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

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You Want to Be Effective? Expand Your ‘No Problem Area.’

Un-Game Principle: Thoughts are the engine that powers action. Every moment is an opportunity for a thought-engine ‘tune-up’.

No, I’m not advocating Pollyannaish thinking or putting a positive spin on a bad situation. And I’m not saying problems are bad. It’s in our self-interest to become or access exquisite problem-solvers for real problems—technical problems like fixing a broken air conditioner or a flat tire. I’m talking about that which we identify as a problem in our day-to-day interactions with ourselves, family, friends, the community, and the world. In an increasingly fast-spinning, fear-driven, fragmented, isolated-yet–connected-by- technology world, we are experiencing a vast sea of uncertainty which we are consciously or unconsciously grappling with and trying to control.

And we’re quick to experience what happens or doesn’t happen around us as a problem. Our teenage son is pushing us away with “Dad, you wouldn’t understand.” Our aging parents won’t listen to reason when it comes to giving up the license. Our spouse doesn’t want to spend the money to replace the 2005 Honda Civic.

Imagine a rectangle with the long side down and a line dividing it into two panes like a traditional window. The top pane represents your NO PROBLEM AREA. Whatever happens in it is ok with you. You accept what is. You probably extend energy here, but it isn’t problem-solving energy. Here you enjoy, even savor your relationships and simply go calmly about the business of living your life.

The bottom pane is your PROBLEM AREA. Everything here is a problem for you. The dog needs a walk and you don’t have time. Your family doesn’t share in the housework. Your son’s room is messy. Your daughter keeps secrets. Your employees spend too much time not working. You get the picture.

Everyone’s NO PROBLEM AREA is different from everyone else’s even though we’re largely convinced that “If you had my life, you’d feel and act exactly like me.” Some people’s NO PROBLEM AREA is very large. Others’ is very small. You can probably guess who is more satisfied with their life.

It would do most of us some good to expand our NO PROBLEM AREA and shrink our PROBLEM AREA. Would it be alright with you if life were easier?

There are more than two ways to expand your NO PROBLEM AREA, but I’ll focus on just two.

  1. Be guided by the definition for: Whose problem is this?
    • It is NOT your problem if the only thing that’s impacted is how you feel about it. Your feelings are your responsibility. They are not caused by someone else. What someone else does may trigger your feelings, but he or she isn’t doing it to you. Your feelings are your responsibility. He didn’t make you mad or cry. If you’re assigning responsibility outside of yourself, you are making yourself into a victim and someone else into an oppressor. You are definitely in your PROBLEM AREA. And you are unlikely to get out. Many of us just use a version of “kiss and make up,” but it’s an uneasy peace.
    • It IS your problem when there is an impact on you in physical reality. Your son’s messy room may embarrass you if company sticks their head in his room, but there is no physical impact on you. So it’s not your problem by the working definition. I know. I know. You don’t like it. But I promise I won’t make that my problem (smile). Your family not sharing in the housework, on the other hand, has an impact on you in physical reality. You spend more than your share of time keeping a home in order that belongs to every family member. So this is ripe for a “We have a problem” meeting.

You can see that taking ownership of you as the generator of your feelings would expand your NO PROBLEM AREA. Imagine the discord averted when each of us is the author of our feelings. It won’t stop us from talking to others about our hurt or angry feelings. On the contrary, we’ll be much more open and direct about them! And others may even be different around us when they simply learn how we feel without being made responsible for having caused the feelings. “I felt hurt when you said I wouldn’t understand. I wish you’d try me to find out whether I do or don’t.”

The other person said something. That’s a fact. But my hurt feelings belong to me. They are the result of what I told myself about what the other person said. I could have said “Hmm. He’s frustrated and doesn’t want to talk to me right now. Maybe I’ll come back later.” See what I mean? Two different thoughts. Two different feelings. There are any number of scenarios. How then could the listener possibly be responsible for another’s feelings?!

