One Size Fits One, Once

The more masterful one is with one’s work, the less one is attached to and reliant upon one’s favorite ideas, methods, and even orientations. One’s work evolves and stays creative, being adaptive and appropriate to audience and situation and timing.

The opposite also holds true. The less competent one is in one’s field, the more fixed ideas are held as lifelines, and the more one’s methods are considered to be the correct and only effective pathway.

Let’s explore different levels of mastery in the area of developing people as an example.

At the lowest level of competence, ideas are held as rules. “This” is the “way” that “it” “is.” All clients get treated to this particular truth. All situations apparently call for it. All arguments are considered avoidance. Why can’t people just see that this is the Truth and the Way? (“All people should take responsibility.” “Everyone has a choice to make.” “Communication is always the answer.” “Always keep learning.”)

As one becomes more grounded and effective in the area, the initial idea can be held more broadly as a practice or procedure. Here is the way we have people work better together. They do this exercise. Or they look to the three keys or 4 laws and 5 procedures for working together. If they would just practice those things, all would go well. (“Prioritize your work.” “Build social capital.” “Set an impossible goal and work toward it.” “Create a breakthrough.”)

At yet another level of competence, the whole way of working on the area being addressed is held as an overall orientation. Looking from a communication perspective, or a development perspective, there are many possible procedures, and numerous timely “rules” held lightly and applied as appropriate. Even opposite “rules” can be put into play at different times, appropriately. Operating from an overall orientation allows one to see many potential pathways for resolution of issues and to tailor one appropriate for these people, at this time, against this background. (“What development is called for now?” “What is the timely intervention?” “What is unsaid and lied about here?” “What is being avoided?” ” What fundamental strength can be engaged here?”)

At a level of mastery of the area of communication or development, what one has is access to sources of power. One trusts one’s relationship to the area and knows that at any time and in any circumstance, an appropriate orientation can be generated. Methods can be made up on the spot to serve the particular person or people involved, starting from where they are. Fitting temporary “truths” can be spoken as needed. (“Knowing development at its heart leaves one free to create and respond.” “Knowing communication at its heart leaves one both at peace and up for turning life out well with timely wisdom.”)

It is from the place of mastery of an area that all rules, all methods and even important orientations can be seen to be arbitrary and limited. They do not always fit, nor do they always work. They are not always appropriate. They aren’t magic. They are stuck views with more depth and nuance and wider connections always available.

Real mastery is when one size fits one in one situation at one time, and it is created on the spot. The other approaches are for amateurs, and semi-pros. It is wise to not stop and make a home part way along the route of developing mastery. It will lead to serving false idols (of rules, procedures, or orientations) for sure.

About Ken Anbender

Kenneth Anbender Ph.D. has spent the last 50 years working with more than a hundred thousand people directly on the principles and methods that support the fulfillment of a human life -- in community and at work. He has developed a body of work that is licensable called The Contegrity Approach.
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One Response to One Size Fits One, Once

  1. Tony Putman says:

    Masterfully said, Ken. And exactly right.

    Rules, methods and orientation are all aspects of the person as Observer/Critic, which come from summary description of past actions (yours or someone else’s). The person as Actor engages directly with the present situation in the present moment, coming from, as you put it, sources of power. Power is not in knowledge; power is in knowing.

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