I was watching more of the recent Eve Online Fanfest videos tonight and what I realized was that my recent epiphany is more poignant than I realized. In fact, if I fully embrace my gaming background again, including my past experiences, story, and identity, the newer narrative and worldview I’ve been trying to create fits perfectly within it, including the metaphorical language I’ve been struggling to use.
In effect, the thing that was out of place wasn’t my work itself but rather my identity that was behind it, which is like the foundation of it. This is why I always felt out of place trying to help corporate environments with organizational change initiatives as a “change agent” (especially when I was on Google+). It just wasn’t me. It felt fake somehow. What I wanted to play and achieve was something much more radical.
Let’s see where this takes me now, when I embrace this radical play!
Oh my god! I just had the wildest thought that made me step back and rethink everything I’ve been trying to do, including the struggle with my life’s work and why it hasn’t been working well, and how a potential pivot might radically change everything, creating a more spontaneous flow for my work.
The other day I had a chat with Sunil Malhotra from Dave Gray’s School of the Possible and after sharing some of my thoughts, beliefs, and idea for what I was trying to do (seeing Life as an MMORPG), he provided feedback that basically aligned perfectly with the approach I wanted to initially take but gave up on, that being targeting gamers with MMORPG experience specifically as my primary audience. So his feedback of leveraging my gaming experiences made me realize I needed to go back to that approach and try it again.
Today though, while taking a break, I checked out some gaming news to find out that CCP Games is releasing another new expansion to their twenty year old game Eve Online. After scanning through their keynote speech though, what I intuitively took away from it was that our virtual game worlds are becoming more and more what we want our real world to be (as noted by the keynote quotes below). In effect, just like in games, we want life to be a “sandbox” whereby we have the freedom and agency to forge our own destiny.
They’re tapping into your fundamental needs and desires.
You’re in control of your destiny.
We see a future where you have even stronger agency and ownership with more tools and more freedom. Unlocking total creativity…
What this means is that our online virtual worlds and our offline real world are beginning to align, converge, and bridge one another through play. In effect, these online virtual worlds are effectively playgrounds where we can innovate and experiment with newer ways of cooperating and collaborating with one another. In effect, they are answering the very thing that defined the quest of my life twenty years ago when I questioned the way that work worked and wanted to find a newer way of doing it, as well as newer way of being within it.
In fact, if I didn’t know better, based upon the technologies that CCP Games is creating for their game and how “corporations” as organizational communities within the game can function more emergently and autonomously now, with these newer technologies, I don’t doubt that these ideas and technologies could one day bridge to our own world, making organizational work much more radically self-organizing than it was before.
But that’s not the greatest epiphany of this all. What I realized from this all was that perhaps this is why I haven’t been making the progress and momentum that I’ve wanted with my work because I haven’t fully accepted and integrated my gaming experiences and identity into it. And more importantly, I haven’t leveraged it to its fullest potential, so as to help me with my work. So all this time, I’ve been pushing away from my previous gaming identity, when in fact perhaps I should have been using it as my main means of identity and communication.
So to sum this all up, perhaps my approach isn’t to be “Nollind Whachell” teaching vertical development and how it similar to a MMORPG. Perhaps instead my approach is to fully embody my “gaming persona” and teach gamers how virtual games worlds in MMORPGs are helping us to explore newer way of working and living.
So as Sunil hinted at himself, what if these experiences of playing MMORPGs makes these gamers more capable of understanding The Future of Work more so than other people because the narrative for it is so strangely similar. And even more so, in doing so, these gamers understanding this larger context can then in turn help teach other non-gamers about it, so they can understand it as well.
I just had a wild thought on how to visualize this shift between my identities, as I mentioned in my previous post.
Basically you could view Berkana’s Two Loops Model as a representation of what’s going on between your old sense of self and your new sense of Self as a transition between two differing systems of identity. And just like how it’s important to recognize “protectors” in the old world as helping to stabilize one side of the bridge to a new world, we need to do the same for ourselves.
Thus you want to thank and show your appreciation for your old sense of self in “protecting” you and getting you safely to where you are today because, in doing so, it actually helps you to stabilize a bridge to your newer sense of Self and where you want to go in the future.
It’s funny. I just stumbled across this older quote by Tiago Forte below and it perfectly encapsulates what I’m talking about here. It also perfectly describes the feeling of the “levelling up” process within vertical development as well, where it feels like you’re world is turned upside down and “inside out” because of the transformation of your worldview and your sense of self (which is why it feels so scary to step into a new sense of Self).
