Vertical Development

Letting Go of Control

In my last post, I mentioned about Carol Sanford talking about how to cultivate an “inner witness” which seemed to relate to triple-loop awareness. Specifically she mentioned about “self-observing” which is “separate from ongoing mental activity, that allows one to objectively observe this activity.”

For myself, I don’t think I’ve fully been able to achieve this, specifically in the moment that is, but more and more I’m become aware of myself reflectively, as I seem to be able to step back farther from myself. For example, today I had an epiphany that I began laughing at because it made my life feel like a tragic comedy.

Two decades ago, I began questioning my life and the way that work worked. Due to that questioning, I became increasing aware of how society often tries to force and control us to change, so as to fit in and conform to its expectations.

Discovering a different path to life from that experience, I wanted to help and “save others” from this crushing conformity, only to realize that I myself was trying to control and force others to change and conform to my own expectations, regardless of my own path feeling evolved.

In effect, I was no better than those people I was previously frustrated with because I was doing the exact same thing as them but just in a different context.

Today, in the process of stepping back further, I’m realizing now that I’m doing the same thing again but on another level. In wanting to create a development community, I’m again putting expectations on other people who I’d consider my peers which is bringing flashbacks of my experiences on Google+ again, where I felt like I was trying to “disrupt the disruptors.”

All said and done, I’m sick of this merry-go-round. I sick of trying to control people to “help” people…which when I say that reminds me of something I read a while back. A quote from The Handbook of Adult Development and Learning which refers to Susanne Cook-Greuter speaking about people at the post autonomous stage (although I most definitely don’t think I’ve achieved the construct-aware stage mentioned in the quote).

In what she calls the postautonomous stage (or at other times the construct-aware stage), people are described as changing in two significant ways: with respect to attitude toward language and with respect to ego as a mechanism of self-control. Regarding the new attitude toward language, in earlier stages of development, language is valued because it allows communication between people, enabling us to cognitively package reality into discrete entities placed in conceptual maps. In later stages, by contrast, language is experienced as filtering the underlying reality and detracting from much of the richness of experience.

People take a new attitude toward their egos at higher stages. Whereas in earlier stages, people take pleasure in thinking about their complexity and contradiction—that is, in thinking about themselves—at the construct-aware stage, people question their “objective self-identity” altogether, no longer wishing to be in control in the ways they have been by means of concepts and thinking (what I refer to as simulations). Self-control requires being too concerned with the image of self. People at the construct-aware stage yearn for a mode of being based on noncontrol, a mode of existing not requiring effort, grounded in “radical openness,” a mode not grounded in ego at all.

Handbook of Adult Development & Learning

In effect, the more aware I become of myself, the more distaste I have of what I’m becoming aware of that I’m doing.

All said and done though, I think I’ve reached a point now where I just need to focus on my own development going forward and primarily just on this site (since it allows me to have deeper discussions with my “self”). That’s it. I know I’ve already mentioned this once before but I think I need to take this seriously to heart this time.

Vertical Development

The Intention of Triple-Loop Awareness

I mentioned yesterday that the book Indirect Work by Carol Sanford appears to be about going beyond knowledge. Even more so, it seems to relate to triple-loop learning.

I remembered I had found a triple-loop learning paper before that articulated what the experience of triple-loop learning felt like and I found it again this morning. It’s called Timely and Transforming Leadership Inquiry and Action: Toward Triple-Loop Awareness (PDF), written by Anne Starr and Bill Torbert (who is a major contributor to the vertical development field).

One of the first quotes that jumped out at me from this paper was the following one.

Translating, he explains that triple-loop awareness re-presents a change in consciousness. It is the simultaneous awareness of all 4 territories of experience – of the outside world, one’s own behavior, one’s own feelings and thoughts, and at the same time, a kind of witnessing of all this. It can be called presencing (Senge et aI, 2004). Triple loop awareness occurs in any moment when there’s an attention distinct from the mental thinking, from the physical sensing, and from the objects of perception, infusing them all with an immediacy that is at once passionate, dispassionate, and compassionate. You’re more likely to have these experiences when you put yourself in a position where you’re on the edge of your known reality – on the not-necessarily-comfortable threshold between the known and the unknown.

