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How technology is going to make us more human

How technology is going to make us more human 1004 568 Joel

In future years, the way we work and live will change dramatically, due to exponentially developing technology.

Never before were there so many different technologies which developed at such a rapid pace as they do now. By the power of information and digitisation, developments in the field of artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, robotics, biotechnology and medicine are flourishing.

The past century, we have been able to outsource more and more work to increasingly efficient machines and automated systems. One of the consequences is that fewer and fewer people are working in agriculture. Meanwhile, that same agriculture has become much more productive. The same goes for other industries, both in the private and the public sphere. So why is it that many of us are still so busy, and only seem to get longer working weeks? One of the reasons researchers suggest, is our addiction to consumption which forces us to generate a certain income. Brad Pitt’s character in the movie Fight Club has this to say about it: ‘Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.’

Anthropologist David Graeber, of the London School of Economics, suggests an entirely different cause for the long working weeks: the type of work. In his essay, On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs, he writes: ‘There are countless people who spend their entire working lives on jobs of which they indicate themselves that these are actually obsolete’. Examples are telemarketers, human resource managers, social media strategists and many administrative jobs. An interesting question: what does that pointlessness mean exactly, and what do these people consider so pointless about their jobs?

It cannot be denied that we are on the eve of major changes in the working sphere. According to Ray Kurzweil, an American inventor, futurologist and businessman, who has been making accurate predictions for decades, machine intelligence will exceed human intelligence in a few decades, which will lead to singularity-technological changes which will become so rapid and comprehensive that they will effectively mean a turning point in human history. With that in mind, various futurologists describe all sorts of scenarios and examples. Take, for instance, the fusion of biological and non-biological intelligence, software-based human beings and ultra-high levels of intelligence, which spreads through the galaxy at the speed of light. The risks of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are discussed more and more, for will we remain capable of controlling AI, or will we end up in a Terminator-like film scenario? The opinions on this in the scientific community still vary hugely.

Even if the predicted ‘singularity’ is considered as distant future image and we do not take these scenarios, possibilities and views into consideration, then technological changes will still come with many uncertainties. You don’t have to be a psychic to see that automation and robotization will change an increasing amount of functions of people and organizations. More and more ‘old style’ jobs will disappear, only a part of which are replaced by different jobs. I recently spoke with Pieter Abbeel, international leading Artificial Intelligence researcher at Berkeley University and the right-hand man of Elon Musk, in the Open AI programme, and he says: ‘We probably have to deal with sudden, very sudden unemployment.’ The question is how bad that is, if we find the right way to deal with it. These developments will positively change the way we live, if we are willing. We will have more leisure and our income will become more disconnected from the number of hours we work. In a world of plenty, less is obligatory, while more is allowed. Perhaps ‘working’ is no longer the right word in this context and more fitting definitions would be ‘creating’, ‘playing’ or ‘doing things together’.

For a large part of western society, the technological developments have already practically created a context with possibilities in which we can reflect upon ourselves more and more, on who we are as human beings. How do we behave in relation to technology? Who or what are we if AI becomes more intelligent than we are? We will live increasingly consciously: Who am I? What can I do? What do I want to do? On what do I wish to spend my energy in the time I get to walk around on this earth? This process is already in progress. More and more people start to ask themselves these questions. Right on the very moment we manage to contain our smartphone addictions, technological developments start to work as a catalyst on the search for the answers to existential questions. These questions are no longer considered ‘soft’, but are seen as basic conditions for giving purpose and meaning to your life and work. This means that purpose and meaningfulness will become even more important.

Jordan Peterson, professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto and author of the book Maps of Meaning, discusses the meaning of life, which can be traced in all sorts of cultures.  You can only find meaning by actually committing yourself to something. Just by living, you are all-in: it will even kill you in the end. So, you might as well play the best game you can make out of it. Aim at the highest good. You’ll only discover the amount of good you can bring to the world by doing it. It’s about taking responsibility for who you are and who you can be. The targets you give yourself have to be achievable yet challenging. At that moment, you need a willingness to be engaged in something. That makes the journey worth it, because you will always keep developing yourself. That makes the problems you encounter during your voyage worth your effort and attention. In that, there is far less difference between work and personal life than we might think. People who have a vision about the direction of their life and who do work which matches with that vision, are far more motivated and achieve better results.

