December 11, 2016

Professional Paradigms New and Old (Part 7): Traumatic Transformation, and What Do You Do When Your Paradigm is Done Shifting?

Professional paradigm shifts require transformation not just for the profession’s culture, but for the individuals in it.

wired%20to%20createIn their book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind, authors Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire identify several ways individual paradigm-shifting transformation gets started. One is inspiration, which they say comes in three stages:

The first stage is that unsolicited moment when we feel inspired, “by a role model, teacher, experience, or subject matter.”

“Next comes transcendent awakening — a moment of clarity and an awareness of new possibilities.

“Which leads to the third hallmark feature of inspiration: a striving to transmit, express, or actualize a new idea, insight, or vision.” (Emphasis in original.)

Individual paradigm shifts are also prompted by traumatic life events, resulting in what psychologists call “posttraumatic growth.” Again from Wired to Create:

After a traumatic event, such as a serious illness or loss of a loved one, individuals intensely process the event—they’re constantly thinking about what happened, and usually with strong emotional reactions.

[T]his kind of repetitive thinking is a critical step toward thriving in the wake of a challenge… we’re working hard to make sense of it and to find a place for it in our lives that still allows us to have a strong sense of meaning and purpose.

I have personal experience with both inspiration and trauma. As I wrote a couple weeks ago, “I have a personal, real-time, vested interest in change because I’ve been on a steep personal transformation learning curve for nearly a decade — for all sorts of reasons I’ve written about in my books, my personal blog, and sometimes in this column.” Learning, writing, and conducting workshops about the psychological and neurological dynamics of transformation has been has been my way of being proactive about something I’ve come to call “traumatic transformation.”

ApocalypseIn fact, I just finished a new book that completes my decade-long intensive on personal transformation. As always, I’ve learned a lot writing it, but the most startling discovery is that paradigm shifts don’t go on forever: a time actually comes when the new fully replaces the old. Now that I’ve finished it, I can see that writing the book was in part a way for me to bring closure to my years of personal paradigm shifting.

That being the case, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to set aside my transformation journey and let its lessons play out for awhile. Which is why, after today’s post, I’m going to take an indefinite vacation from writing this column. At this point, I have no fresh thoughts to add to what I’ve been writing about for the past several years. Instead of repeating myself, I want to take a break and see if anything new comes up. If so, I’ll come back and share it.

In the meantime, my endless thanks to the Colorado Bar Association and CBA-CLE and to my fabulous editor Susan Hoyt for letting me trot out my research and theories and personal revelations in this forum. And equally many thanks to those of you who’ve read and thought about and sometimes even taken some of these ideas to heart and put them into practice.

On the wall above the desk where I write, I have a dry-mounted copy of the very last Sunday Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, which I cut out of the newspaper the morning it ran. (Speaking of paradigm shifts, remember newspapers?) There’s a fresh snow, and our two heroes hop on their sled and go bouncing down a hill as Calvin exults, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes ol’ buddy… Let’s go exploring!”

I suspect Calvin and Hobbes are still out there, exploring. I plan to join them.

You?

Apocalypse: Life On The Other Side Of Over was just published yesterday. It’s a free download from the publisher, like my other books. Or click on this link or the book cover for details.

And if we don’t run into each other out there exploring, feel free to email me.

 

Professional Paradigms New and Old (Part 6): Law Beyond Blame

rhodes(At the end of last week’s post, I promised a follow up this week. We’ll get to that next week. In the meantime, the following was just too pertinent to pass up.)

In several posts over the past couple years, we’ve looked at how technology acts as a disruptive innovator, shifting paradigms in the legal profession. I recently came across another disruptor: the biology of the brain. Its implications reach much further than, let’s say, Rocket Lawyer.

David Eagleman is his own weather system. Here’s his website — talk about creds. His short bio is “a neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine, where he directs the Laboratory for Perception and Action, and the Initiative on Neuroscience and the Law.” The latter’s website posts news about “neulaw,” and includes CLE offerings. Among other things, neulaw tackles a bastion of legal theory: the notion of culpability.

Incognito_Cover_EaglemanEagleman’s book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain contains a long chapter entitled “Why Blameworthiness Is The Wrong Question.” It begins with the story of Charles Whitman, who climbed a tower at the University of Texas in August 1966 and started shooting, leaving 13 people dead and 38 wounded before being killed himself. He left a suicide note that included the following:

“I do not understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I cannot recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts… If my life insurance policy is valid please pay off my debts… donate the rest to a mental health foundation. Maybe research can prevent further tragedies of this type.”