Anne Starr & Bill Torbert
Timely and Transforming Leadership Inquiry and Action: Toward Triple-loop Awareness

Why this jumped out is because Carol Sanford also has a quote that relates to cultivating an “inner witness” in her book Indirect Work.

The deeper purpose of the intermezzos is to develop your capability to manage, filter, process, and discover ideas as they arrive in your mental space. This requires intentional self-observing, the creation of a conscious awareness, separate from ongoing mental activity, that allows one to objectively observe this activity. It is a common spiritual or consciousness-development practice, and in some traditions, it is referred to as cultivating an “inner witness.”

Once this witness is present, it becomes possible to really notice how we take in influences from others, whether we are reading their words, listening to them speak, or absorbing what they are modeling through their behavior. Learning is at least as much about how one engages with new information and experience as it is about the information itself.

Carol Sanford, Indirect Work

Returning to the paper, an example is given of a person describing their triple-loop awareness.

Quite apart from the profound personal experience that this was for me, it was also an unprecedented experience of a new kind of power. Being a constitutional worrywart, I was accustomed to thinking with limitation – seeing the barriers (in the “real” world) associated with attaining my desires (in “here”) as overwhelming. The emotional shock of this situation gave me a power and clarity I had not experienced before. Instead of seeing limitation, I saw only my intention and knew there were any number of ways it would be met. My desires and the real world were interacting in real time (the present). I never forced a connection or answer, but instead knew that things would fall into place. This felt physically like operating from above myself with infinite flexibility to play/enact in the world “below”. I should also say that I have not summoned this kind of power since then – unfortunately, not even to write this paper (Anonymous, 2004, with permission) .

Timely and Transforming Leadership Inquiry and Action: Toward Triple-loop Awareness

This description is common in the more evolved stages of vertical development whereby one describes their experiences as being like on a “balcony” overlooking themselves and their life, seeing all of the interactions clearly going on below, thus no longer feeling trapped by them.

Carol Sanford describes this by being able to see “our projections on others” and taking them back.

Here at the level of living systems (which includes most Indigenous and some Asian worldviews), we start from the assumption that all living beings have their own agency and purpose. There is no need to impose our will or our ideas of what they should be; instead, our work is to cultivate the humility and receptivity that allows us to understand what they are striving to become. From this understanding, we begin to discover appropriate roles for ourselves within their processes of becoming. Our work shifts to evolving the infrastructures and instruments that will enable them to develop for themselves the capabilities they will need to make their own contributions to some other entity’s becoming. Those of us who aspire to play this role must engage in our own development, taking back our projections onto others and turning what had been outer work into inner work.

Carol Sanford, Indirect Work

If I’m understanding this all properly, every interaction with anything in our lives always has an intention to it. Only by stepping back from ourselves and intentionally perceiving and seeing our own intentions in action, can we truly transform ourselves by changing those intentions. That’s what triple-loop learning gets to the heart of, our deeper intentions.

Carol provides an example of this in her book by describing how Phil Jackson’s unique coaching with the Chicago Bulls created a liberating space for them, letting them step outside of the typical intentions of the game and create their own.

This shift of levels from two to three forces is quite evident in the Bulls’ story. As Jackson directed his players’ attention away from winning and losing and onto the larger cultural meanings of basketball, he also helped them move their attention off the ball and onto the whole system of the game. This freed players and opened up a uniquely creative space within which they could invent new plays in present time and in response to all of the interacting dynamics of court and arena. Players learned to maintain consciousness of the whole of the situation, with its many layers and complexities, and this allowed them to escape the mechanics of the game and experience themselves as agents within a living phenomenon.

Carol Sanford, Indirect Work

Why I find this remarkable is that a lot of games I’ve played in the past, I automatically try to step back and see these undercurrents of the game going on as well. For example, in World of Tank Blitz, a tank simulation game, I noticed three primary types of players which I described as Tactical, Strategic, and Adaptive (primary in relation to situation awareness).

