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1

What's this Chapter?

Ch.7 Know Your Environment From The Inside Out - Connection

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What's this Chapter's Judgment?

Most people think first of what they want to express or make, then find the audience for their idea. You must work the opposite angle, thinking first of the public. You need to keep your focus on their changing needs, the trends that are washing through them. Beginning with their demand, you create the appropriate supply. Do not be afraid of people's criticisms - without such feedback your work will be too personal and delusional. You must maintain as close a relationship to your environment as possible, getting an inside "Feel" for what is happening around you. Never lose touch with your base.

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The Fearless Approach
We live in an environment that is mostly human. It consists of the people that we interact with day in and day out. These humans come from many varied backgrounds and cultures. They are individuals with their own unique experiences. To know people well - their differences, their nuances, their emotional life - would give us a great sense of connection and power. We would know how to reach them, communicate more effectively, and influence their actions. But so often we remain on the outside and lack this power. Why?

To connect to the environment in the way would mean having to move outside ourselves, train our eyes on people, but so often we prefer to live in our heads, amid our own thoughts and dreams. We strive to make everything in the world familiar and simple. We grow insensitive to people's differences, to the details that make them individuals.

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The Fearless Approach
To know people well - their differences, their nuances, their emotional life - would give us a great sense of connection and power. We would know how to reach them, communicate more effectively, and influence their actions. But so often we remain on the outside and lack this power. At the root of this turning inward and disconnect is a great fear- one of the most primal known to man, and perhaps the least understood. In the beginning, our primitive ancestors formed groups for protection. To create a sense of cohesion, they established all kinds of codes of behavior, taboos, and shared rituals. They also created myths in which their tribe was considered to be the favorite of the gods, chosen for some great purpose. To be a member of the tribe was to be cleansed by rituals and to be favored by the gods. Those who belonged to other groups had unfamiliar rituals and belief systems - their own god and origin myths. They were not clean. They represented the Other - something dark, threatening, and a challenge to the tribe's sense of superiority.
How has this been a part of our psychological makeup for thousands upon thousands of years?

It transformed itself into a great fear of other cultures and ways of thinking - for Christians, this meant all heathens. And despite millenia of civilization, it live on within us to this day, in the form of a mental process in which we divide the world into what is familiar and unfamiliar, clean and unclean. We develop certain ideas and values; we socialize with those who share those values, who form part of our inner circle, our clique. We form factions of rigid beliefs - on the right, on the left, for this or for that. We live in our heads, with the same thoughts and ideas over and over, cocooned from the outside.

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The Fearless Approach
When we are confronted with people or individuals who have different values and belief systems, we feel threatened. What is our first move?

Our first move is not to understand them but to demonize them - that shadowy Other.

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The Fearless Approach
When we are confronted with people or individuals who have different values and belief systems, we feel threatened. If we do not demonize them, what else may we be guided into doing?

Alternatively, we may choose to look at them through the prism of our own values and assume they share them. We mentally convert the Other into something familiar - "they may come from a completely different culture, but after all, they must want the same things we do."

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The Fearless Approach
When we are confronted with people or individuals who have different values and belief systems, we feel threatened. If we do not demonize them, we may choose to look at them through the prism of our own values and assume they share them.This is a failure of our minds to move outward and understand, to be sensitive to nuance. Everything must be white or black, clean or unclean. How is the opposite approach the way to power in this world?

It begins with a fundamental fearlessness - you do not feel afraid or affronted by poeple who have different ways of thinking or acting. You do not feel superior to those on the outside. In fact, you are excited by such diversity. Your first move is to open up your spirit to these differences, to understand what makes the Other tick, to gain a feel for people's inner lives, how they see the world. In this way, you continually expose yourself to wider and wider circles of people, building connections to these various networks. The source of your power is your sensitivity and closeness to this social environment. You can detect trends and changes in people's taste well before anyone else.

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The Fearless Approach
In the hood, conditions are more crowded than elsewhere; people with all kinds of different psychologies are constantly in your face. Any power you have depends on your ability to know everything that is going on around you, to be sensitive to changes, aware of the power structures that are imposed from without and within. There is no time or room to escape to some inner dream-land. You have a sense of urgency to stay connected to the environment and the people around you - your life depends on it.
We now live in similar conditions - all kinds of people of divergent cultures and psychologies are thrown together. Why are these dangerous times, and how must you protect, even enhance yourself?

Because we live in a society of more apparent abundance and ease, we lack that sense of urgency to connect to other people. This is dangerous. In such a melting pot as the modern world, with people's tastes changing at a faster pace than ever before, our success depends on our ability to move outside ourselves and connect to other social networks. At all costs, you need to continually force yourself outward. You must reach a point where any sense of losing this connection to your environment translates into a feeling of vulnerability and peril.

