My life over the past two decades has changed dramatically.
It has also integrated itself, more and more. In fact, the more my life’s work integrates itself, the more it is doing so by integrating more of my life’s story and the experiences within it.
Let me explain what I mean.
Work Isn’t Working
Back in 2001, when the Dot-Com Bubble burst, I realized that the concept of work wasn’t working for me anymore and I wanted to find a newer way. As the years passed by, I began to realize that more and more people were feeling the same way as I was and they were looking for a new way as well.
A few years back with the pandemic, this became even more apparent to a lot of people, as they began questioning their beliefs and assumptions about the work world and started seeking other ways of working as well.
The Future of Work
In the mid-2000s, I started discovering other people who were searching for a new way of working and over time, this new way of working emerged as The Future of Work.
While more and more books explained this future of work and even what it looked like, what seemed to be missing was how to get there though.
When the term social business emerged in the latter part of the 2000s, I realized that businesses needed to not just technologically innovate, in terms of their products and services, but they needed to socially innovate in terms of how they operated, both internally with regards to their employees and externally with regards to their customers.
But again, the question was how can these business transform themselves, so as to socially innovate?
In the early 2010s, I realized the obviousness of my questions that I was questing towards and realized that it was creativity itself, applied to our very sense of selves, that could help us to socially innovate.
This was a massive leap for me, as it finally gave me a process which could be used in transforming ourselves, thus allowing us to travel to The Future of Work by each of us undergoing a journey within our selves.
The Hero’s Journey
The more I explored creativity applied socially to ourselves, the more I was seeing connections between what I was learning and my past experiences in building communities online around video games. In fact, it almost seemed like there was this language of keywords emerging, that were cryptically guiding me to something much bigger.
What I realized though was that this language mirrored Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. So much so that I soon realized why. The Hero’s Journey is actually a metaphor of the psychological journey within ourselves that we undergo to grow, evolve, and transform ourselves.
Thus the inner journey to The Future of Work is the inner journey of the Hero’s Journey. They are one and the same. Now I had a metaphor which could be used to help people understand this inner journey and the paradoxical experiences one would encounter in undertaking this journey.
But something was missing from my work. While creativity is how we can transform ourselves and it’s embodied by the Hero’s Journey, it became evident that we are all different stages of social development and growth. In fact, with regards to The Future of Work, leaders and followers both needed to creatively transform themselves to work within this new world. So people couldn’t expect their leaders to level up and save them. They had to level up as well, so as to save themselves.
So how can creativity, embodied as the Hero’s Journey, help different sets of people at different stages of development? It can’t. You need something else that can help people understand the different psychological, inner terrain they are going through, compared to someone else. This is where vertical development comes in.
While I had been researching vertical development since the latter part of the 2000s, it really didn’t start making sense as a whole until I started overlaying all of the different knowledge I was learning from it, so as to create a much bigger picture of what was going on.
So if you can imagine our journey to The Future of Work, as a leap from one world to another, with creativity being the process of how we make that leap, then what vertical development does is help us to zoom out and back from that process and realize that life is filled with these transformative leaps of logic. So whereas creativity is the process for achieving growth and development, vertical development helps us understand the different characteristics of each stage of development and accompanying levels of consciousness.
So what I recognized here was that creativity was an integral part of vertical development itself. And the more I reflected upon this, I realized that so many other things were an integral part of vertical development as well. For example, mental health and well-being are aspects of vertical development. In fact, natural growth and development is an inherent part of well-being and if we block this natural growth, it can actually affect our mental health.
But it even went beyond this. Suddenly the deeper I got, the more I realized how so many of the issues within our world today could be resolved if people became aware of vertical development and began applying it to their life. In effect, it is often our beliefs and expectations which limit our perception of the world and often cause problems that arise from this limited perception. In fact, wicked problems are such that they often require “a large group of people to change their mindsets and behaviours to solve them.” In other words, the cause of our most serious problems aren’t “out there” (and thus something we can blame on someone else) but rather are “inside of us” (often of our own doing, unbeknownst to us).
But the more that I began to share what I was discovering about life at a much deeper level, the more it became aware that many people couldn’t grasp what I was talking about because it seemed inconceivable. For example, the basic premise of vertical development is realizing that we don’t see reality directly but instead see a map of reality, constructed from our life’s experiences. If you tell the average person this, they’ll think you’re crazy, even though more and more people within the scientific community are actually proving this to be true today.
Life as a MMORPG
So what I realized I needed here was something like the Hero’s Journey, but something larger than it, to help people metaphorically grasp this bigger picture of vertical development and how it relates to the natural growth and development within our lives. Yet what became the obvious solution to me seemed almost absurd to attempt at first, even though this language of keywords had been cryptically guiding me to it all along. What I began to realize was that life was metaphorically a MMORPG and the Hero’s Journey was the foundational primer for this all along.
You see the Hero’s Journey is effectively a Player’s Handbook for The MMORPG Called Life. It helps you to understand that when you encounter a major life challenge that your current mindset can’t help you navigate, you have to go on an inner, creative journey within yourself, exploring and mapping a new stage of development that lies beyond the horizon of your current mindset and beyond the border of your current worldview.
This occurs because it requires you to question your assumptions and beliefs which begins a quest for you. And this journey will require you to overcome your monstrous fears blocking your way which is really just your older, limited perspective of your “self” that you have to “slay” by letting go of it. But when you do so, you will gain the treasure of gaining newer values which give you the experience of living your life in a whole new way.
But while the Hero’s Journey, as an embodiment of the creative process applied to ourselves, can help us understand the narrative mechanics of The MMORPG Called Life, we need something else. Again, we need something to understand the different inner terrain we will be traversing across. And this is where vertical development comes in.
Vertical development is like a Campaign Guide for The MMORPG Called Life. It helps us to understand the inner psychological terrain we will have to traverse across, thus helping us to understand where we’ve been, where we are at, and where we’re going with regards to our growth and development.
And in terms of expanding the metaphor founded by the Hero’s Journey, it mirrors quite closely with the expansions found with a typical MMORPG. The starting expansion is The Walled City which represents the defensive nature of the Socialized Mind. The next expansion is The Borderlands which represents the Self-Authoring Mind and how we begin to discover ourselves beyond our societal programming. And the final expansion is The Great Wilderness which represents the Self-Transforming Mind, thus allowing us to fully embrace our True Nature that is found deep within us.
An Integration of Past, Present, & Future
As I’ve shown here, the more I integrate my life’s work, the more of my life’s story is integrated within it as well. In fact, when I look back and remember myself as a teenager building my own imaginary world within Dungeons & Dragons, it’s not that different from what I’m striving to do today. The key difference is that today I’m imagining a new worldview which can hopefully make a new world possible.