More Varieties of Ultimate Satisfaction

This is the fifth in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists.

We have seen examples of ultimate satisfaction involving appraisals of “fittingness” from conceptual-aesthetic, natural-aesthetic, artistic-aesthetic and moral perspectives. Notice something interesting here: in each case, the individual whose world is held together by this ultimate satisfaction had a breakthrough or initiation experience in which the world suddenly made sense in this new and fundamental way:

  • Russell’s experience of Euclid’s proof and my own experience of elegance in Cantor’s proof are clear examples of the world suddenly making sense in a new, conceptual-aesthetic way.
  • Recognizing deep unity with nature is frequently the result of a nature-based rite of passage, or a spiritual practice of an ecstatic tradition.
  • Virtually every artist, musician or performer has a story of their first encounter with their art, when they experienced its creativity directly and knew “this is what I’m here to do.”
  • Most spiritual paths have practices of initiation in which the new member of the community experiences what it’s like to be “one of us.”

Note that each of these involves direct encounter with community members who already see the world as this community does, and experience directly how this world makes sense. Ultimate Satisfaction is connected to a specific world, of a particular community – no exceptions.

But many people have no memory of experiencing breakthrough into a new world – and it’s not the sort of thing one is inclined to forget. Continue reading More Varieties of Ultimate Satisfaction


Varieties of Ultimate Satisfaction

This is the fourth in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists.

So far we have encountered two varieties of ultimate satisfaction:

  1. Bertrand Russell’s “delicious experience of knowing something with total certainly”;
  2. The mathematician’s experience of the “elegance” of a great proof.

These two seem very similar, both in their content and in the kind of person who experiences them; if they were wines, they would be French syrah and Australian shiraz – same grape, with subtle differences.

But just as there are many varieties of wine, which vary greatly one from the other, ultimate satisfaction comes in many varieties. Let’s take a deeper dive into this; you may well recognize what ultimate satisfaction is for you as we do. Continue reading Varieties of Ultimate Satisfaction

What is “Ultimate Satisfaction”?

This is the third in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists. This series requires a more careful reading than most other posts on this blog; I believe the work you put into it will be well-rewarded.

In the second post of this series I observed that, prior to the discovery of his eponymous Paradox, Bertrand Russell’s world was held together by the “delicious experience of knowing something with total certainly”. I used the term “ultimate satisfaction” to characterize that experience. As one of the readers of that post commented, the idea that “ultimate satisfaction” holds one’s world together is not intuitively obvious. Indeed it is not – until it is. I believe that in fact this conception is genuinely original; it’s not just a restatement of a well-known way of thinking, and thus requires some work to see. Once seen, however, it seems obvious, intuitively and otherwise. This post is meant to make the concept of ultimate satisfaction clear. Continue reading What is “Ultimate Satisfaction”?

The “On-Behalf-of” Organization

This is the first in a planned series of posts exploring the logic and inherent order of organizations. Very little of this material has been previously published.

The incomparable Peter Drucker in 1974 wrote: “Our children will have to learn organizations in the same way our fathers had to learn farming.” If anything, he understated the matter; we are still, 40 years later, learning about organizations.

Farming may look like a simple matter: Prepare ground, plant crops, harvest, sell, repeat. But as any real farmer can tell you, if that’s all you know about farming you are guaranteed to fail. Likewise organizations can look to be a simple matter: Create a needed product or service, offer it on the market, sell at a profit, repeat. Some legislators are very fond of this view and suggest it as the model for all organizations. But again, if that simple market-based model is all you know about organizations, you are guaranteed to fail. Organizations come in many different forms, and what works for one form – the market-based for-profit organization, for example – can be devastating for another.

