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Ingrid Martine and Rick Maurer - The Un-Game Book Interview

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On a Personal Level

Creating a Real, not a ‘Boutique’ Win in Your Relationships

Office Party0001Un-Game Principle: Challenging our own and others’ unexamined assumptions is not only a contribution, but a necessity so that important relationships can flourish.

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A win/win is an occurrence that two or more people consider positive; or it is a solution to a problem, which parties with differing stakes or points of view, can rally around.

Those of us admirably dedicated to creating a win/win between ourselves and another person (or group) usually buy into one of the definitions above. We work hard on satisfying the other person (or group members) so that we can claim being someone who rejects win/lose and lose/lose results. Yet don’t we sometimes wonder why we feel so let down, even irritated. You know, you and your partner agree after some discussion about a vacation destination, but he doesn’t seem genuinely supportive of the decision. Hmm. Might it be that your partner said ‘yes’ when s/he meant ‘no’? In that case that partner entered into a pretend win/win, and it’s actually a lose/lose situation.

Or do you sometimes try so hard to please the other that you end up noticing you didn’t dedicate yourself to creating a ‘win’ for you. The result is the same—either a vague dissatisfaction or outright irritation or anger (often at the other person) or, if you’re honest with yourself, a slowly seething irritation or anger at yourself. A lose/lose scenario?

It could be said that there really are no win/lose scenarios except in a domain like sports and politics. Of course we want winners and losers there. Or in books where we love to hate the ‘bad guy.’ In human relationships that matter to us, when one person loses, the other does too. So what we really want is a better understanding to guide us into creating a ‘win’ for all.

So in the example above, when one of the people notices the faux win/win, they must become the challenger. The challenger reopens the conversation with the intent to go for the real ‘win’. Most of us have a hard time challenging. Do you? We don’t have good models for challenging. We have good models for being in a role of oppressor/persecutor. This role was first identified in the 1950ties by Stephen Karpman and is labeled the drama triangle (More about the drama triangle and its 3 roles, oppressor, victim, and rescuer in the archives).

We have lots of practice playing in the dreaded drama triangle. It can be very subtle. For example, “You never say what you really want. How can we come up with something we both are happy about?” Familiar? I thought so. This is really an accusation, and the other feels victimized by you, the oppressor. You can tell that’s happening when the predictable result is that the so-called accused gets defensive.

A challenger does not accuse. A challenger is totally committed to creating a win/win. So the challenger is the great truth-teller. The challenger stays on his or her side of the street, tells what they see, and makes clear offers or requests.

“I’m sensing you aren’t really on board with our decision. If my perception is correct, I want to talk about this again. I’m unwilling to go on vacation without your full endorsement for our destination.”

Can you see this is a challenge? It offers a perception (You’re not on board…not couched as fact which gives the other some breathing room) which the other now has to speak to, particularly when they hear that their partner requests to talk about it again. It clearly states where the challenger stands (unwilling to go unless it’s a ‘win’ for both) and what the consequences would be, if they don’t have this conversation. It doesn’t in any way negatively characterize the person being challenged.

And yet, because people are so unpracticed being outside of the drama triangle, the act of challenging is, well, challenging! Why? Because the person being challenged may very well respond in an oppressor or a victim role (We easily move between roles in the drama triangle). The person who perceives himself accused and who is therefore defensive, even though you did a great job of challenging, quickly moves from victim role to oppressor. He might say a hundred things. Here’s just an example:

            “Here you go again. Never satisfied. I’m going. Isn’t that enough?”

The challenger must be clear that s/he won’t be pulled back into the drama triangle. The above comment is indeed the invitation to do just that. People are comfortable in the drama triangle roles. The roles are familiar even as those roles make us unhappy. We must resist the tendency to restore the equilibrium the person being challenged is trying to get to. We must challenge again. Darn!

“Actually, no it’s not enough for me. I don’t consider it a ‘win’ for us when you give me an unenthusiastic ‘yes’. I want to have a good time, and that’s impossible for me if you’re only going because you think it makes me happy. For the record, it doesn’t.”

We are not used to keeping up the challenge. I think back to my younger years when I taught high school. The administration often put out rules, and kept their fingers crossed that the tough kids, who really were the target of those rules, would obey those rules. Often when they didn’t, the administration looked the other way (felt they were the victims of the oppressing students). Or, if parents challenged a rule, the administration often abandoned the rule rather than dealing with the perceived oppression of the parents. A lose/lose scenario for everybody.

Here’s what people who are committed to creating a win/win must know that they often do not know, and that we haven’t yet talked about. A win/win is sometimes perceived as a win/lose by one of the parties (the tough kids considered the rules as a ‘lose.’). Another example, a two-year old wants to cross a busy street. She considers that a ‘win’. (I want what I want is normal and natural for a two-year old). Her mother or father, of course, will not let her cross the busy street at will. Despite kicking and screaming of their daughter, parents know what a win/win is in this situation. They restrain her.

As challengers we need to know when to stand strong, no matter the reaction of the other. It’s rarely as clear as in the above examples, but there are times when the challenger has superior knowledge: appropriate rules enhance safety or freedom. A challenger with superior knowledge is willing to take consequences that upset the other.

When the challenger is willing to take the consequences of a deliberate decision that affects him or her alone, he or she gets to decide what a win/win is. For example, my mother wants me to mow my lawn before the company comes. Let’s say it’s not important to me. Only my mother’s feelings are affected. While I like to please others, I consider it a lose/lose when I please them at my expense. I am in charge of my ‘yes’ or my ‘no’ (and sometimes I may choose to say ‘yes’ to my mother about the lawn, but if so, it’s my choice, not hers). I consider it a ‘win’ for my mother when I don’t enter into the drama triangle with her.

When we unconsciously get pulled into one or more of the roles in the dreaded drama triangle, creating a win/win becomes impossible. Why not challenge me on the content, intent, or spirit of this article? We may all learn something important about being the challenger and creating real, not faux ‘wins’ in our important relationships.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for individuals who want to be in charge of their lives, coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

Would It Be Alright With You If Your Relationships Were Easier…And Sweeter?

220px-Cherry_Stella444Un-Game Principle: Being able to make distinctions allows us to be more productive and peaceful.

I’ve been called twice for jury duty in as many months. I found myself slightly irritated. But realizing that it was my expectation to not be called again so soon, I reflected on the ability of our expectations to cause suffering, especially in the domain of relationships. Relationships mean so much to us whether we admit it or not.

So why us it important to distinguish between Expectations and Expectancy? The dictionary doesn’t make a big distinction. They both mean, ‘to live in a state of expectation.’

It’s important because expectations, unless shared by each of the “relators,” cause breakdowns, distance, isolation, disappointment, regret. How are you experiencing your energy right now just confirming the last statement? Restricted around your heart region, right?

Expectancy on the other hand is different. Relationships blossom in the wake of expectancy. It loosens the grip of expectations. It brings both “relators” into the here and now. The relationship comes alive with possibility. Something mysterious and miraculous can emerge. Closeness, not distance or isolation, is the more likely experience. And this experience can be had at home and at work. In fact, it can be had in any setting.

How are you experiencing your energy around your heart region right now as you imagine such closeness? Go ahead, and check in with yourself. If you have a deep experience of it, you may live more in expectancy than expectations.

