Non-judgmental awareness

How can the right brain function without being judgmental?
There's a difference between being discerning and judgmental. We can tell the difference between two things without making one of them wrong, worse or rejected. The right brain sees both sides of an issue, the value in the contrasting conditions and the purpose in the differences. It discerns the difference without excluding parts of the whole system.

How can both sides be good when one side is obviously bad?
Things seem really bad to the left brain because it deals with facts objectively. Things are in process, parts of wholes or essential to outcomes from the right brain's perspective. Good comes from bad or is the other side of the good face on the coin. It takes both good and bad to recognize good, appreciate good, or value the effort to make more good happen. See that calls for reading between the lines, inferring a depth of insight or relying on subjective awareness.

What effects does non-judgmental awareness have on situations?
It can send a message to accept what's happened and let go of guilt about it. It can put people's minds at ease by seeing the good that comes out of the bad. Non-judgmental awareness can give people permission to follow their intuition and seek the guidance of their right brain also.

How can we change from being extremely judgmental to non-judgmental?
We're naturally very judgmental, intolerant and opinionated against something that frightens us. We perceive it as dangerous in any number of ways: making us look bad, tempting us to indulge a dark urge, inviting us to join in wicked intentions or setting us up to lose self-respect and others' admiration. We become non-judgmental by handling the danger in some other way: healthy boundaries, increased self-confidence, freedom from needing other's approval, reliance on inner guidance or insights into the evidence of apparent danger.

Do non-judgmental people revert to being judgmental?
Yes indeed! Anytime we feel startled, threatened or trapped, our judgmental cognitive resources get activated. There's no time to meditate on the situation, reflect on what we're being shown or regard the details from a detached perspective. We are hard wired to immediately react to "stranger danger" and abandon our non-judgmental awareness for the time being.

What could be done to nurture more people's non-judgmental awareness?
It helps to anticipate what will happen as a fascinating mystery or unexpected outcome, rather than a foregone conclusion. Sometimes we can create a supportive context by wondering "how this is good?" rather than "is it good? or "how good is it?". Non-judgmental awareness is also nurtured by others' immersive innocence, where the left brain is suspending it's judgment to receive what it needs from the right brain.


Immersive innocence

What is immersive innocence?
It's an experience of time standing still and the Now Moment dominating our experience. The present seems real while the past and future appear illusory. We feel more aware and fully present when immersed in this timeless moment. We are free of thinking ahead or regretting the past. We are innocently enjoying our being here now.

What does the left brain do when we're immersed in innocence?
The left brain suspends judgment. It presumes it "does not know" what this is, what to do right now or what to make of what just happened. It operates with "a beginner's mind" that cannot jump to conclusions since this situation is the first time this has been faced.

How does the right brain function when we're immersed in innocence?
The right brain comes up with the right thing to say, see or do in this unique situation. It has access to a perfect sense of balance, timing and proportion of different efforts. It is naturally creative and free of getting trapped by constraints, problems or limitations. It comes up with inspirations, imaginative alternatives and intuitive guidance without taxing effort.

How does the limbic system feel when we're immersed in innocence?
It feels blessed by what is being received and grateful beyond measure. It feels fascinated and enchanted by the unfolding mysterious process. It feels relieved and stress-free for things to be handled this easily. It feels glad to be alive and in love with what's happening right now.


Using our right brains

Are our left and brain brains designed to collaborate?
Yes indeed. Their different functions can be very complementary. The left can formulate questions while the right brain comes up with answers. The left brain can review all the facts and the right brain can deliver a new way to see everything.

Why is right-brained functionality such a rarity in most people?
We live in a highly technological, progress-oriented time in history. Our complex and hurried situations demand tremendous amounts of analytical reasoning. We are under constant pressure to explain, figure out, think ahead and justify our actions. We live in danger of forgetting, falling behind, overlooking essentials and missing cues. We remain on high alert to react to external evidence. That's a job our left brains do best.

What cultural shift could nurture more right brain functionality?
A transition from valuing "timeouts" to relying on "time-ins" would bring out more right brain processing. Living in serene acceptance until inspired to take action would limit the left brain to handling the logistics when we felt motivated to do something in the moment. Rather than maintain high levels of frenzy with occasional timeouts, we could enjoy occasional moments of frenzy amidst long stretches of immersive innocence. This is a natural condition of people who grow their own food with pedestrian lifestyles within village communities.

What personal practices could induce collaborations between our left and right brains?
Expecting to be taught by a inner teacher yields that outcome. The left brain is humbled into being given what it needs to know, rather than being too smart for its own good. Problems with it jumping to conclusions or compartmentalizing complexity would all vanish. Reflective practice also induces this collaboration. The left brain wonders about the significance of incidents, the lessons in recent setbacks or the value in troubling changes. The right brain brings insights, added perspectives and creative alternatives to the convergent, literal and fear-based thinking done by the left brain.


Beyond limbic hijackings

What are limbic hijackings?
Outbursts, tantrums, hissy fits, hysterics, infatuations, compulsions, urges, going ballistic, losing our cool, acting out, going off on someone, experiencing a meltdown

Why are they called "limbic hijackings?
The left brain of our prefrontal or neocortex functions rationally. This portion of our brain relies on linear thinking to handle situations reasonably. It's abilities are somewhat measured by conventional IQ tests of intelligence. The limbic system sits under the neocortex. It functions emotionally and irrationally. When it handles a situation, the left brain experiences getting hijacked, possessed and contradicted. Irrationality overtakes rationality. Emotionality supersedes practical thinking.

