Bravo for Nike

Not too many billion-dollar companies have a moral compass. The usual corporate rule of thumb is to avoid controversy at all costs. But Nike is a company that stands for something. First and foremost, it stands for sports. I’ve worked with Nike, and, from an inside vantage point, they see sports as a civilizing force. Now they have created a new campaign that celebrates Colin Kaepernick’s stand against police violence on unarmed innocent young black men.

About Colin Kaepernick, his protest has been unfairly redefined as a protest against the flag, against the military, against mom and apple pie. It is easy to redefine something. You just lie about what someone says and what that person means. In fact, the real corruption of politics today is that lying has become standard operating practice. Objective reality is under attack. That means the decisions that many people make are not based on facts but impressions, mostly impressions designed to manipulate issues of identity. You can fool some of the people all of the time.

Of course, the big lie is nothing new. It takes a big lie to wipe out truth. Little lies don’t do the job. It has to be so outrageous and bizarre that the subconscious mind says, “It must be true. No one would believe this crazy thing that is so easily checked and disproved. So there’s got to be something too it.”

What is THE truth about Colin Kaepernick? First he sat on the bench while the national anthem was played. He did this for one reason, and one reason only. As has been said over and over, to call attention to the violent pattern of unarmed young black men being shot to death by police. He is using his public position to highlight this particular type of injustice. He found out that the act of sitting on the bench did have an implied subtext of disrespect for the flag. Once he found that out, he sought out Army Special Forces veteran Nate Boyer, who told him that kneeling on one knee, within the military, is seen as a sign of respect for a fallen comrade.

That’s it, no matter how the President tries to redefine it. Why would anyone try to redefine this very clear symbol of protest against injustice? To polarize people. To try to create a false controversy. To try to create an “us against them” mentality. Who is “us” and who is “them?” Comes down to race. Period.
Kaepernick is against the pattern of innocent black kids being killed by police, who then seem to get away with it. Who is in favor of innocent kids being killed? Doesn’t Kaepernick have the authority to say why he is doing what he is doing? Who gets to say that he doesn’t? Who gets to say that YOU are not the total and final authority of what you say and do and why you are saying and doing it? NO ONE but you has that authority. This principle holds true in this case as well.

Here is what Kaepernick has said:
“I have great respect for the men and women that have fought for this country. I have family, I have friends that have gone and fought for this country. And they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice, for everyone.”

Of course, Kaepernick has paid a price for his kneel. He could have shut up and made a fortune. But, that would be a Faustian bargain, something some of our current politicians are happy to make.

Here is how Encyclopedia Britannica defines the term:

“Faustian bargain, a pact whereby a person trades something of supreme moral or spiritual importance, such as personal values or the soul, for some worldly or material benefit, such as knowledge, power, or riches. The term refers to the legend of Faust (or Faustus, or Doctor Faustus), a character in German folklore and literature, who agrees to surrender his soul to an evil spirit (in some treatments, Mephistopheles, or Mephisto, a representative of Satan) after a certain period of time in exchange for otherwise unattainable knowledge and magical powers that give him access to all the world’s pleasures. A Faustian bargain is made with a power that the bargainer recognizes as evil or amoral. Faustian bargains are by their nature tragic or self-defeating for the person who makes them, because what is surrendered is ultimately far more valuable than what is obtained, whether or not the bargainer appreciates that fact.”

I applaud Colin Kaepernick. To me, he shows strength of character for a noble cause. His actions are a profile in courage. I think those who criticize him can legitimately do so ONLY when they tell the truth about what and why he has taken a knee. If you distort what he is about, anything else you say is not to be taken seriously. Why should it?

And then there is Nike. I want to thank the company for the leadership role they have taken on. They knew there would be backlash. They knew some customers would leave the brand. But that didn’t matter. In a similar way that the Disney Corporation said no to the threats of some right wing Christian groups who tried to conduct a boycott against Disney World because they had an annual gay pride day, Nike has taken a stand for what is right rather than what is convenient. We seldom see such clarity of values from corporations.

Limitation

“IF YOU LIMIT YOURSELF TO WHAT SEEM POSSIBLE OR REASONABLE, ALL THAT IS LEFT IS A COMPROMISE.”

(Robert Fritz)

This is the most widely cited quote of mine. So let me say a few things about the thought.