I resonate for the most part with what Matt Hohmeyer, a Baptist minister in Marble Falls, Texas, has to say about the difference in the experience. To his thinking, there is a great difference between them. Pastor Hohmeyer says:

“Most of us live our entire lives with expectations all around us.  We have expectations for ourselves.  We have expectations for others.  Others have expectations of us. We have expectations of our God and for our relationship with God.”

He continues. “I struggle with expectations.  I struggle under the weight of them.  I struggle to uphold them. We are bred under the weight of expectation. These may serve to motivate and drive us to some degree, but in the context of relationship expectations only serve to inhibit, constrict, and control that which is meant to be free and dynamic.

Expectations are set and specific in nature. Expectations lend themselves to static systems that are easily managed and defined.

But relationships are non-linear and dynamic in nature. They do not progress evenly along a given slope, but are living organisms that have life of their own and are not meant to be managed but lived.

This is where expectancy enters the equation. Relationships are made for expectancy. With expectancy there is freedom instead of law, there is fluidity instead of rigidity. There is an expectancy that should exist within our relationships. Whether we are together or apart, there is an expectancy of being together, of laughing, and talking and experiencing life with one another. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else.

If this expectancy is exchanged for expectations, then legislation enters the relationship.  For example we feel the need to set certain times and frequency of meeting.  We are expected to perform a certain way within relationship.  Living relationship deteriorates into a static formality with rules and requirements.

“My greatest hurt and disappointments in relationships (with humanity and with my God),” Hohmeyer continues, “have been a result of others not living up to my expectation for them and our relationship. My greatest joys and my healthiest relationships are those lived in expectancy. Expectancy allows those we are in relationship with to be fully themselves and to love us and invest in us in the fullness of what they have to give and we have the same freedom toward them.”

“How different would our relationship with God be if we did not limit our relationship with our expectations?  How different would it be if we stopped living under the weight of what we believe to be God’s expectations of us? What if we simply lived in a state of expectancy of God moving in our life and our responding as He leads? Can you imagine how that would free you to respond and how it would free God to move beyond any of our small, limited, constricting expectations? Such freedom, I fear, is rarely experience among believers.”

Hohmeyer goes on to imagine how different our relationships would be with one another if we dropped our expectations. This is where he and I part company. I suspect it’s not even possible to drop expectations. Furthermore, I claim that it could even be detrimental. I do accept Pastor Hoymeyer’s earlier claim that relationships should not be managed. They should be lived. Fair enough.

However, what is important is to manage expectations within a relationship! Make important-to-you expectations explicit. You do not have the right to have all of your expectations met. No one does. You do have the right to put your expectations out to another and then clarify, and if necessary negotiate them, to where both parties declare their commitments or move on with their plans separate from the other for this moment in time.

“I’ll come to visit if you’re able to have dinner with me or spend the afternoon with me.”

The explicit expectations exchange leaves room for some other conditions of satisfaction that haven’t even been mentioned to emerge.

“If you come on Saturday instead of Friday, we could spend the afternoon and have dinner.”

“Oh, great. I hadn’t thought of that.”

This scenario could not happen without the conversation that made the expectations visible. Making expectations visible doesn’t invalidate what Pastor Hohmeyer puts forward. We can still live with one another in a state of expectancy. Living in relationship expectantly is being open, receptive, kind, compassionate, curious. It’s coming from a permeating mind-set of “All is well. My good can’t be taken away from me. And your concern is my concern.”

Throw out the rigidity of silent expectations and you open yourself up for the delight and surprises of expectancy. Would it be alright with you if your relationships were easier…and sweeter?

Are Your Expectations Squeezing the Life out of You?

Picture 4

Photo by Keith Williams

Un-Game Principle: You don’t have your unexamined assumptions. Your unexamined assumptions have you.

Within a one week period, I spent 5 ½ hours in hazardous road conditions en route to an airport usually reached in two; I had a 3 hour delay at the airport; endured another 5 hour ride in unexpectedly hazardous weather conditions; suffered a 10 hour wait at the airport awaiting a return flight; spent an unexpected night stay in Chicago; and worried about hazardous Dallas road conditions which, thankfully, didn’t materialize.

I was not alone, of course, and what struck me is this:

  1. People everywhere on the roads drove carefully and courteously.
  2. People quietly accepted fates similar to mine, both at the airports and on the road.

What’s going on? It went against my expectations and prior experience. I’ve seen people tear their hair out for less, lean on their horn to scare you into moving over on the road, curse the airlines, etc. But none of that was happening. Hmm.

Could it be that when we recognize that something is out of our control (weather) and also out of others’ control (the airlines), that we just take a deep breath and let go of our usual expectations? Could it be that we intuitively recognize that Boston must have a higher level of effectiveness with snow than Dallas? Do we recognize that many rules that normally guide and support us get thrown out the window when circumstances clearly mandate otherwise (The speed limit announces 65mph but it’s icy.)?

It seemed to me that letting go of the rules was an unwritten agreement everyone on the road and at the weather-challenged airport accepted, and they did it with grace. I heard only two complaints, and one of those was rather cheerful.

So what’s my point? My point is really a wonderment. I wonder if we could envision letting go of our expectations even when we make the judgment “I see no reason why these expectations should not be met.”

Could we assume we don’t already know everything? Could we assume that there may be valid reasons for our expectations to not be fulfilled by others? Could we at least be curious about this? Could we envision not suffering when our expectations aren’t met?

These are good questions to engage with. I claim that it’s not our expectations that make us suffer, but our inflexibility at meeting foiled expectations in realms where we can’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be met! And those are plentiful, aren’t they?

Would it be worth your while to value resilience and actively seek to cultivate it?

When we have expectations, and it must turn out the way we picture it, we make ourselves vulnerable. We become fragile and brittle. And this is neither what we need nor what supports us in what’s important to us.

So here’s what you can do when it happens to you.

Notice when you are getting upset (tight muscles, constriction around your heart region, ready to fight with the person who you see responsible for your unmet expectations), and STOP. Take a deep breath. This is a point of power. If you don’t do this, the next actions will not be your own choice. You will not be in charge of yourself. Your expectations will have you, instead of you having your expectations!

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be in that place. When I am, it makes me suffer. It squeezes me like a lemon and makes me sour.

Ask yourself this question when you notice you’re locked into your picture of what should happen: “Would I rather be right, or would I rather be happy?” Careful. Most people would rather be right, although they would assert otherwise. Right about what? “I should have this. I deserve it. I did everything I was supposed to. If these jerks would just do their job.” But it is what it is. Can you get to acceptance of that? Accepting ‘it is what it is’ doesn’t mean you are powerless in what’s next.

It’s not the same kind of acceptance you get to when you see you have no control or influence over the weather. It’s simply the acceptance of breakdown as in “My expectations have not been met. Can I be curious about that rather than trying to force obedience from people who didn’t meet my expectations?”

Could you assume you don’t already know everything? Could you assume that there may be valid reasons for your expectations to not be fulfilled by the person who you’re talking to? Could you simply declare there’s a breakdown and now seek what’s possible? How could this change-in-perspective alter what’s happening with the person in front of you or on the phone with you? Could you envision them as a partner rather than an adversary?

As with the weather, you cannot control another person. But unlike with the weather, you can influence another person. Who is more likely to have influence with another: a person locked into their expectations or someone who’s flexible, open, receptive, clear and willing to work in partnership with another to seek solutions?

Who will you be? Think about your answer as you reflect on “Are your expectations squeezing the life out of you?”

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

When Is Surrender a Demonstration of Your Emotional Intelligence?