What are the consequences of limbic hijackings?
They sicken our bodies and damage our health. They eliminate learning from our experiences and arrest our development. They trash our relationships and create enduring conflicts. They maintain negative states of mind and unproductive efforts.

Why are limbic hijackings so common?
They appear to be internalized success routines. I recently wrote about this aspect of them as interpersonal meltdowns.

Why is the limbic system so dysfunctional?
The limbic system is only problematic when opposed by the left brain of the neocortex. The right brain induces congruent feelings in the limbic brain:
  • calm, serenity, peace of mind
  • joy, upliftment, ecstasy
  • satisfaction, purpose, fulfillment
  • delight, enchantment, fascination
How does the right brain bring out a congruent experience with the limbic brain?
The right brain is non-linear, non-dualistic, and non-judgmental. It functions holistically, imaginatively and intuitively. Rather than opposing the irrational limbic system, it values, utilizes and includes it. The right brain and limbic system form a winning combination, a synergistic pair, that brings out the best in both.

How can we become more right brained?
By using the left brain to ask questions instead of handling the answers. By expecting a Q&A conversation in our minds, instead of long trains of thought. By changing approaches whenever our limbic system does not feel good and our left brain is thinking too much.

What are the consequences of limbic congruence?
Improved health and natural healing. Spontaneous learning from everything that happens in our experience. Fulfilling relationships and mutual nurturing. Positive states of mind and inspired conduct.


I think I can

When I was a young boy, one of my favorite stories was "The Little Engine That Could". The determined, little steam engine got up the steep hill by repeating "I think I can, I think I can" instead of listening to self-defeating thoughts. This proved to be one of the sources of my optimism and sense of adventure throughout my life. There have been numerous successes where I started out needing to "fake it until I make it". Yet now that I have more insight to reflect upon this, I see more to the dynamics involved than "thinking I can".

Most of us have experiences where we did not succeed. "Faking it until we make it" did not work like it was supposed to. In those situations, we know that we're a fake. The thoughts we attract avoid disrupting or contradicting what we know. We may suddenly think "I can do this" when subconsciously we know we'll be shown up as a fake. We may think "I'll succeed if I try hard enough" and end up giving up because no amount of trying disproves our premise of "I can't". We might also think we can overcome the obstacles and show others they are wrong about us, only to discover our reputation is "right on".

We also have experiences where we do succeed at 'faking it until we make it". In those situations we know we will succeed before we do. The thoughts we attract avoid contradicting our conviction about our imminent success. We will think "I can do this" and subconsciously know we're right. We may think "I'll succeed if I try hard enough" and sure enough, we do. We may think we can overcome obstacles and live up to our well-deserved reputation as someone who succeeds at what we set out to do.

There's another facet to succeeding by knowing "it's a can-do" that involves other people. If we are doing something for them, instead of ourselves, what they know can overrule what we know. If they know that "nothing works out for me like it should" while we know "we can do this and succeed", their tale of woe can win. However if they know we will succeed and we know that too, the success will come more easily than usual. Both of us will attract thoughts about what to do, how and when to do it. Moods, motivations and energy levels will show up as a vibrational match.

When we want to change "knowing we're a fake" to "knowing we will succeed", we may need a life changing incident. Mere thinking, affirmations and visualizations are "after the fact" -- attracted by what we know to be the fact. They are kept powerless from changing what we know. They seem convincing and apparently effective until proven to have no effect on what we continue to know is always and escapably true.

The alternative is to "not know" what the facts are. By returning to innocence, wonder and curiosity, there are no known facts to run the show. We can use our "beginner's mind" to start afresh. To overrule our past history, it usually helps to thoroughly capture the present situation as unfamiliar in so many different ways. We need to think 'this is different from last time" rather than "I think I can". If we think with questions like "I wonder how this will turn out", we mess up the known answers for "how it always turns out". We're free to be how we want to be.


Life changing incidents

Yesterday I drove a neighbor to her eye doctor appointment and reread "As a Man Thinketh" in the waiting room. The premise of that classic, little book is that "we attract into our lives what we think about, think of ourselves and think is true". As I've explored the Law of Attraction recently with those I'm mentoring, I've come to a slightly different understanding. It seems more accurate to me to say "we attract what we know". What we attract includes all those thoughts that come to mind. That gives the appearance of attracting what we think when we disregard where thoughts come from.

Once we know we can succeed at something, thoughts come to mind, opportunities show up in our world and we act accordingly. We make ourselves right and prove what we already know. We show ourselves and our world that we can succeed at this. We may also do the opposite by knowing we cannot succeed at this. We'll have thoughts of trying to succeed, justifying our failures, and changing how we vainly attempt at succeeding. We'll attract opportunities to go through the motions without a successful result while making a show of futile attempts. Again we prove what we know to be true. We are experiencing "life maintaining incidents".

Occasionally we experience "life changing incidents". What happened to us moves us at a very deep level. We change what we know "always and never happens" to us. We get a different belief about what we can and cannot succeed at doing. We see situations with different convictions, assumptions and expectations. We experience different thoughts coming to mind, feelings coming to our body and scenarios coming to our imagination.

Once we know this new possibility is true for us, we resume "life maintaining incidents". We prove to ourselves that this new deal is real. We convict ourselves with this new "fact of life". We experience how something always or never happens in light of this new certainty. We act accordingly and maintain what comes to mind, body and imagination.


