I loved his book “The Social Animal” – which is a novel-like story about the lives of 2 people and how their values and actions shape their lives. It reminded me of another book that had a powerful impact on me, Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge”.
The greatest distance in the universe… is within us. It is the distance between our potential and our actual performance.
When we are young, we have so much potential: talents, dreams, and capabilities. Most of these possibilities remain just that – potential, unmanifested and untapped. It is horrible to look at the chasm between what we could potentially achieve and what we actually do.
“Actions speak louder than words.”
Intentions are the seeds of every great deed, but only action has the power to change the world.
Good intention with no action is like a car that never leaves the garage. It might be comfortable to sit in, but it’s going nowhere.
So, how do we bridge this gap? It starts with self-awareness, the courage to act, and the acceptance that most action steps are very small.
Over the 18 years that I have known Tony he has consistently been able to engage with me in some of the most powerful, clarifying conversations of my life. I can immediately think of three times when he asked a question that has profoundly altered my perspective on life or business.
How will you feel when you achieve all this?
About 16 years ago, in the first of these conversations… he asked about how achieving my goals would impact my life… and I realised that I really didn’t know… and I started doing the work to understand what I was really looking for out of “success”.
How much do you want to do what is in the plan?
8 years ago, the second of these conversations he challenged me to ensure that I was getting what I personally needed out of life. I showed him a business plan for my current business… and he asked me “1 to 10, how much do you want to do what is in this plan?”… and I didn’t like my answer… which led to a big shift in my approach.
On the real nature of trust…
The third of these conversations was about friendship and trust. I am still processing his final question 😉
If you want to lead people, you need them to want what you want.
Iris H was an MBA student at IESE a few years back, today a senior figure in Investment Banking. I recently discovered her blog. A recent post struck a chord with me: You can’t want it more…
3 Psychological Needs
Self-Determination Theory is a psychological framework developed by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan. People need 3 psychological needs to be fulfilled:
Autonomy: to feel in control of one’s actions
Mastery: to feel effective and capable
Relatedness: to feel connected to others
If you are to lead, to teach, to parent… it is much more important to help people see why the tool is important than to teach them to use the tool. In the words of a wise Malaysian friend of mine, George Gan “if you want to teach maths to John, it is more important to know John than to know maths”.
“without a goal, you can’t score” …and you are probably somewhat de-motivated…
In sports, the goal is very clear. In football – a 24ft by 8ft steel or aluminium frame with a net… so you can clearly see if the ball goes in.
In sports, the victory condition is very clear… more goals than the other team.
In our lives, some people take the time to get clear on their specific goals… and they know when they score.
Others have only a vague idea…
Others are just kicking a ball in the dark.
Clarity on your Goals: in sports, and in life
Here’s what ChatGPT has to say on my sports metaphor and its application to our lives…
Clarity of Purpose:
In sports, particularly in football, there’s no ambiguity about what the objective is: to get the ball into the goal. This clear-cut aim provides direction to all the players on the field.
Similarly, in life, having a well-defined goal can give a person direction and purpose. Knowing what one wants to achieve can be a guiding light in making decisions and choosing paths.
In football, success is often quantified by the number of goals scored. The more you score, the closer you are to winning. It’s a tangible, measurable outcome.
In life, having specific goals allows us to measure our progress. Whether it’s a career aspiration, a personal project, or a health objective, breaking it down into measurable milestones can help us track our progress and celebrate small victories along the way.
Motivation and Drive:
Players on a football field are driven by the adrenaline and the desire to score and win. The clarity of the goal amplifies their motivation.
Similarly, having clear goals in life can be a powerful motivator. When we know what we’re striving for, we’re more likely to put in the effort and stay committed. In contrast, lack of clear goals can lead to feelings of aimlessness or stagnation.
Navigating Through Darkness:
The analogy of “kicking a ball in the dark” vividly portrays a sense of confusion and aimlessness. Just like a footballer would struggle to score without seeing the goal, individuals might find it challenging to achieve success in life without knowing their true goals.
Knowing where the goal is can be the difference between random, uncoordinated efforts and strategic, purposeful actions.
Flexibility & Adaptation:
While the primary objective in football remains the same, the strategy might need to change based on the opposing team, field conditions, or even the game’s current score. Having a clear goal doesn’t mean there’s only one way to achieve it.