Un-Game Principle: Mindfulness is the gateway to making distinctions and using them as guides for acting with clarity, focus, and compassion.

1024px-White_FlagFor those of us who say we hate conflict, I have bad news. Conflict is unavoidable. Try to avoid inter-personal conflict, and conflict merely stays where it originated– in YOU! You experience intra-personal instead of inter-personal conflict. For most of us we get busy trying to get away from the inevitable discomfort. Rationalization, justification, blaming are among our favorite strategies.

Just how well is that working? How much of your energy is tied up in creating an uneasy peace with yourself? Would it be OK with you if this were easier? It can be when you are guided by empowering distinctions you can learn to make by being mindful.

For something to become distinct, it first has to be indistinct. Fuzzy. Foggy. In the fog we proceed with caution. The sunshine we would welcome with a sigh of relief comes from our ability to make something clear. When we see clearly, we can act. So here are two distinctions we should not collapse, even though the dictionary appears to do just that. I offer the distinctions of surrender and submission.

Surrender does not have to be submission. In submission we experience intra-personal conflict. Makes sense. To submit is defined as the act of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another person. Yielding, capitulation, compliance. There’s superior and inferior, and we’re on the inferior side. It seems to be an involuntary act, or one motivated by the understanding or the fear of an outcome that is worse than if we didn’t submit. It goes against our natural yearning  which is to be the author of our own actions.

I found no definition of surrender that even implied a positive act. Some sources make it synonymous with submission. The most benign definition I found was ‘the act of giving up control of something.’ I can work with that in an empowering manner. How? Allow me a short detour to answering.

Have you met anyone (even been that someone from time to time) whose mind is not open? Who is not transparent? Not receptive? They can’t see any lessons they might be able to learn from a given situation, let’s say an inter-personal conflict they’re having with a colleague, boss, child, partner, parent? They experience the situation as one which begs them to rid themselves of it, not a situation from which they might learn something of value, for example, becoming more skilled and/or compassionate with others? They long to be in control, so they hang on for dear life to “life as they know it,” thinking that’s the way to stay in control?

Does anyone come to mind?

What would it mean to surrender in an empowering way in a conflict situation? Go ahead. Let’s say it’s you in an inter-personal conflict. Why not define surrender as simply saying YES? Not ‘yes’ to the other’s point of view, request, or demand, but simply ‘yes’ to the question “What is mine to learn here? What is my lesson?” To answer that question, you might request a time-out acknowledging you want to get some distance from any compelling and perhaps run-away feelings that come up for you. You know the old adage “When you’re in the midst of alligators it’s easy to forget your objective was to drain the swamp!” You can request a time-out and make a mutual promise to reconvene. What you’ve stopped is the train heading for derailment. Not shabby.

With the distance you’ve created for yourself, you have a chance to get back into your mind (Yes, in conflict many of us are ‘out of our mind’, that is, out of our pre-frontal cortex and into our amygdala where all reason is absent ). You can then explore, identify, and surrender a second time, this time to saying ‘yes’ to a lesson that’s uniquely yours to learn. A lesson which, if you learn it, is a contribution to yourself and your community.

Perhaps your inter-personal conflicts keep telling you a lesson that’s yours to learn is to be more curious about others’ point of view. Maybe your lesson is to learn to express more clearly what it is you want. Maybe it’s to learn to say ‘no’ without being aggressive about it. Perhaps it’s to not hide your thoughts or/and feelings. Do you manipulate? Placate? Is there a lesson in this to be more direct? There are hundreds of lessons any one of us can learn to be a more emotionally intelligent person.

Can you envision that it might be valuable to identify a lesson that’s yours to learn and apply in future similar situations? How would that serve you and others? How would that impact your relationships? What would continuous learning about yourself and your ever-increasing self-awareness do to your desire to be deeply connected rather than isolated and/or lonely? How would increasing satisfaction in relationships affect the quality of your life? Of the decisions you make?

It isn’t easy to step away from blazing or even smoldering emotions when all we want is to defend ourselves and be right. It isn’t easy to search for a lesson when we’re certain the other is ______ fill in the blank (manipulative, sneaky, selfish, stupid, uncaring…all of which are only assessments designed to make us right and the other wrong…in other words, not a contribution). Stepping away and asking the question are acts of surrender, of saying ‘yes’ to ourselves to being the author of our experience rather than having the experience be authored by our feelings (submit). When cooler heads prevail, there’s a chance to see a simple truth: The circumstances are what they are. People do what they do. You do what you do. Those are the facts. But what we make the facts mean is up to us! Is that yet another opportunity to make an important-to-living-a-good-life distinction? A distinction between Fact and Interpretation of the fact? Hmm. The facts are the facts; they are not what we, being only human, make those facts mean in the heat of the moment…

The opportunities for mindfulness are ripe, ours to harvest. When we resist our lessons, all we get is a barren field. Nothing changes.

If what we’d like to see change doesn’t, it could be that we’re looking in the wrong place for the trigger. Change doesn’t depend on those others changing; we have no control over them. Might it be wise to look to ourselves and ask ourselves if we are willing to surrender, willing to ‘say yes’ to learning the lessons that are ours to learn? Consider that this kind of surrender is an act of great personal power and one that simultaneously increases what we today call our emotional intelligence. It makes us the author of our experience, the designer of our life independent of our circumstances. In the domain of personal power (emotional intelligence), kings and paupers are equal; the pauper can be king, and the king can be the pauper. It all depends on our ability or dis-ability to surrender to our unique lessons and learning them, one by one by one.  Could you imagine this to be comforting?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

Can Yesterday’s Deprivation Be Tomorrow’s Abundance?

From PJL.

From PJL.

Un-Game Principle: Things are rarely what they seem.

We face daunting physical and moral challenges, yet it’s fair to say that as a people we’re firmly entrenched in the Tower of Babel…babbling in a chorus of off-key voices about what doesn’t matter…Black Friday, Cyber Monday, faux breaking news. It’s not that we wouldn’t want to escape the Tower of Babel, if as a nation we could envision something else and then be supported in taking action to bring our vision into reality.

Sadly, as a body we have no coherent vision. (Where is the leadership in homes, schools, government, media, business, academia? We aren’t talking to one another.) Many individuals and groups do have vision. But many of us have never lived any life other than the one we’re living now. As upper, middle, and former middle class Americans, we are at a far greater disadvantage for facing hardship than our perhaps “less fortunate” grandparents and great grandparents.

Disadvantage may be the new abundance.

Let me explain. My earliest memories were of a recovering-from-World War II Germany. We were “rich” to have a telephone and a car, which we only had for business purposes. Locally there were no stores other than the butcher, baker, grocer. There was no hardware store. No toy store. Barely a mechanic. No veterinarians. (Average people didn’t have pets as per middle class Americans’ vision. There were no pet-specific food and services around despite a hefty population of dogs and cats.) I could go on.

In such an environment…oh, it was marvelous…creativity ruled. Making do with what you had was the norm. Every part of every single thing was used for something else. Missing a part for the car? Not an unsolvable problem. You used the community to find it, or someone had the skill to make it (We had a simple VW van). You butchered your own chickens and you used every part. Garbage pick-up? We didn’t need it. We found a use for everything. And of course there was none of the obscene packaging so ubiquitous today. The butcher used newspaper to wrap the meat. Old newspaper also had a necessary function in the toilet.

