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…

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?

What is MAKERS OF FIRE about?

Makers of Fire provokes readers to ignite change through their own creativity by using the analogy of Making Fire.

In order for fire to happen, three ingredients must be present:

  • fuel
  • oxygen
  • heat

In order to create a “burning event,” we must be

  • (1) fully present in the moment

Exponential change characterizes our world. Being fully present  includes developing an awareness of the “weak signals” of change that are all around us as well as the events and trends that are shaping our present world. This is the Fuel.

  • (2) shapers of meaning

People are shaped by stories. Shaping meaning means telling the story of the human journey in ways that capture the 21st century imagination.  We must engaged and expand our ability to think about the future. This is Oxygen.

  • (3) step into the fray

Creating the future doesn’t begin with a plan. It begins with a dream. But dreams must become acts through which we step between the Fuel of culture and the Oxygen of meaning and ignite a spark of change. This is Heat.

When you bring these three ingredients together, you become a Maker of Fire.

The book is divided in three sections: Fuel, Oxygen, and Heat.

Fuel turns its attention on our rapidly changing 21st century culture. It touches on the trends and events that are shaping our world. But not for the purpose of trend spotting or forecasting. Instead, Fuel focuses on our orientation towards futurity and towards our ever changing present moment.

Oxygen focuses on a timeless element of the human heart: our search for meaning. This second section explores the ways both theists and atheists, mystics and materialists, are tied together in a search for meaning in life. This is the human religion.

Heat gets practical. This is where dreams become deeds, genies come out of bottles, the imagined materializes into the experienced. This is where you apply your genius, creativity, and initiative to the Fuel of culture that settles like tinder at our feet and the Oxygen of meanings that swirl around us all. This is where you become a maker of fire.

The book is about the spirituality of leading from the future, a much needed corrective for those focused on the past and much desired perspective for those trying to be more engaged with the present.

The book is now available on amazon in both print and digital formats.

Anxiety in the 21st Century — A Meditation

Some people define fear by the acronym FEAR– False Expectations Appearing Real.   But fear is the proper response to a perceived  real  danger or threat.   Anxiety is “usually generalized and unfocused as an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as menacing.” (Wikipedia)

In other words,   “False Expectations Appearing Real”  is a way to describe anxiety not fear.    Danger is real in our world.   But,  in this post,  we’re thinking about something more subjective, the feelings of anxiety that are not necessarily connected to a real danger.   When we feel fear,  we want the danger to go away.   And, as soon as it does, the fear goes away. They’re connected.

But anxiety lingers because it may not be connected to anything. It is a more general dis-ease.  And,  anxiety pervades the globe in the 21st century.

I think of it as a feeling that we’re falling.   It doesn’t matter that we’re not really falling because  we feel like we really are.    And the feeling just won’t go away.

This short video below describes the levels and kinds of anxiety felt around the world.
The producers of this video,   JWT Intelligence,   have accumulated tons of data on global anxiety available at   This may be a resource for those of you who are helping people cope with anxiety.   Interestingly enough,   anxiety is not unique to the 21st century.   Watch the video then reflect on the passages of ancient wisdom below.

Jesus told his disciples:   “Therefore I tell you,  do not worry about your life,   what you will eat;   or about your body,   what you will wear.   Life is more than food,   and the body more than clothes.” (Matthew 6.25ff)

Long before Jesus, another wise man wrote:
“An anxious heart weighs a man down,  but a kind word cheers him up”
(Proverbs 12:25, NIV).

The apostle Paul wrote:
“Be anxious for nothing,   but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;   and the peace of God,   which surpasses all understanding,   will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4.6)

The apostle Peter wrote:
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”
(1 Peter 5:6-7)

From ancient days to today,   we are an anxious race.   Stop for a moment and rest.  Anxiety is a bully that has stalked us through the ages.   This demon cannot simply be cast out of our minds and hearts.   It must be replaced.

What can replace anxiety?

