Micro / Macro

I attach a traditional coaching article on how to solve any problem.

Be A Hero: Five Steps to Vanquish Any Problem
March 28, 2013

If you don´t see yourself as part of the problem, you cannot be part of the solution.
Every culture teaches this through a similar story. Joseph Campbell, anthropologist and advisor for Star Wars, called it “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.” The hero starts his journey feeling at the mercy of external circumstances. By the end, he realizes he is in control of his destiny. He knows that he can choose how to behave, learn and grow.
Teaching accounting at MIT, I saw how numbers shape perceptions. Coaching leaders all over the world, I learned how stories shape lives. Good stories inspire you; bad stories disempower you. The worst stories are the ones that have you as a victim.
Heroes are not just mythical characters. They are examples of you at your best. Here are five suggestions to always remember who you are.
1. No problem — Take the challenge
There is no such thing as a problem. What you call “a problem” is not a thing independent of you, but a situation you don´t like. It is “a problem for you.” To deal with it more effectively, put yourself in the picture. Think of it as your challenge. Take the difficulty as an opportunity to show your true colors.
I often catch myself saying, “the real problem is…” followed by the thought, “…that you don´t agree with me!” Equally often, my counterpart argues that “the real problem is…” that I don´t agree with him. Unless we recognize and give up these bad stories, we will each push hard to overcome the other. Push versus push equals stuck: a very expensive stalemate where we both spend tremendous energy for no result.
2. Drop “Who’s responsible?” – Be response-able
You didn’t do it. So what? You are suffering from it. People and things are out of control. It is tempting to blame them and play the part of the innocent victim. Don’t. The price of innocence is impotence. That which you blame you empower. Become the hero of the story; focus on what you can do to respond to your challenge.
The inspiring question is not, “why is this happening to me!” but “what is the best I can do when this happens?”
I once coached a financial services executive who would always blame external factors: regulation, competition, the economy, his employees, his boss, his peers. All these forces did impinge on his goals. It was the truth, but not the whole truth. The truth that he refused to accept, the one that blocked his growth, was that he was able to respond to these forces.
3. Forget what you don´t want – Focus on what you want.
Consider an issue that troubles you. What would you like to have happen? I ask this every time I coach. Infallibly, I learn what my client would like to not have happen anymore. This is a bad end for a hero´s journey. Avoiding what you don´t want will take your energy away from achieving what you do want.
Your brain doesn’t compute “no”. What you try to avoid you unconsciously create. If you don´t believe this, try to not think of a white bear right now and notice where your mind goes. Define a positive outcome precisely. Ask yourself, “What do I really want?” and visualize it in as much detail as you can. This will force you to put some flesh on the conceptual bones. Furthermore, ask yourself, “How would I know that I got what I wanted? What would I see? What would I feel?” In this way you will be sure that your vision has observable standards by which to measure success.
4. Take one eye off the ball – Go for the gold.
It’s not about hitting the ball; it’s about winning the game. Set your mind on what you are ultimately trying to achieve. Build a chain from means to ends, taking you from getting the job, to advancing your career, to feeling professionally fulfilled, to being happy. The ultimate goal and measure of success is happiness.
“What would you get, if you achieved X, which is even more important to you than X?” Ask yourself this question and discover that you never ask for what you really want—and neither does anybody else. We all ask for what we think is going to give us what we really want. Have you ever bought set of golf clubs hoping they would make you play better? And what would you get, if you played better, which is even more important to you than playing better?
5. Failure is not an option – Succeed beyond success.
Commit fully to achieve what you really want. Know that you deserve it and give it your best. This will make you more likely to get it. Success, however, is not the most important thing. To be a hero, pursue your goal ethically, as an expression of your highest values. Success may give you pleasure, but integrity leads to happiness.
Don’t aim at success–the more you aim at it and make it (your final) target, the more you are going to miss it. For true success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself. Listen to what your conscience commands you to do and carry it out to the best of your knowledge.” — Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.

