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Interchange - May 2024

I'm excited to see all of you next week at The Interchange. The sabbatical I took in March was great; it produced great clarity and resolve… but I missed all of you.


First, I want to highlight a few things:


  1. Join us in Nashville for the Interchange Retreat

  2. A new Tuesday Interchange cohort will be launching in September!  It will meet on Tuesday afternoons from 1pm until 4pm ET.  Who do you know that would benefit from joining the Interchange?  …You could forward this email to them with a quick intro to give them a flavor of The Interchange.  If they want more info


The subject of our session next week is chapter four of our book entitled “Learned Forgetfulness”.  It's a short chapter, only four pages, so your homework assignment is brief. (The copy from the chapter is pasted below for your convenience.  The formatting is a bit wonky, so you may want to grab the book.)  The subject is all about the importance of learning to not be restricted by the unconscious learnings of your past. This concept is essential to transformation and genuine growth and development but a difficult one to exercise.


We will be discussing the questions:


What is the role of Learned Forgetfulness in organizational growth and effectiveness?


What are some practical ways that you can exercise learned forgetfulness personally?


What are some practical ways that you can help those in your organization exercise learned forgetfulness?


We look forward to seeing you next week have any questions or we can provide anything helpful please let us know.




“I know that I exist; the question is, what is this ‘I’ that ‘I’ know?”

—René Descartes


You aren’t who you think you are. And chances are you aren’t who

other people think you are, either.


Our self-image is based primarily on how we’ve behaved in

the past, and although our past has helped shape us, it doesn’t

have to define us.


We’ll investigate this a bit more, but first we should acknowledge

that our approach flies in the face of many aspects of

conventional psychology. We’ve heard psychologists (not to

mention HR professionals and coaches) talk about an individual’s

behavioral profile, such as Myers Briggs or DISC, as if they

define a person.


The problem is that most of these types of profiles can only

be based on who we were. What is far more important is who

we can be. Leaders are called to a higher purpose and therefore a

higher level of behavior, which means we can never just say, “This

is who I am.” We must continue to grow.



We are all informed by our past, but we’re not restricted by our

past…unless we choose to be.


The accumulation of what we’ve learned from our past gets

imprinted on our emotional mind and makes us unconsciously

competent at being one way or another. We revert to behavior

that has helped us in situations before, and it becomes automatic

and comfortable. A person who reacts to stress by being very

aggressive is unconsciously competent at being aggressive. They

needn’t think about acting aggressively; it comes easily to them.

Someone who is very quiet is unconsciously competent at being

very quiet. And so on.


It’s like riding a bicycle. While we’re cycling, we’re unconsciously

competent at balancing. Balance is so automatic,

unconscious, and comfortable that trying to unbalance is almost



Part of who we are is the accumulation of our past, but we

are also our commitment to the future, our higher purpose. Like

the shy parent who was unconsciously competent at remaining

silent but who was inspired by her commitment to her child’s

future and spoke out at the PTA meeting. Her intervention is

motivated by creating the best possible future for her child, not

about her personal comfort.


Or like Isaiah, the engineer from the inner city whose experience

could have relegated him to a difficult life, all too common

among his neighborhood peers. He saw an alternate possible

future for himself: being an architect, owning a firm, living well,

sending his kids to good schools, helping disadvantaged youth.

And he committed to that future. That commitment had a greater

impact on what Isaiah became than the experiences from his past.

Commitment is so important we’ve dedicated a whole chapter

to it (see Chapter 6). But it may be useful for you to begin to

start thinking now about what’s the inspiring commitment that

motivates you.



That’s right, hypocrisy.


An essential part of transformation is what may appear to be

hypocrisy: imagining that we are something we are not. But in

this case, we are not simply pretending to have more laudable

values than we actually have, which is simple deception. We are

trying to live up to unattained aspiration; we are espousing a

high moral standard but failing to live up to it, not because of

an intent to deceive, but because living up to high standards

is really difficult. If we set our goals high enough, we are almost

bound to fail to reach them sometimes. But isn’t it better to have

standards and sometimes fail to achieve them than to not have

standards at all?


When we’re striving to achieve a goal, whether in our personal

or work life, but we haven’t gotten there yet, it’s helpful to not

think of ourselves as hypocrites because that will limit our commitment.

Rather, think of ourselves as always striving—and be

proud of ourselves…and keep striving!


No one would criticize a kid who at a very young age decides

he wants to become a football player, even though he trips over

his own shoelaces. He starts playing and is lousy, but he improves

and gets stronger, and he keeps playing. Then he goes to the next

level and the next level. Maybe he starts playing little league

football, then high school, then college…then he might aspire to

become a professional football player. His aspiration is not fake or

hypocritical. He’s committed to it, no matter how unachievable

it initially seemed—or might still be.


We can all do the same. Commit to a purpose or a behavior,

and then exercise it and develop it. If your first reaction is to

snap at people, try keeping your mouth shut and smiling. If your

instinct is to keep quiet, try speaking up. It feels awkward. But it’s

just like a kid that learns to run a button hook pattern on the football

field. The kid runs downfield and does an abrupt about-face.

It’s very awkward and uncomfortable until you become accustomed

to the movement—but it’s not being fake. It’s developing

a new behavior.


That’s what transformation is all about.

Brad’s grandfather was born in 1883, and he got educated

through the eighth grade. By the time he graduated, he had all

of the knowledge and all the skills he needed to live his life. He

ran a butcher shop but went broke in the Depression. He then

went to work at a box factory. He owned a small house and raised

a couple of kids.


Then Brad’s father came along, was in the military, and went to

college. He learned a whole new set of information and behaviors

that his father didn’t have. And he had a very successful career

and life using what he learned as a young man.


So, in the past, we’ve learned from generation to generation.

But in this day and age, society and the economy are changing

so fast, because of the availability of information and technology,

that we graduate college with enough information to last for

maybe a decade. Then we have to retool ourselves repeatedly

throughout our lives to keep up with this rapidly changing

world. This behavioral agility will be crucial to success for leaders

over the coming decades.


This rapid transformation is a new model for the development

of the human species: not Darwin’s intergenerational model but

an intra-generational model. We’re going to need more of this

ability as we live longer into the future. The time horizon in

which our knowledge and behaviors become obsolete is getting

shorter and shorter as time goes on. We will all need to transform

ourselves multiple times.


As we saw in the last chapter, as the leader, you are the engine

that needs to lead these uncomfortable changes. That’s your role

on behalf of your team. The good news is that once you introduce

transformation to your organization, it starts to spread, first from

you to your executive team, then from them to other leaders, and

so on out into the whole organization.


That process depends on one vital fact: everyone can change.

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