Basically these three tiers of players perfectly aligned with single-loop, double-loop, and triple-loop learning. Tactical players were focused on the question of “Am I utilizing my tank and attacking my target in the right way?” Strategic players were focused on asking “Am I attacking the right target?” And Adaptive players evolved to question “Is it even right to be attacking now?”

The hilarity of reflecting on this now and the poignancy of the question of “Is it even right to be attacking now?” is not lost on me. Our world is fractured and fragmented right now because of the way we perceive it and because of our projected intentions on others. Because of this, most people are spending most of their time “attacking” other people in one way or another.

Vertical Development

Going Beyond Knowledge?

Boom! Mind blown.

In using a new reading technique tonight to get a better understanding of the book Indirect Work by Carol Sanford, I finally broke through a barrier I wasn’t grasping until now.

Indirect development work is about going beyond knowledge.

Development, in other words, is not the same thing as training or knowledge transfer, which are direct ways of working. Development works on our ability to be awake with regard to ourselves, and this is inherently indirect.

Carol Sanford

Here’s some quotes that touch upon this below, first from Chapter 7, which emphasizes how our focus on knowledge actually fragments us from seeing living wholes. And I have to say, her use of the words “aggregate” and “integrate” did immediately make me think of personal knowledge management and building a Second Brain.

Such efforts to integrate multiple, diverse needs and bodies of knowledge are a hallmark of good design and can certainly lead to more sophisticated, holistic solutions and policies. But the process of accretion of information and action, no matter how comprehensive, will never on its own generate the shift in perspective that allows us to engage with a living whole. If anything, the tendency to aggregate and integrate only serves to reinforce the problems associated with fragmentation. This is because it derives its raw materials from the underlying practice of breaking things down into parts in order to understand them before attempting to reassemble them into something that makes sense.

And here are a few more quotes from Chapter Eight which show how her knowledge acquisition early in her life didn’t help her as much as what she calls resourcing does now, which is about tapping into your inner knowledge.

In the tumultuous time in my life when I was newly married and a student at Berkeley, I found myself in over my head. It had finally dawned on me that I didn’t know everything and that perhaps I didn’t really even know myself. I had always thought that learning was about mastering content—acquiring knowledge and the skills to put it to use. But as a student at Berkeley, I became increasingly aware that I didn’t know how to observe and manage my own thinking process, and that this was far more important than the content of my thinking.

Since that time, I’ve organized much of my life and work around the insight that real change comes when we engage consciously with our own mental processes. Along the way, I’ve become aware of the importance of what I call resourcing, which works on awakening in people their capacity for critical thinking and agency with regard to growing and expressing their personal potential.

Resourcing is not mentoring or coaching, both of which assume some kind of superior knowledge. Resourcing is not telling people what to do or guiding them into a better pattern of behavior or performance. Resourcing assumes that the potential to know lies within the individual and that what is needed is to awaken their thirst and discipline to find knowledge within themselves.

If I’m not mistaken, what I think she’s referring to here is an innate sense of wisdom. It’s weird and hard to describe but I think I understand what she’s getting at because in looking back upon my life tonight, I keep seeing these moments, like even in the mid 1990s when I was only 30 years old, where I was doing things intuitively in the online communities I was creating that I wouldn’t fully understand logically until a decade later when I was researching organizational development. Like I just trusted myself and my intuition guided me (although being in a playful space helped a lot).

If I’m also not mistaken, this definition sounds very familiar to triple-loop learning (i.e. “Triple Loop Learning gets to the core of things: our purpose, the values that guide us, and so on”) which I’ll check my research on it again later.

All said and done though, I’m not too sure PKM fans would take kindly to her work. They’d probably disbelieve it outright.

In terms of myself, I definitely want to go deeper down this rabbit hole.

Vertical Development

What is a Development Community?

Delving into the “dungeons” of your “self” & reshaping the perceptual foundations of your world(view).