In life too, while our main goals might stay consistent, the pathways to achieving them might need adjustments based on changing circumstances. Clear goals allow for better judgment on when and how to adapt.
The Power of Visualization:
In football, players often visualize the trajectory of the ball, foreseeing their moves. This visualization is anchored around the clearly visible goalpost.
In personal and professional pursuits, visualizing our goals can be a powerful tool for manifestation. When we have a clear vision of what we want, our mind and body can work synchronously towards achieving it.
The world of sports offers rich metaphors for understanding the significance of goals in life. Just as athletes need a clear target to direct their energies towards, individuals can benefit from defining and visualizing their life goals. This clarity can be the driving force behind actions, decisions, and eventual successes.
There is an old story of a person trapped on the roof of a building as floodwaters are rising.
A boat passes and the occupants shout “come down, we’ll take you to safety”. The person says “No, God will save me”.
Another boat passes. The occupants shout “come down, we’ll take you to safety” The person says “No, God will save me.”
The floodwaters rise and the person drowns. At the gates of heaven the person asks God “why didn’t you save me?” and God replies “I sent you two boats, why didn’t you accept my help?”
On Being Active while Being Patient
Passive Patience is waiting for what you want.
Active patience is preparing yourself to be maximally prepared to find the right types of opportunity, and to have the skills, resources and network to really make use of the opportunity when it finally comes.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about the life strategy of “Stand in the Traffic”. Shane Parrish in a recent Farnham Street newsletter item reminded me of the concept. His framing of the concept is “Active Patience”.
If you’ve not read about “Stand in the Traffic” as a life strategy, check out the original post:
On Active Patience
Patience in itself is not a negative trait. Patience is the ability to wait for something without getting angry or upset.
Patience is a necessary attribute for achieving long-term goals.
Patience can be divided into two forms: passive and active.
Passive patience is waiting for something to happen without taking any action to bring it about.
Active patience involves taking steps towards your goals while understanding that results may take time. This form of patience acknowledges the necessity of individual effort and also respects the nature of time.
“The least effective form of patience is passive: –
A person who is passively patient waits for the universe to give them what they think they deserve. Five years from now, they’ll still be waiting. Passive patience violates Newton’s third law, which states, ‘For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.’
No action. No result.
The world isn’t indebted to you, and no one is destined to come your way, tap your shoulder, and present you with the golden opportunity you’ve been waiting for. It doesn’t work that way.
The most effective form of patience is active patience.
Active patience implies taking significant steps today to set yourself up for future success. It’s about strategically preparing for what lies ahead—saving more than you spend and investing wisely, developing the necessary skills for future job prospects, choosing kindness over cleverness, and so on.
Here is the key lesson: Active patience puts the world on your side. If you go positive and go first, and you do so consistently, the world does a lot of the heavy lifting for you.”
How can you Stand in the Traffic, or take a stance of Active Patience in your most important goals?
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who made significant contributions to our understanding of the human psyche. He was a former student and colleague of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, but they eventually parted ways due to major disagreements in their theories.
Carl Jung devoted his life to studying the human mind, seeking to understand the factors that influence human behavior and personality.
Jung’s Understanding of our Mind
Carl Jung’s model of the human psyche can be imagined as an iceberg.
The tiny tip above the water represents the conscious mind, the portion underwater that is still visible symbolises the personal unconscious, and the vast, unseen expanse beneath the surface embodies the collective unconscious.
Conscious Mind: The conscious mind consists of everything we’re actively aware of. It involves our current thoughts, perceptions, and actions. It’s the part of the mind where reasoning, decision-making, and voluntary actions occur.
Personal Unconscious: The personal unconscious contains memories, thoughts, and experiences that were once conscious but have been forgotten or suppressed. It includes personal experiences and knowledge that are not currently conscious but can be brought back to consciousness. This is also where our complexes reside, which are patterns of emotions, memories, and perceptions tied together by a common theme.
Collective Unconscious: The collective unconscious, unlike the personal unconscious, does not develop from personal experiences. Instead, it’s a shared reservoir of experiences of our species, a kind of universal, impersonal form of memory inherited from our ancestors. It contains archetypes, which are basic universal symbols, themes, and motifs that are common across different cultures and epochs. The collective unconscious impacts our thoughts, emotions, and behaviours, often in ways we aren’t aware of. It can influence our dreams and our conscious thoughts. Symbols from the collective unconscious often appear in our dreams, fantasies, or in ‘slips of the tongue’, and can even influence our personal beliefs and values.
