Posts Tagged ‘character analysis’

So, you think you have either an “A” or “B” type personality?

“I know nothing more annoying when people I don’t know jump to conclusions on my person based on nothing but gossip or speculation.”                                                                                                                                    ~ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, actor, producer and screenwriter


I’m no fan of the simplicity of using the either A or B personality formula.  It is not very academic or scientific.  A and B type personality assessments were intended to determine the likelihood of a person having a coronary.  You can look it up.

It is a poor tool for determining overall temperament, character analysis, social style, or general personality.  Unfortunately, in the business world, it has been used as a screening tool, with an assumption of some iron-clad rule that one type is more likely to succeed than the other, and that the template works the same for all jobs in all industries.  That would be not only incorrect, it would be foolish.  Here’s your real A/B:

“One group of people believes everything can be divided into one of two groups.  The other group of people doesn’t.”

Never treat supposition as fact.  That would be no more scientific than using a coin toss to make all important decisions.  Also, be cautious of the risk of falling prey to illogical deductive reasoning:

“All safe motorcycles have at least two good wheels.  My lawnmower has at least two good wheels.  Therefore, my lawnmower is a safe motorcycle.” 

That’s right, factual perhaps in the statements, but the conclusion is ludicrous; not very scientific at all.  So, if it isn’t scientific, what is it?  Emotional?  Well?  Don’t most people make decisions because of what they feel more than by what they think?  Yes, they do.

A good example of the is when a person buys a car.  No matter how analytical they thought they were during the process, the decision to buy is ALWAYS an emotional one.  The only plausible argument with that would be that what you are feeling does go through your mind.

Most people who try to measure behavioral qualities of other people by using generalized cookie cutter templates might find some of the erroneous conclusions they will draw to become problematic; even harmful.  This mistake is also a common occurrence with self-assessments, too.

When a person reads a profile of themselves they like, and considers it flattering, they will want to believe it true whether it was in the astrology section of todays newspaper, or a fortune cookie.  Believing such things allows thinking to not seem so necessary.  And people do prefer a set of beliefs far more than they do the idea of having to logically analyze empirical evidence, or even look for it.  Modern psychology has come up with much better tools, but using them does require some thought and effort.

Look at people as individuals instead of using some presuppositional tool to put labels on them.  Folks are likely to resent labels, especially if they believe they came by superficial means.  Don’t forget about the times you have felt you were judged incorrectly or wrongly by someone who was obviously being prejudicial.

So it is with that in mind that I ask you to please be cautious about using any simplistic template where any of the descriptive labels used will be seen by the people you are “judging” as judgmental. When they discover what you’ve concluded or said, it is very likely to come across to them as unfairly critical, narrow-minded, condescending, or possibly rude if not mean-spirited.

Some folks prefer simple explanations, or at least the appearance of them.  By that measure, they will think this A/B tool is wonderful.  Those go for the simplicity of it are likely to quickly pack it away in their toolbox along with the other belief disorders they have collected over the years.  And that toolbox usually holds things folks have learned to believe on their own by jumping to conclusions, or have been taught to believe in accordance with the leap some other person or persons want you to take.

But as I’ve said before, what people believe to be true to in fact be true, is not now, nor has it eve been required.  But be careful when it come to challenging what other people insist they believe.  They might attack you, or even kill you if they feel it necessary to, not so much for themselves personally, but that their beliefs be kept safe.  For without ideology, idiotic or otherwise, you cannot have war.

Business of Theater and Theater of Business: Part Three (Revised)

The goal is to find the motivation, whether it be for the character on stage, or the character in the boardroom.  But are we just looking for labels?  Is that just some simplistic mindset to determine the motivations of a character in a story?  Or do we just want a quick assessment of our own motivations and of others around us?

If the results are to be very effective, I doubt the process will be all that simplistic, would it?  But if we take simplistic shortcuts, what might be at risk as far as our conclusions are concerned?  I suppose it depends on how simplistic we go about it.  Sometimes the recipe isn’t always successful by what we put in, as it is a failure because of what we’ve left out.

Since so many social labels tend to be judgmental and prejudicial, focusing on those could be counterproductive.  Instead, we want to look at some different ways of assessing observable behavior characteristics, and identify them with non-judgmental adjectives.  The point of doing that is so that we can make sense out of what a person’s behavior tells you about how they wish to be treated.

Please keep in mind that the utility of it is not just in the information or data being looked at, but why it is important.  It’s about what you can do with it that will make a difference on how you might productively read the behavior of others, and become more aware of how they are reading yours.

In order to do this effectively so that we all might easily recognize the characters, let’s take a look at some fairly familiar literary figures.  For some, this might change forever how you see them, and especially how you might see yourself interacting with them.

Perhaps more important than just about anything else you could do with this kind of information is to understand why their motivation could be so different than yours.  I don’t think I can emphasize the importance of personal and individual motivation too much.

Many of you are likely to be somewhat familiar with Mario Puzo’s literary masterpiece, “The Godfather”.  Perhaps more of you saw the movies than read the book, but either way, I’m sure you’ll recognize the characters representing the four sons of Vito Corleone: Sonny, Fredo, Michael, and the informally adopted, Tom Hagen.  As grown men, each of them had taken on distinctively different styles.

As I’ve said before, in drama, what makes a tragic flaw so tragic, is that the character often doesn’t recognize it as a flaw.  To understand the tragic flaw of each of these men, we have to identify their style.  And not just their overall personality, but the specific style they wore within the culture of the “family”.  Doing so will point out their greatest need they want from the group.

In order to be realistic, even for fictional as well as real characters, we must understand the thing that they feel the greatest threat of losing.  I prefer to focus on positive things, but these four men, just like the rest of us, have some primary fear that influences what they want.  Once we’ve identified that, we’ll better understand what drives them; what is their motivation.

Sonny is the oldest son.  He asserts himself.  He is emotionally responsive.  He lets people know how he feels, and even what he thinks.  His father called him on that kind of behavior, when Sonny, in an emotional outburst, allowed potential enemies to have insight on thoughts that would have been to his advantage to keep private.

(Sonny)  “Whoa, now, you’re telling me that the Tattaglias guarantee our investment without…?”

(Later in private, Vito says:)  “Never let anyone outside the family know what youre thinking.”

  Sonny has a strong need for approval, is oriented futuristically, loves an audience, likes his work to be exciting, he makes fast, intuitive decisions, his first question is “who”, makes a great effort to be involved, willingly accepts leadership roles, prefers not to be isolated, perhaps his greatest strength is his enthusiasm, and his greatest weakness is his impulsiveness.  This weakness, along with his primary fallback behavior being to attack, was his signature.  When his father was shot, Sonny’s anger was almost uncontrollable:

“No, no, no! No more! Not this time, consigliere. No more meetin’s, no more discussions, no more Sollozzo tricks. You give ’em one message: I want Sollozzo. If not, it’s all-out war; we go to the mattresses.”

Though he probably didn’t recognize that tendency in himself, his observable behavior often made it very clear to his enemies, and that was his downfall.  He operated around a fear of not getting applause, which is a little bit different than needing approval.  Sonny’s greatest need in life was applause.  Everybody wants some approval.

Many have used the MBTI to profile Sonny as ESTP.  That would be equal to a Driver/Driver, thus highly assertive and extremely emotionally controlled.  I can understand how they might use certain parts of the Myers Briggs pattern to arrive at that conclusion, but they would be wrong.  Sonny’s emotions were NOT what I’d call controlled.  Sonny was certainly assertive, but he was not a Driver.

He was an Expressive.  But he was a Driving Expressive.  The MTBI pattern equal to that is ESFP.  Some would call that the “Performer”, a temperament that is far more into a world of feelings than the driver/driver ever would be.  I am not saying is it wrong to be expressive, but it was a tragic flaw for Sonny to not recognize it about himself.  But his enemies could easily see it: that’s what got him killed.