We’re living within a world today where everyone is using the same words but with different meanings behind them. In a sense, it’s like a modern day Tower of Babel but one in which the confusion isn’t immediately apparent until a conflict reveals the true differences of meaning behind the words we use. One obvious example of this is the word “leadership” which can be interpreted in many different ways now, especially as we step into The Future of Work.

Because of this though, when we communicate we want to work towards something, we often have to have to articulate the meaning behind what we want to work towards as well, so that there is no misinterpretation of what you’re communicating. In this post, I’d like to discuss how I’d like to create a development community but also at the same time define the word “development” within the context of this community.

Before I begin though, I’d like to note that I’ve been intuitively wanting to create a community like this for almost a decade but I never knew how to articulate it or categorize it because I’ve never seen anyone else doing it. Coming from a background of building communities online around video games, where I found it fairly easy to build a “guild” community to help players develop and level up within a game, this frustrated me greatly at seeing something I wanted to create but having no bearing as how to create it.

Diving into The Depths of Your “Self”

The primary reason and difference as to why this is a challenge is revealed in the definition of “development” itself, as best described by Carol Sanford in her book Indirect Work.

This is the role of development, to cultivate the capacities for self-observation and conscious choice that enable us to show up as living, creative beings in a living, creative world, to be self-determining rather than predetermined. Development, in other words, is not the same thing as training or knowledge transfer, which are direct ways of working. Development works on our ability to be awake with regard to ourselves, and this is inherently indirect. We become aware of and selective about the influences that shape our thinking and experiencing. We learn to anticipate the systemic effects we produce through our choices and actions. We grow the creative capacity to make new, unanticipated choices based on our evolving understanding of an evolving world.

Carol Sanford

This is why building an online community of practice around video games was so much easier for me because it’s really more about direct knowledge transfer (i.e. how to play the game). With development work though (which can be differentiated by calling it vertical development), you’re not teaching somehow how to play a game so much as you’re awakening them to how our perceived sense of reality is actually a socially constructed “game” of our own creation. Thus you can’t help them directly, as only they can reconstruct their own “lens” (aka worldview) through which they perceive their world.

Hopefully this becomes more apparent as Carol Sanford further describes the key aspects of a development community below (with key points bolded by myself).

I’ve spent most of my adult life participating in, and at times stewarding, communities that are dedicated above all to the conscious development of their members. In such communities, we resource one another, always with the aim of building a field within which consciousness can grow and deepen.

Whether you seek to apply indirect work to an organization, as Phil Jackson did with the Chicago Bulls, or a social change movement, or a town that wants better lives for its citizens, you will benefit greatly from doing so as a member of a developmental community. Developing ourselves is a lifelong effort, and it is hard to sustain force without the challenge and nurturance provided by a community of like-minded seekers.

In my experience, there are several key qualities that distinguish a developmental community from support groups, social circles, professional associations, houses of worship, and other places we rely on for human connection. The first of these qualities is an explicit and transparent agreement to share a developmental method, such as Socrates’s, as opposed to a dogma or rules of behavior. This enables everyone to be self-accountable for the work that they do in the group, which makes the community democratic in the best sense: each member is becoming better and better at governing themself. Also, by making the method transparent, everyone has the opportunity to upgrade their application of its practices and, ultimately, to evolve them.

The second key quality is a certain level of structure that allows the group to gather on a regular, recurring basis to engage in thoughtfully designed developmental processes. A regularly recurring pattern is important because it builds the ability to sustain growth over time. People are able to connect the dots between what they learned in one session and what they will learn in the next, and this allows them to progress as individuals, deepening both their capability and capacity. As the years pass, the group, too, will progress, taking on challenges of increasing complexity and significance. Also, being in a familiar setting with familiar people creates a shared energy field, and this reinforces the quality of intention and dedicated effort necessary to generate the value that the group is seeking for its members.

The third key quality is a shared epistemology based on the idea that people only come to a transformational understanding of themselves and reality when they take responsibility for their own development. People are immersed in an environment where the demand for self-development is ubiquitous, and one that includes older, more established participants alongside those who are stepping onto the path for the first time. The process uses concrete events in people’s own lives as the raw material for their self-inquiry. This is important because the transformational potential of the work is lost the minute an epistemology of self-development drops out and an epistemology of expertise and greater knowledge steps in to replace it.

