Punching Down the Mastermind Style Influence on Me - The Balance

The Power of Understanding Yourself: The Key to Self-Discovery, Personal Development, and Being the Best You - Dave Mitchell 2019

Punching Down the Mastermind Style Influence on Me
The Balance

Wine knows that having passion for life is an art itself.

Talismanist Giebra

For a guy who has spent nearly his entire professional career in pursuit of a better understanding of how people think and interact, I am pretty sure that I’m fonder of animals. Nothing personal; people have a lot of very admirable qualities. It’s just that they’re so complicated. They often have hidden agendas, unspoken motives, and debilitating scars. Animals are much more transparent. I have always enjoyed the simplicity of their existence. If I wrote a book called The Power of Understanding Dogs, it would surprise me if even one dog would read it — for many reasons. But I do think that animals have interactive styles, too.

I also think that we humans could learn a lot from animal behavior. Just the other day, after spending several hours doing “ranch chores” around our property, I plopped down on our porch with a glass of Rosé. It was the first perfect day of spring, beautiful sunshine, high 60s, light breeze. I propped my feet up and sat back to bask in that feeling of a hard day of physical labor. As I slowly exhaled and sunk into the cushion of the chair, I looked out into the pastures to check on the horses. There they were: Mozart, Unico, Wally, Spicy T, and a cow . . . what? Wait a minute. What the hell?

Important note to insert here — we don’t have a cow. We have four horses, two dogs, two cats, and an involuntary and unwanted badger sanctuary in one of our pastures that we have not mustered the courage to address. We have two extremely amorous frogs in our pond, an owl who insists on rising at 4:00 a.m. each morning to repeat his only question of the day (yep, “Who?”). We have what seems like an unusually large number of pheasants that really confound me, since they have wings but are extremely reluctant to fly. On the other hand, they love to run, which they do poorly and in front of our vehicles as we drive up the driveway. We are a sanctuary city for gophers, apparently, as my yard is continually converted to a series of dirt mounds the likes of which would have driven Carl Spackler directly from the caddy shack to rehab. But you know what we don’t have? A cow!

Fortunately, I knew immediately from where the cow came. It was a neighbor’s cow. Now, neighbor means something completely different in Walla Walla than Chicago. It’s not like the cow just wandered over in search of a cup of sugar or some flour. Nope, the presence of a cow on our land, leading our horse herd — a detail too humiliating to the horses to share in this book — would indicate that we had a break in the fence that separates our land. Muttering like Yosemite Sam in pursuit of Bugs Bunny (Google it, if you are under 40 years old), I put down my glass of wine, reentered the house, and announced to my lovely bride that we were on the receiving end of a bovine breakout. I stomped down the hill to the pastures and began the process of identifying how Papillon — that was my name for the rogue Holstein — was able to escape incarceration.

Much to my surprise, and increasing exhaustion, I could not find any breaks in the fence. I walked up and down our land searching for the flaw that launched Papillon’s flight for freedom. Nothing. Puzzled, I switched to plan B: separate Papillon from his newly adopted equine family and secure him in the pasture next to his former brethren. To execute this option, my lovely bride and I would first need to enclose our horses in one pasture and isolate Papillon so we could herd her individually toward her own temporary living arrangement.

It is important to understand that we are talking about navigating four of our five pastures — since, as you recall, one of our pastures was currently occupied by a hostile enemy, the badgers — each representing roughly three acres of land. So, for those keeping score or laying bets on the outcome of this plan, we have four horses, two humans, one creative cow, and 12 acres of land. I know that cats are the gold standard for herding challenges, but this scenario must place in the top five most difficult creature movement projects of all time.

Despite 32 years of marriage, my lovely bride and I have not refined our joint herding acumen to a particularly functional level. We tried hand signs, quadrant assignments, and various movement management philosophies ranging from gentle coaxing to less than subtle threats involving the phrase, “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.” Finally, Papillon was alone in one pasture and the four horses in another. Now we had to direct our bovine buddy through the gate to the desired pasture adjacent to her brood — two people and three acres to thread one cow through one gate. By comparison to the previous herding assignment, this should be a cakewalk. (Well, more like a cow patty.)