The apostle John tells us that “Perfect love casts all all fear.” (1 John 4.18)   The love of a friend.   The love of God.   The knowledge that we are not alone…  the experience of not being alone.   To be told to stop worrying is not enough.   We must also replace anxiety with love,   with a deep connection to others,  or even,   to God.   I suspect that ridding ourselves of a companion as persistent as anxiety is going to take all of us.

Entrepreneurs,   offer your services and build your products with love.

Pastors, build communities of love.

Parents,  love your families.

Teachers,  love learning.

Humans,   love one another.

Anxiety.   The Old Testament writers wrote of it,   the New testament writers wrote of it, and it is still being studied and experienced today.   Even knowing “how” to deal with anxiety and understanding that it is “irrational” doesn’t take away the feelings of falling.

Here are some ideas that came to me as I reflected on the passages above…

(1) Stop and breathe and express and confess your feelings of anxiety…
(2) Build a net of people who love who would catch you if ever “your falling” ended
(3) Become a part of that net for others — become “a cheerful word giver”
(4) Clear your conscience by asking for forgiveness and offering forgiveness
(5) Get perspective, Look at the bigger picture
(6) Replace “I can’t” with “I can”
(7) Reach out with your heart for God
(8) Exercise
(9) Rest
(10) Enjoy the moment (or you’ll miss living your life as you wait for that unknown thing you fear –which may never happen– to come)
(11) Be kind
(12) Do what needs to be done one thing at a time, one step at a time

The spirit of anxiety has been with us for a long time. I suspect it may take a collective and global effort to cast it out for good.

Much love to you…

Click here to share this reflection on Anxiety in the 21st century with others on twitter. Thanks.

What do you think?

What is Church Planting? (part 1)

Church planters are what I call entrepreneurs of the spirit. But, what is this entrepreneurship of the spirit? What is church planting?

Church planting is a disciple-making process.

Consider these two scenarios.

Imagine that there are two church planting teams. One team, let’s call them Team A, works from the first premise below. Let’s call this “starting point A”. The other team, predictably, is Team B and works from “starting point B”.

A) We’d like to disciple the residents of a neighborhood.
B) We’d like to start a church for the residents of that same neighborhood.

How do the images that fill your mind differ when you read “starting point A” from when you read “starting point B”? How do you imagine that these two teams would approach their work? What things will they have in common? How might they differ?

Jesus instructed his disciples to make disciples of the “nations”. (For our purposes here, let’s take the “nations” to mean those who live without reference to the scripture and who do not yet profess faith in Christ). Jesus’ instructions to “disciple the nations” stretch us to imagine the discipleship of the outsider. In contrast, our practice is to program for the discipleship of the insider. Of all the things the church does, starting new churches should be understood as a process for the discipleship of the outsider, but often it is not. It is conceivable, in the western context, to start a church and never disciple an outsider. According to a recent poll, 96% of mega church growth is transfer growth. (Hat tip to Bob Roberts for that stat). In fact, many churches that consider themselves “discipleship” churches even though they have little to no contact with outsiders.

At a recent Church Planting Training at Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, Bob Roberts stated, “We don’t plant churches in America. We plant worship services.” Starting a worship service may require a programming team and some stage talent, but need not require nor create disciples.

Starting a new church often results in a new worship service populated by the already convinced. But if we start with the discipleship of the outsiders, then the aim of the church planter is already being achieved even before a new church emerges…which will often happen. The apostles did not go into cities to start churches, but to announce the kingdom… to get that “embodied” conversation going. When that conversation took root in the hearts of women and men, new communities of faith emerged.

Brian Hook, church planting pastor at Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, tells me that he believes “… in the years ahead we will be talking discipleship rather than church planting.” In fact, he takes it a step further. He’s thinking that “we could drop the term church planter today because, in America, it doesn’t always mean ‘disciple'”.

So, when we think about definitions for church planting, it may help us to think in terms of the process of disciple-making among outsiders.

What do you think?

IMN Resources
Makers of Fire: The Spirituality of Leading from the Future

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