The changing reality hugely influences the way you look at the work you do and the importance you attach to the organization or the network which you work for or with. This requires employees and freelancers to know themselves: to know what they truly wish to contribute to, to know what they’re good at, and to know what they wish to develop. They have to be able to sell their services in a competitive world full of AI. This may apply even more to leaders and entrepreneurs who wish to attract the best people. An authentic leader knows his own inner motivations and qualities, is focused on growth as a human being. From that point, he can give his organization a meaningful perspective. Progressive organizations are no longer just vehicles for earning money; they contribute to a more beautiful world and they are a platform for the personal development of their employees. And oh yes, meanwhile they have learned how to integrate that rapidly developing technology into their business. Is it an easy thing, that which leaders represent? No, leadership and entrepreneurship might require more inspiration and quality than they have ever done before. But do you really have a choice, if you reflect on yourself and look inside? Aim for the highest and go all-in.

Written by: Joel aan ‘t Goor
I am a mix of a psychologist, author and entrepreneur.
In my late twenties I founded OPEN Business Leaders, a cross sectoral network of more than 700 leaders and entrepreneurs of large and medium sized companies. When I got fed up with my ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle I started to crack the code of reality and awakened to a deeper, profound and more joyful reality. This personal transformation intensely changed my experience of life and my view on leadership and entrepreneurship.

Three things every entrepreneur should know about themselves

Three things every entrepreneur should know about themselves 1280 720 Joel

Discover a simple method to speed up the growth of your company

 

As the founder of the largest cross-sector CEO network in the Netherlands, I have encountered over 1000 entrepreneurs and business leaders from close up over the past 7 years. Time and again I have seen how an entrepreneur’s sense of self-knowledge is the crucial factor in determining the growth of organizations.

But, I have also found that most entrepreneurs grossly underestimate the impact of this factor and fail to give it the attention it deserves. This, even though acquiring in-depth insight into who you are does not have to be time-intensive.

Some of the consequences of lack of self-knowledge:
– Stagnation in growth organisation (or not realising all the possible growth)
– Sub-optimal top team supporting the leader
– No real perceived sense of purpose in the entrepreneur and the organisation
– No flow or even a lack of energy in the entrepreneur because he/she is constantly busy with matters he does not enjoy

What I see among fast-growing and intrinsically driven entrepreneurs with self-knowledge:

  • These entrepreneurs know EXACTLY what their strengths and weaknesses are

This enables them as entrepreneurs and leaders to only focus on what they are actually good at and what gives them energy. Time is precious for entrepreneurs. Every minute spent on activities that they do not excel in will delay growth, (you wouldn’t believe how often I see this happen).

 

  • These entrepreneurs know EXACTLY what kind of people they need around them
    These entrepreneurs dare to look at their less developed qualities and hire people to join their organisation who can supplement those lesser qualities. Many top teams are ineffective because there is too much overlapping of the same strong points. Because of this, the driving force behind innovation, sales and delivery will stagnate and the organisation will not be capable to accelerate in upscaling.

 

  • These entrepreneurs know EXACTLY what deeply motivates them
    Entrepreneurs who know what deeply motivates them can convert this into an attractive and actually perceived sense of Purpose. No only Purpose for themselves but also for their organisation. Employees, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders will recognize this Purpose and reinforce it. The entrepreneur and the ecosystem of the organisation will ride on the undercurrent of that Purpose which will further accelerate it.

I am not the first person to tell you that the world is changing. Who is going to win in the end? The purpose-driven entrepreneur with self-knowledge, the entrepreneur who creates from within.

 

The power of direction and meaning – My interview with Jordan B. Peterson

The power of direction and meaning – My interview with Jordan B. Peterson 1024 435 Joel

I recently interviewed one of the great minds currently walking on earth: Dr. Jordan B. Peterson.

 As a Harvard professor, he was nominated for the prestigious Levinson Teaching Prize, he is regarded by his current University of Toronto students as one of three truly life-changing teachers. His YouTube channel’s 275 videos have 500,000 subscribers and 25 million views, and his classroom lectures on mythology were turned into a popular 13-part TV series on public television. In this interview, we talk about the power of direction, meaning, compelling visions and characteristics of the most effective leaders.

What is the power of direction and meaning in personal life and in work?

I think the psychological literature on that is already quite clear. Imagine that you take a group of employees, including managers and executives. One part of the group makes a detailed business plan on how they are going to contribute to their corporation’s goals. The other group makes a detailed life plan on how they are going to put their lives together. Within that they nest their career aspirations. Then you do a head-to-head competition with regards to who is more productive and healthy as a consequence of formulating the plan. The group that made the life plan wins hands down.

A lot of work is difficult and not even necessarily intrinsically interesting. Therefore, to be maximally motivated at work, you need to understand how the difficult and stressful things you’re doing at work are serving goals that you regard as admirable and paramount. In order for that to happen you need to know what those goals are.

