Vertical Development

Chris Do Helps Explain Vertical Development in a Very Relatable Way

A little over a week ago, I noticed Tiago Forte mentioning on Twitter that he was interviewed by Matt Gray. Not familiar with Matt, I decided to check out the video because Tiago had mentioned that this year he was going to start focusing more on deeper wisdom work and I though it was going to focus on that specifically. While it did touch on this a bit, it didn’t go as deep as I wanted it to though, although it was still very revealing of Tiago’s everyday life and the struggles he’s going through.

What really surprised me though is when I started perusing Matt’s other videos on YouTube, I stumbled across another one entitled How To Make $100,000/Month Doing What You Love. I laughed when I saw this titled because these click bait titles are common all over the Web, trying to entice people to watch or read them, with the content often being quite shallow. Not wanting to click on this one, I nevertheless decided to trust Matt and clicked on it and was proceeded to be completely blown away by the person he was interviewing.

Chris Do is “an Emmy award-winning designer, director, CEO and Chief Strategist of Blind and the founder of The Futur—an online education platform with the mission of teaching 1 billion people how to make a living doing what they love.”

What amazed me about Chris and the interview is that it had very little to with showing someone some formulaic steps to making $100,000/month and more about teaching people the foundations of vertical development which in turn helps you to discover who you truly are, thus releasing your potential in the process (and thus as a by-product, helping you to making $100,000/month). So resonating very closely with my belief that “The Future of Work is about being yourself.”

But what’s even more amazing is that I’m not even sure if Chris is fully aware of the larger context of vertical development, even though he has an amazing grasp of the foundations of it and is able to articulate them in a very simple and relatable way.

First off, here’s some quotes by Chris that kind of set the stage for understanding why vertical development is important because it can give us the capacity to tackle these things.

3:20 / So here’s the real challenge then, to find things that give you joy, that spark your inner curiosity, the things that make you get out of bed, that propel you forward versus to push you. And I think this is a really interesting phenomenon for all of us to solve whether you’re 12, 22, or 99 years old, to find work that you love that gives you meaning, to give you purpose, and when you find that, to figure out a way to make money from it.

7:05 / …but that inner creative voice and you need to fight all those external voices so that that creative person can be allowed to explore and find something. So when you do things that give you joy, that you do with relative ease where you lose track of time, is a pretty good indicators to what you should be doing.

7:50 / The world does not need another commercial or a music video. We have to be honest with ourselves when we say like “yeah, it serves a very specific purpose” but it’s not elevating humanity.

8:55 / I think it is sometimes misleading to look at what somebody’s doing today and assume that that’s the way it always was.

9:53 / So what I want to do is to tell everybody, it’s very important for you to learn how to articulate your thinking your ideas and your opinions to other people but it’s more important that you practice articulating thoughts because you gain clarity through articulation.

Now where Chris begins to start talking directly about vertical development is when Matt asks about him about limiting beliefs and how to overcome them paradoxically. And what’s interesting here is how our limiting beliefs are often entwined with how we believe the world should work, like a script or a narrative. This is more commonly referred to as your worldview, as it filters the way you look and perceive the world and yourself, like a lens.

What’s also amazing here is that I’ve said before that I see so many notable authors talking about vertical development but not knowing it exists in this larger context, so they often name it something else, something that’s relatable to them and their unique story.

12:14 / Yeah this is going to be a big reframe and I’m working on a series of ideas called the Paradox Principles. I think Paul Arden already wrote or already figured out the best title for a book and the book is called “Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite” and I really believe that. Like we think the path to getting our fame fortune, and whatever it is we want in life, is to take this express bullet train elevator up to the top and skip all the necessary steps.

But I know this. People who are in love with the journey in the process will go much further and farther than people who just want the result. Because what happens is when you don’t get the result that you want, in the timeline in which you figured out for yourself, which is artificial to begin with then you get frustrated and you get discouraged and then you stop and you try something else. And you can spend 5, 10, 15, 25 years of your life going from one thing to next never finding a thing that you’re good at and becoming a jack of all trades and not being valued by the world.

