On a fall day in 1961, in his classroom at Union College in Schenectady, New York, the late Dr. Clare W. Graves hurried to a blackboard. Writing as fast as he could, he jotted down the rudiments of an explanation both for conundrums that had been plaguing his own research and for the fundamental confusions and contradictions that had so long flummoxed psychology—the inability of psychology’s greatest theorists to come to agreement on the ideal human mind. As Graves described it years later, his basic realization was this:
The psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change….Each successive stage, wave, or level of existence is a state through which people pass on their way to other states of being. When the human is centralized in one state of existence, he or she has a psychology which is particular to that state. His or her feelings, motivations, ethics and values, biochemistry, degree of neurological activation, learning system, belief system, conception of mental health, ideas as to what mental illness is and how it should be treated, conceptions of and preferences for management, education, economics, and political theory and practice are all appropriate to that state.
Translation: there is no single way to describe a mature human because, in the truest sense, there is no such thing as a mature human. Maturity is as maturity does. And what the psychologically healthy person does best is to change with the times. The change always involves substituting new ways to think and behave for old ways. And the substitution may occur—needs to occur—again and again. Human maturation, Graves concluded, is an ever-ongoing process!
For most of our lives, the healthy psychological journey is calibrated to aim forward. According to Dr. Graves’ research data, along this journey, our mind veers—oscillates—first toward one philosophical extreme, then reverses itself and moves toward the opposite. That is to say, from a worldview with expressive, individualistic values, we subsequently migrate to a worldview witsawh sacrificial, group-oriented values, and then we reverse the process. And we do it again and again, back and forth, climbing a spiral staircase of psychological and mental development, for as long as circumstances permit.
Following such a pattern, a healthy person’s psychology tends always to be moving toward increasing complexity and more openness to nuance as it takes its cues from its environmental and technological surroundings, which are themselves growing ever more tangled and demanding over time. Bottom line: there is no single correct description of the mature human. Already, there are several, with hopefully many more to come.
DR. CLARE W. GRAVES
(Photo courtesy of
Chris Cowan, NVC Consulting)
For psychology, this realization was a badly needed curative mega-dose of Vitamin C for a chronic head cold of confusion and self-contradiction. For the world-at-large, it was a eureka moment that forever changed how we understand our human nature.
Now Dr. Graves could explain to his students and anyone else who was listening why the greatest names in psychology had not been able to agree on a universal definition for a psychologically mature human. They were like the blind men describing the elephant (the one with the trunk said the beast was like a rope, the one touching a leg said it was like a tree, the one fingering a tusk, like a sword, etc.). For whatever reasons, each of psychology’s great savants had chosen to describe what it is like to be psychologically mature at a different stage of human mental development! Each of their elephants was a badly misconstrued caricature of the whole, and a grossly oversimplified view of a very complex pachyderm.
Even today, using the full complement of advances and discoveries in the sciences in the past forty-plus years, it is not easy to describe the research problem that Dr. Graves laid out for himself after his first breakthrough discoveries. I can show you what I mean by updating how he posed it.
Start with the DNA equivalent of 715 megabytes of information contained in everyone of the body’s estimated 50 million million cells.
Move on to a person with a brain more complex than anything else organic in the known universe.
From there proceed to a mind that, indubitably, is utterly dependent on that brain, but, in ways we still haven’t managed to explain, is indisputably more than “just a brain.”
Assemble a world of 7-plus-billion of these minds and organized them into 6,000 separate cultures.
After that, factor in the reality that we are swimming in the wake of, and sometimes mid-stream of, the 100,000 distinct systems of belief and meaning-formation conjured by the mind since the beginning of consciousness.
Now Graves was ready to ask his question: Is it possible to develop a coherent theory and explanation of how we scale up our thinking biologically, psychologically and sociologically from such improbably variegated beginnings to encompass such hopelessly complex outcomes?
(See more at www.braintechnologies.com)
Graves wanted to be able to explain how the mind changes and when it does, what is happening to us biologically. He wanted to be able to predict psychologically what new characteristics a changed mind will exhibit and how to anticipate them. Sociologically, he wanted to know—in substantial detail—what kind of world each new kind of mind is likely to build for itself and how the various “worlds” that humans construct for themselves could both conflict and cooperate. He wanted to be able to talk about all this not in bits and pieces as most scientists tend to do, tightly focused as they are on their own chosen part of the problem, but in an inclusive, coherent framework. And he still wasn’t finished. He wanted a system that would equip him to make defensible projections about where the mind might be heading next. In summary, he wanted a single scholarly model with a humongous outreach. He wanted, as one Canadian magazine writer who interviewed him opined, A Theory of Everything. (All of our dolphin-thinking-themed books
at BTC discuss Dr. Graves’ theory and its applications in detail.)
In assembling such a model, Graves catalogued and explained the first great mind of the species, the one whose hegemony now appears to be coming to an end. He nailed it. Brilliantly. And he spotted and scouted out the first clear signs of an altogether different cognitive arrangement.
He did so at a time when most serious thinkers, including those in psychology and the rest of the social sciences, still considered the brain to be a “blank slate”—a tabula rosa, an empty page. One that “has no inherent structure of its own.” One that can, therefore, “be inscribed at will by society or ourselves.”
In fact, to this very day, as Steven Pinker, professor of psychology in MIT’s department of brain and cognitive science, has explained in The Blank Slate, most intellectuals still fail to appreciate the extent to which innate qualities of the brain influence the specific content and the colors on the pages of the storybook we call Our Very Own Personal World. This is of supreme importance because the brain arbitrates everything we know, do, believe. In the words of Dr. Edward O. Wilson, the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, longtime Harvard University biology professor and pioneering synthesizer of the sciences, “Everything that we know and can ever know about existence is created there.”