The collective unconscious, personal unconscious, and conscious mind are all interconnected and each play an important role in how we experience life.
The Collective Unconscious: A Shared Ancestral Species Memory
The collective unconscious, also known as the objective psyche, refers to structures of the unconscious mind shared among beings of the same species. It is a repository of ancestral experiences.
According to Jung, the collective unconscious contains archetypes, which are universal, archaic patterns or images that derive from the collective repeated experiences of our ancestors. These archetypes are innate and inherited, not acquired from personal experiences. They include themes such as birth, death, power, parenthood, and childhood, which are reflected in our myths, religions, dreams, and fantasies.
The collective unconscious profoundly influences our behavior, attitudes, dreams, and emotions, though we are often unaware of its impact. It’s the reason certain symbols, myths, and motifs are prevalent across different cultures and historical periods.
Understanding Jungian Archetypes
Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung proposed the idea of archetypes as universal, inborn models of people, behaviours, or personalities. They serve as the foundation for our understanding and experience of the world. The four primary Jungian archetypes are the Self, the Shadow, the Anima/Animus, and the Persona.
Primary Jungian Archetypes
The Self represents the unification of the conscious and unconscious within an individual. It’s the archetype that connects our spiritual and earthly facets, symbolising our striving for unity and wholeness. In leadership, this wholeness translates into self-awareness, a quality that enables leaders to understand their strengths, weaknesses, and core values.
The Shadow encompasses the parts of ourselves that we choose to repress or deny – our fears, insecurities, and perceived weaknesses. It’s the “dark side” of our personality that we often choose to overlook. However, by recognising and integrating our shadow, we can achieve personal growth and become more empathetic leaders, able to understand and accept the imperfections in ourselves and others.
The Anima/Animus. The Anima (in men) and Animus (in women) represent the feminine and masculine aspects within us, respectively. They symbolise the “true self” versus societal expectations about gender roles.
The Persona is the mask we present to the world – it’s how we choose to be seen. It embodies our social role and mediates between our true self and the environment. In leadership, the Persona can sometimes be misleading, as leaders may feel compelled to project an image that’s in line with societal expectations rather than their true nature.
Jungian Character Archetypes
While the primary archetypes represent internal aspects of the self, the 12 character archetypes reflect diverse ways these basic aspects may manifest in our behaviours and attitudes. We each have an innate sense of the type of story we seek to live. If we can understand and accept our nature, we can create a life that is deeply meaningful for ourselves.
The Ruler: This archetype craves control and will seek leadership, believing stability and power are the ways to ensure safety. The Ruler fears chaos and being overthrown. As leaders, they can bring about prosperity and success but may also become authoritarian.
The Creator/Artist: This archetype is imaginative and values authenticity. They desire to create something meaningful and enduring. Their fear lies in mediocrity or creating something insignificant. In leadership, they can foster innovation and creativity.
The Sage: The Sage seeks truth and understanding. They are wise, thoughtful, and introspective, driven by knowledge and wisdom. They fear deception and ignorance. As leaders, they are valued for their insight and analytical abilities.
The Innocent: The Innocent aims to be happy and strives to do things right. Their optimism and hope can be infectious. They fear doing something wrong or punishable. Leaders who embody this archetype often encourage a positive, morale-boosting environment.
The Explorer: This archetype is characterised by a deep love of exploration and the desire for freedom. They fear being trapped or conforming. As leaders, they encourage discovery, innovation, and growth.
The Rebel: The Rebel seeks radical change and revolution, standing against the status quo. They fear no change or being powerless. In leadership, they challenge old systems and norms, fostering innovation and change.
The Hero: The Hero archetype is characterised by courage, strength, and competence. They are driven by their desire to prove their worth through courageous acts. Their fear lies in weakness or vulnerability. As leaders, they can inspire others to action.
The Wizard: The Wizard seeks to understand the underlying rules of the universe and make dreams come true. They fear unintended negative consequences. As leaders, they encourage learning, understanding, and growth, aiming to turn ideas into reality.
The Jester: The Jester is driven by a desire to live in the moment and make the most of it. They fear being bored or boring others. They can foster a fun and positive work environment, inspiring creativity and a different perspective.
The Everyman: The Everyman seeks connection and belonging, valuing humility and being down-to-earth. They fear standing out or being left out. In leadership, they often foster team cohesion and egalitarianism.