Fredo was a sickly child.  His mother was constantly vigilant about how he felt.  Much of his early childhood revolved around how he was feeling.  To some degree he was pampered, and concessions were made for what was expected of him.  As he got older, he was less and less happy about the way he felt others perceived him.  For a long time, he was quick to give in and go with the flow.  When made tense, his first fallback was to acquiesce, even when being slapped around by Moe Green in Las Vegas:

“Aw, now that, that was nothin’, Mike. Moe didn’t mean nothin’ by that. Yeah, sure he flies off the handle every once in a while, but me and him, we’re good friends, right Moe?”

But as the story develops, we see that Fredo never felt accepted in a way that validated his own self image.

“It ain’t the way I wanted it! I can handle things! I’m smart! Not like everybody says… like dumb… I’m smart and I want respect!” 

And so it is for that reason the tension he felt from a lack of “respect”, though not exactly hatred at all, seldom went away as he got older.  Because of that, acquiescence wasn’t working for him, though it was his primary fallback.  So, he tried the fallback behaviors of the other styles, and the tension still didn’t go away.  When he moved to over to the fallback behavior of the Driving Expressive (ESFP),  the “What’s in it for me” he felt no one seemed to care about, drove him to attack, thus betraying his own brother.

This reaction, plus certain flamboyance in social behavior while trying to fit in, caused some critics to assume Fredo was a Driving Expressive, or ESFP.  Yes, Fredo wanted approval, but it wasn’t the fear of not getting him applause that drove him; it was the fear of not being liked, and worse, the fear of being hated.  In the end, just wanting to be liked and be accepted back into his family, he was hanging around to take his nephew fishing.  It was predictable that he would be willing to do that, so it was easy to plan his demise.

So within the framework of the “family”, he was not an Expressive.  In this culture, Fredo was an Amiable, although no doubt, he was a very Expressive Amiable.  It was his need to be seen in the company of physically attractive women that drove him far more than any emotional attachment he might feel for them.

In a scene where men were shooting at his father, Fredo was incapable of taking any positive controlled action to defend him, or even retaliate.  He just cried.  In spite of this ineptitude, his own self image was that he was capable of handling great responsibilities, thus a bit “Idealistic”.  And so, the MBTI that would closet match to his style is INFP.

Tom Hagen was not Vito’s natural son, but as he grew up, he became more and more the one whose “information” could be trusted.  Tom was thorough, a detailed thinker, and oriented to detail.  He was generally never seen as impulsive, and less likely than some to make mistakes, or leave out necessary action steps.  While others are focussed on actions and reactions, Tom does his homework, and focusses on what to consider before taking action:

“I found out about this Captain McCluskey who broke Mike’s jaw…Now he’s definitely on Sollozzo’s payroll, and for big money. McCluskey has agreed to be the Turk’s bodyguard. What you have to understand, Sonny, is that while Sollozzo is being guarded like this, he is invulnerable. Now nobody has ever gunned down a New York police captain — never. It would be disastrous. All the Five Families would come after you, Sonny. The Corleone Family would be outcasts! Even the old man’s political protection would run for cover! So do me a favor — take this into consideration.”

Even though eventually the “family” did act to retaliate by killing McCluskey, they did take what Tom said into consideration.  But it was Michael that went from that to the idea of some benefit to pointing out the Captain’s involvement in corruption, drugs, and organized crime.  And as his father before him would have done, Michael turned to Tom Hagen for confirmation that the family had people in the media that could help make McCluskey look dirty in the public eye.  And of course it would be Tom that would arrange things.

One of the reasons he was often seen as correct in his assessments of things, was that he had an overwhelming desire to not be wrong.  It was this same obsession in another piece of literature that seemed to drive Dr. Watson to distraction when dealing with Sherlock Holmes’ painstaking habits.  Sherlock always seemed to want to put every single piece of evidence under intense scrutiny before making a decision.  Sherlock Holmes took great pride in this, for he believed it to be the way to avoid impulsive, and thus possibly erroneous decisions.  Nothing was more important to him than that.

And so it was that the very likelihood of wanting to not be wrong, and therefore with a tendency to be slower to action, was why Michael (under the advisement of Vito) removed Tom as the Consigliere when faced with an imminent war with the other families.  Since Tom didn’t necessarily see himself in the same way Michael did, he didn’t understand the decision, and it hurt his feelings at first.  But Tom was not a man to dwell in his feelings, at least that others would be able to notice, for very long.

Although he was “out” as far as the war council was concerned, he was placed in another position.  Since his powers of accurate observation and details of accountability would be put to profitable use, Tom was able to fit in well with the assignment without further conflict or controversial behavior about the organizational restructuring.  The justification of this move, perhaps more than anything else revealed in the story, as far as the culture of the family was concerned, establishes that Tom was an Analytic.

But he was a Driving Analytic.  Though perhaps more in a world of his perceptions than needing quick closure, Tom regularly used objective judgement to make decisions.  His logical MBTI would be ISTP.  He was the “Mechanic”; he knew how to fix things.

This brings us to Michael.  Early in the novel he showed signs of wanting to be in control of decisions that effected him.  He enrolled in college to not allow the family business to determine his role in life.  Yet even as the family presumed his student status might protect him from the draft, Michael joined the Marines.  And he did so without consulting his father, or anyone else.  He surprised some of his family when he took a controlling role in avenging the assassination attempt on his father.  He asserted himself that he be the one to do it.

“It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”

Later, after being out of the country for some time, his reputation for taking calculated risks instead of impulsive ones like Sonny had, prompted his father to turn more of the business over to him.  Michael tended not to allow others to read his emotions.  When made tense, emotions seemed to show, but it was a part of his fallback to become autocratic whenever “control” might be at risk.

After his father’s death, Michael took the calculated risks he felt were necessary to insure that he was unquestionably in complete control of all of the family business.  It was quick, decisive, and goal oriented.

So though maintaining more emotional control than the others, he was almost, though not quite as assertive as his brother, Sonny.  Remember, Sonny was an Expressive, but Michael Corleone was a Driver.  Specifically, an Analytical Driver.  The MBTI comparable to that would be ENTJ, the “Executive”.

And how about Vito himself?  A tremendous range of experiences and circumstances helped mold his style.  Vito was an intelligent man, and thoughtful.  His thinking and planning abilities helped him to connect with even the most analytical.  That he had a vision of the future, accepted leadership, and could fight when he had to made him understood by expressive people.  And even more so that he understood them.  He built relationships based on respect which was his bond with amiables, and his ability to manage change and be decisive earned him the respect of drivers.

There was a bully in the community.  He was a well connected extortionist, and therefore commanded great fear, as well as being the powerful one who could grant favors.  Don Fanucci was called The Black Hand.  Vito, without waiting for any other authority to approve of it, took care of Fanucci.  He didn’t need to take credit for it, as it was assumed quietly that no one else but Vito could have been that assertive and kept his cool about it.

In the story, a husbandless woman in the neighborhood was being evicted because her little boy had brought home a puppy, an action that would prove to be in conflict with the landlord’s inflexible “no pets” rule.  She shared her fearful frustration of not knowing what to do or where she and her son would live with her friend and neighbor, Mrs. Corleone.  Vito’s wife brought the lady to her husband.  She believed he might be able to at least advise her, if not intercede on her behalf, but it was the intercession which he took on with a controlled determination that was the cornerstone of establishing his image in the community.  Vito would be seen, not just as a replacement for the extortionist “The Black Hand”, Don Fanucci, but in very much so a matter of deep respect, as “The Godfather”.

As Vito negotiated with the landlord, he did so with some genuine feeling and empathy for the woman’s situation.  And it because his wife had arranged for the lady to ask for a favor, that he additionally felt it would have been dishonorable to refuse to help her.  When the lady’s landlord seemed unbending, abrupt, condescending, and rude, Vito did not lose his temper.  Though he was a man of action, he maintained a very controlled disposition.  He knew how to allow the man to understand who he was:

“Do me this favor. I won’t forget it. Ask your friends in the neighborhood about me. They’ll tell you I know how to return a favor…”

Vito understood the value of reputation.  When others know how you’re known to behave, they will believe what that tells them you are far more that what you might wish to tell them you are.  What we do speaks louder than what we say?  And once he knew the landlord understood it, it was easy for Vito to tell him the woman’s son could keep the little dog, and that the widow’s rent would be reduced.

