Lessons From Las Vegas 12: Culture is Key

The final element of the Flawless Living Operating System (FLOS) is an acknowledgement of just how important culture is. You could be a highly capable person, yet if your own motives and values naturally oppose the culture you live within, being both happy AND successful will prove to be a tremendous challenge.

The most important thing to understand here is that according to the beliefs of blank slate we develop according to the scaffolding or culture we are in. And it’s true that the degree, and kind of scaffolding varies from culture to culture; generally speaking developing nations have less scaffolding infrastructure, there are no ‘nets’ to catch people who fall upon ‘hard times’ as opposed to western democratic cultures such as UK and US and Western Europe where there is some kind of support infrastructure for those who fall ill, have accidents or are unemployed.

Blank Slate thinking would have us believe that if you could just create the same scaffolding or environment for everyone regardless of race, class or creed, then everyone would have the same opportunity for success. But cultures inevitably have values (you have only to think of the difference in Indian and English culture for example to realise in India almost everyone assumes/acknowledges God, and believes in karma, where as in the UK the ‘reality of God’ is questionable) and not everyone within those cultures will be able to be equally successful according to the cultural composite of ‘success’.

In contrast to Blank Slate beliefs, Flawless Living believes that we are happy and successful according to the scaffolding we operate within. To put it another way, your unique talents, strengths, knowledge and experience combined within your intrinsic motivations and preferences will determine the scaffolding that you require in order to be successful doing what you do best.

This is why self-knowledge is so important, and it will pay you dividends if you take the time to get to know yourself; if necessary take some self assessments online, I highly recommend taking both the Strengthsfinder 2.0 test to discover your own strengths and the Reiss Desire Profile to discover your inborn wiring in terms of your intrinsic motivational wiring. (http://www.reissdesireprofile.com/). Without knowing your own preferences and internal wiring vis a vis what motivates you naturally, it is impossible to ascertain the gap between the requirements for success in your culture and what you need to do to be happy. Lack of clarity and honest assessment regarding the ‘gap’ is a recipe for frustration, resentment and failure in the equation of creating both success and happiness.

Ask yourself:

Am I aware of the cultural scaffolding that surrounds me?

Or, like the fish swimming in the sea, am I the last to recognise that I need water to live?

It can be hard to ‘see’ our own cultural scaffolding especially if we have never travelled to cultures that are different. (Apparently prior to 9/11, 75% of Americans didn’t have a passport, they had no need of one, as even when they went on holiday it was somewhere on the North American continent. This means that 75% of Americans had no significant experience of a different culture, making it very difficult for them to appreciate that much of what they take for granted cannot be assumed in developing countries which lack infrastructure such as road, rail and electricity that we in the West take for granted.)

If you are aware of your own culture’s scaffolding, does it suit your personality type? Are the requirements for success in your culture compatible with your natural talents and values?

Or do you feel like the black sheep of the herd?

It is also true that there are subcultures within cultures, you may exist within one kind of culture for work (an achievement culture) where as the family culture you inhabit may have a different set of values. Once you have awareness of the different cultures you are required to operate in and their differing demands you can begin to organise and design your unique scaffolding; by this I mean you can design ways to function more effectively within the different milieus that you inhabit. Conscious design helps you to stay aligned to both what leads to happiness for you and to what is required for success within your culture.

With the age of mass media and the increasing global connectivity afforded us by the internet, culture is being modified at a faster rate than ever before. Where as cultural change used to be very slow relative to individual maturation and development, we now have all these elements contributing to complexity and change:

  • the media
  • the blank slate operating system (the idea that we can be, do or have anything we want with no regard to our intrinsic make up)
  • the consumption culture of the century of the self (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Century_of_the_Self)
  • hybrid memes (a meme is an element of the culture or system of behaviour that may be considered to be passed from individual to individual by non-genetic means such as imitation)

Increased connectivity and the speed of cultural change can wreak havoc with one’s sense of identity, many people think they know what they want, but if you watch the series of videos on the Century of the Self (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcYBSXgtmKQ) you will see that certain elements of our society have gone to great lengths to persuade us of what they want us to want, thus creating the age of the consumer; much mass media is geared toward persuading us that we need or want ‘stuff’ that upon reflection turns out to be disconnected from anything that makes us remotely happy or even healthy. Nothing wrong with consuming per se, just make sure that the stuff you spend your hard earned cash (or not so hard earned credit) on actually is what will contribute to your greater happiness.

We are bombarded daily with messages to buy this or get that, promised left, right and center that whatever it is, is the answer to this problem or that problem, nowhere is this more pertinent than in the information market. It serves us well to know who we are, and what truly makes us happy, as well as where we are going, for such self knowledge makes yes and no decisions much easier as we can bounce them off a coherent strategy that will lead to values based happiness.

A modern day example of scaffolding are the Mastermind Groups that are springing up everywhere I look these days. I was taught in my Rebirthing training to put myself with groups of people who were doing what I wanted or loved to do. This is a brilliant from of scaffolding because you get access to resources and shortcuts that you were unaware of before you hung out with ‘those in the know’. A Mastermind Group not only gives you support and encouragement, but also gives you access to a collective knowledge and wisdom that would likely take you years of experience, trial and error to come by, so Mastermind groups can function like a ‘fast track’ to get you where you want to go. The only caveat is that you had better be clear who you are and what you need to fulfil the requirements for success in your arena, otherwise no matter how good the Mastermind Group, if it isn’t a good ‘fit’ for you, it will be a waste of money and time and energy resources.

As ever, the key if you are adopting the Flawless Living Operating System is to first ‘Know Yourself’; this is the foundation upon which you can create the scaffolding that will enable you to fulfil what is required for your success. I would say Know yourself, accept yourself (easier said than done for some of us); stop pretending; be clear about where you are headed and recognise that many of your ‘yes/no’ decisions are unconscious and based on your intrinsic motivational wiring. Remember too that reaching out is essential to create personal resilience in these times of ever increasing complexity and change; feedback too is vital (it stops us pretending) for very few of us see ourselves as we actually are: statistics show that most people either underestimate their capability or overestimate it. Know your own values, set up systems that can keep score (objective metrics are necessary for feedback and recognition of how well or not, you are fulfilling requirements for success). Finally, given how complex life is becoming with increased connectivity and information availability, regular recalibration is fundamental, and like all good twelve step programmes, recognise that culture is key to your success, if your intrinsic motivational wiring is at odds with the culture you are born into, it might be easier (not to mention kinder) for you to move to a different culture than to create success in a culture that puts no value on what leads to your own values based happiness. Or you can join a group or create your own, a group that is endeavouring to live, each according to his needs, ability, preferences and motivations, a bunch of individuals experimenting with designing their own unique structure or scaffolding specifically to design away the effects of their limitations and give them more time to be in flow by playing from their strengths and doing what they, uniquely do best.

Lessons From Las Vegas 11: Recalibrate Often