Last edit of this page 26/04/2011
Family love is like the wind
1.0 Success begins at home
We are the fruit of many lives and the result of our everyday habits.
About a third of my work is assisting 25-40 years olds to emotionally adn mentally separate from their family of origin and the habits they acquired there, in order to save their marriages and sometimes their businesses.
Habits become automatic and unconscious, like driving from home to work and not remembering all the places in between.
Getting it right in family and business often seems automatic. Successful people appear to have an almost unconscious sense of the right direction to go. One that sometimes fails them but not often.
However, success is not the good luck that this unconscious competence appears to be.
Unconscious competence is the result of underlying good habits, backed up by matching values often but not always set at home. They become the gut feelings or instincts on which we build business and family success.
Successful people tend to get it early in their lives. Some have excellent gut feelings based on unconscious competencies and their dreams.
For others wisdom about success grows over the years.
For some it is an ever deepening awareness of the path, the gate to all mystery through the eyes of the soul.
Some just don't get it, ever, and drift on to the end believing in fate.
And some slavishly follow a scripture or an ideology, believing that will give them the edge when the world ends. Fate is then synonymous with Revelation.
And that is okay too. The consequences continue to flow, inexorably. In that sense making no choice, chooses a consequence.
You still have to pay the check-out chick at the end of the aisle.
Should armageddon arrive, the insects and bacteria will remain and evolve to clean up our mess. Life will go on, here or elsewhere. Nature has a limitless playground. The universe is in an infinitely long process of contraction and expansion. With each big bang a new experiment begins, a new set of probabilities unfold.
1.2 If it means nothing ... make it extraordinary
When thinking about these probabilities, the artist Francis Bacon concluded it made our existence utterly meaninglessness and absolutely pointless. He would say, since it means nothing we may as well make our life extraordinary.
No matter which path we take, the dice play a part. Sometimes the cards dealt us are truly monstrous and yet some can turn even them to good fortune.
Bacon loved gambling dens, drinking all night and then sleeping about four hours before painting. He had a very simple formula - paint as close to the nervous system as possible.
Maintaining generous, big hearted networks of luck supports good fortune. Bacon was both incredibly generous and successful and yet came into life with the family from hell. It twisted him and his painting to great advantage.
Bacon's homophobic father would have had Bacon killed if he could have got away with it. Instead he employed stable boys to thrash him as a child.
Contrast that with Richard Branson's family origins - a family that would kill for each other, Branson has said.
I never get the accountants in before I start up a business. It's done on gut feeling ... I've just dreamt my life. Richard Branson
Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin brand has 10 secrets of success each learned as good habits in his family: 1 You've got to challenge the big ones. 2 Keep it casual. 3 Haggle: everything is negotiable. 4 Have fun working. 5 Do the right things for the brand. 6 Smile for the cameras! 7 Don't lead "sheep", herd "cats". 8 Move like a bullet. 9 Size does matter. 10 Be a common, regular person.
Here is Chapter One of his autobiography 'Losing My Virginity'
1.3 Nature's method for success
Nature's habit and her measure of success is diversity. Diversity is difference.
Humans are rarely comforted by difference, yet they crave it.
Even identical twins are not identical (different fingerprints too) and no two siblings can ever grow up in the same family no matter how close they are.
In order to increase diversity, nature has a significant influence on our choice of breeding partner. Opposites attract, partners poach and affairs happen at times of high fertility. Too much difference in the couple, however, breeds trouble between them and with their offspring.
Most differences can be bridged, it is just a matter of how much resources you are willing to commit to bridge maintenance. So don't let nature's desire or your parent's wishes be the only ones making choices at your wedding. More on pre-commitment education on site.
Dramatically opposite partners are not necessarily good friends, nor the ones who bring up kids most wisely nor care best for a business, but they usually have great sex for a time. And sometimes that is enough for success in many other spheres.
Nature cares about sex but not wisdom since she knows the end product is due 50% to genes and 50% to peer group/community influence. Child abuse, disease and poverty may shift the outcomes. And the fittest of those too will survive and thrive.