  1. The second way to expand your NO PROBLEM AREA is to ask yourself “Does this have to be a problem? How else could I look at this?” When we take both a breath and a step back, we see things differently than when we’re in the midst of an experience we don’t question. “As the parent I have a right to…..We’ve always done it this way. Joe is just not a very good employee. It’s the right way. We should have replaced that car a long time ago.”

Stepping back allows us to see our thinking. It allows us to be critical, not as in criticizing, but in thinking critically. We’re alert and using our rational brain, not just following feelings and unexamined thinking. In such an environment you could reveal your hopes and your worries about making a new car purchase. You can tell the truth about your feelings without having to defend. You can explore under what conditions it would be possible to get a new car. Or if you even both need a car! You can have a real conversation, not an automatic one. And your NO PROBLEM AREA is expanded.

Our thoughts drive what we feel and what we do. While most of us don’t care how a car works—we just want the car to get us where we want to go—we care deeply about expanding our effectiveness and our joy for living. Expanding our NO PROBLEM AREA may well be the tune-up our internal engine needs to get us where we long to go.

Photo Credit: Ines Zgonc

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

Your Wisdom in 500 Words?

Un-Game Principle: The life you’re living today is a mirror of your wisdom to date. You are doing the best you can with what you know. When you know better, do better.

Recently Inspire Me Today invited me to be a Luminary and share what I learned from my life in just 500 words. My knee jerk reaction was a sense of constriction in my heart region. Then I applied one of the key learnings from my life.

Trust the process. 
Deciding on the biggest wisdom nuggets of your life in 500 words is only a way of focusing. It’s a direction for you, not an ordinance. When your energy feels constricted, look and see what thoughts you have that make you suffer. Ask: “How else can I look and this?” Then trust the process for answers to emerge.

OK, I focused and enjoyed the process. Here’s another nugget.

Make enjoyment important in your life.
My family of origin lives the notion ‘Life is hard.’ Play is a reward for work. Hmm. How else can I look at this? I could wonder “ Is it inevitable to make a separation between work and play? What if I had the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual energy to focus on creating work that is also play for me? Can I even do this in my work now?” Asking myself great questions challenged, coached, and led me to another important-to-me learning.

The key to creating what you love is self-knowledge, accurate self-observation moment by moment, and the desire to see your blind spots.

Some outliers create the life they love without my key. But this is my story. Take what you can and leave the rest!  I once had a blind spot, an unconsciously-held belief, that I should apply any feedback I get. Phew. What a prison! When I saw that blind spot I reflected on how that notion on feedback had bruised my ability to be at ease in relationship. This increased my self-knowledge and made something distinct that had been indistinct (and therefore useless) to me. Now I reflect on every bit of feedback I get, use what I can, and you guessed it, lustily toss the rest. Here’s my next nugget.

Clarity is power. All extraordinary results you produce begin with clarity.
Clarity about what? First of all, my intention is to get clear and be clear. I am clear that I’m always at choice (not about what happens, but how I will respond to what happens). My first choice therefore is who I am willing to be at any given choice point. Who am I willing to be in order to produce an extraordinary result out of any interaction? I often choose ‘I’m willing to be present, compassionate, and vulnerable.’ Present, because the real, not second-hand experience, lives only in the now, not in the past or the future, or in our electronic devices. Compassionate because compassion allows us the very present experience we hunger for– connection. We connect with people when we see that we could be just like them, for good and for ill. Vulnerable because true power derives from vulnerability, not from trying to control and fix everything. You can’t be vulnerable without also being courageous. Test it out sometime. If you don’t feel at risk, then what you’re about to do is in your comfort zone! No courage required. Here’s a test. Observe whether the following is so for you: The first thing we look for in others is their vulnerability. The last thing we look for in ourselves is our vulnerability. Hmm. Just how important is vulnerability really? If we are willing to be truthful, very important.

In summary: Being determines Doing. Stop looking for change in your actions first. Do look for change in who you’re willing to be now, and now, and when tonight becomes the now. And summon the courage to be vulnerable even if you get hurt. The moments that make us are moments of struggle. Avoiding the struggle is an allergic reaction to your vulnerability. Which leads me to my last nugget (And yes, I’ve gone way above the 500 words. No problem. This is just a dry run.).