Evidence against the brain/mind being a blank slate is now coming from many directions. For example, evolutionary psychology and anthropology are on the trail of a lengthy slate of universal traits that people in all of the world’s cultures have in common. Dr. Pinker and others have assembled lists of more than 300 such shared traits. Typically, traits range from childbirth rites to incest taboos to beliefs about death to a hypnotic fear of snakes to repertories of facial expression for a few basic emotions to the way mothers and infants bond. When every infant arrives on this planet, its head is already filled with scribblings that Mother Nature has been laboriously assembling for eon upon eons. Clare Graves was correct: the brain/mind is no blank slate. In the clever phraseology of renowned zoologist W.D. Hamilton, “The tabula of human nature was never rasa.” And no one, before or since, has offered us a better theory for explaining the consequence of this than Dr. Graves.
One of the delights of hanging a potent metaphor (which we’ve been told the dolphin strategy is) “out there” where all kinds of people are talking about changing the world is that you end up hearing from all kinds of people. For years now, we’ve been hearing from Keith Bowman, a self-professed “Gen X-er” with an eclectic imagination and a bulldog’s tenacity for pursing a variety of people, places and things, but he’d never told us his “Brother Blue” story until now. Here it is:
Many years back I was sitting on a park bench in Harvard Square, I idling away the time, when I found an African American man of about 60 was staring back at me. He was dressed from head to toe in blue, with a blue vest, blue pants, blue beret. He also had lightly tinged blue glasses and balloons attached to his arms. Harvard Square had long been known as a Mecca for the homeless and that’s who I assumed this man to be and long practiced in the dealing with such people, I attempted to break eye contact and look away. He leaned forward, removed his glasses and stared directly into my face. I noticed when he took his glasses off that he had imprints of a butterfly on each palm. Then he spoke. “From the middle of the middle of me, to the middle of the middle of you.” I was too stunned to respond, which was fortunate, because my strange bench partner was not allowing for a discourse, this was a performance. He then launched into a story. At first I thought it was just an inane ramble, but as he continued his tale of a man and his three daughters, I slowly began to realize something, he was telling the story of King Lear. I only knew this because in my sophomore class of English (which I was missing at that moment thanks to my truancy) we were studying King Lear. I have no memory of time; I was literally stunned into silence. This man moved through time and space with his tale seemingly without effort. After he finished he got up and began to walk away and I managed to mumble a request for his name. He looked back, smiled and said, “Brother Blue” and then left. It turned out that my homeless bench companion was a world famous storyteller who performed across the globe for over 60 years until his death in 2009. My experience with Brother Blue was a transformative one.
And how! This chance encounter with Hugh Morgan Hill, the African American educator, storyteller, actor, musician, street performer and living icon in Boston, in Cambridge, at Harvard University, MIT, and in the global oral storytelling community, changed Keith’s life. And is still changing it. Today, if you asked Keith what he’s involved in, be prepared to receive the short answer and the long answer. Here’s the short one: He’s working on a Ph.D. in educational studies at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. His field, he explains, is “loosely called Digital Humanities. And my subfields are Narratology, Media Studies and User Experience(UX).” But if you press him to reduce what he’s interested in to one word, and I have pressed him, it’s “storytelling.” And it all started with Brother Blue. (You can see Hill in action here.)
I’d say it was really a true epiphany. I know that word is heavily overused and I really don’t like sounding so high falutin’ . . . but it really was. After those first words I went into a profound trance and didn’t emerge until I had that flash of inspiration. Which Blue just riffed right off. What I’ve come to understand is that it was the dance between us (although I never would’ve even guessed that at that point) that was creating the experience. I guess to keep it simple: He caught me. Caught me like a sunset catches someone, or a first kiss, or just a delicious summer breeze on a muggy night. It really was a case of aesthetic arrest.
Hugh Morgan Hill died in 2009, depriving the likes of intellectual and literary luminaries like Stephen Jay Gould, Howard Zinn, Seamus Heaney, Kabir Sen, Warren Lehrer and on and on and on (see the previous Wikipedia link for a list of people he influenced) but the intellectually peripatetic Keith Bowman had long since scouted up additional mentors.
One was Walter Jackson Ong, the polymathic Jesuit Priest who taught at Saint Louis University for 30 years and once headed up the Modern Language Association of America as its president. Here is Keith on Ong:
Later on I ran into Walter Ong, Jesuit Priest, and heir apparent to his friend and advisor Marshall McLuhan and he told me about his theory on “Seconadary Orality.” Basically that we were hardwired to this kind of thing and were overcoming the “Guttenberg Parentheses,” and thanks to the burgeoning explosion of technology, we were emerging back into an Oral Tradition, from whence we came. He always said the “parentheses” part, slightly tongue in cheek, never dismissing written literature. He had no illusions that the written word was going anywhere, he just had this strong belief that at our core we were storytelling creatures, designed to swap stories first and foremost in an Oral Narrative.
Ong died in 2003. By then, Keith had managed to navigate his way into the inner orbit of another of America’s cutting-edge experts on the modern role of narrative storytelling. He’d done so with the assistance of Brother Blue’s spouse, Ruth Edmonds Hill, oral historian at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. She had sent him to Kevin Brooks, another academically trained communications whiz who had pushed the postmodern world’s media technology envelope at Motorola, Apple and Hallmark Cards. Keith shares this:
Kev was doing something that really lit me off. He was at the MIT Media Lab doing his dissertation under Janet Murray and he was stuck until he ran into Brother Blue. Then a door opened for him and he completed his dissertation utilizing much of what he had learned at the knee of the master. His theory, the Metalinnear Narrative, speaks to what is now known as Transmedia Storytelling. And it has been really fundamental jumping off point for me. We had some wonderful conversations and I really saw him as a mentor to me. . . . He got some dream job with Hallmark in Kansas City and got married. So all seemed blissful. And then very tragically he died way too soon. Blue was pushing 90 when he died so although tragic for the community, I don’t think it was that big of a shock. But Kevin had one of those awful stories of very quick onset pancreatic cancer.
