Win The Inner Game 1: Cultivating Real Power

Most powerful is he who has himself in his own power.” – Seneca


In my opinion, power is one of the most misunderstood and abused words in the English language. How often have you heard someone say, “The U.S. President is the most powerful person in the world,” or “True power comes from within,” or “It’s important to empower others”? Power takes on completely different meanings in each of these phrases, but what does it actually mean to be powerful?

To better understand the concept of power, we need to separate what I refer to as External Power from its opposite, Real Power.

Real Power cannot be granted by another person. Only we can give it to ourselves. The story of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, and a Holocaust survivor, illustrates the difference between Real and External Power very well.

Frankl was imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany. He lost his parents, his brother, and his wife in the camps. He himself endured torture and unimaginable terror on a regular basis. One day, lying naked and alone in a small room, he realized there was one freedom his Nazi captors could never take away. He called it the last of human freedoms: the ability to chose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.

He realized he could decide for himself how the situation was going to affect him. Between what happened to him and his reaction to it lay his power to consciously choose his response. The Nazis had more External Power—options to choose from externally—but Frankl had more Real Power. Meaning, the inner power to choose his mindset and how the Nazi’s abuse of External Power was going to affect him.

External Power takes on different meanings depending on the context and external forces driving it forward. It is entirely dependent on outside factors, and is therefore tenuous and fragile, and ultimately out of our control.

Real Power is consistent no matter the external forces opposing it—it comes from within, and the only person with the power to change it is you.

Three Ways to Cultivate Real Power Right Now:

1. Put the following statements to the test in your own life:

·     Whatever we do (or don’t do) has consequences.

·     We co-create everything we experience.

·     We can choose our attitude towards what’s happening.

This means we recognize there is nothing “out there” just happening to us. Events are triggers, sometimes very powerful triggers, but as the story of Viktor Frankl shows, they are not absolute causes as to why we feel, think and behave the way we do. Focusing on the trigger empowers external factors and keeps us stuck in victim mode. This is disempowering and tends to fuel a pursuit of External Power “to regain control.”

2. Practice paying closer attention to your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

The information you gather will help you gain clarity on where you get stuck, and help you identify your ineffective mental and emotional habits.

3. Implement the “Don’t Shoot the Messenger” practice.

The “messenger” is a metaphor for whatever is triggering a painful emotional reaction—typically a cocktail of anger, fear and hurt. Try to see this messenger (your co-worker, the other driver, your spouse), as someone or something that is helping you master a new skill. View the messenger as a helpful teacher instead of an enemy to attack or avoid.

Or, as the brilliant comedian Jerry Seinfeld put it in an episode of Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee: “Pain is knowledge rushing in to fill a gap. When you stub your toe on the foot of the bed, that was a gap in knowledge. And the pain is a lot of information really quick. That’s what pain is.”

Conscious Business 101

Just like every person has a philosophy, so does every business and organization. The philosophy that has dominated the business world since the industrial revolution was built on the notion that the purpose of a business is to maximize profits. But this belief system is rapidly eroding the very profits it claims to be producing, and is thus losing its legitimacy as a viable and sustainable business philosophy and approach.

Integral Conscious Business

The Foundation of a Conscious Culture

Conscious Business philosophy has emerged as a new leadership paradigm that transcends the current and mainly fear driven “stick-and-carrot”/”command-and-control” paradigm. Conscious Business focuses on the notion that purpose-optimization precedes profit-optimization, and that businesses exist to serve a higher purpose than just simply increasing the bottom line. When implemented and adopted by an organization, the conscious business philosophy can result in higher profits and lower overhead costs, increases in employee contentment and less turnover, and fantastic stakeholder relations and customer experiences.

Every organization is built on people, and most people are seeking more than just financial security from their work. Increasingly, employees are seeking engagement that satisfies deeper needs for spiritual and emotional contentment, which can come from aligning their work with their values, passions and “authentic” self. The same is true from consumers, shareholders, suppliers, communities and other stakeholders. Conscious businesses are satisfying this need by making business decisions based on higher purpose and creating value for the world at large, rather than tagging on a corporate social responsibility program to their business model in order to manage their reputation and perception of their brand.

Many prominent international brands have adopted or been founded on the conscious business approach, including Whole Foods, Patagonia, LinkedIn and Holacracy. Despite this, Conscious Business remains the road less traveled largely because it’s counter-cultural, unconventional and seemingly paradoxical. But this is changing, as millennials and other stakeholders want a more Conscious Culture to form an integral part of the business model.

There are a few synergistic principles to running a Conscious Business:

  • Higher-Purpose
  • Wholeness (for a great description fast-forward to 52:36 in the Fredric Laloux video below)
  • Self-Management
  • Conscious Leadership
  • Conscious Culture
  • Stakeholder Integration (described below as “Win6“ by Whole Foods Market Founder and Co-CEO John Mackey)

For more information on conscious business, check out these books and videos.