Be the change you want to see in the world. Be your best self. You are whole and complete and don’t need to be fixed. Neither does anyone else. They, like you, are capable of making their own changes, when they see their blind spots.

The need to control and fix things and people messes us up and leaves our relationships gasping for breath. If we hunger for others to be vulnerable but work hard to hide our own vulnerability, we hide the very quality that everyone is hungering for. So summon your courage and be the change you want to see in the world. Lo and behold, your little corner of the world will become a mirror for you. Not immediately, but persevere. Your need to fix things and people will diminish and eventually disappear. Might it help to redefine vulnerability not as psychological fragility, but in the words of a former coach of mine, “Vulnerability is letting the winds of life blow freely over your soul.” Might that make being vulnerable easier? Might it make life more fun? Might we be more able to shed the exhaustion many of us wear as a badge of courage in our day-to-day life in favor of a bolder, more robust and more joyful vision?

And speaking about vision…can you share in 500 words the nuggets of wisdom that have shaped the life you’re living today and the vision you have for the tomorrow that has you leap out of bed expectant to meet your challenges and opportunities?

Photo Credit: Stephen F.E. Cameron.

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

How Much of Your Energy Are You Willing to Invest in Your Freedom?

Un-Game Principle: You are free to the extent that you are able to choose freely.

If I ask you “How important is your freedom to you?” you will without hesitation answer: “very important.” If I then narrow the inquiry to freedom in relationships, could you identify specific examples of where you feel restricted? For example, do you trust yourself to interact freely with a spouse, or do you often internally monitor what you are saying for fear of negative or unintended consequences? Ditto for an interaction among colleagues, a boss, friends, or with subordinates.

As I reflected on the issue of freedom–yes, it’s very important to me too– I realized it’s largely because so many of us feel so “un-free to be ourselves” that I wrote my book The Un-Game:Four-Play to Business As Unusual.

Next I asked myself just what a powerful definition of freedom is. I landed on Cicero’s, statesman of ancient Rome. He asserted “Freedom is the participation in power.” Far from being abstract or too ancient, this definition is the perfect guide not only for identifying and acting on our public-good priorities, but also on our personal ones.

Let’s stick with the personal. Isn’t it our personal priority to be free, for example, to unselfconsciously be ourselves? Who wants to walk around on eggshells with spouses, children, employers, employees, colleagues, friends and relatives? Yet we often do, don’t we? Could it be that we are missing major opportunities to participate in power by the way we imagine and thereby limit the horizons of our relationships?

Take for example a conflict situation (oh no!). How do we participate in power now? Most of us suffer from a failure of imagination. Mostly unconsciously, we generally limit ourselves to only three roles ( and by the way, this can be an internal conflict where there’s only me, and yet I can play any and all three roles all by my lonesome!). We can’t necessarily consciously identify these roles, but all of us recognize them. They are The Persecutor, The Victim, and The Rescuer. (How many of us have mercilessly berated ourselves for something we wish we had done differently? Hello, Persecutor.) These roles, by the way, were identified in the 1950ties in the Karpman Drama Triangle.

A simple example is Person 1 upset with Person 2.  Assume that ‘upset’ is clearly reflected in the tone of voice of Person 1.

Person 1: Why didn’t you pick up after yourself?

Person 2: If you had had the kind of day I had….

In this small interchange Person 1 feels as if they are the victim of Person 2. Person 2 has violated some explicit or imagined agreement. Person 2, however, sees Person 1 as the persecutor. Rightfully so. The question is not a question for information. It’s designed to attack, whether the tone of voice is whiny or accusatory. It could be said that Person 2, in trying to then explain, is acting in the rescuer role, but is probably perceived by Person 1 as now acting the victim. Next may come an argument about whose pain is greater or more important.

Dismal, eh? And familiar, right? And certainly both parties feel anything but empowered. No freedom here by Cicero’s definition. There’s no participation in power in this drama triangle. Our choices for action are so impoverished precisely because we feel so powerLESS!

