon a larger narrative that was emerging.

Also note how radically different this is from a typical résumé which often doesn’t articulate this depth of meaning. In effect, a résumé lists what a person has done (ie scope of job, achievements, etc) and perhaps may barely touch upon how they do it uniquely but it doesn’t explain why they do what they do. Yet when you do look at this why, this meaning, suddenly you go from seeing a person’s life as just a sequential series of interests that they are leaping between, to seeing the deeper passion and purpose of the person that connects their entire life as a whole.

To me this is essential if we want to start understanding the broader potential of people and understand how they can flexibly adapt to newer interests and skills that relate to the why of their life, making their next leap seem not like an unrealistic stretch but rather a natural progression of their ongoing greater narrative.

In reflecting upon this though, I think a Résumé 2.0 should both strive to maintain aspects of a Résumé 1.0 but also expand upon it becoming something more. Thus the primary focus of a Résumé 2.0 should focus on the why of the person but peripherally on the side of this narrative or thread emerging in there life, the how and conventional what should be shown as well. It’s just that these other things are just no longer the primary focus, their superficial.

Even going beyond this, whereas a Résumé 1.0 strives to show the growth and progression of an individual, a Résumé 2.0 goes beyond this and shows the stable core narrative of a person emerging more and more clearly as they progress through their life, as the essence of who they are. In effect, each new diverse interest and experience shows and emphasizes reoccurring patterns that clearly define the person’s overall life narrative which is more commonly known as their passion and purpose.

In doing this all, we start seeing people, their identity, in a newer, more meaningful way. We start seeing the whole person, a bigger picture of them, rather than just isolated facets of them.

Finally note how this process is mirrored on an organizational level as well, allowing a previously silo’d organization to see itself, it’s identity, in a newer, more meaning way, bringing the organization together as a whole rather than previously seen as just separate parts.


Thoughts on “How to Survive the 21st Century”

Going beyond our current “programming” and perceiving ourselves in a whole new human way.

The World Economic Forum has provided a transcript of Yuval Harari’s Davos speech on How to Survive the 21st Century and it’s remarkably poignant on recognizing the shifts required for us to truly awaken and transform ourselves for the new world that is emerging before us. Below are my thoughts on specific areas that relate to my own life’s work.

Automation will soon eliminate millions upon millions of jobs, and while new jobs will certainly be created, it is unclear whether people will be able to learn the necessary new skills fast enough. Suppose you are a fifty-years-old truck driver, and you just lost your job to a self-driving vehicle. Now there are new jobs in designing software or in teaching yoga to engineers – but how does a fifty-years-old truck driver reinvent himself or herself as a software engineer or as a yoga teacher? And people will have to do it not just once but again and again throughout their lives, because the automation revolution will not be a single watershed event following which the job market will settle down, into a new equilibrium. Rather, it will be a cascade of ever bigger disruptions, because AI is nowhere near its full potential.

In other words, we need to learn not just how to flexibly adapt to a single large transitional change but rather to an ongoing series of changes. The reason for this is that we are undergoing a massive systemic shift (aka Big Shift), both technologically and societally, which will change everything, including the very perception of ourselves both individually and collectively. Yet the change will occur virally, slowly at first, building on the edges, but as it progresses and starts transforming things, it will speed up exponentially like a wildfire.

This is why the pace of change feels like it’s speeding up exponentially, getting faster and faster, because as more and more things are transformed, more things are influenced by these transformations and begin to change themselves.

Thus expect people to misunderstand the overall Big Shift occurring because they’re often just seeing and focused on these smaller shifts. Because of this, people will think certain things will need to be done but they will soon realize their solutions are inadequate. That’s because they aren’t thinking big enough and radically enough. For example, yes we need to upskill a billion people by 2025 but the approach of how this is done, and realizing why it needs to be done a certain way, is critical for its effectiveness within the Big Shift versus within just smaller shifts.

To put it another way, if you only focus on smaller shifts, you will realize you’re doing the right things but in the wrong way, thus wasting valuable time having to redo things again in the right way later. If you see and understand the Big Shift overall, you will be doing the right things in the right way from the very start and thus feel like you’re continually building momentum.

Old jobs will disappear, new jobs will emerge, but then the new jobs will rapidly change and vanish. Whereas in the past human had to struggle against exploitation, in the twenty-first century the really big struggle will be against irrelevance. And it is much worse to be irrelevant than exploited.