Since the time we were young, we have been taught to limit our aspirations. The question, “What do you want?” is translated into, “Given your limitations, what do you want?”

When we ask people what they want, too often they are a lost. It isn’t that they don’t want things. It is that they have absolutely no idea how to think about the subject. On the one hand, they can only think in terms of what seems possible, reasonable, or available.

On the other hand, they are looking for something that will enrich their lives, enable them to become more involved, and fulfill the promise they intuitively understand and for which they long. Something they can’t seem to find by discovery or revelation or from goal setting courses or from the self-help world.

If you limit your choices, all that is left is a compromise, one that is incapable of inspiring the type of deeper involvement that most people crave. Another one of my quotes that seems to be everywhere in the world of the Internet these days can be considered the other part of the first one: You can’t invest your life spirit in a compromise.

Here are a few tips about how to become clear:

1. Separate what you want from what you think is possible

In fact, you don’t know what is possible, only what seem probable. If you begin to censor yourself before you even have a proper discussion with yourself, you are going to end up limiting yourself to only those things that seem doable. You are light-years away from thinking in terms of what you truly want. From this limited menu, there may not be much you actually want to order. No wonder it would be hard to know what you want when this were the case. Whatever you are left with is pretty unappetizing. Do NOT consider if what you want is possible when thinking about it. We divide and think: first a truthful understanding of what we truly want to create in our lives; then considerations about the strategy that might enable us to create it.

2. Rethink everything

We have all made certain promises to ourselves when we were young. We may have changed our minds. We are not stuck with some idea we had years ago. It is best to enter into a conversation with yourself with a clean slate, turning over a new leaf, a fresh start.

3. Start small

Most people are not in the habit of thinking about what they want. They react or respond to the circumstances they find themselves in, and so they can only think situationally. The best way to learn anything is to start small, build muscles and stamina, and create a body of experience. Make sure that these small things are really things you want. Get into the habit of checking with yourself about that.

4. Don’t think in terms of payoffs.

Too often, people are not able to think about what they really want because they expect the result to do things like make them happy, give them satisfaction, enlightenment, and a host of other payoffs. This burdens your ability to think in terms of what you want because you are speculating about the chances of the payoff being significant. Once you think in terms of the outcomes you want and not the payoff, you are free to get involved on the good days and the bad days. Remember, your emotional experiences are like the weather: sometimes it rains and sometimes it’s sunny. Don’t think in terms of consistent emotions. Think in terms of only one question: what do I really want?

So, if you limit yourself to what seems possible or reasonable, all that is left is compromise, and you can’t invest your life-spirit into a compromise. This is more than a good quote. It is a principle that, once taken on, can enable you to organize your life around your highest aspirations and deepest values.

Regeneration

The nature of regeneration in the creative process is a new cycle of growth after a period of stagnation. In the famous I Ching, it is represented by spring after winter. And there is something quite instructive about understanding the form of the seasons, and watch them play out in our lives.

Our own spring can happen at any time of the calendar year. But it is always following by a period of withdrawal. Winter leads into spring. What is going on during the moments in our life in which we retreat? We often think of those periods as something to be avoided, something bad, something to overcome.

But without these periods, nothing new can grow. Growth is more than renewal. It is a type of transcendence in which something is given a new chance to begin over, to re-think one’s life, to find new impetus, to find new interests, to, no matter what the past has been, to begin with a clean sheet of paper, a new canvas, a new chance.

But renewal is more than the chance to begin again. It is the drive to make the most of the possibility. From where does this drive come? From our human instinct to create. It is the essence of our dynamic urge, to make something new, to explore unseen territory, to engage life to the fullest.

Regeneration is almost always propelled from its opposite. It is a type of death followed by a type of resurrection. And the sequence does not have to be juxtaposed chronologically. Winter may have been spread out over years, life had seem to drift to limitation or burden or malaise or encumbrances of various sorts. And then, maybe out of nowhere, spring emerges suddenly and a new chapter opens to you.

But, for this type of regeneration to lead somewhere, it must have an object of its desire, so to speak. Just the same way the expression goes “In spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love,” so in this type of spring, the object of thoughts is also love, but not the romantic kind, the creative kind. There is something new we want to create, something we haven’t created or done before, and because of this, the full cycle of regeneration takes its place in your life.

