The 3 Essential Skills for Being Human

David Brooks is a columnist at the New York Times. His recent column “The Essential Skills for Being Human” has inspired this week’s video and post.

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”.

If you liked this post, you will also like Getting your Life in order and Set Goals of Character and Ability, not of Achievement and Status.

A Deep Dive into Jungian Archetypes

Carl Jung (from Wikipedia Commons)

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  • Big Five (OCEAN): This theory measures personality across five dimensions: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. These traits are seen as continuous spectrums rather than distinct types or categories. Jungian archetypes could be seen as expressing different combinations of these traits, with certain archetypes leaning towards specific ends of the spectrum. Learn about OCEAN (video by me).

Some free Personality profile resources:

Redefining Failure

“Living Safely is Dangerous”


What is your relationship to success and failure? I have been reflecting these recent weeks about how I respond to “failure” – when things do not turn out as I hoped or wished.

The video below shares my thinking about a better way of approaching failure in our lives.

How I let failures derail me…

I let small failures easily put me in a state of frustration and stop me making progress (and then checking social media and seeking out other simple distractions).

I take small setbacks incredibly personally.

I’ve been reflecting on why I let these small failure events have such an effect on me.

I realised that I was telling myself that all setbacks are bad.

This is not a great story to tell myself. A new story is that failures are a sign that I am working towards important goals. A lack of setbacks would be a demonstration that I am only working towards easy, unimportant goals that don’t push me to grow as a person.

Essential Meaning of failure: (from Merriam-Webster dictionary)

  1. a lack of success in some effort
  2. a situation or occurrence in which something does not work as it should
  3. an occurrence in which someone does not do something that should be done

The 54 Skills Vital to the Future of Work (McKinsey)

Sustainability, AI and Digitalisation are three important strategic concerns for all businesses. Covid has accelerated this process of transformation. Some jobs will disappear, and new types of jobs will be created. What skills will keep us valuable?

A recent McKinsey report looked at the human skills that will remain in high demand as organisations adapt to the requirements of a sustainable and digital world.

What are the skills that will keep you gainfully employed in future?

McKinsey surveyed over 18,000 people across 15 countries to identify 54 key future-proof skills, which are grouped into 4 categories:

  1. Cognitive – Problem Solving, Planning, Structured communications, Mental flexibility
  2. Interpersonal – Influence, Relationships, Teamwork
  3. Self-Leadership – Self awareness, goal setting
  4. Digital – Data literacy, Computational thinking

The 54 Future-Proof Skills

The rest of the report identifies 54 “distinct areas of talent” – which McKinsey calls DELTAs. These each have an attitudinal and a skill element, so they are something beyond a basic skill. I include the infographic below directly from the McKinsey report:

The Mindset required for Future Employability

In addition to the 54 skills, McKinsey outlined 3 aspects of a Mindset that will be key to future employability:

  1. Contribute – add value beyond what can be done by automated systems and intelligent machines 
  2. Digital – operate in a digital environment 
  3. Adapt – continually adapt to new ways of working and new occupations 

The Impact on Job Satisfaction

There are a few different graphs shown in the full McKinsey report. I found this particular one interesting – the “DELTA”s that most correlate to Job Satisfaction… I would suggest they go farther than just job satisfaction and correlate with overall life satisfaction.

The top 10 Skills for Job Satisfaction

How will you be working on improving your competency in the top 10 skills for Satisfaction?

  1. Self motivation and wellness
  2. Coping with Uncertainty
  3. Self Confidence
  4. Sociability
  5. Programming literacy
  6. Energy, passion and optimism
  7. Understanding biases
  8. Empathy
  9. Integrity
  10. Grit and persistence

If you enjoyed this post, you will also enjoy The Zig-Zag Path to your Dream Job and What will future jobs look like?

3 Lessons on Focus from Dandapani

I first met Dandapani at an Entrepreneurs Organisation event in Istanbul in 2012, I have since met him in Boston and then helped bring him to Barcelona to spend a day with our Entrepreneurs’ Organisation chapter.

Dandapani teaches some simple but highly important lessons about awareness and our mind, and how to be intentional about your life… and in particular your energy.

Video summary from Eugene Wong on LinkedIn

Wisdom from Dandapani

  1. Winning and social approval is not the motivation of the gold medal athlete. They do it to learn more about themselves. Winning or losing is not so important, it is about knowing who you are. Failure is like an enhanced moment to learn who you truly are.
  2. Your life now is a manifestation of where you direct your energy or a sum total of where you have been investing your energy.
  3. There’s people in your life that boost your energy. There are those who are energy neutral. Be kind and detached from your energy vampires. Give the work back to them.

