Ashkan: In order for you to fulfill the very intentions you most care about, you need to be effective. You need to be effective in your endeavors, in your decisions and actions. Let’s consider a human being a system here. I’m not downgrading or reducing human beings to robots, but we are a system. We are also a system. In order for any system to be effective, to have that workability element, it needs to have its constituent parts to work at an optimum level.
Brendan: Welcome to The Culture of Leadership. We have conversations that help you develop and become a more confident leader.
Do you think about how you interact with the world around you? Today’s guest, Ashkan Tashvir, has thought about this question deeply. In this episode, Ashkan will take your mind to a level of deep thinking that you likely haven’t been to. He’s a thought leader in decoding the fundamental qualities that drive our decisions, behaviors, and results.
Ashkan is the founder and CEO of Engenesis. He’s not only a philosopher and a two-time best-selling author, but also has a strong background as a technologist, venture builder, and investor. He developed the Being Framework, which emphasizes the importance of self-reflection and understanding how individuals can make meaningful contributions to foster growth and success within a team or organization.
This is The Culture of Leadership podcast. I’m Brendan Rogers. Sit back and enjoy my conversation with Ashkan.
What we want to really unpack today is this part of the book near the start. Some words that you use is the difference between looking and seeing. If we think about that, again our listenership, that audience base of leaders, business owners, leading people in their day to day, what does looking versus actually seeing mean?
Ashkan: Let me go and step back. What we know is we all have a degree of consciousness. Consciousness is not only there for human beings, it's also the other beings out there. For example, plants have a degree of consciousness. That's how they grow and they know how to absorb things, et cetera.
Animals are the same. They have a degree of consciousness. But when it comes to human beings, we know that we have intentional consciousness. We can be conscious of our consciousness. That's a very unique phenomenon. You can draw your attention to something, therefore you can become aware of something.
When it comes to looking at something, let me put it this way. For example, you can hear because you have sensory surfaces. You have sensory abilities. You can hear the sound, as far as you're not impaired in that regard. That's an unconscious thing. It's something that you're not bringing your intentionality into. You just hear the sound.
But then, there are times that you go, no. I want to intentionally listen to something. That's not hearing anymore, it is intentional. It makes it listening. That's why we have two different words for it.
The same thing goes with seeing. When you just look at something, you're just tapping into your sensory abilities. As far as you're not blind physiologically, then you can look at something, you can see. But then when we say seeing or observing, when you bring that intentionality, you want to become aware of whatever is going on. You make yourself present to that. That's the difference.
Brendan: If I have a team of people that I'm entrusted to care for, what would looking at a person today who may be in distress about something versus actually seeing them?
Ashkan: It is actually quite common. Let's say for example, you're an HR manager, you are a leader in an organization, you're hiring people. You know that you have certain needs. You have a certain gap that you want to feel. It is quite common that we can be easily biased by just looking at someone's functionality, basically reducing the totality of someone, a human being to their functionality.
Therefore, if you're just a typical thinker in that case, you're going to go, okay, who you are and what you want to hear is like, I'm a software engineer with this amount of experience, of working in IBM and Oracle, and I'm here to offer my service to you. I'm going to get paid this much. But then if you are present to the fact, then yes, you know that you want the skill set, you want their qualifications, you want their experience, but there's far more to do with this person as a human being than just their functionality.
We've realized in working with many different leaders and teams that it's not just the skillsets of people. Let's say for example, the engineer that makes it or breaks it. When it comes to the successful delivery of projects, there are so much more subtle qualities down deep there that contribute severely massively into the success of the project or that person being successful in delivering what their functionality is?
For example, how does that person relate to anxiety? How does that person relate to vulnerability? Is this person more concerned with actually getting the thing done appropriately, or they're more concerned to be seen and taking credit for that? Is this person the person who wants to be seen as doing the right thing, or is actually doing what he or she knows to be right? That's basically when I talk about vulnerability.
There are so many different qualities like that that matter. Things like commitment, let's say, another quality that we keep talking about here. You can have the most knowledgeable, more experienced person in a field with lots of qualifications. But at the end of the day, if they're committing to complete a task, but then the way that they relate to commitment is like, okay, I'll just give my commitment, and I say yes, but I'm not going to fulfill that promise, and it happens all the time, then you are a team leader. You are a leader in the organization.
You are relying on the commitment of all these people around you, which somehow we assume. We assume that obviously, when you're being hired, therefore you should be committed. You should be committed. Sometimes we see it as common sense, but then these are not very common qualities.
What we encourage leaders is to first equip themselves with, let's say this is the ontological model, where to look at and how to read these qualities in their interactions with people. It's not just the skill sets that's going to bring value to the organization, but also how this person is relating to some of these more fundamental qualities.
We can also talk about the unique being of that person. The major contribution that that unique person can make that is not replaceable and makes them not replaceable for others. Especially when you're thinking about leadership positions. You want that innate talent and unique being of a person to come in that is very different to another person.
If the person is not polished, if you can't read those qualities in the people that you're adding to your team, then it's very likely that they're not going to express it through authentic manifestation of their very unique being. And that's a loss.
Brendan: Absolutely, it is a big loss. I put these in some other terms, I guess, I use when I'm working with people. There's the functional looking at somebody, and they functionally can do X, Y, and Z. There's the human element, the human skill side, which is what I term as character. They character with themselves, their relationship with themselves, and they character with others, which has an impact on their connection with others and how they interact. That to me falls in those human skills part of it.
Again, a very simple language. You're thinking on this compared to my thinking. You are a very deep thinker, and you've spent a lot of time on this. I'm playing at this level, you're 10,000 underneath that, but is that fair to say how I've framed that?
Ashkan: Yes. The only thing I will say is it's not just the skills. Skills are on the surface. It's so much deeper qualities that are not readily visible on the surface.
Brendan: I think that's when I say human. You use that term skill, but the human element focuses on a human based on the skill, but it's that human aspect, which goes well with human beings.
Ashkan: Sure. Let me put it this way. If you want to use a more conventional language, every human being has what I call a web of perceptions. Basically, they have this web or this network of different perceptions of different things. A perception of leadership, a perception of marriage, the perception of God, the perception of care, the perception of responsibility, and so on.
The way that they relate to different meanings in life—they have different perceptions of different things—in great part is going to lead them to act upon them. We make decisions and then we behave or take actions based on our awareness, our perception of different things. And then there's more to it, for example which angle we're looking at, perspectives, et cetera.
Therefore, it's going to be extremely important when you're working with a person. How they are relating to themselves, how they're relating to responsibility, how they're relating to your company, these are the things that matter. That's what we're talking about.
Brendan: That's the whole nuance of the situation. Is that where reality comes in or a person's perception of reality?
Ashkan: In part, yes.
Brendan: Tell us more about defining reality. This is something I've learned through your book. Every time I read something in a sentence, it's like, wow, I've never ever looked at it like that.
Ashkan: When it comes to words, in general, just to create the context, is that the word that has the axiom, the primacy, or the importance? Or the actual meaning that the word is referring to them? These are completely two different schools of thinking. Is the word takes primacy or the meaning that the word? If you pay attention in the books, I often don't say, the meaning of this word is this. I say that the meaning that this word is used to refer to or this word refers to.
When it comes to reality, we use the word reality, and we refer to different meanings and different things completely. To bring it home, for example in English, we say the word spirit, but then spirit can mean a kind of alcohol. Also, it means like your soul or your attitude, like characteristics. These are completely different things that for whatever reason, we use the same word to refer it to.
When it comes to reality, it's the same thing. But because somehow, these different meanings that we refer to by the word reality are somehow similar, then we collapse it. That's why I talk about the three different layers of reality, or three different meanings, and we used the word reality to refer to.
One is that some people don't like this term when you say objective reality, but there is an absolute to this word, the laws of the universe, let's say, for example, things like gravity.
We don't want to make it too intellectual. We don't want to intellectualize it too much because there are so many different contradicting views around that. But simply, if, for example, there's a snake here in this room, it's better for us to acknowledge that and not precede that as a rope, because it has a completely different consequence. We need to respond to it quite differently.
One of the greatest vulnerabilities that we have as human beings is our perceptual system or the limitations to our perceptual system. We can see things that aren't even there. We can be delusional. We have this possibility of imagination. We can be delusional around things.
At the same time, we can sometimes not see what's so visible right in front of our face. Because it's too close to us, we can't see. That makes us very, very vulnerable. Imagine that you don't know if your conceptions of different fragments of reality are actually congruent with how things are.
Let's go back to the conversation around the absolutes to this word, things like gravity. It's there. This thing is a snake, not a piece of rope. When it comes to the first layer of reality, it's better for us to acknowledge that it's being dictated to us. The acknowledgement of that actually is so freeing.
