The Power of Understanding Yourself: The Key to Self-Discovery, Personal Development, and Being the Best You - Dave Mitchell 2019
Punching Down the Cap: The Pursuit of Balance
Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather, and a little music played out of doors by someone I do not know.
— John Keats
We’ve come a long way. By now, you have explored your core ideology — including your vision, mission, and core values. You have started the process of understanding your style. If you have been documenting each of these activities, you now have an impressive journal of information that reflects much of your innermost nature. However, just like those many trips to the library to deepen your research into a topic, we still have a distance to go to truly extract Me.
In Part Two, we began the exploration of how our interactive style informs our true self. For some readers, this process began several years ago when they read my previous book, The Power of Understanding People. In that book, I explored the 12 iconic interactive styles by comparing them to famous characters in film and television. The purpose in that book was to better understand how to lead, sell to, provide service for, and develop better relationships with other people. This book takes things one step further by helping us determine, in an even deeper way, how to develop a better relationship with ourselves. Examining the complexities of our interactive styles is analogous for the vintner’s efforts at achieving balance in a wine. Each bottle is a combination of acidity, sweetness/alcohol, fruit and tannins. To be completely accurate, sweetness and alcohol are two separate components; but since I link both to Romantics in my analogy, I have taken a wee bit of creative license. (Hey, it’s my book.) Anyway, a winemaker’s general goal is to bring those four components together in a balance that yields a distinctive and appealing final product. The same can be said about how the four interactive styles combine for us.
Finding the Right Balance
In the preceding chapters, we learned about each of the four styles individually: Experts, Romantics, Masterminds, and Warriors. When it comes to transactional relationships — interactions with people who are providing us with service or for whom we are providing service, casual conversations with strangers, and even some coworkers — our primary style is the most important. However, to truly understand ourselves, we must consider how all four of our style preferences form our unique “balance.” By doing so, we achieve a far greater understanding of our own perspective, our tendencies, and our blind spots. Knowing our inclinations, for better and for worse, is a critical piece of metacognition. Remember, our goal is to be fully aware of our selves — not just our gifts, but our vulnerabilities.
Unlike the vintner, our goal is not to achieve exact balance. Whereas wine may aspire to being perfect, human beings should not. Absolute balance in a human being is often viewed as unappealing in that it conceals the very flaws that define us. Unlike wine, a person’s character lies in his or her imperfections. That is the beauty of the human condition. In that way, wine does provide us with a template to understand the value of imperfections. Unless you happen to have an incredible amount of disposable income — or a very unusual way of prioritizing your finances — you probably don’t spend hundreds of dollars on each bottle of wine you purchase. Most of us consume wines that cost under $20.00 per bottle. At that price, the wine we are drinking can be very good, but will likely not achieve anything close to perfection. Although winemakers may endeavor to make a perfectly balanced bottle of wine, most of us learn to appreciate the remarkable complexities of slightly off-balanced creations. The same is true about the human experience.
The following chapters may require multiple reading and careful metacognition as you extract as much from your style assessment as possible. Also, be mindful of the content from Chapter 5, “What’s My Style?,” where we covered the concepts of dynamic, common, and nuanced patterns, as well as tie scores. It is impossible for me to clearly articulate all the possible combinations of your four interactive style preferences while also comprehensively addressing the nature of your pattern. If you consider that there are 24 permutations of the style assessment and add that these permutations can be dynamic, common, or nuanced, we are at 72 distinct patterns. Then, if you consider that a significant number of people will report out a tie in two (or more) of the columns . . . well, let’s just say it would take someone with an Expert score around 12 to take on that task. My score was 37, so . . . yeah.
However, and in my opinion far more valuable, I can educate you on how to interpret your own results. That is the goal of the next chapters. You will find an explanation of your secondary style preference on your primary style preference. Further, for each of the 12 combinations (three different secondary preferences that can exist for each of the four primary preferences) we will examine three areas:
1. Complementary versus contrasting balance
2. Preferences versus vulnerabilities
3. Impact on resiliency
Here’s why each of these topics are important, starting with “complementary versus contrasting balance.” This analysis revolves around the relationship between your primary (lowest score) style and your secondary (next lowest) style. Although there exist no opposites in style preference — despite the insistence of some assessment tools to display results in quadrants — there are certainly styles that are radically different. The Expert style, with its sensitivity to facts and desire to avoid mistakes, is quite divergent from the Mastermind’s acceptance of possibilities and risk. The Romantic style of consensus building and tactful dialogue is markedly distinct from the Warrior’s directness and focus on results. If your primary and secondary styles include these disparate components — Expert and Mastermind or Romantic and Warrior — then you are working with a contrasting balance. If your primary and secondary style do not combine the diverse elements, then you have a complementary balance. The details of this will be explained in the following chapters.