Whitman’s brain was examined and a tumor was found in the sector that regulates fear and aggression. Psychologists have known since the late 1800s that impairment in this area results in violence and social disturbance. Against this backdrop, Eagleman opens his discussion of blameworthiness with some good questions:

Does this discovery of Whitman’s brain tumor modify your feelings about his senseless murdering? If Whitman had survived that day, would it adjust the sentencing you would consider appropriate for him? Does the tumor change the degree to which you consider it “his fault”?

On the other hand, wouldn’t it be dangerous to conclude that people with a tumor are somehow free of guilt, or that they should be let off the hook for their crimes?

The man on the tower with the mass in his brain gets us right into the heart of the question of blameworthiness. To put it in the legal argot: was he culpable?

The law has accommodated impaired states of mind for a long time, but Eagleman’s analysis takes the issue much further, all the way to the core issue of free will, as currently understood not by moral and ethical theorists but by brain science. Incognito is an extended examination of just how much brain activity occurs beneath the level of conscious detection, in both “normal” and impaired persons. Consider these excerpts:

[T]he legal system rests on the assumption that we do have free will — and we are judged based on this perceived freedom.

As far as the legal system sees it, humans . . . use conscious deliberation when deciding how to act. We make our own decisions.

Historically, clinicians and lawyers have agreed on an intuitive distinction between neurological disorders (“brain problems”) and psychiatric disorders (“mind problems”).

The more we discover about the circuitry of the brain, the more the answers . . . move toward the details of the biology. The shift from blame to science reflects our modern understanding that our perceptions and behaviors are controlled by inaccessible [neurological] subroutines that can be easily perturbed.

[A] slight change in the balance of brain chemicals can cause large changes in behavior. The behavior of the patient cannot be separated from his biology.

Think about that for a moment — as a lawyer, and as a human being. The idea that our biology controls our behavior — not our state of mind or conscious decision-making — is repugnant not only to the law, but to our everyday perceptions of free will and responsibility. Tamper with free will, and a whole lot of paradigms — not just legal notions of culpability — come crashing down.

Eagleman’s discussion of these issues in Incognito is detailed and thoughtful, and far too extensive to convey in this short blog post. If you’re intrigued, I recommend it highly.

Kevin Rhodes has been a lawyer for over 30 years. Drawing on insights gathered from science, technology, disruptive innovation, entrepreneurship, neuroscience, and psychology, and also from his personal experiences as a practicing lawyer and a “life athlete,” he’s on a mission to bring wellbeing to the people who learn, teach, and practice the law.

Professional Paradigms New and Old (Part 5): Why Change if We Don’t Have To?

rhodesWhy change if we don’t have to?

Good question. I Googled it. The most hits were about the hazards of not changing your car’s oil, plus a few along the same lines about furnace filters or the water filter on the fridge. There was one about changing your underwear, and a few about lifestyle changes related to health issues. All of those are maintenance issues — mechanical, hygiene, health — which we would generally consider have to’s.

What about changing to keep up with the competitive pressures of the marketplace? There’s a lot of keeping up with the Joneses thinking out there, but in my observation, making yourself afraid of what the competition might do rarely results in anything other than drama. No have to in that.

Recently, at a CLE workshop in South Carolina, a participant asked, “Aren’t there some things we don’t need to change?” The question brought me up short, reminded me why we were investing a whole day talking about change: we were there to enhance professionalism, help us do our work better, keep us ethical, and maybe even help us to be happy practicing law — or find the courage to get out. That’s why we needed to talk about things like law school inflicted brain damage, lawyer substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and suicide, and the value of personal happiness in supporting ethical behavior. Some things are broken and need to be fixed, and some things we do to keep our edge — both are necessary maintenance, part of our professional have to’s.

But there was a second part to my answer. Beyond those maintenance issues, I agree: let’s not change if we don’t want to. I’m not sure it’s even possible. I do know that grudging change never seems to work.

I say that even though I think and write a lot about change — particularly the psychological and neurological dynamics of personal transformation. (You may have noticed.) If I were still in law practice, I would no doubt be incorporating the not-so-futuristic practice developments into my firm, and otherwise actively engaging with the huge paradigm shift happening in our profession.

But that’s not everybody’s choice, and I get that. They’re content to let those developments play out by the process of cultural evolution. If a day comes that threatens obsolescence beyond mere fear-mongering, it will become a shared maintenance issue, and we’ll take care of it together… but probably not before.

All that went into my answer to the question in South Carolina. Which made me ask myself once again what’s behind my own commitment to change. Bottom line is, I have a personal, real-time, vested interest in change because I’ve been on a steep personal transformation learning curve for nearly a decade — for all sorts of reasons I’ve written about in my books, my personal blog, and sometimes in this column. Thinking and writing about it is my way of being proactive about my own best interests.

More next time on why that’s relevant to this blog.