For the next hour, Papillon sliced up our defense like Tom Brady playing the New York Jets. She would run between us, juke left when we needed a hard right, and was completely unfettered in the face of a constant onslaught of clear verbal cues and hand gestures. On the positive side, Lori and I are now really psyched by an idea for a new fitness program for agricultural communities. The working titles are Bovine Boot Camp, Holstein Hell Hour, or “Cow-diovascular” Training.

We re-grouped at the open gate to brainstorm ways that two people could outsmart one cow after clearly failing to do so up to now. Meanwhile, Papillon gave us one final long stare, uttered a “MOOOO” that was likely bovine profanity, turned around, walked to the fence that separated our land from our neighbors, stepped on the top and leaped over. Just like that. Like, the cow was saying, “If you would just stop running me around your freaking land, I’d be happy to go home.” Lori and I were equal parts astonished by Papillon’s athleticism and embarrassed that we had run everyone ragged during an event that our visitor had been in command of the entire time.

It was then I realized that Papillon was a Mastermind.

As we learned previously, Masterminds can be fearless in the face of risk. They enjoy ideas, possibilities and the excitement of experiencing things that are new. But, just as with the other styles, those characteristics don’t exist in a vacuum. They are influenced by a secondary preference.

A Mastermind with a Secondary Expert (lowest score C column, next-lowest score A column)

As an avid football fan, I watch the Super Bowl every year — for no apparent reason since I am a fan of the Minnesota Vikings. (Aside: As a highly superstitious fan, part of the reason for me writing that last sentence is the faint hope that by doing so I have just assured that the Vikings will win the Super Bowl in 2019, a few months after the release of this book, and make me look stupid. I will gladly accept that trade-off. Anyway . . .) Since I don’t have a rooting interest in the game, I am more interested in the commercials. That is not unusual; many people enjoy watching Super Bowl commercials. After all, these companies spend around $5 million or so for 30 seconds of airtime. What makes my fascination with the commercials less typical than the average fan is that I am watching for a very specific type of commercial. I am looking for the one that you watch with complete confusion and after which ask yourself, “So, someone walked into the CEOs office, pitched that idea, and got that sale? Huh.” For example, imagine this conversation:

“Sir, our ad agency team is here to share their ideas about our Super Bowl ad,” reports the dutiful head of marketing.

“Excellent, send them in.” The CEO can barely contain his excitement. He can only imagine what $5 million can achieve in terms of product education and promotion for a brand new car release. As one would expect, the agency has sent their best talent lead by the agency owner herself. She is a legend in the field of branding. As they settle around the huge television screen, the ad executive explains the commercial.

“We open on a longhorn steer standing in the middle of the road. It is blocking the car driven by Matthew McConaughey. Matthew recognizes the bull as Cyrus. He contemplates what Cyrus is trying to tell him while fidgeting with his fingers. He arrives at the conclusion that he should take the long way.”


The discomfort for the head of marketing is palpable. He looks down, refusing to make eye contact with the CEO, thinking that a once promising career has just ended. He mentally updates his resume. Finally, the tension is broken by a perplexed CEO’s questions.

“Um, so uh, do we talk about the car at all?”

“Nope,” shoots back the supremely confident ad executive.

“How does Mr. McConaughey know the bull’s name is Cyrus?”

“Don’t know.”

“What’s the thing with the fingers about?” By this time the CEO is grasping for any clues of a greater, more elaborate meaning to the commercial.

“Don’t know.”

“So, is this like a series that slowly unveils a bigger story?”

“Nope. Stands alone.”

Silence. By now the marketing director is quietly rolling his chair away from the ad executive in a not so subtle effort to physically and philosophically distance himself from her. The CEO stares at the ad executive. After several uncomfortable minutes during which the marketing director loses approximately a decade of life expectancy, the CEO stands up.

