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Authenticity

The Illusion of One-Way Bargains

I’ve been reflecting upon how we got here, in this terrible mess, not just looking at the events of yesterday, but with the events that have been building up to this moment over the past couple of decades. Without a doubt, one thing I keep hearing, regardless of who is saying it, is that “you can’t ignore” the millions of people who are openly supporting these aggressive, reactionary views that have culminated in this moment yesterday.

People are in pain. And they have been for some time. They’ve been slowly watching their world, that they know and love, crumble and collapse around them for a while now. The pandemic, if anything, has sped up this crisis and made it even more evident, making them feel like they have almost completely lost control of their world and even themselves, their identity. They don’t know how to live in this scary, uncertain New World that is emerging and all they want to do is return to the safety and certainty of the Old World that they once knew.

I think what people need to realize right now is that what they are experiencing, this feeling of a loss of control, is completely normal. It will feel like the ground has been pulled out from under you and you no longer have an external reference point to directionally ground and stabilize yourself and your life because you’re navigating newer, rougher waters that seem completely foreign, unfamiliar, and uncertain to you, thus things won’t make any sense. Again this is a completely normal feeling to have, especially when one is facing a major life challenge that will dramatically change their view of the world and themselves as well.

Now in a world that had prepared us for these epic challenges as a normal experience of life, we would then openly share these experiences with each other and try to work and “walk through them” together, making the transition and learning to make sense of our new world and our new selves in a healthy, constructive way. Unfortunately we don’t live in that kind of world but one in which we’ve been misguided into believing that reality is permanent and stable. It’s not. Life is constant change. Therefore we often have to grieve at realizing the impermanence of our world, undergoing stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance, and meaning to finally make this transition and grow beyond it.

While I could probably talk about the feelings around this all day, I specifically want to talk about the initial stages of denial, anger, and bargaining which cause people to naturally regress inwardly when they encounter major life challenges and changes. Specifically I’d like to refer to something Robert Fritz called One-Way Bargains within his book The Path of Least Resistance that really gets to the heart of why people become so angry and feel like they’ve been “cheated” by life (or more specifically in their mind, by some external force that they can then point their finger at and blame for the troubles in their life).

One-Way Bargains

In order to have the return of the prodigal complete and whole, the two sons needed to reconcile. However, there was a twist in the story. In the beginning of the parable the father and the son who stayed at home were aligned whereas the prodigal son was misaligned. When the prodigal returned home, however, he and his father became aligned, but the good son became misaligned. How did this change come about?

The good son had made what may be called a “one-way bargain” with the father. In a typically reactive-responsive way, he assumed that if he did all of the “right things” and adhered to the “right standards” and followed the “right precepts,” he would be rewarded by his father. He was shocked to see his brother, who had not followed the “right path,” being welcomed, honored, and celebrated.

Many people make similar one-way bargains. Typically in this unilateral bargain, one person assumes that if he or she follows certain practices, others (or perhaps even the universe itself) must reciprocate in some way.

In a one-way bargain the other party never really agrees to the bargain and often does not even know of it.

A classic example of a one-way bargain is found in the early stages of many relationships, when one person unilaterally decides not to date any other people, with the implicit demand that the other person in the relationship do likewise. This is a one-way bargain if the other person never makes that agreement.

There are those who attempt to live “good” lives as a one-way bargain with the universe. They decide that if they are “good,” the universe must reciprocate and be good to them.

The trouble is, the universe did not make that agreement with them. In the parable of the prodigal son, the good son’s actions were part of a one-way bargain, tied to the rewards he expected from his father. But that was not an agreement the father had made with him.

If the good son had been righteous because he wanted to be, rather than for the reward he expected from his father, his actions would have been their own reward. The parable implies, however, that the good son was good for an ulterior motive. In a typically reactive-responsive way, the good son did what he thought he had to do, not what he truly wanted to do.

The Path of Least Resistance, Robert Fritz

For anyone who is familiar with Robert Kegan’s work on psychological development, the difference between the good son and the prodigal son within the above parable perfectly describes the difference between the Socialized Mind and the Self-Authoring Mind (and the father could even be seen as the more evolved Self-Transforming Mind). The key emphasis here is how the good son (as a representation of the Socialized Mind) perfectly embodies how most people are feeling right now (since Socialized Minds comprise most of the population). They feel cheated by life because in their minds, they’ve followed all of the rules of the American Dream but life isn’t keeping its “part of the bargain” and thus it’s cheating them (or least someone out there is).

In reality though, people with Socialized Minds are cheating themselves. Why? Because they’re believing in a narrative that, while once it may have been true, is no longer the case. But they don’t question the narrative or their reality, they just defend them. They will most definitely question and attack anyone who threatens the stability of their reality though. Why? Because they believe their reality is true and will always be true because they accept the truth of what they’ve been told by a higher authority and do what they’re told. That’s why Social Minds are good followers because when you mobilize them (especially against an external threat, such as in World War II when American values were threatened), they can put their heads down, get to work, and achieve amazing things.