To the degree that you formulate a detailed and profound personal vision, including strategies for implementation, you lend to your endeavors all the motivational forces of those ideals. I am not speaking metaphysically, we know exactly how this works neurophysiological.

Most of the positive emotion that people feel is not associated with the accomplishment of a goal. It is associated with the pursuit of a goal. That means: no goal, no positive emotion. This also implies that the higher and more elevated the goal, the more emotional power there is in the realization that you’re moving towards it. So, one of the things you want to do is to formulate, a, what I would say, profound metaphysical vision that is practical.

Your vision is about your career path, friendships, intimate relationships, your family, activities outside work, your mental and physical health, your character. You need to think about all those things and you need to integrate them into a vision of who you could be.

Then it has to be a vision that speaks to you. The vision says something like ‘if I could be this and have this then that would fully justify my conditions of existence’. Your vision has to be sufficiently compelling. You have to be able to believe in it. That lends to all of your endeavors the power of that vision. It also makes you less anxious. Because one of the reasons that people get anxious is because they’re uncertain, and one of the ways out of uncertainty is to define your pathway forwards.

If you’re in a car, and you know where you’re going, and you’re going there, then you’re not anxious and you’re pleased. And then all of a sudden you find yourself without a goal and in an unknown place on the map. You instantly become anxious and the anxiety signifies that you’re not anywhere that you understand and so that you should get prepared for all hell to break loose.

So, if you formulate a vision, not only have you placed yourself within the structure that gives meaning to your endeavors, you’ve also put walls around your psyche that keep excess uncertainty at bay. That keeps your stress levels down and that stops you from aging and that makes you healthier.

I am dead serious about this. One of the most fundamental contributors to stress is uncertainty, and the way your body responds to uncertainty is by preparing to do everything, and that is too psycho-physiologically demanding to keep up for a long period of time without aging. And so high levels of stress, mediated by the primary stress hormon cortisol, make you old. They increase your risk of diabetes and cancer and heart disease and Alzheimer’s and depression and obesity. Because you’re burning your resources up at a suboptimal rate.

What does this mean for leaders of organizations?

Leaders are people who indicate through their implicit and explicit actions that they are on a journey to somewhere worth going. And people want to be on a journey somewhere worth doing, so you can just tell people about your journey if you’re a leader, and they’ll say ‘hey I’d like to do that, I’d like to go along with that’.

And then then the other thing that’s so interesting is you don’t have to force compliance anymore. Because the compliance will come out as a consequence of being compelled by the vision.

This means that for a leader to be able to communicate a vision that is authentic and compelling to others, you should know your own direction.

It’s also pretty much the definition of a leader, because the one thing we can say about leader is ‘a leader knows where he is going, a leader has a direction’ right? You lead somewhere. So, when we tend to divorce the idea of leadership from the idea of direction we have got it backwards. If you know where you’re going there are certain personality traits that can help you be more compelling when you express that, like extraversion. But the fundamental attribute of a leader is that the leader is going somewhere worth going and can communicate that in a manner that’s believable to others. So, there’s integrity that’s associated with that because it can’t just be a cover story. It has to be the real thing.

The destination is the issue. You want to know why you’re doing what you’re doing and you need to be able to communicate that to other people. Otherwise you live a life of falsehood. That makes you weak and weak people suffer. And worse, when people suffer, people can make other people suffer for it. So that’s not good, there is nothing in it that’s good.

What do you think are characteristics of the most effective leaders?

I would say it depends on the leader. The most effective people I have met are the people who know where they are going and why. They have other attributes. Good leaders tend to have other attributes like very high levels of energy. Generally speaking, they’re fortunate with regards to their physical health. But it’s more than that. They have the kind of temperament that’s very energetic. They are also people who do what they say they are going to do. That’s part of trait conscientiousness, and that’s part of being trustworthy over long periods of time.

But generally speaking the most effective leaders are people who have a very clear vision of where they’re going, and why, and also are capable of delineating that vision into implementable strategies. You have to know where you’re going, but you also have to know exactly how you’re going to get there. In ways that are implementable and measurable. That’s the sort of thing that takes it out of the metaphysical cloud in some sense. It makes it very, very pinpoint!

Written by: Joel aan ‘t Goor
I am a mix of a psychologist, author and entrepreneur.
In my late twenties I founded OPEN Business Leaders, a cross sectoral network of more than 700 leaders and entrepreneurs of large and medium sized companies. When I got fed up with my ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle I started to crack the code of reality and awakened to a deeper, profound and more joyful reality. This personal transformation intensely changed my experience of life and my view on leadership and entrepreneurship.

