The Radicality of Saying What You Think

How often do you say what you think; not a filtered generalization or rough summary of your thoughts, but an EXACT verbal manifestation of what enters your conscious mind? I stumbled on a video about a year ago that shifted my thinking on this question in which Kim Scott discusses the powerfully simple idea of Radical Candor (worth the 20 mins. in my opinion).

While Scott’s work centers on how Radical Candor can be used by corporate leadership (specifically bosses), it’s clear that her simple ideas are applicable to a much broader swath of humanity. And while you can take a deep dive (which I subsequently did) into her new book or a variety of other resources now available through Candor, Inc., the beauty of Radical Candor is undoubtedly in its simplicity. Study the following 2x2 graphic for about 60 seconds and I think you’ll grasp the general premise behind her work.

I believe that within all interpersonal interactions there lies opportunities to both care personally and challenge directly. Unfortunately, we often choose to neglect one or the other (or most tragically, both). Scott’s work illuminates a slippery slope that we’ve all likely fallen victim to when communicating. When we focus on caring, it’s often difficult to truly challenge someone directly, and when we directly challenge, true benevolence is all too often absent.

Though this work (currently) is situated firmly in the corporeal, I think there’s also immense potential in exploring its broader implications for those of us spending an increasingly disproportionate distribution of time in the online/digital world. Online anonymity coupled with neoliberalism has spawned a dangerous new degree of polarity. Direct and damaging hate-speech has become the common language of online comment streams, and there’s a simultaneous evolution of back-patters who view any direct challenge as eternally damaging to their inner-psyche. Radical Candor represents a simple formula whose underlying principles, if adopted widely, could pull the edges of humanity back towards a healthy center where we all care personally, challenge directly, and just say what we fucking think.

 

Anyone looking for a deeper dive, join me for a Twitter chat this Thursday, December 8 at 7pm MST. Follow #pedagome or link up with them on Twitter for details.

The Split Test of Life

We all have routines in our lives; the habits we carry out day to day or week to week that hardly ever make us think twice about their need and value. Wake up at 7am. Take a hot shower (2 pumps of shampoo, never 3). Watch the new Game of Thrones. But what’s our justification for incessantly making those choices? In most cases, it’s nothing more than our pattern-seeking neurology at work. Few of these habitual choices are made based on known evidence that supports the merit of each choice against all possible alternatives. So what if we changed? What if we took an intentional step, not towards eliminating routines from our life, but towards establishing a comparative or A/B test…for each and every routine?

If you understand A/B or split testing, save yourself some time and skip to the next paragraph, if not, I’m happy to build some context. This simple testing method comes from the world of web development (something I’ve spent some time dabbling in), and involves comparing two versions of a website to see which one performs better. You show two variants (call them A and B) to separate groups/visitors within your demographic. The one that yields the better conversion rate/more sales/greater membership/etc., wins. You then repeat the process (theoretically infinitely) in order to present an ever-evolving, exquisitely tuned website to your specific audience at all times. There’s often brilliance in simplicity!

Having seen A/B tests work in the digital world, I was curious to know how it might fare in the physical one, after all, we humans need to evolve just like websites do; the only difference being that instead of websites, I wanted to test personal routines, and instead of separate audience groups, I’d personally be the ultimate arbiter. What existential upgrade could be realized if we viewed or lives as a literal testing ground for a series of A/B tests? Identify a routine (one which you carry out with little to no variation) and test a variant; not a perfectly crafted, painstaking variant, just something simple but different. Here’s an example (which I happen to be testing right now) — As long as I can remember, I’ve exercised later in the day and gone to sleep at or after midnight (a self-proclaimed night-owl, and proud of it). Do I have any reason to think this is my ultimate exercise and sleep schedule? No, it’s just what I’ve always done. I’ve only ever had the A for my A/B test. So, for the past week, I’ve made an intentional shift to get to sleep by 10:30pm and wake up earlier to exercise. Easier? Nope. More enjoyable? Not at this point. Better? This is where it gets interesting because better is yet to be determined. This is obviously a test I’ll have to run for at least a few weeks, but in time, I’ll undoubtedly develop a new level of understanding and added self-confidence in the way I approach this singular routine in my life (whether I go back to being a night-owl or see enough tasty worms to become the early-bird).

As we layer these sorts of probing test into the fabric of our day-to-day, I think it’s important that we remain uninterested in the potential outcomes, and focus on creating honest and distinct comparative experiences. Regardless of the degree to which you’ve become a creature of habit, there will always be an alternative to explore, and in doing so, a new side of yourself to potentially discover.

Conversational Transcendence

Have you ever spoken with (or listened to) someone who seemed to have an unfair conversational advantage; perfect thoughts flowing effortlessly at the most opportune moments? I’ve become intrigued by this idea of transcendence within dialog, and find myself nibbling at anything that represents the potential to understand even a sliver of this puzzling pie. And while I’m tempted to just attribute this miraculous capacity to repetitive practice, I can’t help but think there’s a bit more to chew on.

So what the hell am I even exploring here? What do I even mean by conversational transcendence? I think it might help, at least initially, to describe what I'm not referring to. I'm not talking about knowledge. While a deep understanding of a topic may often disguise itself as transcendence, it's really not what I'm speaking to, and in fact, in many ways it's completely contrary to the concept (at least as I'm conceiving it). Now, transcending the current state of a conversation does require basic topical familiarity and some degree of a shared contextual playing field, but beyond that, we're talking about traveling to another mental planet. Knowledge becomes nearly irrelevant against a capacity to flow in and out of seamless cognitive connections.

As a primer, take a listen to Jason Silva, someone who quite literally skates along the edge of transcendence for a living.

Although many of Silva’s videos are one-sided, I think it begins to paint the appropriate picture (or at least preps the canvas) for this concept of conversational transcendence. It's a skill for which I never gave appropriate attention, if I truly recognized it at all. A capacity to parallel process, linguistically load, and dynamically deliver deeply connected meaning in real-time. It's not simply deep knowledge, and it’s much more than just speaking quickly. Electric neuronal energy and the gravity of the given moment seem to instantaneously align. It's as if there are multiple parties operating concurrently. One higher state of consciousness devising creative connections, and another bodily vessel carrying out the verbal delivery. On rare occasion, and utterly captivating given appropriate attention, two or a few individuals will achieve this transcendent state in a single conversation. In this case, it may seem as though a dozen people are at work. Each individual being aided by their higher mental master, with an additional group hive-mind that seems to supersede the entire experience.

This isn't a door I've unlocked (I'm not even sure there's a key to be found), but I now know when I see it. The out-of-body conversational flow-state. The separation from subjective awareness. The unification of moment and mind. conversational transcendence.

For added context on what initiated this exploration, dive into the following conversation on Anchor: