Connection over Perfection — AoA Series #3

The Art of Accomplishment
The Art of Accomplishment
Connection over Perfection — AoA Series #3
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We are taught from a very young age that doing things perfectly will get us where we want to go in life. But what if doing things in connection is far more effective? What if being in connection with your customers gets better results than trying to make a perfect product? Or being in connection with your spouse makes a better marriage than trying to make it perfect?

“If you close your ideas and you think of the things that you feel are most perfect in the world, those are also things that are deeply connected. We think of a flower. We think of a scene. We think of God. We think of an amazing product. What the human population sees as perfection, they are all deep expressions of connection.”

What is perfectionism? If having clear goals can be so helpful in life, how could it be that the simple act of measuring ourselves up to them so often holds us back? Today we are going to explore why our quest for perfection never seems to satisfy us and often only slows or impedes productivity, while seeking connection tends to result in better output, better products and a better life. 

Brett: Joe, what makes this such an important topic? 

Joe: Oh man. That’s a great question. There’s so many reasons why it’s important to me. The one that comes to mind right away is an experiment they did. It’s the dried spaghetti experiment. It’s basically you give a group of people 25 or so hard pieces of spaghetti and a marshmallow and some masking tape and you say, “Build the highest structure you can build.”

It turns out that kindergartners, a group of five kindergartners, will beat a group of five CEOs on a regular basis. The reason that the people who are doing the experiment say that that’s the case is, because the young kids are iterating. They’re just trying stuff out, trying stuff out, trying stuff out. 

Then when the time’s up, they’ve tried like three or four models and they’ve got something. Whereas the CEO’s are trying to make it absolutely perfect. Then they’ll put that marshmallow on at the last minute, the whole thing will collapse. They didn’t iterate. They didn’t try. They tried to make it perfect and so it didn’t work.

One of the things about this experiment, which is so cool, is that if you get those same five CEOs and you add an administrative assistant, they will outperform the kindergarteners. Just somebody who can connect them together will immediately change it. On that level, that’s a great example of how just connection, connecting with the tools that you have experimenting, iterating, that’s a form of connection. Connecting with each other, like with the admin, all of that produces better results. 

That’s one of the main reasons why it’s so much more important. The other more important thing is that our neurochemicals do not propel us to be perfect. They propel us to connect. It’s in our nature. Connection is in our nature. When you’re working with humanity, prioritizing connection makes it better for you and everybody you’re working with. That’s part of the reason you get better results is that people don’t want you to be perfect. The idea of you being perfect is going to be different from person to person. What they want is to feel connected with you. What you want is to feel connected to them.

That’s what we are genetically programmed to do, is to have this sense of connection. You get a deeper level of results and you get deeper satisfaction in your life. This is everywhere, even in the places where you don’t expect it. For example, sales. There’s one way of selling, which is the way most people sell. They try to write the perfect pitch and then present the perfect pitch in a perfect way. That just doesn’t work as well as asking a whole bunch of questions, whether that’s question-based selling or whether that’s challenger-based selling. 

It’s just asking a whole bunch of questions and talking to the person and finding out what’s important to them. There’s a great book on this called Ready, Fire, Aim. Is it Fire, Ready, Aim? Aim, Ready, Fire. It’s basically saying that the job isn’t to get a perfect product and put it out there. The job is to sell the thing before you build it so that you know what people will buy, which means that you’re more connected with your customer.

Brett: Then you’re building what people will buy rather than what you planned or what you thought they would buy.

Joe: That’s one way to look at it. The other way to look at it is that you’re prioritizing connection. You are saying, “I am going to connect with my customer and see what they really want, to see what it is that I can really serve them by providing,” instead of, “I have this cool idea. What will make you buy it?”

Brett: Let’s define our terms here to discriminate between what is perfection and connection. Let’s start by defining what is perfection.

Joe: The critical parent’s voice in your head is what it is for most people. We have this exercise in one of the workshops that I do, which is a triggering exercise, where people are to trigger one another and people hesitate to do it. We don’t do it because we want to see people triggered. We do it, because we want people to figure out how to handle it when they are triggered. There’s a group of people I can just walk up to and I can trigger people really easily because I can read what will trigger them pretty quickly. One of the things I can do is–

Brett: Yes, you are great at that.

Joe: [chuckles] One of the ways that I’ll do it, I can just like, see who the perfectionist in the room is and I’ll say, “You’re a perfectionist.” It’ll trigger them because they’re immediately in this headlock with themselves, because part of being perfect is to not be a perfectionist. It just messes with them all ways.

The way I pick those people out is because I can see which ones of them had supercritical parents and you can see it in everything that they do. At some level, perfectionism is just trying to make the critical parent pleased. Since the critical parent could never really be pleased, it wasn’t about you. It could be the critical teacher or the critical grandparent or whatever.