I suspect that we get stuck in a persistent loop of disempowerment in our important relationships because we become blinded by our emotions, and we can neither imagine nor articulate roles we could play that would guarantee our escape from these life-threatening roles of persecutor, victim, and rescuer. The freedom we so cherish remains just outside of our reach. And we are miserable.

So how do we make this shift to participating in power and thereby having a real experience of delicious freedom?

The Un-Game is a story that takes readers on the path to empowerment and therefore to the freedom to design life rather than submit to it. Stories are powerful teachers because stories are like Velcro. They stick!

But there are avenues to freedom other than through the slow discovery in a good story. Contact me to have a direct experience of the coaching The Un-Game is based on. Or, ask google to connect you to coaching colleagues of mine who also have articulated a brilliant antidote to the dreaded roles of the drama triangle. David Emerald and Donna Zajonc have written The Power of TED (The Empowerment Dynamic) in which they identify and illustrate the roles we play when we are truly free, that is, when we participate in real power as opposed to the ersatz power of the persecutor, victim, and rescuer (lest you doubt that the victim exerts enormous power, think again!).

The roles we play in The Empowerment Dynamic triangle are The Creator, The Challenger, and The Coach. If you do nothing except allow yourself to wonder what these roles might look like in your life, you will have taken an important step toward the freedom to design the life you long for.

Just how much energy are you willing to invest in your freedom? If you hear yourself saying “But I’m too busy. I don’t have time. I can’t…”, I’m here to tell you it’s not true (really!). What role in the drama triangle are you playing? If you find yourself being irritated by my  “It’s not true” assertion, and you notice yourself protesting “But it is true! What do you know anyway?”, do you at least allow yourself to wonder whether you’re in the role of challenger in the empowerment triangle? Hmm. Keep wondering and looking. There may be uncoveries to be made. Go for it. Freedom is not free. Invest in your freedom to be your best and most powerful self.  How sweet would that be?

Image credit: Xenia Rassolova

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

Why You Should Want to Have Your Mind Blown

By Rafi B. from Somewhere in Texas :) (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Un-Game Principle: While not comfortable, the examined life is an empowered, more peaceful life.

Caution. The word ‘should’ should raise a red flag in your mind. It’s usually used in a sentence that has someone else’s answer for a problem or challenge of yours. If only it were that easy. But no, answers that work for us are usually hard-won and gained in our own green time. What you can do is try another’s words on to see if they make sense to you. To your best Self, not your worst self, that is. You do know the difference, don’t you?

In our comfort zone nothing blows our mind. By definition, we’re at ease there, even when we’re critical of something or someone. After all, it’s familiar, and familiar is comforting. Life looks and acts as we expect, and we ourselves are well-applauded actors on its stage. That would be just fine if life stayed put or we were willing to settle for a tepid existence. But life doesn’t stay put. Rather it is unpredictable and impermanent, and like it or not, that’s the challenge and opportunity that’s ours to master. And to master life’s challenges, we need to expand our comfort zone.

What expands our comfort zone is a good question to engage with. Not just once because if you have an answer, you close the inquiry down, and learning something depends very much on an awakened sustained curiosity. Yours!

Consider the following as one answer of possible many answers:

Your comfort zone expands only when you get out of it and are willing to consider something that blows your mind (is at the edge of or outside of your known territory). ”I can’t” is generally a statement that calls the comfort zone home.

A manager (parent/teacher) who has the belief “I should control and correct my employees” (children, students) would have his or her mind blown by someone who believes “Employees (children, students) produce ordinary results when micromanaged.” Imagining oneself in a different mindset with different behaviors is akin to drifting in a rowboat without oars. Needless to say, few of us could imagine ourselves relishing that experience, and so many of us stay right where it is comfortable. We do the same thing over and over again. And if it’s uncomfortable, we keep on anyway, hoping for different results. Exhilarating? NOT!

No wonder things don’t change easily. No wonder we wonder: “Isn’t there more to life than this?”