Rhodes_4

Check out this collection of last year’s Future of Law blog posts. It’s a FREE download. Also included is the Culture of Law series from the second half of 2015. Click this link or the cover for downloading details.

Professional Paradigms New and Old (Part 4): Failure As A Virtue

rhodesAs we saw last week, one way to engage with a paradigm shift is to “walk in stupid every day.” That won’t be easy for professionals: our job is to be smart; our brains are culturally wired with that expectation. Being “stupid” turns that cultural expectation on its ear, makes our brain circuits fritz.

So does another powerful paradigm-busting tool: learning to embrace failure. Professional cultural paradigms include conventional wisdom about how to succeed; flying in the face of them is a set up for failure.

In their book Wired to Create (which we looked at last time), Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire cite the work of psychologist Robert J. Sternberg, who identified several key attributes of people who are “willing to generate and promote ideas that are novel and even strange and out of fashion” — i.e., who would embrace a paradigm shift. According to Dr. Sternberg, that kind of person:

  • Tries to do what others think is impossible;
  • Is a noncomformist;
  • Is unorthodox;
  • Questions societal norms, truisms, and assumptions.

Life is risky for nonconformists. According to Kaufman and Gregoire:

Sternberg found that artists [who participated in his study] said that a creative person is one who takes risks and is willing to follow through on the consequences of those risks. Businesspeople, meanwhile, responded that a creative person in the business world is one who steers clear of the pitfalls of conventional ways of thinking.

The inherent risks of unconventional thinking require a willingness to fail — so says organizational psychologist Adam Grant in his TED talk on “The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers”:

The greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones who try the most. You need a lot of bad ideas in order to get a few good ones.

No wonder W+K — the uber-creative ad agency we looked at last time — has a Fail Harder Wall.

Then what about our professional obligation to be smart, and steer clear of risk and failure? David P Barash, evolutionary biologist and professor of psychology and biology at the University of Washington, tackles that conundrum in an article entitled “Paradigms Lost” that begins this way:

Science is not a “body of knowledge” – it’s a dynamic, ongoing reconfiguration of knowledge and must be free to change.

The capacity for self-correction is the source of science’s immense strength, but the public is unnerved by the fact that scientific wisdom isn’t immutable. Scientific knowledge changes with great speed and frequency – as it should – yet public opinion drags with reluctance to be modified once established. And the rapid ebb and flow of scientific “wisdom” has left many people feeling jerked around, confused, and increasingly resistant to science itself.

Unlike science, the law profession’s conventional cultural paradigm does not embrace change “with great speed and frequency.” On the other hand, the new paradigm/technology-driven legal practice developments do precisely that — which, according to the existing paradigm, makes them a high risk, fast road to failure.

Those who choose to innovate in the face of this risk need creativity and courage. Once again, this is from Wired to Create:

The history of creative thought and social progress is littered with similar stories of banned books, culture wars, persecuted artists, and paradigm-shifting innovations that change the way we look at the world.

In choosing to do things differently, [creative people] accept the possibility of failure — but it is precisely this risk that opens up the possibility of true innovation.

But can a professional paradigm truly embrace failure? More next time.

Rhodes_4

Check out this collection of last year’s Future of Law blog posts. It’s a FREE download. Also included is the Culture of Law series from the second half of 2015. Click this link or the cover for downloading details.

Professional Paradigms New and Old (Part 3): “Walk in Stupid Everyday”

We looked last year at physicist Thomas Kuhn’s model for how paradigms shift, and also explored another scientist’s exhortation “The best way to predict the future is to create it.”

Good, quotable advice, but how do you create what you can’t see? Richard and Daniel Susskind say often in their book The Future of the Professions that, as they travel the world delivering their message, many professionals agree that there’s a massive paradigm shift currently happening in the professions, just not their own.

Why this paradigm shift blindness?

wired%20to%20createReason 1: Too Much Expertise

Authors Scott Barry Kaufman and Carolyn Gregoire describe this phenomenon in their marvelous book Wired to Create: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Creative Mind:

While experience is an important aspect of excellence in any creative discipline, one risk of being a seasoned pro is that we become so entrenched in our own point of view that we have trouble seeing other solutions. Experts may have trouble being flexible and adapting to change because they are so highly accustomed to seeing things in a particular way.

Reason 2: Cultural Blindness

In each of the past two years (here and here), we’ve also looked at research from the emerging field of cultural neurology that suggests our brains’ observation and cognitive faculties are so linked to our cultural context that we simply can’t see paradigm shifts when they happen. Our cultural bias blinds us — it determines what we see and don’t see, and can literally blind us to new developments happening in our midst.