Taking a bath? Of course we had no facsimile of even the American middle class bathroom of the 1950s. My parents had a business dying clothes (You couldn’t buy new, so you gave your clothes a facelift. Well, why not??). We had a large tub that was used in that business. It doubled up as a bathtub. You get the picture.

Yesterday’s deprivation is today’s abundance? You bet. The creativity applied to survival and the values fostered by the circumstances are important today but may become priceless tonight or tomorrow. The values of being alert to opportunity, of being thrifty, respectful of and creative with what we’re given, of living in supportive community, of living lightly on and in harmony with the earth that is our life line—all these values are values that today guide most of the people who’ve grown up with deprivation. An interesting note: All of us were in the same boat. We would not have labeled ourselves as being deprived. Perhaps deprivation is only an experience we can enter into when there’s someone with whom to compare ourselves unfavorably?

Almost every person who was poor or challenged in some way while growing up who became a successful citizen and contributor to his or her community, prizes the adversity of their former circumstances and largely credits them with the richness of options that occur to them for handling their challenges effectively.

Yes we will! No matter what.

There are more benefits to yesterday’s deprivation. This deprivation is an abundance that keeps on giving. We are facing, some would say, an uncertain future. Others would claim the future is quite certain, and it looks bleak. The people who’ve lived through crises can and will adjust how they live. They know how. They’ve done it before. It’s in their bones. They can imagine a world different than the one everyone except poor Americans was born into since the 1950s.

What you can imagine, you can create. Let’s hope there are enough of those who have transformed their deprivation into a source of abundance that they can be models for those “poor” people who’ve never had anything but the assumed permanent…and now fleeting…abundance of their outer world of privilege: houses, cars, gadgets, clothes, and easy opportunity.

Given the Tower of Babel we live in, I work to bring people into real conversations, courageous conversations about what matters. I long to see people become able to collaborate and coordinate with others, become skilled in meaningful conversations, rather than the mindless chatter and/or the blaming conversations that result in nothing except perpetuating what is that shouldn’t be.

Why not avoid the shock of deprivation when we notice with angst in our every cell that inner resources were always those that were priceless?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

Only Business As Unusual Will Overcome Your Immunity to Change (Part 2)

Un-Game principleUnexamined assumptions have US. We don’t have THEM.

Photo by Mark Hesseltine, Flickr.

Photo by Mark Hesseltine, Flickr.

To be human is to have an immune system that works brilliantly to prevent us from bringing about some change we’re genuinely committed to. That sounds familiar to you if you took the 3 steps (featured in Part 1 and developed by Drs. Kegan and Lahey of Harvard and that showed you exactly why, despite your best efforts, you cannot produce the desired change. The results are both unnerving and exciting. Unnerving because we see clearly that we’ve come up against the limits of our present thinking; exciting because a blind spot has been revealed which now empowers us enormously to get to the goal that has continued to elude us…up until now.

“Just what’s next once I have a diagnostic of my immunity to change?” you might ask.

Does it interest you to learn what keeps this immune system in place? What sustains it? And how to disrupt it? I imagine your answer is “Yes.” So what’s next is completing the 4th step (Column 4) of your 5 column immunity to change mind map. It has the heading ‘The Big Assumption.”

To get to our BIG Assumption(s) we ask: “What must a person who has the hidden, competing commitments (Column 3) be assuming that generates those commitments that work against their improvement goal (Column 1)?” So the person who is committed to taking better care of herself (C1), who doesn’t say ‘no’ enough (C2 behaviors against C1 goal), who’s committed to being completely available all the time (C3 competing commitment to C1 commitment), might have the BIG Assumption “If I’m not always available, then I won’t be the go-to person.”

BIG Assumptions keep the competing C3 commitments in place. They have a BIG BAD emotional component for its holder, namely you and me. For us this BIG BAD thing would happen if we were to discard the behaviors in C2 in favor of their opposites. “If I did say ‘no,’ then I assume I won’t be the go-to person,” says the woman with the C1 improvement goal to take better care of herself, be more relaxed, exercise more. So it makes perfect sense for her to keep the behaviors that actually work against her improvement goal (C2 not say ‘no’ enough) because those behaviors are the servants of the C3 competing commitments (to always be available).

I know you might be saying “Well, it’s obvious that this assumption doesn’t have to be true.” You’re right. It doesn’t. However, if the holder regards it as true, or even if we KNOW the assumption is not true but it FEELS as if it’s true or we’re unsure (“Part of me thinks it’s true. Another part isn’t so sure.”), we will be captive of the BIG Assumption. The BIG Assumption will have us; we will not have it!

Do not expect your BIG Assumptions to make rational sense to you. Once we remember the large emotional component that keeps us from changing when change is “dangerous”, we won’t insist that this make rational sense. Never mind that it makes no rational sense. Just notice that you cannot talk people (especially yourself) out of acting in alignment with the assumption.

Try it out for yourself. Follow the process for Columns 1-3 first, then, for Column 4, generate 1 to 3 BIG Assumptions you must be having to keep this system in place: one foot on the accelerator (C1) and one on the brakes (C3) on a goal that’s near and dear to your heart. What a bind, eh? Yes, AND there’s genuine hope for resolution. But before we get to the last column of our immunity to change mind map, let’s summarize.

If the 4 columns of the immunity to change mind map were told as a story, it would sound like this: “In the beginning there was the BIG Assumption…which gave birth to the hidden-to-me commitments…that generated the brilliant behaviors that guaranteed that the things I worry about…would never happen. There was just one downside to this brilliant, exquisite system. It guaranteed I would never score the goal and thus I would be denied the pure, unadulterated joy of reaching it.”

It may sound strange, but seeing the BIG assumption that is the foundation of your immunity to change gives you a chance to disrupt it!

The 5th and final column of the ITC mind-map is the biggest lever for overcoming your immunity to change. Like all the columns, the 5th column is also not business as usual. Business as usual would be to have a goal followed by an improvement plan. But that’s not what you’ve done. What you’ve done is revealed your immunity to change and identified the assumption(s) that ensures you stay stuck. Yet you now have something precious of which Einstein would approve. You have a “good problem to solve.”

So do we now finally do a new and improved improvement plan? No. Sorry. But we have a better idea. Column 5’s heading should be ‘Test of my BIG Assumption.” That’s exactly what we’ll do. We want to design, run, and evaluate tests of our BIG Assumption to see whether it’s accurate or distorted.

Spoiler alert. Only if you find evidence over time that your BIG Assumption is distorted, will you reconsider any of your competing commitments in C3 and the behaviors in C2 that serve your competing commitments so well. Without reconsidering, you will not make a change! So first choose an assumption to test (I suggested you come up with several, but there could be many. So don’t be shy to surface them.). Ask this: “If I could change any single BIG Assumption that presently makes achievement of my improvement goal impossible, which one would make the biggest, most positive difference in my life?”

Assuming you have an Assumption to test, how do you do it?

Here is a familiar acronym, but it won’t mean what you think it means. Yes, we design a S.M.A.R.T. test. Here is what it stands for.

Your test must be SAFE and MODEST. What can you risk doing or resist doing, on a small scale that might be inadvisable if you held your BIG Assumption (BA) to be true? Pick a behavior change that would give you good information about the accuracy of your BA. Yes, you must put yourself at some risk, that is, do something, not just put yourself in a position in which you feel uncomfortable.