“I love it!”

That commercial ran in 2014. I still remember it. That is the brilliance of the Eccentric: the combination of a primary Mastermind preference with a secondary Expert preference.

It is interesting to contemplate the combination of conceptual sensitivity with a desire for details and accuracy. I am inclined to think of this style like an inventor: someone who has great ideas but also has a need to see them take tangible form. During my seminars, I describe the Eccentric as “the person who cures cancer but can’t seem to explain it to anyone.” If we are all delusional — and we know that we are — the Eccentric may live in the most interesting delusion of all.

Eccentrics are artists in the way architects or home remodelers are artists. They create with pragmatism. They have an affinity for the technical and the risk tolerance of an entrepreneur. Interestingly, a good percentage of the Eccentrics whom I have met are musicians.

Their contrasting styles of Romantic and Warrior can make them less aware of their emotional environment. This, in turn, is why they can be frustrated that others don’t immediately appreciate or even understand the value of their creations. Their relative lack of sensitivity to logic can add a certain obliviousness to purpose, too. By this, I mean that they often engage in creative endeavors that do not appear to solve an existing problem. For the Eccentric, creation and quality are the point, not the opinion of others or the achievement of a goal. In that regard, the Eccentric is like a fringe musician, the free form jazz musician or the experimental rocker.

I always think of Johnny Depp’s many movie roles. Has anyone tried so hard to be unattractive on screen and can’t pull it off? Depp could easily have had a very successful career just playing heartthrobs and romantic leads, but he chose to be Edward Scissorhands. That is the mind of the Eccentric. They are the embodiment of “marching to the beat of a different drum.”

The Eccentric’s resiliency is based on a balance of excitement and routine. They are happiest when exploring, but within a consistent and reliable structure. Like a sculptor creating in a workshop full of tools, they explore their ideas within the framework of a predictable environment. The pressure of results can erode their balance and the need to interact with others in emotional terms can confound them. Eccentrics are often more comfortable with their craft than with other people. Finally, I wonder how the combination of a preference for concepts (Mastermind) and pragmatism (Expert) works together. The former embraces risk, whereas the latter mitigates it. Does this complicated relationship with taking chances create internal duress for the Eccentric? Table 13.1 gives a short summary of the Eccentric style.

Table 13.1 The Eccentric Punch Down

Complementary Versus Contrasting Balance

Preferences Versus Vulnerabilities

Impact on Resiliency

· Primary style = Mastermind

· Complementary Style = Expert

· Contrasting Styles = Romantic and Warrior

· Unique combination of creativity and execution.

· Comfortable assuming risk but works hard to minimize it.

· May struggle to explain the value and/or purpose of their ideas.

· Prefers freedom of ideas and consistency of processes.

· May have a complicated relationship with risk.

· Environments that require consensus building or immediate results may cause stress.

A Mastermind with a Secondary Romantic (lowest score C column, next-lowest score B column)

I have always had a special admiration for this combination of preferences. This is a risk-taking dreamer who wants a better future for the emotional well-being of others. This is the Social Reformer. Given that I am the Crusader, a style that fights for causes, it makes complete sense that the Social Reformer would appeal to me. They are the cause. They construct the possibilities that will lead to a better life for the people.

Unlike the Love Interest, who reverses the primary and secondary preferences, the Social Reformer is committed to a specific version of the future. Their comfort with change is augmented by the charm of their emotional sensitivity, a combination that can make them very persuasive. They are effective at gaining a commitment from others to the desired future state that they have imagined. “I have a dream” could well be their mantra. Remember Susan Wally — my mentor at Marshall Field’s — the six-foot-tall, flaming red haired, human freak flag? Yep, Social Reformer. She had a self-defined vision for a better future for the employees of Marshall Field’s. She was the Queen of Human Resources.

