From Virtual to Actual in Human Capacity Optimization


Factor 3:

From Virtual to Actual

Here’s a recap…

Create action-oriented, experience 

Focus on “becoming” (vision + being + doing)


And now a third factor…

The third factor in Human Capacity Optimization
is to shift from the classroom to the wider context
of real relationships.

The genius of this can be seen in the Reality
TV show, The Apprentice. Rather than an
office interview, candidates for a job in the
Trump organization are given a series of
tasks to perform in the immediate context
of a team with whom to work and the wider
context of the real world in which to either
succeed or fail.

In a similar vein, we call MGAMES™ —
one of the social technologies designed
by the IMN — a “real” game.

MGames is a simulation of what being
on mission feels like. The user interface
for this real game is the most immersive
360-degree environment ever designed —
the real world. Your avatar for this
real game is yourself and your playing
field is your real life.

Because the game is focused on
personal and/or team missions,
it utilizes factor #1:
create an action-oriented experience.

Also, because the game is competitive
and timed, it creates a sense of urgency
and even crisis. These factors are
necessary for the brain to activate in
the way we desire.

Because the game creates an environment
for the player to live out — under a time
frame — the values she wishes to embody,
it utilizes factor 2:
Focus on becoming.

The emphasis of this third factor is context.
The game moves development out of the
classroom and into the environment in which
leadership will happen.

Leadership development becomes actual
rather than virtual. It becomes an issue
of the heart and not only of the head.
Rather than being a “presentation” of
leadership such as we might see and hear
in a job interview or in a classroom model,
it becomes a “manifestation”
of leadership in the real world.

More factors next time…

The Priority of “Becoming” in Human Capacity Optimization



From “doing” to “being” to “becoming”


As we stated in the first piece on Human Capacity Optimization,
Principle 1: The Necessity of Action-based Experience,” Human Capacity Optimization is a way of describing spiritual formation, discipleship, and leadership development.

The first principle is that
Immersive Experience that requires urgent action activates the brain in such a way that can optimize
human performance

And now, a second principle …

Focus on Becoming

Leaders who want to accomplish a task,
to win, to complete a mission
are often looking for that program,
that technique, that tactic, and that
strategy that will help them get it done.

They are doers.

In contrast, it is fashionable and common
today for some to take a step back from
such “driven” leadership styles.

It is not unusual to hear someone say, we
must focus on “being” not “doing”.

The idea is that “who we are” trumps
“what we do”. They prescribe starting
with the inner life before moving towards
the outer life.

But life is just not that linear.

We think there’s a third layer. In this layer
“doing” and “being” work together to form
an intricate weave which we call “becoming”.

Our website has this tag line: explore the
future you. This line is all about becoming.

Energy coach Jon Gordon tweeted recently,
“Don’t worry about your greatness in the future.
Just be great today.”

In this short proverb, Jon Gordon highlights
that our future self, our future being,
and our present self, our present being, is
bridged by the path of doing, the journey
of intentional action in the present.

In other words,
it’s all about becoming — the marriage of
being and doing with the preferred
“future you” in mind.

Here’s our point: when a person is
“becoming” their leadership is colored
by authenticity and becomes a source
of inspiration to others.

Vision + being + doing = becoming
Vision + becoming + mission =>
authentic and inspirational leadership

To paraphrase Jon Gordon,
do today what you imagine
your future, better-self doing.

That’s a combination of being —
who are you really? — and doing —
what actions and behaviors characterize
you — in order to actualize the person
that you would want to be on your best
day, not then but now.

Here’s a processing question:
What processes have you created or
adopted that create an environment
of becoming and how are leaders
within your context called upon
to be their best future-self today?

More principles next time…

You want to become a maven of human talent, a guide for along healthy character development pathways, and still voice that helps others become mindful of their footprint in the world. And you also want to discover, develop, and deploy your own personal genius while you're at it.









The Necessity of Action-Based Experience in Human Capacity Optimization

Human Capacity Optimization


What do we mean by human capacity optimization?

For us, Human Capacity Optimization is a way of describing spiritual formation, discipleship, and leadership development.

Why do we use an unusual term like “optimization” when describing these processes?

We use a different term (“optimization”) as a way of disrupting our normal patterns of thought when we hear the words “discipleship” or “leadership development.”

Optimization describes a process for making something as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.

This definition sounds a bit mathematical and sterile, but the process when dealing with people is an art.

So, let’s talk about this process.
I want to describe a  few  principles for Human Capacity Optimization. These principles have been extracted from our own action-oriented, field-based research.


Let’s think about learning as changed behavior.
When behavior changes, learning has happened.
When behavior remains the same, nothing has
been learned.

Under this definition, how does learning happen?

Optimizing Human Performance happens through “lived” experience that requires not only a change of thinking but of actions and behaviors, moods and attitudes. Learning happens when these lived experiences have consequences, are urgent, and require repetition.