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The Fearless Approach
In the end this primal fear of ours translates into a mental infirmity - the closing of the mind to any ideas that are new and unfamiliar. The fearless types in history learn to develop the opposite: an open spirit, a mind that is constantly learning from experience.
This has great application beyond the realm of science. Normally when you study something, you begin with certain preconceived notions about the subject. Your mind begins the process in a closed state - not really sensitive to difference and nuance. You are afraid of having your assumptions challenged. Instead, like Goodall, you must let go of this need to control and narrow your field of vision. When you study an individual or a group, your goal is to get inside their minds, their experiences, their way of looking at things. What is required in order to do this?

To do this, you must interact with them on a more equal plane. With this open and fearless spirit, you will discover things no one had suspected before. You will have a much deeper appreciation for the targets of your actions or the public you are trying to reach. And with such understanding will come the power to move them.

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Keys to Fearlessness
In the work that we produce for business or for culture, there is always a telling moment - when it leaves our hands and reaches the public for which it was intended. In that instant it ceases to be something that was in our heads; it becomes an object that is judged by others. Sometimes this object connects with people in a profound way. It strikes an emotional chord, resonates, and has warmth. It meets a need. Other times it leaves people surprisingly cold - in our minds we had imagined it having a much different effect.
This process can seem rather mysterious. Some people seem to have a knack for creating things that resonate with an audience. They are great artists, politicians with the popular touch, or business people who are endlessly inventive. Sometimes we ourselves produce something that works, but we fail to understand why, and lacking this knowledge, we cannot reproduce our success.
There is an aspect to this phenomenon, however, that is explicable. Explain.

Anything we create or produce is for a public - large or small, depending on what we do. If we are the type that lives mostly in our heads, imagining what the intended public will like, or not even caring, this spirit is reproduced in the work itself. It is disconnected from the social environment; it is a product of a person who is wrapped up in him- or herself. If, on the other hand, we are deeply connected to the public, if we have a profound sense of their needs and wants, then what we make tends to resonate. We have internalized the way of thinking and feeling of our audience and it shows in the work.

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Keys to Fearlessness
Anything we create or produce is for a public - large or small, depending on what we do. If we are the type that lives mostly in our heads, imagining what the intended public will like, or not even caring, this spirit is reproduced in the work itself. It is disconnected from the social environment; it is a product of a person who is wrapped up in him- or herself. If, on the other hand, we are deeply connected to the public, if we have a profound sense of their needs and wants, then what we make tends to resonate. We have internalized the way of thinking and feeling of our audience and it shows in the work. What's the lesson?

You cannot disguise your attitude towards the public. If you feel superior at all, part of some chosen elite, then this seeps out in the work. It is conveyed in the tone and mood. It feels patronizing. If you have little access to the public you are trying to reach but you feel that the ideas in your head cannot fail to be interesting, then it almost inevitably comes across as something too personal, the product of someone who is alienated.

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Keys to Fearlessness
You cannot disguise your attitude towards the public. If you feel superior at all, part of some chosen elite, then this seeps out in the work. It is conveyed in the tone and mood. It feels patronizing. If you have little access to the public you are trying to reach but you feel that the ideas in your head cannot fail to be interesting, then it almost inevitably comes across as something too personal, the product of someone who is alienated. In either case, what is really dominating the spirit of your work is fear. How so?

To interact closely with the public and get its feedback might mean having to adjust your "brilliant" ideas, your preconceived notions. This might challenge your tidy vision of the world. You might disguise this with a snobbish veneer, but it is the age-old fear of the Other.

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Keys to Fearlessness
We are social creatures who make things in order to communicate and connect with those around us. Your goal must be to break down the distance between you and your audience, the base of your support in life. What does this mean?

Some of this distance is mental - it comes from your ego and the need to feel superior. Some of it is physical - the nature of your business tends to shut you off from the public with layers of bureaucracy. In any event, what you are seeking is maximum interaction, allowing you to get a feel for people from the outside. You come to thrive off their feedback and criticism. operating this way, what you produce will not fail to resonate because it will come from the inside. This deep level of interaction is the source of the most powerful and popular works in culture and business, and a political style that truly connects.

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Keys to Fearlessness
What are 4 strategies you can use to bring yourself closer to this ideal.

-Crush All Distance
-Open Informal Channels of Criticism and Feedback
-Reconnect With Your Base
-Create the Social Mirror

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-Crush All Distance
Understand: in this day and age, to reach people you must have access to their inner lives - their frustrations, aspirations, resentments. To do so, how must you crush as much distance as possible between you and your audience?

You enter their spirit and absorb it from within. Their way of looking at things becomes yours, and when you re-create it in some form of work, it has life. What shocks and excites you will then have the same effect on them.

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-Crush All Distance
How does crushing all distance require a degree of fearlessness and an open spirit?

You are not afraid to have you whole personality shaped by these intense interactions. You assume a radical equality with the public, giving voice to people's ideas and desires. What you produce will naturally connect, in a deep way.

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-Open Informal Channels of Criticism and Feedback
As Elanor understood, any kind of group tends to close itself off from the outside world. It is easier to operate this way. From within this bubble, people will delude themselves into thinking they have insight into how their audience or public feels - they read the papers, various reports, the poll numbers, etc. But all this information tends to be flat and highly filtered. How is it much different when you interact directly with the public and hear in the flesh their criticisms and feedback?

