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March 2014

The Meaning of Life

We have this double problem, don’t we? The first is: what is the meaning of life? That’s pretty tricky to answer; and if that weren’t enough we have the compounded problem here in the West: we are not allowed to ask that question, or at most we are expected to skirt around it. Why is this? Because a bunch of useless philosophers, building on a long-standing anti-spiritual tradition, in the middle of the last century decided that it was a meaningless question, and so there was no point in asking it as there was no meaningful answer. With retrospect this seems like assuming the answer before we have fully investigated the question. This suits people who don’t want life to have a meaning since it enables them to keep ‘transcendence’ safely locked away in the deepest ocean of their sub-conscious, never to disturb their perfect lives. However, it fitted the zeitgeist of the time and so the most important question of all, the question that has absorbed philosophers and human beings before and since Plato for thousands of years, was relegated to an historical footnote – better that than having people seriously attempting to grapple with and answer this profound challenge.

One of the greatest exponents of this view was the philosopher, Professor AJ Ayer, responsible for promoting an ideology called Logical Positivism, which essentially did what I have outlined in my first paragraph: namely, it debunked any kind of knowledge that wasn’t or isn’t scientific and open to that sort of discipline’s validation. Curiously with Ayer, towards the end of his life he had a near death experience and one of the medical consultants attending him reported Ayer as saying: "I saw a Divine Being. I'm afraid I'm going to have to revise all my books and opinions". Unfortunately he never had time to, and the ‘believers’ in Ayer’s sort of meaninglessness sprang into action to attempt to invalidate the reported words of the medic. Mostly they seemed to have used more great logic: he couldn’t possibly have said those words, could he? And so he couldn’t have.

Of course Ayer was wrong – except possibly in having seen a Divine Being – in his views, particularly about knowledge and what is and isn’t valid. Without being a philosopher myself I can state with complete confidence that science and logic are both coherent and powerful forms of understanding; but they are not the only forms available to human beings. Indeed, to gain a truer picture of what it means to be human we have to realise that ethics and beauty have their respective disciplines which are not science, but are equally true. And truth itself – hence philosophy, the love of wisdom – is a discipline that is not valid in any objective sense. The prioritisation of science and the scientific method has led to an appalling deprivation in our understanding of the world and what the world means. Ah! – ‘means’, that word again.

So what is the meaning of life? Curiously, and as a first pass on the question, the answer is closer than one might expect. We might expect the answer to trot off the tongue in a sentence like: The meaning of life is … God, Om, happiness, my family, love, human progress, the survival of the fittest, and so on. And it might be these things if we go for the second pass, and delve more deeply. But before we do that, let’s get to reality. The meaning of life is … meaning. Yea, that’s it – meaning.

Carl Jung put it this way: "When people feel that they are living the symbolic life, that they are actors in the divine drama, that gives the only meaning to human life; everything else is banal and you can dismiss it. A career, producing children, all are Maya compared with that one thing, that your life is meaningful". So not only is it about being meaningful, but also Jung gives us the mechanism by which this occurs: to feel that our lives are symbolic, especially in a divine drama. Wow – that charges us. Another way of putting that is: we are all on a hero’s journey, but so many of us in the West has put to port and stayed at the very first obstacle that beset the great hero, Odysseus. They are on the land of the Lotos-eaters, imbibing the lotus of logical positivism and all the other negative philosophies and ideologies that lead to despair and inertia.

The truth is, as Eric Idle once sang, when you are part of the divine drama, as Brian was, you can ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ and journey on, for you have a destination.





Being Able and Breaking Compulsions

It was Vivekenanda who said, "That man who has no faith in himself can never have faith in God." And as with faith, so with love: we cannot not love ourselves and yet think we can love another.  Loving oneself is not a selfish act, but a healthy one;  at root it is an affirmation that the universe is good, for the divine spirit – ‘that of God in us’ that the Quakers like to cite – is lovable. If that is not so, then why pretend we can reject ourselves but somehow find another lovable?

Yet, in a bizarre way, that is what many effectively do, although they are ‘good’ people. It is really the story of Mary and Martha in John’s gospel. Martha, you will recall, is busy doing all the housework and preparation whereas Mary is enjoying Christ’s company and listening to him speak. Martha gets so fed-up with this that she asks Christ to support her, criticise her sister, and get her sister off her rump and working! But Christ declines to do this, noting the importance of what Mary is doing, or rather not doing. What Mary is doing is loving herself, putting herself in the way of spiritual refreshment, and recharging her batteries.