In contrast, for many, spiritual formation (as well as leadership development) happens in the head.

For example, we teach a principle or lesson in a Sunday service and expect the audience to be changed by it. Or, for example, we have a discipleship class.

Think about the contrast between theseexploringthecontours
approaches and the process of Jesus.

Jesus is a person on a mission who calls others
to join him on his mission.

The contrast in these approaches begins to
explain why the end result is so radically different.

Jesus ended up with disciples.
We end up with members.

The desire to add an “action-based” process
to our leadership development arsenals was
the reason that, over the past 10 years,
The International Mentoring Network
experimented with multiple
tools for field-based, action-oriented spiritual

The main distinction of these tools is that they
happen largely on the field, not in the classroom or in a service. The leader of the group is less a teacher than a guide, a coach.

Here’s one thing we learned:

Motivated followers of Christ were relieved
by the opportunity to actually “do” what they
felt they needed to be doing all along.


Acting on their faith not only changed their
behaviors but their perspectives.

Here’s the principle:

changed behavior is guided best through
lived experience. Learning happens
in real time, real world action.

Immersive Experience that requires urgent action
activates the brain in such a way that can optimize human performance

So, Here’s the question: what tools are you using
that focus in action-oriented, field-based equipping?

Here’s a suggestion: Make it an
Action-based, Immersive Experience.

More principles on the way…

What’s the Longest Humans Can Live? 115 Years, New Study Says –

Do we as humans have a limit on our life spans?

The scriptures tell us:
“As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years, Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; For soon it is gone and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)

I’ve written several posts on Human Longevity. Now, a recent article in the science journal, Nature, suggests we may have reached out limit.

The study, in Nature, suggests that humans “will never get older than 115.” But critics think we can grow much older.

Source: What’s the Longest Humans Can Live? 115 Years, New Study Says –

What do you think?

Strengths Finder Vs Talent Code

Here’s a formula for what I call Human Capacity Optimization.

td + PD + SD + rp + rld = HCO

Recent research in talent development suggests that extraordinary skill can be earned through
the trio of deep practice, ignition, and master coaching (Daniel Coyle, The Talent Code, 2009).

Talent —understood as the possession of a repeatable skill that is not dependent
on size— is not something with which someone is born. Neither is talent hardwired
into our being at an early age.

In other words, the “natural” is a myth. Talent can be grown or earned or developed.

On the other hand, many who utilize the Gallup tool StrengthsFinder™ in
their coaching practice, build on the premise that talent
is hard wired into the brain at an early age.

In this framework, talent — defined as a recurring pattern of feeling, thought, or behavior that can be productively applied — must be discovered.

Yes, a raw “talent” must be developed if it is ever to become a strength, but the key to excellence is to focus on the already optimized patterns of feeling, thought, or behavior. Thus, the StrengthsFinder Assessment tool helps participants discover their innate raw talent.

So, are we born with talent or is talent earned?  This is a question that has many expressions: Are leaders made or born? Are entrepreneurs made or born?

As most of you suspect, the answer to this question is not black and white. Some people, for example, seem to be born with a higher risk tolerance than others. This would seem to be a quality necessary for an entrepreneur. But, it is not the only reason people take risks. While there is a genetic component, environment, nurture, and circumstance all play a part. (See, Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?).

While StrengthsFinder and the newest IMN Coaching Tools are premised on different understandings of the brain, they also reinforce one another. Both put emphasis on the development of talent.

Coaches who use the StrengthsFinder must, in the end, design practices and experiences that develop a talent into a strength. Knowing your strengths is not enough. Developing a raw “talent” (which is what the Strengths Finder assessment discovers) into a “strength” will take deep practice, ignition, and master coaching.

Strengths development is aimed (through deep practice) towards a goal that motivates the person (ignition) who is being coached (master coaching). Their talent will surface as they face their “what do I do now” moments in life.

For a real world example of talent development, take Odell Beckham. I was watching the New York Giants play the Dallas Cowboys when I saw Beckham make the greatest catch I had ever seen in my life. As a former quarterback and wide receiver, I have a special appreciation for this kind of feat. I was so moved, I tweeted about it right away.

Here’s the video. Watch the entirety of it for the closeup view. It’s sick. (Note: the NFL won’t let this video open here, but click anyway and watch the video on youtube. The audio reaction of the commentators is worth it).

I watch this and just marvel. But was this just a phenomenon of natural talent? Of course, the man is a beast of natural ability. I was amazed when Talent Code author Daniel Coyle discovered and shared the following video. This is even more amazing than the actual catch. Are you ready for it —Odell Beckham actually trains for this moment.

As my coaches liked to say, luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
I have learned that skill can be learned. All skill is a form of memory.
Skill is the way our bodies remember.

But developing skill requires 3 important inputs.

  • The first is a profound and resonating passion that motivates.
  • The second is targeted deep practice.
  • And the third is the power of deep listening and guidance from a master coach.