Talents as truth revealed

Amidst all the clutter of psychological pain and personal histories that obscure under-developed abilities, discerning someone's hidden talents calls for great pattern-recognition abilities. Recognizing a hidden talent is a lot like playing "Where's Waldo? or finding the obscure animals in the bushes of an illustrated children's book. The distractions people dish out can be overwhelming and very misleading. The majority of the superficial evidence usually says there is:
  • "no talent hiding in what you're seeing"
  • "nothing here to develop"
  • "no way this person will become more resourceful"
The more talents I successfully recognize, the more I realize they were there all along. The talents merely needed someone to see them clearly and act as if they are real. These talents are the truth of the person being revealed to anyone who seeks another's authenticity. Finding this truth frees me of their dramatic distractions and frees them of their chronic limitations. Discovering this truth is a rewarding experience for both of us.

When we watch someone argue for their limitations, we can get a sense of their truth. If it seems like they're lying, faking it or covering up the truth. That feeling I get of being misled makes me curious about what will soon be revealed. I feel like a detective on the prowl for clues with my wonder/fascination dial set on "full power". I watch with intense powers of observation for what will be leaked, hinted about or suggested indirectly.

When I suggest to someone they have a hidden talent, I usually avoid a direct confrontation. Rather I pose a scenario, wonder out loud about a possibility or pose a choice that has been overlooked. When that someone realizes the talent I suspected was there all along, she or he says things like:
  • I've had glimpses of being into this all my life but I've disregarded it to deal with other obligations
  • I really do have a natural fascination and ability to contribute in this way
  • Now that I see it, I cannot stop thinking about developing this talent in me
  • No wonder I keep having dreams and running into coincidences that call my attention to this talent
When reflections like those get made, I know the truth of their talent has been revealed. We're on the right track and barking up the right tree. The mystery of "what the talent is?" has been solved. Now the mystery of "how it will develop fully and make a difference? can be explored.


Becoming vastly allowing

When we are aware that nothing need to be different than it is, we attract what we want at the highest level. Said another way, when we are vastly allowing, we are in the clear for the good stuff to appear.

When we are vastly allowing, we see how everything is changing. Nothing can remain the same, so whatever is so right now will be different sometime soon. By forgiving others for what happened, we are free to move on. By accepting what was unacceptable, we attract better opportunities. By including what was rejected, we find other dimensions to value, utilize or appreciate.

When things stay unfortunately the same, there is some interference to the changing nature of life. What we resist persists. What we oppose shows us opposition, not permission or validation. Life seems to be a mirror of the face we show it. If we face life with negation, it negates our desires, ambitions and intentions. If we show the world how it's wrong, we will be wronged by it.

This "returning of our outlook" creates a dilemma at first. The idea of acceptance seems to ask us to become doormats that get stepped on by others' wicked intentions. Taken at face value, becoming vastly allowing seems to suggest doing nothing about abuse, toxic behaviors, violations of rights or damaging conduct. There appears to be no way to take a stand against wrong doing without make it worse or more persistent.

When we transcend this dilemma, we practice non-dual awareness. We say "yes" to "yes AND no". We have no problem with having problems AND solutions. We have no resistance to allowing AND disallowing. We accommodate the accommodating AND the unaccommodating facets of our situation.

When taken as intended, becoming vastly allowing merely disrupts our reacting to appearances and acting based on our fears. We do nothing that would escalate, antagonize or perpetuate adversity. Rather we practice non-resistance that disturbs the cycle of abuse and deprives the vengeance of a target. We give permission to the ongoing change processes in the midst of bringing on different experiences. We foresee what will come about by allowing realizations to develop, outlooks to evolve and determination to lose heart.


Wanting the problem

Most of the time, everyone says "I want a solution to my problem". Yet, unaware to ourselves, we are acting as if we want our problem to persist. We contradict our espoused intentions with our urgent conduct. We feel compelled to feed the problem by reasons we don't understand and cannot articulate. To others, it appears we cannot handle the solution, are afraid of better opportunities, or sabotage what's in our best interests. When I'm mentoring entrepreneurs, I get into the middle of this dynamic every week. Here's four of the possibilities I look for:
  • Secondary gain: Sometimes the so-called problem is really a "solution in use". We want the problem because it's working for us, proving effective in our situation and making a difference we really appreciate. The solution we're supposed to desire would cause more problems, seem ineffective and undermine what's going our way. We steer clear of a change in order to maintain the good we've already got going.
  • Captivating beliefs: We can be spellbound by others' belief systems, values and priorities. We think contrary alternatives are wrong, bad or stupid. We believe in our suffering, sacrifice and compromises. We argue for our limitations and avoid more freedom from those influential people. We take pride in our loyalty, dedication and persistence in the relationships. We have been taken prisoner by the preconceptions of others individuals.
  • Nightmare circuits: Sometimes we ask for trouble and get it. We act like our own worst enemy by negating the opposite of our one-sided stance. Our shadow haunts us with what we're missing, excluding or denigrating. Our fears come true as we fight or take flight from a potential ally, resource or opportunity. We sow bad seeds and reap what we deserve as it comes back around.
  • Failures of imagination: We often shut down our right-brain creativity and rely excessively on our left-brain rationality. We deal exclusively with "what-is" answers and disregard "what-if" questions. We know too much already and lack wonder, fascination and curiosity. We use our imaginations to entertain paranoid delusions instead of playing our scenarios of satisfaction, growth and contributions to others. Our decisions are foregone conclusions that justify our opinions and deprive us of creative alternatives.
It usually backfires to label the problem like this and tell someone "here is what's wrong with you". Rather, I look to see which of these (and other dynamics) appear to be functioning. I then begin to act as if the alternative is coming about right now. I function as a visionary leader who takes others into their future world. I see how the problem will evolve out of the misfortune by starting out "wanting the problem". If I resist the current dynamic, it persists. If I allow for the misfortune to work itself out as I trust the change process, the new dynamic comes into play on its own.