Brett: How does that perfectionism show up? What do you see in people in their lives or the way they carry themselves, or even just briefly in a workshop when you’ve just met them?

Joe: How do you see that? It’s the amount of rigidity in the musculature, the amount of precision that they operate with, how much they’re second-guessing themselves, how stunted their tones are, the way that they speak. Basically, all it really results to, is rigidity and hesitation inside the person when they’re trying to be perfect.

Brett: That hesitation part is really interesting. Because for me, I’ve always had identified or been diagnosed as ADD or ADHD. If I really pay attention to it, the moments where I get Teflon brain and it skips off of my task. If I really look at what happens often, it arises from a perfectionist pessimism.

I sit down to write an email and I’m like, “Oh, I’m just never going to get this right. I’m not going to get it right. At least not right now, so why even bother?” Maybe some other time the conditions will be perfect and I’ll know what to do. Let’s go see what’s in the fridge right now.

Joe: They call it attention deficit disorder. The idea in the label is that your capacity to pay attention. If you reverse it a little bit, it’s like how much attention was paid to you. It’s the attention deficit disorder. Does that mean that you can’t pay attention or does that mean that there was a limited amount of connection that you got? That’s what actually creates it.

I’ve noticed that. That’s on the other side is that connection feeling, that the idea that you can do it perfectly is also just simply inane in the fact that what I think is perfect is different, than what you think is perfect. There’s always someone thinking that you’re not doing it perfectly, including you, always.

The other thing you said, what is perfection? It’s something that doesn’t exist. It’s just the point of view. If you are being absolutely perfect, somebody is seeing you as being rigid or imperfect or hesitant or whatever it is. That’s how I describe it. If there’s no such thing as that, the only way to describe it is trying to satisfy some critical voice in your head that is never and can never be satisfied.

Brett: Having goals and vision and striving for perfection is good, right? It allows us to structure ourselves and structure our minds so that we can achieve something. How does that interact with this idea of perfectionism? 

Joe: Having goals and intentions, those are fantastic. Obviously, it allows us to focus. It allows us to decide which way we’re going to walk. We have thousands of decisions to make a day. If we make them based on a goal, then we are far more coherent and unified, especially if that goal is coherent and unified.

I don’t know if that has anything to do with perfection. I don’t see that as being perfect. None of our goals are perfect even. As long as you don’t believe that there is some perfection you can get to, then the goals are really useful. As soon as you think there is a perfection that you can live up to, then the goals become less useful.

To be specific about that, that doesn’t mean that you’re not 100% confident you’re going to get to the goal. It’s just the belief that there’s some level of perfection at the end of the rainbow. That just doesn’t happen. The other thing is that the best way to get to what we think is perfection– I’d even say, if you close your eyes and you think of the things that you feel are most perfect in the world, those are also things that are deeply connected. We think of a flower. We think of a scene. We think of God. We think of an amazing product. We think of a person who inspires us. Then an ecosystem.

Brett: An ecosystem, a metabolism. 

Joe: It’s all also far more an expression of connection than it is a perfection. Even what the human population sees as perfection, they are all deep expressions of connection.

Brett: It seems related to the idea of utopia being a dangerous idea. The idea of iterating towards better than what we have now is just the natural state.

Joe: Which is the coolest thing too, because iteration is far more connected than perfection. If I’m just iterating and I’m learning and growing, that is a connected experience. That’s what life does. It evolves. It doesn’t evolve to a perfect end. If you see yourself as trying to evolve to a perfect end, then you’re no longer in the flow of life. You’re not using all the natural energy, all the natural ways of being that we were designed with to be productive.

Brett: This is all reminding me of the book Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse. Have you–?

Joe: I haven’t. What is it?

Brett: It’s a fascinating and quite short read actually. It’s quite poetic. It just describes this one very broad concept across a bunch of different domains and short prose about how there are games that are finite, where you achieve something and you get the title. You get the diploma. You get the trophy. You get the money. Then there are games that they’re not meant to be won. The goal is not to win and end the game, but the goal is just to keep playing.

Joe: Yes, which is right. I think that’s a beautiful way to describe why connection and perfection work the way they work in our systems is that life is the game that you just keep on playing. Therefore, connection is what works. When you have a game that has a finite end or you’ve created an imagined finite end to it, then perfection is there.

That’s the other thing about it, is that fear creates a finite end in people. The idea of perfection is really a fear-based idea. The idea that you have to be perfect, that you have a right answer, that there’s the right way to do it, that’s all fear-based. Fear does not make great decisions.

Brett: That’s interesting. A lot of ideals of perfection are this belief that we can get rid of everything bad and that we can reduce all error. There’s a fear of like, “Oh my God, what if this happened? What if this still exists in the world? What if there’s still imperfection? What if I still have to feel whatever this is that I don’t want to feel? What if I could just cut all that out? That would be perfect.”

