What's wrong with this skier?
He is trying to ski by thinking. He is thinking so hard that he cannot "hear" the hill or his body. He is thinking so much that he might miss a fallen skier or a tree - for he is thinking so hard that he cannot see. His fear also causes him to miss the key risk and control factor. Fearing falling or going too fast, he leans back instead of down the hill.
He is thinking so much that he cannot have a conversation with his own body or with the world that surrounds him.
He is thinking so much that he gets exhausted very quickly because he is fighting himself, the hill and the universe. And just thinking so hard uses up so much energy.
He is not having a "Deep Conversation". He is relying on his rational mind to guide him in a novel and complex situation. This is what most of us do at work and in our personal lives.
The most important conversation that we need to have is within ourselves. This is the core lesson of having Deeper Conversation. That to have a deeper conversation with others and with the univers, we must be able to have such a conversation inside us. This is the topic of this our last of 4 parts of my 4 part series that synthesizes a longer series of talks I have had with the brilliant Johnnie Moore. (Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3)
It's the classic psych drama. We have got so used to giving our rational mind primacy that we allow it to fill our consciousness with its chatter and worries. Mothers worry about what the book says about their kids. Managers seek control. You wake up in the middle of the night consumed by a fear and if you can surpress it, find another one right behind it. At school this part of our mind is the only part that counts.
Yes the new skier has to "know" the theory of skiing - well maybe not... Adults have a huge problem learning to ski - I did at 40 - but kids know no theory. Their rational mind has not yet taken over. No one told them the theory of walking or language, they just got on with it and did what FELT right.
Kids use their full range of channels. They listen to their body and they feel their way into novelty. They learn to walk and to talk and to stand upright. They learn so much before they go to school!
But we adults, who know better because we have been to school, wait to be told by a higher authority. In this universe, all the other parts of our mind are closed down and the Ego is given precedence.
So how do we get the rest of our mind back. How do we tune into all the channels in our body so that we can feel the hill or our way though a novel and a complex situation? For as all adult ski learners know, we have had this ability whacked out of us at school and at work.
Johnnie reminded me that it's all about habits. We have lost the habits that help us access this power to use our whole mind, so it helps to set up new habits to bring the whole mind back and to put the Ego into his place - a minor character!
Sit as often as you can in a circle. This brings the field into its best quality. Access the Field.
Before you get down to business check in as to how you all are. This might be how you feel - what you are feeling about the task at hand in your body. This type of sharing brings up the common humanity of you all. The leader may be feeling anxious in her stomach about the result. Hearing this, we can all relax more. Any good consultant has such a go around at the beginning of a meeting so that the Field can be awaked. I know to many this may sound very new age - but my question to you is do you want to ski like me or like my son?
Surely no one wants to ski like me? That is what is at stake here. Real results - getting all the wisdom from all the minds into play and in getting more cohesion in the team are what is at stake here.
Beware of "Action" as a demanded result.
You know what has happened here don't you? Trying too hard leads to a failure and then to bad feelings and then a habit of trying too hard and so on. The point of good sex is not the erection but the communication and the shared love. Bringing your rational mind into the bedroom is a disaster. So it is in meetings.
The key result is to have the team both together and open. Then the "Whole Mind of the Team is brought into play. THEN you can start to see your way through the paradoxes that make up any complex situation.
For the issues that confront organizations and us as individuals today are not simple, or even complicated. They are Complex. So by definition are not able to be solved by the rational mind. Your response will be to reinvent your business or you.
Let me give you 2 examples - one a corporate one that Johhnie and I worked on with NPR and 300 stations and the other a new problem that confronts me and all of us in middle age.
This was the complex problem that we used to have a Deeper Conversation inside NPR where all the senior management, the board and over 200 staff participated along with the leadership of 300 stations. At the outset NO ONE could know the answer. That is the definition of a Complex problem - the answer cannot be predicted rationally it can only emerge as a result of lots of trial and error. What we did was to set up many many meetings where the groups "Played" with this problem - we in effect set up a process of iteration that could enable answers over time to emerge.
The challenge was this - We assumed, now rightly, that in 2009, the web would be ubiquitous. NPR and the Stations were then in 2005 at a high point with their listeners on terrestrial radio but at ground zero with the web. How were they going to grow the web side and not lose the listeners? How was NPR to do this and not lose the stations? What were the stations going to do? For one thing was clear, and that was by 2009, the world would be very different.
To set up the larger field where all could participate - we used "Play". I have found that if you think of complex problems that might involve you losing your current power in role, the job of protecting your status quo is paramount. This is why when we ask the Usual Suspects to think of the future of their field, say health, they act to preserve the status quo. They cannot go beyond this. A rational role based discusion about novelty has to fail. For our ego will force us to lean back and try and protect what we know and our current power.
So we made this exploration into a game. I won't go into the details but to say that to wrestle with complex problems demands that you give up your role. Back to kids again - they learn all the vital lessons of life via play.
The results come through emergence which comes from trial and error. In complex situations you CANNOT know the answer up front. It is impossible. Remembering this is very helpful. No senior NPOR person presumed to know. All were equals in ignorance. This opened up the field. At the end of each session, each group had to put on a play - they had to express what they thought the future would be - and you know they were right - they found it.
Does this work? Each of the many independent sessions came to this conclusion - that the power of choice of what to listen too had to shift to the listener. Now we all know this right? No we only know this as lip service. You have to have wrestled with this and seen the alternatives and felt that this is true to accept it. We all "Know" that we have to lean DOWN the hill to get control - BUT this is not what we do as learners for though we know it to be true - we CAN"T do it - it is too scary and too counter our old reality.