Trying to avoid the unavoidable

This has been a week in my world of "ask a simple question, get an elaborate answer". My asking "what's on your mind?" or "how are you feeling?" has brought on a barrage of insatiable longings. These conversations had the look of everyone "trying to avoid the unavoidable" and acting like the present moment is not here. Here's how you can join me in recognizing the pattern in your world.

Our fight/flight response handles troubles in our minds as well as in our environment. We try to take flight from unwanted emotions, thoughts or imagined scenarios. It feels like we are under siege. We're getting attacked or invaded by anger, paranoia, panic or neediness. We're feeling dreadful and anxious to get away from how awful it seems.

We usually don't succeed when we run our "avoidance pattern". We experience being haunted by the form of misery we were running away from in our minds. It chases after us, won't leave us alone or stop being mean. We're hopeful, desperate and insecure. Our premise is powerless and dependent on others to make changes. We have no "success pattern" that gets the unwanted invasion to back off, evolve or turn itself around. We're facing a different challenge from those interpersonal meltdowns spawned by our unconscious success routines.

When we're trying to escape how we're feeling, we assume our unwanted experience is really avoidable. We wouldn't try if we've decided that there was no escape. We know what we're thinking, feeling and imagining that has to change. We don't see where all that comes from that is not going to change. We're in no position to judge whether or not our troubles are avoidable.

We don't see how our minds are playing tricks on us. We're under the impression that our painful past is here now. We're back in time as if no time has passed. We're living in our past while the present seems like the same old story. While we maintain this painful premise, the experience we're creating for ourselves is unavoidable. We can try to avoid it but not succeed. What we resist will persist.

None of these troubles can get to us in the present moment. The here and now calls for reality checks to discover the past is not here, not now. The present moment does not include the ways our minds play tricks on us. The now moment features countless questions to consider:
  • What do I want to pay attention to in particular right now?
  • What is the most important decision for me to work on at this time?
  • What do I need more information about before jumping to any conclusions?
  • What deserves my appreciation right now for going well, being valuable to me or making a delightful difference?
  • What can be seen differently by me from how it first appeared (as a problem, threat, obstacle, invasion, unchanging thing, etc)?
  • What difference do I want to make in this situation with the resources I have at my disposal right now?
  • What outcome do I want to imagine for this changing circumstance?
When we engage ourselves in the present moment with questions like these, our past is put in its proper place. The now becomes "what is" and the past becomes "so what". We are no longer tricked by our minds to replay the same old story. We stop oscillating between flight and fight We have changed our premise to be powerful in this moment. We are in command of how we see, think and choose right now. We feel differently about ourselves, our options and our future. We change what was unavoidable and no longer need to avoid it. Imagine that!


Mentoring a procrastinator

Last week, the issue of procrastination came up while I was mentoring an entrepreneur. I know from years of college teaching that the problem does not go away by regarding procrastination as a problem. I've learned that most procrastinators are also perfectionists. They've endured too much criticism from authority figures and recoil from more censure. They are unsure of themselves and incapable of judging what is good enough in their own estimation. They are "avoiding the unavoidable" experiences of getting more criticism by postponing the work and insisting on their pursuit of perfection.

Procrastination is a set-up to perpetuate the problem. The lack of timely completions invites reactions which verify the continued need for the person to procrastinate. Procrastinators are inside a belief system which holds them prisoner. There's no escape whenever their mentor, manager or mate takes the problem literally.

One way to disrupt the belief system wonders out loud about the real nature of the situation their belief consistently creates. Belief systems are designed to cope with being told to stop by opponents, controlled by authorities and contradicted by experts. They lose their persistence in the face of another's fascination, uncertainty and possibilities. Here's some of how situations producing some procrastination fascinate me:

  • I wonder if this situation calls for more compliance as if the right approach has already been figured out? I wonder the situation actually calls for more permission to explore different approaches as if the right approach is getting figured out right now?
  • I wonder if the situation is the result of too much deadline pressure and as if human beings are machines? I wonder if the situation might be alleviated with more sensitivity to timing that enters the picture when we are growing hidden talents?
  • I wonder if this needs to be handled as someone's factory-like performance, production of outputs and delivery of what's expected? I wonder if it makes more sense to handle this as a side effect of the implied context, framing of the symptoms and premises for making a diagnosis?
  • I wonder if everyone involved can be plotted on a bell curve with standard deviations of a single norm? I wonder if everyone would feel more understood as uniquely deviant, scattered in the long tail of an asymptotic curve?
  • I wonder if the people really need "stop messages" to halt their efforts, kill their motivation and stifle their creativity? I wonder what will happen by giving them "go messages" to persist in their endeavors and realize the results of their efforts?
When I am full of wonder like this, I am empty of controlling others. They become full of possibilities they had not considered and I continue to be fascinated. It pays to play around like this.


