The politics of democracy is a contest to win the greatest number of votes — a plurality; or even better, a bare majority; and best of all, an overwhelming majority. This aim is what drove politics in this country through most of the 20th century. In the primaries, candidates sought out the sweet spot within their own parties, whether through winning support from party insiders — or, with the reforms that began after 1968, through winning the votes of party members in state primary and caucus elections. But in the general election, the two sides competed to find the center of public opinion in the country as a whole.
Each party’s presidential ticket did this by making a pitch for the whole: This is how I see America. This is what I think of our ideals, our history, our actions in the past and present, and our destiny moving forward into the future. The candidate who got the most people to endorse his comprehensive vision of the nation would win the presidency, with the victor usually earning a majority of the popular vote, and sometimes an overwhelming majority, as happened in 1964, 1972, and 1984.
And then he articulates what politics has become.
But as the GOP vote share in national elections has declined (since 1988, the Republican nominee has won a majority of the popular vote in a presidential contest only once, in 2004, and then with just 50.7 percent), the party has moved away from trying to win the presidency by receiving the most votes in favor of trying to generate incredibly intense support among its own party members, dividing the opposition, and prevailing through a counter-majoritarian outcome in the Electoral College. George W. Bush experimented with this approach in his re-election bid, but it is Trump who deployed it to greatest effect in 2016, and who has governed that way since taking office.
It’s the politics of populism that provides the rationale and playbook here. Populism differs from democratic majoritarianism in treating only some of the people — one’s own supporters — as the real people. Those who vote for the Republican are the true Americans. Those who oppose the Republican are false or fake Americans.
In effect, there is little interest in trying to understand the needs and perspective of those different from you. “It’s our way or the highway.” “You’re either with us or against us.”
But one “side” isn’t to “blame” for this. Politics as a whole has regressed to this level.
If I could alter future elections, I’d love it for political debates to be centred around the ability of candidates to be able to clearly articulate the needs of the opposing parties. And the better they could do this, the more they would show their leadership capabilities overall.
This morning, while reading parts of Lisa Laskow Lahey and Robert Kegan’s Immunity to Change book, I was surprised by how it’s approach is remarkably similar to the Two Loops Model which is a theory of change by the Berkana Institute. What I mean by this is that there isn’t an emphasis on creating a conflict between the old and new system (i.e. seeing one as “bad” and the other “good”) but rather it’s about seeing each system as a natural part of a larger dynamic.
For example, in Immunity to Change, when one realizes that one’s “bad” behaviours are arising out a previous “good” (albeit now archaic) system which is trying defend and protect you (ie “save your life”), one’s perception suddenly changes towards these behaviours, recognizing and valuing them now for their previous “brilliant and highly effective” service.
So it’s not so much that we want to get rid of and discard the “valued service” of our previous identity and sense of self, which has helped us grow and evolve to where we are now, but rather we want to recode it, so it’s no longer working against us and impeding our further growth. Note that this directly correlates with what happens when one evolves to a higher stage of development. It’s not about getting rid of and discarding a previous stage but recoding it so that all attained stages to date can be maintained in a spectrum, allowing us to maintain different needs at different stages, while being open to further growth at the same time.
However, in some instances an immune system can threaten our continued good health. When it rejects new material, internal or external to the body, that the body needs to heal itself or to thrive, the immune system can put us in danger. In these instances the immune system is no less focused on protecting us. It is just making a mistake. It does not understand that it must alter its code. It does not understand that, ironically, in working to protect us, it is actually putting us at serious risk.
Immunity to Change
Actually now that I think about, this also remarkably reminds me of a Tiago Forte’s article on leveraging constraints, in particular this quote below.
The difficulty in applying this concept to individual learning is that, in this case, you are the system. It’s a little disconcerting being accelerated, turned inside out, and then sucked into an alternate dimension where everything you were sure was true is wrong. Or worse, irrelevant.
For many years, I’ve kept reiterating that what brings people purposefully together aren’t answers but questions. That’s because these questions are like quests that bring a “company“ of people together, all adventuring for the same thing.
While reading more of How To Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens, it’s becoming more and more evident to me that this intuition I’ve had about questions forms the basis of one’s research or work, as described in the book.