Vito Corleone was in his comfort zone, and the landlord was not in his.  And all of this is noticed because of the power of clearly defined images drawn from how they acted.  The process is to establish a recognizable pattern from observable behavior characteristics (character analysis: understanding the motivation, and the predictable style of behavior it leads to).

Whether Vito understood the process or not, it was clear that he knew how to handle different people based on the way they showed him how they wanted to be treated.  He knew the value of being seen as, and how to convince others it was to their advantage to also be seen as, “a reasonable man.”  And so it is the measure of those skills, that I call Vito the “versatile manager”; he had the ability to deal with other people who’s styles were different from his own, with very little tension caused by it.

This ability or management skill made it seem he had almost a sixth sense when it came to reading people, and thus showing some respectable empathy for how they must be feeling.  His strategies and tactics showed he understood very well exactly what it took to “motivate” others”:

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

Later, after an attempt on his own life and the death of his oldest son, Vito was very effective convincing the heads of the other families by appealing to their thinking and their feeling when he offered concessions and called for a truce, without allowing them to really know what he had on his mind:

“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you or my boy to me? I forgo the vengeance of my son. But my youngest son had to leave this country because of this Sollozzo business. So now I have to make arrangements to bring him back safely cleared of all these false charges. But I’m a superstitious man. And if some unlucky accident should befall him, if he should be shot in the head by a police officer, or if should hang himself in his jail cell, or if he’s struck by a bolt of lightning…then I’m going to blame some of the people in this room…and that, I do not forgive. But, that aside, let say that I swear, on the souls of my grandchildren, that I will not be the one to break the peace we have made here today.”

If we have to place him in a home quadrant, I’d say he was a Driver.  When he negotiated, he did so from what was obvious to others as a position of strength.  But he was an Amiable Driver (powerful use of relationships-more than anyone else in the story).  That puts him near center right next to driving amiables, analytical expressives and expressive analytics.  Using the MBTI, Vito was ESTJ.

But in fairness to the Jungians, Vito Corleone was in the story, the definitive “Guardian” of a way of life with its own set of rules, and own set of values based on a concept of respect so profoundly important within the sub-culture he adopted.  And it is his own values of what he senses is important to security and his social order that set him apart from other “guardian’ types.  You see, he wouldn’t likely be eager to join the PTA (unless he could completely take charge of it), because that institution already operates by somebody else’s rules.

I’ve mentioned the The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, and also Social Style Profile Patterns.  Which do you feel would be quicker, if not easier to use as a tool for the character analysis of Vito Corleone?

1.) That he was more prone to extroversion over introversion, oriented to sensing more than intuition, more into his thinking than his feeling, and seeking closure over being open-ended?  Or, would it be better to tell you:

2.) His greatest need was to be in control of things, and that when made very tense, when sensing (fearing) his ability to maintain that control was threatened, he’d be likely to become rather autocratic?

I like the second assessment, but is it over-simplistic?  Well, I suppose that would depend on how one arrived at the conclusion.  The process of collecting data to plot someone on graphs for the MBTI is similar to the process of determining their social style.  Behavior has to be observed, particularly when involving decision making.  And values need to be assigned to adjectives that describe them.  Then, the data has to be collected and compared to how it ranks within a bank of information on the behaviors of others within a range of normal psychology.

Further, it’s helpful and practical to have certain elements of style charted out so that what you know generally about them is more clearly defined.  It was that very thing that gave me the defining words I used in description number two above.

Of course you want be able to identify basic need.  But you also want to understand how they make use of time, what is important to them as they relate to others, how they view tasks in general, and what is their orientation to decision making.  In other words, their primary question of what, why, who, or how, are they most likely to put the maximum effort towards, what they are most comfortable accepting or rejecting, what is their greatest strength, and also their greatest weakness.

And it also works backwards.  With a valid summary of style elements, it’s easier to take what we observe and determine the style a person is likely to be more comfortable in.  For example, if I see an individual generally avoiding involvement, tends to be cautious, is more interested in “how” rather than “what”, and is better with planning than execution, given a choice between driving, amiable, expressive or analytical, I’d say they were an analytic.

But using the four graphs used to determine MBTI, the only one I could be fairly certain of is introversion over extroversion; introversion is a part of the signature for all analytics.  But I cannot certain about the other three graphs.

There’s a fifty-fifty chance they could be intuitive or sensing.  All but the Expressive Analytics are more predisposed to be in a world of the their thinking rather than their feeling, and the Driving Analytics lean to perception more than judgment.  Thus the Driving Analytic tends to be more open ended, while all the other analytics have a stronger need to get closure.

Don’t get confused here.  Being unhurried and thoughtful does not tell you they don’t want closure.  It tells you they don’t want to FORCE closure at the risk of error.  It is BECAUSE they have that need, and more than anything, do not want to be wrong, that they as a group tend to be seen as the kind of people that want to postpone or avoid deadlines altogether.

Another reason I like the social style model is that it makes it easy to identify where the character is on a summary of style elements diagram.  I’m sure you could come up with a similar one for the MBTI if you know the weight of the adjectives being tracked by the feedback instrument.

But as it is, I only have to think about four patterns on a grid instead of sixteen in order to identify their primary profile.  Then, I can look at that same four pattern matrix to see their secondary influence.  To go much further than that would be to observe a person under extremely tense and pressured situations where they have a lot of trouble resolving any conflict or controversy.  That’s when a number of alternate fallback behaviors seem to zoom all over the place.  And in situations where the tension never goes away, some people might go insane.  I’m finding that harder to predict rather than just observe after it happens.

Though it might help, you don’t have to be a complete sociopath just to be crazy.  That’s why courts allow for it to sometimes be considered a “temporary” situation.  

But for the purposes of doing a character analysis for the average acting assignment, or understanding the people you work with, “crazy” may not be the profile you’re needing, unless you’re just observing people trying to find their cars at the Atlanta Airport.

What we really want to do is learn something from what we observe about the behavior of ourselves, and the other people on that same stage with us.  We want to find a way that points to all kinds of answers about how they operate, especially primary need (want, desire), and primary and secondary fallback behaviors likely to occur when those needs are not met.  It tells us what they are afraid of.  So, with knowing what they want and what they fear, we can understand what their motivation is likely to be.  In other words, what is the offer they can’t refuse?  More than just a way to interpret the character, it tells us how to deal with them, or, as an actor, how to BE them.  

It isn’t really so simple after all, is it?  It requires access to not just input data, but the proper use of the tools to tell you what the data means.  And you have to learn how to use the tools, too, don’t you?  Their are many such tools and models out there, many of them supported by research.

But regardless of the model you use, make sure the information you’re gathering is from people who are honest, and knowledgeable about the person being profiled. Even if you’re certain the instrument being used is capable of giving a clear picture, validity is going to depend on the accuracy of the input data.

There are obvious benefits to understanding people.  For one thing, if we don’t, we might have trouble getting others to understand us the way we’d want them to.  And if we understand each other, we will have the tools to decide how to cooperate effectively.

Cooperation is primary if we want to be able to adapt to change.  And being able to adapt to change, according to Charles Darwin, is far more important to survival than competition, though competition is certainly a part of it.  Only the strong survive?  Well, where is Tyrannosaurus Rex?  I guess he couldn’t adapt fast enough.

So, we learn by understanding how we can cooperate better.  That moves us closer to commitments rather than mere appearance of compliance, doesn’t it?  But most of all, for those of us who are expected to be leaders, and have the will to lead, we can establish the equity in the process, so others will want to help us reach our goals.  And while doing so, at the same time, reaching theirs.  And when that happens, integrity has a chance of becoming the “trump” card again.


“The Godfather” by Mario Puzo was originally published in 1969 by G. P. Putnam’s and Sons.  All the quotations above are from characters in the movies based on that novel as produced by Paramount Pictures, and therefore are not in any way a part of the property of this article, or this article’s author.