In my last post, I made the realization that my feeling of stuckness in my life, wasn’t really a “problem”, as I initially believed it was (i.e. What’s my problem?) but rather it was arising from my perception of my “problem” which related to my identity. This in turn made me realize that the question I needed to be asking myself was, “What’s my identity?”, because this stuckness is arising from an old sense of self not wanting to let go of itself to allow for a new sense of Self to emerge.
What’s funny though is that I’ve been feeling this old identity coming to this realization for the past few months with increasing frequency. It’s that Senior Web Developer guy who learnt so much about building great communities and great cultures within them. And he loved helping people to “level up” within these video game communities, so much so that he tried to go back to these virtual game worlds the last few months to see if he could rekindle that meaningful energy that he once had within them.
But he can’t and I can’t. That’s because I’m no longer that same guy. I’ve changed. Yet the base cultures of these communities have effectively remained the same. The (predominantly male) gamers within these communities are primarily focused on meeting their base psychological needs by gaining and maintaining a sense of command and control by exploiting a mastery or mechanism within the game (a microcosm of what’s happening in real life). The game developers realizing this, psychologically manipulate the players by creating an addictive pay-to-win element to the game that in turn gives the players a temporary sense of dominance within the game…until the next pay-to-win element is released that makes the previous element obsolete.
So when I go back to these online game communities, they just feel hollow, empty, and meaningless, like a dried out husk of what they previously were. It’s because I see nothing meaningful within them anymore because they are focused on limiting values that I’m trying to grow beyond, since they’re no longer sufficient for my higher order needs.
But even if I try to communicate the underlying problem of these communities to the people within them and how they relate to their identity as well, I can’t, because the people within these communities can’t perceive and see what is under their very noses (that they themselves are intentionally blinding themselves to as well). Thus they themselves don’t want to let go of their old identities, so they just addictively stick with them, even though the experience of role playing them feels empty, hollow, and meaningless as well.
Thus there is no going back to my old identity. All I can do is go forward. Note though that his doesn’t mean I can’t go back to these old spaces and communities. It just means that if I want to go back to them, I have to create something new within them as my newer Self, for them to feel energizing and empowering once again. In effect, if I want to see a change in the environments I’m within, I have to take responsibility and make a change within them myself as my newer Self (thus “becoming the change I wish to see”).
Last week I had a conversation with someone on Dave Gray’s School of the Possible Discord server, whereby I shared some of my vertical development knowledge with them.
While the conversation itself was thoroughly enjoyable (as I was surprised at how easily I could express myself and my knowledge of vertical development in a loose casual conversation), the end result of reflecting upon it made me frustrated again at my problem and seemingly impossible ability to express myself and my work in a more structured way, like in a book or course format.
With that frustration rolling through my mind and body, I asked myself a common, reoccurring question that I’ve asked before.
“What’s my problem?”
Holding that thought for a moment, I then asked myself another question.
“Is vertical development actually as complex as I think it is or is there something about it that is making it difficult for me to accept and fully understand it?”
Again holding that for a moment longer, I eventually just let go of it.
I then proceeded to open up my Flipboard newsreader and after spending five minutes flipping through a variety of articles, a realization struck me full in the face.
Pretty much every article I read, that had to do with someone being upset or frustrated with something in their lives right now, related to vertical development at its foundational level. So the articles were about people frustrated with their weight, frustrated with their looks, frustrated with their work, frustrated with politics, or frustrated with their lives as a whole.
I mean I’ve said this before, vertical development connects to everything and, in turn, it shows how everything is connected.
What I mean by this is that once you begin to understand vertical development, you realize that there is a base foundational premise to it, which Richard Kegan and Lisa Laskow Lahey talk about in the beginning of their book Immunity to Change. If I could explain that premise in my own words, it would be as follows.
Most of the problems that we’re experiencing right now, that we often attribute to something or someone that we believe is outside our sphere of control, are actually emerging and occurring because of an existing sense of self-identity that’s no longer working for us but with which we’re currently stuck within because our identity is trying to protect us from change.
Now stop for a second and think about how similar this is to an organizational body in terms of how changes acting upon it spontaneously bring out organizational antibodies to try to protect it and maintain it. It’s no different. That’s why organizations are almost impossible to change.