Joe: The CEO of Netflix has a great example of this where he talks about his first company. He basically made it idiot-proof so it couldn’t be broken and then he only had idiots working for him as he describes it. Then they couldn’t really adjust their company to the new times. In his company now–

Brett: Rigidity.

Joe: Exactly. He has a system that’s in place to create a certain amount of chaos so that he can create an environment where smart people love to be and where it’s far more flexible.

Brett: Where flexible people like to be.

Joe: Exactly. That’s where connection happens. In one, he prioritized getting it right and perfecting. The other one he prioritized being connected with these people.

Brett: Then let’s get into the definition of connection then. How specifically would you define that as relative to this idea of perfection?

Joe: It’s a measure of capacity for you or for anybody, anything to meet and accept things as they are in the moment. If I’m connecting with you, I’m not asking you to be any different right now. The more I ask you to be different, the less connected we’re going to feel. If I’m looking at a landscape and trying to adjust it, telling myself this is the good part and this is the bad part and comparing it to other landscapes, I am in less connection than if I am in just full acceptance of what the landscape is at this moment.

Connection basically is like the surface area of our awareness. We take away surface area, when we start looking for things that can be better or things that are different or any way in which we’re calculating creates distances to that connection. If you are a CEO and you want your customer to be different, you are not in connection. If you are a product manager trying to get a different answer from your customer, then you’re not in connection. If you are a husband wanting your wife to not nag as much, or a wife wanting your husband to not nag as much, then you are not in connection. Connection is the acceptance of people and things as they are. That’s what it is.

Neurochemically, it is oxytocin and serotonin. Mostly it’s oxytocin, which is the drug that is felt when we’re in deep connection, mothers feel when they’re breastfeeding and we feel it when we’re hugging and we feel it during sex. That’s oxytocin. Serotonin is more of a pride, proud of each other drug and something that you would feel like if you were watching a friend have a great moment. You had a lot of pride in what they just accomplished. Those are our connection neurochemicals. That’s the other way to say what connection is.

Brett: One thing just pried, it seems serotonin is also involved in meaning and satiety.

Joe: Yes. That’s right. Exactly. The way to think about our ability to have connection, it’s really our ability to love ourselves and accept ourselves as we are. The more I can love every aspect of myself, the more I can love every person I come across as they are. You can hear there’s somebody’s mind out there listening to this right now and they’re like, “If I accept myself as I am, I will be horrible. I will drink beer on the couch, or I’ll just say the same as I am right now.”

What’s interesting is, that doesn’t actually happen. If you look at any system that is deeply connected and change is inherent, it’s natural. Evolution is part of it. It’s when people get rigid, when people try to do it perfectly, that change stops happening. It’s just that you don’t get to control the change. It’s just that you have to trust the deeper intelligence in yourself, your deeper intelligence, your nonintellectual intelligence to drive the change.

Brett: It seems like this comes up pretty frequently in so many other aspects of the work that you do, or that we’ve been doing. For example, the victim story that people have around client relationships. It’s like, “Oh, man, all these clients, there’s so much wrong with them. If only they would see things the way we see it, we’d be able to do great work.”

Joe: Yes, or fathers or mothers or girlfriends. Exactly. That’s right. The way to think about it too, is just like think about the people who really make it so that you feel seen, that really make it so that you feel understood. Feel that. That is connection. Those people are seeing you for what you are. They’re not trying to fix you or manage you. If you think about what’s so important about connection, what makes it important is, think of what you would do for those people. Think of the people who make you feel most seen and most understood in this world. What would you do for them? What would you do for yourself, if you really saw and understood yourself deeply? If you really felt understood by yourself.

There’s people listening to this who haven’t quit eating sugar or haven’t quit smoking. What would you do? There’s a way in which you’re disconnected with yourself. If you felt deeply connected with yourself and you weren’t trying to change yourself, the things that you would do for yourself are far more outstanding than things you’re actually doing for yourself right now. You tell yourself you should do them, but you’re not doing them.

Brett: Yes. That brings me back to that ADD example I described earlier. It’s like the difference between sitting down to write an email and being like, “Oh God, I’m just so procrastinating today. I’m just never going to get this done. Oh, I suck.” That’s telling myself how I should be. Then the connection version would be like, “Oh, wow. I really want to get this right because this is important to me. Oh, man. Whatever I do it’s never going to be. There’s always going to be something I could have done better. Wow. Okay.”

Joe: Yes. How about just be authentic, do it the way that I want to do it and then look at it and see if that works? Exactly. That connection is staying. I talk about what it means and I say that it’s like accepting how things are in the moment. The moment changes. So you just keep on accepting, because it keeps on moving. It keeps on changing.