RESEARCH-STANCE and a TEST, not an improvement plan. The purpose of the test is to collect data. Is the BA accurate or distorted? If you like the outcome of the test, that is, your behavior didn’t produce the catastrophe you had always envisioned, that’s a secondary gain. It’s nice to have, but the primary aim is to get data. And one test is only one test. You need to keep testing to get good data.

OK, the rubber is hitting the road. Where do you look for behaviors to test? Here are some choices. You are willing, aren’t you? Even if you don’t want to? And you’re very unlikely to want to. It’s so much more comforting to avoid the discomfort. Or is it?

You can look in Column 2 and alter one of the behaviors you’ve listed there. Or you can go to Column 3 and perform an action that runs counter to a C3 commitment. Or, you can start directly with your BIG Assumption in C4 (remember, you’re only testing 1 assumption for now). You ask: “What experiment would tell me whether the IF/THEN sequence built into the BA is valid?”

But here’s what I recommend first, and this is about getting your feet wet and being gentle with yourself. Remember that you’re doing something very strange and very courageous. Simply be alert and observe. “Don’t just do something, sit there!” is the maxim I start with whenever I create a new map (new improvement goal=new map). Where does your BA come up most frequently? Observe. Notice your internal chatter. Expect your immune system to be tricky. It wants above all to sustain itself. So think about how you could be assuring you will fail!

Yes, you heard right. Watch out for how you could set yourself up to guarantee that your BA is accurate. If, for example, your goal is to ask more directly for support when you really need it, and you’re testing the assumption “People won’t help me when I really need help,” you could guarantee the accuracy of that BA by asking a person who generally doesn’t help anybody very much, and you could be asking him at a time when he’s got 3 project deadlines the next day!

See what I mean?

Two more things. First, you are not only designing, running, and evaluating one test. Your BA won’t budge after one test. It’s best to do this over twelve weeks devoting thirty minutes a week to your testing. You should see some progress toward your C1 improvement goal in that time. Yes, that’s right. Good testing of your BA over time will have you start taking your glued-to-the-brakes foot off the brakes almost effortlessly. You’ll notice you’re finally accelerating toward your previously elusive goal.

Second, here’s a recommendation I experienced as very helpful. Write a biography of your BA. When did you first become aware of it? Under what circumstances? I remember very well the time and the circumstances when I made the decision (since revoked) to never ask anyone for help again. You guessed it. It was deeply emotional for me. So my BA “People won’t help me when I really need it” and its relationship to my immunity to change make perfect sense to me.

To anchor this, you could get yourself supported in many ways, for example through coaching. You could also do what you probably know how to do well. Define your first steps forward. (Tweak all columns of your map is a great example of first steps forward.) Define what significant progress would look like. Do it in terms of behaviors, of course. And define ultimate success. Commit this in writing. If someone else you know is seriously creating a mind map, buddy up with them. Give and receive feedback on each others’ plans and the quality of your tests.

I hope you will faithfully work on your ITC map. It can be a profoundly powerful and liberating process. Consider an undisputed fact. You are worth investing in. Could you picture yourself on your hero’s journey, creating a path through the deep dark woods where none has been? What if your hero’s journey is the successful negotiation between your desire to live a large, precious life and the immunity to change which would relegate you to live in just a few rooms of the mansion of your life?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

Only Business As UNusual Will Overcome Your Immunity to Change

change-ahead-sign-goal-settingUn-Game Principle: Unexamined assumptions have US. We don’t have THEM.

You won’t get an argument from me. Change can be hard, especially a change we deeply desire that has consistently eluded us.

This is an equal opportunity problem. It affects people and organizations at all levels everywhere. To be human is to have an immune system that works brilliantly to keep some change we desire from occurring. But let’s keep it simple and focus on you!

Perhaps you’d like to say ‘no’ more often. Or you’d like to take better care of yourself, have more fun, be more relaxed, less stressed and exercise more. Maybe you’d like to be more straightforward. Perhaps as a leader you’d like to delegate more often, handle conflict better. Look and see what YOUR change or improvement goal is.

One way to find out is to ask “What’s my one big thing? What’s the one thing I could improve upon that would make the biggest difference in the quality of my life?” Or if you dare, simply ask “Where is my pain?”

Can you tell that this kind of change goal has a large emotional component? It does, and we aren’t all that practiced in factoring our emotions into our problem-solving. We try to solve our problems from the shoulders up. But that’s a mistake. We must look with our whole body. Or at least with our head and our heart. This is not a technical problem you’re trying to solve. If it were, you would have solved it long ago. Technical problems have road maps. How to solve them is known territory. To become a pilot is a technical challenge.

To solve a problem that keeps recurring for us is an adaptive challenge. It means that we have to think about it differently than we ever have before. We need to think from a more complex level of thinking which then sheds light on new behaviors not possible from the old thinking. In other words, to solve an adaptive challenge we have to understand, at a whole body level, Einstein’s assertion “You can’t solve a problem with the level of thinking that created the problem in the first place.”

We have to feel stuck. Stumped. We have to feel we’ve come to the limits of our thinking.

To move to a more complex thinking starts with seeing your present thinking vis-à-vis an adaptive challenge you have not solved. Fortunately, you can solve the problem whose solution has eluded you again and again.

There’s support out there. One of my go-to models is Bob Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s exquisite Immunity to Change mind-mapping process. Check it out at Or contact me, Here are the first 3 steps you can take to get to the bottom of why you haven’t solved the problem that keeps coming up to drain your energy yet another day. Do this on scratch paper but later write it on the map you can download or contact me for.

Column 1 has the heading: MY IMPROVEMENT GOAL. One goal. Not 2. Not 3. One! Write yours in the column. Make sure it’s not a technical problem. You see you have room for improvement. It’s your deal, not Aunt Mary’s. It feels true for you. In fact, don’t count on yourself for your one big thing. You’re human and therefore you, like the rest of us, fool yourself. Ask others, like spouse, boss, colleague, direct report. You’ll get a higher quality entry. If your goal is not at least a 4 (important), forget it. It doesn’t belong in column 1. Preferably it should be a 5 (very important).

Careful. Now it’s time to be very alert. Your mind will NOT want to go where we’re going next: Column 2. Its heading is DOING/NOT DOING.

I know. I know. You want to set out with all the things you do or have done to ACCOMPLISH your goal. No! You’ve already done that, and what you’ve done was perfectly designed to get you where you are now! Still in search of a solution. Sigh. So forget that and do something that would seem very odd if you were working on an improvement plan. The point is you’re NOT working on an improvement plan at all. That would be a different map. You’re working on revealing the real problem, namely why it makes perfect sense that you haven’t solved that problem yet.

In Column 2 then, list 3 things you do and don’t do that UNDERMINE your Column 1 goal. In other words, what are you and aren’t you doing that works against achieving your sweet but maddeningly elusive goal? For example, the person who wants to take better care of herself, relax more, have less stress, exercise more…what she doesn’t do is say ‘no’ often enough. She says ‘yes’ without thinking it through, and makes appointments to go to the gym that she doesn’t keep.

Be sure you put in behaviors, not tendencies, dispositions, or feelings. Not ‘I’m bored”, but “I text and make task lists while I’m talking to my wife. This person’s improvement goal is to be a better listener–can you see that his behavior clearly works against his Column 1 commitment?

So what about you? Fill in 3 entries in column 2. (You can tweak your map later and add more. Keeping it to 3 for now will keep things clearer. Trust me on that one.).

