An article about getting out of compliance-thinking and into growth-mastery — the mindset of self-leadership. Inspired by Seth Godin.
Compliance is a costly mistake bred into education systems. It’s where masses of young people first learn group-think, permission-seeking and how to fit-in.
Those who don’t follow the rules are treated harshly, ostracized from the group or ‘managed’ through a process of fear designed to ignite the reptilian brain and destroy individuality.
Breaking out of this mindset can be a challenge. Because on one hand we’ve got the reptilian brain monitoring personal ‘safety’ and releasing fear when out of its comfort zone. And on the other hand the social rules of ‘compliance’ creating invisible boundaries of a pre-ordained life.
Years spent in education systems train most into performing-on-demand. Cramming for an exam, producing a report, responding to a problem. It’s a ping-pong view of action-on-demand, triggered by someone else’s agenda.
It becomes no more than answering life’s roll-call. Turning up to have your name checked off … without being ‘present’.
Without an external driver, the absence of self-actualisation is a notion unthinkable. You have a choice whether you follow this thinking or claim your right to life.
1. Break Free From The Brainwashing
As Seth Godin says: “You’ve been brainwashed into thinking you need to wait for someone to show up and give you an assignment.”
This is what complacency teaches. To wait. To be told what to do. To not think for yourself. To join a queue if you find one.
With this thinking in mind, people can be (roughly) grouped into 3 categories. Three different ways of approaching problems, their environment — and life in general.
- 20% will actively fight the system. Cause havoc. Scream against the darkening night. And battle with anger. They will fail and become bitter. The system is bigger than them. Because anger and fighting never wins — whether in personal battles, political debates or global peace initiatives.
- 60% will swim with the school of compliance thinking. They’ll keep their reptilian brain feeling comfy and secure — no surprises, no big stretches, no fear inducing out-of-comfort-zone action. No agenda. The mindless numbing of routine, punctuated with an annual holiday for services rendered.
- 20% will game the system. They’ll toy with it. Push it. Poke it. See how they can use it for their end means.
They ‘get’ that the system is there to ‘manage’ the masses. But they’re not the ‘masses’. They see through the rhetoric and the induced fear to comply.
Some will suffer for their insanity. Others will rise beyond all expectations. As if the universe is contriving for them to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. And meanwhile, tease those still striving … but not yet there.
They’re the Virgin creators, the Tesla breakthroughs, the rock star legends, the mission-impossible people who dream big and would choose to fail (and start again) rather than play small.
It is these people who push boundaries with a consistency incomprehensible to most. They continue stretching for what’s possible long after others have settled for the norm. And in doing this they open a chink, a glimpse into a future of what’s possible.
It’s in creating their own agenda that they manufacture their own assignments. They don’t wait for the next ‘request’ from someone with a different agenda.
They know that one step forward can mean several sideway slides. Yet with each step, they’re discovering something new. About themselves, about others. About the world in which they live.
And with this curiosity and drive to seek, new ideas arrive. New ways of being in the world emerge. New ways of looking at problems pop open as if from thin air.
These opportunities are available for anyone.
All it takes is a keenness of mind. A thirst for solving problems. And an unquenchable desire for curiosity.
2. Stop Being A Human Cog In A Machine
“Artistry is not about being a human cog in the world of work.” Seth Godin
We are artists of our own making. Go beyond the notion that ‘art’ is only found in galleries and museums.
Artistry is how you think about yourself and your place in the world.
There is no manual for artistry. No set curriculum. No assignments given. No grades offered.
Because artistry is about possibility.
It’s about giving of yourself, your ideas and your interest with no expectations. It’s in the exploration that artistry is found.
Artistry is 100% absent in complicity and compliance.
Artistry is about fighting the lizard’s brain that ties us to revenge, to fear and to anger.
The internal look-out system that’s waiting for someone to steal from us: our ideas, our love, our friendship, our trust.
The only way to game the look-out system is to replace fear with curiosity. Revenge with release. Anger with acceptance of what is.