Our discomfort has much to teach us. If we’re courageous and do what feels counter-intuitive, namely embrace the discomfort and engage with the thing that blows our mind and may send us into an “I can’t” fit, we may discover that there are some surprising gifts. We might see an employee from whom we stopped expecting good work become motivated. “Hmm, I wonder what my micromanaging had to do with his underwhelming performance?” Or we may hear words of genuine appreciation that were sparse when we micromanaged. We may get better results than the results we were able to even imagine with our old mindset and behaviors.

Who knows? Life (and people) are unpredictable. Accept rather than fight it.

If we persevere, we may discover more and more benefits of being a catalyst for our and others’ growth and learning rather than the embodiment of the command and control model that’s decidedly dead, just not buried everywhere yet. More importantly however, we get to discover that the new mindset and behavior, so strange and uncomfortable at first, has now been incorporated into our comfort zone. Our comfort zone has expanded. And so has our peacefulness.

Isn’t that prize worth the willingness and the courage to have your mind blown?

Try it on something you think you could not possibly change. How about doing, doing, doing? Hurrying, hurrying, hurrying?

Have I now gone from preaching to meddling? Welcome to your discomfort zone!

How Else Can I Look at This? – A Gateway to Creativity

doorwayUn-Game Principle: We are both more in charge and less in charge than we think.

I recently read one of the most fascinating things I’ve ever read: the first-hand account of the 16 year imprisonment of a friend’s mentor in China from 1963-1979, much of it in solitary confinement. Despite his experience Sidney Rittenberg was able to keep intact his sanity, his integrity, and his love for China. One reason for this was the question he asked himself : “How else can I look at this?”

In coaching “How else can you look at this?” is a question I frequently ask my clients. What I realized long ago is that our thinking is invisible to us. When bits and pieces of our thinking do become visible to us, it is our great leap across the chasm of disempowerment and despair. As soon as that which had been invisible to us is now in plain view, our natural ability to do something about what we’ve become aware of kicks in. We are magnificent in that way.

What’s behind the question “How else can I look at this?” is the fact that in western civilization our thinking is primarily binary thinking, that is, we think in either/or pictures. “Either I’m going to college, or I’m going to be a failure in life. Either I work 16 hours a day, or I won’t get ahead. Either I get that promotion or I will quit my job. Either we are for taxing the rich or against it.”

At the very base of this constrictive either/or thinking is the choice of being on the right or the wrong side of the thing in question. “I can either be right or wrong.” I don’t have to tell anybody which side we want to be on; after all, who wants to be on the wrong side of history?

Is there a third choice? Is there any other way we can think about this?

Yes there is. Anyone who’s a good problem-solver knows that in brain-storming

a) you must have more than two contributions to consider, and

b) you don’t stop to evaluate every contribution offered as it is being offered. In other words, we consciously get ourselves out of our limiting either/or thinking paradigm by requiring more than two choices, and we protect against arguing for and against (either/or) before we have freed our mind from its usual self-limitation.

There is something peculiar, baffling, and mysterious about this (What? Three choices again?!). Let’s assume only Americans are reading this. How come we have been able to successfully escape, albeit for a short time, our limiting thinking? One answer is that Americans are known to be excellent problem-solvers (I won’t offer at least two other reasons, even though I could. This answer suits my purpose.).

Americans are good problem-solvers. However, we need to ask a second and related question: “In what domain are Americans good problem-solvers?”

I won’t get an argument from anyone about Americans being great problem-solvers and therefore very creative in the domain of technical challenges. Silicon Valley is full of geniuses, individual and corporate, too numerous to mention. But there is a domain in which most Americans are not good problem-solvers, and that is the domain of human interaction in which the superb technical problem-solving mind and skill-sets are not nearly enough. In fact, in some instances those skills are totally counter-productive.

In human interactions, unlike in technical problem-solving, there’s a whole lot less we can control. What we can control is ourselves, and even that’s not easy because unbeknownst to ourselves we can be controlled by our either/or thinking.

If we are unaware of our thinking, then we don’t have our thinking; our thinking has us!

In part, what we need in order to change ourselves in a non-technical domain (aka the adaptive domain, which requires of us changes in how we act), influence others to change, and to change the situation we find ourselves in is to free ourselves from our either/or thinking trap and ask more and more often “How else can we look at this?” Let’s look at what that question assumes.