The Lover: The Lover seeks intimacy and to be in a relationship with the people, work, and surroundings they love. They fear being alone or unloved. As leaders, they encourage harmony and work to build deep relationships.
The Caregiver: The Caregiver desires to help and protect others. They fear selfishness and ingratitude. As leaders, they often provide support, nurturing the growth and development of their team.
How to Understand Humans: Ourselves, and Others
Jungian archetypes provide a mirror to our inner selves, allowing us to deepen self-understanding, lead others and communicate authentically.
Self-awareness: Understanding these archetypes can provide insights into our motivations, fears, and desires, improving our decision-making abilities and empathetic understanding.
Authenticity: By integrating our personality aspects, leaders can foster authenticity, leading to trust and stronger connections within their teams.
Influential communication: Understanding archetypes can improve our understanding of others’ perspectives and behaviours, enhancing communication skills and fostering meaningful relationships.
Exploring your own Archetypal Structure
If you haven’t already done these tests, I’d suggest that they are best place to start to gain an understanding of your own personal character orientation.
The Enneagram, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), DISC, and the Big Five (OCEAN) are all tools that seek to understand and categorise our personality traits.
Enneagram: The Enneagram consists of nine distinct personality types. Each type, or number, represents a worldview and archetype that resonates with how people think, feel, and act in relation to the world, others, and themselves. Though not a direct translation, the underlying motives, fears, and desires of each Enneagram type can be compared to the motivations, fears, and desires found in the 12 Jungian archetypes. Learn about the Enneagram.
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): The MBTI is heavily influenced by Jung’s theory of psychological types. It divides personality into four dichotomies, with 16 possible combinations. These combinations form the basis for Myers-Briggs’ personality types. The MBTI focuses more on the process of personality (how individuals perceive the world and make decisions), while the Jungian archetypes focus more on the content of personality (innate tendencies and behaviours). Learn about MBTI.
DISC: DISC focuses on four different personality traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. Each of these traits represents a way that individuals typically behave or communicate. The Jungian archetypes could represent the motivation or underlying forces that drive these behaviours. Learn about DISC.
I’ve been reflecting this week on a quote from Economist Thomas Sowell “There are no solutions, only trade-offs.”
I work with CEOs. They take decisions. They feel responsible for the consequences of these decisions. They often wait to find a “perfect solution” rather than take action today on a “less than perfect option”.
CEOs (and the rest of us) live in a world of finite resources – time, money, manpower. With every decision, we are indicating our priorities. Investing in a new project might drive growth but will divert resources from other key areas. Each choice has consequences that affect stakeholders within and outside your organisation.
There is no Perfect Solution
When I teach, I often tell my participants that the worst approach to leadership is idealism. When a leader stands up and tells the world “every child deserves to go to school, every child deserves to have a safe home, every child deserves clean water, every child deserves medical services that are free and close to them…” after the applause, nothing changes. No child notices a difference. This is the worst use of the power of leadership… an idealistic rant. I agree with every part of it… but that changes nothing. There are trade-offs.
I was reminded of this idea while attending a conference yesterday at IESE Business School. I had the privilege of being the keynote speaker at an event hosted by the company Veepee.
The slide reads: “97% of people want to live a sustainable lifestyle; but only 12% of people are actually changing their behaviour”.
There are few cost free choices. Leaders often face immense pressure to deliver clear-cut answers. The pursuit of one objective always means sacrificing another. We must be very careful with the illusionary idea of a “perfect solution”.
Perspective: A Leadership Power Tool
Far from being a bleak outlook, this viewpoint is empowering. It emphasizes the importance of perspective, context, and adaptability in leadership. Recognizing trade-offs enhances our decision-making process. It encourages leaders to appreciate the complexities, accept the grey areas, and understand that their choices reflect their priorities.
For CEOs in this complex decision-making landscape, peer groups like Vistage play a crucial role. Vistage provides a trusted circle of peers who provide insight, experience, and accountability. Leaders are not alone in their decision-making process. Vistage offers a proven decision making method where CEOs can explore potential impacts, consequences, and risks associated with each choice.
This framework allows leaders to consider their priorities, weigh their options, and make decisions aligned with their strategic objectives and values… and then commit themselves and their organisation to the decision.
Leadership isn’t about finding the perfect answer.
Leadership is about understanding the consequences of the choices you make and how those choices relate to the underlying purpose of yourself as leader.
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