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Sharing Frameworks with Others: Is it Good to Speak Rigidity to Rigid Ones?

Friday December 4, 2020

Since I spend a lot of time creating new frameworks, reviewing my frameworks, and writing or talking about framework design, I wanted to share some thoughts on an aspect that can be really difficult: Sharing one’s framework(s) with other people.

Most of the time, people who are interested in a third-party framework don’t want to go deep. They want a solution ASAP. They’ll email me, “hey Marc, love the blog, can you share your framework for weight loss” or something like that. And I get it, they’re out there aiming for results and they feel like this breezy approach is serving them best, because they are able to put a lot of energy into evaluating and comparing alternatives.

Those situations aren’t the focus of this article though. What I’ll write about here are those people who are ready to go deep, but who bring a rigid mindset into the world of frameworks. How do you work with these people?

The Newbie Effect: Extreme Rigidity

It’s common for newbies to be pretty rigid. To give an example, many years ago I discovered that I was the most senior student in a group of martial arts students. A new student arrived to try out our classes, and our Sifu, Sifu Hone, told the new student, “Marc is going to be your partner. Marc, please help him through today’s exercises.”

My FIRST thought was, I’ve never done this before, and I don’t know what to expect, but it feels damn good to be recognized! So I started working out with this new guy, walking him through the various partner exercises.

“Mother F***ER,” was my second thought. Why did everything seem so hard, and hurt so…geez** F*** H*** SH**, and then I just had to stop. This guy was way too rigid, and one or both of us was going to get injured in no time.

“So uh, the point of this exercise is to really keep our movements light and flexible,” I said. I gave some examples: Let your shoulders come down (they were moving up toward his ears!), let the weight of your body do a lot of the work.

The new guy wasn’t convinced. I could read his thoughts, because I had thought them before myself: “A fighting art, huh? I’ll see how tough these guys are.”

He thought we were supposed to be hitting, when in fact we were making hitting movements in a light and flexible way, which is totally a thing that you can do to get warmed up and stretched out, and make sure you don’t get injured later. I mean, this is about 2 minutes into the class.

I continued, “we’ll do really hard stuff here in a little bit, but you will need to have functional limbs in order to get to that point.” I tried to get him to laugh but I think it went over his head.

Light and Flexible Movements Seem So Corny and Wimpy!

Working with frameworks is very similar to this example. When you design, warm up, and practice with a framework, it’s crucial to be light and flexible. But if you tell a newbie to do this, they may start to distrust the idea of using a framework.

Maybe let’s just dive into things, they’ll think. Why do I need this framework if it’s so flexible? Does it even have a stucture?

They want things to be: Final, definitive, true, etc.

Coincidentally, they also want things to be: Fast, effective, hard-hitting, and pain-relieving.

It’s crucial to learn to ditch this attitude when you’re doing serious work over a period of time. There’s no way around it: Rigidity can absolutely undercut your results from any given framework. It can drain your energy before you’re even past the first milestone, so that by the time the important steps come later (“Now it’s time to review your mistakes and make a plan to integrate what you’ve learned!”), you find those steps impossible.

Rigidity can also lead you into serious mistakes in the big picture. Like completely ignoring the big picture, because what good are those vague principles anyway?

And it can also make you distrust a perfectly good framework. It’s very easy to displace one’s own issues in the direction of the framework itself, and give up, when even asking a few questions might have solved the issue entirely.

How to Work Around This

First, when sharing frameworks, examples are important. People want to understand the practical side. It may help to provide a specific anecdote to remember. Here’s one:

“One time I shared my weight loss framework with a friend. It was a 17 KB text file, well-organized, but still over 3,000 words long. I briefly explained the various items in the table of contents. My friend gestured toward the document and said, ‘this will never work for me. I need ONE simple instruction from which I can never deviate. I need the ONE and only rule!’ So I asked my friend: If I told you the one and only way to ride a bike was to ride ONLY in a straight line and VERY fast, would you take my advice? ‘Not really,’ he replied. ‘But I guess that’s how I thought about riding a bike when I was a kid.’”

This was a fully-grown adult, with a weight loss problem. Would it be a stretch to suggest that they needed to loosen up?

Second, it can help to warn people what to expect. “Look, you’ll probably injure yourself by overdoing your trail running at first,” for example, or “you might be over-protective with your investments at first, and sell your stocks at the slightest market deviation, or intuition that the market will dip.”

Finally, this can also be a good opportunity to explore your own intentions, and decide whether you really want to create something like an on-boarding framework. An on-boarding framework is part of a meta-framework that helps people more easily experience what you’ve created. It generally moves people from loose to rigid, which prepares them to go back to a loose stance again later when they really start to learn.

But Sometimes You Don’t Work Around It

Personally, when I do decide to make these kinds of simple on-boarding frameworks I find it enjoyable to help out beginners. But a lot of times I don’t make them at all. This is often because my existing, deep, and flexible framework brought me to a level I like, but now I want to continue building up, taking advantage of new-found momentum and interest.

And I think that’s 100% OK. I would recommend that thought process to anyone who’s even slightly bothered by the idea of sharing their work. Not everything we make has to be as a demonstration, lesson, or instructional manual for others.

This is especially important for us INTJs to consider, given the way we tend to prize our intellectual deference from other people. We can get really caught up in trying to get others to tell us how great our ideas and plans are. And in the process of trying to coax that response, we get caught up in trying to predict what other people want so we can deliver a performance in a really general, common-denominator sense:

  • People aren’t gonna read this long document. They need a picture, a cartoon, or some funny one-liners!
  • Nobody’s going to sit in this stuffy room listening to a lecture. They want music! Action! Activity! Humor!
  • The average person doesn’t care about this stuff. Show them what improvements they will be able to see.

This is a great setup for a performance. But a lot of INTJs have shared with me, in coaching sessions, the problems they’ve stumbled into by moving into this kind of performance mode, when gentle-tutor-mode or counselor-mode would have been way better.

Setting healthy boundaries to create a learning environment often involves pushing on the student a bit. It can involve you telling them: “Show me how and why you’re ready for this, and we’ll start when I can be sure that you have loosened up to prepare for the really hard work ahead.” It’s good for the rigid new student to be given a direct challenge, sometimes. And it’s good for the teacher to ask themselves about the specifics: “How would I know that the student is bringing the right approach into this lesson?”

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