It assumes that there could be many good answers. It assumes no one of us is as smart as all of us. There is wisdom in a group. It assumes an answer of quality can be found which every group member can support. This is a good start. What this doesn’t guarantee, however, is that when we arrive at an answer everyone can support, that we won’t fall right back into the constrictive either/or paradigm. We’ve found a great answer. Yeah! But let’s not be so possessive of our answer that we now promote it as the only right answer!

To not fall back into the binary trap of either/or, right/wrong, them/us, win/lose is near impossible for those of us who’ve grown up in the western tradition. Near impossible but not always impossible. First it takes being willing to become aware of “the thinking that thinks us.” Second it takes being willing to observe our thinking and tell the truth about it. This is hard, because we dislike discovering we, too, are caught up in this mind trap that calls for some skills we have not been taught. Third it takes being willing to learn those skills that can release us, at least somewhat, from the thinking that, despite its immense and often catastrophic costs in productivity and suffering, continues inexorably to attract us like a magnet does nails.

We are both more in charge and less in charge than we think (more/less, there is that binary thinking again!). Our “thinking that thinks us” makes us less in charge than we think. Our being willing to become aware, to become observant of our thinking, and learning the skills to at least temporarily escape our self-limiting thinking makes us more in charge than we think. One welcome by-product of our temporary escape from binary thinking (“How else can we think about this?” is the opening of the cell door.) might just be an unexpected burst of creativity. How much do we wish that? Would that be a great relief? A soaring joy? Our poor, gripped-in-either/or thinking Congress comes to mind. How much I wish for their escape! Wouldn’t it be ours too? It’s not an either/or!

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

Whose Voice Should We Listen to as if Our Life Depended on It?

red telephoneUn-Game Principle: To meet the complexity of modern times, access to how and what we think is key to developing our more complex problem-solving mind.

Recently someone told me “You write with conviction and consistent, accessible wisdom about living a large life. Please make your voice more widely heard,” she urged, steadfastly insisting I make it an intention to write a recurring column in Oprah magazine.

The compliment was energizing. Who doesn’t respond to “I see you and like what I see a whole lot.”? It got me to thinking what makes a voice worth listening to for people who recognize, however dimly, that maybe, just maybe, we 21st century Americans are mostly in over our heads when it comes to meeting the challenges put before us by 21st century modern life. What makes a voice worth listening to among the clamoring of never-resting voices now trying relentlessly to get a foothold on our fragile attention?

The question might lead us to smart phones for answers. “What?” you ask with a slight edge in your voice. But think about it. Smart phones capture our imagination. They surface and fill a need we never even knew we had. The smart phone is all about us, and without it most of us could hardly imagine life anymore. The innocent-looking device keeps us endlessly engaged, instantly connected to what we care about, and unquestioningly committed to learning. “What all can this sucker do?” we wonder. And as we find answers to our questions, we discover a wider world that even our wildest dreams hadn’t been able to contain…up until now. It’s irresistible.

A voice worthy of being listened to will have many of the offerings of the smart phone. It’s  a voice that can lead you to the most incredible place on the face of the planet— your inner world, a world you do not know once and for all! How could you not be fascinated with the evolving you? Are you willing to pay as much attention to your inner world as to the wide outer world the smart phone offers you?

The voice you will listen to will capture your imagination with the fierce urgency of ‘now.’ You will instinctively conclude it has something you want, something that will enrich your life. The voice, ripe with promise and possibility, will keep you engaged because, contrary to conventional wisdom, you long to learn.

What do we long to learn in this era of tumultuous change? I suggest we long to learn how to have the roots to ground our life and the wings to fly it. If we are not consumed by the necessity of surviving, we are consciously or unconsciously on the lookout for friendly, compassionate support for this awe-inspiring task.

The voice we will passionately engage with, then, is one we trust will help liberate us from limits we presently cannot imagine extending all on our own. We want partners on our journey into the larger future that lies beyond the limits we may not, as of yet, have identified as the limits of our present thinking. It’s too hard to do this alone.