Which brings us to how Keith Bowman sauntered into the Brain Technologies’ bullpen. It happened because of his interest in the theory and writings of the late Clare W. Graves. Listen to Keith tell it:
All of this, storytelling and story listening represents a socially contracted learning process. That’s not to say it always works, it more often doesn’t, but I really think in many ways “evolving” at least in the social way, is “learning.”
Give you an example. I am a person whose culture gave every bit of their message to me to remain in a blue collar, working class world. For whatever reason, the message didn’t take. It was all around me, but just didn’t take. I am not even sure why.
I wasn’t a superstar student in secondary school. I was the first in my family to graduate high school in 1991 and I had no foreseeable funds or external motivation to even go to higher education.
But the itch needed to be scratched, so I found a way out of no way. I immediately found out I had a lotttttttt of catching up to do! Not just in subject matter but in social conditioning. You are taught different things in different social classes. I’m convinced of it, because I went through the process.
It’s not been in anyway easy, there have been a whole lot of sacrifices I have made and just some really dumb things I have done out of pure ignorance. But when it works, when it is the next, best, right thing it is something learned.
So at least for me Graves seems tied right into this, although he’s talking about whole groups of people. But I certainly went through evolutionary stages myself.
What I think I like about Graves so much is that there’s not endpoint. This ain’t’ your Mother’s Maslow Pyramid we are talking about. It goes onward and upward.
I also find Graves very illuminating in learning abut myself. My advantages and pitfalls. When I took [BTC's Asset Report®: The Book of You, based in part on the Graves theory], I fell very squarely in the Trailblazer home base. This made perfect sense to me intuitively, and the pitfalls that go along with it have certainly been mine. We Blazers go large breadth and not enough depth sometimes. And the two strategies for moving forward either Breakthrough or Escape, describe me almost to a scary point.
[But] I am a child of the television age. I am a Gen Xer, so we were the first generation that Sesame Street was aimed at. That has just had a profound effect on me for whatever reason and so what differs from me through Blue is I do it through media.
I’ve made student documentaries and interned on professional ones. But really, what I am truly interested in is the “structure” of story. What lies just under the surface. That’s where I am headed. And especially how has that been altered by this age we live in.
Keith never met Brother Blue beyond that one encounter. But it changed his life. And based on what we now know about Keith Bowman, I’m not doubting but that he’s one of those pursuit-minded, ever-questioning, always-learning minds who we depend on to change the world. And that, dear hearts, is “from the middle of the middle of me, to the middle of the middle of you.” RIP, Brother Blue! And onward and upward, Brother Bowman!
Let’s say that you are what the business community calls an entrepreneur. You’ve enjoyed success selling a product line that you largely invented yourself. The trips to the bank over the years haven’t involved overly large sums, but they have kept you solvent and comfortable—and independent.
In addition, let’s say that you get a call from an individual you’ve known but a short time and communicated with only on the phone and via e-mails. He professes to have a strong admiration for one of your products.
He says it can play a perfect role in an ambitious start-up opportunity he’s involved with. He doesn’t want to own your product, or even to pay you anything for it upfront. He’s asking you to sign away control of your product to him and his partners in return for a contract promising big royalties on future sales. In six years, his calculations paint you as one of America’s latest multi-millionaires.
In a few days, you fly half-way across the country to meet him and his partners. You demonstrate how your product works—and your small, private audience seems attentive and approving. You listen as they describe the IPO they plan within a year and how you will get stock options. Bonuses. A seat on the board of directors. And if you prefer, you can have an executive suite with a six-figure salary and a heady title like Chief Intellectual Officer (how many companies has one of those?). You can see it in their eyes. Nobody, they are thinking, walks away from these kinds of goodies, especially if they’ve just fallen in your lap.
On the way back to your motel room, you feel the adrenaline kick in and do a fist-pump in the hallway. “Yes!” shouts someone with a voice remarkably like yours When was the last time you felt this excited? Or received this kind of outside affirmation for what you have accomplished?
Then suddenly, you sense a distinct shift in your thinking.
Soon you are searching your memory bank, looking for similar experiences. Then you start to examine the logic of it all, evaluating the explanations you have been hearing, sniffing for possible partial truths and deceptions.
You know the exact moment that you decide that your negotiating strategy will be to give them plenty of solid, useful information, solicited or not, and see if this produces anything approaching reciprocity in return. Ask a lot of questions. Volunteer how you think they can best used your product—and use your own skills. You’ll not try and entrap anyone. Your strategy simply calls for raising issues that deserve answers and test the players to see if you can determine if they are who, and what, they profess to be.
And then you will wait and watch and listen before you decide.
It doesn’t take long.
What you do soon detect in a ping-pong exchange of phone calls and e-mails with first one, then others of your suitors are several not-so-subtle insinuations: They really look at your product as a commodity, not a respected, top-of-the-line specialty creation, as they had first indicated. From what little they are willing to tell you, they plan to take the model underlying your product and build other products around it, but they plan to pay you royalties only on sales of the basic tool. They aren’t ready to tell you how they plan to use your product, but you must agree to give them carte blanche to do as they please. They have already decided what to charge their customers for it, without consultation or even negotiation with you, and expect—demand, actually—that you fall in line. They are making noises about already having a replacement product far better known and more prestigious than yours if you don’t like their version of the deal. And you learn that they have now decided, after thinking about it, that they don’t really want you on the corporate board and instead have penciled you in for an advisory group.