Martha, on the other hand, is doing what she ‘ought’ to do, complying with an inner critic to be a good person, and almost certainly too is experiencing persistent feelings of guilt because she will not have done ‘enough’ to be good. As a friend of mine observed, we really must resist severe restrictions of the "oughteries"!

And this leads on to St Augustine’s profound theological observation about the nature of Jesus Christ. What is profound here is not merely the theology, which many can take or leave, depending on their beliefs, but the deep psychological insight that the observation makes on us as human beings. St Augustine said, We must not say that Christ was unable to sin, but rather that he was able not to sin.  All the difference in the world.

If he were unable to sin, then he had no choice; if he were able not to sin, then he could have chosen to do so, but chose not to. The former means we can scarcely give Christ credit for being so flawless, so perfect, so … sinless: he was some sort of robot man that couldn’t fail. The latter means that, like us, he could choose to take responsibility or not.

But why is this so profound for us psychologically? Because while we see addictions and compulsions as primarily about negative life style choices like alcohol or gambling or drugs and so on, there are also more socially acceptable compulsions that are almost as debilitating: namely, the addiction or compulsion to help people! Have we all not met the person who cannot stand still, cannot sit down, is always helping others? A sort of living saint. Yes, and many of these people are unable to stop doing good; they are driven by guilt, by fear, by the need for approval, by other negative messages they learnt when they were very young. So OK, it’s nice – for a while - to have people around who do everything for you, but what about them? Are they loving themselves? And the answer is clearly not.

What then is important to understand is that the mature personality, the one that breaks compulsions, is the one who is able not to, rather than the one who is unable. Another way of putting this is maturity is about taking responsibility and first and foremost of all responsibilities is to love oneself. As Christ said, We need to love our neighbour as our self, but notice the implied given – we love our self first, then the neighbour.  For those, then, in that restless state of always ‘doing’ good (always ‘being’ good, of course, is different) – examine yourself and your motives, and affirm with St Augustine that with or like Christ you too are able not to.


Revenue Model for Coaches and Consultants

To be successful as a coach or consultant (or indeed as a trainer) in today’s competitive market is a tall order; the reality is there is so much competition, and so many ‘me-too’ coaches and consultants out there. The net effect of all the down-sizing, delayering, and simply the ‘I’ve had it with corporate life-itis’, means there are seemingly millions of coaches and consultants everywhere. Organisations that provide training and accreditation in this area have a field day: they are able to accurately state that this is one of the fastest growing sectors in the world, and yet ignore the implications of what this means when so many are scrambling to get on board the gravy train.

What it means is that it is difficult to make serious money doing it and only a few will, may be 4%. Most of the rest will be working hard and increasingly billing less to do more. I well remember some 12 years ago when I discovered from a client who declined – on this occasion – to buy into my open time management half-day training course for the modest fee of £99. Why? Because the local Further Education College were running just such a course for £49 and theirs was a whole day! I need hardly explain why this struck me as a no-win competition for me: I had become a commodity, had not properly positioned myself and the value of what I provided, and frankly was about to lose out to a whole bunch of salaried people who were never going to be paid on results.

But that was twelve years ago and since then one has learnt a lot, especially using a wonderful Revenue generation model which is really powerful if you want to become a coach or consultant who has leverage and makes money. I learnt this from my friend, the great Steve Jones. There are seven stages.

First, you need a clear vision of what you want your business to be and to become. Begin with the end in mind in fact. This includes factors like the life style you wish to embrace, as well as the level of revenue you wish to generate, and the kind of quality you want to provide to a defined audience. Have you defined all these things?

Second, you need to be clear about what your ‘product’ is. This means answering the question: what solution am I providing (and to whom)? And if your solution is entirely ‘service’ driven, as many coach and consultancies are, then how do you derive residual income from its delivery? Put another way: are you simply trading your time for money? If you are, then you haven’t really got a business: you are self-employed. That may be what you want – but go back to Vision.  Is that what you want? Using a product like Motivational Maps as part of your service offering can make a huge difference to revenue generation using what we call the IMPs process: in other words creating Internal Map Practitioners within organisations who then go on purchasing maps from you. This simple technique led me from an average 4 month tenure working with a client to a 4 year span instead!! How much extra income was that?

Third, you need a strong position in the market place. Another way of putting this is: a brand. What do you stand for, what are your values? Above everything I like Jay Abraham’s take on ‘position’, which is so relevant to coaches and consultants: be pre-eminent in your niche. Here again having a unique product like the Map can make big difference in how the client perceives you; the language and the metrics automatically start positioning you as a deep expert in motivation and performance.