Reason 3: Not Being a Newcomer

Again from Wired to Create: “the newcomers to a field are sometimes the ones who come up with the ideas that truly innovate and shift paradigms.” In the law, the newcomers are responsible for the wave of new practice models and technologies. As I said last year, “By the time the new paradigm’s opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it, the paradigm we can’t see now will be the only one the new generation has ever known.”

MavericksA Cure for Paradigm Shift Blindness: Get Stupid

Dan Wieden is imminently quotable. He ought to be: he’s one of the namesakes of legendary ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, and personally created Nike’s “Just Do it” slogan.

W+K has offices all over the world and bills over a billion dollars annually. Their website is a creative trip all its own — you might enjoy cruising it, if you have a moment. The firm was profiled in a 2006 business bestseller, Mavericks at Work: Why the Most Original Minds in Business Win, where Wieden was famously quoted as saying this about his approach to keeping W+K at the top of its game:

Whatever day it is, something in the world changed overnight,
and you better figure out what it is and what it means.
You have to forget what you just did and what you just learned
You have to walk in stupid every day.

Lawyers aren’t the only professionals who will have trouble following that advice. People pay us to be smart; their benefit and our livelihood depend on it. True, but there’s a whole lot of shaking goin’ on around us. We might want to get stupid enough to see it.

Next time, we’ll look at another paradigm shifting skill that won’t come easy: embracing failure.

 

Mavericks at Work may be the best business book I’ve ever read. If you like that kind of thing, you owe it to yourself.

And Wired to Create is the best I’ve ever read on its topic. Author Scott Barry Kaufman is the scientific director of the Imagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania, and Carolyn Gregoire is a senior writer at the Huffington Post, covering psychology, mental health, and neuroscience. And that’s just the first sentence of each of their author bios. Talk about creds.)

 

Rhodes_4

Check out this collection of last year’s Future of Law blog posts. It’s a FREE download. Also included is the Culture of Law series from the second half of 2015. Click this link or the cover for downloading details.

Professional Paradigms New and Old (Part 2): You Had Me At The Creds

rhodesI met a friend for a beer last Thursday, and told him about my blog post that day about the future (actually the end) of the professions.

“I’ve got a story for you about that,” he said. “I thought now that I’m retired, I should get my affairs in order.”

I practiced estate planning, so my ears perked up. He told me about all the useful information, forms, and software he’d found online, also about the estate planning seminars he’d attended and the presenting lawyers’ “don’t try this at home” pitches. And his incredulous response to their fee quotes “for things I could do myself.”

He’s newly retired from an illustrious teaching career — an Ivy League grad, six published books, awards and accolades everywhere. He has a huge and healthy respect for the professions and professionalism. And he had more to say.

“In education, it’s gotten to the point where it’s, why even bother to go to school? It’s all available online. You can learn what you want, your own way.”

Then he paused. “But I still wouldn’t go to a surgeon who didn’t have the credentials.”

Ah, the credentials. Is that why people still go to law school, med school, get a CPA, a teaching certificate?

Yes, in part, but the world of professional credentials is changing. I talked about this in a post last March called Strange Bedfellows: Commercial Law and Legal Ethics. Here’s an excerpt:

Peer-to-peer is what’s driving the new sharing economy. Consider this from a recent article in Time Magazine:

The key to [the sharing economy] was the discovery that while we totally distrust strangers, we totally trust people — significantly more than we trust corporations or governments. Many sharing-company founders have one thing in common: they worked at eBay and, in bits and pieces, recreated that company’s trust and safety division. Rather than rely on insurance and background checks, its innovation was getting both the provider and the user to rate each other, usually with one to five stars. That eliminates the few bad actors who made everyone too nervous to deal with strangers.

In that post, I made these two predictions (among others):

  • The peer-to-peer dynamic will prevail in significant economic sectors — including the professional service sector of which the legal profession is a part.
  • The resulting consumer satisfaction data will have a curious side effect as a new kind of legal ethics watchdog.

As for the latter, I said this:

Peer-to-peer is the ultimate in self-policing, which makes its extension to legal ethics unlikely but logical. Rule 8.3 — the duty to report unethical behavior among our peers — has long been a part of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, but has been more honored in the breach than the observance. The new, democratized marketplace will take this matter into its own hands.

In other words, the professional paradigm will shift — in fact, is already shifting — to include peer-to-peer review as an alternative form of professional credentialing.

True, the typical consumer still wants law school and bar admittance credentials for the legal equivalent of surgery, but for the rest, we’re seeing a major shift in consumer attitudes toward my friend’s — to the point where the consumer is more likely to buy from someone (lawyer or not, which is its own topic) who gets 20 five-star ratings for estate planning offered at a reasonable price (which my buddy gave as 10 percent of what the seminar lawyers were charging). They’ve got the creds the consumer wants… just a different kind.

Like it or not, it’s happening out there in the New Economy marketplace, and we’ll see more of it in our house. We’re not all the way to lawyers posting client ratings on a five-star scale yet, but one day… I’ll bet it happens. I also bet that day will come way sooner than most lawyers would care to predict.

 

For Bill Gates’ take on the value of a college education credentials, check out his post yesterday on LinkedIn Pulse.

And for a toe dip into the New Economy, take a look here and here.

Rhodes_4Check out this collection of last year’s Future of Law blog posts. It’s a FREE download. Also included is the Culture of Law series from the second half of 2015. Click this link or the cover for downloading details.

Professional Paradigms New and Old (Part 1): The Future Is Here, And We’re Not In It

The%20Future%20of%20the%20ProfessionsThe first six months of 2015, this blog ran a series on the Future of Law. About halfway through, I discovered the work of law futurist Richard Susskind, and quoted his books several times after that.

Richard and his son Daniel recently teamed up to publish The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human Experts.

The book takes commitment to get through — it is exhaustively (sometimes exhaustingly) researched, and written with the painstaking (sometimes painful in its meticulousness) logic of philosophy (or a legal brief). But if you want to make your own contribution to the future of the profession, it’s an absolute must-read.

Among other things, you’ll find lots of new news about practice models and technologies — not just in law, but the other professions as well — which gives a sense of the vastness of the paradigm shift currently well underway in all the professions.

Here’s how the book summarizes its message:

[T]he professions are our current solution to a pervasive problem, namely, that none of us has sufficient specialist knowledge to allow us to cope with all the challenges that life throws at us. We have limited understanding, and so we turn to doctors, lawyers, teachers, architects, and other professionals because they have ‘practical expertise’ that we need to bring to bear in our daily lives. In a print-based society, we have interposed the professions, as gatekeepers, between individuals and organizations, and the knowledge and experience to which they need access.

In the first two parts of the book we describe the changes taking place within the professions, and we develop various theories (largely technological and economic) that lead us to conclude that, in the future—in the fully fledged, technology-based Internet society—increasingly capable machines, autonomously or with non-specialist users, will take on many of the tasks that currently are the exclusive realm of the professions.

While we do not anticipate an overnight, big-bang revolution, equally we do not expect a leisurely evolutionary progression into the post-professional society. Instead, we predict what we call and ‘incremental transformation’ in the way in which we organize and share expertise in society, a displacement of the traditional professions in a staggered series of steps and bounds. Although the change will come in increments, its eventual impact will be radical and pervasive.

In other words, the professions as we have known them are facing the full implications of a massive paradigm shift from analog to digital in how we create, curate, and communicate wisdom, expertise, and specialized knowledge. The old paradigm relied on manuscripts and human brains; the new is proliferated in digitized forms most of us can barely conceive of.

The result? Let’s put it this way: the Susskinds could have called their book not the Future of the Professions, but the End of the Professions.

As I’ve said before, this paradigm shift is way bigger than our individual opinions of it. This series will offer some thoughts on how we reckon with it.

 

Rhodes_4For last year’s version of the Future of Law, check out this collection of those blog posts. It’s a FREE download. Also included is the Culture of Law series from the second half of 2015. Click this link or the cover for details.

The Anti-Motivation Strategy (Part 8): Last Lessons From a Couple Personal Ethos Heroes

Employee-Motivation

 

Last week’s post introduced the concept of personal ethos — your core, essential self, the inner drive that defines you, that will be expressed simply because you are alive on this planet, here and now, doing what you do, for no other reason than that’s what you do. You don’t need motivation to do that. Besides, it’s what you do best, and love doing to boot.

Let’s end this series with a couple sports stories. Bear with me if that’s not your thing, but it’s a nice wrap up.

I once heard an interview in which Michael Jordan’s father said, “God decided to make a perfect basketball player, so he made Michael.” He wasn’t the only one who used that kind of language to describe his son. At the end of the 1986 season, Jordan came back from a broken ankle (too early, risking his career, the experts said) and played only 18 games, then burned the Boston Celtics for 63 points in a playoff game, causing Larry Bird to famously remark,

That was God disguised as Michael Jordan.”

It was a folksy thing to say. But what if he was right… I mean, really right? What if the sentence could be completed by someone observing your life and saying, “That was God disguised as [your name]”? Where would you find something that strong?

By looking at what you already do. What you’ve always done. What you’re going to do anyway, because that’s what you do, and you love doing it and you’re good at it.

When God decided to make a perfect _______, he made [your name].

I know, it sounds corny, but try it on. Go ahead — it won’t kill you. According to the concept of personal ethos, those bold statements are not a reach for a stress-fueled motivational challenge, they’re facts that come from the essence of who you are, at the level of your deepest, core self.