Finally, I believe that the people in such a community need to view one another as friends, not in a social sense, but in the sense of being unshakably (and at times ruthlessly) committed to one another’s growth and development. These friends in the work don’t seek ease or comfort in their relationships with one another, but rather to challenge and lift one another up to live out the aspirations that each holds for a meaningful life. This is important because we humans love our comfort, and we frequently seek out people who make us feel comfortable. Having friends in the work can serve as a refreshing antidote to this sleepy habit, a place in our lives where we’ve specifically chosen to be among people who have agreed to challenge us.

Adventuring Within Dungeons

When I first read these key aspects of a development community, I must say that I was shocked by what I read. That’s because they’re similar to some of the key aspects of the online communities I helped to cultivate around videos games.

For example, when I was an officer within a “guild” community in World of Warcraft in 2005, here’s some of the key aspects of our culture.

  1. Governing yourself was paramount when you joined. In other words, many people often join communities to utilize its resources without providing their resources in return. Thus when someone joined and continually asked for help without contributing and helping others in return, it became apparent they were going to become a drain on the community.
  2. We met up on a regular weekly basis. All of us had lives and work, so we couldn’t invest all of our time, regardless of how much we enjoyed the community. So as to maximize our time, we decided to meet at least two or three times a week on set days. For example, we normally met Tuesdays and Thursdays between 7-10 PM. This consistency allowed us to progress rapidly “taking on challenges of greater complexity” (such as more difficult raids).
  3. We expected people to take responsibility for their development. And I’m not just talking about their skills in the game but how they perceived themselves in relation to others. In fact, some of the more complex raids were so difficult, that all of the diverse roles required perfect precision and timing to pull them off. So when one or two people would keep wiping the challenge on the boss within a raid, they might think that they weren’t understanding the knowledge or skills to take down the boss, but in reality it was more the individuals not believing in their capabilities in the first place. Once they developed a larger perception of themselves, it was like a switch was flipped and everything became easier, even effortless at times.
  4. We loved challenging ourselves as a group of friends. When we wiped on challenging a raid boss, it wouldn’t deject us but rather inspired us to step back and look at it from a different perspective. So we would have an after-action review, assessing what went right and what went wrong, then make another attempt. In comparison, whenever we grouped with other people outside of our community, they would often want to bypass a raid boss after only one failed challenge on it. In effect, they saw their failed attempts as a bruise on their egos, whereas we saw our failed attempts as stepping stones of learning to understanding and overcoming the challenges before us.

Seeking Heroic Company for Epic Quests

This is why I find it remarkable that what I want to be doing in the present is so similar to what I was doing in the past. The primary difference though is obviously that the context is so much larger which feels both scary and exhilarating at the same time. That’s because you’re not trying to fight and overcome an external challenge outside of yourself but instead are trying to overcome your existing perception of reality within yourself. In effect, your existing beliefs and identity as your “self” are the “monster” that is standing in your way, that you’re trying to “slay” and overcome, thus allowing you to “level up” consciously (which mirrors the psychological metaphors within Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey).

Because of this though, it will probably be hard to find people who are willing to take on this “call to adventure” within themselves. That said though, if I can find even just four people to join me to create a group of five, it would be a great starting point.

Vertical Development

We See Not As Reality Is But As We Are

“One can’t write directly about the soul,” Virginia Woolf wrote. “Looked at, it vanishes.” This is true of any soul — our own, that of another, that of the world. It vanishes because whenever we look, we see not as reality is but as we are. We see the rest of nature — including each other — through eyes gauzed with preconception, our distracted vision blurred by the thousand thoughts that come alive before the mind’s eye at any given moment, more vivid than the living reality before us.