Brett: Yes, because the moment you accept something, you can also then turn that acceptance into a new model of perfection.

 Joe: [laughs] Yes. I’m going to connect to you perfectly. It’s so amazing. It’s like, “Hey, I want to connect with you.” You can just feel that in your system. “Hey, I want to connect with you. Hey, I want to connect with you perfectly.” It just immediately takes the connection out.

Brett: I’ve experienced that in relationships so many times, where suddenly I’ll have a new idea of like, “Oh, wow, this is connection. I wasn’t doing connection before. Now I know what connection is.” Then suddenly that can become a new perfectionism, where I’m like, “Oh, man, I could call my brother and reach out and talk right now, but I haven’t talked in so long and that’s been– Oh.” Then just find ways to make it not okay somehow and then procrastinate it.

Joe: Exactly. That’s the amazing thing too, is that we have all these impulses inside of us that are just popping up like, “Oh, I want to work out or I want to exercise or I want to move my body.” Then that impulse, which is the deep connection, immediately gets turned into a perfection of, “I should work out.” Then it’s completely unmotivating.

Brett: Then here’s my workout plan that I’m going to hold myself to and shame myself and judge myself when I miss a day.

Joe: Exactly. You watch the little kids and they just follow that impulse and there’s no idea of perfection. As they get older, the bigger the perfection, the more they’re stilted, the more they’re stunted. If you look at the people who have the deepest level of depression that feel most stagnant in life, their brain is telling them that they’re not perfect and they need to be perfect all the time.

Brett: Yes. They’re just experiencing that delta between them and their model of what they want to be.

Joe: Yes. I’ll give you a little trick that I do with people. The most recent is with my guy who cuts my hair, a great guy. He’s an artist and I love his art. It’s good work. He was just having a hard time getting people to buy and represent him and everything that. I’m “Hey man, I’ve got a job for you. If you do it, if you do this job successfully, I’ll give you whatever 1,000 bucks,” or whatever it was. He’s like, “Okay, well, what’s the job?”

And I said, “I need you to get 30 rejections. I need you to go out there and get 30 people to turn you down. If you can prove to me you’ve got 30 people to turn you down in a year, I’ll give you 1,000 bucks.” I came back two months later, I don’t get my haircut that often, or I had one and we didn’t talk about it. Then I was like, “How’s it going? He’s like, “I’ve got three representations and I’ve sold 12 pieces.” It was the difference between trying to get sold and trying to get rejected because his mindset moved from perfection to connection.

Brett: Speaking of moving that mindset, how can we consciously shift from a mindset of measuring ourselves up to some perfect ideal and rather focus on cultivating connection? What is the practice here?

Joe: That question in itself implies perfectionism. It’s like how do I perfect myself in this way? Even that question becomes a little bit less effective than another question. The other thing to say is that there’s also no such thing as perfect connection. It’s asymptotic, meaning that you get closer and closer, but you can never actually arrive.

There’s no place to get to, that you’re going to ever get to. There’s just proximity and feeling more and more and more and more and more, more connected. I think it’s important to say that if you choose that, if you say, “Hey, what I’m after in life–” Every company has a bottom line. For most of them, it’s the financial bottom line, but there’s other kinds of bottom lines that people have.

What I’ve noticed is when people change their life to having a bottom line of connection, they have incredibly happy and productive lives. If they can measure their level of connection on a daily basis and their job is just to feel more and more connected every day, that visceral sense of connection, it has a very, very deep effect on people. I just think it’s really important to say that, but the trick is not to try to get there because trying to get there is a form of disconnection.

Brett: There’s no there to get. It’s an iteration.

Joe: Right. It’s really more of an allowing. Connection is more of an allowing. If I’m not trying to change anything, if the definition of connection is not trying to change anything, not wanting– It’s not quite that. It’s not wanting things to be different. You might want to change stuff. That’s fine. It’s important to change stuff, obviously. It’s more about accepting it for what it is even if you are trying to change it.

Brett: Which is in a sense allowing imperfection? Allowing the error signal, allowing the pain of things not being as good as you could imagine them being, which breaks through denial. Because what is denial other than just having this vision of how things are and no, it has to be perfect, so this information that is inconvenient?

Joe: Yes. Also, it’s your imagination. It’s imaginary. Perfection is again. Yes, exactly. That’s beautifully said. How do you have deeper levels of connection in your life and how do you, I would say, allow deeper levels of connection in your life? It’s interesting. One of the things that’s a really important principle behind it is, to go into difficulty is one of the ways that you get into– when I say difficulty, I mean discomfort or vulnerability.

That really creates a sense of connection in folks. If you’ve ever seen people who fought together in a war, it doesn’t matter if they haven’t seen each other in 20 years, their bond is ridiculous. It’s such a strong level of connection and they’ve just gone through the shit together. I build my courses so that there’s difficult moments so that people can start feeling bonded to one another.