For example, it can be argued that, for example, when we invented airplanes, we actually are going against gravity. That's a logical fallacy, that's not true. They actually acknowledge the laws of physics, including gravity and taking them into consideration when we were inventing things like airplanes, so it works. We know that if we go with this speed, this velocity, et cetera, then it works. If you step over any part of that, the airplane is not going to work. That's going to cost us something.
When it comes to the absolutes of the word, we perhaps take a completely different approach. I'm not arguing here that we have direct access to the absolutes of this word. There's no repository of the truth that you can go even scientifically, and you can go and then fully access it. But then the aim and the willingness to go and want to be authentically aware of some of these fragments of reality is extremely important.
Some of them are sitting in the physical realm, things like gravity, and then some of these laws are sitting in a metaphysical realm. For example, in order for any relationship to work, commitment matters. By commitment, I'm not referring to being faithful or these things. Whatever agreement I and you are having, it needs to bind, it needs to be fulfilled, it needs to be respected by both of us. If any of us breach the agreement that we have, then that's not going to build lasting relationships. We know that.
Some may argue that these are transcendent laws. Some don't like that term. I'll go, okay, these are trans-historical terms. We gradually learn as we evolve that in order for our relationship to work, we should be respecting commitment, otherwise it's going to break.
Brendan: Speaking very simply on that, just the commitment of you coming to the studio today, me coming to the studio, Marc being set up and us having this conversation, there's a level of commitment in that.
Ashkan: Yes. You need that when you're giving promises to your clients as a business. You're basically telling them that we're going to be reliable, and we're going to be committed to deliver what is being discussed as the scope of this project. That's why they voluntarily choose to vote you in, to pay you, and exchange money with the value that they assume. Based on the agreement that you have, you're going to deliver.
You're going to come and then work with your teammates. You're going to work with your team. You're going to split the tasks. You want to ensure that everyone is on the same page with regards to the scope of the project, otherwise we're going to deal with the scope creep. Otherwise, we end up creating a solution, which the client didn't even want. And then you're going to rely on the members of the team that they're going to fulfill their commitments.
If they're missing something, they're not going to have their guard up, they're going to own it, they're going to clean it up, and then we can move on. That will lead potentially to the success of the project.
Therefore, there is firstly a reality as I call them, and then there is the second layer of reality, or some may call it shared reality or social reality. These are the terms that can be used. These are the conventions. These are the conventions that we create together.
Our brain is trapped into what is called the skull, your brain, the physical brain. The physical brain doesn't have any clue what's going on in the world. It doesn't have a full complete theory of everything. It doesn't have the complete mental model of everything.
What it does is basically, it's going to receive signals of the changes that are happening out there or inside your body. Therefore, the brain is going to rely on the sensory surfaces that they're going to transmit all these signals to. There are limitations when it comes to our brain because the brain, through the signals, can see, can understand, and can receive the signals the effect of the things that are happening out there, but the brain cannot tell what the cause was if it makes sense.
Philosophically and scientifically, there's this term that we use called the reverse inference. Basically, something happens out there. For example, someone is coming at you at full speed. How are you going to perceive that? You don't know. What are you going to do?
Brendan: Probably it depends on how big he or her is.
Brendan: The signal is coming into my eyes.
Ashkan: Yeah, that's the thing. Also, it depends on what previous experiences you had. Psychologically speaking, we talk about this thing called categories. Categories are the similar patterns that you see and you collect. Whenever your brain is going to help you make a decision, what it does is it's going to create a category of instances of the past and find the similarities to some of the things that are going on in the present so that it helps you predict what you're going to do next.
When it comes to the second layer of reality, we have this ability of imagination. Basically, what imagination in this context is your mind is going to help you going and bringing bits and pieces of your previous experiences, put them together in a new format, which was not even there and you haven't experienced before, and you're going to come up with a completely new thing, which you haven't even experienced before.
That's what we call imagination, which is a curse and blessing at the same time. It's a double-edged sword. That's why I said that there are these limitations or characteristics of our perceptual system. I said that you can see things that are not even there, so it relates back to the imagination ability. You can also not see what's so apparent and visible there.
You can imagine things, and that basically goes back to our third layer of reality or personal reality. You can come up with things. You can be creative and come up with things that are not even there.
Brendan: Just before you go further into that, using a snake which is in the room, the snake I see, and that's my first level objective reality.
Ashkan: That's your personal reality first. You're receiving that and perceiving that.
Brendan: I'm receiving the information in my brain that there's a snake there. If I've got maybe an unhealthy relationship with fear and maybe even linking back to categories that, hey, I've got training on handling snakes, this is the most venomous snake there because of this training that I think I've had, and I've got an unhealthy relationship with fear, then I'm going to Bravo over, and I'm going to pick it up with my hands, and do all this and then get stung, or get bitten and die.
All these things are processing, but there's an unhealthy relationship with elements of my being that would cause that to happen. Part of that is my unhealthy relationship with reality.
Ashkan: Let's stick with this example. Let's say for example, snakes. I know a little bit about reptiles. I like reptiles.
Brendan: I figured. You brought them up.
Ashkan: Yeah. The thing is you encounter something, let's say, a real snake. Immediately, if you have previous experiences with seeing it, it's going to contribute to how you're going to respond. But let's not even go to the responding. You perceive that.
Most people don't know that many of the snakes out there are not even venomous. If they see a snake, they're going to freak out. The limbic system in the brain is going to warn them and go, oh, there's this threat they may run away, they may do something, that may scream, et cetera.
But then, if you do have these authentic awareness, so basically you're not trapped in your immediate perception of whatever's going on, which is personal, you actually go back and then check the authenticity or congruence of your understanding, knowledge, or conception of snakes, then you go, wait a moment, this one is not even venomous.
I'm not going to be worried about this snake. Just hi, let it go, and you're not going to be worried about it. Whereas for example, a brown snake here in Australia, it's going to be one of the most venomous snakes. If you do have that authentic knowledge, then that authenticity and your awareness of that very thing is going to come to rescue you. That's why it's so important.
Brendan: That's really that ability to use the word a couple of times, respond, but your ability to respond. Bearing in mind, this stuff is happening in fractions of a second. But your ability to respond versus your ability to react, which is a really important leadership skill or development to have in order to lead well.
Ashkan: Let me complete the layers of reality, and then we'll come back here if you like. Therefore, you have your personal reality. I'll call it third layer of reality, personal reality. You can come up with imaginary thing. You can come up with ideas that hasn't been there, or you may be perceiving something outside. For now, it's your personal reality.
One of the most common example of that is when we create stories, like some event happens, like a partner behaving a certain way, and we receive it in a particular way. Did they mean that? We don't know. That's my story. That's my experience.
For me to project that and see that as the totality of whatever has happened, that's inauthentic on itself. And that's very limiting. Observe something, it lands in a way to me. That's not the totality of the truth of the matter. That's my perception of whatever's going on. That's my story of whatever is going on.
Brendan: Again, I'm just going to stop you there because again, putting this in the context of leadership and teams, that a leader is seeing a team member act a certain way, then that is the leader's perception of that reality.
Ashkan: Yes, immediately. If that leader is a relatively more polished person in terms of being, if they are equipped with what are called prospective quadrant, if they're equipped with knowing that we have authenticity around their perceptions like opinions and beliefs, like how lenient they are when it comes to shaping opinions, so many of these things matter, basically how they relate to awareness, authenticity, et cetera, then the validity of the perception can be higher or lower.
Immediately and typically speaking, we can say that something happens in the team with regards to a project. You're going to immediately interpret it in a certain way, but that's not the totality of the truth yet.
Brendan: That's where looking versus taking the opportunity to see comes in.
Ashkan: Yes. This is the personal reality. When it comes to the second layer of reality is the time that then someone initiates something. If someone brings their personal reality into a social environment or team environment, bring it to a context beyond themselves, and then they start having that conversation. Through negotiation, that reality evolves.
For example, in our area, many talk about the social construct, that these things are social constructs, that thing is a social construct. To some extent, that's true. It depends on what you're talking about. That's why these layers of reality matter.
It is quite common for us human beings that, remember I said that psychologically speaking, we talk about categories. In a semantic way, you're going to find the similarities between different things. We're going to say this is apple, this is apple, this is apple, but that's orange.
What are the key features of similarities when you're creating that category? Because one of the apples could be green, another one could be yellow, and another one would be a shade of red. Often what we do, especially when it comes with objects and human beings, we categorize people. We find the similarities in the functionality.
Brendan: What do you mean?
Ashkan: For example, we say that a book is to be read. A book is something to be read or listened to. For example, when we reduce the totality of a human being to their functionalities, that's why we say human resources. It's like a resource.