Business of Theater and Theater of Business: Part Two

There are so many ways to label people, and some of them will be more valid than others.  This is true even with our first impressions.  Some are recognition of the familiar, and can be with empathy.  Some are harsh and judgmental,   It’s not unusual to try to quickly “size up” people, and categorize them so we’ll know what to expect, how to communicate with them, and whether or not to trust them.  But by saying that, it’s also common that people get it wrong.

Some people, whether they realize it or not, make a habit of looking for signs that would suggest vulnerability, or a threat.  When you see a woman in a crowded elevator clutch her pocketbook tightly, you can’t presume that she’s even all that aware that she’s doing it.  It may be an almost unconscious reaction to something she sees, hears, or smells. It could be for a lot of reasons, but one thing for sure: she’s made a decision, rational or irrational- conscious or not, and has acted on it.

Knowing part of the picture can be misleading.  It’s not enough to say someone is a type A or type B personality, unless you’re just trying to assess the stress factors that might cause them to become a coronary patient.  Nor is it enough to know if they are a left or right brain thinker.  Because if you stop there, you’re likely to start presuming things that may not be true.  There’s lots of flavors other than chocolate and vanilla.  But even if there weren’t, there are many different kinds of chocolate.

Even to call a person a whole brain thinker may indicate you see them as having a lot of versatility and social skills, and could also imply that they can certainly “think outside the box”.  But while we should all want to improve and develop how we think and solve problems, you’ll need some different assessment tools to do an effective character analysis.  Hamlet was an incredible thinker, but that was also part of his problem.  We’ll want to look at Hamlet again a bit later.

Carl Jung proposed two pairs of cognitive functions:

A.)  “rational” (judging) functions: thinking and feeling;

B.)  “irrational” (perceiving) functions: sensing and intuition

Jung also believed that for each individual, these functions are expressed either in an introverted, or an extraverted way.

Based on this, the standard Myers Briggs Type indicator uses four graphs to pinpoint the person being tested in one of sixteen temperament types by combining the information plotted on each of four graphs.  These graphs are scales of being inclined to be oriented more as:

Introversion (I) or Extroversion (E)

Sensing (S) or Intuitive (N)

Feeling (F) or Thinking (T)

Judgment (J) or Perception (P)

Let’s look at two examples of the variations that can be recognized by combining the plotted points of these four graphs.  An individual could be assessed as:

1.)  an ESTJ – extraversion (E), sensing (S), thinking (T), judgment (J);

2.) or an INFP – introversion (I), intuition (N), feeling (F), perception (P).

These are just two of the sixteen patterns that can be derived, but you see how a profile of a temperament or personality type can emerge.

According to The MBTI, and psychologists Dr. David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates, this gives us four general temperaments that mirror the ancient personality types envisioned by Hippocrates:

Guardian (Melancholic)……MBTI – SJ

Artisan (Sanguine)…………….MBTI – SP

Idealist (Choleric)……………..MBTI – NF

Rationalist (Phlegmatic)…..MBTI – NT

But there is another model.  It’s function is to position individuals on an interpersonal style matrix, and it involves an intersection between only two graphs:

A.) emotional responsiveness or emotional control;

B.) a degree of assertiveness, or lack of assertiveness, also called the “ask or tell” tendency.

At a quick glance, the matrix is divided into four general categories:

Driver (dominance – director);

Amiable (accommodating – collaborator),

Expressive (collaborating – inducement),  

Analytic (deliberating – compliance).

These groupings are quite different from the MB/Keirsey types.  For example, a rationalist (NT) could be a driver, amiable, expressive or even an analytic, but their sub-quadrant within the matrix for each would be analytical.

The matrix also goes further to identify comfort and stress relationships by visually defining the distances (or stretch requirements) between styles, and you actually see that on the grid.  For that reason, I like this model, and tend to use it as a primary tool for character analysis.   It makes sense out of some of the potential for conflict and controversy between variant styles.  Additionally, each of these four main groups is divided again by four.  This gives  a total of sixteen variant social styles or sub-styles, and each one of them actually does correspond directly to one of the sixteen Myers Briggs types.

A person may be an analytic, but that they are an expressive analytic is important.  Their home base as an analytic might be derived from a study of the four basic Jungian psychological functions.  It not only helps us know some basic social need, it also begins to identify how they learn.  This takes us back to the Myers Briggs model which shows the expressive analytic as an INFJ.

This brings us back to Hamlet.  In spite of his  exceptional qualities such as a graceful personality, and popularity among his countrymen, his fall from greatness – his tragic flaw was his delay of resolution and action; his inability to act which lead to his primary fallback behavior of avoiding the issue.

Caused by his introversion? Intuitiveness?  His feelings for his father?  His overwhelming sense of needing to get closure, but not able to do so?  Not any one of them, but all of them together.  I’ve seen a number of character analysis results that have Hamlet all over the place.  One director called him an idealist – the ethical intuitive extrovert.  Plotting him as an ENFJ would make him an expressive driver; another as an ENTJ, or analytical driver, but Hamlet was no driver.

Another assessment was as an analytical amiable, or INTP, but they would be wrong.  If that were true, he would’ve lacked the assertiveness to tell Ophelia to: “Get thee to a nunnery!”  His emotional stability came into question as he faked madness, but he was good at it.  Hamlet was analytic.  He was an expressive analytic.  His expressive fallback to attack was held in check for a while by very deliberative practices in support of his need to be certain, and thus overpowered, at least for a while, by his primary need to avoid.

In fact, every position on any of the four single graphs used in MBTI can and does appear at one time or another in all four social styles.  So it is important to understand that neither the assertiveness scale nor the emotional responsiveness scale is to be confused with introversion/extroversion, or any of the other graphs used in the Myers Briggs model, because they are not interchangeable.

In character analysis, too many variables can distract a director if they just try to determine values by the MBTI.  The process is analytical and takes time.  It’s similar in the beginning to assembling the pieces of a difficult jigsaw puzzle where the image is hard to visualize at first.  But when charting by social style, the corresponding temperament type begins to make sense for two reasons: What they want to happen, and what they don’t want to happen becomes more obvious.  After all, the goal is to find the motivation, isn’t it?

Motivation – The Business of Theater, and The Theater of Business: an Introduction

In theater, every action that takes place on stage during a performance is called a piece of business.  What is it about that particular character that matches up with that particular kind of behavior?  Not just what they do, but why they do it.

Character analysis is an important part of the process of developing the story.  Once the audience, the co-worker, or customer gets a read on the character, they begin to react as soon as that person walks onto the stage.  On “Seinfeld”, as soon as Kramer would come sliding into the room, the audience started laughing.

Our actions tell a story, and sooner or later, someone is watching our performance.  But it’s what is behind the performance; the motivation that drives it that is the important business of theater, and the critical theater of business.  That’s not just a play on words.

The quality of the performance is always judged by the audience, your co-workers, or your customers, isn’t it?  Those who work on improving skills in this area can expect to see improved performance in their business of theater, or their theater of business.  Those who ignore it can expect a poorer quality of performance than might be desirable.  Here’s why.

When your performance, or someone else’s performance is less than desirable, when you’re not getting what you want, or not being treated the way you want to be treated, you’ll feel some tension, won’t you?  Sometimes the stress is subtle, and just it slows you down.  But at other times, you feel you’ve hit a brick wall.

When we run into a wall, we tend to fall back a bit, right?  What does a three year old do when the ice cream falls off the spoon and onto the floor?  Cry?  Scream?  Yell?  Oh, yes!  A three year old doesn’t think about what they may have done to cause the problem.  They just want somebody to fix it.  Their behavior is reactionary.

Most folks don’t even recognize their own primary fallback behaviors under stress, but others will see it if they pay attention.  But just because they see it, doesn’t mean they’ll read it correctly.  In their minds they might be trying to figure out what would provoke them to act in such a way, or worse, judge it to mean something that isn’t true.  And it is for this reason more than anything else, that I would want to share with you the tools of character analysis.

Whether interpreted correctly or not, in the theater of business, there are serious risk factors associated with people reacting under stress.  And if the stress doesn’t go away, the fallback behaviors could develop into a whole series of reactionary behaviors that are even harder to accept, and things could get worse.