Survival of the fittest is not a moral equation. Community not nature evolves morality and values, both for good and ill. Here is a discussion on nature versus creation on the science forum.
1.4 Neurons to neighbourhoods
The more I learn from evolutionary developmental biology (evo-devo) the more I understand that everything within us and around us is more plastic than we might think. Well, not everything.
Contrary to what we think about a mother's health in pregnancy, the best predictor of an infant's birth weight is their maternal grandmother's height. The best predictor of an adult's health is their maternal grandmother's health when she was pregnant with their mum. More on the grandmother effect.
However, a University of Edinburgh team recently evolved a new species of butterfly in three generations. Something evolutionary theory says should take thousands of years. Another research team found a way to reverse the growth of brain cells back into the stem cells from which they originally formed, and then back again into brain cells. And recently the 'Dolly' team have worked out a way to produce a limitless supply of stem cells from human skin.
Given this extraordinary plasticity, it seems to me environment has considerable influence on the expression of our children's genes. I doubt my aunt would have become the stalwart of everything British but for the influence of her naval father and her hitting WW II in her 20's. That generation of women were remarkable pioneers of the women's movement.
Therefore, I recommend choosing and involving yourself in your children's peer groups and community as best you can - from the very beginning until they have shut all the doors. Even then, keep yours open. Their peer group is the other 50% you have significant influence in for some of the time. Those peers will be more influential in shaping your child's adult behaviour and attitudes than you will be.
Robust success in both businesses and in urban gangs relies on mentoring at every level of the 'club'.
School, religious and community groups self-replicate because of parental influence on the climate of the group, their children's peers and mentoring of those peers. As a result, get involved in your community without robbing quality time from your family.
Make your home a place your kid's friends want to come after school and on weekends.
Have a clear and agreed moral compass open to exploration, rather than an authoritarian religious persuasion that brooks no question.
Earn kids respect and command it, otherwise they will exploit your generosity. Expect a return - there are no free lunches!
As a result of taking care in these ways, when there is trouble in their group, you will likely be among the first to notice it and the first to get resources in place and in time.
Practise generosity and tough love both locally and globally. Draw the kids into this practice rather than force them in to it with shaming lectures on social justice.
Relaxed, altruistic people are among the happiest, healthiest and longest lived in the world. This is a result of feeling useful in a social network.
Uptight and upright do-gooders are a problem to themselves, their families and the people they 'help'. Their pity can lack empathy. Empathy drives power sharing. Empathy is rarely a pre-requisite for election or promotion to positions of power in any organization.
Compassion can only occur between equals. Sympathy sounds good but impels no action to redress imbalances in power.
Boys respond well to a pack leader and girls someone to admire. In this respect, animal training is great preparation for parenting. Having a pet is not the same thing.
Ultimately, you can't change your or other people's kids or their pets but you can teach awareness and increase the range of options to choose from.
Free will gives us more choices than any other life form on the planet.
That liberty is an enduring power and a burden of responsibility.
It requires something nature packs too little of into our genes - prior experience in its use.
Young couples have too little life experience to acquire moderation in the exercise of this liberating power. Most children are born to inexperienced parents. Grandparents used to fill the gap. Nature has not caught up with their moderating influence.
We call that moderation wisdom.
Nature appears to have distributed the elements of wisdom randomly. Perhaps she cannot know which seemingly hopeless gamble on wisdom opens to another millennia of evolution, and so like any smart investor, spreads the risk.
Wisdom can be described as the exercise of power with each of these traits in balance: dignity, humility and discipline; kindness, compassion, endurance, and justice. These seven come from the kabbalah.
Observers in all mystic traditions of all religions have noticed those random moderators, collected them over many generations and crystallized them into self-moderating precepts.
All religious systems teach almost exactly the same principles. Not so with sectarianism.
At the moment of realisation that we are responsible for our own fate, there begins the demise of the idea that 'my nature made me do it' or 'it's just human nature, we can't help it' or 'boys will be boys'.
And here begins liberty's hoorah! - I am free, free to think for myself and free to plan for my own life.
Free to love and free to hate, or not.