“Run!” you hear yourself say. “Run, run, run! Let this one go.”
That’s a key dictum of the dolphin strategy: Know when to stay out, and you won’t find it difficult or impossible to get out later.
Are you disappointed at the outcome? Of course.
Do you have any regrets? No.
Your valuable product is not in jeopardy. You’ve still got your business and your wonderful customers. You’ve protected your integrity. You got this one right.
We’ve frequently featured the founder of Charlotte, N.C.’s Salum International Resources Inc. on this blog. And for a number of reasons: the compelling life story that Carlos Salum has to tell about growing up under a dictatorship in Buenos Aires, his activities as a world-class professional tennis (and “peak performance”) coach and his ongoing successes as an executive leadership and personal skills adviser. He is also one of BTC’s most frequent users of Asset Report®: The Book of You.
But when National Public Radio’s Michel Martin went to Charlotte the other day and sought out Carlos and several others, it was to explore their influence as new Latino voters. While they make up only 9 percent of the state’s population and 2 percent of the registered voters, they could be an important influence on the tight Senate race next week between incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Thom Tillis. Many of the state’s Latinos are first-time voters.
On the NPR website, Carlos was quoted as saying:
Twenty-three years living under military dictatorships, that’s something to you. And when you come to this country and vote for the first time, it makes you feel that you have an opportunity to sit at the table and make an impact.
His always dignified (and photogenic) visage was also featured in the photo seen at right below.
Carlos sent this reply to a request for an update on his recent and upcoming activities:
“In Charlotte, I’ve continued organizing private dinners for Charlotte leaders at TheSircle Executive Club I founded four years ago, in residence at The Ritz Carlton. I’m also consulting some of the top influencers in the city as a leadership performance advisor.
CARLOS SALUM ON NPR
BTC's Charlotte associate in the news . . . again!
“For the past two years, I’ve collaborated more closely with the Latin American Chamber of Commerce Charlotte, where the Latino population and its social, political and economical influence continues to grow at a fast rate, teaching a course on Peak Performance and Breakthrough Thinking for its Leadership Institute. The NPR interview on Voting Rights is connected with my increased participation in Latino issues in this region.
“In [my upcoming trip to] Europe, I will be a keynote speaker at a UBS Wealth Management offsite, as well as conduct meetings for the organization of a Foundation’s Global Forum in 2016, which is connected with the World Economic Forum. I will also meet with private clients during my trip and with the president of the Swiss Management Association, who’s one of my advisors.”
Chapter 6 of my latest book, LEAP!, provides a detailed account of Carlos’ remarkable life prior to coming to Charlotte. (He told NPR that he chose North Carolina for his new home because of the weather. He likes four seasons!)
We’ll be hearing a lot more from Carlos Salum! Meanwhile, his pro-active energies, imaginative marketing and successes as a performance counselor to influential people in business (particularly in Europe) and in civic circles (particularly in Charlotte) are an inspiration to us all. Congratulations, Carlos! Keep on making waves!
For more than 20 years, one of Brain Technologies’ most influential and successful associates has been a personable, resourceful, highly educated self-starter who calls the Philippines home. That is, when she is home.
Which was the primary point of her latest honor—the prestigious Bagong Bayani Award, bestowed annually by a government ministry (labor) and an educational foundation on a few Filipino citizens who have done an outstanding job of representing a workforce more than one million strong that leaves the Philippines every year to find job opportunities and generate income for themselves, their families and the Filipino economy.
Dr. Perla was one of 16 individuals and two groups who received the 2014 Bagong Bayani (which means “new hero”) award. They included a housekeeper who won the first season of “The X Factor Israel” TV-show-based singing competition and the 291 Filipino crew members of the Costa Concordia cruise ship, who performed heroically when the ship sank off Italy in early 2012.
You can see her receiving the beautiful statuette and accompanying medallion in photos taken at the September 22 award ceremonies in Manila below.
They were given to her in ceremonies at the Philippines International Convention Center. Since representatives of her employer abroad were asked to attend, two senior administrators of Assumption University’s graduate school of business in Bangkok were present. They were Dean Dr. Kitti Photikitti and Associate Dean Dr. Kitikorn Dowpiset. She was also accompanied by her husband, Dr. Oscar Tayko, a retired professor of agriculture and also a tireless cooperative development advocate/practitioner in the Philippines.
The citation accompanying the award makes mention of BTC’s four-brain (BrainMap®) model, which has been a bedrock of much of Perla’s professional and academic work. It is also a mainstay (along with three other BTC brain-function-tracking models and their accompanying assessments) in the AU business school’s organizational development programs.
Among her many achievements, the citation notes this: “In 1994, she designed a masteral program in Organizational Development (OD) for Assumption University and nurtured it through the years that led to the graduation of more than 400 holders of masteral degrees and 46 doctoral degrees.”
HONORED IN BANGKOK BY HER PEERS!
Perla is the one getting the flowers!
The recognition has kept coming. The Bangkok university’s top officials honored Perla recently with a dinner at the Four Wings Hotel attended by the institution’s present president and its president emeritus, among other dignitaries. Three other Bangkok-based BTC associates were there, all of them affiliated with AU: Dr. Dowpiset, Dr. Sirichai Preudhikulpradab and Dr. Maria Socorro Cristina L. Fernando.
