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.

Vertical Development

Major Life Challenges Trigger Growth

What triggers a person to open up to a later, more complex stage of consciousness? According to the research, the trigger for vertical growth always comes in the form of a major life challenge that cannot be resolved from the current worldview.

Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations
Vertical Development

Humanity Evolves in Stages

In their exploration, they found consistently that humanity evolves in stages. We are not like trees that grow continuously. We evolve by sudden transformations, like a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly, or a tadpole a frog.

Human consciousness evolves in successive stages; there is no wishing away the massive amount of evidence that backs this reality.

Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations
Vertical Development

Why People Stop Evolving Their Worldview

3 Ways People Become Stuck, Undeveloped, and Unsuccessful
Are you born the way you are and never change?

The main idea is that, while growing up, a person often has powerful and emotional experiences that inform their worldview and personality development.

According to the Heath brothers (and all the research they cite in their book), most of these “paradigm shifting” experiences happen during a person’s teens, 20’s, and begin tapering off during a person’s 30’s. They become almost non-existent for people over 40. And thus, people become frozen at a certain stage of their personality — and assume that’s how it’s supposed to be.

However, the Heath brothers explain that this doesn’t need to be the case. You can actually manufacture these experiences regularly, and throughout your entire life.

The reason most people stop having “peak experiences” — which according to Dr. Abraham Maslow, is required to become fully actualized as a person — is because they settle into societal norms.

They stop growing.

They stop putting themselves into wildly new and demanding situations. They stop exercising faith after having life experiences — and grow to become skeptical or cynical.