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!”
Click the image to enlarge it.
If the language you prefer to read isn't seen here, then please help us find a translator and a publisher!
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!
It’s time, I think, for us to revisit the idea of The Ghost in the Machine. To get a firsthand sense of what this widespread dogma that colors so many of our assumptions about ourselves, our perceptions and our decision-making is about, you and I must visit the Great Swami, renowned reader of minds. First item of business: revealing what you, longsuffering reader, at this very moment are experiencing in your own head.
Before the Swami starts, I’ll let you in on a secret. This is going to be an inside job. The Great Swami is owner of the same kind of three-pound, grapefruit-sized, near-pudding-like, enzyme-controlled brain used by everyone else on his block, and he is actually about to describe how his brain seems to be experiencing the outside world. Unless you haven’t slept for the past 72 hours or have inhaled or imbibed something really squirrelly in the past few minutes, your brain is almost certain to be providing you with a similar experience.
And so The Great Swami begins:
“The first thing you are noticing is that it seems to you that you are gazing out the front of your face through a couple of holes in your head. Am I correct? … Ah, I thought so.
“And these vantage points permit you to see, continuously, except when you blink, just about anything you choose to see in roughly a 145-to-160-degree arc aligned center-on with your nose. Is this not right? … Yes! Yes, I thought so!
”And if you blink your eyes a couple of times and look for it, it even seems that you can actually detect the region where the dual images provided by your camera-like eyes merge their observations. That is to say, the view of the external world you get when you close one eye while keeping the other open and the view that you get when you do the reverse appear to be pasted together—when both eyes are open—in the vicinity of your nose. Now admit it? Is this not for you the truth? Yes? … Yes, it is as I had believed.
“Of course, your nose itself is a bit of a will-o’-the-wisp. Sometimes you actually seem to be seeing, if only in the faintest, gauze-like fashion, your nose in that shared viewing area between your eyes (and of course you can see your nose if you cross your eyes and look down) and sometimes it seems like you are also seeing right through your nose, with no discernable loss of vision. But one thing is very clear: everything you see is arriving in your head as a full-formed image, is it not? I mean, Holy Madagascar, just look out there! Images everywhere. It’s all images. All the time, seen from the inside of your head, isn’t it a certainty? … Yes! Absolumento!”
Along with the Great Swami, all of us all are but certain that our eyes are continuously recording—with indisputable fidelity—fully formed pictures of a rich, vivid world right there in front of our noses, and it may be difficult to convince us otherwise.
For example, after tracing what happens to a photon of light as it winds its way through the construction processes involved in producing what we think we see, one observer has summed up our abilities of vision as the “end product of chopping, coding, long-distance transmission, neural guesswork and editable cut and paste.” He adds, “What we see is not the product of direct perception, but of a reconstruction which borders on fragile artistry.”
At this juncture, and with apologies to the Great Swami, we can be absolutely sure that our vision isn’t television. Philosopher Daniel Dennett reminds us that much of our vision’s eventual “products” aren’t imagistic at all but are such things as guided hand and finger motions, involuntary ducking, exclamations of surprise, triggering of ancient memories and sexual arousal, to cite a few. Assuming that the results of our vision started out as pictures—images—“is rather like assuming that power from a hydroelectric plant is apt to be wetter and less radioactive than power from a nuclear plant. The raw retinal data are cooked in many ways betwixt eyeball and verbal report (for instance),” Dennett says.
As for that chief or central executive, that Ghost in the Machine that supposed is “up there” consciously watching the movie and providing us with a sense of self, well … youse pays your money and youse makes your choices when it comes to which theories, and which theorists, of consciousness you choose to follow.
Perhaps when it comes to helping us understanding how our custard-like brain works, how mind and brain relate, what an odd phenomenon consciousness is and so forth, the brain is just being shrewd . . . crazy like a fox . . . intuitively sensing just how bizarre this whole subject actually is. To my knowledge, no one has made this “bizarreness business” more entertaining than science fiction writer Terry Bisson. One of his Omni Magazine stories contained this exchange between an alien explorer who has just returned from a visit to Earth and his commander. Apparently, several versions of this dialogue have shown up on the Internet, but this is the one I like best:
[Explorer] They’re made out of meat.
[Explorer] There’s no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all the way through. They’re completely meat.
[Commander] That’s impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars.
[Explorer] They use radio waves to talk, but the signals can’t come from them. The signals come from machines.
[Commander] So who made the machines? That’s who we want to contact.
[Explorer] They made the machines. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Meat made the machines.
[Commander] That’s ridiculous. How can meat make a machine? You’re asking me to believe in sentient meat.
[Explorer] I’m not asking you, I’m telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in the sector and they’re made out of meat.
[Commander] Maybe they’re like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage.
[Explorer] Nope. They’re born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn’t take too long. Do you have any idea of the life span of meat?
[Commander] Spare me. Okay, maybe they’re only part meat. You know, like the Weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside.
[Explorer] Nope, we thought of that, since they do have meat heads like the Weddelei. But I told you, we probed them. They’re meat all the way through.
[Commander] No brain?
[Explorer] Oh, there’s a brain all right. It’s just that the brain is made out of meat!
[Commander] So … what does the thinking?
[Explorer] You’re not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat.
[Commander] Thinking meat? You’re asking me to believe in thinking meat?
[Explorer] Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you getting the picture?
[Commander] Omigod. You’re serious then. They’re made out of meat.
[Explorer] Finally. Yes. They are indeed made out meat. And they’ve been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years.
So Archie Bunker turns out to have been a sharp-eyed neuroscientist, after all!
What is the bottom line, the moral, if you please, for this clever piece of sci-fi dramaturgy? How about this one: whether you are on the outside looking in (Sisson’s alien) or on the inside looking out (us Sisson meatheads), the brain is always central to understanding what’s happening, no matter discombobulatingly circuitous the route between what’s out there and what we actually conclude is happening. It may be meat but as Dr. Steven Hyman, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, observes, it’s a choice cut. “The human brain,” he says, “is probably the most complex structure in the known universe.” Its one hundred billion neurons are, or would be were they to be struck end to end in a continuous thread, more than two million miles long.
Neuroscientists suspect that each neuron is directly connected to an average of about ten thousand other neurons. Dr. Daniel J. Siegel, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, notes that this makes the brain home to about one million billion of these links. “The number of possible ‘one-off’ patterns of neuronal firing is immense, estimated as a staggering ten times ten one million times (ten to the millionth power),” he marvels.
More than that, we’re stuck with the brain’s “my way or the highway” centrality to what’s going on. Edward O. Wilson, the renowned pioneer of sociobiology and biodiversity, reminds us, “Everything that we know and can ever know about existence is created there.”
Wilson continues, “The human brain bears the stamp of 400 million years of trial and error, traceable by fossils and molecular homology in nearly unbroken sequence from fish to amphibian to reptile to primitive mammal to our immediate primate. In the final step the brain was catapulted to a radically new level, equipped for language and culture. . . . The result was human nature: genius animated with animal craftiness and emotion, combining the passion of politics and art with rationality, to create a new instrument of survival.”
Thinking about how best to help you perform in dolphin-thinking waters, we need to do a reality check on our views about human nature. Older theories about human nature are proving tenacious in the pre-dolphin-thinking mind, but in the minds of people paying serious attention to what we are rapidly learning about the way the world really works already know better. One of our key assignments as dolphin-styled thinkers is to utilize the full powers of our new ways of thinking about human nature becomes second nature.