Questioning gameplay learning

Last week Karl Kapp asked "are we nearing entrance to the Matrix?" That question stayed in the back of mind since then. I've wondered if our sense of the Matrix construct connects to Marshall McLuhan's Tetrad of Media effects involving different facets of current and previous technologies. Here are the questions that have evolved in my reflecting on the possibility of there "being no spoon" in our sense of our minds creating our experiences:

Do you think we have an instinct for learning by playing around? When kids get excited by their teacher making a game out of the next thing to learn, is their teacher connecting with a primal urge in each of us? When anyone gets hooked on playing a game so intently that s/he loses track of time, does that demonstrate a powerful appetite getting fed? Are we hard-wired to succeed when faced with a game-like challenge?

Do our minds getting oriented faster when a situation seems like a game, than when it seems like instruction, assignments or procedural compliance? Are our minds pre-disposed to figure out what to do next when there are rules to play by, levels to advance to and ways to improve our score?

When we're playing games, are we extending our five senses, physical abilities or cognitive prowess? Does game playing overcome our human limitations in some way that we value? Are we leveraging our natural inclinations to explore, conquer, learn and accomplish progress -- by immersing ourselves in game-like situations? Do games function in some way like tools, technologies and vehicles that make it possible for us to be stronger, faster and more aware than we can be on our own?

Can our obsession with the benefits of gaming go overboard? Can the ways our abilities get extended by games become over-extended? Are facets of gaming starting to backfire and do more harm than good? Are you seeing signs of someone's "devotion to game playing" producing patterns of cynicism, social isolation or hostile interactions?

Can games be designed by anyone? Can game-design be liberated from short-tail, top-down, corporate game factories? Can the tools to create new games be moved to desktops and online clients like print publishing, photo retouching, video editing, and musical production? Can games get created collaboratively like wiki spaces, social-networking sites and open source software development?

Are game titles sold by retailers waning? Does the game distributors' competition for shelf space, magazine mentions and competitive ratings -- appear to be on the way out? Is our culture outgrowing blockbuster hits, brand names and game sequels like it has with so many other forms of media?

As we become more accustomed to constantly playing games, learning from game-play and creating our own games, will life seem different to us? Are we changing our minds about what seems real, authentic, valuable and worthy of our attention. Are we morphing into avatars clothed in meat suits, doing time in game called mortality? Is the subtext of playing in imaginary worlds giving us a sense of space-time as a cyberspace? Are we reverting to the archaic worldview that perceived the now moment as sacred and progress as profane?


Doing the right thing

You may already know the distinction between "doing the thing right" and "doing the right thing". We get things done right with the application of the right method, technique or procedure. It usually take practice to get it right. We discover how we are messing it up, assuming incorrectly or skipping a step in the process of trying to get it right. Doing things right can be done by our left brains' lines of reasoning.

Our left brain, linear thinking cannot come up with the right thing to do. There are too many considerations, consequences and complications involved in the choice. There's no way to know the right proportion of something, right balance between two things, right sequence for a series of steps, right timing for the first move and right combination of efforts to achieve the desired repercussions. If we consider the "butterfly effect" from chaos theory, everything everywhere is implicated in our choice of what, how and when to do something. It's not reasonable or limited in scope.

Doing the right thing is a hidden talent for most of us. It would dawn on our minds from the collective unconscious accessed by our right brains. It takes not knowing so as to be open to receiving inspirations. It involves enough humility to go against our logical reasoning, past experiences and fear-based premises. The right thing to do often goes out on a limb, defies consensual expectations and challenges our own preconceptions.

When we've cultivated other hidden talents, we are much more amenable the challenges of doing the right thing. We've become accustomed to the use of our right brains. We've got experience with getting inspirations from the collective unconscious. We're familiar with "doing our own thing" in spite of what others think. We're hooked on the inner satisfactions of following our inner guidance.

Imagine if everyone had cultivated their talent for doing the right thing. Every problem we've caused ourselves would get resolved. Every trouble-spot on the planet would be supplied with the right solutions. Every pending environmental crisis would be dissipated and future ones prevented. The issues we blog about to get more attention paid particular problem areas would be widely recognized and handled superbly.


Where do our talents get hidden?

The different kinds of dreams, we have each night, give us clues about where our hidden talents might be found. Our dreams show us different possibilities than we've been thinking about people in our lives and the situations were facing. We don't actually know where our dreams come from or how we come up with that stuff. Dreams arise from facets of our unconscious minds that are in us but beyond our conscious awareness.

Most of our dreams deal with small, unresolved issues in our personal lives. They often appear to compensate for our one-sided experiences. They may inflate our low estimation of ourselves or deflate our exaggerated self-confidence. If we're wallowing in self-pity, we might have a rescue-fantasy or wish-fulfillment dream. If we're defending one right answer, we may have a nightmare to dismantle our arrogance and reveal our underlying fears. Our small dreams deal with our unmet need to depend on others, our unresolved power-identity with parental authority figures and changing identity though our personal history. Hidden talents remain out-of-sight in these nightly dramas that arise from our "personal unconscious".

Occasionally we will have a "big dream" with captivating symbolism and unforgettable significance. These dreams speak to what we're capable of and called to do. They reveal what will give us a deep sense of purpose, destiny and value congruence. They show us we have hidden talents to develop. These dreams give us symbolism of having a soul that knows us to be one-of-a-kind. We're attracted to this soul-mate, dream character who appears as our perfect "hottie". We learn from him/her how we've got a part to play and a contribution to make with this uniqueness found within our unconscious minds. Our motivation to pursue this is intoxicating love, not fear, guilt or social obligations. We're seen as serving a whole situation with what we have in us. Our talents appear in the context of a "collective unconscious" with archetypal imagery and patterns.