This fine traditional advice has to be balanced with an equal emphasis on avoiding “blaming the victim.” When our political system, as broken as it is, and our financial system, as corrupt as it is, blaming the victims by seeing them as responsible and not holding the corrupt banks as responsible, it is cruel and ignorant to blame the people hurt. The rugged individualism that says we can overcome any obstacle is socially destructive. We are all being destroyed by the climate change and an individual is often the victim but is not responsible. Telling the residents of New Jersey they are part of the problem of superstorm Sandy is way too individualistic.
I wrote a book on weight loss. I was careful to include both personal responsibility and the information that our food supply is not reliable. You control what you eat – that’s the responsible part. But the toxins, pesticides, antibiotics, steroids,  interesting chemical experiments and pink slime you don’t know about are equally important.
When I coach, I think it important to shy away from the kind of heroic talk and the almost absolute individualism that underlies it. No matter how many commencement speakers tell the graduates they can be anything they want, I don’t tell that to the young man with asperger’s that I’m coaching. It ain’t so.

The story

Deb Pollard sent me an article about the power of narrative in creating, maintaining, strengthening families with the power of narrative. I think it is an important, simple, primitive truth.
But before you click on the story, realize that in another but similar way, our own individual life is held together by a narrative. Our Enneagram style is fleshed out and made individual by the story we act out. This story is liminal – both conscious and partially unconscious. A really helpful exercise is to see if we can articulate the story we live out of.
Here’s the link to the article.


Ones get it right

Bill Maher is a righteous One. Yes, he’s a comedian (strong connection to 7?) but when you entitle your books, “New Rules,” you give away your inner operating system. He attacks religion for not being rational, he says what he is angriest about is that America is not angry at what is going on. He is morally indignant about the Far Right bubble and much of his humor is laughing at the immorality of our public figures. I find him morally advanced, even though he is still talking in “rule” language, which is more common among people still at Kohlberg’s level 3 and 4.

Pretty, helpful, pretty helpful

Mary Kay Ash is the poster girl for the influential style two. Billion dollar company.  Twos often know how to give the perfect gift. MKA gives her salespeople quintessential girl products: coats, cars, jewelry, trips. No stock options. MKA tells her sales people that “whatever you give to the world, it comes back to you.” And as a lot of style twos know, it damn well better. That’s raising your enneagram style to a cosmic level. The world behaves the way that fits your enneagram style. BTW, MKA is really helpful to her sales people. The literature given to them gives helpful advice and resources on an impressive array of normal tasks. Finance, organization, communication, healthy and of course, style and beauty.

Rich Three

I’m attaching a quote from Huffington Post (March 20) about Jamie Dimon, a very powerful Three. I like the story because it is about an implicit theology that underlies today’s culture wars. Threes embody the Calvinist culture of predestination (especially protestant because it comes from Calvin, and especially in the South because of the influence of the Baptist tradition). The trajectory is from rags to riches, but the theology is that riches are a powerful sign of God’s favor here AND hereafter.   Unhealthy Threes and ignorant evangelical preachers believe that.

Thou Shalt Have Riches

Australians have an old joke about their country’s founding elements: Sure, we got the criminals, but America got the Puritans, which is much worse.

The folks who arrived on our shores from Europe four centuries ago brought with them some peculiar notions. The Puritans believed in the Calvinist “Doctrine of the Elect,” a depressing divine plan whereby God pre-selected those destined for heaven and damned everybody else to hell. You could never know who was on the A-list and who was in for a fiery eternity. At least that’s what old John Calvin had taught.

But mere mortals could never be content with so mysterious a system, so they became obsessed with finding out who was elect. Material possessions, they concluded, must be a sign. Didn’t people who worked hard and kept up their prayers often amass more stuff than others? Hard work was godly, and since it often resulted in riches, they must be godly, too. Wealthiness was next to godliness.

