Work And Live Your Relationships As A Sponge
Evolution. What does it really mean? The first creature we would recognize as human called homo ergester first appeared in Africa two million years ago. Not long when compared to the Oldest species that inhabited earth over 600 million years ago. These species include sharks, ants, Jelly Fish and Sponges among others. The phrase survival of the fittest is what has been described as the outcome of how species with certain talents and capabilities are able to manage environmental threats and reproduce and therefore continue to prosper as living creatures rather than die out or become extinct.
Environmental threats exist no matter what. Any time there are multiple interests or forces at work, there is conflict. It is believed that Conflict is a result of various reasons. Malthus, the eminent economist says that reduced supply of the means of subsistence is the root cause of conflict. According to him, conflict is caused by the increase of population in geometrical progression and the food supply in arithmetical progression. According to Charles Darwin, the biological principles of “Struggle for existence” and “the survival of the fittest” are the main cause of conflict. Sigmund Freud and other psychologist hold the view that the innate instinct for aggression in man is the main cause of conflict. So we know conflict is an inevitable fact of life. However, in spite of the various causes the dynamic of conflict is founded on one main phenomenon; Power.
Even, in job related or interpersonal relationships where there is no tangible resources to be controlled per say such as money, food, autonomy, process, etc. the exercise of power could involve control of intangible resources such as decision-making, attention, freedom, time, love, etc. even though it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, in an abusive relationship whether a bully-type dynamic at work, an abusive personal relationship or an abusive marriage, one party establishes a pattern of unhealthy control. Even though there might seem to be times of peace and affection, these good times linger in the shadows of the subtle or not so subtle controlling tactics the abuser uses for the purpose of getting his or her own way.
For example, an abusive spouse may prevent his (or her) partner from seeing family members, going out with friends, or going back to college. He may try to regulate the people his spouse talks to, where his spouse goes, or how and when his spouse spends money. He may demand all of his mate’s attention. He may put his spouse on an irrational guilt trip for talking to or doing things with other people. He may consider his spouse’s needs as an infringement on or a betrayal of his own needs. He may act insanely jealous and falsely accuse his partner of cheating on him. He may constantly monitor and check up on the whereabouts of his spouse. Many are known to lash out and belittle their spouse when they don’t get their own way or when they feel betrayed or abandoned. Others threaten to divorce or to physically hurt their spouse or destroy a cherished possession, all in an effort to intimidate and punish their mate.
So let’s take some evolutionary theories regarding conflict resolution; Darwin’s theory regarding conflict for example. What does the term “fittest” really mean? Is it referring to our physical embodiment, like our body mass index, speed, skeletal build, or height? Is it referring to our cognitive intelligence like the size of our brains, how good we are at problem solving or finding food during difficult times? Or is it referring to our ability is to prevail through the process of conflict against the opposition or worst yet predators? The answer cannot be our physical embodiment because if that were the case, the dinosaurs would not have gone extinct. In fact one of the most successful species that has ever lived, the ant is one of the smallest and most fragile species. The answer also cannot be our cognitive intelligence because our mammalian brains evolved to the cerebral capacity they are today only since 200,000 years ago, while the successful species described above were around way before our time and have continued to prosper.
So how does this relate to survival of the fittest you ask? According to the various personality inventories, with the DISC being one of them and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator being another one, it has been studied that certain personality types are more likely to be entrepreneurial. According to Timmons New Venture Creation: entrepreneurship for the 21st century, entrepreneurship is “the ability to create and build something from practically nothing. It is initiating, doing, achieving and building an enterprise or organization, rather than just watching, analyzing or describing one. It is the knack for sensing an opportunity where others see chaos, contradiction and confusion. It is the ability to build a ‘founding team’ to complement your own skills and talents. It is the know-how to find, marshal and utilize resources (often owned by others) and to make sure you don’t run out of money when you need it most. Finally, it is the willingness to take calculated risk, – both personal and financial – and then do everything possible to get the odds in your favor.”
Entrepreneurs take a stance on their vision, even if it means they might fail. Dozens of studies over the last three decades link risk-taking propensity with entrepreneurial achievement. Tony Tjan calls this trait guts: the ability to take action. An entrepreneur, he sums, must have “the guts to initiate, the guts to endure, and the guts to evolve as a new company changes”; we call it being emotionally intelligent. The ability to take risk in spite of fear, the ability to curb anxiety in spite of uncertainty, the ability to cope in spite of failure and the ability to persevere in spite of failure. Two out of the four Emotional intelligence characteristics involve recognizing emotions in oneself and being able to work through them in spite of how difficult they may be in communicating with others.