So what’s happening here is that life is trying to teach us something but we’re intentionally ignoring and blinding ourselves to the deeper lesson that’s below the surface of our lives and our very sense of self. Why? Because we fear change.
When this happens, we fail to have the awareness to perceive and see the real issue in our lives as I mentioned in the quote below from a previous post of mine.
So my problem isn’t with something or someone out there, as much as I want and believe it to be, my problem is with my perception of my problems themselves which stems from my identity itself. That’s because my perception, as part of my worldview and beliefs, is intertwined with my identity (as Dave Gray notes in his book Liminal Thinking).
So reflecting back on my initial question of “What’s my problem?”, it reveals that I don’t actually have any “problems.” What I have instead is an identity that is fearful of losing it “self”, the role it’s been playing for so long, that it doesn’t want to give it up and thus it’s trying to protect itself. So the question isn’t “What’s my problem?” but instead the following.
“What’s my identity?”
Yet if I can introduce my old identity to my new identity and help it understand how it will protect me going forward instead, perhaps I can thank it for its previous service of getting me to where I am now and help it finally make peace with itself, so it can let go and free up space for my newer identity to emerge fully.
Today I took part in a meetup online with Dave Gray’s School of the Possible. During the meetup, I was seeing synchronicities between the work of other people and my own and I tried to communicate this at certain points in the meeting. While doing this though, I felt like I didn’t do a very good job of communicating the similarities.
But when I was able to look at the transcript of the chat and see my own words, they seem even more jumbled and erratic. This made me realize something.
My greatest fear is a fear of not being understood.
Yet because of this fear, I rush my speech, causing it to be erratic, thus causing me to manifest the very thing I’m fearful of.
I need to try to do the following when conversing with others.
I need to first write down the synchronicity, which I usually do already. I need to do this by highlighting the keywords the person said and then write out the keywords that relate to my own work. Then when I get the chance to respond, I need to frame my response by indicating what the person said and then relate it to my own work, again using these keywords. Then and only then, can I expand upon it.
But I think a lot of times, I just skip over the framing of the synchronicity and jump right to expand on how it relates to my work, so the person or people can’t see the connection because I haven’t made it clearly evident.
Something to work on in the future.
BTW what I also found interesting is that when I asked questions from someone about something that was synchronous to my own work, it seemed to connect much more easier with them and I seemed a bit slower and clearer in communicating as well. I also think people appreciate being asked questions because it makes them feel heard and valued, that someone would want to know more about their work.
Oh my god! I just have the most amazing visual thought when reflecting upon my last post. It made me realize that Dave Gray’s bubbles of belief AND my perspective of immersion are both right…if you see Dave’s “bubbles of belief” like scuba headgear (or inverted goldfish bowls) that are containers that contain our fluidity and separate sense of “self” consciousness, separate from the larger ocean of our collective consciousness.
This is why stepping back down the ladder of inference is so disorientating because you’re effectively losing your contained sense of “self” which is why there’s no sense of stability and everything feels like its up in the air because everything is floating, including yourself.
But this also perfectly fits in with vertical development seen as expanding and transforming the container we are contained within, thus giving us the capacity to comprehend and make sense of more complexity within our lives, versus horizontal development as filling up our existing container with knowledge.
This also resonates with the diagrams I’ve drawn in the past on “self” creativity, whereby we believe we are perfectly, self-contained individuals but we are actually fluid beings which force ourselves into containers, thus cutting off aspects of ourselves so as to “fit” into society’s expectations. But when we are able to broaden our container, more of our fluidity and unique creativity can emerge and fill the space we have created for our larger sense of selves.
And finally this also resonates with my metaphor of life and growth as a river. In effect, its like the knowledge flow I’m experiencing in my life and how it leaves behind sediment that sticks and builds up over time, thus allowing me to create some stable ground that I can stand on for my “self” which defines my uniqueness and creativity in this world. That’s what the progression of my life has felt like so far and how it relates to the steps on the ladder of inference.
There’s something I’ve been reflecting upon the last day or so and I’m trying to makes sense of it. It relates to patterns I’ve experienced in the past of having major breakthroughs but then also stretches of drought, where I feel completely detached from my work.
The keyword that keeps appearing relating to this is immersion.
In effect, within vertical development, to level up one needs to step outside of the worldview they are immersed with, so that they can understand its hold upon them and how it can limit them. I’ve describe this as turning around and stepping back from your life (and perhaps up out of it), so as to be able to reflect upon it and your sense of self from an objective distance.