How to Improve your Concentration

Dandapani tells us that there are 3 steps to practice that improve our concentration:

  1. Finish that which you begin
  2. Finish it well, beyond your expectations
  3. Do a little more than you think that you are able to do

Use these 3 steps in every area of your life: from making the bed in the morning, to tidying the kitchen, to reading to your child, to writing emails, to writing blog posts…

Further Resources on Dandapani’s lessons

Check out my previous videos and blog posts that were inspired by Dandapani:

How to do the Most Important Work of your Life

I’ve been reviewing my purpose statement. I rewrote it earlier this year. The year of Covid shook up my routines and threw me out of balance. It took some discipline with mentors, coaches and my journal to get re-connected to why I get up in the morning.

My purpose is “to inspire and challenge others to do the most important work of their lives”.

This video is a reflection on the context necessary for someone to do the most important work of their lives.

The 4 Ingredients necessary to do the most important work of your life:

  1. Work on Important Problems
  2. Surround yourself with Great People
  3. Learn to Communicate effectively
  4. Play the Infinite game

If you enjoyed this post, you will also enjoy 22 Excuses that I use to not Do Important Work and Plant Acorns. Grow Oaks.

How to Create an Abundance Mindset

Our mindset creates our experience of life. With a poor mindset, my experience of life will suffer. With a better mindset, my experience of life will be of greater joy and resourcefulness.

What is Mindset?

Your mindset is your collection of beliefs that shape your thought habits.  Thought habits affect how you think, what you feel, what you perceive and what you do.  Mindset impacts how you make sense of the world, and how you make sense of your own place in the world.

We don’t notice everything that our senses detect. Our subconscious filters most of our sensory input and only passes a small amount on to our conscious awareness. If I am looking for danger, my subconscious filters will pass on more anxiety creating inputs.  If I am looking for things to be grateful for, my awareness will receive more inputs that reflect that search.

Test it for yourself: If you have never seen it, check out the gorilla experiment. It blew me away when I first experienced it.

To change your habits, change your mind…

When reading the book “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, the most profound insight that I took from the book was that to really change our habits, we have to change our self identity.  If I think of myself as unfit, no matter how hard I work to build a fitness habit, I will always be on an uphill struggle.  If I can change how I think about myself first, the habit formation becomes less of a challenge… and it will stay with me.

The way we see the world shapes our experience of life. How to shift your mindset?

Social Media Strategies

I’ve started sharing my videos on Linkedin and Instagram as well as YouTube. I used to try to centralise all my video activity on youtube, but I don’t know if there is any benefit to that these days. Linkedin is a much more powerful business network… so I’ll let you know how this experiment goes.  I’ve embedded from Linkedin this time… does that work for your viewer?

Have a great week.


You Don’t have Time to Figure Everything Out on your Own

Life is too short to figure everything out on your own. 

Humans spend the years from birth to 12 learning how to survive.  Our parents have a vested interest in helping us develop the Stop there: we merely survive. 

We live in a highly complex society.  There is intense competition for status in whatever hierarchy you compete in. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to compete or not, society and humanity are designed to compete for resources.  It is not those born strong that rise to the top of status hierarchies in today’s human society.  It is those who learn to use their capacities most effectively and adapt quickly to changes in the environment.  

There are two ways we learn to make positive progress in this society – 1) our own experience, or 2) through the experiences of others.  Our own experience is a slow and expensive way of learning. 

If I am to choose to learn most effectively, through the experiences of others, I must learn the art of meaningful conversation. Through my work with Entrepreneurs’ Organisation forum and Vistage groups I have worked extensively over the last 15 years on creating the type of meaningful conversation that allows one to learn from the experiences of another.

I’m sharing 4 ideas that I took from Jordan Peterson’s book the 12 Rules for Life when I read it this year.

“Your current knowledge has neither made you perfect nor kept you safe”

Your knowledge is insufficient. You must accept this before you can converse philosophically, instead of pushing opinions, convincing, oppressing, dominating or joking.  

“Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t”

It is necessary to respect the personal experience of your conversational partners. You must assume that they have reached careful, thoughtful, genuine conclusions (and, perhaps, they must have done the work that justifies this assumption). You must believe that if they shared their conclusions with you, you could bypass at least some of the pain of personally learning the same things (as learning from the experience of others can be quicker and much less dangerous).

It takes conversation to organise a mind 

“people organize their brains with conversation. If they don’t have anyone to tell their story to, they lose their minds.” The input of the community is required for the integrity of the individual psyche.    

“Life is short, and you don’t have time to figure everything out on your own” 

They say Aristotle was the last man who knew everything there was to know. Since the time of Aristotle (over 2300 years ago) society has become too complex for any one individual to know all that is known.  

When I was in school, I took huge value in solving from first principles. I would prefer to solve mathematic problems from first principles and avoid using formulaic recipes that allowed you to shortcut to a solution.  This was symptomatic of my whole approach to life. If I hadn’t figured it out myself, I didn’t value the knowledge.  There is a heroic valor to this approach, but it is dumb heroics.  

