“It’s a universal law. Intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.” – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
This is a short piece about deep learning, truth extraction, and suicidal organizational culture. Investigating, gathering and synthesizing knowledge to solve challenges in my own life is what I love doing with my time. Some of you think I am a hacker, and yes, at times I am. But at the core, I love going deep. When it‘s worth my time…
“Deep learning” how to
Here’s a process for how to deep dive into a subject that you care about:
- get into the history of the subject,
- investigate the key players in the field,
- read books, listen to interviews, google for PDF‘s,
- directly talk to people that are deep into the topic,
- get a subject overview of the developments over time,
- deeply reflect on the subject,
- feel into the subject (yes it‘s possible),
- share with others what you learned about the subject,
- extract the tactical essential pieces applicable to your situation,
- go to work and implement it in your own life.
- choose another topic, rinse, repeat & enjoy
Sometimes life flows after one round, at other times it‘s a struggle to get results. Then go through the same process again.
For me, it doesn‘t matter when I fail because I love the process, not just the result.
An example: Chinese martial arts training
Here an example of truth extraction from my own life.
The first time I did this was in my traditional Chinese martial arts training. I was training in Munich with a wonderful teacher.
He trained me well, it even culminated in a German national champion title. A really great experience for me at that time that developed a deeper level of self-confidence in me.
He gave me a first taste of what it means to fight for something, and he was the first real mentor I looked up to a lot.
But then things changed: I had a wish for going deeper.
My inner truth compass made itself known. I wanted to learn about the history and philosophy of my chosen art.
Expressing this, my teacher told me I should not ask so many questions. Instead, I should just train more.
Fair point: more doing, less talking.
Knowledge, the forbidden fruit
When I got internet access at home though, 24 years ago, I was able to research the history of the martial arts style I was training in.
And, for the first time in my life, the truth was served to me at the push of a button.
It was a real revelation to me. My inner scholar kept me glued to the screen…
I discovered that there was a 5th generation direct descendant of the original founder of this martial art going all the way back to the Shaolin temple.
Investigating the movements, training methods and published material online I realized that I was training in a watered-down version of the art.
On challenging authority
In retrospect, I can see now that this was the first time I trusted my own judgment to question and challenge authority.
It was an incredibly hard thing for me to do at this time. My daily lifestyle related to the training and my circle of friends was all deeply connected at that time.
But I wanted to learn more. Go deeper. I just had to do it.
I was committed to going deeper with my passion knowing well that I was about to loose everything that was dear to me at that time.
As a consequence, I removed myself as a student and went traveling to Poland to meet the direct family descended from the martial arts style who was hosting an international seminar there.
1 year later I was training Kungfu in Chinatown, Sydney, directly under the guidance of a 5th generation martial art teacher descending from the Shaolin temple.
Some really committed students of him living and teaching martial arts in Chile, South America, had introduced me to the right people to get a warm welcome.
On top, I followed my dream at that time and enrolled in studying Chinese medicine at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Refusing to accept anything less than the truth, was the very beginning of my own hero’s journey.
Meaning and the search for truth
Why do I tell you this story here?
If we want to add deep meaning and benefit to our life and work, living with a commitment to finding truth and meaning is essential.
For me, there is no other way of living.
In the context of our working life, especially in a more agile, fast-paced and volatile business landscape, the deep meaning and truth behind a product, or service offered to the public will determine if an organization and it‘s people will succeed or fail.
Read that last paragraph again. It’s critical.
Are you fluid enough to live an agile lifestyle?
Executing this on a daily work level in an organization requires first an openness towards a self-reflective and truth extracting attitude in each individual team member, and secondly processes to live and integrate this daily.
Especially for people in leadership positions, this attitude of ruthless self-analysis and self-awareness is even more crucial, because of the great power and responsibility they exert over others.
Employees invest time, care and hope into their jobs. They are not just a resource to be used, you see, that‘s 19th century thinking there.
Only with this type of introspection and retrospection real organizational evolution is possible I find.
I strongly believe that teams that shine the light of truth on all aspects of daily doing and being, will prevail under the great challenges that we are facing in the 21st century.
And damn, there are many!
On organizational suicide
Company cultures that are based on stiff and top-heavy hierarchies which at times are even full of toxic and manipulative power plays, steered by the unrevealed lurking shadows within the leadership, will never be truly great.
The internet and especially social media right now, bring the challenge of complete transparency. The greatest challenge of all: standing naked in the public eye.
No shameful shadow or rotten dead body can be kept hidden away for a very long time in the company culture closet anymore.
They will come out in our hyper-connected world, it’s just a question of time.
Organizations that are choosing to remain unseen and hidden will be perceived in a shady light. Living and operating truthfully is not a cakewalk, it‘s a hell of a ride. A ride though that is full of meaning and joy.
For me anyway, I just love intensity.
PS: I’d really like to express my gratitude to a great coach here in Germany who really knows how to take people deep with his rock solid and deeply human approach: Robert Kressin