Yes, hard. And that could make learning about ourselves less attractive than learning the wide world of smart phone magic (I’m probably not up to the challenge of making “getting beyond the limits of our present thinking” accessible and irresistible, compliment of the admirer of my writing not-withstanding.). Still, I invite you to read on.

The greatest learning challenge we have in the midst of the technological revolution and its fallout is to achieve the mental complexity that would be sufficient to the complex demands of our time. Fernando Flores, (responsible for seeding the Newfield Network, the first ontological coaching program in the US. addressed this challenge almost 25 years ago. He said:

“We live in an extraordinary time. Our thinking styles are severing us from our families, our religions, our ideologies, and nature. We are caught up in a pace of social and technological change that makes our work, businesses, and education sources of anxiety and unfulfillment. At the same time, thinking about our thinking and observing our observations can bring us a new world in which work becomes a place for innovation, and in which peace, wisdom, friendship, companionship, and community can exist. Let us design this work together.”

Clearly, Fernando Flores was prescient in inviting us into the possibility and the need to develop a higher complexity of mind. If we pretend to hover over American life in 2014, few would counter the assertion “Most of us are in over our heads.” Fernando’s assertion is more relevant than ever.

The clear and present danger of the dilemma of being ‘in over our heads’ makes for soil in which advice-givers grow vigorously. But it’s not advice we need. There is no one way to live in a heterogeneous American society. Gone forever (it only existed in homogeneous cultures anyway) are the days where the source of order, vision, and direction could simply be ‘breathed in’ by being with the people in the community who had gone before us. It may be sobering, exciting, and frightening, but tasks like…

  1. setting limits
  2. regulating relationships
  3. facilitating personal development
  4. taking stands
  5. exercising executive leadership
  6. maintaining boundaries
  7. creating and preserving the roles we play

…all those task today necessitate that we find the authority and support within ourselves!

Don’t misunderstand. It doesn’t mean we can’t ever look to outside authority for good models to accomplish the tasks above. However, we do need to develop our capacity to author and design our life. Today’s greater complexity has catapulted us into near chaos from which the old order can’t rescue us.

Why a higher mind-complexity to live modern life is ours to develop might be illuminated through this analogy: the difference between driving a car with an automatic transmission versus a manual transmission. In the former the driver is not responsible for shifting gears. In the latter the driver must. As long as there are plenty of cars with automatic transmissions, it isn’t necessary to drive a stick shift. But for the level of life-complexity our mind needs to deal with, we can no longer count on the effectiveness of the automatic. Counter-intuitive as this sounds, we must know how to drive a stick shift. Someone who can drive a stick shift will be able to drive an automatic. The reverse, however, is not true. And what we surely would want to avoid at all cost is a driver skilled only in driving an automatic transmission behind the wheel of a stick shift school bus full of children!

A higher mind-complexity to live modern life is ours to develop.

One example where a higher complexity of mind is now necessary is hidden in the question “What should we be responsible for (not an issue at all in homogeneous closed societies where continuity is prized)?” Do we make erroneous claims of responsibilities? Do we take on those that aren’t ours, and do we assign to others responsibilities that aren’t theirs? Do we not revisit what responsibility means in the first place in a massively changed and changing world?

If we can’t sort out our responsibilities (If you’re experiencing unresolved inner and inter-personal conflict anywhere, it’s possible that an erroneous claim of responsibility is at cause.), we cannot meet the culture’s demand to be good communicators, both in intimate as well as public life, especially the world at work.

So the voice that will command our rapt attention is not the voice of any advice-giver. It is the voice, like Fernando Flores’ and Robert Kegan’s (In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life and ) that identifies the tasks our mind must be able to do and the supports it needs in order to accomplish those tasks. It’s as simple and as complex as that. And while this is an invitation, not advice (lest I contradict myself which, of course, I’ve done a time or three!), you might consider a competent mind-set coach to become more highly skilled in observing your thinking. More and more we are discovering that we can only change our life when we can change our mind.

Our life may even depend on it.

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

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