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?

Born or Made?

entrepreneurruns Are leaders born or made? Are disciples born or made? Are entrepreneurs born or made? Regardless of your industry, you’ve probably wondered about this question.

My thoughts below were inspired by  the article,  Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?

Part of the difficulty we have answering this question is the mystique that surrounds the word “entrepreneur”.

“An entrepreneur is an individual who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on financial risk to do so. It’s first known usage, by economist Richard Cantillon, was in 1723. Today, an entrepreneur is defined as someone having the qualities of leadership and, additionally, is an innovator of ideas regarding manufacturing, delivery, or service needs (or any combination of these).”  Wikipedia

In other words, an entrepreneur is a business person. So, let’s ask this question, “Are business people born or made?”

Somehow this seems less controversial.  Sure, some people may naturally prefer  the structure of working for someone else while others may prefer the freedom of working for themselves. But, when we substitute “entrepreneur” with “business person” the mystique diminishes.

I began to wonder how many small businesses there are in the United States and visited the Small Business Administration site and discovered that …

  • The 23 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.
  • The 600,000 plus franchised small businesses in the U.S. account for 40% of all retail sales and provide jobs for some 8 million people.
  • The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.

“Furthermore,” the SBA website added, “the small business sector is growing rapidly. While corporate America has been “downsizing”, the rate of small business “start-ups” has grown, and the rate for small business failures has declined.”

  • The number of small businesses in the United States has increased 49% since 1982.
  • Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs, small businesses added 8 million new jobs.

Whether entrepreneurs are born or made,  their importance in economic development seems pretty clear.  To those of us who work with leadership development and entrepreneurship,  the question,  “are business people (aka entrepreneurs) born or made?”,  is similar to the question,  “Are leaders born or made?”  My own take is that “history” (i.e. the social conditions that exist) gives rise to leaders.  So an important part of our task  is to develop people of character because we never know who “history” will tap on the shoulder.  And, as the SBA website suggests, when it comes to starting or running a small business, many people will get “tapped”.


Recent research seems to indicate that there are genetic traits that may give some an advantage in leadership and entrepreneurship.  That’s not really news.  We all know “the type” that sells, gets things done, perseveres, and takes risk.  But we also know that environment and opportunity and human choice are also important elements in who can start or run a business.

Next time you drive down the road count the number of small local businesses you see.  You’ll count hundreds,  if not thousands,  of stores and shops of all kinds.  If you’re in a city you may even see street vendors — signs of the informal market economy–  around you.  Ask yourself,  were the people who started these business born or made to start them?

There is a spectrum between pure nature,  nurture,  and pure human choice.  Not every businessperson is an extreme risk taker – a genetic freak of nature. They are usually your ordinary human who finds a need and fills it in such a way that makes them and their customers happier than the alternatives.

What do you think?


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…

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What do you think?