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Posts Tagged “Carl Jung”

In his prophetic post World War I poem The Second Coming, W. B. Yeats writes:

“The blood dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned,

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

There is a Chinese curse that goes something like, “May you live in interesting times.” We certainly seem to be living in one of those times. Peggy Noonan called it “big history” in her Saturday Wall Street Journal column.

My friend Jennifer Brown, author of the recent Amazon business best-seller Inclusion, relates a conversation she overheard last week that got me thinking about the special challenges to entrepreneurial health in a time of severe societal polarization and instability.

Jennifer reports hearing a Starbucks barista sharing about how thoroughly sick she was of the incivility of current political discourse and that she had come to a conscious decision: The minute she logged onto Facebook and saw a single political post, she would immediately log off.

I know how she feels. The political trope of our time has never been so fraught nor the urge to disengage more alluring. Everything is overly charged. It seems folks are bloody exhausted, yet endlessly drawn back into the emotional vortex of the pure drama of a seeming manichaean struggle. (Manichaeism, if unknown to you, is an early Christian heresy that divided the world into absolutes–pure back and white, pure right or wrong–a dualism with little middle way.)

This dominant current meme is reinforced by a report I heard mentioned on NPR recently, which cited a poll from somewhere that over 40% of couples who supported different candidates in the US presidential election ended up breaking up over their differences. Wow! So much for the golden example of James Carville and Mary Matalin, Democratic and Republican strategists respectively, who seem to live a very happy domestic existence despite their political disparity.

There is an almost addictive quality to the dramatic distortion so apparent in our present political moment. It can be all-consuming to the detriment of the focused passion essential to entrepreneurial success. Much like any addiction, our exciting and disturbing political moment allows us to avoid and skirt the very real challenges posed by our essential businesses and personal lives. It is just so much easier to fling ourselves into the exciting societal/political drama than to face the quotidian challenges of everyday life and business. It’s like embracing an escapist sugar high.

This is not to say that political passion and idealism of any stripe are not necessary and wonderful. I respect idealism, of course. Most successful entrepreneurs are idealists. How else do they summon the indispensable courage to attempt to create something out of nothing each day? It is an act of artistic faith, as well as of personal will.

There is an intuitive wisdom in the decision of the young barista mentioned above who chooses to cut off any further political discourse rather than get caught up in ad hominem manichaean disputation. It is sometimes necessary to disengage temporarily. It may well be a healthful disengagement from present polarities to maintain a practical and mindful center. There is no shame in keeping your attention on the main business chance.

Successful entrepreneurs are nothing if not practical people. They are risk-takers but not reckless adventurers. They may live on the cutting edge, but not without shrewd calculation. To maintain that focus this may be a time for the withdrawal from the tropes of the popular meme. It may be a time of making choices as to where to place limited personal energy. Just as it is good to stay clear of individuals who are energy sucks, so is it also sometimes necessary to resist the lemming-like madness of societal drama.

Entrepreneurial practicality militates a functional utile, a nuanced understanding that truth exists in the gray non-absolutes, not in the blacks and whites of political purity. It is important to recognize a bone-deep weariness that can sap creative and functional business energy.

So, this is not a time of tolerance and the truth of “the gray.” But we do not need to surrender to distracting, uncentering angry absolutes.

As Carl Jung warns us, “We all feel the opposite of our own highest principle must be purely destructive, deadly, and evil. We refuse to endow it with any positive life force; hence we avoid and fear it.” Thanks, Carl.

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Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “When virtue has slept, it will arise again all the fresher.”  (Human, All Too Human -1879)

A couple of years ago I was drawn up short by a headline to a one paragraph story in the Harvard Business Review on-line.  The headline read, “Do Depraved Thoughts Make You More Creative?”  The answer, at least for Protestants like me, seems to be absolutely yes.  Depraved creature that I am, the headline certainly got my attention.

