Transitioning Between Worlds

Mental Health Surge in Caring for Our Well-Being First

America’s mental health moment is finally here
There’s a mental health moment in America, and athletes are leading the way.

And it’s not just famous people who are done staying silent. Record numbers of workers from retail to restaurants to offices have left their jobs this year, often citing mental health as a factor. In one 2020 survey, 80 percent of workers said they would consider quitting for a role that offered better support for mental well-being.

Some of it may also stem from the pandemic, a time that inspired many Americans to reevaluate their lives and focus on what was really important to them. The events of the past year and a half “allowed people to sit with themselves” and “assess how to make things right in a way that is true to them and not just please everyone else,” Elyse Fox, founder of the mental health nonprofit Sad Girls Club, told Vox.

Whatever the cause, it’s become more mainstream in recent months to prioritize self-care rather than self-denial. For decades, Americans have been laboring under a play-through-the-pain mentality — “there’s this overall sort of ethic in our society around grinning and bearing it, taking it on the chin,” Michael A. Lindsey, the executive director of the NYU McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research, who also studies mental health, told Vox. But in recent months, more and more people have hit their breaking point and are committing to caring for themselves — even if it means stepping away from something as big as the Olympics or the Grand Slam. For Biles and Osaka, “although this was a move for themselves, it’s also a step for the entire world,” Fox said.

The Old World of Work

Activision Blizzard Can’t Hide Internal Reality Any Longer

The Activision Blizzard lawsuit has opened the floodgates
Arming decision-makers in tech, business and public policy with the unbiased, fact-based news and analysis they need to navigate a world in rapid change.

The company’s stock price has tumbled nearly 10% this week, and CEO Bobby Kotick acknowledged in a message to employees Tuesday that Activision Blizzard’s initial response was “tone deaf.” Meanwhile, there has been a continuous stream of new reports unearthing horrendous misconduct as more and more former and current employees speak out about the working conditions and alleged rampant misogyny at one of the video game industry’s largest and most powerful employers.

Organizers of the walkout are calling for change. The demonstration was billed as “the beginning of an enduring movement in favor of better labor conditions for all employees,” organizers said ahead of the event. Now, those who participated say they “will not return to silence,” according to Axios.

Transitioning Between Worlds

Using Proper Labelling to Separate Yourself From Your Feelings

Ask Yourself This Simple Question to Leave Negativity Behind
It can help you cope with emotional ups and downs that are a big part of every entrepreneur’s life.

However, once he learned to just observe his feelings and emotions separated from who he is, it has become much easier for him to ride the wave instead of getting knocked out by it. It took him a little practice and some reminders from me, but he is able to cope on his own now with the help of journaling. And that is huge for him. A simple question has not only kept him in business, but also allowed him to thrive emotionally.

Am I the feeling or that which is aware of the feeling?Here’s the question to consider asking yourself: “Am I the feeling or that which is aware of the feeling?”

This one question dissipates the basis of negative feelings. You are that which is aware of the feeling. If you are sad, you are not the sadness. You are aware of your sadness. You are not depressed, but that which is aware of your depressed mood. Often, I hear in my practice, “I am depressed” or “I am anxious.” With this statement, you identify yourself with what you are feeling. I help my clients separate their feelings from who they are. For many, that is their first time separating themselves from the feeling itself. 

This separation allows you to create distance from your feeling, which is what you really want. Having that space gives you an opportunity to empathetically and unconditionally observe your feelings, and that observation helps you process and live through the feelings instead of being caught up in them.

If you are depressed, for example, try saying, “I am experiencing sadness or depression” or “I feel depressed.” Try not to say, “I am depressed.” That identifies you as depression. That speaks to your psyche very differently. Most often, we label ourselves with emotional and psychological symptoms. But we don’t identify as physical symptoms. Have you ever identified yourself as a headache, stomachache or cancer? Of course not. You would just say, “I have a headache. I have a stomachache. I have cancer.” Then why label yourself with the emotional and psychological symptoms you experience? 

The Old World of Work

Pandemic Exposing Systemic Issues of Work

‘The industry is broken’: Inside B.C.’s restaurant labour crisis (VIDEO)
It was already an issue before the pandemic. 🍽️

While B.C. restaurants are in the middle of the peak summer season, a massive struggle to retain employees continues to grow. As the cost of living in Metro Vancouver keeps rising, workers often can’t make a viable living wage.

