The Seductive Art of Paradigm Shifts

The Seductive Art of Paradigm Shifts

Life hinges upon paradigm shifts – those “big bang” moments that revolutionize thought by seemingly inverting the planet on its axis. Such has been true of history. Such is true now. And so it shall be this new year and every year in our future.

There can be no denying.

The wise man reflects upon where he has been as a measure of knowing where he is going. Let’s be wise together now…

  • All of mankind once knew the earth was flat. Until they all knew it wasn’t.
  • It was fact that the sun orbited the earth. Until that fact was a lie.
  • Achieving flight in a man-made machine was impossible. Until it flew.
  • Walking on the moon? A fairytale; until that one small step for man.

These are epic case studies to be sure. But they illustrate the point – life doesn’t advance smoothly or evenly from detail-to-detail, day-to-day.

Life leaps from paradigm-shifting-moment to paradigm-shifting-moment like a kangaroo buzzed on too much caffeine.

Indeed, paradigm shifts lurk all around us disguised in other names.

  • Malcolm Gladwell classifies them as “Tipping Points.”
  • Tim Ferriss (in his new book) calls them “Harajuku Moments.”
  • Seth Godin labels them “Purple Cows.”
  • Nassim Taleb anoints them “Black Swans.”

Listen. I know each of these metaphors has its own flavor and subtleties. I’m not trying to oversimplify or paint with too broad a brush. But I am attempting to showcase that achieving substantial impact by doing the remarkable is born of a common origin.

According to Wikipedia, paradigm shifts are…

“a change in basic assumptions within the ruling theory of science. It is in contrast to [the] idea of normal science.”

Granted, we’re not talking hard science here. We’re exploring social sciences (at most) and humanities (at least). But the condition of changing basic assumptions holds, I think, for our purpose. So let this be our footing as we trek forward into the seductive art of paradigm shifts…

Unplug From the Propaganda (Resistance is NOT Futile)

The volume of new age information (much mis-information) is barely conceivable in its weight and scope. As it pertains to “real journalism,” Carl Bernstein (who knows a thing or two about the subject) has said that “contempt for the truth or the reality of most people’s lives has overrun real journalism. Today, ordinary [citizens] are being stuffed with garbage.”

I happen to agree. Though I take “garbage” one step further.

I call it propaganda.

Everyone has an agenda (even me, now, with this article). But all agendas aren’t created equal. My agenda is to enlighten, which is to say spark your illuminated mind. I want you to challenge my ideas. I want you to wrestle with your own. And I want you to do so far away from the crushing hype and hyperbole of mainstream propaganda.

Compare this with agendas intended to legitimize coercion or mandate compliance.

These insidious aims of mis-information syphon off the creative oxygen vital to paradigm shifts. Examples are too numerous to describe. Flip on the telly or wander over to your favorite news website. As Fox Mulder is famous for believing, “the truth is out there.”

Given this dark state of affairs, we would-be paradigm shifters have but one option – to unplug from the propaganda.

Precisely how you unplug is up to you. Some filter down the television that they watch. Some switch from mainstream programming to public broadcasting. Others purge television completely. The same process can (and probably should) apply to publication subscriptions, personal obligations, work environments, etc.

Suffice to say, wherever mis-information penetrates you life begin to devise actions to repeal it.

Skepticism is the shared quality in all these maneuvers. I’ll go so far as to say skepticism is required for propaganda detachment. Remember the premise of paradigm shifts – “a change in basic assumptions.” So don’t assume anything. Be skeptical.

But skepticism alone isn’t enough. You must…

Upgrade Your Motivation

Unplugging from propaganda grants you creative latitude and ample space with which to explore new ideas.

This is fertile soil for paradigm shifts of any variety. But the process of sowing and reaping your “purple cows” isn’t always (if ever) a picnic. In fact it’s hard, damn hard. Success isn’t guaranteed. And you’ll want to quit more times than are worth counting.

Those that fight through this blockade deploy a powerful weapon – what Daniel Pink (in his book, DRIVE) calls “Motivation 3.0″, or the “third drive.”

According to Pink (via his research), mankind’s motivation has evolved through three distinct phases…

Motivation 1.0 was rooted in the basic primal urge to survive. This “drive” worked well. Until it, alone, didn’t. As humans became more complex creatures forming more complex societies a behavioral paradigm shift was required. And it took the form of Motivation 2.0.

Motivation 2.0 was born of a new mental model that Pink summarizes as “humans are more than the sum of our biological urges.” This paradigm is predicated on, to quote Pink again, the belief that “the way to improve performance, increase productivity, and encourage excellence is to reward the good and punish the bad.” This view has dominated human existence till this very day – in classrooms, boardrooms, factories, diplomacy, you name it.

Motivation 2.0 worked well for economic progress and technological advancement the last several centuries. Until, now, it doesn’t.

Human society is evolving again – big time. Knowledge work, which is to say linear-minded widget making and analytical overkill, is a dime-a-dozen. And most everything of need is readily abundant. So, for today (and in the future), the far more precious and game-changing attributes of value sprout from non-linear creative thinking. And this form of advanced creation requires a new means of motivation.

Enter Motivation 3.0.

This third drive upgrade is fueled by intrinsic motivators (as compared to Motivation 2.0’s extrinsic motivators). Such motivation stems not from external rewards like money but from the inherent joy of the creative process. This is personal fulfillment of the purest proof. And it’s catalyzed by three ingredients – autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

The bottom line is this – you’ll never harvest your paradigm shifts with Motivation 2.0. Plant as many awesome ideas as you like. In time, they’ll all wither to dust because they haven’t been nourished with the real juices of innovation – intrinsic rewards.

Alas, skepticism imbued with third drive motivation still falls short. To unleash your full creative potential, thus triggering those “tipping point” moments, you must…

Dare To Be Heretical

Heretics have an abused reputation. Popular compliance has always been the whip flogging those who think, speak, and live outside the lines. But as history teaches us, best epitomized by Oscar Wilde, “everything popular is wrong.”

Which brings us to this article’s little yet significant tipping point moment – to dare to be heretical.

You must take up this dare if you are to foster meaningful paradigm shifts. Lesser ambitions won’t do. As Seth Godin puts it, “Heretics are the new leaders. The ones who challenge the status quo, who get out in front of their tribes, who create movements.”

So ask questions of authority. Live in defiance of apathy. Listen with empathy to the stories of those in need. Tell your own stories, and speak them loudly. Be persistent. Grit it out. Make change. Do all that and one day your mounting paradigm shifting potential will burst open!

And it is this eruption of genuine conviction that is seductive. No, not in a perverse and manipulative way. In a tempting and attractive way. Such is the art of seduction – to radiate an energy that is exciting, alluring, and inspiring.

Here are some remarkable heretics doing just that…

Heretics aren’t saints. Heretics are avengers. Fearlessness and perfection aren’t the goals. Courage and impact are.

Now you know. And as the G.I. Joe’s exclaim, “Knowing is half the battle.” But that begs one question…

…What new paradigm will you eat for breakfast? Share with us down below.

About the Author: Matt Gartland is an anti-hero avenging injustices of creativity. His legacy project is to chronicle 10,000 Random Acts of Greatness in 5 years. And he shares bold ideas for confidently living above low expectations on his Modern Audacity blog. Learn more about Matt’s audacious pursuits to spark change!

photo courtesy of Stephen Poff

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