Maria Popova
Vertical Development

Today’s Tower of Babel With Different “Languages” of Meaning

It is also work I believe is crucial in understanding our world with full of strife and clashes among different world views. Knowing about developmental differences can shed light on why some of these conflicts are so intractable and longstanding, and it invites compassion and hope

All major change can create anxiety as we are habit creatures. Growth includes the unknown, sometimes intimated to some degree, other times utterly unimaginable. While possibly exciting, stage change is also likely accompanied with considerable discomfort, pain, losses, and uncertainty. Most aspects of living include relationship to other people – people who may be attached to the familiar way we were and who wish us to remain familiar. Moreover, our own strongly held values have to be renegotiated when we enter a new view of reality. In the extreme, we can say that with each transformation we are actually entering a new reality with its own rules, laws, and language.

Susanne Cook-Greuter, Nine Levels of Increasing Embrace in Ego Development

Never before in human history have we had people operating from so many different paradigms all living alongside each other.

Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations

What this is trying to highlight is that we are effectively living a present day Tower of Babel but instead of everyone speaking different national languages (i.e. English, French, etc), people are all speaking different languages of meaning.

This actually amplifies the confusion in our world today because when someone speaks a national language you haven’t learnt, it’s immediately apparent that you can’t understand it. With a language of meaning though, I may say the word “leadership” in a conversation with you but you may misinterpret the meaning of it as something completely different. Thus the misinterpretation doesn’t become apparent unless the meaning of the word “leadership” is actually brought up and discussed in detail within the conversation.

BTW this is also why The Future of Work is so confusing and often misunderstood by people. It’s because they think it’s just more of the same type of work but with newer technologies. It’s not. Yes, there are newer technological innovations but it’s really the social innovations of it that will require a radical leap in our thinking to understand it correctly.

So as I noted above, “leadership” is no longer seen as a strong, controlling individual telling others what to do. Instead, “leadership” is seen as more of a collective attribute of the organization which requires everyone to take leadership and contribute in different ways. So work becomes less command and control and more symbiotic and self-organizing in nature.

For those who are used to just sitting back and being told what to do though, this can be very unsettling because it requires them to discover an intrinsic sense of motivation within themselves, rather than relying upon an extrinsic sense of motivation previously dictated by someone else.

BTW this is also why I kind of laugh at the absurdity of the “wars” being waged online right now between the political left and right. They’re effectively missing the bigger picture of how our differences are really more psychological in nature based upon our current needs and values. So I no longer see left or right, democrat or republican anymore but just people at different stages of development trying to meet their current needs.

And that, if anything, is why there is so much strife in the world, especially within our own supposed “First World” nations. In effect, until we can actually start caring about people’s basic needs to survive and how they are no longer being met by today’s outdated systems of work, they won’t have the potential to learn how to thrive and grow in the process, contributing to our society in greater ways beyond what we currently know.

Vertical Development

Overcoming Complex Paradoxes to Rebuild Trust

I assumed we could trust the government and each other during the pandemic. I was wrong.
I am hopeful that our government will have our best interest. I am hopeful that things will get better.

I want to trust institutions like the CDC, my governor, my mayor and the White House. I want these institutions to put the needs of all Americans in front of the desires of CEOs to make more money.

Like my mother, I want our leaders and our communities to work past their flaws and do what’s best for us all. They don’t need to be perfect. They just need to be better.

The problem with this statement is that it assumes everyone is perceiving reality in the same way. It should be clearly evident by now, based upon all of the conflicts arising around how best to handle the pandemic, that we are not perceiving reality in the same way. Therefore, my “needs” and what I perceive as “what’s best for all” may be completely different than yours, even contradictory.

While this may be exceeding difficult for a lot of people to comprehend, it’s a basic premise of vertical development in that people psychologically develop at different stages and therefore their needs and what they value will differ from others at different stages.

Even more so, when levelling up to a new stage, a person’s perspective of reality often goes through a paradigm shift, causing it to radically pivot or u-turn 180 degrees, thus seeming almost contradictory to their perspective before.

For example, one of the most dominant paradigm shifts that people go through as they move beyond the conventional stages of development is perceiving their livelihood of work as so important, it gets put above everything else. This is because conventional stages focus on trying to meet our basic needs to survive.

