The Outlier: Making the Most of Training
With experience from a workshop, the author shares insight on training the body and mind to navigate through challenges and adversities.
Tourist, Activist, Sage or Learner?
Am I a tourist on travel, or an activist with a cause, or a sage who knows it all, or a true learner who is curious, open to learning and changing? Training can make sense only to a true learner. So, when one learns leadership, one must know the adaptive challenges which are largely internal (people, beliefs, emotions, culture, varied definitions, communication and ideas of what works and what does not).
What are the leadership challenges we face? Dealing with an existing set-up and group dynamics; and, allowing my past experiences to flow seamlessly into the present (both adaptive challenges). For a paradigm shift, the leadership competencies that I need are: my empathy and ability to appreciate others' perspectives, my ability to identify and recognise talent and give them opportunities, my flexibility and adaptability to change, and my ability to lead by example. I need to cultivate awareness of issues and people. Listen and ask questions. Be flexible. Motivate, inspire and engage. Challenge norms. Surface out of challenges gradually. Develop empathy through a higher EQ/EI.
Dance vis-a-vis the Balcony View
A key learning in leadership is the concept of simultaneous Dance and Balcony View. Dance is about regular operations, about work on the ground at a point in time. The Balcony View is to go beyond and take a bird's-eye perspective view. It is important to witness, as different from merely seeing, and develop a witness consciousness to evolve the Balcony View, also explained in Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Galway.
What is Behaviour?
Our behaviour is the sum-total of visual expressions, what a video will capture if we were being shot at that moment, like gestures, voice tone, body movement, eye contact, words spoken, etc. This behaviour is determined by thoughts and feelings. Thoughts are of many words, they are more analytical. Feelings represent one word (anger, joy, grief, frustration, irritation, curiosity, etc). These thoughts are, in turn, affected by beliefs and values. Values are universal attributes, which one cherishes and can be different for different people. Beliefs are the formulae by which we live our values. So, a certain value like respect may give rise to a belief that you cannot confront your elders (rightly or wrongly). Beliefs are in sentences but values are of one word each. These values and beliefs are again rooted in life experiences (usually in our formative years). These are incidents or a series of incidents. This is the Iceberg Model to look at each behaviour of ours. We only see the behaviour which is visible at the tip of the iceberg, and what lies below the iceberg remains unseen.
Dissolving my Icebergs
If anything is doing good for me, no need to change it. But if not, we need to follow a simple process of answering these questions. What's my core negative/critical belief? (one concrete sentence). What do I feel when I say that? (Feeling and body sensation). What is it costing me to have this belief (past, present & possible future costs)? If I were to continue garnering this belief, what will my default future look like, ten years from now? Am I really meeting my needs or doing good to myself with this belief? Am I really living my values with this belief? What would be available to me without this belief? What is the future calling me, what are the possibilities? What specific action shall I take to correct this belief? An honest journey through these questions and taking action can make a better tomorrow.
Four Dispositions Analysis
Our bodies have four dispositions or energies though we do not use some of these in everyday life. First, is the Resolute Energy which has the Warrior archetype. Here, the focus is on a target, it is action energy, and the centre of gravity is shifted forward to the upper-part of the body. Such energy makes a person a go-getter, focused and aggressive. Negatively, s/he may be less analytical, somewhat rigid and may miss out on ideas and relationships. The Animal image is of a Cheetah, this energy is akin to a knife through butter. The opposite disposition is Openness which makes a person with open energy, inviting, collaborative, a free communicator, being more approachable and with low-volume in discussions. The archetype is Lover. On the flipside, such a person can be taken for granted, and s/he is not considered a strong taskmaster lacking a sense of urgency. The animal archetype is a Dog.
Then is the State Energy. The archetype here is King. This energy makes a person behave royally, walk with heavy feet, become repetitive in work, all this while being grass-rooted. Such persons may be prone to a delayed response, seeking low innovation, adhering to status quo, following routine. The animal archetype is Elephant. The opposite to this is Flexible Energy, where the archetype is Magician/Ballet Dancer. This is a typical start-up mind. Advantages of this energy or body disposition are ideation capacity, quick decision preference, visionary thinking. The challenges are with regards to poor execution, law-avoiding chances, and at times manipulation. The animal archetype is a light flying bird.
The ideal is to be centred while having some energy of all the four. The archetype of that is of a Martial Art warrior with all the four blended well. Meditation and mindfulness can bring one at the centre. If one is low on flexibility, s/he can dance with a partner and practice yoga. If one is low on resoluteness, s/he can do brisk walking daily and play competitive sports. If one is low on openness, news-paper reading while reclining backwards, hugs and post-dinner work are suggested. And, finally, if one is low on stability, one can sit on the ground, climb stairs, trek, etc.
What is the Right Attitude?
Before any conversation and activity, it is important to have six deep breathe-ins and slow breathe-outs. Then, define the context: dance and the balcony contemplation. What am I going to do and how (the dance)? Why am I doing this? What do I achieve out of this? This is the balcony view or perspective setting: verbalising the goals before the dance starts.
First, start everything with an attitude to participate: the Front Row perspective. Second, when mistakes are committed even after careful execution, consider it to be a good lesson. Third, silence the internal noise and continue doing the work while doing it to the best of abilities. Fourth, be an active part of the game through an event, or an initiative. Every conversation and action should end with a state of possibility. Fifth, in the process, invent a new game.
Collaboration is a far stronger dynamic for self-development than competition. We must define the goal; or else, by default, mere survival becomes the goal of the lowest level.