It is in the Learning Dimension

Occasionally some people I meet say to me, “Robert, I love your information.” I can never relate to this, because, even though I write books and create courses, my approach has never been the distribution of information. It has been to encourage new practices, new approaches to living life, new insight that leads to action.

You don’t learn unless you are turning that learning into action. Those who look for new ideas, concepts, theories, and “information,” often have the notion that it is knowing something that changes things.

I challenge that notion. It is hardly ever the case in real life. For years, people knew of the dangers of smoking, but they continued to smoke, even after all of the dire warnings were put on the cigarette packs.
But a lot of people who are veterans of the self-help world have been told that insight, revelation, awareness and understanding are all you need to change your life patterns. If you thought that were the case, you would run around looking for more and more “information” while consistently missing the point of it all.

Think about this in terms of how we learn music. The information you may get at your piano lesson is only as good as it leads to practice. And your practice is only as good as it leads to your ability to play. No amount of insight about the theory of playing the piano will enable you to play if you don’t practice.

The Structure of Things

Very nice people with good values and high aspirations, who are hard working and industrious, often find that their best efforts do not lead to the final outcomes they want. Is it fate? Is it some deep-seated psychological conflict? Are some people simply luckier than others?

While it can seem like there is something in the stars, the real answer to understanding this phenomenon is much closer to home than most people think. It is right there in the structures in their lives. And this is the reason that understanding structural dynamics is critical if you want to create the life you want.

What is essential to know is this: the underlying structure of anything will determine its behavior.

Think about that for a moment. This insight explains so much. It explains why some people find themselves in oscillating patterns in which success is followed (predictably) by a reversal that takes them away from the outcomes they’ve worked so hard to achieve, and some people are able to create what they want and have that success become the platform for future success.

This is not how most people think. They think situationally. Structure is invisible to them, so they are left with the usual empty declarations: you need more willpower, you need to believe in yourself, you need to clean up your past, you need to surrender, you need to breath differently, you need a positive attitude, you need to love yourself, you need to eat brown rice, etc. When you understand how the structural dynamics works in people’s lives, you would find these bromides laughable. It is like saying you need to think positively about gravity so it will do what it does or not do what it does.

Structure is physics, it is nature, it is how everything works from music to aerodynamics to computers to cars to screenplays to… well, everything.

Structure typically produces two types of behavior: oscillating and advancement. That means your life will fall into one of these two camps. Everyone has examples of both. But the most important question is where do you spend most of your time? If it is an oscillation structure, your successes are not sustainable any more than jumping up in the air will lead to staying in the air.

Look, structure isn’t everything, but it is in everything, including your life. Years ago I made a film about the Fibonacci series, a mathematical proportion that is found throughout nature and art. The last two shots in the film are a spiraled nautilus shell dissolving into a spiraled galaxy, and the structure is identical in the small shell and the vast galaxy. We may not ever know the mysteries of the universe, but one thing we can know for sure, there is structure in the universe. Everywhere in the universe.

Like it or not, you live within a structure. And, if you are like most people, the structure you live in does you no good. Not to say that everything is bad. Just to say that your best efforts will be thwarted. This it is nothing personal anymore than not being able to float in contradiction to the laws of gravity is personal.

It is hard to do science without the math, and trying to create your life without a basic understanding of structure is also hard. All of the doisms of how you should behave not withstanding, any advice which is structurally unsound will not work no matter how good it looks on paper. You can’t fool Mother Structure. If you are in a rocking chair, your movement forward will be followed by movement backward.

There is nothing wrong with the rocking chair. It is simply the wrong structure if you happen to want to go somewhere.
What a waste of time, trying this or that in the wrong structure. Most of what is offered in self-help supports an oscillating structure, not an advancing one.

If you are in an oscillating structure, you can’t get very far. If you are in a rocking chair, you may be able to move ahead little by little, but you will not go where you want to go. It will feel like pushing boulders up hill. Hard to accomplish and impossible to sustain. Mother structure can work with you, but you have to work with her, not against her. Otherwise, expect that boulder to run right over you as it heads for the lowest ground. That’s the path of least resistance. That is where energy finds it easiest to go.

