You Don’t Have A Problem. You Have A Pattern [Seer crawl day 7]

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earth interrupted I. This painting seems appropriate for today’s post

a slow read through THE SEER. day 7. It’s a short chapter and worth the read:

He insisted that we work through online chat. No phone calls. No video. I thought it was odd but Virgil came highly recommended to me so I decided not to resist his preference. This was our first contact and I had just finished describing my business problems.

 Virgil: You don’t know what you don’t know.

I stared at the screen and thought, “That’s not very helpful.”

I had contacted him because I was tired of failing. I felt stuck. I felt like I was working all the time and somehow always ended back in the same place: at zero and broke. I had good ideas, some great ideas for new products and services and yet I was once again at zero. My latest business collapsed just as the one before it. I was certain my latest venture was the one. I was certain. I brought my best game and still I failed. What was I doing wrong?

His next message popped onto the screen.

Virgil: You think as everyone thinks, that you simply need to change what you are doing and that will solve all of your problems. You think there is a prescription. That kind of thinking will only lead you back to zero.

I was getting frustrated. I was desperate. I needed to change. I needed to know what to do differently and I needed to know now. I needed to know! I’ve always known what to do but now I was lost. I was in no mood for mumbo-jumbo philosophy.

Virgil: From what you wrote, I see that you think you have a problem. The first recognition is simple: you do not have a problem. You have a pattern.

I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. A pattern? That’s it? That’s the best this guy could offer me? Yes, I have a pattern. I have a pattern of failure and frustration. I knew that before I contacted him. And now I was so steeped in my pattern that I doubted everything I ever believed. I doubted myself.

Virgil: I can help you change your pattern. I have no time to waste with you if you insist on having a problem. Problem thinking will return you to zero again and again and again. In fact, your insistence on having a problem is part of your pattern. If you are not ready or willing to change your pattern it is better if we stop here. It is much better not to start until you are ready to challenge your assumptions and put down what you think you know of success and failure. Do you know the difference between a pattern and a problem?

I didn’t know. And, frankly, I was having a hard time knowing why I should care. For a moment I thought about doing what I always do, pretending that I know the answer. I was taught that “not knowing” is a sign of weakness. “Not knowing” meant I was bad at my work. My mentor taught me that I was supposed to know what to do. It’s what made a good leader. It was the single-most important quality of a businessperson. Know what you are doing. But I was tired, scared and irritated so in defiance, as a challenge, I wrote the truth:

Me: No. I don’t know the difference.

Virgil: Good. That is honest and your honesty is a great first step in establishing the new pattern. The old pattern says that you have to know the answer. It says that you have to know what you are doing before you act. It says you have to know where you are going before you take a step. Am I right?

I smelled a trap so I tapped slowly:

Me: Yes. Of course.

Virgil: Good. Then you will understand how important it is for you to take seriously the first step in creating a new pattern: From now on I want you to practice “not knowing.”

“What!” I shouted at my screen. I smacked the keys:

Me: What? I don’t understand!

Virgil: Precisely. Stop trying to understand. Stop investing in the safety of knowing. The truth is that you don’t know. Isn’t that what you wrote? You. Don’t. Know. This is good news! Growth is never in the direction of knowing; it is a prerequisite of learning that you do not know. Let yourself learn. Stop protecting yourself from growth and step with honest intention into the truth: you do not know. So, practice the truth. Practice “not knowing.”

 I typed, “And just how in the hell do I do that?” But then I saw the trap and I erased it. Any “how” question was based on my need to know. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of catching me in his trick. So instead I typed:

Me: Okay. Great.

Virgil: Come back to me next week at this time. Through your practice of “not knowing,” tell me what you discover about patterns and problems. What’s the difference between a pattern and a problem? Why might it be an utter waste of time to think that you have a problem?

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