Tap that, and you can quit making trips to the dry, stressful motivation well. You won’t need it, You will do what you will do, irrepressibly and indomitably. You won’t be able to help it; you won’t want to. That’s what it means to operate from your personal ethos.

Larry-Bird

Sure, you’ll face the challenge of staying focused on individual and collective mission and goals, but you face that challenge already anyway. Only now you’ll face it with more honesty, authenticity, and laser focus. Which means you can expect more explosive results. You’ll become this:

Michael-Jordan

Now, isn’t that a whole lot better than the carrot and stick you’ve been waving around?

If you’re interested in more about personal ethos, I wrote two books about it. Both are available as FREE downloads. For more, click the book covers.

 

Running-for-my-Life

One reader said this: “Running For My Life is a unique and thought provoking read. On the surface it is a story about a man with primary progressive MS reshaping his life through a+ strict diet and extreme exercise regimen. However, if you take the time to explore the pages, you will find that it is really a story about Kevin and about yourself. This book invites you to take a look inwards at your own limitations, and then holds your hand as you figure out how to push past them together.”

 

EthosEthos is a stand-alone version of Book Three of Running For My Life. It is a Personal Ethos Credo — the things I believe about it, and how I practice it.

The Anti-Motivation Strategy (Part 7): If You Tap This, You Don’t Need Motivation

Employee-Motivation

I conduct CLE workshops on working from the inside out. The first exercise is “What do you already do?” The course materials explain it this way:

You find important clues about your Passion just by looking at how you arrange your life already. There are some things you do that go beyond the categories of work vs. leisure, personal vs. family or business, etc. You do them just because you want to, because you like doing them or you’re good at them (probably both).

Think about how you already spend yourself. What do you like to think about, read about, talk about, learn about? What headlines do you click on? What do your activities and projects at work or away from it gravitate toward? What role do you usually play at work, with family, in social settings? What are your hobbies and favorite pastimes? What shows do you watch, what magazines and articles do you read? What do you like to talk about? You get the idea. Write about it.

People wrestle with the notion of finding their “Passion” with a capital P. A lot of people don’t seem to have just one Passion, and can’t find it anyway. The exercise uses that term on purpose, then invites the workshop participants to move past the intimidation and stuckness it brings up.

What we’re after is something simpler, more accessible, and ultimately more powerful. We’re looking for what you do and probably have done all your life — not just the activities and interests you keep going back to, but how you go about doing them. Chances are, there are patterns that keep showing up, that display your signature way of thinking and acting and being in the world.

And here’s the key:
You don’t have to get motivated to do these things or act this way.
You do it because… well, that’s just who you are.

If you can tap into that, you don’t need motivation. You’re onto something far more compelling, something that will last — something I’ve come to call “personal ethos.” I define it this way:

Ethos is our characteristic spirit, as manifested in our beliefs and aspirations.

Our beliefs and aspirations come from inside, from the core of our being. They’re what make each of us uniquely who we are, so that we can recognize each other even if we haven’t seen each other for a long time. We’re after what lies underneath them, their source. That’s what I mean by personal ethos. Ethos is the unique fingerprint of our soul — something so primal, so embedded in us, that we don’t even know it’s on the agenda. But…

When it comes to how we’re going to go about achieving our goals
and getting what we want out of life,
ethos isn’t ON the agenda, it IS the agenda.

Motivation practiced the usual carrot and stick way, the stressful way, the cortisol-laced way, the brain damaging way… doesn’t trust what we’re good at and love doing. Instead, it rewards and punishes us into doing something else. If instead we can get in touch with our ethos, we don’t need to buy that approach anymore. Tap personal ethos, and we don’t have to get motivated to do things that matter to us, we just do them, from deep inside. Ethos fuels us from deep down at our roots.

Ethos is the sustained motivational wellspring we’ve been looking for.

wellspring

More about personal ethos next time.

If you’re interested in exploring personal ethos for yourself, I wrote two books about it. Both are available as FREE downloads. For more, click the book covers.

 

Running-for-my-Life

One reader said this: “Running For My Life is a unique and thought provoking read. On the surface it is a story about a man with primary progressive MS reshaping his life through a+ strict diet and extreme exercise regimen. However, if you take the time to explore the pages, you will find that it is really a story about Kevin and about yourself. This book invites you to take a look inwards at your own limitations, and then holds your hand as you figure out how to push past them together.”

 

EthosEthos is a stand-alone version of Book Three of Running For My Life. It is a Personal Ethos Credo — the things I believe about it, and how I practice it.