The headline refers to a study conducted by Emily Kim and her team at the University of Illinois.  Ms. Kim, et.al., discovered that subjects, particularly Protestants, produced more creative work when they were (a) induced to feel unacceptable desires and primed with words evoking so-called depravity, and (b) induced to feel out of the norm sexual desires.  It was the forbidden or suppressed nature of the emotion that gave the emotion its creative power.  (Sublimation, Culture, and Creativity.  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.  Oct 2013)

This column is putatively focused on what creates meaning, ethics, happiness, and practical business efficacy for entrepreneurs.  So where does depravity fit into this?

Well, just this.  If you seek to become a creative business innovator it’s good to shake things up periodically.  Just for the hell of it.  A jolt of the counterintuitive (perhaps another word for depravity), can summon the innovative, the fresh, the disruptive, the freeing, the new.

We all naturally gravitate towards playing it safe.  The real danger of playing it safe is subtle.  This danger doesn’t make headlines.  Yet excessive business caution is like a slow leak in a tire.  You become aware of it only when you realize that you’re stuck and wondering how the hell did it happen.

I’ve shared a story about this in the past, but it bears repeating here.  I was an actor for many years, a profession I ultimately failed at.  But it is a profession that lends itself to many good stories.   Here’s one.

A friend of mine, Paul, was playing the role of “Jamie Tyrone,” the older son in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night starring Rip Torn.  Rehearsals had gone very well for my friend, but, with two weeks left in the rehearsal process, Paul felt he had fully realized his character and was ready to open.  His quandary was what to do with himself for the last two weeks of rehearsal, so he went to Rip Torn and asked him what he would do with this actor’s conundrum.  Paul recounts that Rip Torn thought it over for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, and said “Fuck it up.”

Exactly.  If it ain’t broke, break it.  That may sound depraved indeed, if not mentally unbalanced, but there is a sound business reason for disciplined and constant strategic change in any healthy enterprise.  Even to the point of seeming arbitrariness.  Sometimes a dollop of depravity may be just what the doctor ordered.  Great creative entrepreneurs may often need to walk gingerly on the border of what their colleagues, wives, and friends may consider the insane.

On the other hand, Carl Jung said, “Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.”

Thanks, Carl.

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Faith.  I sure wish I had more of it.

Psychologist Carl G. JungOne of the reasons I value entrepreneurship so much has nothing to do with business, money, or profit, per se.  For me, entrepreneurship is an alternate structure to reimpose meaning and value on a anomic world where faith increasingly seems structurally absent from everyday life.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung saw the human psyche as innately religious and made man’s intuitive connection to religion, in its various forms, the focus of his thought.  Jung became increasingly alarmed before his death in 1961 with the disconnection of vital, everyday living religion in human life, whether it be the spirituality of primitive tribes or sophisticated Christian theology.  Jung noted that faith “has lost its grip to an appalling extent. People are no more rooted in their world and lose their orientation.  They just drift.  That is very much our condition….Life loses its meaning.”

Stephen_BaumanThat quote is from the blog of  my friend Rev. Stephen Bauman of Christ Church Methodist in NYC.  Stephen points to the substitution of popular culture slogans and glib bromides, or hours surfing endlessly on the I-phone, as quick, ersatz and empty attempts to address questions of meaning.  He says,  “Where can people go to find something more lasting, something far more substantive than the thin gruel served in popular culture?  How can people find their true orientation?”

I am a man of longing for faith.  In my actual faith I find myself quite weak (and sometimes without any.)  I deeply wish that were not so for a plethora of reasons.  One of the selfish reasons is that it would likely make me a better businessman and entrepreneur, as well as a better man.