Fourth, you need to have an effective process to generate and manage leads. Of course, without a strong solution-offering and compelling position in the market, lead generation will be wasted. But lead generation is absolutely central. Who are your champions? What databases do you have? What is possible via the web and social media? What networks do you belong to? And what about ‘supermarkets’ – have you found any that can distribute your tin of beans?

But having got the leads, we need to convert them into sales, and immediately we have a problem: many coaches and consultants whilst technically good at what they do find they cannot sell effectively. This then requires study, practice and emulation of others who are best in class. Of course getting leads to complete a Map before seeing you is a brilliant tactic for understanding what the prospect wants at a sub-conscious level and so pitching the service in those terms that most appeal and meet their hot buttons.

Then sixth you need, all being successful in the first five stages, to manage the factory! You have so much work on, the problem of coping with it becomes pressing. Quality issues arise, short-cuts occur. Do we employ others? Have associates? How do we build a sustainable system of capable delivery? One aspect of the Maps that is relevant here is the sub-licensing capacity that enables coaches and consultants to bring on board associates, a team even, and which gets them to ‘stick’ – basically because you have become the primary source of Maps and its expertise.

And finally, how do we exceed client expectations so they buy again, so they provide referrals (back to lead generation), so that they experience the wow factor and we are well beyond the commodity game? This is about quality, the very issue that success and expansion at point six compromises. But this is our challenge. Maps are a premium product that wow virtually any open-minded prospect who does one; this again is a massive competitive advantage in the market place.

If you are a coach or a consultant, then, or even just somebody running your own business, ask yourself these seven questions. Rate yourself, out of ten for each one. How are you doing? What do you need to focus on if you are going to have a thriving business that generates residual income even when you are not working? If you are looking for ‘more’ from your coaching or consultancy business, then you can really benefit from using Motivational Maps in your toolkit.

Maslow and Motivational Maps

My friend Ivo recently on a Maps training session asked me about the strange anomaly of the eight levels of the Maslow Hierarchy, according to the version that we refer to,  and the way we fit the nine motivators into it. How does that work, he asked? A good question and he is the first to ask me it. It may be as well then to put this down.

To refresh your memory, the eight Maslow levels of need are from the bottom up: biological and physiological, safety, belongingness and love, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic, self-actualisation, and transcendence. These are eight levels of need; and to make things more complex, from the Maps point of view we discount the lowest need. We do this because it is a basic need and not a want. There are people who are at that level of existence, and when they are this need is so powerful it overrides any other motivator. Usually, it is not found in business or most organisations; when it is, you have a person who will be a game player – the Map may be accurate, but their survival instinct at level one will render their other wants obsolete or irrelevant – they are in the grip of a more primitive need or emotion.

Thus, we now have seven levels in which nine motivators fit! How does that work? You will know from our diagram that each of the motivators correlates especially with one level. We start then with safety needs and this correlates with the Defender motivator. How we solve the problem is at the esteem need level; for here we suggest that three motivators are involved: the Star motivator, wanting recognition, the Director motivator, wanting control, and the Builder motivator, wanting material possessions. Why should that be?

Two powerful reasons. The first is that if we consider our own wellbeing and our own effectiveness, then the self-esteem is invariably considered to be the single more important factor. Indeed, Dr Nathaniel Brandon, a foremost authority in this area, said self-esteem is the single most powerful force in our existence: on it everything depends. And he goes on to say: "Of all the judgments we pass in life, none is more important than the judgment we pass on ourselves." Thus esteem is core to motivation and wide-ranging; therefore, should it surprise us if more than one motivator fell within its orbit?

But the second reason explores terminology. For I am of the view that what is meant here by self-esteem is actually the self-concept, which of course incorporates self-esteem, but also more beside. The self-concept has three components: the self-esteem (or how we feel about ourselves), the self-image (or how we see ourselves) and the ideal self (how we want to be in the future).

These three elements or components, then, each have their own motivator as it were. The self-esteem is very much connected to our internal locus of control, and this is related in a sort of inverted way to the Director motivator where we project the control outwards. Similarly, our self-image is about how we see our self and this finds a correlation in the Star motivator where we – projecting outwards – want others to see us in a certain way, to recognise us if you will. Finally, we have the ideal-self that wants to grow, to become, to be successful in the future, and so needs nutrients to do that – in other words, the soil of material possessions that enable this to happen even if one finally becomes a St Francis or a Buddha or a St Thomas Aquinas. I mention these three in particular because they all started from wealthy backgrounds which enabled them finally to eschew material things and transcend; but they started there.

So we see that the fourth level, half way up the hierarchy, is quite pivotal in terms of moving towards self-actualisation and beyond, but also pivotal in motivational terms. There really is a correlation between Motivational Maps and the Maslow model.