Combining a conceptual sensitivity with an emotional one can leave the Social Reformer vulnerable to challenges like logic and pragmatism. Their contrasting styles, Expert and Warrior, are the cornerstone for processes and productivity, respectively. The specific details of the idea and the plan to execute it can be afterthoughts, if thought of at all. One could argue that because they are not encumbered by the need to a path to their desired future state nor burdened by those specifics, they are then free to let their imaginations run wild. However, they do benefit by these considerations or at least by gathering the input of others who manifest this perspective.

Social Reformers thrive in loosely defined environments that encourage ideas and risk taking. They are likeable and respond to others who share that quality. They may not appear to desire it, but feeling appreciated for their dedication to the welfare of others helps to minimize their stress. The Social Reformer may experience duress when faced with time and/or accuracy demands. Their resiliency is based on knowing that the world can be a better place and that those around them share in that optimism. Table 13.2 gives a short summary of the Social Reformer style.

Table 13.2 The Social Reformer Punch Down

Complementary Versus Contrasting Balance

Preferences Versus Vulnerabilities

Impact on Resiliency

· Primary style = Mastermind

· Complementary Style = Romantic

· Contrasting Styles = Expert and Warrior

· Can be passionate originators and advocates for ideas that enhance people.

· Believe that change starts with a commitment to an idea.

· May overlook tactical and strategic issues that impact their vision.

· Thrives when allowed to dream of futures that are better for people.

· Responds best to environments within which freedom of thought is appreciated.

· May experience duress when faced with the restriction of compliance and/or quotas.

A Mastermind with a Secondary Warrior (lowest score C column, next-lowest score D column)

Arguably, the two most influential preferences — concepts and logic — combine in this style to form the ultimate entrepreneurial mindset. The classic definition of the entrepreneur is that of a person with an idea and a plan: The Adventurer. They are the swashbucklers of life — Indiana Jones, Lara Croft, Han Solo, Peter Quill, Captain James T. Kirk, and Amelia Earhart all rolled into one. Every time someone scores as an Adventurer, I am reminded of a grade B movie from my youth: The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension! Admittedly, not a great movie; but what I love about it is the vocational diversity of the namesake character. Mr. Banzai was a physicist, neurosurgeon, test pilot, and rock musician. This made him uniquely qualified to address the existential threat to humanity known as the Red Lectroids from Planet 10. (Like I said, not a great movie.)

The beauty of combining preferences for concepts and logic is that you are completely unaffected — perhaps even oblivious — to things like the opinion of others and risk. My first real contact with this type of thinking came in college. Like many students, I was completely clueless about what curriculum path I should be on, floating around the liberal arts buildings like a gnat in a wine glass. This academic ambiguity made my mind quite susceptible to experimentation, and this manifested itself in many lifestyle choices that shall not be revealed in this book. Suffice it to say, I was hanging with a diverse crowd. Some were a bit unsavory, but most were incredibly interesting.

During this period in my life, I dabbled with the idea of being either a rock star or a film director. (These options make a lot more sense if one alters their cognitive state sufficiently with a sundry of intoxicants.) Anyway, the former aspiration, that of rock stardom, was encouraged by a clear Adventurer named Donnie. He was a guitarist with an affinity for punk music — the perfect genre of rock and roll for four guys with varying degrees of little to no talent. Falling in the latter category, I was obviously the singer. The singer, in a punk band, requires no actual talent beyond the capacity to jump up and down for two straight hours while failing to enunciate one word.

We were the New Losers. We created an entire fake backstory of being the reunited version of the Losers with entirely new members. I remember us finding this whole idea to be hilarious. Others failed to see the humor. (It probably required that aforementioned delicate combination of intoxicants to understand.) Anyway, we would cover classic country and rock songs using a sort of punk reggae thing. We fancied ourselves a Midwestern version of the Clash. As with our humor, others failed to identify with our sound.