In an essay on The Great Gatsby, America’s great literary ode to our distinguishing love of wealth, John A. Pidgeon notes that the striving for money became a means of salvation. Take the Puritan reverence of riches, add in equal parts transcendentalism and rugged individualism, and you’ve got the American Dream in all its shining glory: If you work hard, if you believe fervently enough, you can make yourself a fortune. You, too, can join the ranks of the elect.  (To watch this in action, listen to how often you hear the words “hard-working Americans” and “played by the rules.  Those are the rules.  You never hear virtuous people who lost their homes as “compassionate” or “thoughtful” or “chaste” or even “wise.”  Always hard working.  )

Man on the Make

Jamie Dimon saw his destiny as a little boy. His background, while not exactly humble, was relatively obscure. According to Duff McDonald, author of Last Man Standing: The Ascent of Jamie Dimon and JP Morgan Chase, Jamie’s grandfather, Panos Papademetriou, changed his name to “Dimon” when he arrived in America from Greece because he fancied it had a French ring to it. America was the land of reinvention, and Grandpa Dimon was smart and plucky enough to pull it off: He started out as a busboy and ended as a stockbroker, the same job that gave Jamie’s father a comfortable income. Still, little Jamie was an outsider among Knickerbocker descendents who breathed the rarified air in the New York of his childhood.

BTW, The Great Gatsby is an important depiction of style Three. He is almost a clinical example of style Three – and the book is a good portrayal of America’s Three culture in the 20’s.

Alternate power / Four

Steve Jobs is an influential Four.  One part of his achievement was to make computers beautiful.  (Not just the box.  Think about his contribution to typefaces, a favorite of mine).  I think that Fours understand the power of beauty exceptionally well. Their esthetic tastes and their sensitivity seem to help them understand the power of beauty.
So I think that part of Steve Jobs’ success was because of his awareness that he had to make Apple products beautiful. The ipod was not the first mp3 player on the market, but it was the “coolest.” I forget the name of the book that was dedicated to how Jobs made “cool” the defining factor of the ipod. By way of comparison, Motorola, a very oneish company, has stuff that works well but their market share was hurt because their stuff was clunky.

Sixes acting out

Unhealthy side of six is displayed by Mel Gibson. The loyalty sixes are loved for can morph into “our group is the only group” and becomes hated of other groups. In Gibson’s case he is fiercely fundamentalist Catholic (rigid, conservative, literal) and is anti-Semitic.
The high side of Six would be Paul Newman: despite legendary good looks faithful to his wife. He is counterphobic – loved to race cars until his racing/driving partner got killed (I talked to his partner 20 mins before the fatal race). Newman’s loyalty and sense of community led him to be an admirable philanthropist and all around good guy businessman.

Sevens get there first

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com is an enormously influential Seven. Like a lot of Sevens, he is a visionary. He saw it first, got there first and was able to hire structure people to make it work. Bezos was a billionaire before he traded in his old Honda. Healthy Sevens often scorn hierarchies and the trappings of wealth and privilege. That attitude stems from a cheerful lack of concern about hierarchy of any kind. I aw him interviewed and he came across as light-hearted and funny. (He has a really peculiar laugh, too).

An 8’s contribution

Ernest Hemingway is an influential style 8. His direct, no-nonsense, limpid, earthy prose changed the way Americans write. The abstract, intellectual prose of the continent never quite recovered except in the sheltered groves of academia. Hemingway’s writing is the high side of style 8– a deep appreciation for the physical, an ability to appreciate and communicate a healthy sensuality. He had a lust for life and an ability to stare directly into pain and pleasure and make the reader feel it. Unlike European writers, he had a deep appreciation for nature and wilderness.His personal life had some of the downside of style 8. He was belligerent, brutal and eventually turned his anger on himself and killed himself.


I’m starting another series, this one on influential people. Not celebrities, I have little interest in most of them.  I will write about people who influenced the thought and behavior of a large number of people.
Let’s start with style Nines. Besides the style Nine presidents of Obama, Clinton, Reagan, Ford, Eisenhower and Lincoln, the founder of Client-centered therapy, Carl Rogers. He is a Nine. His therapy of unconditional regard and non-directive is the high side of style Nine.  If you study psychology or therapy, he is someone you will get to know.