This is the core reason why I speak about the critical importance of mental health in the future because we need to proactively start helping people deal with their sense of identity feeling shattered when their job becomes obsolete because they believe their identity is inexplicably linked to their job, being one and the same. So we need to help people realize that their identity is so much more than just their “job”. One way of doing this is looking at your life on an “atomic level” as Dick Bolles describes it and seeing how a cluster of transferrable skills, commonly seen across many different jobs you’ve loved doing in the past, may articulate your identity better in a rapidly changing world.

The added benefit of seeing yourself more than just a rigidly defined job and more as a fluid, unique network of transferrable skills is that you’re more able to flexibly adapt to the shifts occurring around you because you’re understanding yourself and stabilizing yourself on a deeper, intrinsic level. In other words, the more you understand your unique skill set, articulating and infusing it with meaning (often described as one’s passion and purpose), the more you’re able to surf these waves of change because you’re transforming and becoming the wave of change itself, finding your own balance internally rather than relying upon society to balance you externally.

Those who fail in the struggle against irrelevance would constitute a new “useless class” – people who are useless not from the viewpoint of their friends and family, but useless from the viewpoint of the economic and political system. And this useless class will be separated by an ever-growing gap from the ever more powerful elite.

This perfectly describes how our current beliefs and mindset are limiting the perception of ourselves, effectively blinding us to the untapped potentiality of ourselves and each other. This is occurring because we are often looking at people within a limited technical context of their past jobs and even more so often just looking at them from a hard (technical) skills perspective. Until we start looking at a person from their soft (transferrable) skills, we won’t see and fully tap into their innate human potential.

I find this somewhat ironic considering that the whole emphasis on The Future of Work is that since automation will replace rote work, we need to focus on and unlock things that only humans can uniquely do. Yet we’re not making this shift in the way we perceive ourselves with regards to this type of human work because the very social constructs we’ve created for finding working relationships, such as a résumé, are still inadequate in helping us to express our overall human potential.

This needs to change and change now, yet it seems barely anyone is focused on the importance of this. It’s like a person wearing glasses that filters out their ability to perceive different colours and the person is continually frustrated they can’t see different colours. Well until they take off their glasses, they will continually be frustrated. In the same way, we need to remove our filtering beliefs which are blinding us to the untapped potential which is literally all around us and under our very noses.

If you know enough biology and have enough computing power and data, you can hack my body and my brain and my life, and you can understand me better than I understand myself. You can know my personality type, my political views, my sexual preferences, my mental weaknesses, my deepest fears and hopes. You know more about me than I know about myself. And you can do that not just to me, but to everyone.

A system that understands us better than we understand ourselves can predict our feelings and decisions, can manipulate our feelings and decisions, and can ultimately make decisions for us.

This is another sad fact, where people might say “Well figuring out the potentiality of a person is probably going to be really, really difficult to do, so it’s probably why very few people are working on it right now.” As the quote above indicates, we have the capabilities to understand a person on a deeper level, so much so that we can know them better than they can know themselves.

So it’s not a question of can it be done, it can be. It’s more a question of how and why. How can we do this and why? What’s the purpose for doing it? Right now the main reason organizations and nations are doing this is for control and manipulation. But imagine if instead of using this knowledge against people and it was used to help people. In other words, the purpose shifted from control and manipulation to freedom and empowerment.

So imagine what organizations and nations could collectively achieve if they came together to radically shift the current societal focus away from the control and manipulation of people to the freedom and empowerment of them. Some people might say that control and manipulation is more profitable. Possibly. But it also what is keeping the world divided and in conflict with itself, thus preventing us from tackling the larger wicked problems we face.

To truly achieve the epic results required in the years to come, we need everyone working together and at their highest capacity and potential. Yet right now, most people aren’t even probably working at average capacity. Most people are disengaged from their work. It feels meaningless and lifeless because they can’t see the deeper meaning they are looking for in their own lives and within themselves.

When I person does begin to understand themselves though on a deeper level, it’s like like their entire life comes together, makes sense, and ignites them like a fusion reaction. The energy released feels limitless to the person and their work begins to feel effortless, more like play than work. That’s because they’re naturally following and being pulled by their own curiosity and imagination, rather than being pushed into doing it. This is the intrinsic motivation need for creativity and flow to emerge within their life, amplifying their productivity naturally.

In the coming decades, AI and biotechnology will give us godlike abilities to reengineer life, and even to create completely new life-forms. After four billion years of organic life shaped by natural selection, we are about to enter a new era of inorganic life shaped by intelligent design. 

Our intelligent design is going to be the new driving force of the evolution of life and in using our new divine powers of creation we might make mistakes on a cosmic scale. In particular, governments, corporations and armies are likely to use technology to enhance human skills that they need – like intelligence and discipline – while neglecting other humans skills – like compassion, artistic sensitivity and spirituality.