Absent Dr. Tayko’s tireless, persuasive efforts, the story of Brain Technologies in Southeast Asia would be a very different tale. We’ve made our appreciation known to Perla, and it is greatly gratifying to us that she has received such notable attention in her own country.
Oh, you might be interested in where Perla has been lately. She was in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for a few days, teaching an OD class, then back to Bangkok to do a program at AU’s Organization Development Institute, which she helped found, and to see the business school’s current crop of graduates on their way. She plans to be home in the suburbs of Manila soon. But she won’t be there long; winners of the Bagong Bayani Award never are. We are so proud to know her and count us as “one of us.”
When things that humans are doing or had hoped to do show signs of flying apart or coming to a halt, the first impulse of the dolphin mind is anything but heroic. Almost certainly, it’s not what most folks probably would expect. In such “London Bridge is falling”-type circumstances, the first urge of the dolphinthinker is to . . . skedaddle. To be in the next county or maybe the next country, long gone and far, far away, by the time the fandango reaches the fan. This means keeping an eye peeled for gathering storm clouds, potential train wrecks and other ominous signs of non-productivity and trouble.
On reflection, such an impulse shouldn’t be surprising. After all, one of the most predictable change-outs that accompanies the transition to dolphin thinking is a marked reduction in the urge to be sacrificial. Those who experience it can be expected to take a much dimmer view than before of hanging around danger zones overly long or not removing oneself from the chaos once the bullies, bad apples and other ne’er-do-wells suggest that “lady luck” is about to take a holiday.
This was probably why, when your author first began to introduce people to the benefits of thinking like a dolphin, I wasn’t at all reluctant to urge quick-trigger exit strategies on them when they realized that things weren’t working out. “Morph, mobilize and migrate,” I called the process. Initiate a quick change of heart and goals. Rent yourself a truck or hire a mover. Load up your possessions and go somewhere where the world works differently—works better. Where competence is not something you keep hoping for but something you can breathe and luxuriate in and not have to hide it with artifices or waste valuable time explaining why it’s a good idea.
But no sooner did I begin to peer out the portholes of a new century than I began to notice that our morph-mobilize-and-migrate strategy for dealing with intractable incompetence seemed to be failing the “what works” test. The idea of suggesting that people get out of the pool and mosey on when faced with persistent breakdowns in a place where nobody seemed much interested in breakthroughs suddenly seemed as helpful as telling people who needed heart surgery to check out the garden tools section at The Home Depot.
So . . . you’re telling people to get out of the pool if they sense a rising tide of confusion, ineptitude and passivity? Where are they supposed to go? You counsel them to hit the open road—which road? You urge them to migrate to more competent, more promising surroundings? If you don’t mind, please point out these recommended safe havens of yours on Google Maps or MapQuest.
It was hard to ignore this reality any longer: there are getting to be fewer and fewer dependable, credible, guaranteed-to-be-there-very-long livable hidey holes of competence left anywhere on the planet and soon, there will be virtually none.
And not only that.
The time when dolphins could enjoy being free spirits and the apotheosis of independence—proud lone eagles of the world’s idealistic seas—seemed over and done before it was close to getting started.
Capable as his or her thinking abilities are, in this new world of speed and greed and these new times of flux and uncertainty, the individual dolphinthinker seeking even for a time to be a highly transient “a power of one” is about as vulnerable as anyone else.
What’s a dolphin to think? What’s a dolphinthinker to do? Joshua Cooper Ramo lays out the crux of the problem in The Age of the Unthinkable:
As much as we might wish it, our world is not becoming more stable or easier to comprehend. We are entering, in short, a revolutionary age. And we are doing so with ideas, leaders, and institutions that are better suited for a world now several centuries behind us. [This] revolution is creating unprecedented disruption and dislocation.
At this point, you might think that the dolphinthinker can only do what any other thinker can do, regardless of which variety of mind he or she thinks with: hunker down, try to muddle through and hope for the best.
And it may come to that.
But to expect this outcome would require ignoring the other instinct that rises up in the dolphinthinker’s mind when yesterday’s solutions degenerate into today’s quagmires: to summon the pod. And to demonstrate—not that anyone who shows up when the summons goes out will expect to be applauded for such a result—what the impact can be when users of a new kind of mind come together with the intent of taking teamwork to whole new levels.
Best, then, that the dolphinthinker get prepared for what seems very likely to be the dolphin mind’s biggest assignment yet. For the next several years and probably several decades—at a minimum until “Artificial Intelligence” (whatever “AI” eventually turns out to be) upends and transfigures the whole question of how decisions and all else gets made—few responsibilities are going to weigh more heavily on the dolphinthinker than this one.
Sisters and brothers, good of you to come!
Adam Lindemann, BTC’s newest Associate, will be introducing a Hong Kong audience to Dolphin Strategy principles and techniques useful to the entrepreneur as the headliner for this coming Friday’s monthly “Smart Talk” at Cyperport, the Hong Kong-government-backed technology venture digital center. You can see the promo for the event below.
Adam first read Strategy of the Dolphin in the mid-1990s as a university student in England where he majored in law and Japanese. The principles for designing a life and business we articulated in the work found common ground with his own, and the book has retained a place of prominence on his book shelf all these years. This past summer, as the Managing Partner of MindFund Ltd., which he established in Hong Kong to invest and support startups across the Asia Pacific rim, he contacted BTC to inquire about becoming our authorized Associate for Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore. To our delight, that has come to pass. As the primary vehicle for spreading knowledge of the Dolphin Strategy models, tools and technigues, Adam has founded a company called Innovoso Ltd. Both of his companies are housed in the imaginative Cyperport development. This is the big campus created by the Hong Kong government with an eye to helping establish Hong Kong as a leading information and communication technology hub in the Asia-Pacific region.