Column 3 is where the rubber hits the road. It reveals our immunity to change. Its heading is HIDDEN COMPETING COMMITMENTS.

Column 3 takes 2 steps to complete, and it challenges our present thinking the most. So dial your willingness to be alert way up. Remember, you’re NOT on a problem-solving mission. You are a detective putting the puzzle pieces together to answer the question “Why haven’t I been able to solve this problem?” By the way, it’s probably not for the reasons you think, and I bet you have a boatload of reasons.

Step 1 for Column 3 is to list 3 worries. But not just any worries. List the 3 worries that plague you when you picture yourself doing the opposite of the 3 behaviors you listed in Column 2. Take each behavior separately and attach a worry to it. Remember you can add more behaviors in Column 2 and more worries in Column 3 later to make a more powerful map.

The woman who wants to take better care of herself (C1), and who doesn’t say ‘no’ enough (C2), worries (C3) if she did say no, she would no longer be indispensable. The man who wants to be a better listener (C1), who texts and makes task lists while talking to his wife (C2), worries that if he didn’t text and make task lists, but listened attentively instead, he wouldn’t be able to give her a solution to a problem he might not even understand (C3).

What are your 3 worries when you picture yourself doing the opposite of your Column 2 entries? Go ahead. Make your worry entries now.

Courage! Yes, these steps take courage to complete. Our mind wants to go to familiar ground: Problem-solving. But admit it, Einstein has a point. Having a good problem to solve is as important as seeing a solution. What you’re after here is a good grasp of the real problem of why you haven’t been able to reach your improvement goal despite good intentions and very hard work. I repeat, you are not solving the problem. You are en route to defining the real problem.

Step 2 in Column 3 is a total whack on the side of the head. A bomb shell.

Consider something that seems very odd at first, namely that worries are not passive. Not yours, not mine, not anybody’s. Most of us have never given a thought to this. We know worries drain our energies, but we don’t think of them in the way I’m going to ask you to consider them now.

Worries are actually very active (yes, not passive) commitments to assure that whatever we worry about will never ever come to pass!

Wow. Go ahead, re-read that last sentence. So for the woman who worries if she did say ‘no’ she would no longer be indispensable, her commitment is: “I’m committed to being indispensable.” Or, “I’m committed to not being perceived as dispensable.”

The man who worries about not having a solution to his wife’s problem, which he also worries about not understanding in the first place, has these commitments: “I’m committed to having a solution to my wife’s problems.” Or/and, “I’m committed to not revealing when I don’t understand my wife’s problem.”

We can have many worries, each of which can be restated as an active commitment.

Notice from the examples that these are not noble commitments. Each is not a commitment that solves the problem we want to solve in Column 1. In fact, it’s a commitment very contrary to our Column 1 goal. It’s a commitment to self-protection! We are making absolutely sure that what we worry about will never happen.

There’s only one problem.

The problem is this: the commitments to self-protection that we have in Column 3 neutralize forward motion on our Column 1 commitment! We have 1 foot on the gas (C1) and one foot on the brake (C3). That should make it shockingly clear why you haven’t made any progress on your improvement goal. You are looking the immunity-to-change in the eye the very first time. And therein you can find a power you’ve not had before.

Because you can see them, you now have hidden competing commitments. When they were invisible to you, they had you! Gigantic difference. You no longer have to be subjected to them. You can objectively examine this phenomenon. You can be the wind rather than the feather in the wind. Try it out.

Go ahead and restate YOUR Column 3 worries as active commitments. If you’re not up to it yet, because this ignoble commitment business has you unsettled (after all, this is not the YOU you’re most proud of), consider this when you take another look at the examples. What you should be seeing about the woman with the self-care goal and her hidden commitment to being indispensable is this: Her Column 2 behaviors (not saying ‘no’ enough), now that we see her commitment ‘to be indispensable’, make perfect sense!!! They are brilliant behaviors necessary for honoring her hidden commitments.

That is the immunity to change in all its messy glory! This woman’s immune system (and yours and mine) works perfectly. AND, it reveals the real problem. Having one foot on the accelerator and one foot on the brakes won’t have her going anywhere despite her best intentions and her very hard work. She’s stuck and understands for the first time why she’s stuck.

When you translate your Column 3 worries into active commitments, your immunity to change on this one goal that’s so important to you will also be revealed. You shouldn’t feel that you’ve solved anything. You’re likely to feel unsettled. That’s natural. But what you DO have now is a “good problem to solve.”

The remaining two steps to overcoming your immunity to change are also unusual and very powerful. Stay tuned and/or go visit for further information. You can overcome your immunity to change. What it takes to see significant progress on your improvement goal is the courage and commitment to complete your map (all 5 steps), allow 30 minutes per week for about 12 weeks. It’s true. You can’t do it by “doing business as usual,” but you are worth investing in, are you not?

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and

What Alternative Is There to “Just Do It”?

512px-Girl_Sitting_in_ChairUn-Game Principle: Don’t just do something. Sit there.

Blah. I don’t want to write this blog today. If I listen to the voice in my head I hear, “But you should. You promised yourself to do it every two weeks.” Predictably, the next thing I hear is “Why don’t you just do it? Get on with it.”

Does that ever happen to you? You’ve committed to something, and then comes that moment when you just don’t want to. If it’s a soft deadline you find a hundred other things to do. You’re cranky or low energy. When you push through, and I know you can and even do (often), the result you create is, well, sometimes pretty ordinary. You stare at it, and your internal conversation isn’t pretty. “Phew, it’s done, but who’d want to read this?” Or, “I bet Joe (the boss) is gonna have a bunch of crappy things to say about this.” Or, “I’ll never get this right. What’s wrong with me?”

And on and on.

Would it be alright with you if life were easier? Would it be alright with you if you didn’t act so much out of obligation? Yeah, me too. So here’s an alternative scenario to “just do it.”

Don’t just do something. Sit there! That’s right. You heard it correctly.

Let’s assume you have a soft or a self-imposed deadline, a work presentation you have to give in 30 days. On a day when you simply don’t want to do anything to start, why not simply notice that and choose consciously to not engage with it. Worrying about it drains energy. Consciously choosing to put it aside gives you energy. Don’t just do something. Sit there.

Try it with something as mundane as cleaning house. “You aren’t on the agenda today,” you say to the house. When you consciously choose to ‘sit there,’ rather than do the thing you don’t want to do, then worry about that thing won’t choose you! When you don’t consciously choose, however, worry is very likely to creep in.

Choosing consciously, even when you later decide it was a poor choice, is an exercise of power—the power to be in charge of your life through your decisions.

A few more days pass. Each day you consciously choose to not do the thing you don’t want to do. Of course you do other things—things you have energy for. After a while the day comes where you’re more energetic about starting the presentation (or the house cleaning, the blog or whatever). Noticing this rise in energy, be gentle and generous with yourself. Ask yourself what you want to do? What’s a low-hanging fruit? Ask “What do I want to accomplish before I move on to something else?”

Maybe you just want to come up with a list of the intended results for your presentation. That’s ‘conditioning the project’. You’re warming up. Maybe you just want to clean the small bathroom. Whatever it is, use your energy for what calls most to you about what you’re now willing to start. Make it small and finish that small thing.

What do you notice once that small task is done?

You’re right, of course. Completion energizes. More importantly, defining completion for ourselves energizes us even more. In the above scenario, the list of 3 intended results is completion. The small bathroom in the hall is completion.