If you liked this post, you will also like How do I become a better listener and 50 Questions for better Critical Thinking.

Check out the full list of books I read in 2020.



Don’t wish for less Problems: The Grain of Sand creates the Pearl

If an oyster keeps all the sand out of his shell, he lives a life of comfort. At the end of his life, you find a dead oyster… in an empty shell.

If a grain of sand enters the oyster’s shell, he loses his life of comfort. In order to protect himself from irritation, the oyster will begin covering the sand with layers of nacre. Layer upon layer cover the grain of sand until the pearl is formed.

When an oyster is bothered by a grain of sand, it creates a pearl.

If the oyster lives this uncomfortable period in their life, at the end of his life you find more than a dead oyster… you find a pearl.

Don’t wish for less problems.

Our problems allow us to create our pearls. When we remove challenge from our life, we remove growth from our life.

If you liked this post, you will also like Notes from Cicero and 4 Steps to Stop Self-Sabotaging.

Decision Fatigue for Leaders

The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain.  As it tires, your brain looks for shortcuts.  The 2 most common decision avoidance tactics are:

  • to act impulsively (without seeing the consequences of the decision)
  • to procrastinate (do nothing)

Taking decisions takes willpower.  Willpower is a form of mental energy that can be exhausted. It is like a muscle that gets fatigued with use.

There are a limited number of good decisions that one can take in a day.  You might be a more effective decision maker than those around you, but you will still have a finite limit on the number of good decisions you can take in a day.

Decision Fatigue for Leaders

How do you Ration your decision making?

In the toughest days of my life as a CEO – dealing with the fallout from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the collapse in bank lending at the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, I hit my limits of decision fatigue.  In order to get through the weeks and have energy to deal with the things that would allow us as a business to get through these tough times, I rationed my decision making.

The first step was to specify when and where I would take decisions.  (Initially… when: on a Friday; where: only in my office).  Previously my team would approach me at any time in the day, over coffee, over lunch, via email, via sms to request budget for small projects or permission to do some new activity.  I felt responsable as leader for providing an immediate answer.  It was killing me and leaving me with no energy to dedicate to building our future once we survived the immediate crisis.

“That’s great, bring it on Friday…”

I decided that I would take all budget decisions on a Friday between 9-12.  If someone came to me with a request, I learnt to say “that’s great, bring it on Friday and we can take a decision”.  It was hard at first, people were frustrated and angry and didn’t like my lack of willingness to engage at the time and place that they wanted.  Over the following months, the people around me learnt to plan ahead and bring the information necessary to take a good decision on the Friday before they needed the decision.

It gave me peace at lunchtimes, in the break area, even in my office when someone opened the door on a Tuesday.   It was a challenge to remove my sense of responsibility to decide at all moments.  I learnt to be able to have a conversation where I could contribute ideas, but allow it to be clear that no final decision would be taken during this discussion.

When One decision is not really One decision…

My wife realised that one of her struggles with going to the gym is that it was never just one single decision.  Each trip to the gym was a series of decisions: do I change at home or at the gym? do I shower at the gym or at home?  will I eat there or not?  which t-shirt will I bring? which trainers will I use today? which bag will I use?  As the idea of gym came up, her brain knew that it would be exhausted by the series of 20 decisions.  Her solution?  She wrote down all the questions that she used to ask herself and wrote the answers.  She make going to the gym become one simple decision, with a written template of pre-decided answers (shower=yes, trainers=blue, eat=there…)

In Vistage one of the first processes of change that we see in a new CEO member, is a greater awareness of which decisions they should be taking and which decisions they should not be taking.

Are you taking €10,000 decisions, €100 decisions or €1 decisions?  

If you are taking the €1 decisions, your brain’s decision willpower will be depleted before lunchtime.

If you are taking the €1 decisions, your €10,000 decisions will not be receiving the analysis and impact that they deserve.

Jack Welch spoke about the size of decisions that he allowed himself to be taking.  GE is a multi-billion business.  As leader Jack allowed himself to only be taking decisions that could affect at least $50M of the market capitalisation.  

Steve Jobs is famous for having a wardrobe full of identical blue jeans and black t-shirts.  It was not a fashion decision, it was a conservation of decision willpower for the important decisions of Apple.  Barrack Obama speaks about a similar challenge as President of the USA.  He set up a structure around him that ensured that he would take no more than 5 important leadership decisions in a day.

The Structure of Leadership Decision Making

The Vistage Decision Model captures 60 years of experience of working with CEOs as they take operational and strategic decisions to lead their companies and their lives.  There are 3 levels of Decision “skill” – Instinct, Judgement and Perspectives.  There are 5 areas of leadership decision: Talent, Operations, Financials, Customers and Leadership Style.

The Vistage Decision Model

Learn More about the Vistage Decision Model

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