Both kinds of dreams play a part in getting talents to come out of hiding. The dramas in our small dreams show us how we've internalized opposition to be becoming more talented. Our needs to fit in, play along and avoid getting ostracized -- regard our hidden talents as threats. We're motivated by fear to keep our talents hidden. Any development toward greater uniqueness could amount to been seen as a misfit, loser or outsider. While we're still desperately seeking people to depend upon and ways to hold our own around powerful rivals, hidden talents are a hot button issue.

When a big dream has revealed the hidden talent to develop, the small dreams define the challenge accurately. The process involves several changes in how we see ourselves and our lives. We realize:
  • we are the ones to establish our self-respect and others will really respect us only after we respect ourselves
  • we are the one person we can really depend upon and we're better off not trying to depend on others like we did as kids
  • we give ourselves authentic power by choosing to feel powerful, rather than thinking we have more power by upstaging, embarrassing or defeating others
  • we get to say "who we really are" and "what our intentions are", rather than being tossed around by others' opinions and conjectures
  • we are better off being unique and called to a purpose found within, rather than appeasing others who are rarely satisfied with our conduct
  • we have different values to enact which are deeply fulfilling, unlike the ways we agree, collude or appease other's positional stances
  • we have the right stuff in us to create gifts for this world that become very satisfying experiences for ourselves, as we bring our hidden talents to fruition
Once we come to these realizations, our inner hottie is thrilled with us. The situations in our dreams have happy endings. We're shown how we've "got it together" at last and we're free to be true to ourselves.


Experiencing total solutions

Talent development systems - Part five
The final episode in the cultivation of hidden talents - imagined as a responsive system

When a belief system incorporates numerous ways to "hold it's horses", the runaway closed circuit becomes a total solution. The system works for the people inside and outside of the boundaries. The system "makes it our business" to serve everyone in some way instead of insisting "it's none of our business". It responds to requests and complaints in ways that enrich everyone involved. It has uses for every experience within the context of the system and becomes more useful as it evolves.

When talent development is served by a total solution, people with hidden talents experience getting validated, supported, understood and challenged. Those working for the system as mentors, managers and HR staff also gain self respect, significant value and expanded horizons to explore. The system itself becomes more responsive to breakdowns and its own excesses.

Any total solution is designed to give the user a valuable experience at every turn. Rather than congratulate itself for it's consistency, the system validates the user for providing some deviance. The users' resistance is taken as a form of cooperation. Their defiance is a welcome sight and taken constructively. The users' problems are "no problem" for the total solution. The stability of the system depends on the negative feedback from users to become responsive to changing situations.

Total solutions function as discovery systems. They learn as they go from what happens to the system in its context. The system becomes more responsive and resilient as it becomes more capable of providing solutions to new deviance. The system is inherently curious about what is changing and formulating better questions as it explores new possibilities. The system outgrows reflexive thinking as it reflects more on what it has discovered.

Total solutions support acts of generosity. The practice of "gift economies", "giver's gain" and "pay it forward" principles get rewarded. The system can value outsider contributions because it is self-regulating and open to contrary inputs. The system benefits from what it gives to others because it's set up for it to come back around. Processes are reciprocal like mentoring on the take. The system guards against "abusing the user", "exploiting volunteers" or "punishing initiative". Contributions from everyone involved flourish like they do in democratized, long tail markets.

Total solutions deploy "non-dual awareness" of people and processes. Employees are seen as internal customers to be well-served, as well as essential components to the delivery of reliable services. Customers are perceived as external employees who sell the system to others, as well as users of what the system delivers. The system is both stable and evolving. The value provided, learning realized and motivations engaged are both extrinsic and intrinsic. The meaning of the experiences in the system are both explicit and inferred.

Total solutions evolve from partial solutions. Belief systems become total solutions as they incorporate more logic switches and negative feedback subroutines. The system becomes more complex by responding to deviance with the intention better serve itself and others. As people become more talented in their lives, the system becomes more talented in cultivating hidden talents in everyone involved.


Hold your horses

Talent development systems - Part four
A continuing series on how the cultivation of hidden talents can be imagined as a responsive system

Closed systems are runaway circuits with no capability to slow down or stop themselves. They are totally sold on what they do. They don't listen to reason, moderation or feedback. When subroutines are added to a runaway circuit, all that changes. The closed system is now an open system. The double-loop circuitry questions the ongoing continuity, consistency and commitment. By considering "how much is too much" and "when is it time for counter-balancing this?" the system can slow down and switch itself off into a subroutine. A" logic switch" is introduced into the "over-determined strategic loop". The system now has a choice to do more or less of it's reliable service.

Closed systems are called "positive feedback systems" because every node calls for more of the next thing. The mathematical formula to equate the two nodes can be graphed. The slope on the curve is positive: more x produces more y; more y comes from more x. More hidden talent results in more system responses. Negative feedback has an inverse relationship between the nodes: more x produces less y; more y comes from less x. More hidden talent yields fewer system responses.

Closed systems are prone to system crashes because of their singular obsessions with positive feedback. They need subroutines that contradict the system's underlying belief. By going against the premise of every step in the closed circuit, stability is introduced into the system. It is characterized as robust and resilient due to the incorporation of a negative feedback subsystem. The logic switch can go for more or less, go further or stop advancing, continue or sidetrack the progress.