Every organization is a unique and distinctive configuration of people in relation to their world. Depending on the organization’s specific purpose for existence, the value it sets out to create, for whom, by whom, in what working relationships and by which specific means, an inherent order emerges. This inherent order establishes a kind of logic for the organization, defining specific bounds on what actions are appropriate or inappropriate, required or optional, allowed or forbidden, expected or surprising, relevant or irrelevant. Continue reading The “On-Behalf-of” Organization

Belief in Science

Neil de Grasse Tyson is the new public face of science. He is smart, charming, has a great back-story of achievement in the face of societal obstacles along with, let’s be honest here, one of the coolest names of all time. His popular television series Cosmos has introduced millions of viewers to the wonders of the scientific world, from the smallest to the unfathomably large and spanning billions of years. When he speaks about science, people listen.

So people are listening to a recent Facebook post that quotes him saying: “The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

There’s something very comforting about that statement, isn’t there? It feels a bit like someone telling you: “I promise you everything will turn out fine.” In fact it is exactly like that. Tyson’s quote is not a statement of scientific fact (nor could it be – what experiment could you do to determine whether or not it is true?). It is a promise, a statement of belief about science and truth that he shares with the community of scientists.

Public discourse about truth and belief has been largely centered on the dispute between science and religion – science knows, religion believes – which has led us to a muddled view that does justice to neither concept. Science has no room for belief, only evidence – or so they say. Descriptive Psychology has the conceptual power to sort this out, and has. Here’s how: Continue reading Belief in Science

Russell’s World

This is the second in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists. This series requires a more careful reading than most prior posts on this blog; I believe the work you put into it will be well-rewarded.

The world makes sense, and so do people. They make sense now.

— Peter G. Ossorio, The Behavior of Persons, p. 2

The child Bertrand Russell lived in a world that did not make sense to him. His was not a mild puzzlement or a small discontent; he was in the grip of a profound, terrifying existential dilemma. His world made no sense, and he had no real place in it.

Russell’s early life was nightmarish. His parents died when he was young, but their deaths and the scandalous circumstances surrounding them were kept from him. He was sent to live with his Grandparents. He began to bond with his Grandfather, who also died unexpectedly, leaving Bertie in the care of his angry, hyper-religious Grandmother with her myriad rigid rules based on the view that man is inherently evil and must be constrained. Her world made no sense to him but it was all he knew.

All this changed when a tutor introduced Bertie to geometry. Working through one of Euclid’s theorems, he saw in a flash of insight that it was true of logical necessity – and in that moment his world changed. He saw that one could know reality with total certainty, through logical proof. This world made sense and it had a place for him, which he proceeded to act from with increasing brilliance and fervor. The “delicious experience of knowing something with total certainly” was the ultimate satisfaction that held Russell’s world together until the fatal day he encountered the Paradox that blew his world apart. Continue reading Russell’s World

In a World of Logicians and Their Ways: Russell’s Paradox Redux

This is the first in a planned series of posts on Worlds, as understood by Descriptive Psychologists. This series requires a more careful reading than most prior posts on this blog; I believe the work you put into it will be well-rewarded.

Worlds are subtle, pervasive, powerful. We are to our worlds as fish are to water: We take our world as given, existing outside of and independent of us. We live in the world; all our actions take place in and are shaped by our world; without the world we could not exist.

But fishy metaphors can only take us so far. Persons, whether we realize it or not, shape our worlds fully as much as the world shapes us. We almost certainly don’t consciously create or choose our world. But sometimes events occur that blow our worlds apart, and we are faced with the task of putting it back together, or reconstructing it in a new form. In either case we engage in active, conscious choice and creation. We recognize once and for all that we are not fish. Continue reading In a World of Logicians and Their Ways: Russell’s Paradox Redux

Aftermath Part III: Living in a Radically Changed World

A year ago the Boston Marathon bombings shook our worlds. The media has given us glimpses of the lives and recovery of people directly affected by the event. Not everyone is “all the way back”, and we should not expect that. But we have seen enough to confirm that people are built for this. We reconstruct our worlds all the time, usually in minor ways, but almost everyone is challenged by a radically changed world sometime in their lives. Meeting that challenge is part of our essential competence as persons.