“What?” you say. “How do you call this completion?!?  Simple. You said so! You’re in charge. You’ve got the power. Your boss might tell you what to do, but you get to decide how you do it. You’ve got the power. Let nothing distract you from that awesome fact. You’ll take the next step toward final completion of your project with more energy as your energy reservoir is filling up.

In 2014 we have a dizzying array of distractions as well as more and more expectations imposed by self or others at work or where we volunteer our heart-felt commitment, time and treasure. No wonder so many of us experience ourselves on a virtual, roller coaster ride that’s hard to stop. We may long for less outer-imposed structure and for more control. We may yearn for things to unfold more naturally rather than slogging through a long to-do list that brings no pleasant surprises. We want to stop and smell the…pick your favorite scent!

The alternative to obligation proposed here is to wait for inspiration when you can. You might say, “There are times when that’s not realistic,” and pushing through your internal “I don’t wanna” conversation seems like the only thing to do. Well, do it. If you’re a little like me, you already know how. Self-discipline is a great muscle to exercise. It would be imprudent to let it become flabby. But before I end this blog post which I’m finally inspired to write (!), perhaps you’d like to consider a practice which makes exercising self-discipline easier. After all, obligation and self-discipline are not easy friends.

Here’s a simple and profoundly powerful practice that may shift your inner experience from obligation to inspiration. It involves a little more of “Don’t just do something. Sit there”.

Look at why the presentation is important to you. What higher purpose would doing it with respect and care serve? (Not getting fired from your job is not a higher purpose.) Is it that you long to be an effective manager or team member? An inspiring leader? Find a purpose that resonates and write it down. Keep it in front of you. Picture your longing to be an effective team member fulfilled. What do you see yourself doing? Whose voices do you hear saying things that make you happy or satisfied in your role as manager or leader?

Keeping your higher purpose front and center can lead to inspiration. Obligation puts the reasons for doing the presentation outside of yourself. Being in touch with your higher purpose keeps the reasons where they belong, namely inside yourself.

Think you can’t get in touch with a higher purpose for house cleaning? Perhaps you long to be a creator of beauty. A clean house may be an expression of that for you. Or perhaps you yearn to be a loving family member/friend/partner and having a clean, organized home is a small demonstration of that longing.

To get back in touch with the ‘why’ of the thing that you don’t want to do but which is nonetheless important to you is intensely personal. And it is inspiring. It fills you with spirit. And spirit trumps obligation every time. Try it and see. But first, just sit there.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and


Say ‘Yes’ to Your Master Mind, ‘No’ to Your Struggling Mind

Interrogate Reality0001

Un-Game Principle: To empower yourself to change or design your life, cultivate a beginner’s mind.

OK, so we all have said we’re our own worst enemy. It’s terrific when we see it, isn’t it? We intuitively know we have a choice even if that choice is unclear, or we decide not to exercise it.

Lately I’ve had a lot of opportunity to reflect on this. Not counting my iPad, I just got my first Mac computer. Getting data off my other devices and getting it up and running is a huge learning challenge for me. I find it empowering to observe myself in how I approach learning.

How do you approach learning? Think of a learning challenge. Use your own example, or imagine a new software application your place of work has just purchased. And you need to learn it. Sigh.

 I don’t know about you, but for me any new learning, technical or adaptive (where a change of thinking and behavior are required) used to be hard. My father had been a terrible teacher when I turned to him for help with math in the 5th grade. He assumed, as you can probably tell from this remark…“ What’s the matter with you? I already told you that!”… that saying something once ought to be enough to master it. He understood nothing about how people (little people and big ones) learn. And so I grew up hating not getting something immediately…and putting pressure on myself to be perfect…and to be right…and exercising tight control over what I would and would not find interesting to learn. Not surprisingly I had a math phobia until age 39 when I unpacked the thinking that had my mind be such a struggling mind.

Today I’m a good and relaxed learner. I was fortunate enough to have a few master mentors who taught me, among other things, important distinctions about learning itself. It took the pressure off me. I could breathe. I could think and process.

When something is distinct it is clear. When it’s clear, you are at a point of empowerment. So here are the distinctions I learned from my coach, Fernando Flores, years ago. Of course first I learned that my parental learning model was woefully inadequate. (Yes, you guessed it. My mother wasn’t a paragon of understanding and respectful patience either).

Here are the distinctions. There are levels of learning, and they can be identified. Once identified, we can, for example, use them to guide gentler expectations of ourselves.

  1. Bull in the china shop: This learner is clueless as to the effects of his or her behavior on the learning process. (She doesn’t know she’s her own worst enemy. There’s no awareness of the inner self at all. The bull in the china shop just acts). At this level no learning takes place.
  2. Jerk: The jerk knows how he affects others when he engages in hurtful behaviors, but he does it anyway. He knows he’s in his own way as to learning anything. But he either doesn’t care or thinks he is static. “That’s just the way I am/it is. I can’t learn computers.” you might hear him say. At this level no learning takes place.
  3. Beginner: The beginner’s mind is open, receptive, and curious. It has no negative stories to tell, hang on to, or defend. This is how you see children learn before adults ruin their learning environment by neither making it safe nor challenging. The beginner’s mind sees nothing but adventure. It’s ok if it’s hard. It has patience and plenty of experience of success and satisfaction. Trial and error is a fabulous process to the beginner’s mind. Haven’t you noticed that toddlers learning to walk have nothing going on about falling down? This is the first level at which learning takes place.
  4. Minimally Competent: At this level, beginners can perform certain functions provided they follow an exact procedure. However, if the task cannot be completed step by step, or an unknown shows up (What if a new window in that new software pops up and you haven’t learned how to close it?), the minimally competent person will be unable to handle it.
  5. Competent: At this level the learner can navigate through the new software and can even avert or handle most common breakdowns. If you think of learning to drive a car, this is the level where you stop thinking about every move you must make. Your body has a muscle memory now of the basics that need to be done and you don’t have to think about it. This is the third level of learning.
  6. Virtuoso: At this level the learner is not only competent but can explore the heretofore unknown. They can make suggestions to improve upon processes. Or they can try things no one has told them about the system in which they have become competent. They can break the rules and still get themselves back on track. This is the fourth level of learning.
  7. Master: The master is unconsciously competent and much more than that. He can invent inside his own performance and come up with something completely new. Breakdowns can be turned into breakthroughs without conscious thought. I think of Steven Colbert or John Stewart who are masterful at turning their flub into yet another moment of hilarity. This is the fifth level of learning.

As a coach I see my mission as creating the kind of learning environment in which clients feel safe to learn what they most long for, namely to become who they really are so they can make their unique and greatest contribution to a world that hungers for it. It’s the coach’s sacred task to create a space of safety as well as challenge in their client partner’s journey to exquisite self-awareness and observation. The coach must help him or her learn to get out of their own way. In short, the coach helps the courageous human being in front of them or on the other end of the telephone move from their struggling mind to a place of ease—a place where they embrace their hidden beginner’s mind where there are obstacles but no struggles, only hard honest work and lessons to be learned, sometimes not eagerly but always willing.

I’m doing this right now with my mother, who as a computer novice at almost 95 is as hard on herself as a learner as she once was with me when she tried to teach me to bake. She wants to move from beginner to mastery in three lessons. Ever so slowly she’s beginning to trust that the world won’t come to an end if she allows herself to be a beginner where there’s no such thing as failure.