In comparison though, people with Self-Authoring Minds continually strive to question the assumptions and beliefs of their reality to further help clarify and crystallize who they are within it, so as to transform and change themselves externally. So they go beyond just trying to fit in and strive to understand how they stand out uniquely, thus individuating themselves psychologically speaking. But to do so, they need to question the authority of others and therefore must self-author the authority of their own life, a sort of self-governance if you will. This is why Self-Authoring Minds (who form a smaller portion of the population) often make good leaders because they help others see a different and larger, empowering vision of the world beyond what they are currently seeing (and by “empowering”, I mean it can’t be a negative, fearful vision that emphasizes blame on others but one that instead focuses on taking responsibility for oneself).

The reason the world seems to be “going to hell in a hand basket” right now, as the expression goes, is because the world is changing at a pace we’ve never experienced or comprehended before in our lifetimes or even in the lifetimes of previously known generations. Thus the stability and certainty of the follower-leader relationship between Socialized Minds and Self-Authoring Minds, which worked in overcoming simple and even complicated problems in our past, is no longer equipped to handle the emerging complexity of our world today. Therefore, all of us, not just people with Socialized Minds, need to evolve, grow, and adapt psychologically to the changing world around us, because a greater, more complex follower-leader relationship, comprised mainly of Self-Authoring Minds as followers and Self-Transforming Minds as leaders, is needed for us to be able to survive the complex wicked problems emerging before us.

Simply put, we need to help people “level up”, transforming their minds and their perception of reality, so that we can responsibly embrace change together, seeing possibilities and potential both around us and within us, rather than defensively fearing it. To do so though, we need to see these challenges in our lives, such as the epic ones were facing now, as an opportunity for growth and development, thus rising to the occasion, rather than running and regressing from them into the safety and reality of our past which no longer exists today, no matter how much we wish it or dream it.

To put this another way, we need to be like our parents and grandparents before us, who faced major challenges in their own times. But even though today we now known with some certainty what they went through back then because we are able to reflectively look back upon that time and make sense of it, we must realize that at that time they only saw the uncertain unknown before them in that moment, just as today we must face the uncertain unknown before us in this moment. Even more so because we can’t use their thinking that solved their complicated problems in their time, since we are dealing with exceedingly more complex problems that are emerging only now within our time. Therefore, we must not only use different thinking and different actions today, we must see ourselves in a much larger capacity and potential than we’ve ever imagined before.

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Authenticity

Be Real Creative: The Quest(ion)

Yesterday while reading a series of quotes by Alvin Toffler and noticing how they resonated with quotes from Richard Barrett’s book The New Leadership Paradigm, something dawned on me. For the longest time, I’ve been wanting to initiate the culmination of my life’s work under my Be Real Creative mantra as a transformative creative agency itself but no matter how I approached it, it always felt wrong…that is until today.

Today I realized that all of my previous attempts always felt wrong because I felt like I had to have everything figured out first, to have “all of the answers” if you will to sound like an “expert”. Yet life doesn’t work this way. Only through doing first, do we reflectively make sense of our lives looking back upon it. Therefore in going forward, I need to embody this same approach.

Therefore Be Real Creative isn’t so much the answer to everything, rather it is the question to everything that will lead me on my quest. And that question is “Can role playing game techniques combined with the symbolism of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey be used as metaphorical visual aids to better understand the psychological development framework within Richard Barrett’s work, particularly the mapping and exploration of our inner terrain, as well as the fearful demons that we must face there?”

At the same time, in trying to tackle this question as a quest, I realize that it not only communicates what I’m doing with my life’s work but how I’m doing it differently from others. In effect, just communicating an understanding of a psychological developmental framework as something new to people doesn’t interest me. I want to communicate it in such a way and with an existing metaphorical language, that it seems immediately old and recognizable to those who are familiar with this language (which also reveals that they are apparently my tribe and audience I’m trying to reach as well).

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Authenticity

The Fear of Being Unable to Articulate Oneself

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.

Intuition trains you to make sense of these thoughts without examining every detail. But details matter when you are trying to explain your ideas.

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.

Overlooking a word or feature can cause complete misunderstanding – as if you are speaking a different language.

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.

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Authenticity

Getting Out of the Way

When we’re our best selves with each other, I don’t think that’s what’s possible between people. I believe that’s what’s true between people.

And I don’t think we have to work to make it true between people. I think we just have to get the stuff out of the way that’s stopping it from happening.

Brené Brown
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Authenticity

Finding The Seed of Your Work

One way to find the seed is to ask yourself this question: “What is the real meaning of my work?”

Dan Oestreich
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Authenticity

Not Everyone Fits In This World

You’re all right Tia. Even as you are, you’re all right. Not everyone fits in this world.

Detective Inspector John River
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Authenticity

The Courage Inside

It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.

W.B. Yeats
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Authenticity

No Courage Without Fear

Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.

There can be no courage unless you’re scared.

Edward Vernon Rickenbacker
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Authenticity

Be Yourself

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Oscar Wilde
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Authenticity

Fight The Hardest Battle

To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.

E.E. Cummings