There’s something about going through difficult things together that creates a bond. Same with yourself. If I have my little kids and I have them do tasks that are hard for them and challenging for them, they feel more connected with themselves and more connected with me. They talk about how to build self-esteem. One of the ways you build self-esteem is by giving hard things to do. Then that’s how they build self-esteem. It’s not to take that away from them or to try to make it so they’re successful. It’s the same thing internally and externally. 

Then the other main way that I talk about this is VIEW. I talk about something that I termed as VIEW, which is how we relate to ourselves and how we relate to other people. That’s very operational, so that if you practice this state of mind, it just leads to deeper and deeper levels of connection internally and externally.

Brett: Can you explain VIEW?

Joe: Yes. The most important thing is, it is a state of mind. It’s almost even beyond a state of mind. I think it is a state that’s beneath all states of mind is another way to think about it.

Brett: Metastate.

Joe: Yes. It’s a metastate. A stateless state, I’ve heard people call it. It’s good for internal and external practices. It’s basically V stands for vulnerability, I stands for impartiality, E stands for empathy and W stands for wonder. It’s walking around the world willing and feeling vulnerable, impartial, empathetic and full of wonder.

This is not just like how I interact with you. As you know, we have these conversations that are in VIEW and we do a lot of work in here. It’s also meditative, like if you’re sitting and being with yourself quietly, how can you be more vulnerable with yourself in that moment? How can you be more impartial with yourself? How can you have more empathy? How can you have more wonder?

We’re constantly telling ourselves, “I should lose weight,” but we’re never really going, “What is making it so that I’ve been saying that to myself for 20 years and nothing’s happened?” We’re constantly telling ourselves how we should feel or how we should not feel or how to avoid them, but we’re not really actually just being empathetic with ourselves and being with the feeling.

We’re constantly telling ourselves how to do shit, what to do. We’re editing ourselves all the time, but we’re very rarely just ever being impartial with ourselves like, “What’s actually happening? Let’s just look at this thing with a watcher’s eye, an observer’s eye instead of a manager’s eye.”

Impartiality is amazing because people often say, “If I don’t manage it, it’s not going to turn out right,” which is clearly not true when you just think about most of the major decisions that have changed your life are not things that you decided. Like did you really decide to meet your wife on a Tuesday at a bar or did you really decide to even take that job or apply for that job or did you just apply for 20 jobs?

The decisions that actually make our lives are often ones that we don’t have any control over anyway. More importantly, it’s like the best change agent for things is awareness. It’s not management. Just being aware of stuff can change things dramatically. We put a whole bunch of management on it, thinking that that’s necessary, but it usually slows down the progress.

Brett: Relationships are a really great example, because you certainly can’t connect the dots in advance how you’re going to meet a person or a client, or you can try to arrange your life so that that thing happens with higher frequency. Really, there’s a state of mind of being open to it, of allowing it, of allowing those synchronicities.

Joe: The more that you recognize them and allow them, the more that they happen. I’m not in any way speaking out against, “Hey.” Sometimes it’s important to say, “We’re going to get to this goal.” I think goals are fantastic. I love them. The question is, can you hold that with an impartiality as well as a determination? It’s incredibly easy to do when you look at nature, like an oak tree that grows to be 5 feet wide and 40 feet tall. That’s determination and it’s also very impartial. It’s just in the flow of things.

Impartiality is the hardest one for business people, particularly to really grok and understand. One of the metaphors I use for impartiality is you’re on a boat going down a river. It’s important to row the boat, but it is more important to read the river. If you are partial and reading the river, you’re not reading the river. That’s the impartiality part. Then vulnerability, obviously, is doing the things that are just a little bit scary, to let the little parts of yourself that you judge out into the world to find out that nobody else is judging them. They’re just you.

Brett: Or to find that they might be judged and that’s okay.

Joe: Yes and to find that they might be judged and that’s okay, right. The thing is we don’t really care what people are judging us. All the things that you’re proud of about yourself, all those things that you think are just fricking awesome about yourself, I guarantee you there’s people judging you for them. I guarantee you and you don’t care. The things you care about are the things that you’re judging yourself for. Exactly.

Brett: We’ve got vulnerability, impartiality, empathy and wonder. We’ve talked about impartiality quite a bit. We’ve talked about vulnerability. Let’s talk a little bit more about wonder. 

Joe: Wonder is curiosity without looking for a solution. Wonder is curiosity with awe. It has a certain level of awe to it. It has a certain amount of amazement to it and it is in the question. We think that being in the answer is more productive than being in the question. Being in the question is incredibly important. Just as an example, you can have three different questions arise. One question is, how do I have the perfect relationship? The second question could be, how do I have the most connected relationship? The third question could be, how do I have a relationship that lasts 40 years?