This is not a problem to solve. Why try to fix something that is not broken? There is nothing wrong with a rocking chair. It is simply the wrong structure unless you want to go back and forth. It is important to gain a fundamental understanding of how things work or don’t work so you can work with the forces in play in your life, not against them.

No matter what you say, what you think, how sincere and pure you are, if your life is in a rocking chair, and you want to move ahead, seeking to create your highest aspirations, organizing your life around those things that matter most to you, you will be unable to succeed in the end. You can’t get there from here. First you must change the underlying structure you are in. First you must go somewhere else. And that is the point.

So, while we teach the creative process, we also understand it is not the creative process alone that will lead to success. It is a combination of the creative process and the structural dynamics that can make such a profound difference in people’s lives as it has time and again.

The Arts/Science Vs Politics

The Age of Enlightenment brought a new idea to world civilization: a sense of seeking reality as it truly is. This was nothing short of a revolution in thinking. It was not a political revolution in which, as Robert Frost observed “the same people end up on top,” but one of science and the arts.

Good old Wikipedia says this about it: The Age of Enlightenment included a range of ideas centered on reason as the primary source of authority and legitimacy and came to advance ideals like liberty, progress, tolerance, fraternity, constitutional government and separation of church and state.

From this period in history, the world saw amazing advancement, one of the most important, the development of democracy. The founders of the United States were children of the Age of Enlightenment, steeped in the notion that reason would be the driving force to build a better and fairer social order.

In the arts and science, the Age of Enlightenment has never stopped. This is because to make art or science, one needs a competent fix on reality as it is. This is how a violinist plays in tune and a doctor measures a patient’s temperature.

In the creative process, reality is a critical factor. Where are we now in relationship to our vision of where we want to be? Artists and scientists are trained to describe reality as it is, independent of how they might like it to be. You can’t make art or science based on a lie.

Contrast that with what’s going on in politics these days. There’s always been “spin” where politicians try to describe things to their advantage. But there has never been such an excess in blatant lies before now. Have we entered an Age of Unenlightenment?

What is especially harmful to society is the acceptance of some of the most obvious lies by politicians simply to support their positions of power. They have taken lying to a new low. Have they no shame?

 
 

Patterns and Structures

If we back up, we can see patterns fairly clearly. However, most of us are too close to see the patterns we are in. It is hard to see a pattern when you are in the pattern.

If you think about your own history, you will notice that many episodes in your life seem awfully familiar, almost as if it’s happened before. And, in fact, it has. Patterns have a beginning, a development, an ending, all typical of how things happen in your life. Sometimes, the pattern move very quickly, in a matter of days or weeks. But sometimes, a pattern can move very slowly, so slowly that it is hard to see that you are in a pattern. Perhaps one of the steps takes three years to move to the next step. The pattern has an inevitable sequence, but it is practically invisible.

In our lives and organizations, there are two basic types of patterns, oscillating and advancing. Too often, the oscillating patterns are more common than the advancing one. In this pattern, movement forward, toward what you want, has a turning point, an event that is a reversal. You no longer are able to sustain the success you wanted. You now move away from what you wanted.

Since most people think situationally, they have plenty of explanations of why things went wrong. These explanations follow the form of one event caused because of a previous event. The business failed because we were in the wrong location. The relationship failed because I was a Leo and he was a Capricorn. I didn’t get the job because they were looking for someone younger. The project didn’t last because some of the key players got transferred.

There is no doubt that these events happened as described. But, if we back up, we can see that the actual event is consistent with the types of events that always happen at that part of the story.

These types of patterns, what I have termed macrostructural patterns, may take place over short or long periods of time, but they always have the same sequence. The same way you usually get out of bed and go through your morning routine in the same order of steps, so too the patterns in your life go through the same set of steps in the same order. They are hard to see because the actual events may look very different from similar other events. If you back up, you may be able to see that, while the details are different, the type of step it is, is the same.

We can see the patterns we are in, and yet not be able to change them. When I first began to work with pattern many decades ago, I thought by knowing the pattern, people could avoid living through it yet again. But, as it turned out, even if some of the types of steps were deliberately changed by doing something that was not typical at that point in the pattern, somehow, the missing steps eventually routed back to the pattern.

This is why it is important to understand the underlying structures that generate the pattern. Structure gives rise to the pattern, which gives rise to the events of the pattern.