Great coaching is attentive to

  • (1) what motives the person and connecting at that level
  • (2) the design of practice that targets the necessary improvements
  • (3) deep listening and observation.

In my own coaching practice, I rely more and more on the newest brain research. I find it a powerful framework for transformation. My own Master Coaching formula has become

“talent discovery + practice DESIGN + skill DEVELOPMENT + RESONANCE with passion
+ real life deployment = Human Capacity Optimization. 

What do you think?

Ex Machina

A young programmer is selected to participate in a breakthrough experiment in artificial intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a breathtakingly beautiful A.I.

“Anthropocene” may become an official unit of Geologic Time

The early readers of my book, MAKERS OF FIRE, will be familiar with the term, Anthropocene, which means the “era of age of man.” It has been an informal designation until now. This Friday in Berlin a task force will meet to consider making Anthropocene official. (Thanks to Michael McManus for the find)

“The Anthropocene Working Group assembles in Berlin on Friday, an interdisciplinary body of scientists and humanists working under the umbrella of the International Commission on Stratigraphy and “tasked with developing a proposal for the formal ratification of the Anthropocene as an official unit amending the Geological Time Scale“.

From the Independent


Three Crucial Issues

One of the keys to understanding social change is to keep your finger on the pulse of culture. In my book, Makers of Fire (November 2014), I call this the fuel of the triangle of combustion. Let’s put this in the form of a question:

Where are the trigger points that are shaping the narratives of faith and culture?

Over the next year, I want to focus on several cultural issues that are shaping the narrative of both faith and culture. Here are three of these issues.


There are more singles today than ever. Divorce rates are high. (So high, for example, in Montreal that, in anticipation of a likely divorce, newly married couples must pay an additional administrative fee to legally change the bride’s name to her new married name). The acceptance of Gay marriage is changing the meaning and usage of the word marriage.

Young urban affluents write about the negative economic impact of having children. Others express concern over how bearing children taxes the environment. Still others write about killing their children to reduce their carbon footprint. Recently one young lady even filmed her abortion to show that it was no big deal.

In the future children may be incubated within artificial wombs, raised by nanny-bots, and live out their lives in a world of fewer children.

Tech magazines write about porn as if it were a normal and acceptable aspect of society. The rise of sensitive robots points to a potential future of unprecedented human-machine relationships. We will see a rise in the legal commercial sex industry around the globe.

Needless to say, mindsets are changing.
We often acknowledge how things are changing, but do we stop to consider how we are changing.. and being changed?

What is the future of marriage? What is the future of sex? What is the future of the family? What is the future of children?

How might followers of Christ understand the changes that are underway in light of their story? To draw upon biblical imagery, where is the spirit hovering upon the face of the deep, upon the chaos of our present moment?

the spirituality of leading from the future
Preorder your copy…


For millions of years before the rise of humans, living things experienced suffering, pain, and death. Multiple species of humans walked on Earth before the emergence of modern humans. New knowledge of this kind shakes the underpinnings of many who read the Bible as a chronological history.

The rise of Islam brings to the forefront billions of people who believe that God wrote a book. And millions of Christians feel the same way about the Bible that Muslims feel about the Qu’ran.

At the same time, are we hearing rumblings that some western Christ followers will want to distance themselves from both fundamentalist Muslims and Christians? Meanwhile, a conservative and fundamentalist Christianity rises in the developing world and promises to be the global religion of the future.

What might be the future relationship of the Christ following faith to its scripture? Is the Bible a divine book? Or is this bibliolatry? Is the Bible only human literature? Or is this blasphemy?


In his book, The Post-American World, Fareed Zakariah argued that The United States is no longer the epicenter of global culture. Where might global culture be going? In another book, The Next One Hundred Years, George Friedman argues that the United States will remain the center of the world for the next 100 years.

Where might current trends of immigration, an aging population, and military prowess be leading us? What might North America look like towards the end of the 21st century and how might that impact what we do today?

These are three critical issues (among many) which will require answers from us in the very near future. They represent some of the trigger points that are shaping our cultural narrative. Where do the cultural narratives and faith narratives merge and where do they diverge? How can followers of Christ, regardless of geography, frame a Christ following mission for the next century and beyond? What does 21st century discipleship look like in light of massive cultural changes? As cultures change and paradigms shift, where is our own story taking us? How can we respond to the competing narratives around us and tell the story of Christ (and where faith is taking the world) in a compelling way?

I hope these questions primed the pump of your imagination. They have mine.

Join Alex McManus, author of Makers of Fire, for IMN 2015 in Orlando, Fl on Feb 2-6. He will discuss, during the Master Class Certificate sessions, the skills necessary to understand and navigate these kinds of rapid cultural changes through the analogy of Making Fire.

IMN 2015

Strategic Leadership (February 3-5)
Human Capacity Mentor (February 3-5)
Master Class Cultural Architect Certificate (February 2-6)

Preorder MAKERS OF FIRE: the spirituality of leading from the future