Donnie came up with the ideas, suggested songs, planned practices and —in an accomplishment that still boggles my mind — encouraged me to pursue time in a recording studio to document our . . . um . . . talent. Another friend — coincidentally, the other Adventurer in this story — was taking a class on audio recording and needed a band for a class project. Against my better judgment and surprisingly without the liberating effects of those intoxicants, I volunteered the New Losers for the gig.

And so it was that the New Losers arrived at the studio prepared with our two most rehearsed songs: “Jumping Jack Flash” done as a snarling punk anthem and “Cuban Refugee,” a political statement done in reggae style. The latter had started as a cover of “Can’t You See” (the Marshall Tucker Band song), degraded to “I Can’t See” (our ode to those intoxicants), and it eventual became our hit single. Fortunately, we were so bad that no one could identify the rampant plagiarism in the performance. We were scared to death; in retrospect, I have no idea why. In our minds, we were way outside our depth. But Donnie kept us together. Donnie took charge. Donnie was fearless. Four hours later, the New Losers had a single with a B side.

That single, “Cuban Refugee,” received consistent airplay on the college radio station. I would like to say it was because of the honesty of the political commentary combined with the sheer authentic and unvarnished enthusiasm of the musicianship. Nope. It was because I was the general manager of the college radio station. Still, the experience will always rate as one of the most exhilarating of my life, and I am certain I would have never done it without the moxie of the Adventurer Donnie.

Steve, the Adventurer who produced that recording session, was in my cinematography class. He and I were partners in a project to produce a film. It was the final exam of sorts, and the evaluation of this project would count toward one third of our grade. Despite what may sound like a rather loose commitment to academics on my part, I was very driven by grades. Remember my father? Fear is still a good motivator for a college kid. I eventually graduated magna cum laude, so being paired with Steve — whom I liked as a friend but feared as a project partner — was problematic.

But my fears were misplaced. Just as with Donnie, Steve had a vision and a plan.

I won’t bore you with the filmmaking details of the Double Creature Feature of Attack of the Killer Trash Cans and Milk Bottles from Space. Suffice it to say that the creative special effects alone would have justified the A grade we received. More memorable for me was how exciting the whole process was. Just like the recording studio experience, I was frightened the entire time. Steve, on the other hand, never wavered from his idea and strategy. That is the brilliance of the Adventurer.

It is the Adventurer’s contrasting style (Romantic and Expert) that allows vulnerabilities to emerge. Their relative insensitivity to the emotions around them can create issues with morale. They may appear ambivalent or even dismissive to what others feel. Their willingness to accept risk may make them susceptible to mistakes, and a tendency to look at the big picture and not the minutia can lead to inconsistencies. These are important considerations for the Adventurer when engaged in metacognition.

Adventurers are most comfortable in situations that reflect their name — exploring with a map. Being allowed the freedom to find their way and the independence to choose that path feeds their intrinsic needs. Conversely, their resiliency will suffer if they are required to build consensus for their ideas. Being managed too closely also erodes their mojo. Table 13.3 gives a short summary of the Adventurer style.

Table 13.3 The Adventurer Punch Down

Complementary Versus Contrasting Balance

Preferences Versus Vulnerabilities

Impact on Resiliency

· Primary style = Mastermind

· Complementary Style = Warrior

· Contrasting Styles = Romantic and Expert

· A talent for vision and planning.

· Prefers a big picture focus.

· Less interested in feedback from others and the minutiae of execution.

· The ultimate entrepreneur, comfortable with risk and focused on results.

· Responds well to independence and freedom.

· Stress can accompany situations that require consensus building and details.

Extracting Me Worksheet

Whether you are the Eccentric, Social Reformer, or Adventurer, take some time now and reflect on your interactive style. Complete the portion of the Metacogntion and Reflection Collection Worksheet that relates to style. Remember, it is your interactive style that most influences your initial relationships with others. As a Mastermind, you may have a tendency to drift (heehee), so feel free to come back to this exercise often to fully flesh out your thoughts. And I know Masterminds may not want or need a model to comply with, but check out Chapter 15 for an example of punching down your style.