While it's not the human who is being the resource, it's the labor or work by a human being. Human work is a resource. It's an economic resource, not the whole human being. It's quite common that we call it in the corporate world, we say human resources.
We tend to categorize things based on the feature of their functionality. We discussed that you have this ability of imagination. You also have the ability to bring your personal reality into a social discourse and negotiate that. If there are enough number of people that believe in what was created, even if it doesn't have any root in the first layer of reality, it becomes a thing. It's an agreement until it's being renegotiated.
This is exactly why we can create constructs that are not necessarily factual, things like money or dollar notes. It's a piece of paper at the end of the day, but we all agree that it has a certain functionality. This functionality has nothing to do whatsoever by its characteristic nature. This piece of paper doesn't have any intrinsic value on itself.
Even the time that it was gold, then you could say that it has some level of intrinsic value because you could melt it down, then still, gold would be gold. Gold is a natural resource that is so rare, scarce. Therefore, if the demand is higher than the supply, it keeps its own value. That binds even today because we cannot miraculously, like an alchemist, change the nature of some other metal to gold.
But in today's world, we have these tokens. We have this piece of paper that we agree that it's valuable. This one, physically it's the same thing. It's worth $10, and the other one is $100, but then it's the same thing if you look at it. Therefore, many of these constructs that we have created, the roles in the government, we draw a line on the sand and say that, okay, here's our border, that's your border.
We create different groups within the society and we say, this minority group, that minority group. These are immigrants, those are citizens. We create all these. These are all conventional.
Brendan: They're all social constructs.
Ashkan: Yeah. These are the constructs that we create. As far as we acknowledge them, we endorse them, or we give rise to them more and more, they're going to stay there. Therefore, we're coming up with something. It could have been personal reality of a person at some point, quite influential, a leader, and then it is being brought to the second layer of reality.
It's being negotiated and keep renegotiate in our society, in our team, in our organization. As far as there are enough number of people believing in that thing, even if it doesn't have any root in the actual first layer of reality, it's going to bind. This shared level of reality is something to be renegotiated.
Brendan: Can I throw an example?
Brendan: I feel like the thing I cannot get out of my head because of the way society is nowadays is gender. Tell me more about gender in relation to first level, second level, third level, and where we've got to.
Ashkan: That's a very good example. It can be really controversial at times, because it's really important how the audience of this conversation chooses to listen and present.
Brendan: Which is leadership in itself. If you're willing to listen to an argument, a conversation, a discussion around something like this, then that's been curious.
Ashkan: Yes. Let's start there. I have some background in health science as well, I'm studying more and more in biology and physiology. When it comes to sex, there are indicators, empirically. You know that there is this sex and then there is this sex. That is quite clear. Still, there are some conversations around that when it comes to chromosomes, then you're going to have a spectrum, which makes it not as clear as we used to think.
People have genitals, and the genitals have certain physiological functions. It is the physiological function, and they basically do something in our body. Let's not go through the hormones and everything. For example, we say, women are the one who should wash the dishes. Who said so? This is something that...
Brendan: It doesn't happen in my house very often.
Ashkan: Yeah, it doesn't happen in ours, too. Basically, that task is being outsourced to the dishwasher. That's the modern solution to that. The thing is, historically, it was making sense when we were in the cave. I don't know, whatever.
The males are physiologically more powerful with their muscle, mass, and everything. It would be more intimidating going back to the hunting and then bringing food, which was extremely important. Otherwise, it could have led to existential threat for our survival, so we need that. There were certain other things that needed to be taken care of, and then the females perhaps.
That part is a second layer of reality. It's something that it can be renegotiated, and it is being renegotiated. Some of these conversations that's been going on, especially in the last couple of years around heteronormative things like the certain functionalities from a societal perspective that are more associated with women, men, or for example how we dress, even.
Sometimes I have my rings and everything. It's not very common for males to have this style of rings or accessories. Again, who said so? Why should you not dress or use fabrics that are floral for men, or any other? Some of these things are quite social constructs, and there's no doubt in that. These things can be renegotiated.
If you're looking at the history, you can see even floral clothes and everything. If you go back to the history of Italy or many of the kings, for example, in different cultures, they would have all these very [...]. If you're talking about that level of things, there are certain things that from a societal perspective, in certain different cultures, they're associated to be feminine, masculine, or something.
If we're talking about these things, they're very negotiable. But then if you're talking about the physiological aspects to our sex, that's a completely different story. We better surrender to the very first layer reality side of that, if it makes sense.
Basically, many of these conflicts are coming from us collapsing these different layers of reality. They can easily not be there. It can easily not be there if you don't collapse the level of real realities. It doesn't need to be leading to this polarizing thing.
For example, should I let my sexual preferences dictate my identity or take my overall identity? Would you let your preferences in how you want to eat this for your diet define you? That's the thing.
This is just for people to consider. If your alternative sexual preferences were a thing for you, but then you don't let that fully define you, then there wouldn't be that controversy around identity issues, identity politics, and everything. Say that we identify as human beings. Let's identify as human beings.
Why is it that I need to get my religion, my preferences around sexuality, or something, needs to be defining me in its totality? I'm not saying that people should not be identifying this and that in part. What I'm saying is down deeper, it's not me being this race or that race, or me being this religion or that religion.
The whole conversation here is let's go deeper. Let's see what we are as human beings, instead of focusing so much on our differences or different preferences, if you like. Let's go back to the root and then see that the branches of the three are of the same root. We have so many things in common. Why is it that we go and focus so much on the differences?
Our bones are the same way and the same color. Our liver is the same color. Lots of things are the same color in our body, then we go and we pick on the pigmentations in our skin, and that makes us different. No. It goes back, again, what are your priorities? What exactly are you choosing to put your attention, intentional conscious aside?
Brendan: I feel like you would be a person that would have a sensible answer to this question. Have we got ourselves to this compressed levels of reality in some of these areas? Have you put any deep thought into that?
Ashkan: In the new book, in the A Word From The Author, I talk about this thing that if I'm being asked from a philosopher perspective, what is the number one big problem for humanity at the moment? Immediately, I will go confusion.
Brendan: Tell us more.
Ashkan: A good example of that high level is us collapsing these different layers of reality. We go into these heated arguments, some of these conversations we just had. It's turning to protest and turning to even physical violence. It's turning to so many political issues, societal, and polarization of the society, et cetera, while it doesn't necessarily need to.
This is not a pacifistic notion or statement. I don't think that I'm going to bed not having a conflict. Sometimes conflict is healthy. But so many of these conflicts are redundant, unnecessary. It's just because we're not hearing each other out properly, effectively. We don't have effective channels of communication with each other.
The word openness with vulnerability is sitting there, listening to this other person. See what their experience of life is. Definitely, their unique experience of life is going to be, perhaps, extremely different to your experience of life. Acknowledging these differences as far as the things that are unfolding or not leading to unnecessary suffering, then let it be. But then that's not how we think. We want to change each other.
You need to be this way. Do you need to become like me? Otherwise, if you're not like me exactly, if there are any slight differences between me and you, even different preferences between me and you, you are a bad person. You are an existential threat for me or my ideas, therefore you are not one of us. That's the doctrine of war and conflict.
Brendan: The cycle. Is curiosity the medicine to confusion?
Ashkan: I'll say on top of curiosity, curiosity is necessary, but it's not enough. I'll go with sincerity.
Brendan: What do you mean when you say that?
Ashkan: Imagine that you go to—actually, I have it in one of the books—this room, and there's this box, and then you get curious. You want to know what's in it. If you're going from curiosity, if your approach is curiosity, pure curiosity, you're going to open the box and see that there is a shirt button in it. Then you go, okay, good. I didn't know, I wanted to know, now I know. Mission accomplished.
But then, imagine that you are this person who's lost their shirt button. The shirt is out of integrity now, it's not usable. You can't put that on without that shirt button. What you're going to do, you're going to the same room, but this time you're going from sincerity perspective. You know that you have lost something, you have a missing part. You go there, and you open the box in hope of finding what you have missed.
You find the same shirt button, but this time is different. It's not just you now know and mission accomplished, you actually found something you have lost. You're going to bring that back. You're going to attach the shirt button to your shirt, you're going to restore its integrity, and the shirt is workable again.
Similarly, because the context of your audience mainly is leadership, constantly, the integrity of the business or the organization is being shattered. Most of the time, the source is not you, but you have to respond to it, perhaps appropriately. You need to bring that wisdom and prophecy into your responses.
Not only naturally as a leader, you're required to do that, but also legally you are responsible to respond to the matters regardless of the source. You can't say that, oh, this is not what I caused. This person know that the organization caused it and then start pointing finger. You are responsible at the end of the day. You're accountable at the end of the day.