In effect, most of what we connect with in our daily lives usually ties into an open question in our life that we’re trying to answer. Thus, when we bump into something during our journey, we compare it with one of these overarching questions (as Richard Feynman describes) to see if what we’ve found is meaningful and matters in trying to answer this specific question.
If what we’ve found is meaningful then we collect it as a step in our larger journey of trying to answer this question. What I’ve just described here is described as a sequence in terms of note taking within Sönke Ahrens’ book. In effect, it’s a stream or clustering of notes that all relate to something meaningfully important to you.
But the thing that is becoming so very evident to me is that instead of just doing the obvious which is getting excited when we find new information and knowledge that we can add to this stream, we need to also step back and immediately go beyond this as well.
Why? Because the thing to realize is that more often than not, a lot of these things we’re connecting with and collecting aren’t completely self-evident to us at first. More often than not, especially within my own life, they’ve just been a feeling or an intuition to follow. It’s only after I’ve explored them for a while, which requires trusting myself that this feeling will lead somewhere, that they finally reveal themselves to me (i.e. I never fully realized I was researching creativity until almost a decade after research “it”).
So all said and done, more and more I’m realizing that instead of continually looking downstream of my thoughts to see and find what will emerge as an answer, the greater importance is more to look upstream at its source to see and find what is the question that is producing this stream of thought in the first place.
Because more and more it feels like when I collectively understand these key questions that are producing these creative flows within my life, it will in turn help me understand how all of these streams of thought are connecting up and becoming an empowering larger river that eventually leads to an inspiring ocean and a new world of possibilities beyond it.
For the longest time, I’ve been trying to articulate any dominate fears that I have. It’s been difficult because I don’t see many blockades in my life’s work because I love exploring the unknown and going off the edge of the map of the known world. So I’m not really fearful in exploring things that would radically cause future shock in others because they’ve become common place and common sense for me now.
Yet at the same time, over the past few years, I feel like I’m been hitting a wall more and more that I can’t seem to get over. This wall is a fear. Yet trying to see what this fear is has been difficult. It primarily arises after I make a major breakthrough, experiencing a massive high at some discovery that helps me see things in a broader way. Yet immediately following that, when I try to write about what I’ve discovered and have seen, I freeze up and I’m unable to express what I’ve seen and understood.
At first, I thought the problem was that I truly didn’t understand what I was seeing because being unable to articulate what you’re seeing is a common sign that you don’t actually understand what you’re seeing. Richard Feynman emphasized this and mentioned that giving a lecture on what you think you know is a good way to see if you truly understand what you know.
For myself, I truly believe I understand what I’m seeing but it felt like something else was getting in the way of expressing what I know. While reading How To Take Smart Notes by Sönke Ahrens (which also emphasizes being able to articulate what you know as well), he mentioned that your “permanent” notes eventually heighten your intuition, allowing you to see the invisible connections between things that may not have been visible to you before. Seeing this word intuition over and over again, finally woke me up to why I was hitting this wall.
I’m strongly intuitive by nature, so much so that I’m able to be see patterns and connections between things often far sooner than others around me. What might take them a year or two to see some patterns and the connections between them, might take me a couple of weeks. For example, I’ve had people from previous jobs tell me years later that what I was seeing within the organization at the time, they finally saw a few years later, even though at the time we worked together, they couldn’t see what I was seeing.
Because of my ability to utilize and trust my intuition so strongly, I’m able to visibly see these connections between things that are often “below the surface” and invisible to others (i.e. an organization’s culture). Deciding to do a simple search on Google, I wrote “is intuition understanding something if you can’t articulate it”. And sure enough the top result returned what I intuited and expected with an article entitled 5 Tips for Intuitive Types Who Can’t Explain Their Vision.
This quote above, from the introduction of the article, pretty much sums up my experience as someone who strongly relies upon their intuition. It’s easy to see these things for me, often in vivid, visual detail, as it’s like having this “big picture” within my head, almost like another world I’ve explored (with travel photos of it in my mind). But the difficultly arises when one returns from visiting this world and is unable to articulate what one has seen there.
