Most of us, especially Enneagram students, would like to improve. The cultural advice is “we try harder.”
This is usually bad advice. Here’s an example why:
A track and field coach had four good runners who had plateaued. They were doing well, training hard and driving themselves to improve, but they could not break their previous best time.
A more experienced coach was watching their discipline and strenuous efforts and suggested that the coach tell all four of them to run only at 90% of their capability. The disbelieving coach was so discouraged that he agreed to try this.
All four broke their previous best times.
So take the weekend off.
Many of you have read the NYTimes article on Amazon and the reactions around the country. The concern is that the employees, who call themselves “Amabots” are driven like machines with constant surveillance, no time off, no rest and really difficult production standards.
While it is true that some Threes see themselves as machines and are given to workaholism, the corporate structure in the United States is much more pervasive that people or even some corporate structures being style Three. We can extend Enneagram patterns further than the evidence warrants. The mechanization and divorce from natural rhythms is a real and extensive concern, but it is economical and political beyond the power of the Enneagram to address with much completeness.
I can’t hold out any longer. I have to deal with Trump like everyone else. Donald Trump has taken over the media by the force of his personality (and his money).
To understand Trump, you have to see several sides of style 8. Begin with his dividing the world into winners and losers. (He likes soldiers who don’t get captured. In a sense they are losers). He is utterly clear. Eights are often completely clear because they don’t do nuance or shades of gray. It’s called black and white thinking. Eights have a Euclidian spirit – the shortest distance between two points is a straight line whether you are in the way or not.
His clarity, his willingness to simplify everything so people understand him and his vivid expression are all attractive, especially on media.
His anger is important. Here he parallels Rush Limbaugh. The right white is angry. They see their position and privilege slipping and they are angry. Both Trump and Limbaugh are willing and able to express the anger they feel.
So Trump’s style is there for all to see, both high and low sides: bold, action-oriented, enraged, crass, simple, vivid, strong, brutal. A man who sees the world as a battlefield and invites you to his side and will see you as an enemy if you refuse. There are two sides for an Eight: his side and the other side. Choose wisely.
The New York Times has a long article on the culture of Amazon. Amazon is portrayed largely as a cruel place in a way apparent to Enneagram students. It is run with constant surveillance, punishing work and remarkable mechanization. The employees refer to themselves as Amabots. (Amazon Robots)
Style 3, when really fixated, have a tendency to see themselves in a mechanical way. Corporations usually function as style 3. They see employees as cogs in a machine. (Machines who burn out, are completely standardized so are smoothly replaceable and are identified by role exclusively).
Amazon does the essence of the corporate world better than (probably) anyone else. They embody the corporate model in the United States. (Other countries have labor unions, paid vacations, parental leaves paid etc).
You know you are a three if you work too hard and like it — at least for a while. Some Amazon employees say they love the challenge. (That applies only to the top layers of management. The blue collar workers do not like the culture but often have no choice in their situations).
So if you are coaching executives or even middle management in a large corporation, you are coaching style 3 energy, regardless of the style of the individual.
We live in a style three culture. One of the more obvious pathologies of unhealthy Threes is that they think they have to earn love. So what makes a person worthy, important, valuable –pick an adjective– is that they work hard. Thus they have love coming to them.
So your consciousness raising exercise is this: Notice that the word for important Americans is “hard-working.” So as you watch the campaigns and debates and pundits, every time you hear the phrase “hard-working Americans” raise your right hand and shout “Three.” If you heard an alternative, “compassionate, wise, sensitive, honest, etc” check your station. It may not be American.
If you are Christian and want to see sharp contrast to this mentality, read the Gospel of Matthew, the first parable in chapter 20.
When Nines are on top of their game, they have a lovely ability to make everyone comfortable. Whether they do it be negotiation to decrease any friction or with their advanced ability listen, they create an acceptance ambiance that makes people relax. When a Nine is healthy you just know you were heard – and heard correctly.
With the high side of style 8 comes a hunger for justice. They have the conviction that if the see what is not fair, they have an inner obligation to do something about it. What they want to do is take action. They don’t write about it, they don’t complain – they take action and usually quite efficient action. They are the warriors of the Enneagram: knights in shining armor with a soft heart.
The high side of style seven is the high side of childhood: enthusiasm, optimism and energy. Natural cheerleaders and entrepeneurs, sevens are often keenly aware of possibilities within any situation. They can have infectious energy and emotional support for what is possible but hasn’t been tried yet. They can be adventurers with champagne in their blood and the horizon on their mind.
I like to watch basketball during the season. I notice how often announcers describe one of the players as a “glue guy.” He’s the six. It’s what sixes do when they’re on their game. They hold the group together, they protect and serve (I notice a high percentage of policemen are counterphobic sixes – but my sample is only about 8 or 10). They are loyal to those in the group and defend against all outsiders.
I ask a dozen symbolic questions to determine one’s style. Probably close to 80% of the sixes, when asked what kind of animal they would be, respond “dog.” Several are even more specific – what kind of dog. When they get specific they often specify border collie.
When Fives are on their game, they share. Now, their enneagram vice is called avarice, but many Fives are considered withdrawn and stingy because the rest of us don’t understand that the ways Fives their love best is by sharing information. I can think of a number of teachers and writers that I didn’t exchange a sentence with to whom I am deeply indebted. Healthy Fives instruct us with a level of competence and passion that make them superb teachers and mentors.
May I tell you about a monk named – honestly – Eleutharius? Before he taught me metaphysics in English, he taught literature at the Sorbonne in French. Before that he taught logic in Latin at Rome. That was after he left China where he had taught Mathematics in Chinese. I know, why couldn’t he hold a job? With that much learning, he still sat in a seminar and helped me understand Kierkegaard. I am enduringly grateful. To him and to other Fives who love learning and teach with passion, thank you.