More creative, happy and relaxed in 15 minutes a day

More creative, happy and relaxed in 15 minutes a day 1029 720 Joel

More than introspective bullshit - how purpose can be a powerful guiding force

The last few years there is a lot of talk about Purpose and Purpose driven leadership. The words seem to be used quite easily. But what does it stand for? My vision on the topic.

What is leadership? 

In my view, leadership is neither a calling nor a job. Leadership is about inspiring and executing all forms of self-realization. Leading yourself, people, and a business is leading from yourself, people, and business – doing what you feel needs to be done from your own “Origin” and belief in the business. You know the rules of the game and have the ability to creatively and intelligently deal with the obstacles along the way. Besides that, life’s also a game played together. You’re part of a whole. Actually, you’re a hologram, in which everything is in everything and is connected to each other in this way.

What is Purpose?

You can experience an undercurrent of potential within yourself. That potential is the primal force of Purpose. Your heroism is that you dare to follow your Purpose, whatever it takes. You do so in the knowledge and from the experience that the universal network of this undercurrent of Purpose is connected to your total physical, emotional, and mental system.

Enjoy the ride

Living from a place of Purpose is anything but burdensome and serious. “Lean back and enjoy the ride,” is the slogan of leaders, entrepreneurs, and artists who live from Purpose. It can easily look like they’re doing something they’ve been doing all their lives. But it’s their nature, and actually, it’s everyone’s nature. What gets in the way of many is the prison of identifications, convictions, and emotions – mind stuff. We’ve mistakenly taught ourselves that pain, suffering, and sacrifice as an inseparable part of the growth experience is something positive. It’s actually very doubtful that in your life you were meant to constantly encounter stress, tension, and other problems.

You are your Own Reason. You are your own Purpose. Subsequently, you do what you do and you are who you are. Your “being” has its own Purpose. When you give your Purpose access with complete passion and dedication and make yourself an instrument of the power of that undercurrent, you bring the way and truth in your life to life.

It’s bigger than you

Living and working from Purpose means connecting to something bigger than you. I dare to say that a Purpose you feel from a state of Presence will always be bigger than you, and always mean something positive for the world. You are simply wired that way as a human being. And not just you. Other people in this world are also wired that way. That’s why it’s so important for organizations to have an engaging Purpose. People are still the core of organizations. And as more and more people live from their Presence and Purpose, more and more people in the roles of employee, customer, partner, or supplier will prefer to work with and for organizations that contribute to a higher purpose with which they feel a connection.

Abundance

From the perspective of a higher goal, the question is very much whether we need to fight each other to survive. Should your own happiness and success come at the expense of another instead of living together peacefully in freedom, joy, and happiness? Everyone has an unconditional and undisputed right to material and spiritual abundance. The idea that only the strongest survives is a programmed belief which divides and pits people against each other. This only fits within the limited mindset of a divide and conquer strategy. No one should live in constraint, and no one should constrain others. It’s not a question of availability. Everything that is needed for anything exists. The “scarcity” that forms the starting point of the economy is man-made. It is an assumption and a belief which simply does not hold true. In fact, we do not have an economic problem of scarcity. We have an allocation problem.

Find your Purpose

To find your own Purpose, it can help to ask the following question from a state of Presence:

What does life want from me?

Even though the question sounds quite serious, the answer can be something that makes you very happy. What excites you? What energizes you? What resonates in you? What captivates you? What brings you joy? Don’t expect remaining silent for 10 minutes to bring you all the answers. It will be a real challenge to hear or see what life wants from you, especially in the beginning; however, what you really want is always with you. You can always fall back on the question: “What does life want from me?” in any situation. Here are a few other questions that point in the same direction when it comes to Purpose: What would I do if I now had a billion dollars? What do I really think is important? What do I really care about? What would I do if I couldn’t fail?

Allow the silence in

The mind is used to working overtime, to being constantly on the move with thoughts – it’s seldom to never silent. And considering the fact that everything which gets attention grows, more thoughts get added to the mix. Thoughts receive a great deal of attention, perhaps also because they fill the emptiness within or help you avoid contact with your innermost self. At any rate, many of us have become addicted to “thinking.” Most people aren’t aware enough of this. Suppose you do choose to leave the autocratic mind for what it is, to allow the silence in. What do you hear or feel inside? What happens to you then? Who or what within you is crying out to be heard?

Fear

For a lot of people, something gets in the way of them following their Purpose. What keeps so many people from setting out and taking steps? That’s very simple: fear, one of our emotional signals. Fear arises when the software of the mind is tampered with. Other signs are: resistance, frustration, anger, anger, disapproval, etc. As soon as these signals flare, there’s work to be done.