Here is Adam’s contact information:
Unit 607B, Level 6, Core B
Our grateful thanks go to him for providing the dolphin strategy with such quality exposure in this important part of the business world.
So how did America manage to get it so right? And why has it gone so wrong?
We ordinary Americans now stand red, white and screwed for this reason: because of a powerful, winner-take-all, all-controlling elite centered in this unholy trinity: big government, big business and big religion.
The fingerprints of this hyper-powerful, hyper-wealthy aggregation of “elite deviants” turn up repeatedly at the site of America’s economic disasters, societal imbalances and crimes against the republic’s ordinary people and their surroundings. The very rich and powerful now largely control our economy and corporations, our politics and our government, our media and many of our other institutions, including the so-called spiritual. The naked truth is this: to an ever-greater degree, America’s wealthiest and most pythonic have been running this country like it was their own personal Monaco-on-the-Potomac instead of supposedly the world’s most visible (and once most viable) democracy.
And more and more Americans are beginning to understand something else—something that the elite deviants don’t. And that is this:
Once upon a time, a parade of experimenters that stretches backwards into the mists of antiquity (and includes America’s founders) spent three or four thousand years trying to figure out how to make a society come together. And hang together. And thrive and strive always to do better for its citizens.
And figure it out they did!
They pretty much solved the big equations and argued out the fine points. They wrote it all down and passed it on. As a consequence, an extraordinary place called America appeared on the scene. This neophyte of a polity across the ocean blue—this outlander to the world’s established orders—had its ups and downs. Its doubts. Its discouraging moments. Its brushes big-time with disaster. And yet, by the second half of the 20th Century, America had proved something more convincingly than any other major society before it. America proved that the great theorists and experimenters of human organizing over the eons had, indeed, gotten it right.
And then what did we do?
National amnesia and broken pottery
In a mere heartbeat in historical time, we promptly forgot nearly everything we’d learned! This is such an astounding demonstration of national amnesia and irresponsibility that it bears repeating: we humans spent thousands of years figuring out how to create the best large-sized, self-renewing, fairest-to-all-concerned, ever-improving society the world had ever seen. And then, in a few short years, we Americans promptly forgot nearly everything the risk-takers and civic savants of the ages had taught us!
Squandered our advantage, debased our achievements. Thumbed our noses at our planetary neighbors. Ignored our most vulnerable and poorest. Mechanized the “bio-cide” of our other earth-mate species. And then left our covenants and promises strewn across the commonweal of our once great land like so-much broken pottery, the needs, dreams and esprit of the majority of its citizens callously thrust aside.
We elevated corporations over individuals (by abandoning our anti-trust laws and watering down our laws and regulations and turning a blind eye to the egregious and never-ending misdeeds of giant companies).
We sold out our workers and their families (by allowing our unions to be destroyed and our companies to be sold to those with no interest and no stake in our country’s well-being and opening our borders profligately to predatory importers).
We thumbed our noses at poor people (by cutting or failing to fund the programs they depended on to stay healthy and try to improve their plight).
We made higher education ever more expensive (by letting college tuitions and fees soar and refusing to adequate public funding).
We permitted the dumbing down and debasement of our news media and what they report (by allowing extreme consolidation of ownership, allowing the media’s owners to meddle in the newsroom and removing requirements for fair use of the public’s airways).
We forgot what religion is really supposed to be about (by politicizing our religious institutions and building the walls between us and our neighbors of faith and unfaith ever higher).
We let our public places and shared spaces go to pot (by failing to maintain our infrastructure).
We poisoned the immense good will that many other peoples of the world held for us (by acting the bully and petulantly telling everyone else it was our way or the highway).
Repeatedly, endlessly, in public arena after sometimes not-so-public arena, egregious act after egregious act, farcical pseudo-drama after farcical pseudo-drama, we allowed the sharks of big business, big government and big religion to usurp our rights. Steal our money. Debase our heritage. And acutely endanger the possibility of seeing our national progress continue.
This is so unspeakably strange that we say it yet a third time. There were all these covenants, contracts, treaties, pledges, accord, concords, pacts and promises that have been honed and refined in the fires of history. They had passed the test of humanity’s accumulated wisdom. We had used them to create the framework for America. They became the basis for how we should treat each other—how we could and should live as a good, decent, free and just society. They were all in place, carved in stone, treasured, honored and working to an extraordinary degree. Then, in a few decades, they were nearly all tossed away. Ignored. Dishonored. Shat on.
Another empty promise … to our progeny
Above all, there was that one contract that was the most consecrated and most dear: our agreement with our children and our children’s children.
This was an idea that arrived very late in that multi-millennia journey of human and social development. It first required Western civilization to view its children differently. To view them as something other than as an asset to be used or a part-time amusement to be seen and not heard. Nowhere did the idea take deeper root than in America. Both soft-spokenly and full-throatedly, we, as a nation, pledged to our children that they would have a better life than have had we. They would inherit the fruits of our labors and our love. They would have more opportunities than had we. And they would go on to make something of themselves and be contributors to society and make life better for their children, too. That was our promise, our pledge.
And our pledge to them had always taken center stage in our society! It had been our greatest national pride. It had served as our most prized national mantra. We repeated it so often and so convincingly that it inspired hope and excitement for generations in peoples great distances removed. They may not have spoken our native tongue. They may not have known much about our geography. They may have only seen our movies and tasted our fast-food exports. But they understood our native pledge. They believed in the promise. And they responded time and again to its beckoning quality. This pledge, of course, was at the heart of the American Dream. A few short years ago, all that was in place and functioning well. Now, like all the others, this covenant, this promise, this ideal lies empty and despoiled.