One particular article has actually emphasized that these four personality types are more likely to be financially successful. But let’s put money aside and concentrate on just the entrepreneurial personality type for now, because as we know money can come from doing good and doing evil and it can do good as well as do evil. We believe that the “entrepreneurial spirit” or personality in this case, is not just relevant to the world of business, but rather to any venture that requires similar skills such as starting a new relationship, or a marriage and working though and nourishing it to flourish year after year. The four MBTI personality types ENTPs, ESTJs, ENTJs, INTJs, and ISTJs which are entrepreneurial are all curious, creative, take responsibility, and are decisive. According to Gallup, knowledge seekers increase their company’s chance of survival. Likewise, a 2015 Slovenian study revealed that entrepreneurial curiosity is positively correlated with company growth. According to the Journal of Small Business Economics as a result of these four sub personalities, they are Persuaders (enterprising) as measured by the Holland Occupational Themes. However, persuasion can either be tied in with psychopathy, machiavelian and/or narcissism or it could be tied in with conscientiousness, social helpfulness, and absorption; a disposition or personality trait in which a person becomes absorbed in their mental imagery, particularly fantasy. In reviewing the Big Five personality components, Contrary to expectations, a study in the Journal of Business Venturing found a negative relationship between the entrepreneur’s openness and long-term venture survival. On the other hand, according to the Journal of Management Decision, creativity was the single most critical and prevalent trait associated with entrepreneurship. However, in a recent study in the issue of Harvard Business Review, Target Training International Ltd., a research firm, a multi-variable analysis of a group of serial entrepreneurs identified five personal skills that clearly made them unique. The above personality traits applied but according to the study, the glue that held them together was “Personal skills” — often classified as “soft skills”. These include effectively communicating, building rapport, and relating well to all people, from all backgrounds and communication styles. Our research at Center for Work Life in working with hundreds of executives over a period of 18 years has found similar results.
It is believed that personality traits are usually pretty stable. However, interpersonal skills as practiced through emotional intelligence training are learned and open to change.
So how does this all tie in with our original question of what is evolution? Whether in the work place or in interpersonal relationships with friends, spouses or loved ones, we are constantly striving to either survive or evolve. Of course, similar to many other aspects of life, this is not an all or none dichotomy, but rather a spectrum. In Darwin’s terms, these two concepts were one and the same, but we say they are very different when it comes to social and psychological development. There is a difference between the individuals who tolerate, hide, ignore, avoid and stay on their own path when the evidence clearly calls on them, versus those that turn the system up side down because they strive for a different vision and are unwilling to take it as is. They resist control and instead choose cooperation.
Of course in symbiotic relationships where there is equity or a balance between give and take the power is distributed equitably. We believe that Emotionally intelligent individuals are the highly evolved members of our society and of our species. Remember the sponge we talked about earlier? The one who has lived on earth for over 600 million years ago? What is the secret to its long and prosperous existence? It has been studied that as sponges feed, they filter out tiny particles of organic matter from the water. Researches believe, millions of years ago these particles would have included dead microbial matter, which rots and consumes oxygen. Sponges helped to clean water of this material. Without all of the rotting going on, the water would have experienced a significant decrease in oxygen levels.
More oxygen in the water then set the stage for more complex life forms to emerge, such as the first predatory animals with guts that started to eat one another, marking the beginning of a modern marine ecosystem, with the type of food webs we are familiar with today. So rather than merely surviving, the most successful species on the planet, thrived by “thinking” outside of itself and enterprising on the vision of coexistence, support and a symbiotic relationship with other species that it yearned to neighbor some day. So in spite of having no IQ at all, no cerebral cortex, no significant size or particular muscular strength, the sponge could just have been the most emotionally intelligent species that lived.
As humans, we have achieved so much through the art, science and technology. However, the illusion of control, or the misrepresentation of the power to guard resources has led us to kill, repress, exclude and severely harm our own kind. Rather than control, what if we shared our resources, capabilities, and strengths with others. Rather than possess, what if we freed rights and took responsibility not just for ourselves but also for other human beings and species. What if we learned to be better communicators? Being intelligently aware of our own challenges and communicating them while seeking others challenges and empowering them. Interestingly, it turns out that fortunately we have the wiring to do just that. As opposed to homo ergaster and homo erectus, as homo sapiens we surpassed the test of time and were the only species that continued to live on the planet as descendants of apes some 6 million years ago. But why? Homo erectus was slightly bigger and more powerful than Homo sapiens, so why did we survive when they did not? The most simple answer could be that this happened because we had bigger brains. But it turns out that what mattered was not overall brain size but the areas where the brain was larger. “The Homo erectus brain did not devote a lot of space to the part of the brain that controls language and speech,” has said John Shea, professor of paleo-anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York.
“One of the crucial elements of Homo sapiens’ adaptations is that it combines complex planning, developed in the front of the brain, with language and the ability to spread new ideas from one individual to another. Planning, communication and even trade led, among other things, to the development of better tools and weapons which spread rapidly across the population”.
One could argue that not all people have the luxury or even want to be emotionally intelligent, because they have to be strategic. Our response: strategy or strategic action is associated with a competitive advantage-seeking behavior to create value. If that value were one sided, meaning just valuable to us, or worst, gained at the expense of disvaluing others, that value would surely be short-term. And value, which is short-term, is not value at all. Hence true gain in competitive advantage utilizes Emotional Intelligence within all strategic decisions to create influence rather than control and hence a win-win for all. Sponges could have ruled the planet. They could have reserved all of the earth resources for themselves. But they were the active agents that oxygenated the ocean around 600 million years ago and created a world in which more complex animals could evolve, including our very ancestors.