Brett: Then ends exactly at 41.

[both chuckle]

Joe: Probably. Those are going to lead to three different relationships. What the question is, is far more important than what the answer is. Living in the question is an amazing experience, to be in the question without needing that resolution, to just be in the wonder of life. It just provides answer after answer after answer, but to be in the knowing, you only get one answer. I’d much rather have many answers than one.

Brett: It’s like seeing an animal be like, “Whoa, that’s a giraffe. Cool, giraffe,” or being like, “Whoa, look at the spots on that thing. How tall it is? The little eyelashes, Oh.”

Joe: What? It has the same amount of neck vertebrae as I do? What? What? How on earth? Exactly. It’s that feeling of just question after question. Answer after answer. 

One thing about vulnerability that I’m not sure if I hit is, that everybody’s vulnerability is different. It’s like, I see people often say like, “Oh, that guy’s not vulnerable.” You have no idea if that person is being vulnerable or not because vulnerable for you and vulnerable for me is different. I could tell you all about my childhood and all the mishaps and drama and you’d be like, “Wow, man that was super vulnerable. Your dad did what? Your mom did huh?” I would be like, “Yes, that’s not vulnerable.”

To me, I’ve said it 1000 times. I’ve been in rooms and Al-Anon meetings and groups for years of hashing through that stuff. There’s nothing vulnerable about it for me. That’s the path of vulnerability, is that you’re constantly showing up with that thing, that’s a little scary and all of a sudden, it’s not scary anymore. Then you show up with the next thing and you show up with the next thing. Then it ends up leading you into authenticity, because all those vulnerabilities are really just ways that you’re judging yourself and preventing yourself from being what you actually are.

Brett: Vulnerability could even depend on role as well, like an overbearing manager screaming is like that’s somebody not being vulnerable. An employee showing their anger to a manager that they’ve been hiding for so long and just resenting, there’s something really vulnerable in that.

Joe: I would say something vulnerable in both actually. Basically, the manager who’s yelling and is basically saying, “I feel out of control. I feel alone. I feel out of control. I’m going to go and beat myself up for yelling in a couple minutes. I feel ashamed and I don’t know what to do to actually fix this situation. I’m yelling, because I hope that it’ll make me feel like I’m in control for 20 minutes.”

Brett: To a third party observer, as you were saying, like our idea of what is vulnerable is different. A third party observer might observe the manager as being invulnerable and their anger in the employees as being vulnerable. I see this in movies, for example. There’s so many examples where finally that person stood up for themselves. That was such a vulnerable thing to do.

Joe: The important part is, are you being consciously vulnerable? Yes, if you’re getting angry all the time and yelling at people, obviously that level of vulnerability, though it’s vulnerable for you, you probably don’t recognize it. Other people don’t recognize it. It’s not really going to have the same effect as being vulnerable in a way of like, “Oh, I’m going to go stretch myself here.” What is very useful is when somebody is yelling like that to see it as a vulnerability.

Brett: Or, “I’m sorry. I keep yelling at you and I don’t want to be yelling at you. I apologize.”

Joe: Yes. That’s the vulnerability that the person yelling it’s going to really benefit them. To see them as vulnerable when they’re yelling just to be able to look at them and say, “Hey, you’re not alone in this. This whole team wants to be successful with you.” It will immediately change the yell. It just will, because if you can see it as vulnerability, that’s great. For that person to have the benefit and this modality of VIEW, the important thing is that you’re choosing vulnerability. You’re choosing the thing that’s vulnerable to you.

I think that the one piece that we haven’t quite talked about is empathy and I think it’s an important thing. Empathy is just allowing yourself to feel the other person. It doesn’t mean losing yourself in the other person. It doesn’t mean going into the other person. It doesn’t mean confusing your emotional state with their emotional state. It just means allowing yourself to be with the person while they are feeling stuff, to be there with them in it. That’s just an important piece on the empathy. 

Brett: Again, vulnerability, impartiality, empathy, wonder, VIEW. How does one practice VIEW or cultivate this state of mind or meta state?

Joe: You can do it internally and you can do it externally. If you’re a meditator, if you just  contemplate quietly, just do some experiments. See what it’s like to be vulnerable with yourself and then see what it’s like to be non vulnerable with yourself. See what it’s like to be partial with yourself. Have a really strong agenda for yourself and see what it’s like to be impartial with yourself.

Brett: What about an agenda creeping into meditation? Like I’m going to meditate into this particular state of mind that I want to be in and that would be perfect.

Joe: Exactly. That would be very partial and so would be saying I want to be impartial right now. This is the thing about true meditation is having no agenda, having no management. It’s more like sitting on the beach and enjoying the wind across your face. Oftentimes, when I’m talking to people about how to meditate, I talk about, it’s just non-management.