But to level up, one needs to explore, navigate, and storylive a new worldview, of which the final act is to fully immerse oneself within it and thus live and embody it.
If you think about Dave Gray’s work within Liminal Thinking, including his illustrations relating to our “bubbles of beliefs”, it’s almost the exact opposite of what he’s showing. In effect, he shows a person standing on a tiered pedestal with a bubble of belief encompassing them at the top of the pedestal. To transform themselves, the person steps out of the bubble and down the tiered pedestal into the unknown. But eventually they step back up another tiered pedestal, perhaps with a broader worldview as a larger bubble of belief.
What I’m saying here though is that your worldview is paradoxically like the water you’re swimming within. It’s like the water that’s around you, like the water in a goldfish bowl which represents your bubble of belief. And similar to water in a container, it creates a lens which distorts one’s perspective of the world, just like our bubbles of belief do.
And transforming oneself and one’s worldview is like stepping up out of one container of belief and stepping into another (via a series of tiered steps). It’s a completely disorientating experience that seems completely unnatural, even though it’s a natural process of change and growth itself.
But getting back to the focus of this post though. Why I think I’m experiencing obstacles in my work and development is that I’m not fully immersing myself within it on a daily basis to fully complete the process of my transition and transformation. What I mean by fully immersing myself is filling my mind with work that has a deep emotional connection to me, thus sparking this bigger picture of it which I can then fully step into.
For some reason, this reminds me of something I read about creative work, perhaps from The Marginalian, whereby highly creative people don’t wait for inspiration, they create it. In effect, they create and cultivate an environment that emotionally stimulates them and creates a creative work flow for their work.
Whoa, wait a minute. While this relates to creating a conducive, physical work space at home, this also touches upon my digital workspace online. In effect, this is perhaps what I’ve been struggling to try to create with my work. That being a digital space as a website that I can return to daily that will help me to quickly immerse myself not just within my work but within the worldview it’s trying to create as well.
I was reflecting on the people within Dave Gray’s School of the Possible and how it reminded me of something Deborah Frieze said in her TED Talk on how change happens within a living system and how there are different roles to be fulfilled in this process (i.e. illuminator, hospice workers, protectors).
But what I just realized as well is that you can actually have multiple people working in the same role, yet they can be achieving it differently from others, as they’re approaching the role from their own disciplinary perspective as well. For example, you could have one person who helps people transition using creativity and another person helping people making the transition using the Hero’s Journey. But both of these people are doing the same thing because the Hero’s Journey embodies the creative process itself (the transitioning between different stages of development and levels of consciousness).
Yet what I realized here, based upon my vertical development knowledge, is that there are different levels of transition going on here as well, as everyone needs to level up where they are at. In effect, employees before would follow and do what they’re told by leaders but now they need to level up to effectively take leadership over their own lives and manage themselves, become a new type of follower. And leaders as well need to level up and become a new type of leader, something paradoxically different from a conventional leader.
What I’m getting at with all of this though is that it’s making me realize there are a myriad of roles to be filled in this web of change that people can fulfill. So just like Deborah said in terms of asking yourself which role are you fulfilling, it also asking yourself at well level are you assisting people make the change as well.
For myself though, it’s evident that my life’s work is not focused in just working in one specific role but instead showing people the web of roles available at different levels in the larger process overall.
So I’ve got in my mind what I want my initial website to be for my life’s work and I’m in the process of creating it.
I effectively want it to be something like The Marginalian whereby it focuses on using quotes by notably authors and explains the deeper meaning of what those quotes mean (which effectively relates to vertical development as well).
However instead of creating posts to show the relationship and meaning of similar quotes of meaning by different authors, each post will be a separate quote by a separate author with a category keyword attached to it. Then when the user clicks on the category keyword, it will list all the related quotes to that keyword and explain the deeper meaning of it at the beginning of the category list.
An example of what this would look like is what is done within the book Zen Soup by Laurence G Boldt.
The idea again is to create something that lets me post smaller bite sized posts, yet they cluster and aggregate a deeper meaning over time that I can then build upon later, perhaps create a page from those posts that aggregates the deeper meaning of them as a whole (i.e, Levels = Levels of Consciousness).
Then later, I would take these pages and then show how the meaning of their keywords relate to one another, forming a larger narrative overall.