The pandemic totally cracked it open; it exposed all of the bad parts of our industry and we have an opportunity now to fix it.

It’s pretty obvious what needs to change and it needs to change across the board and that’s just how people are treated in the restaurant business. It has to be treated more like how every other industry is, where people aren’t pushed to their limits because of stress, because of the amount of hours worked, and because of low pay.

Transitioning Between Worlds

“Feelings of Emptiness” Can Affect Anyone

Many of us feel ‘empty’ – understanding what it means is important for improving our mental health
Research uncovered hundreds of emotive, first-hand accounts of feelings of ’emptiness’.

We found that emptiness was characterised by a sense of inner void, coupled with lack of purpose in life and a sense of disconnection to the people in their lives and the world around them. This left people feeling that they were “going through the motions”, and not able to contribute to the world and their lives as they would like.

When you feel like everything you do is pointless and you’re just going through the motions. Just trying to fill in the time until you die. Sometimes you have fun or something good happens which can distract you for a while, but ultimately there is a hollowness inside which never goes away. It’s as if you’re transparent and anything positive like love or joy just passes right through you without sticking and afterwards it feels like it was never there at all.

Interestingly, half of participants had never struggled with a mental health difficulty – showing us that emptiness is not only experienced by people who have received a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, but that it can be experienced by people with and without mental health problems.

The Old World of Work

Employees Quitting Because Companies Investing in Technology Rather Than People

A key mistake leaders are making is causing the Great Resignation. Here are 3 ways to fix it
The CEO of Workhuman argues that the old model of work-for-pay, which focuses on trying to extract the best out of employees coupled with an abundant investment in technology, is backfiring on the workforce.

By primarily focusing on staying on top of tech advances, we’re at risk of ignoring the reality of what’s actually driving business today: our people. 

Purpose, meaning, mutual trust, and recognition are built by people one interaction at a time, and it’s up to leaders to build the infrastructure that facilitates these. Just as you expect a comprehensive plan to make your tech stack work smoothly, you need to be strategic about how your culture stack is making the most of that larger investment. 

If companies want to better understand the needs of their employees, the easiest solution is to simply ask. As technology leaders, we’re used to a seemingly incessant cycle of feedback loops when it comes to our products and solutions, and we have an obsession with the customer that eclipses most anything else and drives our roadmap. What would happen to our culture if we brought that same obsession internally, too? 

The time when it was a sign of success if work didn’t know anything about your personal life is over. It was a ludicrous notion to begin with. In today’s world, we know the value of celebrating the whole human. We must find ways to make sure that we’re seeing our coworkers for who they really are and, in turn, knowing that we are embraced and accepted for who we are.

Bringing this level of humanity into the everyday work experience is the best way to be in a position to hear from, listen to, and really get to understand what the humans in your organizations need. And understanding what needs will be a critical priority if we’re going to make it through another year of massive societal and organizational change. 

Life Challenges

Vaccinated Just as Contagious With Delta Variant

A CDC Document Gives New Details On Just How Dangerous The Delta Variant Really Is
The CDC information dated Thursday gives new details on this variant of the coronavirus and says the agency should “acknowledge that the war has changed.” It was first reported by The Washington Post.

One chart shows that it could be as contagious as chickenpox, which is one of the more transmissible viruses out there. It spreads more easily than the common cold, the 1918 flu and smallpox.

In that outbreak, vaccinated and unvaccinated people had nearly the same amount of virus recovered from test samples, indicating that vaccinated people are just as contagious as unvaccinated people when it comes to the delta variant.


The Center of Your Self

While doing some research on Joseph Campbell today, I stumbled across a paper I had previously saved that talks about The Hermeneutic Loop as the foundation for The Hero’s Journey. The reason I’m bringing it up is because there’s a diagram within the paper (shown below) that reminded me of something I’ve been wanting to talk about for sometime and how it relates to the paradox of visualizing our inner selves.

For most people, this is how they visualize vertical psychological growth. It’s a spiralling upwards at an ever greater breadth. For the longest time though, this has always intuitively felt wrong to me because the inner journey within ourselves has a paradox to it. The space that is created within us emerges from our very deepest core which is our edge.

Pemba Chödrön describes this similar to climbing a mountain to the center of the earth.

In the process of discovering bodhichitta, the journey goes down, not up. It’s as if the mountain pointed toward the center of the earth instead of reaching into the sky.

Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

I believe Joseph Campbell touches upon this as well when he talks about mandalas and how they’re used to figure out your own cosmic order within yourself.

In working out a mandala for yourself, you draw a circle and then think if the different impulse systems and value systems in your life. Then you compose them and try to find out where your center is. Making a mandala is a discipline for pulling all of those scattered aspects of your life together, for finding a center and ordering yourself to it. You try to coordinate your circle with the universal circle.

Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth

For myself, this is similar to how I’ve spoken about understanding yourself like a constellation or solar system, with a core sun and planets orbiting it. In other ways, it’s similar to how I’ve described it like being within a tornado, whereby at times you’re spinning around chaotically, not making sense of things. But then you have moments where you’re in the center eye of the tornado and everything around you that encompasses your life is calm and makes perfect sense…in that moment.

So unlike ancient maps where the outer edges would say “Here be dragons” to warn travellers of the unknowns dangers there because it’s unexplored, maps of our inner selves have “Here be dragons” at their very center core because that’s where the unexplored and unknown lies within us. In effect, our fears are our dragons standing in the way of exploring and discovering the depth and breadth of our very selves as a whole.

The pain, their loss… it’s all I have left of them. You think the grief will make you smaller inside, like your heart will collapse in on itself, but it doesn’t. I feel spaces opening up inside of me like a building with rooms I’ve never explored.

Dolores Abernathy, Westworld

What’s interesting about this all is that as you journey through your life, your center will change and shift. Early on your life, you will think you’ve found the center of your life that stabilizes and grounds you. But then something comes along, shakes your world, and you’ll realize that center was just an aspect of your life, not the center of it. Then you’ll find another center, thinking the same thing, and then it will shift again.

After repeating this heroic process of rediscovering the center of your Self at least a few times by “shedding the skin” of your old self, you will eventually come to your true center, the essence of who you truly are. For myself, what I’m finding interesting is that the center of my life at the start has become the same center again as I progress into the latter stages of my life but in a completely different and larger context than I could have possibly ever imagined.

It reminds me of Paulo Coelho’s book The Alchemist, whereby the heroic journey ends where one began but the journey itself has given us the recognition and awareness to see the treasure that has been lying dormant within us the entire time.


Mentoring My Younger Self

I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting lately and something dawned on my recently that was effectively in front of me for the past decade or more but I was so close to it that I couldn’t see it and make sense of it as a whole. Only by slowing down and stepping back recently, did I finally see the entirety of what was right in front of me.

For a while now, I’ve been marvelling at Tiago Forte’s Trojan Horse approach to levelling people up psychologically hidden within the wrappings of productivity. In effect, he entices people with something very practical that they need right now in their lives but the side benefit is that it has the power to change the way they perceive their world and themselves at the same time. Thinking about this, I questioned how I could take this same approach myself.

My problem is that I’m an explorer at heart and so I always want to be crossing the next horizon after I think I’ve explored an area enough. If you look at the trajectory and journey of my life, you can see this. Initially I was fascinated with The Future of Work but then over time I wanted to explore how Social Innovation and Social Creativity related to it. Then after that, I took the next leap to exploring Vertical Growth (aka psychological development) to see and understand the progressive arc of ongoing Social Creativity and Social Innovation (of which The Future of Work is just the next step).

So from my perspective, currently on Vertical Growth, I’m thinking how can I get people interested in it. Now I realize this is the completely wrong approach because it’s focused on where I’m at. Instead I need to help people where they are at. And interestingly enough, it’s really about helping someone like my younger self in 2001, who was out of a job and frustrated at the way work worked. In effect, I need to be the person now that my younger self wanted to meet back then, to help mentor them to make sense of what was happening to them and how to move forward.

Hilariously enough, all I really need to do is map out and package what I know in the progressive order I learnt it myself and share it with people in that same order because that’s how they’ll progress to being interested in the same things on their own journey. So right now, many people are losing their jobs and they’re just looking for a way to adapt to the times. That’s the practical need and starting point where I can meet people where they are at right now.

Again this is hilarious from my perspective and knowledge that I know now because it perfectly fits in with Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I’m the mentor I was looking for when I heroically had to “level up” back in 2001 to adapt to the times then. I wasn’t lucky enough to have someone to show me the way in person though, so I had to do my own questing and questioning to find my own way, gaining most of what I know from what I read.

