Most don’t. Oh, it’s not because they’re not smart or that opportunities don’t abound. It’s not even because teachers, consultants and the like aren’t overflowing with lists, how-to’s, and tricks designed to “expand” our thinking beyond box boundaries.

It’s because we’ve made the thing all about problem-solving or creativity and the like. The language has gotten in the way of something I believe is much more meaningful and much more powerful. Once, in recent history, we all seemed very clever in our talk about “thinking outside the box” as a metaphor for problem solving or articulate thinking in a nonconventional way. Perhaps we have been more clever than smart.

Let me come at this a different way. Have you ever made a decision, taken an action, or made a statement at someone else’s expense; one that, if your conscience was active, might give you pause? But, you did it anyway.

What happened next?

Most likely your I started talking to your ME, “I don’t want ME to feel bad (about that silly little incident).” I tells ME a story wherein the hero of the story is ME. The list of virtues (compensations/excuses?) for ME gets longer and longer. The list of shortcomings (blame?) for the other party also gets longer and longer – even as their list of virtues shrinks to microscopic proportions. I convinced ME to feel better and blame is clearly resting on the other party. Absolution belongs to ME. The conversation between I and ME is the only one that matters. Well, except for any other input that reinforces what I has said to ME. I has caused ME to be deceived in order to feel better about ME. In other words: self deception has taken place.


Metaphorically, I has coached ME into a box – a self-referencing system: I’s voice (and perhaps those like it) is the only voice ME listens to and respects. Outside voices don’t matter and don’t get “in.” Let’s reflect briefly: who did something wrong or in poor judgment? ME. Yet, who is basking in the virtuous high ground? ME. “Yeah, but, the other guy…”

“Yes? Did what?”

Uh-oh. Now it’s up to ME to justify my position/actions. Easy. More virtue here, less there. In fact, the other party(s) is becoming less human and more object-like; an IT. The box is being reinforced. My willingness/ability to listen, which was already very low, drops.

Struggling to justify ourselves, we are anxious to convince ourselves that we are worthwhile. We are absorbed in ourselves and the impression we are making. How others feel means little to us; they seem more like objects than real people.

There are three basic ways of regarding others as objects. We can see them (1) as obstacles in our way, (2) as vehicles to help us achieve what we want, or (3) as irrelevant. All three are ways of finding someone else deficient. There are many outward styles of self-betraying behavior. For example, some who have an accusing attitude act childishly—they pout or “throw a tantrum.” And some play the martyr and “do their duty” self-righteously. These different styles are variations on a theme. What they all have in common is an accusing, you-are-an-IT way of seeing others.

With ME sitting sedately in the box, unencumbered by reality and fresh thinking and you being viewed as an object, an IT, what could possibly go wrong in our working together, in creating better value for our customers, or in helping this become a better place to work and grow?

Correct. It affects everything we do. Come back for the next post…

In Other Words…

“You can fool yourself, you know. You’d think it’s impossible, but it turns out it’s the easiest thing of all.” ― Jodi Picoult, Vanishing Acts

“Never try to do anything that is outside of who you are. A forced smile is a sign of what feels wrong in your heart, so recognize it when it happens. Living a lie will reduce you to one.” ― Ashly Lorenzana

“And thus I clothe my naked villainy
With odd old ends stol’n out of holy writ;
And seem a saint, when most I play the devil.”
― William Shakespeare, Richard III

“When you look at the past without God’s eyes, you subject yourself to deception. The past no longer exists and God doesn’t linger there. However, Satan will show you whatever you want to see and believe, so you will be trapped in an emotion that cannot communicate truth, beyond what you want to remember.” ― Shannon L. Alder

“There’s that horrible-beautiful moment, that bitter-sweet impasse where you know that somebody is bullshitting you but they’re doing it with such panache and conviction…no, it’s because they say exactly what you want to hear, at that point in time.” ― Irvine Welsh, Porno

In The Word…

“The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority; And My people love it so! But what will you do at the end of it?” – Jeremiah 5:31