While this might seem to make perfect sense, since we obviously need to make money to survive, where this starts causing conflicts is when our livelihood of work starts literally impacting our life. Some examples of this could be a blue collar worker working in a toxic factory with chemicals or a white collar worker working in a toxic culture due to a narcissistic boss. In both cases, these people are literally having their lives cut short by their livelihoods.

When we take this understanding and raise it to a societal level though, that’s when conflicts really start getting heated. You effectively have people at conventional stages saying their needs to have a job are more important than how that job affects them or others. So when a climate activist tells a coal or gas worker that their industry is killing people and the planet, that worker can literally not comprehend what the activist is talking about, even thinking that they are delusional because their livelihood is effectively their life and it comes first.

We’re also seeing the same thing happening with the pandemic but in a slightly different way. Again conventional stages focus on survival by meeting their economic needs but also by wanting to fit in and belong in a social sense. So not only is the pandemic making it difficult to meet their economic needs due to work faltering but it’s making it difficult for people to meet their needs of belonging because they can’t work face-to-face with others.

For a lot of people at conventional stages, this can be overwhelming for them, making them feel like they are being pulled apart, because they may recognize the severity of the life challenge before them (ie the pandemic can kill people) but they also recognize that their basic needs need to be met as well. To get around and ease the discomfort of having to deal with two conflicting beliefs, the person will change one of their beliefs or add another belief to outweigh one. So an anti-vaxxer will disbelieve that the coronavirus is harmful to them because they’re healthy, thus easing this psychological tension and discomfort that they’re feeling.

So is the answer just to force people at conventional stages to just “shut up and do what their told” because they don’t have the awareness and psychological maturity to understand the complexity of the wicked problems arising in our world today (similar to a child being unable to comprehend complicated things)? I don’t think it’s an easy answer because you have to look at the world we’ve made and how it’s contributing to and amplifying the problem.

Simply put, conventional stages normally do “trust” their leaders and institutions, doing what they’re told to do. But today we’re living in a world where many people at conventional stages are having their basic needs continually eroded by society itself. For example, blue collar work has degraded and disappeared over the decades, with steel and automotive industries once being the backbone of work, yet they’ve almost completely disappeared now.

Today we have many people who are often homeless and without jobs, thus unable to meet their economic needs, but also they are devalued by society as having no value, and thus they aren’t meeting their needs of belonging either. No wonder these conventional people don’t feel like “trusting” institutional leaders who effectively have made them feel like outcasts in their own country and society.

So it’s not a question so much of forcing people at conventional stages to “shut up and do what their told” but rather more about we need our leaders to seriously level up, so they can start seeing and recognizing the value of these people where they are at (at their level). For example, in Alberta, a province primarily focused on oil and gas, new geothermal stations are being built that make use of the existing skills of oil and gas rig workers to build them.

This is amazing because it helps people at conventional stages to shift to newer but familiar work that still makes them feel valued and belonging to a society that still cares about them and their contributions to it. And that in turn will make them feel like they can trust the leaders who are valuing and caring for them. I mean isn’t this the same crisis in our business world right now, with people feeling disposable and without any long term value, thus why should they be loyal or trust business leaders who aren’t loyal and caring in return?

Vertical Development

The Adventure From Self-Centered to Centered Self

I stumbled across this quote the other day and noticed how perfectly it accompanies the “adventure” of being nobody-but-yourself, whereby one day we discover our inner compass pulling at the heart of our Self, helping us to see and realize that we are so much more than what we thought we were.

Most of us pride ourselves on the fact that we are unique individuals with our own ideas, opinions, beliefs, values, attitudes, goals, aspirations, sentiments, preferences and so forth. But if we scratch the surface a little we find that most or all of what we pride ourselves on as our own is what we have learnt or inherited — genetically from our parents and ancestors, socially from our upbringing and education, socially and culturally from the society we live in, intellectually from the prevailing ideas and beliefs of the times in which we live. Where is our real individuality in all of these?

