LeadU presents @F-L-O-W, Ch 2-1


Chapter 2, part 1:
Epigenetics Anyone?

If Blank Slate isn’t the only way, what else is there?


Epigenesis (pronounced épi-génesis), which I refer to as the process by which your genetic information, or hardwiring, which @F-L-O-W is called inbornness, both shapes and is shaped by environmental influences, creating the tools for the construction of your experience through maturation, each person according to his own.

Taken altogether these form the essence of who you are — the design of your scaffolding, as well as those things that support your maturation, which are emergent over time, as unique to you, even as such we share many characteristics which make us similar in many ways. A paradox to be sure.

In the context @F-L-O-W, we’re talking about an interaction among your genes, your memes, your experience, feelings about your experience, and thoughts about that experience, along with your life, work, and relationships being constructed in your culture, under environmental factors that are complex.

Just as gene packets of DNA information make up your genetic blueprint, your cultural blueprint is made up of memes, or basic units of cultural information that are transmitted among members of social networks of every kind and size. This is a process accelerated by global connectivity and transdisciplinarity, the interplay among various disciplines like biology, computer technology, and social media, as quick examples. These units of cultural transmission, or memes, are often compared to viruses because they can multiply and spread with extraordinary speed as they “infect” people, as hosts, in order to replicate.

The idea that we are born as “blank slates” in our capabilities, motives, character traits, and other aspects of our identity has been gaining ground since the 1700s. It shows up in dramatically different writings and philosophies.

William Goodwin, for example, who lived from 1756 to 1835 and was one of the founders of liberal political philosophy, wrote, “Children are a sort of raw material put into our hands…their minds like a sheet of white paper.”

Mao Zedong, leader of the Communist Party of China in the mid-twentieth century, justified his radical social engineering by saying, “It is on a blank page that the most beautiful poems are written.”

Even Walt Disney was inspired by the metaphor “I think of a child’s mind as a blank book…. [D]uring the first years of his life, much will be written on the pages.”

The Blank Slate or BS memeplex has had its greatest ascendancy from just before World War II to the present, when its truth and the positive effects of its influence are beginning to be questioned by reputable thinkers. Most of us find it simply is not true in our experience, yet irrationally we keep following right along with the pied piper, which most are unaware was Edward Bernays, author of the 1928 work Propaganda.

BS became energized and robust following the advice of Lehman Brothers Investment Banker Paul Mazur, whose comments in the 1930s have built the foundation of the post-modern world we live in today. He is reported to have said,

“We must shift America from a needs to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things, even before the old have been entirely consumed. […] Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”

Is it any wonder that our irrational system of beliefs is constructed with such grace, and art, around what we want versus what we need?

The reality seems to be that we are different individually in the kind and degree of many qualities from birth, reflecting different genetic predispositions. Whether in our hair color, size, and shape, or personality traits and motivational drives, we all share common human qualities, and yet in their mix, each of us is preciously unique — perfect actually — as emergent from inbornness. Could we be anything else?

Even as we emerge and construct our experience from our nature, in most cases, we are not aligned well with all of our environmental requirements. Hence the ideas of our imperfection are nothing more than misalignments misread as imperfection to be “fixed” by BS.

It’s ironic that we don’t compare snowflakes, or crystals, to one another, realizing that each is perfect, not broken, yet different and unique, while still remaining snowflakes, or crystals, no two being the same. Yet we lose that interpretation on ourselves, craving to belong while comparing ourselves to one another, as we all strive to some composite standard ordained by the authority of the day.

Parents notice this from the beginning. “Mary’s our little tornado, always active, getting into everything, and it’s so hard to get her to sleep. I can’t wait till she’s in daycare! George is as different as night from day. He spends his time just looking at things, the pictures in his books, the rabbit and dog, the pest control man and his spray can, while Mary is stuffing socks in the toilet. How did our parents survive us?”

You are not just unique, you’re perfect just the way you are.

You don’t have to be like everybody else — and that’s good, because you can’t be. Your unique epigenesis makes it impossible! Given that there’s only one of you, you are the only perfect you — a standard of one, and achieved by only you! Of course we all grow and develop over the course of our lives. @F-L-O-W comes from realizing what is already there — by finding it, designing it, and using it for contribution.

It’s critical to note that we all have to get along, and live together in some orderly form of civilized environment that is a given. But within that given is sufficient space to value true diversity for the sustainability of all species, not at the loss of those less fit, less powerful, less politically correct, or those who are the least among us, as it seems is the case no — omg — if they would just work hard and apply themselves!

[Tongue in cheek for those who fail to see the humor in four billion people at the bottom of the pyramid and one billion who don’t get enough food every day, according to recent reports. Ugh.]

As long as you dance to someone else’s tune, never hearing your own, you are never going to live out the perfection already in you. This message needs to be clear and distributed widely lest we think that we are limited @F-L-O-W. And, those of us who can, need to scaffold the others who can’t for whatever reason, to give them an opportunity to live beyond the first two rungs of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs!

You will never be as good as someone else at what they’re hardwired to do well when your inborn talents are in other areas. Trying to be like others whose gifts are different is like continuously chasing your tail. At some point, it becomes self-defeating. While contests reign throughout the world, as to who is the strongest, fastest, prettiest, smartest, or whatever — and there is nothing wrong with these, as testing the fit is key — making it your life, when it is not, is a whole other category of waste in our human experience, IMHO.


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    You, Me, and We @F-L-O-W

    Mike R. Jay is a developmentalist utilizing consulting, coaching, mentoring and advising as methods to offer developmental scaffolding for aspiring leaders who are interested in being, doing, having, becoming, and contributing… to helping people have lives.

    Mike R. Jay
    Leadership University

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