Nonetheless, world reconstruction is a complex and difficult task. Last year I wrote about what do you do when it’s your world that needs reconstruction. Now let’s look at how we can be useful in helping another person reconstruct their world. Continue reading Aftermath Part III: Living in a Radically Changed World

Mastering Relationships

Relationships are the most powerful and least utilized factor in achieving extraordinary results – in organizations, and in your life.

Why do relationships matter? A participant in my “Building Ally Relationships” workshop (let’s call him Larry) once asked me that. Here’s what I said to him:

“Let me give you an example. You are sitting at your desk and the phone rings. A cheerful voice on the other end of the line says: ‘Hi, Larry. I need that report on my desk by close of business Friday’ and hangs up. How do you feel?”

Larry shrugged. “I guess it depends on the situation.”

“OK. Three different situations. One: the person on the end of the line is a prospective client you have been selling, and the report is the first step in a six-month work project.”

“I feel like the king of the world.”

“Fine. Situation two: that was your boss, reminding you to get your expense report in on time this week.”

“Ho-hum. It’s not like that doesn’t happen most weeks.”

“Last: it was an IRS auditor asking for documentation of your deductions for the past five years.”

“Argggggghhh! How about suicidal?”

“I think you get the point: exactly the same words. Three different relationships. Three very different reactions.”

In short: what you say and do is important, but what the other persons sees you as saying and doing, as well as the results you get, are shaped by, constrained and  enabled by the relationship between the two of you. If you want to be effective, you must pay attention to the relationship.

That’s easier said than done, of course, because like the air we breathe, relationships are largely invisible to us most of the time. But that’s just habit – it needn’t be that way. You can learn to see those invisible relationships and be conscious in what you do about them.

Descriptive Psychologists over the decades have developed powerful methods for being specific and precise about relationships, and for dealing with them in practical ways. This is the first post in a series devoted to advancing competence with relationships. First we look at organizational relationships; in subsequent posts we will take up personal and social relationships.

Relationships form the core infrastructure through which any organization creates value. Relationships in organizations are like the air we breathe: an all-pervading, crucial aspect of life that is essentially invisible to us. Everything accomplished in an organization is done in the context of work relationships, and ordinarily we give this no more thought than we give to breathing.  Under most circumstances we don’t need to give it much thought; functioning adults are essentially relationship supercomputers, who usually get relationships reasonably right without much effort.

But consider:

  • People who master martial arts, singing, acting, dance or any form of athletics cannot afford to just take breathing for granted. They must attain conscious control of their breath, to focus it and use it to achieve exceptional performance. Similarly, organizations who set out to achieve extraordinary results cannot just take work relationships for granted; they must attain conscious control of work relationships and build them with purpose and clarity.
  • Without much effort, most people do a reasonable job of organizing their work. But no organization today could afford to settle for that; instead, we use very precise process and statistical methods to design and constantly improve our work methods. No organization today can afford to settle for “reasonably right” work relationships; to achieve extraordinary results, we must use specific and very precise methods to build and utilize work relationships.

But if relationships are so important, why have our organizations done so very little with them? That’s a complex question with a long answer; for now, let’s just note that our ordinary language helps us very little in being specific and precise about relationships, and our usual academic methods for studying such things shine the light in the wrong places.

Let’s start with five simple but essential truths about  relationships and how they are built.

  1. Relationships are not wired into the fabric of the universe. Relationships are built through the everyday process of interaction: what they say and do, and what you say and do in response.
  2. Relationships turn out pretty much the way you expect them to, unless you do something specific to change that.

For example, in the ordinary course of engaging in a service business, a client starts with: “We need this service.” If things go as expected, your initial response is: “Absolutely, we do that.” You give them a proposal to provide the service, they hire you to provide the service, you successfully provide the service and they pay you for providing the service. Along the way, your conversation and  interaction are about the service, so that by the end you have built a solid business relationship, called Service Source – which is the lowest level of the relationship food chain. And you did it by simply doing what was expected.