A talent development system could get carried away with itself in any of these ways:
  • Too many identified talents to develop at once
  • Too many options for how to get experience with each new talent
  • Too many issues to consider when planning how to develop a latent talent
  • Too much feedback to process after giving a new talent a try
  • Too many problems resulting from the use of an underdeveloped talent
  • Too frequent occasions to focus on talent development instead of other objectives
  • Too much peer or management pressure to cultivate hidden talents
  • Too much analyzing of past attempts which inhibit further experiments
  • Too many reckless explorations in need of clean-up and rework
  • Too complicated an approach for casual developers of hidden talents to use
If these excess go unchecked, the talent development system will simply be abandoned. It won't appear useful to the users, so it won't get used by them. Thus, the user's experience in the system is a leading indicator of where error checking needs to be inserted. Questions need to be asked at junctures where the user may be having a dysfunctional experience. As I reviewed in preventing system crashes, the system needs to be on the lookout for users who are feeling disoriented, inhibited, defeated or overzealous. The early warning signs need to be recognized and utilized to interrupt the momentum of the closed system..

These error-checking switches make it the system design's responsibility to be useful in the eyes of the user. This is a customer-service system, not a content delivery system. There is no guilt trip put on the user who finds the system useless. The system corrects itself, rather than fixing the user. A subroutine is switched into where the user gets help while taking time out from the closed loop. The system offers solutions for developing talents and for breakdowns in progress.


Inside a belief system

Talent development systems - Part three
A continuing series on how the cultivation of hidden talents can be imagined as a responsive system

The delivery of any consistent service, value or experience is built around a closed system. There is a single loop that congratulates itself for doing what it's designed to do. The positive feedback produced by the system indicates it's always time for more of the same components, sequence and outputs. The underlying premise goes unquestioned. The system cannot change its own rules. There is no choice but to try harder, maintaining the success pattern as it insists on persisting.

Closed systems are belief systems. They manufacture self-confirming evidence of the underlying belief. They create experiences for everyone engaged in the system of how the belief is true, factual and unavoidable. The belief is ubiquitous and taken for granted. It's assumption "goes without saying" and "seems perfectly reasonable" to the insiders of the system.

Any functional talent development system operates a closed system. It believes without question that everyone has hidden talents to cultivate. It does not challenge this presupposition or test this hypothesis. It assumes hidden talent is true and proceeds from that belief. It goes round in circles of the basis of developing hidden talents. Here's one cycle that occurs in someone's mind, that can be externalized into conversations with others:
  1. Formulating hypotheses: What if you have many hidden talents to develop? What if you've already developed some hidden potentials and can replicate that success? What if your hidden talents are like seeds that need time to grow and that cannot be hurried? What if you've already had a glimmer of the next talent to develop and have experienced some encouragement to proceed in this direction? What if the discouragement you've received has nothing to do with developing your talent, only with other's needs to be in control or to avoid feeling envious of you?
  2. Strategyzing approaches: How will you verify that this possible talent is more than a passing fancy for you? How will you discover what comes naturally to you when you act as if you have this talent? How will you get practice exercising this latent ability to strengthen and refine it? How will you gain confidence in this potential in order to apply it more often? How will you recognize opportunities to utilize this talent before it's recognized by others as one of your assets?
  3. Biasing interactions: How was that recent conversation proof that you've got this talent in you? How is the feedback you've received confirming your suspicion about this new capability? How are the differences between you and them providing evidence of your hidden talent coming to fruition? How is the impact you're having on the situation showing your that this possibility is really worth developing further? How are those relationships, affected by this new trait of yours, revealing how it's valuable to others for you to act this way?
  4. Evaluating outcomes: How much confidence have you gained in this new talent? How much progress have you made in cultivating this ability? How much have you refined this potential in you to be valuable, effective and useful in situations? How have you gained practice at using this trait and discovered more depth to its possibility? How have you changed your initial ideas about this talent to appreciate it with more insight, complexity and fascination?
As this closed loop cycles around, new hypotheses will be generated. There will be incremental (first order) changes as the hidden talents get cultivated in steps and stages. The system can only deliver more of the same validation, encouragement and insistence. It maintains its belief in the development of talent.


Capturing the complexity

Talent development systems - Part two
A continuing series on how the cultivation of hidden talents can be imagined as a responsive system

When we design any system, we are modeling several other processes. A systems analysis captures how things happen prior to creating a system to facilitate those events. The staggering complexity of the world needs to be simplified to create a viable system design. The success of a system depends on how the complexity gets captured.

Talent development processes can be modeled several different ways:
  • As occurring within the mind of the person who has the hidden talent and brings it to full realization with her/his personal motivation, curiosity, reflection, experiences, etc.
  • As occurring between the individual and his/her context which includes opportunities to explore the possible new talent, pressures to cultivate new capabilities, etc.
  • As occurring between people such as a mentor & protege, coach & player, manager & direct report, leader & team members, etc
  • As occurring within a formal framework of procedures, events, meetings, progress reports, assessments, feedback sessions, etc.
Choosing between these alternatives becomes easier when we can anticipate the consequences of making each choice.

When we regard ongoing processes as objects, we make reductionistic errors. We mistake the continually changing dynamics for a constant condition. We assume the variability occurs within a predictable range. We become perfectionistic about how it should look and intolerant of countless human variations and situational influences. When creating a talent development system, we might cause ourselves problems by regarding talents as things rather than processes in flux. We would certainly do more harm than good by viewing the users as system components rather than unique, evolving individuals.