Therefore, it's going to be really hard because as people, as human beings, we even sometimes struggle to own our own shadow parts, troubled side, or some people say flaws. But then if you are a leader, then not only you need to own your own shadows. You need to own the shadow of every single individual in your team gracefully, unless you believe that you can go and then hire perfect people from Mars.
Brendan: They do exist on Mars, do they? Is that why Elon is going there?
Ashkan: Perhaps, yeah. Let's hope. Therefore, all these things are going to come from the current couple of years and the last previous couple of years here in Australia like bushfires, floods, and then we have Covid-19. All these are going to come. These are some natural disasters, but there are more.
They're going to shatter the integrity of your business or organization to the point that you can be out of the game. The leaders are the one that actually find the tiniest thread so that they can hold on to, pull, and change the direction or change the course. Unless you're able to identify the parts that are missing with sincerity and response-ability, the ability to be able to respond, then you're not going to.
Without authentic awareness, if you're not willing and capable at the same time to go there and identify what exactly is not working because you're seeing the effects, as we said when we're talking about the brain, you don't know the cause exactly. As we said, that's the reverse inference. You need to now guess what the causes were.
Unless you're willing and capable of doing that, you're not going to identify the parts that are compromising the integrity of your business. If you don't have that realization, if you don't have that understanding, you can't even come up with solutions to address them. You cannot become effective in something you're so unaware of. That's one of the metaphysical laws.
Brendan: That's the challenge, isn't it? In all of these things that you've touched on in the more recent part of the conversation, there are so many challenges that leaders face with their teams and the individuals in the team facing the same challenges in life, societal constructs, and all those things.
If a person is not having a good understanding of their own level of being and their own interaction with somebody's 31 ways of being the Human Being book, it's not that they've got no chance. If they can't take that level of awareness for themselves, then how can they even see it, identify it, and respond to it in others?
Ashkan: That's correct. Hence, the importance of this thing called authentic awareness. As I said, it doesn't mean that there's this repository of all truth. You go there, and then you pull some of them out. It's an approach. It's an ontological or epistemological approach.
Simply put, it's like what you know to be true, and what are the ways of examining reality for you? How do you go about it to know? How are you going to be when you know something or you don't know something. For example, if you don't understand something, are you going to collapse, or you're going to go and educate yourself?
At the end of the day, this whole conversation—we're studying the highest achievers in the world—when it comes to the philosophy of achievement, in a very, very simple language, I can put it this way. If you are polished enough with regards to your authentic awareness and all the aspects of being, you leave life from this viewpoint. You can go and learn whatever is required so that you can hit any target that you're setting for yourself.
You can scale it up not just from individualistic perspective, but if you relate to partnership in an effective way, if you're relating to compassion in an effective way, if you're relating to many of these different qualities that we have, you're capable of going there, identifying the need, identifying what different skill sets and what kind of different people you need to go and partner with, put all that talents, economic resources, and everything that is required, bring them all together, bring the leadership that is required, and shift them from the areas of lower productivity in yield to the areas of higher productivity in return. That basically means, in a whole nation, it's economical growth, economical development.
Because many of your audience are entrepreneurs and business leaders, the term entrepreneur was coined by the French economist, Jean-Baptist Say. He says, an entrepreneur is the one who shifts economic resources from the areas of lower productivity in yield to the areas of higher productivity in return.
Basically these resources and the work of people—I don't call people resources—are just sitting there. And because that context is not being provided, that leadership is not being provided on themselves, they not as valuable as they could be when there is a system in place, when there is a proper leadership in place, when there are processes and procedures, when there is an environment that brings all these different talents, unique being of these people, experiences, skill sets, technologies, monetary capital.
Put them together, but then the result or the outcome is not going to be just a mathematical arithmetic aggregation of all of those resources, but far beyond. It's going to be synergistically generating far more value that's actually the thing that is going to lead that organization, generating the surplus value that often is called profit. How that is going to be distributed, that's a completely different conversation; we're not going there.
This is how you generate surplus value. This is how you generate wealth out of thin air. If you look into the countries with higher GDP, it's because their production is higher. How is the production higher? It's the quality of their people. It's the leadership that is being provided. It's the whole platform that is being prepared and the urges that's coming from that entrepreneurial mindset.
Brendan: Really, the power of systems.
Ashkan: In this context, let's say for example, since we talked about the human side and everything, when it comes to working with different leaders in organizations, we go, okay, let's consider looking into compassion. Why are we talking about compassion? We're not talking about my relationship with my wife or family, we're talking about growth in my self-esteem. Perhaps the blind spot is right there.
When we're talking about compassion, we're not talking about an altruistic quality or kindness. I'm not saying those are not important, but I'm saying that the conversation we're having is far more technical, tangible, and concrete. It has practicality associated with it.
Let me explain. As an entrepreneur, as leaders of businesses, at the end of the day, what are you going to do? You're going to go out there with sensitivity, with compassion. You're going to look into some deep psychological problems or needs that people have, because at the heart of any successful businesses that I've studied, many of them are 500 Fortune companies. It's a deep psychological human being problem, at least one.
Behind any successful product, there is a human related sitting there. They can see that and be compassionate about it, compassion in a sense that there is this need, there is a market. There are these people that are whining about something. There are people that are in need. There is this burning pain or problem that they're dealing with, and it seems they're incapable of coming up with effective solutions.
That's a validation with that compassion. You're going to be making yourself present without intentional awareness. You're going to be present to the needs of a certain group of people. That is called a market. Market is just a bunch of people, a group of people in need. What are you going to do? You're going to first tap into your own human capital, your own qualities, your own ability to sell your vision, before it's even turning to a product.
Your ability to read the pain of people, your ability to work out what kinds of skills and what kinds of different qualities is required, expertise is required, you bring all these people together, and you sell them a vision first. Work with some group of that market. Initially, build your product with their help. You're not going to take this arrogant pathway of, okay, I'll go in and come up with a solution. We see that a lot.
We see that many entrepreneurs come up with the solution in search of requirements. They spent $8 million R&D building the product and everything. They're coming to us and go, oh, now we have one big problem. What is it? We don't have a customer. Too late.
The thing is, then you work with them, you build it with them, you make it the thing that they find valuable. Again, you tap into your qualities as a leader. If you can be present, if you can be effective with your communication, if you can adjust your language and then create the messages that resonate with them, they see way more value in what you have to offer than the price that you are asking for, they're going to voluntarily vote you in. They're going to voluntarily exchange money with the offering that you're providing to them.
That's the pathway of generating revenue, which is the concern for many organizations out there. The problem is sometimes I see them far more focusing on accumulation of money, wealth, generating revenue, or creating profitability, than actually focusing so much on giving or preparation that is required for that giving.
The only legitimate way through businesses that you're going to make money is going to be focusing on giving first and influencing the perceived value of your offering so that they voluntarily walk you in. They vote for your survival and growth, and that's how businesses grow. There's so much importance to these human qualities that are often being overlooked.
Brendan: Again, I take it back to the top around really looking versus seeing. Again, from an entrepreneurial perspective, if they're not having that level of awareness that they need, then they are just looking, and they're not seeing what they should see in order to even create that opportunity.
Ashkan: Again, your level of depth around this is unbelievable. But fundamentally, it's such a simple cycle. Maybe this is a good time for us to get into the exposure triangle cycles. It's really that lens.
Again, I've read your middle book, as I said. Even through this conversation, there's another level of lens opening for me around some of these. Share a bit the exposure triangle. What is this exposure triangle? What are the three parts that we need to understand and how this relates to awareness?
Ashkan: I just want to add this to the previous conversation before we go to this. It's simple, but it's not easy. That is the thing.
Brendan: Absolutely, like so many things in life.
Ashkan: Often we get to this logical fallacy in our brain as human beings. Sometimes we think that the solution to complex problems should be complex. One of the things that sometimes I hear some people have said about the Being discourses, oh, what are these, what is new about this? These are all common sense. Okay, yeah. That's my point, but the problem is, they're not very common.
For example, assertiveness is one of the qualities that’s extremely important. Their empirical data is showing. We have thousands of people that have completed the Being profile. We know that our empirical data is telling us that not many people are actually assertive. They don't have a healthy relationship with assertiveness, and that gets in their way. It's simple, but it's not easy.
Brendan: I think on that point, because it certainly does come up in conversation, let's just unpack a little bit around assertiveness. What does assertiveness mean in the Being Framework?
Ashkan: Do you want to read the distinction? Is that better?
Brendan: Do you know where it is?
Ashkan: Yeah. Maybe you can help us read it.