But it doesn’t have to turn out that way.  You are not required to stay stuck at Service Source. Here are two other, perhaps less well-known truths about relationships:

  1. Relationships become what you treat them as being.
  2. Relationships are not determined by the initial move. In fact, it is your response to the first move – Descriptive Psychologists call this “Move 2” – that defines the relationship.

Same situation: your client starts with: “We need this service.” As before, your initial response is: “Absolutely, we do that.”  Only this time you continue: “Now let me catch up with you. I take it that you need this service because you have seen a problem that you need to solve – help me understand the problem we are solving.” They tell you. Then you respond: “Usually problems get  priority because of something you see in your strategic situation right now. What strategic issues are you looking at that give this problem such urgency?” Again they tell you. Then you reply:

“OK. So your strategic situation is such that, in order to grow and succeed right now, you need to solve this problem, and you need this service to solve the problem. We can do all that for you.” You propose to make a specific contribution to their growth and success by helping them to solve this problem by providing this service. They hire you to do all that, and you do it. They pay you for the contribution you make to their growth and success. Along the way you are careful to keep the conversation anchored in their strategic situation, so that by the end you have built a solid business relationship, called Ally.

Two situations. Exactly the same beginning. Two very different outcomes. And the only  difference between the two was: what you did in response to their initial move.

Since it’s so important, let’s do an “instant replay” of that Move 2. Your client made an initial move that usually initiates a Service Source relationship. You accepted the move and made a Move 2 that successfully treated their Move 1 as the initial move in an Ally Relationship. Specifically you did this by immediately linking their request to their actual bigger picture: the problem they are trying to solve, and the strategic situation that gives that problem priority now. Having elevated the conversation to the strategic situation, you keep it there, dipping down into problems and specific services strictly as a means to contributing to the strategic conversation.

(In the 1970’s I designed and conducted “Move 2” workshops called “Relationship Judo” for my consulting and HR clients. Like Judo, the moves are a lot easier to see and do than to describe, and practice really helps.)

OK: A new client, a blank sheet of paper: it’s easy to see how you can create an Ally Relationship if you really want to and know how to make the right moves.

But what about all those business relationships you already have? After all, as I am frequently reminded in my workshops, “everybody knows that it’s really hard to change an existing relationship, and it takes forever, right?”

Wrong. (I really love this part because it’s so obvious once you see it.)

You can change an existing relationship quicker and more easily than you can establish a new one if you keep in mind another essential truth about relationships:

  1. People will immediately and willingly change their relationship with you if they see the new relationship as giving them more of what they want than the old relationship did.

In other words, people will happily accept a free upgrade in their relationship with you. You’re not likely to get far, however, by offering someone an upgrade. They probably won’t know what you’re talking about and it may sound weird – “What’s the catch?”

In matters of relationship, doing beats talking about hands down. Start treating the relationship you already have as the relationship you need it to be, and if they respond positively (almost everybody does – more on that later) the relationship has changed.

NEXT: Relationship Change?


Aftermath Part II: Living in a Radically Changed World

Remember when radical change was a rare phenomenon? When you could go for years, even decades, without something happening to make you realize the world you are living in is radically different than you thought it was? Whatever else has happened, the pace of finding ourselves required to reexamine our worlds has radically accelerated – and there’s no reason to believe it will slow down anytime soon.

The Boston bombings are fresh on all our minds – too fresh to be useful as examples. I do not intend to offer suggestions for what help looks like for the Boston victims (my friend and fellow Descriptive Psychologist Wynn Schwartz was on the scene and has offered considerable insight into what people have gone through in his blog); nor will I try here to understand why the bombings occurred (I posted an extensive paper on such matters last year called “When Worlds Collide”.) Instead I want to return to where the previous post left off: granted that our world has radically changed, what can we do in the aftermath? Continue reading Aftermath Part II: Living in a Radically Changed World