This raises a more fundamental question: ‘What does it really mean to be an individual?’ Clearly our manners and behaviors which we learn from those around us do not qualify us. Nor do our character traits and values which we inherit from our family and society. Nor do our thoughts and opinions which we acquire mainly from other people. Then what does?

To be an individual means to shift the center of reference from outside to inside. It means that we should consciously formulate and choose our thoughts, opinions, beliefs, values and attitudes rather than simply accept what others think, feel and belief to be true and right. To be a real individual is to discover the inner center of reference, to draw guidance from inside. It also means not to rely on or depend on others to support us or solve our problems. It means to be self-reliant.

Most of all, to be an individual one must be free. Not free from outer constraints but free from mental, emotional and psychological conditioning. Free to think and do what is true and right, not just what other people think and do. Free to take risks and court adventure, not bound by a need for safety and security. To be an individual is to discover the freedom of the soul and express it in life.

Individuality is often confused with being self-centered, preoccupied with our own lives, selfish and insisting on our own way. But selfishness is only egoism. A true individual can be generous, selfless and dedicated to the welfare of others. He or she can follow others or defer to their wishes out of magnanimity rather than subservience. The true individual has no need to dominate or assert. A true individual thinks of others rather than his own needs, listens to others rather than feeling the compulsion to instruct, gives to others rather than wanting to receive.

Strategies for Psychological Growth
Vertical Development

Expect The Unexpected

I remember telling someone once that when your world changes, it will feel like gravity is gone and you won’t know which way is up.

For the past year, I’ve been experiencing this in increasing detail, as at times even mundane and trivial aspects of reality will surprise me and do something unexpected. This is happening with such frequency now that I’m expecting one day to pour hot water into my tea cup, only to see it pour up towards the ceiling instead of down into my cup.

Without a doubt, what this is obviously communicating to me is that the stable world we once knew, expected, and depended upon is slowly disappearing, to be replaced by an uncertain and unexpected world instead.

The question of how we choose to respond to these changes is up to us. Do we become fearful and even angry? Or do we become exhilarated and marvel at the unexpected wonders before us, wondering what they mean and how we can learn from them?

One thing is for sure though. We are now living within a world where we will need to start expecting the unexpected.

Vertical Development

Adaptive Generalization Through Bridged Specialization

‘Small Data’ Is Also Crucial for Machine Learning
The most promising AI approach you’ve never heard of doesn’t need to go big

Also known as “fine-tuning,” transfer learning is helpful in settings where you have little data on the task of interest but abundant data on a related problem. The way it works is that you first train a model using a big data set and then retrain slightly using a smaller data set related to your specific problem.

Another way of thinking about the value of transfer learning is in terms of generalization. A recurring challenge in the use of AI is that models need to “generalize” beyond their training data—that is, to give good “answers” (outputs) to a more general set of “questions” (inputs) than what they were specifically trained on. Because transfer learning models work by transferring knowledge from one task to another, they are very helpful in improving generalization in the new task, even if only limited data were available.

While this article focuses on machine learning, this same technique works for humans and I’m assuming it was created for machines (AI) to replicate the human ability.

The key thing for this to work though is that the data has to be related in some way. The beauty with humans though is that the relatability can be created from a creative “weak link” which means it will probably only appears relatable to that specific person, based upon their own constructed “space of possibilities” within their mind (see Beau Lotto’s work).

But that’s exactly why it seems creative and innovative to others because they can’t see the connections that bridge the gap between these two things, thus making them relatable.

The whole point of this though is that it shows how we can all adapt in the future and discover work outside our normal domains of knowledge, by seeming similar patterns and principles they transfer between them.

Of course, the only major thing preventing this from happening is people’s biases disbelieving the person’s capacity for the work because they are approaching it from an unconventional angle than the status quo is approaching it.

In fact, as many articles have highlighted recently, this is why many great job candidates are never ever seen by employers because they don’t fit into the limited filter set defined by the job and thus are often filtered out. So exactly the same way people’s biases filter out the potential and possibility of someone being able to do something.