THE BREAKTHROUGH-MINDED DOLPHIN
© 2014 Brain Technologies Corporation
In the 1950s and ‘60s—in retrospect, America’s Golden Age—a single full-time wage earner could support a family of four. Today, mom and dad both have to work, if there is work to be had; the percentage of permanently unemployed, long-term unemployed and underemployed in the U.S. today has edged past 45 percent.
Wealth is again centralizing to a dysfunctional degree. Public education is increasingly lackluster and underfunded. Healthcare is mediocre and overly expensive. Ordinary Americans are up to their necks in debt. To the extent that it has one, America’s social “safety net” is on life support and is constantly under attack as a “socialistic plot.” There is no longer a “Great Compression” replacing memories of The Great Depression with an expanding middle class but rather the Great Sucking Sound of money, jobs, opportunity and the American Dream fleeing the confines of our failing country. As Elizabeth Warren once noted on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” “This is America’s middle class. We’ve hacked at it and pulled at it and chipped at it for 30 years now, and now there’s no more to do. We fix this problem going forward, or the game is over.”
Incoming: A Leviathan of Change
So, yes, indeedy. Your author is mad as hell! And, yes, I want to help initiate—and I want your help in initiating—a turnaround, a rebellion, a mutiny. A mutiny in the interest of returning to radical normal in America, the way we were when we had it right. A mutiny with a goal of reestablishing the kind of America, complete once again with The Dream, that you’d wish to bequeath to your children and grandchildren. An America that can once again endure, inspire, protect and demonstrate the best ideals and ideas of a civilization as a beacon for humankind everywhere.
As we’ve already argued, to have a prayer of achieving such an outcome, this country is direly in need of the counsel, inventiveness, ingenuity and leadership of a new kind of mind—that of the dolphin thinker.
Because there is no way to fix America—return it to radical normal and move it forward—without jolting it to its very core.
It will require spiriting sizable numbers of its people into a future they don’t yet fully understand. Using technologies and methods still being invented. Making wholesale changes in this country’s priorities and public choices. Triggering prodigious shifts in where power resides and how it is deployed. Inviting minds of all persuasions and beliefs—carp, shark, Aquarian carp, dolphin—to think of themselves as Americans first, with common needs and interests and responsibilities. And, critically, shoving this whole protean enterprise in the right direction in a way that will not only make America whole again but prepare it for a new technological juggernaut now gathering force on the near horizon!
Such a tsunami of change has the potential to literally free humans worldwide of their enslavement to scarcity, hunger, poor health—and oligarchies of “elite deviants.” It is just the kind of gathering, massively reordering force that is America’s best hope for regaining its political, economic, cultural and even its spiritual footing.
You can help by calling our jeremiad to the attention of others and urging them to share links to it in their own blogs and emails. And using every means available, and especially your ties to social networks to issue your own clarion call.
Let the Wave of the Dolphin begin (with you and me)!
My thanks to Dr. Paul Kordis, my collaborator on Strategy of the Dolphin: Scoring a Win in a Chaotic World and other works, for sharing his thoughts on many of the above topics.
Suddenly, there are no more guarantees—and no more hidey holes. No one is vouchsafed a free ride in today’s juggernaut of change. Who really knows whether they’ll still have a job come Monday morning? Those skills you’ve spent a lifetime polishing—will they be nearly enough? Health care? Gasoline? A decent vacation? How long can you afford them? The American dream for your kids? Going, going, gone! they say. And is it even reasonable anymore to dream about retiring?
Questions. Questions. Questions. The books we’ve written at Brain Technologies for thinking about and dealng with contemporary times, issues and challenges all revolve essentially around the same question: “If you specifically designed a new kind of mind to help you deal with a future going bust, what would that mind be like?”
Your author says it should be a mind passionate at pursuing the next right, smart, good thing when it needs to do something different. Do anything less and the chances markedly increase that you’ll find yourself dueling with the sharks and giving blood at the feeding frenzy with the rest of the bait fish. Do anything more and you risk tilting at windmills and wasting badly needed resources, time and energy.
To be good at repeatedly discovering what works best in a change-crazy world, you need to challenge millions of years of conditioning in your brain. And welcome a mostly new kind of thinking that in these works we call “the dolphin mind.” (And, more and more, leave behind the shark, carp and not-quite-flying fish (or pseudo-enlightened carp) minds that humans have been using since Day One).
Thinking like a dolphin requires
• being the most observant creature in “the pool.” And paying close attention to who’s thinking how—and thinking what.
• knowing how to find the “new simplicities” on the other side of complexity.
• being passionate about acting pragmatically (ideologies, conspiracy theories, pet spiritualities, utopias and rigid dogmas must be checked at the door.)
• realizing that life is mostly about “the game”—about how to win, how to lose, how to decide when it doesn’t matter.
• wanting the best times to be ahead, not behind. Wanting the benefits to go to everyone, not just a few. And wanting people everywhere to have a fair chance at being what they were meant to be.
I’ve sought in our dolphin-thinking books to weave a unifying vision of how the post-postmodern world works, and how you can become the solution when your part of that world ceases to work well or well enough. Drawing on decades of breakthrough insights from brain studies, systems theory, game theory, cosmology, psychology and other social sciences, as well as its own Twenty-First Century wisdom, all of our dolphin-thinking books aim at getting you ready for future super-tsunamis of uncertainty and the unknown, whether you need to search for a new job tomorrow or rescue your favorite part of the planet the day after.