The level of management is also asymptotic. It gets finer and finer and finer and finer. Maybe you start with just a simple agenda, which is to be agendaless. Maybe you start with a really simple agenda of being aware of your body. The idea is that eventually, the agenda goes away and you become the passenger. You are being taken for a ride. You’re not driving.

Brett: How do you bring that into your life when you’re in a meeting or an argument or working on a podcast?

Joe: That’s actually a little bit easier for VIEW. Wonder means you’re asking open-ended questions. If you’re really curious, you’re asking questions that are going to give you lots of data. How, what, where, when questions. Not can do, is questions and why questions are usually judgmental. Wonder is just asking questions. Empathy is not trying to fix people’s emotional states, not trying to change their emotional state and to let them know that you’re with them.

Brett: That sounds like impartiality.

Joe: It is and it’s on the emotional level. They all are the same thing. When you start really getting into them, they’re all the same thing. Impartiality, I use that more on the logical level and the empathy is more on the emotional level. It’s to call it out because I think that most people don’t recognize or it takes them a long time to recognize, that they are constantly wanting their emotional state to be different, that they’re constantly trying to get to some state or trying to get away from another state.

Brett: We’ve all been taught in some way or another that happy is good. Some parents are like, “Oh, I will love you if you’re successful.” Other parents are like, “I will love you if you’re happy,” and that’s almost as just as bad in some cases.

Joe: Yes. It’s not loving them for what they are. It’s not loving your kid for what they are. The crazy thing is, is this idea is like, “Hey, if I love you for throwing temper tantrums,” and you’re going to just keep on throwing temper tantrums, that’s just not true. It’s like once you love that part of yourself, it changes.

Just like if you put awareness into something that changes. There’s this principle in business, it says how do you fix a problem? The thing you do is you put attention towards it. Just the simple act of putting attention towards a change is the situation and creates a solution. It’s the same thing that awareness just changes things and so does love. 

Love just changes. If you can love every emotional state that you have, they change. The friction of most emotional states is your resistance to them, not the state themselves. If you’re resistant to bliss, which oddly most people are. Bliss is very overwhelming. There’s this great quote that says fear is excitement without the breath.

It’s just saying that excitement, if you forget to breathe because you’re resisting it, is fear. That’s what empathy is all about. We’re using different parts of the brain and empathy and impartiality too. One is mirror neurons and one is opening our heart. The feeling of opening a heart and the other one, impartiality is dropping the strategies, dropping the agenda.

Brett: Another thing about fear and excitement, in base jumping through the phrase similar to this was just excitement is the other side of fear. Getting into it more subtly, fear is when you feel something is off and inauthentic and excitement is when you feel like you’re ready for it. Whatever cliff you’re about to jump off of, if you feel like your equipment is in line and your mindset is in the right place and the conditions are right, then it comes through as excitement.

If there’s a part of you that knows something’s wrong, you know that you feel peer-pressured into this to be cool, or you know that the conditions are off but you’re just avoiding hiking down because that would be annoying, then there’s a constriction there that turns into fear. Listening to what kind of fear you’re feeling can be a really good indicator.

Joe: Yes. Absolutely, that’s a beautiful thing. I think what it all requires, fear, excitement, breath, no breath, is to feel it. It’s to actually feel which is what empathy is saying. It’s to actually allow the emotional state to move through you and to flow without resistance, because you’re never going to get the intelligence of the emotion while trying to control it. You’re not going to get the intelligence of your people in a business if you’re trying to control it.

Brett: It seems like a form of being receptive to information rather than just drawing a conclusion.

Joe: That’s exactly right. That’s the whole thing. That’s the VIEW. If you’re practicing it out in the world, it’s like wonder is asking questions. Empathy is being with people’s emotions. Impartiality is not trying to drive them to a place.

We had this great experience, where we did these workshops, where it was these two day practicing VIEW. That’s all we did. Just practice VIEW for two days. This is like deep stuff. People will call me two or three years later. I remember one guy and it’s more than one guy. There’s multiple people where this happened, where they basically at some point in the two days looked at me and said, “Wow, I’ve never asked an impartial question in my whole life.” All my questions, everything I’m saying is trying to get somebody to do something.

The people who are going to have that recognition the most are the people who are most disconnected, are the people who feel most lonely, who feel most disconnected is because they have this incredibly strong agenda for themselves or for others.

Brett: Perfectionism.

Joe: Yes, exactly. Vulnerability is just saying things that are vulnerable or asking vulnerable questions or asking the question that might get you fired or asking the question that might make your boss angry at you, but it’s your truth. That’s the thing about vulnerability.