You discover what lies at the root of their discontent, the various nuances of how your work affects them. Their problems come to life, and any solutions you come up with have more relevance. You create a back-and-forth dynamic in which their ideas, involvement, and energy can be harnessed for you purposes.

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-Open Informal Channels of Criticism and Feedback
What is the ideal if some distance between you and the public must be maintained, by the nature of your group or enterprise?

If some distance between you and the public must be maintained, by the nature of your group or enterprise, then the ideal is to open up as many informal channels as possible, getting your feedback straight from the source.

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-Reconnect With Your Base
We see the following occur over and over: a person has success when they are younger because they have deep ties with a social group. What they produce and say comes from a real place and connects with an audience. Then, slowly they lose this connection. Success creates distance. They come to spend most of their time with other successful people. Consciously or unconsciously, they come to feel separated and above their audience. The intensity in their work is gone and with it any kind of real effect on the public.
The goal in connecting to the public is not to please everyone or to spread yourself out to the widest possible audience. Communication is a power of intensity, not extensity and numbers. In trying to widen your appeal, you will substitute quantity for quality and you will pay a price. What's the lesson?

You have a base of power - a group of people, small or large, which identifies with you. This base is also mental - ideas you had when you were younger, which were tied to powerful emotions and inspired you to take a particular path. Time and success tend to diffuse the sense of connection you have to this physical and mental base. You will drift and your powers of communication will diminish. Know your base and work to reconnect with it. Keep your associations with it alive, intense, and present. Return to your origins - the source of all inspiration and power.

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-Create the Social Mirror
Alone, in our minds, we can imagine we have all kinds of powers and abilities. Our egos can inflate to any size. But when we produce something that fails to have the expected impact we are suddenly faced with a limit - we are not as brilliant or skilled as we had imagined. In such a case, our tendency it to blame others for not understanding it or getting in our way. Our egos are bruised and delicate - criticism from the outside seems like a personal attack, which we cannot endure. We tend to close ourselves off and this makes it doubly difficult to succeed with our next venture.
Instead of turning inward, how should you consider people's coolness to your idea and their criticisms as a kind of mirror they are holding up to you?

A physical mirror turns you into an object; you can see yourself as others see you. Your ego cannot protect you - the mirror does not lie. You use it to correct your appearance and avoid ridicule. The opinions of other people serve a similar function. You view your work from inside your mind, encrusted with all kinds of desires and fears. They see it as an object; they see it as it is. Through their criticisms you can get closer to this objective version and gradually improve what you do.

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-Create the Social Mirror
What is one caveat about relying on social mirrors?

Beware of feedback from friends whose judgment could be tainted by feeling of envy or the need to flatter.

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-Create the Social Mirror
How should you come to interpret negative or underwhelming reactions from others?

When your work does not communicate with others, consider it your own fault - you did not make your ideas clear enough and you failed to connect with your audience emotionally. This will spare you any bitterness or anger that might come from people's critiques. You are simply perfecting your work through the social mirror.

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Reversal
Science and the scientific method are very powerful and practical pursuits of knowledge that have come to dominate much of our thinking for the past few centuries. But they have also spawned which peculiar preconception?

That to understand anything we must study it from a distance and with a detached perspective.

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Reversal
Science and the scientific method are very powerful and practical pursuits of knowledge that have come to dominate much of our thinking for the past few centuries. But they have also spawned the peculiar preconception that to understand anything we must study it from a distance and with a detached perspective. For example, we tend to judge a book that is full of statistics and quotes from various studies as carrying more weight because it seems to have that requisite scientific objectivity and distance. Science, however, often deals with matter that is inorganic or has a marginal emotional life. Studying such things from a detached perspective makes sense and yields profound results. But this does not translate so well when dealing with people and creatures who respond from an emotional core. The knowledge of what makes them tick on the inside is missing. What's the ugly truth?

To study them from the outside is merely a prejudice, often one stemming from fear - dealing with people's experiences and subjectivity is messy and chaotic. Distance is cleaner and easier.

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Reversal
Science and the scientific method are very powerful and practical pursuits of knowledge that have come to dominate much of our thinking for the past few centuries. But they have also spawned the peculiar preconception that to understand anything we must study it from a distance and with a detached perspective. How is it time to reevaluate this preconception and see things from the opposite perspective?

Knowledge of human nature and social factors, the kind that is often most valuable to us, depends on knowing people and networks from the inside, on getting a feel for what they are experiencing. This can best be gained by an intense involvement and participation, as opposed to the pseudo-scientific pose of the intellectual addicted to studies, citations, and numbers, all designed to back up their preconceptions. This other form of knowledge, from the inside, must be the one that you come to esteem above all others in social matters. It is what will give you power to affect people.

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Reversal
What's the lesson from this Chapter's Reversal?

To the extent that you feel yourself to be distant and on the outside, you must tell yourself you do not understand what you are studying or trying to reach - you are missing the mark and there is work to be done.