The Anti-Motivation Strategy (Part 6): John Pepper Explained

Employee-Motivation

Last time, we met John Pepper, the conscious walker with Parkinson’s Disease. How does he do it, when Parkinson’s has literally taken the motivation out of his brain?

The answer is about dope — dopamine, that is.

The Straight Dope on Motivation

Dopamine is the brain chemical behind the pursuit of happiness. When we think about getting moving on something, it runs a cost-benefit analysis, and if the perceived reward outweighs the cost, it gets behind the idea. We feel motivated. We get going. But if the ledger comes up short, dopamine settles back on the couch and asks for more Cheetos.

Norman Doidge explains John Pepper’s relationship with motivation this way:

The conventional view is that dopamine is essential for movement, and because people with [Parkinson’s Disease] have too little…, they can’t move. But it turns out that dopamine is also essential to ‘feel’ that it is worth making a movement— that is, people need dopamine to feel motivated to move in the first place.

Thus dopamine has at least three characteristics relevant to [Parkinson’s Disease]: first, it enhances motivation to move; then it facilitates and quickens that movement; and finally it neuroplastically strengthens the circuits involved in the movement, so that movement will be easier next time. But if there is no motivation, no movement will occur.

A recent study shows that the ‘motivation to move’ goes awry in [Parkinson’s Disease].

The importance [of this study] for understanding Parkinson’s cannot be underestimated: it is not simply that [Parkinson’s Disease patients] have an inherent inability to move normally and at a normal speed; the motivational component of their motor system is also fundamentally compromised.

Parkinson’s Disease appears in its symptoms as a physical movement disorder, but it has roots that are ‘cognitive’ or ‘mental,’ and is thus as much a mental as a physical disorder.

Which is precisely why it is problematic to teach Parkinson’s patients that the loss of dopamine prevents them from moving! This instruction will only reinforce passive resignation, at the very moment when that attitude needs to be undermined.

This motivational lack is not a product of laziness or apathy or weakness of will. Rather, the brain’s dopamine-based motivation circuit often cannot energize particular movements, even when desired, and this appears as weariness or lassitude.

That John Pepper was able to motivate himself to move, despite limited dopamine, attests to the vital force of his mind and will. But to translate that motivation still required a ‘neurological’ discovery on his part. He still couldn’t do normal, everyday walking, which is automatic and habitual… until his conscious walking technique got around this circuit and allowed him to use other circuits.

In other words, John Pepper’s dogged walking practice — not his brain’s motivation mechanism — has recruited other parts of his brain to help him stay with it.

Why is John Pepper important to you and your pursuit of motivation?

Because we all have those moments when we just can’t seem to get ourselves going. Same with the people we’d like to motivate. Dopamine just isn’t behind the idea. When that happens, we need to find some other way to get moving even when we’re not motivated to do so.

We’ll dig deeper into that idea next time.

Rhodes_4This second collection of Kevin’s blog posts focuses on the future and culture of law, including insights on technology, innovation, neuro-culture, and entrepreneurship. Extensively researched, visionary, and written in a crisp, conversational style by a man on a mission to bring wellbeing to the people who learn, teach, and practice the law.

The Anti-Motivation Strategy (Part 5): Meet John Pepper, the Unmotivated Miracle Walker

Employee-Motivation

We’ve seen earlier in this series that motivation lasts maybe 2 or 3 days, that we have to stay motivated to be motivated, and that the way we usually practice motivation is to trigger the fight or flight wiring in our brains, which keeps the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol flowing. We can get short term results that way, but in the long run chronic stress hurts: eventually we exhaust ourselves trying to stay pumped up, lose effectiveness, deplete reserves, and impair our long-term health.

In other words, motivation practiced that way is like a well we have to keep filling in order to order to get any water out.

Well-Rhodes

Hmmm… that’s not much of a well.

Swingline

There is a better way. We can tap a spring instead, where the water comes up from way down deep, pure and refreshing. Do that, and we don’t need motivation anymore. Let’s go looking for that spring. Here’s our first stop:

Meet John Pepper: The Conscious Walker

Brain-Healing

Norman Doidge, M.D. introduces John Pepper this way, in his book The Brain’s Way of Healing:

“My walking companion, John Pepper, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder, over two decades ago. He first started getting symptoms nearly fifty years ago. But unless you are a perceptive and well-trained observer, you would never know it. Pepper moves too quickly for a Parkinson’s patient. He doesn’t appear to have the classic symptoms: no shuffling gait, no visible tremor when he pauses or when he moves; he does not appear especially rigid, and seems able to initiate new movements fairly quickly; he has a good sense of balance. He even swings his arms when he walks. He shows none of the slowed movements that are the hallmark of Parkinson’s. He hasn’t been on anti-Parkinson’s medication for nine years, since he was sixty-eight years old, yet appears to walk perfectly normally.

