Vertical Development

Going Beyond Forced Expectations to Express My Larger Self

I just realized something else with regards to letting go of control. It’s not just about letting go of controlling others but of yourself as well. In effect, our outward expectations of others are often entwined with our inward expectations of ourselves.

So this “radical openness” that I’m looking for applies not just to others but even more so to myself. That’s because by transforming my perspective of myself, I can in turn transform my perspective of others.

And strangely enough, I have been thinking about this the last few days, as I’ve been reflecting upon my life over the past couple of decades. When I do so, I see two aspects of myself. One aspect is the guy who was active in developing communities online around video games but was intuitively practicing Future of Work principles before I even understood what they were years later. The other aspects is a of guy who now understands many of these Future of Work practices but can’t find the right type of people to put them into practice.

In effect, as I said back around 2015 on Google+, I don’t feel like I’m meant to be helping organizations to transform. Instead I’m realizing I’m supposed to help people transform and they in turn will create new organizations. So kind of a bottom up approach rather than a top down one.

All said and done though, I still feel like I am putting this ingrained expectation upon myself to be something that I’m not which is why I’m still hanging out with people who are focused on organizational transformation.

The key thing that is making me realize I don’t have to “play the same game” as others is Carol Sanford’s foundational story within her book Indirect Work of how Phil Jackson transformed the Chicago Bulls. The emphasis being that he was able to transform the level of consciousness of a bunch of people who were playing a game.In effect, what’s stopping me from doing the same thing within the gaming environments I’ve been playing within most of my life already? In other words, why force myself to change and act in a way that feels alien to me, when I’m obviously more optimally suited for these gaming environments which to me already have an embedded space and mindset for “playing” in the first place.

For example, the other day I joking said on Twitter that maybe I should create tours into games like World of Warcraft to show business people how The Future of Work will work by immersing them in a guild setting and helping them to translate the meaning of what they’re seeing, so that can put these principles into practice in their own businesses. So instead of me going into businesses and meeting people there, I instead invite business people into gaming environments and show them people playing, learning, and working on a higher “level” there.

Actually, I don’t even need to target business people. I can just target gamers who are frustrated with the way that work works in their own lives which is probably why a lot of gamers are gaming more because gaming environments are helping them to meet their psychological needs that they may not be getting in their work environments. So it’s almost like I’m showing gamers how they can start a work (ad)venture with a company of people and emulate an entirely new way of working using practices similar to what they used to using in MMORPGs (which people like John Seely Brown have already proven are innovative).

All said and done, it is something I should explore and play with more as a potential possibility. In other words, I don’t have to follow the forced societal expectations I seem to be automatically putting upon myself. I can instead choose a different path of my own choosing. One that’s more aligned with who I truly am.

In closing, I’m reminded of an awesome paper by Daryl Conner from Conner Partners entitled A Hero’s Journey for the Practitioner (which unfortunately appears to be gone now due them updating their entire web site platform).

Although Campbell’s storyline depicts a single movement from naiveté to wisdom, the same stream of events is replicated repeatedly for those on a mastery path. The heroic emergence from one set of challenges is the entry point for a new level of innocence and pursuit of the next Journey. Mastery calls for taking part in as many of these heroic cycles as is possible, related to a particular domain of knowledge, skill, or beingness. For those of us seeking mastery in the change field, this means repeating the heroic saga as frequently as circumstances and our courage and tenacity will allow.

In closing, I’d like to offer my bias about what is the most important lesson to be learned during these epic periods of professional/personal growth. All the illumination that takes place during these developmental leaps contributes to the wisdom we strive for but, in my view, there is one awareness that stands above all the rest in its creation of value for us and those we serve.

The profound awakening I’m referring to is the same one that unfolded for Sara—at a certain point during the Return phase of her Journey, she could see that all the hard lessons learned during her odyssey weren’t where her hero status proved its real value. Being worthy of the hero’s title isn’t demonstrated through endurance, dedication to a mission, or even slaying dragons, and certainly not by imposing “right solutions” on others. Ultimately, true heroes legitimize themselves, not by anything they do, but by being who they are. They come home from their trials and tribulations simply to live a different life. In doing so, they open the possibility of deeply affecting a relatively few people who, in turn, go on their own Hero’s Journey and return to impact a few more who are ready to learn.

As change professionals, the greatest leverage we have for affecting people is just to be who we are. Methodologies, concepts, and techniques are what we use when “exposing” large numbers to the technical aspects of how change can be orchestrated, but when deep impact within individuals is the agenda, there is nothing that comes close to the influence of a practitioner’s genuine authenticity on a small number of people. For Sara, this meant that the constituency she came back to serve was actually a relatively small number of her contemporaries who were already predisposed to grow in her direction and who naturally resonated with the full expression of who she is.

Daryl Conner, A Hero’s Journey for the Practitioner

Simply put, I think the issue here isn’t that I’ve been communicating over the years, it’s that I’ve been communicating it to the wrong people. I need to find my “tribe”, if you will. So I need to find my “constituency” of “a relatively small number of contemporaries” who are “already predisposed to growth in my direction” and who “naturally resonate with the full expression of who I am” (which sounds remarkable close to Carol Sanford’s description of “essence”).

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