Besides affecting individual performance, it can lead to undermining entire systems.  When stories of failures make the news, such as Enron, Arthur Andersen, Lehman Brothers, and others, it often seems that the breakdown in equity was prevalent in the practices of leadership.

In each case, by the end game, all kinds of things had started to go wrong, and lots of bad decisions, spurred by stressful and emotional decisions, lead to a series of reactionary behaviors that brought the house down.  And these are not isolated incidences in human history.  It happens a lot more often than we might be aware of.  Perhaps it was that very regular bit of human nature that lead George Bernard Shaw to say:

“We learn from history that we learn nothing from history.”

But we can if we want to; if we’ll do what it takes.  The same tools I’d use for character analysis also apply to real people in real situations.  In fact, that’s what they were designed for.  There are several models used to identify temperament, style, and personal motivation which serves to point out predictable behaviors, and methods of modifying them.  More importantly, it needs to be done without judgmental adjectives and negative profiling, but from a more neutral perspective that aids and encourages understanding.  Perhaps that is the hardest lesson to learn when dealing with yourself, or profiles of real people you know.

I want you to think about Elvis Presley, Madonna, Dwight Eisenhower, General George Patton, Mohandas Gandhi, Adolf Hitler,  John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and Mikail Gorbachev.  While each of them displayed quite different personalities from each other, there is one word that has often been used to describe them all: “charisma.”

I speak of charisma as that very compelling talent or attractiveness that would cause others to feel inspired, and want to follow, or in some cases, be like you.  In the story of Joan of Arc, the soldiers didn’t just march along in compliance to military rule, they were committed, and even willing to die for her.

Charisma seems like such an intangible thing, and it’s as if some have it, and some don’t.  But the fact is that it can be defined another way: the ability to get others to want to help you reach your goals, while at the same time, feeling doing so helps them reach theirs.  It means you’ve connected with them.  It means you’re versatile enough to show, and receive empathy from a lot of different kinds of people.

Think of what it would mean to you if your people believe that the “what’s in it for them” is right up there with the “what’s in it for you”.  And, think of what it means to you if they don’t.

That last definition of charisma, having others want to help you reach their goals, while reaching theirs also defines “Equitable Leadership”, because that’s exactly what it is.  When used in workshops, people come away with a better understanding of why people are treated the way they are, and have a much better handle on what other people’s behavior shows how they wish to be treated.

As  leaders, it’s important that we learn how to be open and honest with ourselves and others.  Sometimes when we’re not, the most important person we’re trying to deceive is ourself.  We loose sight of the simple reality that it’s okay to be who we are.

It’s sad to see a person spend their entire life trying to be someone they are not because they think that is the only way to be worthy.  And that can lead to becoming a tragic character.  In drama, what makes a tragic flaw so tragic is that the character often doesn’t recognize it as a flaw.

I’ve enjoyed using a number of assessment tools, but prefer a social style matrix because in addition to being quite valid, it helps me identify conflict and controversy issues by fallback behaviors quicker.  This feature alone makes it very helpful for people in team situations.

But don’t presume they are carved in stone.  In fact, social styles and temperament type indicators are primarily valid within the culture they are observed, and at the time they are taken, though some psychologists have disagreed (especially when their income depends on the particular model they’re selling).  But as Abraham Maslow said:

“He that is good with a hammer (and only has a hammer) tends to think everything is (and sees every problem as) a nail.” 

So, it is reasonable to advise you not to read too much into the assessment.  Everyone needs to remember that your social style or temperament type is never as inflexible as your blood type, no matter how certain you are of its accuracy.  But don’t read too little, either.  Some folks just latch on to some single point about their profile or type, and run with it. It could be like running with scissors. Introversion/extroversion, thinking/feeling – none of these by themselves will give you as clear a picture as you might get by looking at all of it.  And additionally, without the feedback about one being seen as more or less assertive, as well as more or less emotionally controlled as seen within a specified group, it can be quite misleading.

Another thought about a variance between how we’re “wired” and how we behave would be the impact of knowing.  Once a person has been made aware of certain strengths and weaknesses, even if so categorized in their own minds, they will begin to apply them to areas where they can leverage a benefit, or avoid something they personally don’t want.  In some situations, what a person subconsciously wishes to avoid or fears becomes much more powerful than some consciously stated desire or objective.  Recognizing that goes a long way towards understanding how politics manipulates the minds of phobic people.

Once made aware of what these perceptions can and do influence, along with the kinds of behaviors that indicate them, a process of behavior modification can begin.  Or, they are certainly at least likely to think about it far more than it would be expected without such feedback.

So, for the person who behaves significantly different than you might expect them due to temperament, look a little deeper to the motivation behind why they might be wearing a mask.  I’m not talking about, or in any way encouraging deception.  What I’m talking about is how a person chooses to present themselves. Perhaps they do so in such a way in order to connect with, and show empathy to others within their work culture and environment.  What might otherwise be seen as fickle, false or insincere behavior from an overly critical or judgmental point of view, might be a sign of adaptability.  And that ability, be it skill or talent, is the principal trait for survival, according to Darwin.

But that being said, I do caution you not to be fake or insincere, or you’ll get caught (unless you’re a clever sociopath).  As any seriously trained actor can tell you, there’s a lot of difference between “pretending” (at the risk of been seen as pretentious), and acting–which includes understanding the motivation well enough to conduct the business in an efficient, and believable manner.  The business of theater is the motivation.  And far more than most people realize, the theater of business is also the motivation.

Failing Even When You Are Sure You’re Right

People often believe they are right, even when they’re not.  Believing something does not make it true any more than disbelieving it makes it false.  But the more strongly one is convinced of their own correctness, the less likely they will be open to criticism to the contrary.  We’ve all experienced having to deal with dogmatic opinions of others in situations where we felt the other person might be misinformed, and in some cases where we feel they are just flat-out wrong.  And even in lesser matters, the differences about the ways people think and feel often give rise to tensions, if not outright conflict, controversy, and confrontation.

When people are working together in an office or job site, they interact with each other.  Each brings to the table certain services as well as currencies used to exchange for the services of others.  So in effect, they’re buying and selling all the time, aren’t they?  We forget that sometimes, and when we do, the “give and take” seems to diminish to just “take”.  And, it can have a negative effect on morale.  As I’m sure you know, when attitude diminishes, so does positive activity, thus reducing the potential for positive results.  The quality of performance can suffer for it.  Ineffective or poor performance is a fairly clear sign that failure has occurred, or is going to, isn’t it?

But don’t we all already know that?  Isn’t it something we would believe to be common sense?  So why is it then, if we know quality performance comes from positive interactions and efforts, do people experience failures so often?  For a few, it might be said that they do not play well with others, but for the most part, people do try to get along with each other, don’t they?  Perhaps it isn’t from a lack of wanting to do a good job, or even to get along with others as much as it is from something they don’t know.  Consider this:

What if your team believes the “what’s in it for them” is right up there with the “what’s in it for you”?  What if they don’t believe it?  What is it that you do that might cause them to buy into what you want, or be cautious or even resentful of it?  Is it from what they think might be a disparity or unfairness in compensation, or is it something else?  In other words, what is their motivation?  And what are they thinking is yours?

In the theater, one of the critical moments necessary to bring things to the level of good performance is when both the director and the actor know the motivation: to understand what’s behind why they are doing what they do.  Each incidental activity on the stage by a performer is called “business”.  It has to make sense to the audience that the character would be motivated to do that piece of business when perhaps other characters would not.  If the actors and the director fail to understand what motivates characters to conduct a piece of “busy-ness”, then you can expect the performance quality to be low, and the “business” could become meaningless.  So, motivation is the business of theater.

The actions and interactions between people in business intertwined with the comedies, tragedies, and melodramas of everyday life also produce a kind of theater.  And in that world, motivation would also be behind the theater of business.  Oh, it is.  I has to be, whether people recognize it, or not.