Although the examples in the preceding paragraph offer the most obvious contrasting balance dynamics, all combinations of primary and secondary preferences can create meaningful considerations. We will examine this impact for each of the 12 styles.
Preferences versus vulnerabilities is another important consideration when involved in metacognition. Interactive style acts as a filter for reality in many ways. It is obvious if you think about it. If you are emotionally sensitive, like the Romantic, then you notice the feelings in other people and the environment at large. This sensitivity gives rise to preferences within your surrounds and influences your behaviors. This can make you especially adept at certain things, unnecessarily responsive to certain things, and completely unaware of yet other things. The better we understand how we construct our personal delusion and the ramifications of that, the more we can make use of our gifts — and minimize our peccadilloes.
Finally, we will explore the influence that our interactive style has on resiliency. To evaluate this, let’s first begin by defining resilience for the purposes of this book. Remember the stew story in Chapter 2, “It’s Your Fault”? We know that life will eventually confront us with unpleasant circumstances. That is inevitable. Resiliency is our ability to respond to these events in a constructive way and return to a healthy orientation with a minimal toxic impact on our physical, mental, and emotional well being. A large part of resiliency is reaching a better understanding the role stress plays in our lives. Whereas the symptoms of stress can be well defined, the cause of stress and our means of coping versus strategies for successfully managing stress are more personal. Our ability to identify stress triggers and execute effective strategies for responding to, even preventing, stress is essential to our resilency. Our conversation on internal locus of control provides the foundation for achieving that goal.
The Good and Bad of Stress
Understanding our own response to stress and our strategy for maintaining resiliency is an important consideration when extracting me. It is helpful to realize here that stress is not an inherently bad thing. In fact, when used correctly, stress serves as our fuel for peak performance. Sudden stress, the influence of cortisol and adrenaline on our physicality, keeps us alive when we are threatened. Nerves, the jitters, butterflies in the stomach — all of these physical manifestations of sudden stress are indications that our bodies are preparing to perform at their best ability. In this way, the body’s sudden response to a challenge and quick return to a relaxed state is the embodiment of resiliency. Unfortunately, many of our stress triggers are not easily nor quickly resolved.
The enemy is not sudden stress, but rather chronic stress — which occurs when we place a protracted period of duress on the body. If sudden stress reflects the load that our body can withstand in the near term, chronic stress is the overload — an unsustainable level of duress that is unrelenting for a longer period of time. Sudden stress is a natural reaction to a real or perceived threat. Chronic stress is a toxic reaction to a real or imagined threat. To illustrate, when I am clearing out tumbleweeds from a pasture and come across a snake, I experience sudden stress. My heart rate goes up, my cognitive focus narrows, and my behavioral reactions go on automatic pilot. I also tend to leap in the air and run about 50 yards, but the exact physical response varies by individual. Conversely, when I find myself repeatedly lying in bed worrying about the possibility that a future training event may go poorly, an event that is weeks in the future, I am experiencing chronic stress — a toxic reaction to an imagined threat. Finally, if I were to receive a dire health diagnosis or devastating financial news that results in my constant worry, that is chronic stress related to a real threat. Our style preferences can indicate the type of situations that can lead to chronic stress.
Understanding, managing, and utilizing stress has been a personal crusade for many years. For reasons that I will explain in a future chapter, I have had my own battles with chronic stress. Although that war may never end, I have reached a comfortable détente using metacognition to armor myself from my own tendencies. Stress comes from within, so any solution for the stress in your life must also. Each person has a unique combination of stress triggers, many of which can be identified by examining their interactive style pattern. Although stress plays an important, and often positive, role in our lives, it also has the potential for devastating impact on our health and well being. Any exploration of ourselves must include an examination of the role stress plays. Interestingly, winemakers prefer grapes that have experienced some stress to reach maturity. As the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said, “That which does not kill us, makes us stronger.” Although I am not ready to test that theory in a literal sense, there is no question that our struggle can make us better, just as it does for the grapes.
A vintner uses more than just the grape juice to make a balanced and complex red wine. The stems, seeds, and skin separate from the juice and form a cap that sits on top of the wine. Without forcing that material back into juice, the wine can become thin and nondescript and is susceptible to bacteria that can make the wine flawed. The vintner must occasionally push the cap back into the wine to mix with juice. This activity is called the punch down. As the name suggests, it is a physical process of breaking up the cap and forcing it into juice for the benefit of the wine.
The next several chapters represent your punch down. It might be challenging, but it is essential to achieving a full, balanced, and complex extraction of Me.