Brendan: Assertiveness is when you express yourself effectively and stand up for your point of view while also being respectful of others. It is the willingness to express your thoughts and feelings, and communicate your needs and expectations firmly and directly while being considerate of others, and aware of any subsequent consequences of being assertive. Assertiveness is being resolute, straight, firm, and effective.
Ashkan: If you read the healthy relationship...
Brendan: A healthy relationship with assertiveness indicates that you are predominantly straight and unambiguous in your communication with others. You rarely resort to threats or attempt to manipulate outcomes and are transparent with your motives. You are bold in communicating your and other's needs and expectations in terms of the outcomes required or expected. You are comfortable letting others know how you feel and express yourself without emotional outburst. How does that work in meetings?
Ashkan: That's a very broad question.
Brendan: You take it wherever you like to go.
Ashkan: Let me create a little bit more context before we jump in. You remember we said that your brain is trapped into the skull, but your mind is not trapped. That's the thing. We have this powerful way of imagining things beyond even the physical experiences. Also, we have the ability. We have this capability of transforming our relationship with different perceptions, if it makes sense.
We talked about what we are. We said that there are commonalities between people. For example, everyone has a relationship with fear. Everyone has a relationship with anxiety. We relate to them differently, let's acknowledge that. But then no one is there that's like, oh, I don't know what fear is.
I'm fearless. That's a very massive inauthenticity. We don't have fearless people. What we have is we have courageous people. We have people. We have some of us in some of the cases that step forward despite the presence of fear.
Brendan: Your book talks about how you need fear in order to be courageous.
Ashkan: You can put it that way. Therefore, there are certain qualities that's part of the package of being human, but then how you are is different slightly to what you are. What you are is these series of qualities that we all have corresponding in kind or type that makes us being the same species. But then when it comes to how we then relate to each of these qualities, we differ.
The good news is you're not trapped in that. You don't have to relate to, for example, confidence, authenticity, assertiveness, the way that you used to do even two days ago. We can transform. We're not fixed objects. Your brain is trapped into your skull, but your mind is not trapped in any box as far as you choose to.
That's basically where we talk about transformability and transformation. We can relate to these qualities differently. What you just read, the distinction of assertiveness, it's not like I'm defining what assertiveness is. For example, someone says, assertiveness to me is this or that. I don't make them wrong. I just say that this is the quality that I found to be extremely important when it comes to effectiveness of leadership performance.
With Being profile, the assessment tool we have associated with this, that's the quality we measure. That's all we say, we don't make anyone wrong. Therefore I call them distinctions, not definitions. That is the quality that I've realized through my studies. It is extremely important. Hence, we have this quality as one of the 31.
Your question was, how does it work in meetings? It depends on who you are in a meeting with. Let's say it often happens that if you're dealing with aggressive, overly disagreeable people, and then if you are also an overly disagreeable person or aggressive person, then we're going to end up having a fight. And you see that.
If you're looking towards, for example, going on in the world, let's say Russia and Ukraine, this is the thing. We get to a point that leaders can work it out. One or both are being overly disagreeable. It leads to aggression, it leads to violence.
The thing is, when you're talking about being assertive, it's like you being resolute, you being firm. You're not overly submissive, overly agreeable. You're not aggressive or overly disagreeable. You're not being nice, you're not being nasty. You're straight, you're firm. You know what you want out of this negotiation. You know what your communication is. You are at ease to say your real yeses and nos. That's the quality that we're talking about here.
Brendan: Like any of these things, the beauty of this is not in, let's say, awareness in isolation. It's how you have the relationship with awareness in context to all the other elements, because even that situation you're referred to about someone being disagreeable, you need to bring in some other elements of the 31 ways of being, which will maybe allow your assertiveness and your healthy relationship with assertiveness to play out a certain way that can maybe reduce the level of disagreeable listen and have some meaningful conversation.
Ashkan: Definitely. I practice martial art. I still practice martial art. I used to do Karate Kyokushin and Aikido.
Brendan: You've just added context. If you were running at me like you said before, now I notice I'm running the other way.
Ashkan: The thing is, if you're not naive in the sense that we are living in this utopian understanding of the world, we know that crime is there. We know that there are people that crime is an extreme part of that, but incorporate. You know all these politics that are going on, you know that the people's shadow side of ego, unhealthy relationship with their ego gets in the way, et cetera. The thing is, if I'm not being naive, I know that there are threads out there. Not everyone's coming to you with the best intentions possible.
If you're being and projecting this persona that you're naive, you're nice, you're overly agreeable, you're submissive, it's very likely that you're going to be misused, or you're going to be oppressed, and you're going to suppress yourself. Therefore, it's very important for us to be powerful.
Sometimes there's this negative connotation associated with power. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm not talking about exerting your power or someone else. I'm talking about you feeling really confident in your own skin. You know that you have choices, you know that you can say your real yeses and nos, and you're willing to be dealing with consequences that comes with it.
If you're projecting this thing that see, I'm polite, I'm not posing any threat, I'm unvirtuous in a sense, I'm polished, and I don't want to pose anything, but I'm capable of of it, that on itself is like you are powerful, you are capable of posing threat if there is an attack, that on itself is going to make the other person, perhaps, the ones that are not coming with the best intentions to be on their toes a little bit.
The offenders when you look into criminology, they often choose the weak. They choose the one who is more timid, because who wants to mess up with the one who can scream and who can stand the course? They want an easy target. Therefore, asserting is extremely important.
If you want to bring in the business world, many people want to negotiate their pays. That actually comes up a lot, but then they don't know how to approach it. They don't know how to bring a conversation up. Sometimes they just suppress themselves, and sometimes they're being very aggressive or passive aggressive about it.
They just go to the organization. Oh, I want the pay raise. Okay, why should we be giving you more money? Are you going to bring more value? Are you going to take more responsibility? I haven't thought about it that way, but I want to. This other company is going to give me more money, so do you or I go?
Therefore, on multiple different ends from the employer to the employee, being assertive is extremely important. Sometimes amongst the team, and we work with different teams, we have teams ourselves, the environment or the culture of the team is in a way that people can be assertive with each other. It's not like no one is trying to make the other person uncomfortable. It's not personal. But they can directly talk to each other when things are not in place and hold each other to account.
If you're going to now, three times, think about, okay, should I say this way, should I say that way, will this person take offense or not? Will this lead to me being redundant? Should I bring this thing up here?
If you're creating that environment, if the majority of the people in the team are not being assertive, there are going to be hidden conversations going on. It leads to an unhealthy environment. It impacts workability and effectiveness, which I think all business people should be extremely concerned with.
Brendan: Absolutely. Let's go back to the leader, the person, the individual, and again, back to the exposure triangle or unpacking that. Your term, this exposure triangle, and the elements of it, why is this so important to understand?
Ashkan: I think that we have created a good amount of context so far in the conversation and how important it is for us, especially from a leadership perspective, to have authentic awareness, or live life from the viewpoint of willingness to gradually develop congruent conceptions of different fragments of reality. That's basically the original intention behind education.
When we are kids, you're being sent to school. I know that it doesn't happen fully like that. Especially nowadays, we deal with lots of indoctrination. Putting that aside, you're being sent to the school. You go to school so that then gradually, you develop this more congruent authentic conception of different fragments of reality. Why? Because life is going to be challenging. It's going to bring lots of challenges for you.
The more equipped you are, the likelihood of you being crushed under all these things or these matters that life is going to bring to you, will drastically decrease. You're going to be more equipped to respond appropriately to the matters that life brings to you regardless of the source, which is part of the distinction response-ability in the model.
Brendan: The way I framed this when I was reading it and also preparing for today's interview, it's like the exposure triangle. I know you use the analogy of a camera in the book, but it was almost the door for me, and it's the opening the door. There are these elements that make up the door, but then it's those elements that determine what I see that's on the other side of the door.
Ashkan: Yeah, you can put it that way.
Brendan: I say it often, I'm a really simple man, and I need to try and keep it really simple for me.
Ashkan: You're doing a great job because at the end of the day—this is my deep belief around all these, that's why it's a concern for me so that we can bridge this conversation—if the philosophy that is being created or articulated, if all these engineering pieces, all these models, all this framework, are not being communicated effectively, are not being received effectively and being put in practice, are not making our life better, are not supporting us in the betterment of our experience of life, I think it's just a completely different thing.
I don't want to insult the people that are in that realm. I am not in the game of just intellectualizing the word for the sake of it. That's a completely different game. This is about the philosophy of achievement. This is about the integrity of our life, setting our life, setting our organization, in such a way that it works for us.