Business needs to understand what motivates people to create, design, build, and sell their products and other services.  It is also critical that they understand what motivates people to buy them.  And that motivation, what people want as well as what they specifically don’t want, will vary from person to person according to their temperament and style, and often due to information about their culture that can be noticed in their behavior.

It is certainly critical in sales.  Buyers will tell you a lot about what they want by how they act. Pay attention to it, and honor what the customer is showing you by their actions and behavior that points out to what they want to have happen.  And with the same tools of observation, you can also determine what the buyer fears might happen.  What motivates them may not be the same thing that motivates you. When they buy, no matter how rational you think you’ve been, their decision will have been an emotional one.  Learn to read their emotional signals.

While you’re observing them, be mindful of how you are behaving accordingly.  Don’t pull too tightly back into your egocentric self.  If you do, the signal you broadcast will be that what you want is more important than what they want.  People, even when doing so subconsciously, will get a “feeling” about you not only from the words you use, but how you deliver them.

Not just in sales, but whenever we’re talking, we’re making a speech, even if it’s only a sentence. There are three kinds of speeches: to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. In sales, you may at times use all three. But there’s another kind frequently attempted called: “The speech to impress.” It never works. Better still, learn to get beyond simple rhetoric which may present your position argumentatively, by moving to dialogue.  Talk with them, and not at them.  That’s where resolution takes place. Without it, the attempt to close is an attempt to bully.

What about your business?  What about the characters in your production?  In your community of clients?  Are they all supposed to be motivated to want all the same things, and for all the same reasons?  If  you want them to be, you may find it quite difficult to put together such a team as that.  If fact, it is much more likely that your cast of players is made up of all kinds of people who might see things differently than you do more than you might think.  Of course it’s good to stay focused on your objectives, but that may require more of an open mind than some realize.  Without it, you run the risk of overlooking their objectives.

There is a strength to be found in diversity.  That strength becomes effective when you recognize the individuals for what they are, and take the time to know what they want.  If it’s your customer, you’d better find out what benefit they really want, and don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s just price.  I hope you understand that something besides “cheap” will be needed if you intend to keep them happy.

If your employees and you think it’s just the paycheck, or just to not get fired, you can look forward to the kind of low quality performance levels that require supervised compliance instead of enthusiastic commitment.  And do not make the mistake of thinking you can enforce commitment.  That is a myth.  Unfortunately, the mythology of an enforced commitment drives almost every institution – corporate, government or otherwise, on the planet.

Everybody that goes to school learns one thing in common.  And it doesn’t matter how far you go.  If you drop out in the eighth grade, finish high school, college, get a masters or even a PhD, there is one thing you’re all pretty sure about.  And that is:

If you’re standing in line and the person with the authority, the ability, and the will to punish you is looking, you have to behave yourself.  

But if it’s that substitute teacher that never does anything other than say: “Now you boys behave,” you can jump in and out of line and say: “Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah!”

Don’t believe me?  Go to the nearest interstate highway.  Watch people driving.  When you are coming around a curve and see brake lights coming on, there’s either a wreck, or a highway patrol.  And not just that theres a patrol present; he’s parked, has his door open and is pointing his radar gun.  What he’s doing, ladies and gentlemen, is taking names, and sending people to the principal’s office!

“All the world’s a stage,  and all the men and women merely players…” – Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was talking about the parts we play as being the ages of our lives.  But who you are right now at your current age is the character you need to be aware of.  And not just what you think of yourself, but what other people see in your behavior, and react to.  There are tools available to get that information.  As you learn to use them, and begin to see yourself through the eyes of others, you’re on your way to being able to understand the same kinds of things about your team members.

If Shakespeare is right; if all the world’s a stage, who is your character, and what performance level do you expect out of the role you are playing on that stage – this theater?  Are you being yourself?  It’s certainly okay for you to be you, but it’s not okay to expect everybody else to do it.  People who relentlessly demand that their way of doing things is the only right way, tend to alienate more people than they win over.  Keep an open mind when dealing with others.  There is a difference between judging people and understanding them.

And as with all learning outside of trauma, it is a process.  Be mindful that all along the way, you will be forming opinions.  A caution to be aware of is, that just as soon as you’re sure you know what must be absolute, whatever you may need to question will become increasingly harder to see.

Doing What It Takes: A Story

When you look up and see your own child at some distance away, standing at the very edge of a high place over a drop off that falls into deep water, your heart starts pounding in your ears, and you feel the adrenalin rush.  Almost every parent, for one reason or another, understands that anxious feeling!

Well, he was fine.  He was okay.  As it turned out it was no real danger at all; it was just a swim meet.  But my heart was pounding just the same – parents get excited about that sort of thing, don’t we?  We get excited because we actually watch our children face challenges,  and see first hand how winning or losing effects their attitude.

We had talked a lot at home with our children about setting goals, and some of the necessary action steps we need to take in order to meet them.  But that day when I arrived to watch a county swim meet, I was completely unaware that I was about to learn how the combination of attitude, activity and results are so cleverly intertwined, and inter-dependent.

Remember when we fell behind in school, our teachers would remind us we needed to “bring up our average”?  But so many of us really didn’t understand what exactly was required to do it.  My son showed me what was required.  He showed me by doing something I’d told him to do, without ever making it a habit to do so myself.  That was over twenty years ago, but because what I learned was so clear, I think about it all the time as if it were yesterday.

Among other sports, organizations and activities, all three of my sons were on the swim team in junior high and high school.  They only swam for the school during swim season, and not involved in any year-round swim program.  But some others were, and one boy in particular was a pre-Olympic qualifier.  His name was Bobby.  During my oldest son, David’s senior year, Bobby swam for David’s team’s chief rival.

On that day in the free style relay, I saw them lined up on the block right next to each other.  Leading off for his school, was poised my son David, one of the better swimmers in the county.  And right beside him leading off for his top rival was Bobby, one of the better swimmers in the western hemisphere.

Everybody, and I mean everybody there including me, knew my son David was not going to out-swim Bobby in that event.  Oh, there was a good chance that my son’s relay team would come in second, but we all were certain that Bobby’s team would place first.

At the signal, seven swimmers representing seven schools hit the water.  My son swam well, and I was proud of him, but exactly as predicted, he was second to Bobby in the first leg of the heat, and though it was close, David’s team came in second overall.

My wife and I sat there watching him across the room.  He was talking with his coach.  Then David looked up directly at us, and started heading over towards us in the bleachers.  When he got right in front of me, he just stood there for a moment with a towel around him, and I could tell he was thinking about something; thinking what to say.  I thought I already knew what he was going to say.  I was preparing to hear all the regular excuses, such as:

“I got a bad start off the block.  I messed up my stroke.  I missed my breathing rhythm and took in some water.  I made a bad flip-turn.  I misgauged my distance coming to the touchpad.”

But David didn’t say any of those things.  What he said to me was:

“Hey Dad, I got my time.  I more than beat my average time – I beat my best!  And I’m only nineteen one hundredths of a second away from making the cut for the state swim meet!  And I’ll beat that easy by the finals!”

You should have seen the smile on his face.  And, on mine, realizing that this teenage boy knew something very well that had taken me over four decades to figure out.  It didn’t make the six O’clock news, but it was the best thing that happened to my son that day, and to me.  You see, both of us were validated by the realization of a goal.

Sometimes you say something, and someone you care about listens, then acts on what you said.  And when it works…how powerful is that?  Yet as powerful as the moment was for me, and feeling very impacted by it, the faint question in the back of my mind was:

Will he remember the blueprint he used that day to continue to build those kinds of precious moments for the rest of his life?

Some of you might be waiting to hear how David came back in the finals to beat Bobby by a split-second.  Some Horatio Alger or Tortoise and the Hare story?   Attainable?  Yes.  Realistic?  No.  There was already a huge divide between their habits of practice, and a huge divide between what they both had already taught themselves to believe.

That day at the pool, however, my son David did have a goal.  He was reaching for a higher mark than he had ever reached or even tried to reach before.  And it was something he believed he could get.  Not to win the swim meet, or even beat Bobby, but instead, the goal was to qualify for state.  And by the way, he made the cut.