This is called agency.
Some folk deny agency and hand it over to a higher power - temporal, spiritual and genetic. But agency we have.
It is nature's gamble that survival's free-will can win out on willful self-destruction. Mix a bit of light and a bit of dark with water and you have us. It's an experiment in contradiction.
In the shadow of this first dawn of freedom is coiled our fear of freedom.
This fear has self-limiting offspring: fear of success, fear of failure and that crazy, self-destructive fear of nature's diversity - fear of difference.
From these fears arise all the isms - racism, sexism, class-ism, etc. Each is self-defeating and yet each persists despite evidence of its extravagant wastefulness.
We know diversity raises the intelligence of a group.
We eat from the vine of hybrid vigour.
If a person knows they won't be interrupted, they think faster and say less.
Yet we silence difference and as a consequence, think poorly and waste time.
We fear difference collectively and separately and so dumb down and starve our selves for lack of cross fertility.
Slowly, neuroscience is getting it that the brain is more like a plant than a machine - not hard wired like a computer circuit but rooted like a herbaceous tree.
We may yet catch up socially before we kill the root system that supports all of us in mind.
2.2 The wimps survived
Those who survived the journey out of Africa (and we are ALL their children diversified) attend to our fears more than to the opportunities and pleasures in front of us.
The fearless and foolhardy were wiped out by a world then in catastrophic upheaval. There are still a few throwbacks to that gene pool of crazy wisdom.
However, the rest of us are descendants of the wimps.
We have had to learn to out-fox our fears.
These polar, gut feelings of fight and flight or freezing have shaped us. In the same way, gravity and the seasons have molded our bodies and the rhythm of all life's design.
Ever present and unavoidable, we can turn free will into an opponent (puritanism) or we can work with it (humanism).
We can stoop under gravity's weight, oppose it and freeze our fears by hunching into body postures that define our isms. Or we can stand upright, graceful, both flexible, soft and strong using gravity and our fear as allies.
This is the power of choice and agency.
Here, begins compassion.
It is where speaking our truth uplifts all of us, where apparent contradictions become synergies. Walking the talk upright rather than uptight.
Our family can show the way, but we have to choose.
From awakening to freedom's costs and its benefits, we evolve solutions to distance that freedom or to embrace it.
Perversely, we can choose to distance the benefits of freedom and embrace the costs. That is the fear of difference.
This has consequences.
At every supermarket selling our own special life mistake, there is a check out. You have to pay for your mistakes so that we grow and diversify. Avoiding mistakes has consequences too.
The supermarket at the beginning of each life journey also sells the no-mistake life plan, 'my perfect life' plan. Even with that one, you have to pay the check out chick at the end.
Kidding ourselves about the significance of our life and its choices, diminishes our agency. This is one way to deny the obvious. Embracing life's poignant enormity is another. And there are many places in between as we leave the family nest and set sail against or with the winds of change.
Our peer group is our reference group, co-existent with our future. As we grow and leave home our family recedes, though we carry its habits and values, often unexamined.
Some able bodied folk never leave home or their family patterns. This too has costs and benefits.
The family business can turn into a struggle for survival of the fittest. And it can form a functional dynasty.
I strongly advise my clients to moderate nature's way at the door of their family business enterprise. In a similar way competition inside the bedroom is disastrous to a marriage.
Some parents have little respect for self-determination.
These historical forces begin to mould our character and our body armor at an early age. That word 'armour' so close to l'amor and la morte (love and death).
These too have consequences.
With body armor growing in our young, unaware mind we start to seek a life time best fit of ideas, for opportunities and miseries, and with people who support and those who will diminish our freedom. We find what works for us and practice how to react to what doesn't. Family shows the way, but we make the choices.
You can tell a lot about a person by looking at their friends. More than by meeting their parents. You choose your friends, not your family. People would never treat their friends the way many treat their family.
The character of intimacy that we seek, that we share, and that we avoid begins here, whatever our circumstances or parentage, with whatever cards we have been dealt.
For some the moment of realisation is a sudden jolt into self-responsibility, and early in life.
That is the spark of success.
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