Brendan: That's satisfaction. The amount of blood, sweat, and tears you put into this work, and you've got so much other work in line to do and probably already started. That's the satisfying part of being a leader, being able to have some influence and the impact in a really positive way on people's lives. In that sense, just intellectualizing the work and then it looks great, these books on a bookshelf, but the application is the real key to it.
Ashkan: Yes, and that's definitely a concern.
Brendan: This is the nonfiction to fiction element, trying to make that more relatable.
Ashkan: Yes. That's what I was basically saying. You're doing a great job by ensuring that the conversation has been more tangible and practical. People can relate to it.
I was saying that we have created a good amount of context and why having congruent authentic concepts of reality matters, because you're not going to be crushed when all these matters in life are coming at you. You're going to be far more equipped.
More powerful people, more powerful leaders can actually push towards the next. We can take us to the next level, we evolve. Let me create this thing called the fulfillment pyramid before we go to the exposure triangle. These are my terms. We will work on it.
There is this phenomenological fact. People say, why bother? Should I even be polishing myself? As you say, polished. Why transformational? Because we care, because you care. I care about what? I don't know, you care about something.
We all have intentions that we want to be fulfilled. You may ask why, and that's a completely different conversation via our intentions or where they are coming from. It can be quite philosophical. Let's park there.
What we know is phenomenologically speaking, basically it's a common human experience. That's a simple thing. It's a common human experience that we care about things, certain things. You care about certain things, I care about certain things. I don't say that everyone should be caring about similar things. We're not defining any purpose, meaning, telos. We're saying that you work it out for yourself, but you have things that you care about.
Some people want to build thriving families. Some people want to create a lucrative career and then build everything. Some people want to focus more on societal matters, being activists, and raising awareness around something affecting changes. Whatever you care about, you care about something. It is also a common human experience that when you care about something, you want them being fulfilled. That's a common human experience as well.
The logic behind this is, in order for you to fulfill the very intentions you most care about, you need to be effective. You need to be effective in your endeavors, in your decisions and actions. Let's consider human beings as a system here. I'm not downgrading or reducing human beings to robots, but we are a system. We are also a system.
In order for any system to be effective, to have that workability element, it needs to have its constituent parts to work at an optimum level. For example, take our physical health. Integrity or homeostasis, that's a technical term in medicine. In order for us to be in this state of homeostasis, integrity, and being healthy, you need to have your kidneys operating at an optimum level. You need to have your bone structure, skeleton.
We have 11 different systems in our overall system that need to operate in an optimum level. Every hole consists of parts, obviously, that applies to mechanical watches. It's the same. We have the cogs in the machine. Each of them should be operating at an optimum level. Even the tiniest one, the little cog that may not be seen as very significant, if there's any malfunction there, the workability of the overall system is going to be in question.
Therefore, we said that in order for us to fulfill the very intentions that we most care about, we need to be effective in our endeavors, decisions, and behaviors. In order for any system to be effective, then it needs to have its constituent parts to operate at an optimum level. The system needs to have integrity, or it needs to be integress. You need to be of integrity, being integress.
In order for us to even identify, authentically see through what constituent parts are there, we need to have awareness. We need to have awareness. We need to go and then be able to identify these constituent parts so that we can bring our attention, intention, or consciousness, making ourselves present to those. Identify which one is now operating at an optimum level and which are not. Which one requires addressing? That's basically what we're doing, using the ontological model.
In a limited narrow scope, we're saying, what are these qualities that matter the most? Obviously here, we're talking about more abstract conversation. It's not the physical thing. It makes it harder in certain sense. We want to look into those areas and go, okay, how am I relating to this aspect of my being?
How am I relating to responsibility? Is that the duty obligation, a burden I need to carry throughout my life? Therefore, there is a resentment I have. Or no, it's actually a blessing. It's a unique powerful quality that we as human beings have. I get to choose. I have this relatively high degree of autonomy. I can actually influence the outcome of things, not maybe 100%. We're not Gods, but to a good extent, we can influence it.
Therefore, awareness matters. We need to be able to look into these constituent parts and beyond, but here we're talking about it. Identify these different constituent parts and see if you're having a healthy relationship with them or not. If there are shadow parts, they require maintenance addressing or transformation.
If you put all these things together, basically, the layer that I call them is meta factors. That's a generic term I'm using. It's awareness, integrity, and effectiveness. We always dance from a degree of awareness to a degree of effectiveness. And what’s in the middle, it's integrity and the constituent parts of integrity. That's basically the meta factors.
Brendan: With the meta factors, your empirical data, any of the research you've done to get to this level, is there anything that is common stopping people's touching on that first point of awareness? What holds people back? Is there anything else?
Ashkan: That's a really great question. As you know, in the first book, there was no conversation about exposure triangles. That analogy came a year after the first book was published, because it was the empirical data that taught me that there is a pattern that needs more attention in the beginning.
There are 31 different qualities, but then I realized that there is a particular significance associated with awareness, vulnerability, and authenticity. I basically shaped the whole thing around this analogy that I use. Exposure triangle, we can unpack it a little bit today in the rest of the conversation.
It's through these three major qualities that we constantly take snapshots of different fragments of reality. That's how we are receiving. That's how we are interacting or perceiving, first of all, different things that are going on out there, so our situational awareness, our self awareness.
When it comes to awareness, it's the analogy I use in these three major configurations is like the configuration of cameras. We talk about aperture, ISO, and shutter speed. Some experts out there don't pick on me, I'm not a photographer. This is just basically an analogy so that we bring it home for people.
Thing is, if these configurations in the camera are not properly set, you're not going to have the most vivid, clear picture of that reality that you're trying to capture. Similar to that, these three qualities of awareness, authenticity, and vulnerability play a similar role for our perceptual system. That's how I use it.
Awareness is similar in aperture in the camera. It's the amount of light that you're letting in to the lens, light here being the knowledge, the authentic knowledge that's coming in. ISO is being seen as authenticity here, or authenticity is being seen as ISO. It's the sensitivity of the sensor to the light.
Brendan: That information you're receiving.
Brendan: How you respond versus react potential.
Ashkan: Exactly. Are you considering the validity of these opinions and beliefs that you're shaping in your mind? Are you lenient and fickle? Do you just believe whatever, or do you do a reality check in a sense?
Lastly is vulnerability. The analogy is like shutter speed. How long are you going to have the shutter being open? For example, if you're taking this photo at nighttime, then it's dark, and there's not much light going on. You may need to leave the shutter open for seconds or even minutes so that you can capture this clear picture when you're in low light conditions.
Similar to the camera, when it comes to us human beings, constantly, we are exposing ourselves to so much content out there. We're constantly taking snapshots of that reality. We're storing that, and then it becomes the experiences that we have.
Remember when we were talking about categories from a psychological perspective, I said that what your brain does is it's basically creating this category of instances in the past that are similar to certain things that are going on in the present, so that it can predict what's going to happen next. That's basically why we use this analogy.
Brendan: Those words—awareness, authenticity, and vulnerability—fantastic words in the living space, we get that. Vulnerability, that's a key thing. We're always talking about vulnerability based trust. Can you leave the shutter open too long? Is there an unhealthy relationship with vulnerability? It is unhealthy, but is it healthy to be vulnerable all the time?
Ashkan: Let's get something clear before I address that question around vulnerability. It's not like you're vulnerable, but I'm not. It's not like we have vulnerable people, and then we have invulnerable people. We are vulnerable. That's an ontological fact. It's not even a construct, it's a fact.
You're thrown into this world when you're a baby. You are vulnerable to so many different things. You cannot even feed yourself, you cannot see properly, you cannot move properly. Even passing gas is going to be a challenge for you at that age when you're a baby. You're so dependent on your carers, your mother, father, whoever is taking care of you, and then this continues.
You are vulnerable because you cannot express what's going on. You don't have the ability to articulate things, therefore you scream, throw things, and then you just cry. It keeps going. We are vulnerable to diseases. We are vulnerable to all these not discovered yet viruses. We are vulnerable to natural disasters no matter what this geoengineering that we have done so far.
We aim to go to Mars. We think that through geoengineering, we're going to create life there. My conversation is if we have that level of geoengineering capabilities, we're not going to revive the same planet that we are on. Do we know that much? I am not sure. Are we capable of even predicting these volcanoes, floods, and everything? Are we responding appropriately to that or not?
We are vulnerable to all that. We are also vulnerable to our angry neighbor. We are vulnerable to our cheating partner. We are vulnerable to our own self, all these temptations that we have, all these self-sabotaging, victimizing thoughts that we have, et cetera. We are vulnerable.
We're also vulnerable to a single little 20 grain bullet. We are vulnerable. The question is not whether you're vulnerable or not. The question is, are you leading life from that viewpoint or not? Are you in acknowledgment that you're vulnerable as a human being or not?
Sometimes you're in this pretense thinking, oh, I'm Superman, I'm Superwoman. We put so much expectations on ourselves and everyone else around us. Those expectations become a source of suffering and anxiety, as if life should go the way that I wish.
These days, people talk about what I identify as this and that. The great problem there is sometimes we think we are identifying as Gods, but then the reality is not. We are now God, even collectively, and then that creates suffering.
Therefore, we are vulnerable. It’s whether you live life from that viewpoint, or you're in this pretense. When you say to be vulnerable, we want to be open. We want to have this epistemic humility. Basically, having a cup being empty, letting the new knowledge to be poured in it, take a sip, and then see how it goes.
Vulnerability should not be seen as a weakness, or being seen as being naive or gullible. Actually, owning your vulnerability, whether the general vulnerability that it is associated with all of us human beings, and every single individual has their own vulnerabilities. I may have certain disabilities, I may have certain problems that I deal with, wounds, or something like that, traumas that I've gone through.
Owning your vulnerability is so powerful. No one can hold them against you. Basically, a healthy relationship with vulnerability is owning your vulnerabilities and taking that into consideration whenever you're making critical decisions in your life. Therefore, by being vulnerable, we're not saying that being naive or gullible leads yourself to be taken advantage of. This is a distinction.
Brendan: Thank you for sharing. What impact does environment have around awareness, authenticity, and vulnerability?
Ashkan: There's a massive influence it has.
Brendan: I guess let me frame the context of what's in my head. A leader in a certain type of organization that maybe has unhealthy relationships with lots of things, therefore unhealthy culture, whatever that looks like in organization. There's an environment they're playing out in, and they're working on they're being, they're trying to be more in a healthy state, and all these. Tell us more about that.
Ashkan: Massive influence. For example, my experiences with academia, with the media, and with a few politicians. In the corporate world because I was more exposed in the corporate world, there's no doubt there's this toxicity. There's this office politics and everything. It's quite common to see, unfortunately, that the people that are occupying a position of power, the people that are occupying leadership roles, are not necessarily leaders. That has to do with us, by the way.
Brendan: What do you mean when you say that they're not necessarily leaders?
Ashkan: When I'm saying leaders, they're not polished in terms of being. They're not the most committed, they're not the most assertive, they're not the most authentic, and the list goes on, responsible. We see that.
Brendan: I've got unhealthy relationships with all 31 ways of being.
Ashkan: I'm not saying all politicians, but many politicians are far more concerned systematically because they want to be reelected. They're more concerned to be seen doing the right things.
Brendan: Not even that, again, my head goes straight to, okay, there's the individual component which is within the system, but the system also has a major influence on that, which is the environment. I know the way you are. You said nothing's absolute, but all of these components of the bigger thing are enabling, or people are choosing to have these ways of being around the systems that they're part of.
Ashkan: That's actually a really good conversation to have.
Brendan: Do we have another two hours to unpack? We might need to do a part two and a part three.
Ashkan: Maybe. By training, I'm a system designer. One of my degrees is actually information systems. I think and I understand that I have a good understanding of systems, not only just technological systems. One thing that we often miss when we're talking about systems, procedures, and processes, is we ignore the fact that they have system designers. These systems are designed by people.
It's quite easy and it's very common that when something's not working out for me or for us, we go and then blame the system, or we point on the system, or capitalism is this and that. It's cancerous, a disease, or this system or that system. We create all these problems. We bring lots of this criticism to the system.
Maybe there are. We can draw criticism to anything so that they can be refined or fixed. I'm not saying that there's nothing to be fixed. Of course, there are things to be fixed. There are heaps of things to be fixed. But the thing is this immediate thing that when something's not working out for me, I'll just go in and blame the system.
You cannot come up with a better system. Sometimes, especially if you're ideologically driven, we think that our ideology, particularly political ideology or economical ideology, has a complete theory of everything. That's the lack of vulnerability. We think that if we go left or we go right, and we have this and that, we're going to have better things going on.
The thing is, we're not going to end up having better systems unless we develop better people. I would use the language of more effective, more integress, or polished people, because we cannot go and bring those perfect people from Mars to come here and then create us better systems. We are the ones who are going to take the responsibility and put the F word to build these better systems.
Hence, we said that in the second layer of reality, we want to negotiate these realities of your creation. We want to be open and then have the discussion, have the conversation, taking this pluralistic view of letting different perspectives contribute in creating this more comprehensive understanding of something, hence diversity matters. It's through diversity, not just tokenism.
People from diverse backgrounds have very different perspectives of similar things. The more perspective you have, the likelihood of you getting closer to the totality of that very matter is going to exponentially increase. It's better not to suppress and let everyone contribute to the credit.
This doesn't mean that everyone's perspective is useful equally. Sometimes we need to have a certain perspective coming in. You know what, this doesn't fit into this at all. Not only is it not contributing to the creation of this more comprehensive conception of this very thing, but actually, it deviates us from that. That's also there.
As a general rule, letting different diverse perspectives come in and then supporting us in contributing to the creation of this more comprehensive conception of that very thing, helps a lot. Again, we talked about the limitation to our perceptual system. We don't have direct access to the truth of the matters. We know even collectively. In so many things, we don't have consensus.
Therefore, we know this vulnerability. We go, okay, how about this? You become an expert in that, I become expert in another thing, and then we come in together. We see it from multiple different perspectives, and then we expand our conception of whatever that is.
Basically, what we were talking about is, long story short, in order for us to have better systems in place, we want to have better people. We want to become, hence Becoming the name of this book. We want to become better people, transformed people, polished people, however you want to put it. Therefore, it goes back to individuals again. We need to start from ourselves.
There are certain matters that are being discussed, things like climate change or certain things that may appear and maybe far beyond personal responsibility. At the end of the day, you want to align people around any of these topics. I'm not saying that we should go for it, against, or anything.
What I'm saying is, if you feel so strongly about it, if you think that you have empirical data, or whatever basically you have, you need to go and then create campaigns around. You need to create awareness.
Say you're living in an area where everyone has access to YouTube, everyone has access to so many different channels, that they can broadcast their ideas and everything. If whatever you're articulating resonates with a good number of people and everything, that collective awareness is going to be created.
That's the pathway. That's the thing. It goes back to individuals again, that's what my point is. That's what I'm so focused on instead of going and criticizing this system, that system, this politician, that politician, this political party, or that political party.
My focus is actually going to people and say, let's start from within. I know that it's cliche, the approach that many have taken throughout history, but let's just start from here. If you see the lack of integrity outside of you, in the environment, and everything, let's just start from here and go from roots up.
Let's make it more tangible, this conversation. When it comes to organizations, it happens a lot that, perhaps a person is in the position of decision-making. It's maybe your boss or the manager. He's not the most refined or most polished person. If it's so severe, and you feel so strongly about that, you may choose to go to another organization, choose another leader to subscribe to. You go to a different environment.
If objectively some organizations are having a very toxic environment, and there are not enough number of people subscribing to that, they're doomed to go away because an organization without people is nothing. They can go, and then they can build their own businesses. They can go and join another organization.
That's the thing. If you're not being assertive, if you're fearful, if you don't have a healthy relationship with confidence, et cetera, you may keep yourself in that environment. You may suppress yourself. You may feel so bad, carry this resentment, and you may feel that you have no options.
Brendan: In some respects, I think that that famous phrase, we're far from at the tipping point of good culture and the majority of organizations having whatever they determine as good culture. The other phrase that comes to mind is people don't always think that the grass is greener on the other side, do they?
Ashkan: Yes, that's correct.
Brendan: They're feeling stuck.
Ashkan: When it comes to organizations that we work with, there are many organizations at the moment that are using the being, tapping into Being Framework and associated tools, and the causes and everything around it. The thing is, when it comes to, for example, project management, many organizations, corporations, SMEs, tap into some sort of methodology.
For example, in terms of project management, they may tap into PRINCE2 methodology, they may tap into Agile Scrum methodology, et cetera. But somehow, for some reason, when it comes to people's side, then it's our culture, and then they customize something, or they don't give what it takes. It's like being overlooked.
One of the intentions that I had, particularly with the Being discourse, is this framework required, the fundamental language and series of tools so that we create that mutual language, so that we can discuss matters. If you want to create a level of shared mental models so that people can talk effectively, can communicate effectively, and pinpoint the things that they're missing, that's one of the benefits that I think this conversation is bringing to people already.
Brendan: Again, in the improvement type world, you can only improve on top of the standard. In creating some standard, there's a framework. People have got standard language attached to that framework. We're starting from here, and then we can move on from that, which is very common.
As far as the three books that are in front of us, again, one of these Becoming is very, very hot off the press. When is the launch date for Becoming?