I believe you should set high goals for yourself, to push yourself, and go after your dreams.  But don’t set goals you don’t believe you have a chance of reaching, because if you think you can’t, you aren’t even likely to try.  You won’t shoot for the stars if you don’t believe you can get off the ground.

As a boy, I remember helping Granddaddy paint the outside of his house.  As I started up the ladder to the top of the second story, Granddaddy asked:

“Are you gonna be able to make it all the way up there?”

I answered:  “I’ll go as far as I can.”

Granddaddy came back with:

“You’ll go as far as you think you can.”

Years later, I heard my friend Chuck Russell speaking to a group, and he said:

“Nobody climbs up a ladder even one rung higher than they think they can go without falling.”

That’s what Granddaddy was talking about.  Now, I call that the freezing point.  And when you thaw out, if you thaw out, you’ll slowly start coming down to a place where you’re comfortable, and feel safe.

It’s the believing what you can do, or what you cannot do that makes all the difference in the world about what you’ll even try.  And by that, you will never get past that freezing point until you believe you can.  Believing is very powerful.

In a 1941 animated film produced by Walt Disney, Dumbo the Elephant could fly.  But he would never try until he believed.  For a long time, he believed in the magic feather which was just a trick played on his mind by a group of crows and a hapless mouse.  The feather never did have a bit of magic in it.  The magic was in the believing.

Eventually, Dumbo lost his grip on the feather, which was very frightening at first.  Up ’til then, he’d believed solely in the feather, even though there was no real power in it.  But with the feather gone, he now had to believe in something else, something real that was a part of himself.  He did, and that’s what saved him.

By the way, for those of you who will remember, what Dumbo believed became obvious by the course of actions he took, and not by anything he said he’d do, or even by anything he said he believed.  As a matter of fact, at no time in the story did he ever say a single word…out loud.  Elephants can’t talk, that’s impossible!

Impossible is a concept.  It cannot exist in you as an idea unless you believe something to be impossible.  While it may be impossibility in fact, it will not be the fact, but the thinking it is that will keep you from trying.

That’s the real point of the story about my son, David, at the swim meet.  Sure, there was something he thought was impossible.  But there was also something he believed he could get, and wanted bad enough to do what it takes to get it.  He knew it was not going to be good enough to just keep doing what he had been doing, because his average wasn’t good enough. Neither was his best.  So, not just to do the best he can, but to simply do what it takes.

And what it took was to make it a habit and a practice to every single day, work on incrementally improving his average to get well within reach of his best, and beat it.

I’m sure most of you remember hearing something Sir Winston Churchill once said:

“Sometimes it is not enough to do our best; sometimes we must do what is required.”

But do you know why he said it?  Because up ‘til then, the best they had done had not been good enough to stop the advancing Army of the Third Reich.

How many of you before this month is over, will say to someone almost out of habit:

“That’s okay, you did the best you could, and that’s all anyone can expect of you.”

Well, quit saying that!  It’s not true.

Look at it this way: If you’re alone in a rowboat that sinks in the middle of a lake, and you drown trying to swim to shore, no one will doubt that you tried hard, and with great empathy might believe you did the best you could.  But nobody, not one person that really cared about you will even for a minute think those efforts were good enough.

Earlier I told you a story about a boy who beat his best, but he didn’t win the swim meet.  He beat his best, but didn’t get first place.  So, he didn’t win.  Didn’t he?

Some years later while still in graduate school, David accepted a teaching assignment in Special Education.  In so many cases, he was teaching children that everybody, including the parents, had given up on.  He was told the children on his list were not likely to learn very much, and that as a group, little was to be expected of them.  It was as if he should just supervise their behavior so that they wouldn’t hurt themselves.

But David saw the challenge differently.  As he got to know the children, be began to believe in some of them.  And because he did when nobody ever had before, they started believing in him, too.  Since David was just starting out, and not yet even a certified teacher, he was given a provisional certificate.

With such credentials as that, added to a burning passion in his gut to want to do the right thing for those children, averages started to improve; someone was raising the bar.  It was noted, and his principal and peers named him as the: “Teacher of the Year”!

After hearing this, his youngest brother said:

“That’s pretty cool!  My brother got teacher of the year on a learner’s permit!”

Now all of a sudden I’m remembering back.  What kept ringing in my head were words like:

“Hey Dad, I beat my average, and I beat my best, and my goal is so close I can taste it!”

He remembered.  He learned.  It was his attitude.  It drove his actions.  His activity generated his results.  His results kept driving his attitude higher, and higher and higher!

Only those who believe they can, will bother to make a habit of incrementally beating their average. And it stands to reason, if they do, sooner or later they’ll beat their best.  You see, it raises the bar automatically every time you bump that average up.  And it’s always within your believable reach, never frozen in the fear of the unreachable.

I won’t take the time here to tell you about David’s two brothers.  But I’ll close this segment by saying I’m very proud that all three of my sons are the kind of men who’ve had some notable experiences with beating their average and even beating their best.   And by recognizing what is required to do it, they all have some clear understanding of what it takes to…

 Reach For Their Dreams.


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The “Z” Pattern of Fallback Behaviors (Revised)

Some years ago while participating in a workshop with several psychologists, I uncovered an idea about a possible pattern of behavior that seems to have some merit, but I’ve found no clinical studies available.  It had to do with going beyond anticipating the primary fallback behavior likely to occur based on the behavior style of a person under stress when the stress does not go away.  Under normal circumstances, the primary fallback behaviors to expect according to a person’s social style profile would be:

*  The Driver (more assertive; doesn’t easily show emotions) ~ to become autocratic (sensing control is threatened).

*  The Amiable (less assertive; emotionally responsive) ~ to acquiesce (sensing a threat of being disliked).

*  The Expressive (more assertive; emotionally responsive) ~ to attack (sensing withdrawal of emotional validation; approval, and applause).

* The Analytic (less assertive; emotionally reserved) ~ to avoid (sensing a risk of being proven wrong, or not allowed the opportunity to be certain).

From any of these starting points, it’s fairly easy to anticipate a primary response from an individual.  But what remains curious is to see was what happens when the stress does not go away.  When their principal modus operandi fails, it makes sense for them to try something else.  So, would not they be likely to try other fallbacks?  And additionally, is the pattern of how they might go through a series of them predictable?

Perhaps the order of them may not be, but what is likely to happen will be an emergence of some kind of pattern.  So far, I see at least an emergence of a pattern that shifts from primary to secondary fallback.  It is the automatic tendency to try “plan B”.  Additionally, since the primary is from home base (where”comfort” lives), it could easily be the secondary reaction that is first noticed by the casual observer.

Lets take a look at an example of a primary and a secondary.  A person may be analytic in their home quadrant, but particularly a driving analytic.  Their first avoidance might go unnoticed, and only when they show signs of unrelenting tensions, and take on their “driver” behavior and become autocratic, do they begin to seem unreasonable and possibly reacting out of desperation.  And, it is possible that they could oscillate back and forth between first and second base for quite some time before attempting to steal third.  That might be conditional to the intensity of the stress being felt.

I think the kind of tension and the perceived weight of risk may also have an effect.  For example, a person might vacillate between primary and secondary before moving on to the fallback behaviors of the other variant styles, and feel no need to try “plans C or D” as long as they hope to get some relief due to “plans A or B”.  A person operating outside their comfort zone will feel some tension depending on how flexible they are, and also how far they are having to stretch.  But it is a reaction to some kind of stress that tends cause us to pull tightly to a home position and allow others to see us in a fallback mode in the first place.

Consider former President Richard Nixon: his reactions to Watergate are examples of radical shifts in behavior under stress.  He went from his primary fallback to his secondary; back to his first, and then through all of them by the time he resigned.

Nixon’s social style profile (by my assessment) was that of a Driving Analytic.  The corresponding Myers-Briggs Type Indicator I mapped for him is ISTP (introversion, sensing, thinking, perception).  He generally appeared rather formal in his business dealings.  He took pride in wanting to appear rationally and logically in his thinking.  He was very loyal to what he believed were his rules rather than those of the “system”.   And eventually that got him into trouble.  His attempts to appear warm and caring were regularly perceived by the public at large to be awkward and clumsy at best.  He was not what you might think of when the word “charisma” is used.