While this might seem foreign for someone to understand and grasp, based upon their own personality type, what I find really interesting here is the very next sentence after the quote above is this one.
So within my mind, I’m not just pretending to visit this place, I’m actually going there, like I’m a tourist visiting a new country or an explorer visiting a new world. And to really articulate what you’re seeing and understand the meaning of it, you almost have to communicate within the language of the people who live there. And that’s the difficultly. How do you communicate something within a completely different, unconventional language than the conventional language that most people normally use? That’s my struggle.
Luckily the article emphasizes a variety of things that can help me in this process. And interestingly enough, some of these things I’m already attempting to do (i.e. crafting one sentence with a few “anchors” that emphasize the narrative or theme of my life’s work) but I think it’s putting them all together into practice that will help me to make this next big step in my development and growth, “levelling up” in the process.
All said and done, I’m grateful that this fear has finally been brought to the surface and has become visible because now I can actually see it, admit it, and begin to work on it. In other words, if you can’t see what the problem is (even in some vague sense), you can’t really start walking around it and trying to understand it better.
BTW just a final thought to this, that’s kind of like the icing on the cake. If you read the concluding comments for my personality type, something that is raised by people is that they don’t have any interest in “learning a new language” which is a key characteristic of my personality type. This perfectly shows how so many people misunderstand the meaning of personality types because they are looking literally at something that can be communicating something metaphorically (like Joseph Campbell’s work). In this case, as my own life experience proves, “learning a new language” doesn’t literally mean learning the language of a foreign country but in this case it means learning a new language of meaning which is exactly what everyone will be going through as they transform themselves and their worldview for the future emerging rapidly before us right now.
While researching some things I had posted on Google+ some years back, I stumbled across a post I had made in 2014 about Storehouse which was a new publishing platform for “visual storytelling”.
What amazed me about reflecting back upon it (particularly the animated example under the title section of “Beautiful stories everywhere” on their website) is that the same thing can now be achieved within WordPress in terms of outputting a beautiful structure and layout to tell your story. This has largely been in part because of what Gutenberg has achieved in empowering the end user to finally be able to visually layout their own content fairly easily.
This got me thinking and wondering if many people even realize WordPress has this power now. If you don’t, it would probably be a pretty huge change and it would probably radically change your perspective of the platform in turn.
At the same time, it has made me realize how powerful and easy to use the platform is now, regardless of where I want it to be in terms of it evolving into my dream platform. In effect, I have to recognize that it is far more powerful than it ever was and becoming far more powerful than other platforms every day.
This is something I’m not really leveraging in its basic sense. In effect, helping people to simply become aware of it and to utilize in its basic current state, regardless of the fact that I want it to become so much more still (which will probably be achieved by the end of this year though with full site editing).
Anyways, all that said, one thing that is still lacking with WordPress is the mobile user experience, at least from my perspective in terms of using the WordPress iOS app. It is pretty much in its infancy still and cannot even compare to the simplicity, power, and ease of use that the Storehouse iOS app had six years ago in 2014. It would be nice if the WordPress iOS app development team took some lessons from the design and functionality of the Storehouse iOS app and implemented them into the WordPress iOS app.
It’s also interesting to see that in searching the Web to discover what happened to Storehouse, it appears that the platform shut down in 2016 because they couldn’t build a large enough user base. I remember at the time in 2014 thinking that if the Storehouse had translated their technology and created a WordPress app, even selling it for something like $20 (which would have been an outrageous price for an iOS app at the time), they probably could have easily garnered a huge client base for what they wanted to achieve but in a completely different context than they initially imagined.
In effect, they wanted to create their own medium, their own walled garden (similar to Medium at the time), yet many people weren’t interested in that. So if they had just pivoted at the time, using their existing technology in a different way than they originally imagined, they could have still been around today but in a different form. And interestingly enough, perhaps WordPress might have even bought the company and integrated their technology for their own WordPress iOS app sooner. Who knows? We’ll never know.