Does this work? Well what media organization is best equipped for dealing with he online world right now? I would say NPR. So what was the result of our work with NPR? It was not the plan that came out of the process. It was that 300 people in NPR had wrestled with the problem and had felt their way into the future, so that when a new leader arrived with the mandate and the attitude to go for it, there was a mass aha! Not the normal resistance that you get when a big change is dropped in the organization from on high.
Meetings that start with a demand for action and results - are often code for a desire to lean up the hill. Let's stay in the rut where I can control what is going on because I feel safe there. When you demand results or action - what do you mean? Most of the time it means a focus on the minutiae - like the skier focusing on thinking his way into the turn - forcing himself to turn rather that letting the hill and his body do it all for him. When we work on the surface we force the whole team into this posture. It is our fear that keeps us from skiing. It is the fear that stops many still in radio and the media from allowing the gravity of the Hill of the New Web to help them get a new control.
The ongoing result that all teams need in complex times is to be so comfortable with each other that they play intuitively like a basketball team on fire. Look at this player - he is not thinking - he KNOWS where the pass will go. We have to really know each other. We have to bring our Whole Mind into play.
If you work on the key result being a well functioning team, THEY will do the heavy work. The real ACTION is to get the team using all their whole mind as individuals and as a team. Like a good skier, there is no time to "Think" on the court. You have to be able to sense what is going on.
So let's extend this a bit and look at an issue that affects us all - our health. My task - to find a question that engages anyone. From a personal point of view.
Here is one for me and for you that I hope illustrates this principle. I am looking at the health costs for PEI. An important question but very abstract and with many people with hard views. So how to use a question to break the logjam? This is my starting question that only invites each of us as people into the realm of the question. I start as Johnnie suggest with a question that gets us to react by feeling it out.
See the red line. That is how men on PEI age and deteriorate. The average age of death is 75. But by 65 the average man is in such bad health as to be helpless and dependent. From this stage more than half his lifetime cost to the health system will be spent. These are real data points.
Now see the black line. This is my goal for my own life. Aging as we know it is not natural. The black line is the natural aging process. In nature aging hits a threshold and then the deterioration stops - if you make 85 and are fit and not demented you will likely stay the same until you die - and that might be 95 - 100 - or 105. You will die - but you wont deteriorate more. There is a ton of evidence and work behind this - just trust on this right now there are books and books to be written and I can only point this out to you in this post.
The research suggests that I and you can push this point of stability back to 55 or 60 - my current age. I can be at choice. I can choose to change nothing and I will get ill and degrade. Or I can choose to change my life and have a good chance that I will die healthy and a contributor. Now I can choose either one - newspapers chose degradation - but it is a choice.
But choosing life is not enough. Knowing where to go is not enough. Like NPR I have to find out how to live differently. I will have to learn how to change the habits of a lifetime. This is hard.
How hard? This involves my giving up modern food. All processed food as a start. All grains and all dairy too. It means that I have instead to eat what people did in our hunter gatherer period. I also have to do many other things to get a better fit with my deep biology. Sleep more. Be outside more. Walk more. Have a mission in life that is bigger than me and so on - I will be posting tons on this later.
So here is the point. I know this. You can know it too. You know that when you ski you must lean down the hill. But knowing and doing are 2 different things. Changing the habits of a lifetime is very very very hard. Doing something that NONE of your peers are doing is as hard. This is the landscape of real change - being out of step with the mainstream - not knowing what to do - being pulled back all the time by your old habits.
Like Beowulf and Grendel - you have to have the energy to kill the old inner you.
But if you have asked the right question, we can wrestle with it. You can feel enough to kill off the old you who will fight to keep you stuck.
Thought is not enough. You must have emotional power that comes from how you feel about a situation. Here is my feeling test about my health that is raised by the Question I posed.
- Do I want to become feeble at 65? What will this mean to my family? No I don't want that - I would feel as if I betrayed them because I know what I know now - that had the choice and chose pizza over them
- Can I afford to be feeble? I worry about my savings and if I will have enough - can I afford to be feeble? I don't have the money and I doubt the state will have it either - I will be fucked if I stay as I am.
- How do I feel now? How do I look? How capable am I now? Would I like to feel, look and be better soon? Of course I want to look and feel beter - I have noticed how weak and inflexible I am and wish I was fitter.
- I know I am weak of will and that changing all these things will be hard - so what feedback and what support can I tap into to help me? I know I cannot do this on my own? In the few times I have made other major changes, it was the support I had that made all the difference - I know that I am weak!
- Are there good tips that I can use to help me? I need reinforcement to get over the early hump - I know that other people's experience will help me
I have a rational argument but my feeling argument has more power over my behaviour - The Rational is the Volts - the Feeling is the Amps. It's the Feedback that encourages us and shows us the path:
- I have lost 15 pounds and most importantly my 6 months pregnant belly is nearly flat - this is very reinforcing
- I am never hungry - and the signal that I get when I am full kicks in immediately - that helps me not overeat.
- When I fall off the wagon and have bread and cheese I feel like shit - not guilty I l feel bloated and sick
- I look forward to my walks with the dogs - I want to do it more than they do now - it helps me think and do better work too
- My wife is completely onside and my friends who have not seen me in some time comment on how well I am - important people are encouraging me
So I could not have a plan from the question but the question gets at the heart of the matter FOR ME.
We all have to feel our way into change. The mind is not enough. The body has to power us into the new. We have to be able to hear what our body says. We have to be like kids again and play our way into the future.
So what is the biggest lesson of all?
We come back to Johnnie's key lesson. We have to calm the mind so that we can hear the rest of the conversation in our body. Our mind can show the way but the getting there is all bout the rest of us. This goes for teams too. If we can create enough personal trust we can access the Whole Mind of the group. THEN we can win any game set for us.
Your work and mine is to put him in his place - shut him up - so that we can hear the full you and me.
The Sleeper must awake