Ashkan: As I've told you before the interview, this is a sample copy. We got to see if it's coming out well and nice.
Brendan: Are you happy?
Ashkan: Yeah, happy because often, it's a very tedious process when you go into the print working. The ebook version, we made it available. It's already up there, and we're looking to go and access it. For a limited time, it's quite well-priced so that more people can access the book.
Brendan: We'll put all these details in the show notes as well.
Ashkan: Thank you. The launch date of the book is published officially. The official launch day, basically we're going to have a number of people from our community. We're going to talk about the book. It's going to be online on Zoom. If anyone's interested, I can share the event page on our platform, and then you can share it. You're more than welcome, anyone who wants to join.
We'll be discussing it in two hours. We're going to discuss things from the book around the discourse. The people that have already benefited from the framework are going to be there. But mainly, we're going to talk about it.
Often, we see that, particularly, due to lack of vulnerability, there's this resistance sometimes. We don't want to face the shadow side of us. We don't want to look into the mirror. That's an experience that many would have in the beginning when we're dealing with new knowledge. The story here in this book Becoming: The Emergence of Being is the story of Yoren Healy, the fictional character that can represent many of us.
Brendan: What was Yoren's other name?
Ashkan: What do you mean?
Brendan: You had to change the name, didn't you?
Ashkan: No, we didn't. That was not Yoren.
Brendan: Okay, that's all right. He's still living.
Ashkan: The story is about Yoren who, on the surface, what is visible from outside? He has a lucrative corporate career. In his late 30s, he has a loving fiancee and some of these materialistic on the surface things. While he's being seen as this person who has his finances ticked, there's so much debt and everything going on. Basically, what is appearing on this first surface is far away from what down deep there is going on for him.
Down deep, he's lost, stuck, confused. His encounter with the Being discourse and working with a coach will basically guide him through some of these things. Despite the massive, tremendous amount of resistance he shows in the beginning, it gradually comes to this paradigm. He put his guard down and started considering that there are other alternative ways that he can relate to some of these qualities of human beings.
His intention has always been to build a business of his own. Many of these qualities of him, his aspects of being, his being, so far has been getting in his way. In this book, the idea is not to show that he's building a business. It doesn't go at that stage. It's more like removing or addressing the blockages that are getting in his way, fulfilling his very intention.
People of many different backgrounds can still relate to Yoren. It's not like only men, for example, or the people that want to build businesses. Whatever intention they have, still, the book is going to be extremely valuable to them. That's basically what is happening with this book.
Brendan: I don't know if this was intentional, but again, for me, it feels like you've started with the end in mind. There's being this human being, and there's becoming. If someone was to take an interest in what we've spoken about today and think, wow, this is really interesting, is this where you'd start?
Ashkan: It depends. Becoming: The Emergence of Being is designed for a person who is a fiction. It's fiction, but many of the stories are rooted in reality. If they enjoy reading a novel, fictional stories, it's more entertaining. There's a storyline going on and everything. That's a good starting point.
It's designed to establish that relevance for a broader audience. If they're more familiar with reading more directly, I wouldn't consider Human Being book being a self-help book. But if they are accustomed to reading self-help books or the books that directly talk to them, I think the Human Being book is easier to read in comparison with the Being book.
It's 300 pages-ish, while the Being book is not philosophical, in a sense. It's not academic or something like that, but there's more depth into the Being, I would say, that either start with the Becoming book or the Human Being book, depends on if they like fiction or a more direct way of looking into the framework.
If it interests them, then they find more value in it, and if they want to find more value, they can definitely go and then study the Being book. The Being book. basically, is the exposition of the whole framework. It's close to 700 pages. It is a book to be studied. While it still has a smooth narrative, it is a book to be studied, not just read quickly.
In regards to the Human Being book, we have the audio version as well if they want to listen to it. With Becoming book, soon that is going to be available in the coming weeks. In Becoming book, we just did this auto generated thing on Google Books or something, which they still can listen to. But it's not the kind of book to actually listen to. It's better to study it and everything.
Brendan: Again, I haven't even seen it. It's just new. The Becoming, I look forward to checking that out. With the way that I process information, and I think you said it best when you said appealing to the masses, I would consider myself in that. Even though I've got an interest in this space and the work I do, it feels like the story, that fiction element creates the narrative and the context around it for more people to relate to. If they want to dive that little bit deeper, again, I haven't read Being, but Human Being took me to another level, and then Being sounds like the ultimate encyclopedia almost and the ultimate reference.
Ashkan: Yes, that's correct.
Brendan: Ashkan, the last question we ask all of our guests is, what's the one thing that has helped you become a more confident leader? You can tell us about your healthy or unhealthy relationship with confidence.
Ashkan: Sure. Whenever we talk about confidence, it may be read more as self-confidence or as being self-assured only. Your relationship with confidence, I'm just creating the context before answering your question, is we all deal with dilemmas. We all deal with hesitation, doubt, uncertainty.
Especially if you're a pioneer in some areas, if you're a leader, if you are traveling in organization from point A to point B, you're going to jump into unknown territories all the time. As business leaders, we all deal with unstructured problems.
It's not pure engineering. You cannot engineer everything. We all know that. Therefore, it's extremely important to make yourself at ease and comfortable when it comes to dealing with these uncertainties.
If you have a healthy relationship with confidence, it's not like you’re fully trusting even your competency or proficiency in something, because no matter how competent you are, there's still the chance of making mistakes and all those things. Therefore, it's like setting the expectation.
A healthy relationship with confidence is when you set the expectation for yourself. I know that I'm dealing with all these. I will be dealing with these uncertainties. I need to be traveling in unexplored territories. I need to jump into the unknown. I know that all these hesitations, doubts, and uncertainties are going to come up. How am I going to be with that? Am I choosing to be at ease with that or not?
If you take it like a pendulum, on one side, an unhealthy relationship with confidence is going to be constantly in hesitation, being quite hesitant in staying there, not momentarily, but you're stuck there. On the other side, you can be overconfident or bring bravado. You're being careless in a sense that you just jump into things, and then you assume that things are going to be working. You're going to be this person who's taking uncalculated risks.
The middle side of this pendulum is like a healthy relationship with confidence. In that sense, creating that distinction, I think that my confidence will come from what makes me to be more comfortable, or having healthy relationships with confidence is my ease and comfort around being with uncertainties, unknowns, hesitations, and dilemmas.
It's not necessarily coming from the tremendous amount of confidence I have in everything. I don't. In many, many different areas, I don't have confidence. But I set expectations, and I trust that this is how it is, and this is part of the process. That's basically what I have to say about confidence.
Brendan: I like it. My takeaway from that is a sense of being comfortable with the inevitable uncomfortableness that is going to happen.
Ashkan: Yes.And tThat can be sometimes misleading when we say comfortable because, in a sense, we are not comfortable, but being comfortable with your lack of comfort, as you said.
Brendan: It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much for coming on our show, being in person as well, sharing your insights. Really good, really appreciate your insights. Thanks for being a great guest on The Culture of Leadership.
Ashkan: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
Brendan: At The Culture of Leadership, we’ve always believed better people become better leaders. Better leaders develop better teams. Better teams create a better culture, and a better culture delivers better results. We are in perfect alignment with Ashkan and his research.
These are my key takeaways from my conversation with Ashkan. My first key takeaway: confident leaders take control over their life. The Being profile is an assessment tool designed to measure your relationship with the 31 aspects of being. Understanding your relationship between each of these qualities and how they affect your behaviors and actions will allow you to be more deliberate in taking greater control over your life.
My second key takeaway: confident leaders have a healthy relationship with reality. It’s vital to understand the three layers of reality. The first layer is the absolutes of the world, like the laws of the universe. The second layer is our shared reality. These are man-made inventions like money, taxation, and banking systems. The third layer is our personal reality, which are the stories we make up and tell ourselves. Understanding the three layers will help you determine if you or others are either delusional or have a healthy relationship with reality.
My third key takeaway: confident leaders work on their blind spots. To do this, you must have a healthy relationship with awareness, vulnerability, and authenticity. Awareness, so you can be conscious of allowing new information in. Vulnerability, so you are open to receiving this new information and feedback. And authenticity, so you are open to adjusting to beliefs and opinions with the information you receive. Improve your relationship with awareness, vulnerability, and authenticity, and you’ll always be able to work on your blind spots.
In summary, my three key takeaways were: confident leaders take control over their life, confident leaders have a healthy relationship with reality, and confident leaders work on their blind spots. Let me know your key takeaways on YouTube or at thecultureofleaderhip.com. Thanks for joining me, and remember, the best outcome is on the other side of a genuine conversation.