The result might be a race of humans who are very intelligent and very disciplined but lack compassion, lack artistic sensitivity and lack spiritual depth. Of course, this is not a prophecy. These are just possibilities. Technology is never deterministic.

When I read these words, I immediately thought about our ongoing search for aliens (as “new life forms”) out there in the cosmos. More recent articles are saying that perhaps the reason we can’t find alien life forms is because our perceptions are blinding us to the possibilities of what they could conceivably be. In other words, we could be looking at alien life right now but we’re not seeing it as alien life because we can’t perceive it as such.

Why I think this is incredibly important is because by shifting the context of this lesson, we can apply it to the current context of our world today. We are creating a world that is alienating people, not only from each other but from their very human selves. This is why I believe we will never truly start seeing and discovering alien life, until we start seeing and discovering the human potential of people lying dormant all around us. In other words, just like alien life forms, these people are invisible to us because our perceptions of what we expect them to be are blinding us to their true potential of what they are.


Mastery of the Heart

Learning to let imperfect words lovingly express perfect feelings.

For the longest time, I’ve indicated a frustration, a lack of ability, in articulating what I’ve intuitively seen emerging for the past couple of decades. What I’m realizing is that it is not an inability to express myself that limits me but rather a fear to truly express myself in my own words that does. 

For example, if I take a collection of quotes by a variety of notable people and place one quote after the other to form a greater narrative that I see emerging, I feel no inkling of fear whatsoever in doing this and expressing myself using other people’s words.

It is only when I start to write out this emergence and “connect the dots” in greater detail in my own words that I begin to falter, stumble, and doubt myself, blaming it on a lack of mastery of words…when really it is more a lack of mastery of the heart. In effect, I’m not trusting my feelings and thus not trusting my Self in turn.

Therefore until I can accept my Self as I truly am and speak in my own words, however imperfectly, of the perfect feelings I am experiencing, I will never move beyond this point that I feel stuck within. In effect, I will always be standing in my own way, letting fear barricade the love my heart wants to release.


The Freedom to Write in Different Ways

Platforms need to allow people to write in different forms.

One of the drawbacks I find in creating a loosely structured space for yourself online is that most web platforms have predefined expectations of what they should be and how you should use them, rather than being loosely structured so you can play around with them and create your own customized structure that works for you.

This is why I fell in love with Squarespace in 2004 but by 2014 lost faith in it, as a lot of the functional flexibility that it once had was removed when it was completely rebuilt and relaunched with Version 6.

Today, I love where WordPress is going with the flexibility of blocks, eventually going beyond posts and pages to constructing your entire site with them, but in my opinion it still hasn’t gone far enough on the post level. What I mean by this is WordPress is optimized for long form writing. If you want to do micro-posts (emulating Twitter), you really have to customize its “out of the box” experience substantially to achieve this.

And yet if we want to create a space where we can maintain our self as a “whole”, rather than being scattered across the Web on many different social network platforms, then WordPress needs to be flexible enough to allow a person to emulate the basic post functionality of these others platforms.

For example, if I have a simple one sentence thought that I want to post, I should be able to do this. Of course I can do this on WordPress but it looks awkward and out of place because the context of what your posting doesn’t change the appropriate style of it.

Personally I think this is why blogging, as a whole, lost its momentum because other newer, social network platforms like Twitter and Facebook made it easier to post shorter thoughts. Thus people didn’t feel like they had to write an essay on their blog, because it had a long form expectation to it, whereas these other platforms made short form writing acceptable and even admirable, since achieving clarity and conciseness in fewer words takes some skill.

I think part of the problem in combining these different forms of writing is how does one integrate and display them both on your site? My guess is that short form writing would become your more abundant and easier method of writing with long form posts emerging only once in a while.

When I was on Twitter, I noticed this same pattern. A lot of my posts were one to three tweets in length but then I would have a long thread of say 10 tweets to convey something deeper in meaning. I even remarked that if Twitter enabled a method to combine these tweets into a long form post as a whole, it would be pretty amazing, as you would be able to easily write short form and long form all in one place.

Anyways, in closing this off, I think to convert WordPress to a short form platform first and foremost, you’d really need to change some of its functionality. I’ll cover some of these things in a future post.


Enabling Space for Ourselves

Creating a space online—a home—where we can just be ourselves.

More generally, it seems that profound change needs a kind of space of “gratuité”: an “enabling space” which is in a first step – free of function, purposes, goals, etc. The approach of the U-theory provides one way that such a space could emerge.