This is because the burning question of the hour is this: “In today’s demanding times, do you plan to be part of the speedboat or part of the Titanic?” As lawyers sometimes say, our works want you ready to reply, “Asked and answered!”
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There is much that takes getting used to when you start thinking like a dolphin.
You’ll quickly discover, if you haven’t already, that swimming in dolphin “brain waters” produces patterns of thinking that tend to become identifying, status-alert signatures for you. Suddenly, something within your awareness clues you to the reality that more is going on than merely thinking outside of the box. During these peculiarly dolphin-type moments, it is more accurate to suggest that you are outside the box and experiencing existence in a way that is radically different from others around you.
You learn, for example, to recognize that thinking like a dolphin can make you restless in ways that are unique and strange to your apprehension in other thinking modalities—and you come to realize that you are being privileged to tap into the telltale “tectonic shifts” of the mind. Deep down, something seismological is going on, like those little pre-tremors that sensitive earthquake-sensing equipment can pick up, not to mention the animal creatures of the field and air, prior to a genuinely felt temblor. In dolphin thinking, when sensations quicken, you rapidly learn to say to yourself: Pay attention. Something is coming up. You begin to monitor events more closely. You start assembling scenarios to see if any fit. You ask: What is morphing, disintegrating, metastasizing, mutating? What am I in touch with that could be nearing a point of no return—or a tipping point?
And then there is the connectedness factor. Whereas in carp, shark and Pseudo-Enlightened Carp waters, it is possible for you almost to totally shut yourself off from the rest of the world, this kind of compartmentalization isn’t really possible for you any longer. It’s a sure bet that the other thinking/valuing/deciding styles frequent “just slam the door in the rest of the world’s face” tendencies have deep roots in our oldest epigenetic rules for survival.
For most of our species’ history, it has been more necessity than luxury to live in the equivalent of today’s gated community: to be able to pull up the drawbridge and depend on the moat to keep predators and other ill-wishers at bay. Even when it is not a literal reality, “going gated” still tends to be a much too common emotional reality in pre-dolphin waters. Not, though, post-LEAP! waters. The realization that there is heart-stopping need, pain, danger, intrigue and potentiality for the irreversible confronting much of living creation at any given moment—for the dolphin thinker, this thought is a mental cloak that is never really removed. It is a constant governor on your hubris, your impatience or any desire you feel to censor or disdain others for their stupidity or inattentiveness. Dolphin thinking’s constant reminder: it isn’t always easy to stay alive, much less be alive.
Thinking like a dolphin is even going to affect how you react to react to the news, wherever you get yours in these news-around-the-clock times. We might call this The Consequentialness Factor. Personally, I find this to be one of the most consistently startling of dolphin thinking’s signature processes.
News tumbles in of an unexpected development—a slip of the tongue or a revealed moral turpitude by a politician, a dreadful natural disaster, something new in consumer technology, a scientific breakthrough, a counter-intuitive voter polling result, a counterfactual argument challenging the general consensus of how things are: you can never quite know what it will be. Your dolphin thinking mind sees most of most of every day’s news as routine. Then something happens that shifts it into analytical hyperspeed, and suddenly you just simply know.
✔ I can usually tell from the first news report about a politician’s missteps if their career is over.
✔I knew from the start that Bill Clinton would not be impeached.
✔I knew that Colorado was going to turn into another California.
✔I knew—almost immediately—that the 9/11/ tragedy would produce a psychological retreat for the American people from which it may never recover, appointing 9/11/2001 as the end date for America’s global dream of unending universal progress.
Or rather my dolphin mind knew. It is not always correct, of course. But when it pounces hyperspeed, it is very, very good, and even yet, when it pounces, because the experience is so pronounced, I still take pause to process—and marvel at—the process.
I think you will marvel, too, at your abilities as a dolphin thinker to just say no. One quick upfront “no” is usually worth a dozen or more “learning experiences.” This may involve a fast dismissal for telemarketers or squirrelly advertisers. Or not getting involved with a deal, a potential partner, a flaky customer or a too-good-to-be-true investment and thus, since there will never be anything to end, never having to face the pain of drawn-out personal recovery. Other times, you will understand immediately that you shouldn’t lend your influence or endorsement, intuiting that all is not as has been described.
On still other occasions, your dolphin mind will flash you a “go,” then soon turn around and renege. When using these thinking skills, your mind can be lightening-quick to size up whether promises are being kept, the truth is being told, anticipated gains are happening or whether you are being made privy to the total picture. Having you hang around to see if you can spot an insider’s advantage even if there is skullduggery afoot simply isn’t the dolphin-thinking brain’s typical style. Remember you read it first here: The dolphin thinker’s decision to disengage when it assays that something may be rotten in Denmark can be bone-rattlingly abrupt.
There are many of these kinds of signature thinking patterns for the dolphin thinker, and for the moment, I’ll mention but one more: The dolphin mind’s tendency to propel you into the thick of anything that effectively captures your interest.
This isn’t to say that you won’t ever be a foot soldier or a bystander, content to go with the flow. The dolphin mind’s overweening expectation of human enterprises, big or small, is that they be functional: is this working? If it is, you may stay close but not really be influential. Projects, opportunities or enterprises—especially complex ones—that genuinely challenge you are a much different story, however. In these instances, the dolphin mind nearly always wants the conn or at least a seat at the decision or planning table. It may or may not receive it. Much faster than most anyone else, you are going to find yourself asking significant questions or, even more jarringly to any pre-dolphin minds present, quickly pointing to solutions. This seldom sits well with the accomplished gamesmanship players of the organization—any organization. You may or may not be invited to stay. Accept that this is now part of your nature: your dolphin thinking nature. And you should, and most times will, enjoy the ride. You’ve earned it!