It’s not trying to change what’s around you — rather, it’s choosing to be more ‘you’.
And here’s the problem. Most people don’t know who they are and what they’re capable of.
Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you do? How would anyone else know?
Surface level questions? No. Each speaks of identity — the life lived that corresponds with your values, dreams, hopes and desires.
And it’s in the time spent ‘creating’ your identity that you become self-determining. Achieving self-actualisation as Maslow described it.
Self-leadership cannot happen without self-knowledge. The growing of self-awareness.
Yet it’s so much more than this. It’s in seeing the world not as a reflection of yourself, more as a wonderland where opportunities lay in abundance.
The unaware person sees the world as a mirror. Reflecting only their perception of what they doubt about themselves.
The aware person sees possibility everywhere. Its fuel: curiosity.
3. Shift From Cog-Mindedness To Artistry
“The thing you’re scared of is the very thing you need to do.” — Seth Godin
We live in a time of abundance and unprecedented personal freedom. For many the manual labor of factory-style work is gone. Replaced by faster and cheaper robots.
Anything resembling a factory-line procedure is replaceable. What isn’t replaceable is the artistry of how you determine your role.
The checkout cashier who knows customers by name is not a cog in the wheel of work. She brings herself and her spirit to work.
The assistant who can’t help you but knows the right person and makes an introduction isn’t a cog in a wheel.
Becoming the artist of your life is scary. Because it’s shifting the focus from a ‘what-am-I-going-to-get-out-of-this’ transaction to a more transformative approach. It’s in transforming the relationship (between you and your work) — extending and expanding it, that artistry emerges.
Trust that in the giving, the receiving will take care of itself.
4. Ease Your ‘Shempa’ — (A Tibetan Word meaning ‘Instant Anxiety’)
Anxiety is rarely more than fearing failure in advance. So we seek reassurance that the worst won’t happen. That our ego won’t be bruised beyond belief with a solid dose of failure.
The worst thing that can happen with failure has already happened. By not aiming for what you want — and then relentlessly seeking it — you’ve already failed.
So it’s happened. What’s important is what happens from here-in.
Failure only happens when you give up. It’s a state of mind. One we can point a finger at our education system for. The one that primed us to gain good grades. The one that only acknowledged those who succeeded. The one that gave shiny stars for doing things a certain way.
Yet if you go back through your yearbook, chances are the people who ‘achieved’ at school or college rarely made a ripple beyond it. Because their mindset was attuned to waiting for an assignment in order to show up and perform.
In downhill slalom racing, the person who wins is the person who leans forward the most. The natural impulse when learning to ski is to lean back — to lean away from what feels like impending doom lurching towards you while hurtling out of control.
As skiers know — the goal is not the bottom of the ski run. It’s in finding the challenge and overcoming it with speed, subtle movements, forward planning and most importantly giving oneself over to the ultimate thrill and rush of the moment.
5. Decide If Your Work Is An Obligation Or An Opportunity
“Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have the responsibility to be one.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Ask yourself: Is my work an obligation or an opportunity?
It’s a trick question because you’ve already answered it by how you show up everyday.
If you say the question out loud — your body will tell you immediately what the answer is. You’ll feel it in your gut — if you’re attuned to listening to your body.
And if you noticed your reptilian brain sending a pale shudder through you, there’s only one thing to do.
Deny it. Over-ride it. Talk to it. Let it know ‘you’ve got this’.
Simple to do? Yes. Does it last. Rarely. Unless practiced daily, hourly — moment-to-moment. Because the reptilian brain is here to protect you. And that’s a good thing. It’s hard-wired into your DNA. But. It needs you to have an over-riding mechanism in place. Your self-determination.
- What’s one thing you can do in the next 3 minutes that shows you you’re leaning forward?
- What’s one thing you can do in the next 3 minutes that means your curiosity is stronger than complacency?
- What’s one thing you can do in the next 3 minutes that describes you as a self-leader?