If you are a coach, consultant, manager, or someone in the helping professions, your clients or colleagues will be in their own patterns. Without knowing how the underlying structure works, your best efforts will be temporary. Without a change of underlying structure, the person or organization will revert back to the same patterns you’ve been trying to help them to change. That is why training in structural dynamics is one of the most important tools in your tool box.

 

Nelson and Robinson

Rashon Nelson and Donte Robinson were just sitting there, like so many people do at a Starbucks. They were waiting for another person to arrive for a business meeting. They didn’t order anything. And that, as we all know by now, set off a chain of events in which they were led away in handcuffs.

We can blame the store manager, since fired. We can blame the police who actually arrested them for not leaving the premises when ordered to. (Why were they ordered to leave when white people in the same situation would not be?) We can blame society. So many targets to blame. This case is not a symbol but, more importantly, an illustration of the issue of identity. Of course, this example is a particularly American one. But the issue is the basis of much of the world’s history throughout the centuries. Prejudice.

In our book IDENTITY, Dr. Wayne Andersen and I wrote:

In 1954, psychologist Gordon Allport related prejudice to categorical thinking. Because we think in terms of generalized categories, Allport suggested that prejudice is a natural and normal process for humans. He wrote: “The human mind must think with the aid of categories. Once formed, categories are the basis for normal prejudgment. We cannot possibility avoid this process. Orderly living depends upon it.”

While the mind runs on automatic, we have the added control of observation and reason. Here is the mix. There are three forces at play: automatic categorization, observation, and reason. In a way, sometimes they are in competition, especially when observation and reason contradict the attributes of some category the mind has generated.

It is easier to give in to the assumptions of the category than to observe more closely; and from that vantage point, use reason to come to a conclusion. It is easier to be prejudiced than not. Prejudice means you have come to conclusions BEFORE you have observed, which is completely different from true judgment, in which you reach a conclusion AFTER you have looked at facts and evidence.
•••
We can understand the underlying structure of prejudice. That doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking. We can see in this Starbucks example the indignation of injustice. Two innocent guys doing what others have done from the inception of that company, sitting at a table minding their own business. And because of two facts alone, they were black and the store manager was white, the episode was able to take place. If the facts went like this: The men were white and the store manager was black, we can imagine a vastly different outcome.

One helpful effect of this event was the outpouring of outrage from most parts of our society. That demonstrates that people care about right over wrong, justice over injustice, and fairness as a value.

Here’s the thing: as Allport implies, the mind sorts things into generalized categories of similarities and differences. That is how we process the world. But our values are often in contradiction to our mind’s mindless groupings. This insight gives us a chance to support our values over our mind’s automatic predisposition. We could say that anyone who is a member of a group different from ours, whatever our group is, will have an automatic reaction that divides us from them. That fact does not lead to the action of discrimination.

When we add observation and reason to the mix, we are able to support our values over our instincts, and a higher social order becomes possible.

Image may contain: one or more people, crowd and outdoor

The Underlying Structure…

Here is the principle: the underlying structure of anything will determine its behavior. The implication of the principle is usually not well understood. When people fail to understand this principle, they fall into the trap of trying to change long held behavioral patterns by adopting new behaviors. “Take risks,” or “Support your health,” or “Get on with it,” or “Inspire, innovate, ignite,” and on it goes. Most advice of this sort sounds good on paper, or even in posters hung on corporate walls, but are hard to take for long when the underlying structure you are in does not support this type of change.

If your car pulls to the right, and you want to drive straight ahead, you will position the steering wheel to the left. The underlying structure is generating the behavior. If you get advice from an expert driver that when you want to drive straight, to steer straight, but your car pulls to the right, you can’t take the expert advice for long. Almost immediately, you will be steering to the left to compensate for the car’s underlying structure. Much of the advice we get is on this level. Sounds good, but in reality, it can’t work well because of the underlying structures we are in.

Three principles I write about in The Path of Least Resistance are: energy moves along the path of least resistance (water moves where it is easiest to go;) the underlying structure determines where it is easiest to go (the riverbed determines where the water flows;) and, the critical principle that makes all of the difference – we can change the underlying structures we are in. When we change the underlying structure, that automatically leads to a change of behavior. The new structure supports the new behavior. If we take our car to a garage and the mechanic aligns our wheels, we don’t need to be told to steer straight when we want to drive straight, we just do. The change of underlying structure has generated a new pattern of behavior.