Vulnerability is you don’t do the scary thing because it’s scary, you do the scary thing because it’s your truth. You ask the question because it’s your truth or you say the thing. Even the work that I do, when people see me do one-on-one work, they’re like, “Holy shit, how did you ask those questions?” It happens to me too. I’ll feel it. I’ll be like, “Oh my god, I’m going to ask that question. Oh shit.” You’ve seen it happen. Those are usually the most powerful, most impactful questions are the ones that are really scary.

Brett: That’s when my sphincter is clenching hearing you start to ask the question.

Joe: Exactly. Mine, too. It’s like, “Whoo.” That’s when life just becomes really alive and opens up. That’s where the most important stuff comes. Maybe some people are going to join you. Maybe some people aren’t. That vulnerability really makes it so that you get the life that you want to live, because you’re showing up as yourself in your truth, no matter the consequences, no matter what someone thinks.

That just drives the people who want you for you into your life and drives the people who don’t want you for you out of your life. It’s a lot easier. Then we have this whole technique of asking questions and having how to have you VIEW question and answers and all that stuff will be explicit in other materials.

There’s all sorts of ways of using this to do sales and you’re doing this to do management of people, or doing VIEW to do product development or doing VIEW to talk to your father who you haven’t spoken to in 20 years. When you hear people have these conversations, it’s amazing to see. We’d give these homework assignments and VIEW. They would in the VIEW course and they would go out and talk to their dad and then parents, siblings haven’t spoken, getting back together. Husbands and wives realizing, that they have the same thing. All beautiful things happen. Bosses and employees changing the way that they work together. Co-workers changing the way they work together from 15-minute conversations, because you do this with executives.

I do this with executives and typically the executive is like, “Wait. I need to be partial. That’s how I’ve made my living and I can’t be vulnerable.” I’m like, “It’s just an experiment. Let’s do this for 15 minutes.” Then at the end of the 15 minutes, I always say the same thing. I’m always like, “Hey, so have you ever had a more productive 15-minute conversation?” The answer is almost always no, because when you’re that way, it’s an incredible form of productivity, because you get to see and learn and grow so much. CEOs start to learn like, “Oh, I could–“

There’s this great in the book that I love Reinventing Organizations. There’s this example of a CEO going to his people and say, “Hey, we just lost the biggest contract. We do not have enough money. Tell me what we should do.” The whole organization said, “You know what, we’re all going to take a pay cut and we’re going to try to get another customer.” The people who are trying to get the other customer, obviously, we’re completely motivated because they saw everybody do this pay cut. They themselves had a pay cut and the CEO didn’t dictate a pay cut, but people decided this is what we’re going to do.

That’s an expression of vulnerability in a business and there’s thousands of those expressions. There’s a Harvard Business Review case of a woman who basically had no money. She had a company and she had no money to keep on going and her employees stayed with her. It was all about her vulnerability with the employees.

It’s so incredibly apparent when you get out of the mindset that people do things for money. Some people do things for money, for sure. We all do some things for money for sure, but most of what we do in life is not for money.

Brett: Getting beyond carrots and sticks.

Joe: Yes. Getting beyond carrots and sticks and having some faith that most people and the people that you should have hired and the people hopefully that you’re married to, are people who want what’s best for them. They want to contribute. They want to be a part of things. They’re motivated. If there’s no money, people wouldn’t just all sit around and go, “Okay. I’m done. No more money. I’m finished.” If everybody had food and shelter, then everyone’s like, “I’m finished. I’m done.”

Brett: This example of the CEO reminds me of something that you’ve said before where the position of the CEO often feels like the most lonely position in the company.

Joe: Yes, for sure.

Brett: What would you have to say just to wrap this episode up neatly into a perfect conclusion, cherry on top? What would you have to say to that CEO that feels that distance and wants that connection but feels like, “No, no, everything would fall apart”?

Joe: I would say, I know you had to be resourceful and you had to be self-reliant. You were alone as a kid but you’re not alone now. If you’re looking for evidence, look around at all the people who are trying to make you successful. They might not be able to live up to every one of your expectations, but it’s probably impossible to find anybody who’s not trying to live up to your expectations, who’s not trying to make it work for you and for them. Take a look at that and then apologize to them for not recognizing it. That would be the vulnerable act. Then see how much more inspired they are to be there with you and to show up with you because they see your humaneness instead of being scared of you.

Brett: Beautiful. Joe, thank you for a perfectly imperfect episode.

Joe: That it was. 

Thanks for listening to The Art of Accomplishment podcast.  If you enjoyed what you heard today, please subscribe. We would love your feedback, so feel free to send us questions and comments. To reach us, join our newsletter, learn more about VIEW, or to take a course, visit: artofaccomplishment.com

Resources:

Frederic Laloux, Reinventing Organizations, https://www.reinventingorganizations.com/

James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games, https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Finite-and-Infinite-Games/James-Carse/9781476731711

Michael Masterson, Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat, https://www.waterstones.com/book/ready-fire-aim/michael-masterson/9781119086857