Markus F. Peschl

While rereading once again the paper on Triple-loop learning as foundation for profound change, individual cultivation, and radical innovation by Markus F. Peschl, this quote near the end of it intuitively felt familiar and reminded me of Tiago Forte’s work on Building a Second Brain and what I’ve been struggling to accomplish with my own online journal for a couple of decades. That being creating a loosely structured online space where a person’s identity can naturally unfold and be discovered simply based upon what they focus their attention upon.

The creative process of this simply starts with “seeing the patterns”, which is easy, and then moving on to “seeing the relationships between the patterns”, which becomes monumentally more complex.

If you were doing this with a web platform, you’d be posting article links you found interesting, along with a few quotes from each that held meaning, and then creating a category for each pattern that emerges when you post another one in the future that feels like it aligns with it.

As time progresses and you’ve collected a lot of patterns, one naturally moves into seeing the relationships between the patterns whereby one realizes that a handful of these patterns actually relate to one another, clustering into a structured narrative of some kind that starts to provide some clarity of what is emerging.

Again one doesn’t try to force the patterns into a structure and order but instead just tries to let things emerge on their own, as noted in another quote from the paper on triple-loop learning.

This process of letting-come is the other side of the process of letting-go. In other words, one shifts the focus from surrendering to looking at what wants to emerge and what is new. This is an epistemologically fragile process in which new ideas and changes emerge and converge (“crystallize”) towards a specific vision, concept, idea, etc.

And if one researches the process of crystallization, one realizes that clustering is an integral step within it as well, whereby the “clusters need to reach a critical size” before they become stable. With our online journal, it works the same way. You need to have enough patterns clustered and converging into a greater hierarchical category, relating to what’s emerging, before you can clearly see with some stability what is emerging.

The further beauty of this approach is the loose structure of it, in that the categories as patterns can be fluidly renamed and regrouped hierarchically until you feel they are right. This is essential because one needs the ability to play with these structures, mixing and matching them in different ways, trying them out, until they fit naturally on their own (rather than being forced to fit).

To understand what this might feel like to experience, I think Tiago Forte’s article on What It Feels Like to Have a Second Brain comes very close, as noted below.

The experience I have as I work with my Second Brain is that we have a relationship. It is almost as complex as a person, with its own wants, needs, goals, and history. It is like a child – a being of pure potential, of endless curiosity and open-mindedness as it encounters each new morsel of insight. It communicates with me, sometimes aligning with my interests so we can run together, but also sometimes demanding maintenance, attention, or software updates. I know that every investment in this organism will return 10-fold, 100-fold, 1,000-fold. And not in some far off hypothetical future, but in a matter of hours, days, or weeks. Such a sure investment makes the superficial pleasures of social media lose all their color in comparison. I am on my devices as much as anyone, consuming as much information as anyone else. But I am not doing what everyone else is doing with it. I am preserving the very best of everything I am exposed to, like a patient gardener squirreling away seeds and cuttings from every garden in the world, to plant in his own magnificent creation. 

And furthermore he indicates how this alters his existing perceived and conventionally constructed sense of self, letting a larger, truer Self emerge on its own.

My Second Brain constantly deepens my understanding of myself. It reflects back to me my assumptions, my stories, and the evidence I use to justify my beliefs. It reflects back to me the identity I’ve constructed, which in the light of a backlit computer screen I can see is full of holes, and gaps, and makeshift patches. But I also have more evidence, more options, more borrowed beliefs from others to fill in those gaps. I evolve faster, on more levels, a flurry of swapping modules in and out in such a way that the system of my Self works better, but at the same time, I see that I am not the modules. I am something more, something greater than the sum of its parts. This gives me the courage to detach from that Self, to let go of my need for any one idea or theory to be right or true. I can try more of them on for size, see how more of them feel, decide which of them serve me best.

All said and done, we often don’t realize how so much of our identity is so predefined by what society expects us to be. Yet if we can just let go of these expectations (and accompanying judgements, if we don’t follow them), we have the opportunity to create an open space where our True Self can emerge and come into being, if we give it the space to play.


Lifelong Learning & Playing

I was looking at some résumé templates on Pinterest the other day and I laughed at what I was seeing. Most templates showed 80% of the résumé as being work experience and just 20% of it being your formal education.

This perfectly shows how outdated things are today and why résumé are inadequate to show the potential of a person in the future emerging presently because your working and learning should be continually ongoing. Even what you’re playing with should be in there as well. By this I mean things you’re experimenting with to see if they are interesting paths to pursue for further learning and work.

Yet that’s not what we’re seeing today because we’re still stuck in the past. We need to move from outdated best practices to newer emergent practices, whereby playing, learning, and working are continually ongoing aspects of life, rather than just a serial one way path from childhood to adult.