When we picture interactions between people, issues of power often disrupt the intended system. We want the people involved to coordinate, cooperate, communicate and collaborate with each other. We diagram them as equal nodes in cycles of ongoing interactions. We assume they can get along. Contrary to the design intentions, people get into power struggles if they are rivals, peers or equals. Likewise they fall into cycles of abuse, domination, or persecution if there is a significant power differential between them. When creating a talent development system, power conflicts could emerge between users of the system and the mentors involved, the managers overseeing the developments or other users of the system competing for particular job openings.

When we portray a process as sequential steps, we disregard the cyclical dynamics that may dominate a user's experience. The design assume that linear progress is being made as steps are taken toward a goal. However, the user feels drained by a vicious cycle of perpetual over-reactions to irritations. The users speak of "spinning our wheels", "here we go again" and "enduring pointless repetition". There's no escape from the cycle without dropping out of the system entirely. When creating a talent development system, vicious cycles could emerge in linear sequences to qualify for a position, to comply with requirements or to report on progress.

When we only capture the information flowing in one direction, we fail to incorporate all the informal feedback in the system. We know what the system is telling the users, but not what is being told to the system. The system delivers services without discovering what effects it's having, what to learn from the users' experiences or how to better respond to the situations created by the system design and user needs. When creating a talent development system, the users may talk among themselves about how useless, ineffective, bogus or unresponsive the system has become in their their experience.

As I considered all these issues, I concluded that the prototype talent development system would be least problematic with the first approach. By modeling the development of talent within the mind of a person, these pitfalls can be avoided. The user of the system is in control and maintaining his/her own talent development processes. The user asks for help and then externalizes the current issues for others to lend support. There is no dependency on, disruption by or struggle against a system that models the processes in a less effective way. The complexity is captured in a way that works.


Preventing system crashes

Talent development systems - Part one
For the past week, I've been designing a prototype talent development system. It will take the next several posts on this blog to sketch out the design of this possibility adequately. In the process of presenting this design, you'll see several principles of system design in use by me.

A system design responds to the context it which it will function. The system needs as much complexity as the context to respond to varied changes in and extended ranges of input. When a system lacks sufficient complexity (requisite variety) , it malfunctions, overloads itself or crashes. The system cannot handle what it is asked to do. The system design over-simplified the problem, made gross assumptions or overlooked significant issues.

This prototype design anticipates four potential system crashes spawned by dysfunctional experiences of the system users:
  • Disoriented system users: feeling lost, overwhelmed by too many options, confused by what is expected of them, unfamiliar with the procedural steps, expecting something very different than this, stressed out by this imposition on them, conflicted about seeing this through, becoming suspicious of the value proposition, regressing into childish behaviors
  • Inhibited system users: trapped in the idea stage, incapable of follow through, all talk and no show, self-sabotaging their success, missing the milestones, stuck in the starting blocks, in no shape to shape up, going nowhere quickly
  • Defeated system users: derailed by the adversity, shot down by friendly fire, disheartened by too many obstacles, turning opportunities into unwelcome threats, voicing their "customer complaints", reduced to "fight or flight" mode, put on the defensive
  • Over-zealous system users: gone overboard, addicted to the system, compulsively doing more immediately, losing sight of the mission, fallen for excessive devotion, tactically fixated, possessed by the urge to try harder, going to a reckless extreme
Robust system designs incorporate added functionality to safe guard against system crashes. The incoming problem is "no problem" because a solution is already designed into the system. The negative experience of the user is transformed into feeling respected, included, understood and well-served. This often yields some fallout like more buy-in, deeper commitment, and better buzz. This prototype design handles the negative user experiences as follows:
  • Disoriented system users enter a "help subsystem" to become more oriented. Their disorientation is captured by menus, questionnaires or interviews. A response is generated that addresses their concern and expects the user to refine the search, question or problem definition. This cycle repeats until the user feels capable of making informed choices.
  • Inhibited system users enter a mentoring session to transform their emotional baggage, hot buttons, toxic introject or chronic childishness. Some version of cognitive-behavioral therapy will reframe the presenting problem and resolve the underlying issues.
  • Defeated system users go through an after-action review with a coach. The situations and user responses will be rehashed to consider other useful perceptions, interpretations and interactions. Help will be provided for troubleshooting breakdowns, solving problems and reformulating strategies.
  • Over-zealous system users take a break to explore a "big-picture" process. The development of their talent is put in perspective with other valid goals. Balance is restored as other objectives are brought into the game plan. Tempo and timing issues are reconsidered in light of the overall mission.
As a system learns from what happens to its users, it discovers what additional functionality is needed to avoid dysfunctional user experiences. A talent development system may experience contextual pressure to become multi-lingual or offer it's responses 24/7. The system may get diagnosed as over-responsive to particular constituencies and inaccessible to others. The system itself may create or feed the problems that appear as disoriented, inhibited, defeated, or over-zealous users. There may be other dysfunctional user experiences that crash the system (violent behavior, erotic misconduct, medical crises, weather-related disruptions, etc.) The design may need modification if the time it takes to prevent system crashes proves too costly. The quality of the responses during the "time outs" may be widely varied, inadequate or excessive.

As you replicate or modify the line of reasoning I've used here, you could also refine your designs for other systems that generate functional and dysfunctional user experiences.