Interestingly enough, the beginner’s mind is where the masters hang out a lot. Come to think of it, that’s how they got to be masters in the first place. What distinguishes the master mind from the struggling mind is the ability to say ‘yes’ to the learning, whatever the lesson may be. The master mind is the beginner’s mind with lots of practice and more yet to come.

After a rocky start, as my mother is cautiously tiptoeing to the joys of her beginner’s mind, it’s beautiful to behold her almost-undefended mind. What a powerful act it is to say ‘yes’ to your master mind. What a privilege it is to be a witness of the unfolding process.

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and


Courageous Compassion Part 2: Standing for What’s Important to You

Un-Game Principle: Being willing to be courageous and compassionate can be a conscious choice even under circumstances people generally experience as very difficult.

CourageIn Part 1 of Courageous Compassion, courageous compassion was defined as ‘the ability to stay in caring relationship while simultaneously taking a stand that another’s behavior is unacceptable and you will confront it’. It focused on relationships where the parties would describe themselves as having equal positional power: colleagues, friends, husbands and wives, partners. There are also examples of what a courageously compassionate interchange might sound like. But what about courageous compassion in so called unequal relationships like you and your boss, for example? Or a parent or teacher and a child? What might a courageously compassionate interchange be like when there’s the experience of conflict for one or the other party?

It’s counterintuitive to imagine that both parties to a conflict actually have the same responsibility, namely to take care of the other without losing sight of taking care of oneself. It’s easy to envision a good boss taking the leading caretaker role. After all, he or she has more positional power, and the stronger is supposed to protect the weaker. In the office scenario, the boss surely wants to keep the good employee. Turnover is expensive. Besides, he might really like and value Melinda even if she “winged” the meeting whose success hinged on her report.

Let’s say Gene (the boss) knows that his positional power gives him some perceived advantage in the interaction. He has the power to fire or make Melinda’s life miserable. Fear of loss of job might make Melinda compliant. But Gene is wise enough to know that what seems like an advantage can hide a potent disadvantage. Compliant people aren’t the best employees. He wants creative, motivated employees. This is an important value for him.

Gene’s care-taking will include a conscious decision to minimize the impact of his positional power and maximize the use of his personal power to drive the interaction. In personal power we all have the opportunity to be equal, be it in incompetence, minimal competence, or even virtuosity. The playing field is level, and Gene wants to play on that field as much as possible. On the field of positional power, a disadvantage is that his position dramatically enhances the chances of Melinda going “out of her rational mind” and into ancient instinctual survival responses of fighting, fleeing, or freezing.

Not good for business. Not good for a well-lived life outside the business context.

Gene is smart to NOT use the greater power of his position. It’s one of those examples that challenges the stubborn assumption “More is better.” In fact more is sometimes less, and most often, more is simply more and nothing else!

Let’s assume he’s stated his assessment of the quality of Melinda’s report. Here’s what he didn’t say. “This report is not of the quality I’ve come to expect of you. You were not prepared. If it happens again, I’ll have to take some drastic measures. We can’t afford mediocrity. It’s not who we are.” (The veiled threat and the lecture are a reminder of who’s got the power. As if Melinda needs a reminder!)

Gene, wanting to keep Melinda engaged and wanting to minimize defensiveness, could use his personal power and begin the conversation like this: “Let’s evaluate how the meeting went. How satisfied are you that we accomplished our objectives?” Then Gene and Melinda enumerate the objectives. “What was outstanding? Satisfactory? Missing?” A discussion and learning conversation ensue where Gene doesn’t censor his own input. “I had expected X. It looks like you didn’t have that expectation since it was absent from the report. Help me understand. Tell me your thought process. ” More conversation ensues. “What will you do and by when to provide X?” Gene and Melinda settle on an action that satisfies them both. Gene could also make a demand. But he can soften it by simply asking, “Will that work or do you need to make me a counter offer?” (if a counter offer is acceptable).

The interaction between Gene and Melinda has the ingredients of a courageous compassionate conversation that moves a project along and enhances their relationship.

Let’s switch to Melinda having a problem with Gene that she wants to talk to him about (OK, she doesn’t really want to. But she’s willing because it’s occupying most of her waking hours. By now she has horrible-ized whatever Gene did, didn’t, and will do.).

For many people it is simply unimaginable to consider confronting (standing in front of) a boss precisely because of the positional power difference. They can’t imagine what courageous compassion for him, her, and self would look like.

But it’s possible even under circumstances perceived as difficult.

First of all, Melinda would do well to remind herself that in the domain of personal power she and Gene are equals. As a matter of fact, it’s precisely confrontations like the one she’s dreading yet contemplating that will give her the practice she needs to increase her personal power. To acknowledge that and then to actually proceed are courageous acts.

Secondly, Melinda needs to consciously choose to be courageous. The act of conscious choosing comes from the best in ourselves, not from an emotion like fear. It is powerful and proactive in any interaction, but especially one in which the “confrontee” has more positional power than the “confronter.” Melinda needs to act on what she intellectually knows: She is not her fears. She has fears. And she can be bigger than her fears!

And finally Melinda can consciously choose to be compassionate with Gene, remembering that in the domain of personal power she and Gene are simply two human beings doing the best they can with the light by which they are able to see. Gene, too, is no stranger to the fight, flight, freeze response defending against imaginary tigers and lions, his greater positional power being no help to him at all.

And so Melinda decides to talk to Gene who calls her frequently on weekends for non-emergency situations. She privately assesses that Gene thinks he should have unlimited access to her at any time.

Here’s what Melinda doesn’t do: she doesn’t sigh and silently acquiesce to all of Gene’s requests. She might begin by noticing her assessment. It’s only an assessment. There seems to be good evidence, but can she really be sure it’s what Gene really expects? Is he putting out a demand or just a request that she can accept or decline?

Melinda might open the conversation with “Gene, how important is this? This is my family time. Can we explore on Monday how I can help you accomplish X without cutting into my family time?” (Melinda is signaling she wants to help, would do so if it is really important, and intends to protect her private time).

Gene has an opportunity to see what may be a blind spot. Perhaps he does think he is entitled to Melinda’s time. Or he gets to consider just how important his request is to him. In any event, the conversation is off to a good start. The next move, if Gene sputters a version of “But, but…,” is for Melinda to hold her ground, quietly and firmly. “I’ll give you an hour (if she’s willing and able), but this has to be an exception rather than an expectation.” If Melinda can envision playing the long game, she knows it’s not sustainable to give up her private time and space. She will act with courageous compassion. Not just for Gene but for herself!

The truth is that confrontation in any relationship, be it among equals or those unequal in positional power, is risky. That’s what necessitates courage–the courage to be willing to lose something important. But the confrontation, expressed with courageous compassion also opens up the possibility to gain something profoundly important, namely to connect genuinely with another person and to experience the deep satisfaction of growing one’s personal power one interaction at a time. The ultimate prize is freedom to be what seems exceedingly difficult for most of us, namely to be ourselves! And the ability to stand for something…because if we don’t…chances are we’ll fall for anything!

Ingrid Martine, MA, PCC, Coach and author of The Un-Game , Four-Play to Business as Unusual, a show, not tell tool for coaches, managers, and “will do” teams, works with organizations and individuals to empower them to move their lives from a 7 to 10 at work, home, and play.  For her FREE report, “Reap the Harvest of a Quiet Mind:  Empower Self, Empower Others”, or “Management Training for Business as Unusual”, visit:, or connect with Ingrid at: and