It’s not a business decision

I experience it in myself and I see it time and again in others: Purpose is not a business decision. Purpose is following your heart on a personal journey. By really listening to yourself from the silence within, most people often already know well and good what their Purpose is. In many cases, you yourself are the greatest obstacle to what you actually want to achieve in your life. Because you want to be financially independent first, because it doesn’t feel like a feasible plan, because you want certainty – whatever; however, you won’t find happiness and wholeness in these things.

You’ll find them in following your heart. When people want to show that something has deep meaning for them, they often point to their hearts. This is the case in every culture around the world, in both pre-agrarian and industrial societies. Seeing from the heart is much more than a metaphor. The heart allows you to experience inner knowing. Making choices from the heart brings tremendous strength and satisfaction. And if money or financial independence is important to you, it usually follows automatically.

Written by: Joel aan ‘t Goor
I am a mix of a psychologist, author and entrepreneur.
In my late twenties I founded OPEN Business Leaders, a cross sectoral network of more than 700 leaders and entrepreneurs of large and medium sized companies. When I got fed up with my ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle I started to crack the code of reality and awakened to a deeper, profound and more joyful reality. This personal transformation intensely changed my experience of life and my view on leadership and entrepreneurship.

A loafing CEO is more creative!

A loafing CEO is more creative! 1264 1263 Joel

Ask ten CEOs what issues they encounter in their daily lives and nine will give the same answer: an overly busy schedule.

Earlier this year, the Business Leaders survey showed that CEOs feel like they have not enough time to look outward and have insufficient opportunities to handle the vision and strategic issues. Most of their attention is paid to the operational management of the organisation and troubleshooting.

CEOs are more occupied with the daily state of affairs than with the future and they would like to change this. The CEOs who do engage with the future do something interesting: they make time for it. Some of them go beyond that: they make time to be alone in a variety of ways:

  • ‘I try to take a walk every morning with my phone in flight mode. I leave it turned on to write down any insights I gain during my walk.’
  • ‘Prior to an important business decision, I create a moment to get in tune with myself. This may simply be parking my car on a parking lot for fifteen minutes and engaging the silence within myself.’
  • ‘I regularly take half a day out of my calendar on which I disconnect. After a short meditation, I spend the rest of the day thinking about a topic I want the organisation to work on.’
  • ‘Each year, I go to a hotel for a week, alone, to look back on the past year and look forward to the coming year.’

I also have a certain ‘being alone’-discipline myself. Each year, I spend one week in the mountains and I go offline at least one day a month and do not speak to anyone. I often go for a walk without any company on this day.

It is bizarre how many insights and ideas may come up at this moment.

Last time I was walking in the woods, I prematurely aborted the walk. I forgot pen and paper and the number of professional and personal insights was so great after an hour, that I was afraid I wouldn’t remember them all if I would go on.

When I take a close look at what is happening at these moments, I notice that the solution often does not come from my mind. If often feels like the solution suddenly comes up, falls in my lap. Like the answer was already within me. Most people have experienced a moment of insight in the shower. This ‘shower-insight’ often arises when you unconsciously try to solve a problem without thinking about it.

You may choose to generate an abundance of insights by simply creating a ritual during your day or week in which you are truly present. In this state, your stream of thought is turned down a notch and room for intuition and creative intelligence is created. This can also be seen on MRI scans of the brain. The prefrontal cortex, which is used for analyses and calculations, is most active when thinking consciously. The prefrontal cortex is idle when you are completely relaxed.

During this relaxation, the brain will enter a mode in which thoughts may arise without immediately being checked, assessed or censored. This is how meditation works: the inner chatter in the prefrontal cortex fades into the background and the resulting mental silence provides space for new energy and creative ideas.

When you argue, you don’t have time to find this silence, you are arguing a ‘chicken-egg story’. If you take the time to engage with the future and get a better sense of what needs to happen, you take better decisions. These better decisions result in less time spent on solving problems and provide more time to work on the future.

If you think being alone is unpleasant, I can tell you the following: Before I go offline for 24 hours with the knowledge that I won’t speak to anyone, I need to cross a threshold, but it is often one of the most pleasant days of the year. And getting back to people afterwards is extra fun!

The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone-that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born. – Nikolas Tesla

Written by: Joel aan ‘t Goor
I am a mix of a psychologist, author and entrepreneur.
In my late twenties I founded OPEN Business Leaders, a cross sectoral network of more than 700 leaders and entrepreneurs of large and medium sized companies. When I got fed up with my ‘work hard, play hard’ lifestyle I started to crack the code of reality and awakened to a deeper, profound and more joyful reality. This personal transformation intensely changed my experience of life and my view on leadership and entrepreneurship.
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