“In fact, when he gets going at his normal speed, I can’t keep up with him. He’s now going on seventy-seven and has had this illness, which is defined as an incurable, chronic, progressive neurodegenerative disorder, since his thirties. But instead of degenerating, John Pepper has been able to reverse the major symptoms, the ones that Parkinson’s patients dread most, those that lead to immobility. He’s done so with an exercise program he devised and with a special kind of concentration.”

Most people’s walking movements are unconscious. That’s why Sienna Miller can talk on her cell phone and walk the dog at the same time. (So can you, but maybe not as stylishly.) For all his years of practice, John Pepper hasn’t gotten to that level. Instead, he walks and controls his tremors consciously. His mind has to stay on the job; if he gets distracted or takes a day or even a moment off, his Parkinson’s symptoms come back.

He must be a really motivated guy!

No he’s not. In fact, if John Pepper had to rely on motivation, he wouldn’t be walking at all. Motivation won’t help John Pepper, because it’s just not there. Parkinson’s Disease has taken it away.

Then how does he do it?

We’ll find out next time.

Rhodes_4This second collection of Kevin’s blog posts focuses on the future and culture of law, including insights on technology, innovation, neuro-culture, and entrepreneurship. Extensively researched, visionary, and written in a crisp, conversational style by a man on a mission to bring wellbeing to the people who learn, teach, and practice the law.

 

 

 

The Anti-Motivation Strategy (Part 4): Why Clients Should Never Hire a Motivated Lawyer

Employee-Motivation

Why not? Because there’s a good chance that motivated lawyer is cognitively impaired.

In a series in Fall 2014, we’ve looked in depth at the research of University of Denver law professor Debra S. Austin, J.D., Ph.D., and her seminal law review article Killing Them Softly: Neuroscience Reveals How Brain Cells Die From Law School Stress And How Neural Self-Hacking Can Optimize Cognitive Performance. Prof. Austin’s research findings line up with the Mayo Clinic’s analysis we looked at last time:

Neuroscience shows that the aggregate educative effects of training to become a lawyer under chronically stressful conditions may undermine the efforts of legal educators by weakening the learning capacities of law students. Stress in legal education may also set the stage for abnormally high rates of anxiety and depression among lawyers.

The stresses facing law students and lawyers result in a significant decline in their well-being, including anxiety, panic attacks, depression, substance abuse, and suicide. Neuroscience now shows that this level of stress also diminishes cognitive capacity. The intricate workings of the brain, the ways in which memories become part of a lawyer’s body of knowledge, and the impact of emotion on this process indicate that stress can weaken or kill brain cells needed for cognition.

When stress persists for a few hours or days, a law student may experience a bad mood. Longer-term stress can cause stress-related disorders such as panic attacks, anxiety, or depression; the physical effects include increased blood pressure, heart palpitations, breathlessness, dizziness, irritability, chest pain, abdominal discomfort, sweating, chills, or increased muscle tension.

Long-term elevated levels of glucocorticoids resulting from chronic stress have been associated with the following physical conditions:

  • Impaired immune response;
  • Increased appetite and food cravings;
  • Increased body fat;
  • Increased symptoms of PMS and menopause;
  • Decreased muscle mass;
  • Decreased bone density; and
  • Decreased libido.

Chronic stress also produces the following emotional conditions:

  • Increased mood swings, irritability, and anger;
  • Increased anxiety; and
  • Increased depression.

The impact of stress on law student cognition includes deterioration in memory, concentration, problem-solving, math performance, and language processing. Curiosity is dampened, and creativity is diminished.

In other words, law schools and law firms kill brain cells, impairing the highly-motivated high achievers who populate them from doing what they’re required to do, which is to think clearly and make sound judgments, and in the meantime banishing law students and lawyers to unhappiness and maybe an early grave.

Law schools and law firms don’t have to disclose all that. Maybe they should.

Ivy_League

Time For an Anti-Motivation Strategy

By now the flaw in the typical motivation strategy is evident: motivation becomes its own loop, circles back on itself, becomes its own focus, its own end game. We’re no longer practicing motivation with a performance goal in mind, we’re practicing it for its own sake. Motivation becomes a short-term, stressful preoccupation that hampers sustainable long-term performance. In the meantime, we become tentative, uncertain, indecisive, and unfocused, which means our performance becomes tenuous, weak, and unreliable.

There’s got to be a better way. There is, and we’ll look at it, starting next time.

Rhodes_4This second collection of Kevin’s blog posts focuses on the future and culture of law, including insights on technology, innovation, neuro-culture, and entrepreneurship. Extensively researched, visionary, and written in a crisp, conversational style by a man on a mission to bring wellbeing to the people who learn, teach, and practice the law.