So I think what we have to do is take a big step back.

Chris mentioning the need to step back is quite poignant because it gives us the ability to become aware of ourselves and how we are perceiving the world with our beliefs, thus allowing us to step out our worldview (as we step back from it) and begin to step into another unknown large space of possibilities. Again not just in terms of how we perceive our world but also how we perceive ourselves, because the two are entwined.

This process becomes a journey of self-discovery, as he describes below. One in which we experiment with our identity, often playfully exploring beyond the borders of it, but keeping a journal of our explorations so that we can navigate between these emerging aspects of ourselves and make sense of a larger self emerging which in turns forms the foundation of a larger worldview we can live by.

14:42 / So I think the way to go is to make the commitment to yourself that I’m on a journey of self-discovery of personal development and this is just my form of public journaling and it’s important for me to share my thoughts just so I can learn about myself.

In relationship to this, Chris then refers to Vinh Giang, who teaches public speaking, and something notable he said about storytelling. Why this is important is because our worldview is effectively a story, more specifically a narrative of belief because while stories usually have a beginning, middle, and end, narratives are open ended. More importantly, if we have our own narrative / worldview that we’ve self-authored and constructed ourselves, we can navigate our life much better because we have something to compare it against.

15:09 / He said that we all need to practice storytelling. And why is that? Because we need to have a strong story of ourselves, so that when someone else tells us who we are, we have something to compare it against.

Now where Chris really dives deep and gets to the heart of vertical development is when he begins talking about “the forest” as a metaphor for the different types of “typography” of life in response to Matt noticing how Chris’ approach to life sees more of an organic process versus something that is “written down and stuck to.” Chris further elaborates on this by providing an example of how both he and his business transformed, evolved, and grew over time.

19:42 / Yeah, so what I think people think about is there’s this giant forest and that the forest is always one type of tree and it’s always going to be one type of density. But we know this is not the case. When you reach the edge of the forest, you’re going to enter into a different topography…

20:17 / The example is this. When I started out we talked mostly about design and typography. And then as we evolved, I found that there were a lot of creative people who were saying to me “I know what to do with design. There are many resources out there for me to learn that better, faster, cheaper, and I accept that. Teach me about business. How to run a design business because I’m not finding that anywhere.”

So then we’re at the edge of one forest, at the edge of the circle, and now we realize there’s a whole different world and we start to make more content teaching people about how to run a design business. And to my surprise, there are a whole lot of people who started showing up saying, “We really need this. No one else is doing this for us.”

20:57 / But then we run into a new problem and the problem is this. And you’re pointing to it right now. And if people haven’t figured it out, it’s like I can teach you all the tools in life and you will not be successful, if you first do not believe that you could do this. So there’s a belief system that I have to dismantle, in limiting beliefs, scarcity mindset, those are the things I need to solve. And once I work through that then people are asking me, “Well how do I teach this to others, Chris?” So now I have to like, “Okay, what’s the next edge of the forest?” And you’re going to continue to grow and evolve, or you’re not and that’s okay too.

This directly aligns with vertical development in how there are stages of development, much like inner terrain that we have to traverse through, and when we are able to map the next unknown edge by exploring, navigating, and understanding the whole story of its typography, we can then “level up” (our consciousness) and operate with a much larger worldview and a much larger sense of Self.

This is why taking Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, which describes how to psychologically level up in life, and embedding it within a larger MMORPG context, helping us to understand that there are many levels to life, seems so perfect a pairing to understand vertical development as a whole (well at least from a gamer’s perspective, who can relate to it).

Anyways, more on this later when I continue talking about the second half of the interview, when Matt and Chris both talk about the love of “playing the game” as its own reward itself (which poignantly fits in with seeing life as a MMORPG as well).

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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