When Watergate raised its ugly head, Nixon said nothing at first (avoiding), hoping to steer clear of giving any validity to the idea that there might be anything at all there worth looking at.  But the problem kept coming, growing bigger.

Soon, he appeared in front of the press, assuming a position of strength (control-autocrat) and announced that all the hullabaloo was just hyperbole; that as president, and for matters important to national security, there was nothing the public needed to know.  But he was under stress, and it showed.  The problem did not go away.

Then, he reverted to the fallback of the analytic by again appearing in front of the press with stacks of books, reports, and papers.  He spoke about his due diligence and meticulous handling of the complex matters of interest to the United States, and that if anything wrong or criminal took place that was the fault of anyone in government, he would find it and deal with it.  The attempt to appear thorough, and that his work was ongoing did not satisfy the public.  So it stands to reason that the tension still did not go away.

Feeling quite frustrated by not getting relief, he then tried the fallback of the expressive – to attack.  This time in front of the TV cameras he attacked those he felt were being unduly disloyal to him, and by that, also disloyal to the country.  He attacked the press; he attacked congress and the senate, and even attacked his own cabinet.  It was not a pretty sight.  By the time he realized his mistake, it was too late.  Impeachment was gaining momentum.  Now, the stress had him near the breaking point.

So, he then moved to the amiable (please don’t hate me) style, and acquiesced.  He resigned.  Had his acquiescence not gained relief, he would most likely have continued to zig zag all over the matrix until the public would begin to see a noticeable image of instability.  But by resigning the pressures let up, and he was eventually pardoned.

In hindsight, there was no real benefit that Nixon should have expected to gain from the break-in to the Democratic Headquarters in the Watergate building.  There was nothing there that could help him strategically.  He just wanted to peek.  And his ego lead him to think he could get away with it.  His rules (not society’s) allowed him to justify his actions–to himself.  But according to practically all of the polls at the time, he already had re-election sewed up.  So, was it a stupid decision?  As things turned out, it was certainly not an intelligent one.

I wish to draw a parallel here to the fictional character of Lieutenant Commander Phillip Queeg played by Humphrey Bogart in the movie: “The Caine Mutiny”.  Feeling himself surrounded by disloyal subordinates who he thought were intending to prove his decisions wrong and usurp his authority, things began to go badly.  In the eyes of his crew, even before serious conflict began, Queeg was not the kind of person to seem “lovable”, or likely to attract any sense of closeness, or even the appearance of it, from others.

His early attempts to resolve conflict and controversy met with no support or validation.  His emotional responses, all of them outside his own personal comfort zone, met with failure.  In the end, he was locked into insisting all his measures were justified no matter how foolish or impulsive they appeared to others.  This left him seemingly in a state of apparent psychosis, and that he was not dealing with it in any rational or logical manner–perhaps the one thing he feared more than anything else.

So had Nixon’s resignation been rejected by a hostile tribunal bent on continuing the impeachment process in order to punish Nixon by forceful expulsion and possible other retributions, I suspect Nixon’s behavior would have become even more frantic as he looked for a way to get loose from his demon.  Then what we might have seen could have been a much closer comparison to Commander Queeg in his final scenes.

These “Z-Patterns”, as I call them, are quite difficult to predict until they actually occur.  For without unrelenting stress, we have no observable behavior characteristics to measure.  This is unfortunate for those who’d wish to have some advance notice of possible sociopathic explosions (such as rage random killing), but the fact remains that a criminal profile does not exist until behavior starts noticeably moving in that direction.  In fact, serious and lengthy psychoanalysis might be required, and even that does not guarantee complete disclosure.

That there even is a pattern tied to the social style fallback behaviors is only a theory, and I have no large pool of empirical data to back it up.  Perhaps behavior that seems chaotic for an individual could be linked to something else?  Maybe it can.  I’m not a neuroscientist.  There are some studies, however, that are beginning to suggest some sociopathic behavior patterns may have genetic roots.  But as we move outside the realm of normal psychology, I suppose the function of a social style matrix could easily break down altogether.

So without formal scientific proof, what I’m observing could simply turn out to be just my way of explaining phenomena.  I’ll have to have more than just deductive reasoning, or I might come up with something no more valid than: “Cows eat grass.  My horse, Buddy, eats grass.  Therefore Buddy is a cow.”

Since I am an actor, I often study characters in plays, and novels.  These are stories.  They are usually fiction, although sometimes based on real people.  Since we are dealing with actions and behaviors that come singularly from the mind of an author or playwright, it is not possible to get real information or feedback, because the “character” doesn’t really exist.

I talked to several of the psychologists about using the models as a tool for directors and actors.  Generally I’m told that the models for style are for and about real people to solve real problems in workplace relationships, so applying it to fiction would be not only silly, it would be a waste of time.  But in spite of that, I’ve continued to use the matrix with some degree of satisfaction off and on now for twenty-three years.  Problems seem to occur when an author or playwright has arbitrarily assigned behaviors to a character that, for the purposes of understanding motivation, seem “out of character” to me.

While the study of behavior of story characters may be interesting, how it applies to real people has some merit, because I’ve seen these patterns play out in real people.  And, so have you whether you recognized them as such at the time, or not.  Sometimes, the “why in the world did they do that?” becomes obvious when we look carefully at what motivates them; both for what they want to happen, and particularly what they do not want to happen.

Motivation is what the actor needs to know. Without it, no stage business is justified.  If a person gets up and walks across the room, there is a reason for it, even if it’s a bad one.  What does the character want/need? Why do they pursue a particular pattern of action? What is likely to be the thing they do next when they don’t get what they wanted? And if that doesn’t work, then what next? And Next? A pattern sometimes evolves, and the intrigue to me is wondering if the pattern is predictable.  I’ve seen it in workplaces; I’ve seen it in politicians, and even in some abnormal psychological profiles, such as serial killers.

The twig snaps. It gets our attention. You and I may want to know what it is. But when a deer in the forest hears a twig snap, it is alerted to potential danger. It waits to see if other twigs snap so it can triangulate the position and direction of movement of some potential threat.  If it hears a whole bunch of twigs snapping, and all coming from different directions, the deer might panic, and make the mistake of running into, instead of out of harm’s way. People do that, too. And they keep running until they think they don’t hear anymore twigs snapping. Sometimes it works. But once in a while, that turns out to be the worst thing they could have done.

The search for a tool for theater has lead me to studies about the importance of determining what observable behavior tells us in many walks of life.  No doubt, it has a place for those who seek the value of qualities associated with good leadership, as well as in cultural issues of groups of people that are attempting to deal with resolving conflict and controversy.

While I think what I’ve described about former president Nixon’s behavior did happen, this article I’ve written here is only a beginning.  It is a set of observations, but perhaps little more.  Before I’d have a right to insist my opinions might be valid for everyone to use to predict accurately any pattern of fallback behaviors, a reasonable amount of scientific thought needs to be applied–perhaps a gallon or two.  So, the caution to you as the reader, is not so much that I’ve let the cat out of the bag, but that I have not yet proven it’s really a cat.


(Other interesting notes:  Nixon also attained the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, although he never saw combat.  Herman Wouk’s novel, “The Caine Mutiny”, and also the movie itself were released during a period of American history often referred to as the “McCarthy Era”.  Nothing, as far as I would know, in the novel or the movie alluded to Nixon or any other real person , or of any of the investigations covered by The House Un-American Activities Committee, of which Nixon was a member.  My comparison only draws from retrospect of Nixon’s later behavior.  But it was during that era that the young politically ambitious Nixon participated in investigations, and allegations that some of his party’s adversaries had communist, or other “Un-American” affiliations.  While many of these accusations were never confirmed, in many cases serious damage was done to reputations–a circumstance that lead to some historians referring to the era as one of the darkest times in our past.  Although the investigations around “Watergate” were about different matters altogether, some felt due to his previous persecutions and unrelenting personal attacks on others, Nixon “had it coming.”)