The Harvard Business Review (Oct. 13, 2013, pp. 32-3) did an interview with Dr. Mitchell Neubert of Baylor University, who has investigated the connection between faith and the propensity to start a business.  He and his colleagues discovered that entrepreneurs were more actively religious than the general population.  Entrepreneurs prayed more frequently and were more likely to believe that God was personally responsive.  In addition to his own research, Neubert points to a 2004 study that positively correlates faith with personal ambition and innovation.

mitchHBR asks Dr. Neubert if perhaps people with greater faith are more willing to take risks.  He answers,  “Yes, I think there’s a confidence that can come from your religious beliefs.  And maybe the individualism and autonomy associated with entrepreneurship are reflected in the idea of a more personal, direct relationship with God.”

I don’t pretend to be a vicar of theological entrepreneurship.  As I said, I am a person of weak and erratic faith.  And that’s a part of why I have an entrepreneurial company:  It can be at least be a penultimate earthly vessel for creating value, culture, community, and personal truth in a world that has lost effective daily structure for holiness.  I hypothesize one of the reasons entrepreneurship has so taken the popular business imagination is an unspoken yen for meaning, as well a money.  Part of the reason people adore Steve Jobs is because he was an artist in reaching to create meaning through his company.

Creating a company is an act of faith.  A successful innovative business always seems like a bloody miracle to me.  Here’s what Matthew 17:20 reports Jesus saying about faith.  “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say into the mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you.”  Yikes.

That’s certainly faith well beyond my ken, but not faith beyond my desire.

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friedrich-nietzscheFriedrich Nietzsche once said, “When virtue has slept, it will arise again all the fresher.”  (Human, All Too Human -1879)

Last month I was drawn up short by a headline to a one paragraph story in the Harvard Business Review on-line.  The headline read, “Do Depraved Thoughts Make You More Creative?”  (8:30 AM, 10/1/13)  The answer, at least for Protestants like me, seems to be absolutely yes.  Depraved creature that I am, the headline certainly got my attention.

The headline refers to a study conducted by Emily Kim and her team at the University of Illinois.  Ms. Kim, et.al., discovered that subjects, particularly Protestants, produced more creative work when they were (a) induced to feel unacceptable desires and primed with words evoking so-called depravity, and (b) induced to feel out of the norm sexual desires.  It was the forbidden or suppressed nature of the emotion that gave the emotion its creative power.  (Sublimation, Culture, and CreativityJournal of Personality and Social Psychology.  Oct 2013)

This blog is putatively focused on what creates meaning, ethics, happiness, and practical business efficacy for entrepreneurs.  So where does depravity fit into this?

rip-tornWell, just this.  If you seek to become a creative business innovator it’s good to shake things up periodically.  Just for the hell of it.  A jolt of the counterintuitive (perhaps another word for depravity), can summon the innovative, the fresh, the disruptive, the freeing, the new.

We all naturally gravitate towards playing it safe.  The real danger of playing it safe is subtle.  This danger doesn’t make headlines.  Yet excessive business caution is like a slow leak in a tire.  You become aware of it only when you realize that you’re stuck and wondering how the hell did it happen.

I’ve shared a story about this in the past, but it bears repeating here.  I was an actor for many years, a profession I ultimately failed at.  But it is a profession that lends itself to many good stories.   Here’s one.

A friend of mine, Paul, was playing the role of “Jamie Tyrone,” the older son in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night starring Rip Torn.  Rehearsals had gone very well for my friend, but, with two weeks left in the rehearsal process, Paul felt he had fully realized his character and was ready to open.  His quandary was what to do with himself for the last two weeks of rehearsal, so he went to Rip Torn and asked him what he would do with this actor’s conundrum.  Paul recounts that Rip Torn thought it over for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, and said “Fuck it up.”

jungExactly.  If it ain’t broke, break it.  That may sound depraved indeed, if not mentally unbalanced, but there is a sound business reason for disciplined and constant strategic change in any healthy enterprise.  Even to the point of seeming arbitrariness.  Sometimes a dollop of depravity may be just what the doctor ordered.  Great creative entrepreneurs may often need to walk gingerly on the border of what their colleagues, wives, and friends may consider the insane.

On the other hand, Carl Jung said, “Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.”

Thanks, Carl.

Comments 6 Comments »

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