BTW it’s interesting to see that a competitor to Storehouse at the time in 2014 is still around. Exposure, created with the help of Derek Powazek (who also worked on HotWired, Blogger, & Technorati), looks like an extremely well integrated proprietary platform that simplifies the experience of web publishing for the end user, so they don’t have to go through the headaches of what you’d normally have to go through in setting up a WordPress site (i.e. themes, plugins, etc). Even their pricing seems very reasonable.
Once you understand yourself, it’s very easy to understand everyone else. So easy because we’re actually not that different. We’re actually painfully quite ordinary. How our ordinariness and our trauma and our pain manifests is very different. But the root causes to why we act in the ways that we act often is insecurity. We want belonging. We want acceptance. Fundamental things to a human. If we are more understanding of at least ourselves, you know, it’s so hard to judge other people.
Ayishat Akanbi, The Problem with Wokeness
BTW these basic “human fundamentals” she’s talking about mirror with what both Richard Barrett has been talking about for decades as The Values of Humanity and what Scott Barry Kaufman is now providing another perspective of (using a newer metaphor to help describe it to others, so they can relate to it more easily). What they’re talking about here are deficiency needs which were first revealed by Abraham Maslow. And if we can “rise above them“, we can finally have the opportunity to “open ourselves up” to our growth needs.
Maslow argued that all the needs can be grouped into two main classes of needs, which must be integrated for wholeness: deficiency and growth.
Deficiency needs, which Maslow referred to as “D-needs,” are motivated by a lack of satisfaction, whether it’s the lack of food, safety, affection, belonging, or self-esteem. The “D-realm” of existence colors all of our perceptions and distorts reality, making demands on a person’s whole being: “Feed me! Love me! Respect me!” The greater the deficiency of these needs, the more we distort reality to fit our expectations and treat others in accordance with their usefulness in helping us satisfy our most deficient needs. In the D-realm, we are also more likely to use a variety of defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from the pain of having such deficiency in our lives. Our defenses are quite “wise” in the sense that they can help us to avoid unbearable pain that can feel like too much to bear at the moment.
Nevertheless, Maslow argued that the growth needs—such as self-actualization and transcendence—have a very different sort of wisdom associated with them. Distinguishing between “defensive-wisdom” and “growth-wisdom,” Maslow argued that the Being-Realm of existence (or B-realm, for short) is like replacing a clouded lens with a clear one. Instead of being driven by fears, anxieties, suspicions, and the constant need to make demands on reality, one is more accepting and loving of oneself and others. Seeing reality more clearly, growth-wisdom is more about “What choices will lead me to greater integration and wholeness?” rather than “How can I defend myself so that I can feel safe and secure?”
This is so where I am at right now. I’ve actually journaled about this very thing earlier this week.
In effect, I think and believe that I will be at “home” with myself when I finally convince other people of my worth, helping them to see it. But I won’t. I will only be at “home” with myself when I see my own worth first.
Once you reach that state, when you are truly and fully at “home” with yourself, accepting yourself as you are in the present moment (rather who you wish you could be in the future), that’s when you no longer require others to see your worth because it no longer matters. You can finally just be who you uniquely are.
Also, it may sound weird that I know this, yet I can’t seem to achieve it. That’s the thing though that a lot of people can’t seem to grasp about what it takes to truly transform yourself. Knowing something isn’t enough. You truly have to live it, experience it, and feel it to fully understand it and grasp it. Thinking about it isn’t enough.
Ayishat Akanbi is probably the first hypersane person I’ve ever come across, recommended by Scott Barry Kaufman to follow. Her sense of self-awareness is so broad that she can articulate complex things quite simply. Yet what she’s saying will be very hard for people to swallow because it requires taking an emotional and mental U-turn on what we believe, so that we can build upon and live what we say we truly value. To do this, one really needs to go beyond one’s sense of self, letting it disintegrate, so that a newer larger sense of Self can reintegrate and be born. Painful, yes…but with a beautiful truth.
We should revel in the discomfort of the current moment to generate a ‘new paradigm’, not a ‘new normal’. Feeling unsettled, destabilized and alone can help us empathize with individuals who have faced systematic exclusions long-ignored by society even before the rise of COVID-19 — thus stimulating urgent action to improve their condition. For these communities, things have never been ‘normal’.