Values: Listen to the Young

Little known fact: the logo for my company (214 Alpha) was inspired by an insight afforded to me by my eldest daughter, who was eight years old at the time.

Which, by the way, is the age when humans are at their very best.

Plus if you turn the number on its side, it’s the infinity symbol.

I’d spent a lot of years obsessing over how to create the most effective minimum quantity for autonomous self-governance, and had come to refer to the three core, baseline competencies as:

Each map to Jungian personality archetypes, and can be quantified using Myer’s Briggs, Keirsey Group, and others.

Amelia understood what each meant, but said that nobody is going to remember their names, so she recommended:

  • Fire
  • Leaf
  • Water

And demonstrated each personality quality through imaginary play with her twin sisters.

I’d built a rickety old fort along our Portland home out of scrap wood, and the girls were pretending the fort was a raft tossed about within the turbulent waters of a catastrophic flood.

Amelia, as always, was calling the shots. She said:

“I’m fire. I’m going to stand here and take this raft that way, because there’s land over there.”

(“Fire” is the one that takes initiative and sets the pace, above all other considerations).

“Juliet, you’re leaf. You need to collect food and make sure we are ready to help anyone we pick up along the way. Keep an eye out and let me know if we are about to crash into any logs.”

(“Leaf” is “fire’s” natural complement; keeps hearth and home, while helping “fire” consider broader consequences.”)

“Nina! You’re water! I need you to go out on a log and go talk to those people over on that other raft. See if they need any food that Juliet has, and see if they have anything to share!”

(“Water” is a mix of “fire” and “leaf,” taking the initiative to connect with others like them within other circles.)

When I’ve assembled teams in the fire/leaf/water orientation AND they are professionally and personally mature enough to cede to the team’s wisdom, the quality of the collective effort is transcendent.

Anyway, that was a couple years ago, and now Amelia is 11.

Our home is busy this evening, with a couple intense work circles busy on various aspects of our collective effort.

And Amelia is busy doing another editorial round on the Anti-Fragile Playbook, which will be a step-by-step guide that activates local leadership and wealth in a manner that recognizes full spectrum capital, not limited to just money.

What’s great about this is that these experiences inform a story Amelia tells herself about who she is, and of what she’s capable.

In just a blink she’ll be a young adult and the world will be a mess.

She feels a sense of ownership and stewardship for the work we do here, and this makes her feel protective and appreciative of the overall experience.

Unseen in this photo: Ruth, Kristi, and Trudy discussing and guiding Amelia as she edits the book that will be used by others just like her in the years to come.

It’s in this manner that the next generations come to feel an authentic sense of ownership and stewardship of this work, because as a parent (and paraphrasing my favorite quote):

(she) must become greater; I must become less

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Kent Dahlgren

Kent Dahlgren

Product management fix-it guy. World-famous people skills. Extremely small hands. (edit) marketing lady says I’m also supposed to say “CEO of software company”