As an introvert though, this worked out for me because I loved spending my time reading and exploring new things anyways. If I was an extrovert though, it would have been brutal though because to make sense of things I would have wanted to talk it out with people. Yet there was really nobody I knew who was seeing, experiencing, and making sense of the same things I was at the time. So I couldn’t really talk to anyone back then. But as an introvert, I could talk to myself, which is what really begins the transformation, as you begin to relate to yourself and identify with yourself in a completely different way.


Establishing The Pillars of Your World

While I was aware of Otto Scharmer and his book Theory U, I finally was able to watch his TED Talk from 2016 and within the latter half of it a couple of things he said really stood out for me, as they directly relate to what I’m struggling with at the moment.

Dialogue is the capacity of a system to see itself.

…what it takes is to cultivate the soil of the social field by transforming how we relate to each other, to the planet, and to ourselves, which basically is awakening a movement that’s already in the ware and making that movement aware of itself. 

Otto Scharmer

First off, I found it remarkable because it reminded me of a school motto mentioned in one of Margaret Wheatley’s books that was “Take care of yourself. Take care of each other. Take care of this place.” These words perfectly embody how we can transform our relationship with ourselves, each other, and this planet.

This in turn really made me stop and reflect on my relationship with myself. A long time ago I said that my blog was first and foremost a means of having a intrapersonal relationship and dialogue with myself. On reflecting upon that, I’m not sure that’s as true as it once was. A lot of what I’m writing about now is primarily focused on trying to get others to listen to me so that they can change themselves to make the world better, when really it should be about listening to myself so that I can change myself and make my world-view better.

Stepping to my next thought, I asked myself “Am I even aware of what I know?” And answering honestly, I told myself a definitive “No!” Sure I’ve been speaking about The Future of Work, Social Innovation, and Creativity for a long while now on my blog here (and previously on Google+) but I’ve really only touched upon the edges of what I know, rather than encapsulating the core essence of it as a whole.

As I’ve also noted before though, the primary reason for this failure is because what I’m seeking and discovering seems to be within the liminal space in between the domains of knowledge I know, so it’s hard to articulate it. That’s fine. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that because exploring an unknown space can naturally be hard to articulate. But what’s clearly evident to me is that I’m not even articulating what I clearly know in these known domains of knowledge and there’s no excuse for that.

And if anything, the more clearly I can articulate this known domain knowledge that I do know, the clearer this unknown liminal knowledge will probably reveal itself. Why? Because as I’ve mentioned before, the creative process is seeing the patterns, seeing the relationships between the patterns, and then seeing the system as a whole.

So “seeing the patterns” is seeing the existing known domains which is fairly easy. Seeing the “relationships between the patterns” is starting to see these often unknown, invisible, liminal connections between them, thus networking them together in a deeper sense. Finally seeing the system as a whole is really seeing the patterns and their relationship to one another as a larger unified narrative that clearly helps you see and make sense of the reality of everything as a whole.

Illustration from Margaret Wheatley’s “Using Emergence To Take Social Innovations To Scale”

Now here’s the big catch though. I said that seeing these patterns is “easy”. It is. I see them everywhere now (ie keywords in things I read), like signposts guiding my way and reinforcing that what I’m seeing is very real. But the problem is that I myself am not making my own self aware of this by externalizing them objectively from my mind in some way, so that I can then start actually managing them and working with them at more complex levels, as Robert Kegan mentions one has to do to psychologically mature.

So effectively, by not clearly externalizing what I know of my known domain knowledge, I’m directly standing in the way of my own self in taking the next leap into the unknown because I basically don’t have a map of my known knowledge. So how can I navigate between the known and unknown when my very known territory is actually an unknown space to me as well. It’s like a surveyor who is supposed to map a terrain but decides to only do it in their head and then wonders why they can only recall separate perspectives of it rather than the terrain as a whole.

It’s funny because you can look at this like you’re building a bridge or even a building. If you don’t build the foundational cornerstones in the present, you have no way of supporting the rest of what you’re creatively trying to build within the empty space between them all in the future. All said and done, this is something I need to seriously focus on resolving this year, in some form or another, because it’s probably the main reason why I feel like I’m not achieving substantial momentum within my work and my life as a whole.

It’s because I’m not visually and objectively seeing my own progression which helps me to creatively navigate from where I’m clearly at now and where I clearly need to take the next step.