Most structures we are in are invisible. They are not obvious. But we can learn to see and understand them. Some are on the personal level impacting your life. Some are on the organizational level impacting how well a company can perform. And there are two types of behavior structures produce: oscillating and advancing.

The pattern in an oscillating structure is this: first you set out to accomplish something; at first things go well; you may even reach your goal; but then there is a reversal, pulling you back to how things were. In this type of pattern, success is NOT sustainable. This is like the movement of a rocking chair. Movement forward is followed by movement backward. In a personal life it may be the great relationship that didn’t last; the project that first looked good, but later was a disaster; the career direction that, after some degree of success, somehow went off course.

In the corporate world it is such patterns as: centralize decision making, then decentralizing decision making, and later, centralize decision making again. Or it might be to build up capacity, but then going on a downsizing exercise, only to build up capacity once again. Of course these types of patterns take several years to play themselves out, but if we back up, we can see how predictable these patterns are.
In an advancing pattern, you set out for a goal, you take the necessary steps, you accomplish the goal, and it is sustainable. There is nothing pulling you in the opposite direction, as there is in an oscillating pattern.

The difference is purely structural.

If you are a consultant, coach, manager, or work in the helping professions, you may have noticed this oscillating pattern: you do your best work, everyone is pleased with your work, it seems to make a difference for a while, but, when you come back, say a year later, it is as if it never happened. They are back to their original situations. This pattern shows the telltale sign of a lack of change of the underlying structure they have been in. Without a change of their underlying structure, they are destined to return to where they were before you worked with them.

In our workshop the Fundamentals of Structural Thinking, we teach you how to first identify the underlying structure that is in place, and then how to change it from an oscillating to an advancing structure. This enables you to produce sustainable change in which the good work you do lasts and builds upon itself.
For more information:

https://www.robertfritz.com/…/fundamentals-of-structural-t…/

The Glorification of Almost Everything

Welcome to a brave new world in which nothing is itself. A rose is a fantastic rose is a magnificent, majestic, heroic, huge, momentous, excellent, brilliant, exceptional, tremendous rose. Everything in this new world is bigger, brighter, better, or, the other side of the coin, the worst, most horrible, most awful, most evil, or nastiest thing you’ve ever seen.

But here’s the hitch. Whenever we glorify anything, we deny the true value of that which we are glorifying. This principle is always true. And there is a built in dynamic that comes with the act of glorification. What once had impact loses its impact over time. “Awesome” becomes “super awesome” becomes “super-duper awesome” becomes “astoundingly super-duper awesome.” “Awesome” takes on the connotation of just okay, nothing really special. If everything is awesome, nothing is awesome. Here is the original definition:

adjective
extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear: synonyms: breathtaking, awe-inspiring, magnificent, wonderful, amazing, stunning, staggering, imposing, stirring, impressive, formidable, fearsome, dreaded, mind-boggling, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping, excellent, marvelous, wondrous

The antonym of awesome is unimpressive. The irony of chronic glorification of almost everything eventually translates to its opposite. Awesome means unimpressive. “You look fantastic!” translates to “You look sort of just okay.” “This is the worst offense we’ve ever had to endure,” translates to, “I don’t like this thing you just did.”

The casualty of chronic glorification is the appreciation of reality as it is: real. The mind becomes desensitized to the richness of reality. A rose is a rose, and that’s simply true. But think about what a rose actually is. There is so much to a rose. If you experienced a rose as it is, it would be better than glorifying it. You would not have the habit of having to exalt the rose, because you would be clear about its virtues. As I have said many times, reality is an acquired taste. But once acquired, hard to give up.

The more we live in the orientation of the creative process, the less our tendency to glorify. This is not a value judgment, but a practical matter. You can’t make strategic adjustments if you do not have an accurate fix on reality. You can’t learn, develop, grow, and become proficient in creating those things that matter to you if you distort reality. Reality includes the good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful and everything in-between. Best to see it exactly as it is. This skill develops through well-developed observation, not adhering to concepts, beliefs, theories, past experience, other people’s opinions, or the brave new world of glorification.