Episode 34: Vertical Development in Review
with Dr. Karl Kuhnert

Vertical Development, if you’re willing to live into it, gives you insight into the world around you AND insight into yourself.  

Dr. Sara Musgrove, Dr. Keith Eigel, and guest, Dr. Karl Kuhnert sit down to discuss their thoughts on the last few episodes, their take on vertical development, and how the curriculum for our growth is all around us in every-day life.   

About our guest

Connect with Karl at Emory &
via his website

Additional Resources mentioned in this episode:  

The Mindset Assessment & Vertical Development whitepaper by Dr. Gottfredson
THE MAP  by Dr. Eigel & Dr. Kuhnert
In Over Our Heads  &  The Evolving Self by Dr. Kegan

Karl W. Kuhnert, Ph.D. is Professor of the Practice of Organization and Management in the Goizueta Business School at Emory University.

Karl’s research focuses on how leaders cognitively, interpersonally, and emotionally develop over the life course. Karl has published over 80 peer-reviewed articles, 13 book chapters and made over 100 conference presentations and served on numerous editorial and review panels. He teaches industrial and organizational psychology, leadership, organizational change and professional ethics. Karl and Keith have published a book entitled “The Map: Finding Your Path to Effectiveness in Leadership, Life, and Legacy” by Baxley Press. Karl has won numerous awards for teaching and research.

Through his collaboration with the UPS, Karl has received over a $600,000 from the UPS Foundation to support graduate education. He has funded over 80 graduate assistantships. In 2000, Karl was awarded the Hammer Award from Vice President Al Gore for outstanding contributions to the federal government. More recently, Karl has created and facilitated a six-month leadership development program for the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. The program involves all 32 colleges in the state of Georgia. The board of regents program in 2012 was recognized by the Society of Human Resource Management as a best leadership program in education.

Karl also regularly teaches leadership development in the Executive Education Programs at Emory, UCLA, HEC Paris, and The University of Georgia. He has served as a consultant and executive educator with many large and small corporations, non-profit and government organizations including, United Parcel Service, The U.S. Department of Treasury, Siemens, The Jet Propulsion Lab, Cox Automotive, The Federal Reserve, Federal Home Loan Bank, The Robert Wood Foundation, Carnival Cruise Line, AECOM, and The American Cancer Society.

Karl received his BA in psychology from The Pennsylvania State University and his Ph.D. in industrial/organizational psychology from Kansas State University.

Episode transcript

Sara: Welcome to the Growing as Grown-Ups podcast, everyone, this is our last podcast of 2021. I can't believe we've made it a whole new year of this. It's been really fun and to wrap up this year, we are going to be wrapping up our series on vertical development that has started in Episode 30 and has gone on for the last four episodes and today, I get to interview two guests. So this is another new one for me. Interviewing two guests at the same time, my co-host Dr. Keith Eigel and Dr. Karl Kuhnert, who was with us on Episode 6 in our previous episode. These are both the men that I have learned the most about vertical development from, so it is going to be fun for me to get to interview them and ask them questions and on their thoughts on the last few episodes and just their general take on vertical development and how we keep growing as grown-ups. So our audience knows Keith because he's with us every week. Just a reminder for those of you who have not listened to Karl's episode, I knew him as the department chair at the University of Georgia in the Industrial Organizational Psychology Program, but he is now at Emory University and he is the Professor of the Practice in Organization and Management and the Associate Professor of Psychiatry in the medical school, so moved on to some fun and new interesting things, but welcome back to the podcast, Karl. I'm excited to have you.

Karl: Great to be with you both.

Sara: Yes! So let's just jump in. I know you guys have been tracking with the last few episodes, and one thing that I really found fun was to hear the different ways that people explained vertical development. It's this abstract concept, and there's a lot of different ways that people explain it. So I went back through and listen to the episodes and thought I'd kind of pull them all together here and share their explanations or definitions of it, and then ask you guys how you explain vertical development to people. So in Episode 30, we had Ryan Gottfredson, who said, "Vertical development is like leveling up," and his official definition was, "Elevating our ability to make meaning of our world in more cognitively and emotionally sophisticated ways." So there was a lot in that, but I love the directness of that definition. Bob Kegan, in Episode 31 actually, I love this. He said he doesn't like the term "vertical development" because it sounds like "shrimp scampi" to him, which I had to go look up how shrimp scampi was a redundant name, and I learned a little bit about what a scampi actually is, but the way he described it is that it is the further unfolding and becoming a bigger and better version of yourself and then finally, Nancy described it as, "A person's center-of-gravity where they feel balanced and where they come back to for strength and groundedness." So Karl is our guest, I'm going to start with you. When somebody asks you what vertical development is, how do you explain it to people?

Karl: Well, when we use the term "vertical development", essentially, which is growing who you are. we contrast that with lateral development, which is growing your skill sets and knowledge base. Growing your skill set is what gets you a job. It's growing your vertical development that gets you promoted and we all know, by the way, we all know people who have tremendous skills at work, you know, they may be accounting skills. You think of a job and it obviously has a lot of skills that make up that job but we all know people who have great skills, but who you would not want leading your company and that usually is a result of the fact that they don't have much in the way of vertical development and so what we do, what I do in my classes and what we do together at the Lyceum, is that we put people in a position of them to help themselves grow.

Sara: Yeah. All right, Keith, what would you agree?

Keith: I mean, Karl, I've heard some of that before. That was good. The -- you know, Sara, I was thinking about this question, and I guess it depends on how long the elevator ride is.

Sara: Three floors. No, I'm just kidding.

Keith: And if I've got a floor, it's like, hey, there's what we do and who we are and vertical development is really the "who we are" piece of it, right? But I think what I do, like, literally when I'm on an elevator or in that kind of an environment that's super short, I think what I tend to say is that, you know, we've all got lenses that we see the world through and the lens that you have right now, you would acknowledge that it's different than the lens you had five years ago. Right? It's more complex. It's more integrated. It's better, probably. You would say your lens today is better than your lens of five years ago. You know, and when people generally agree with that instantaneously, I'm like, "Well, the deal is, is that these lenses change in a predictable order and that what we're about is growing lenses on purpose, not just letting it happen happenstance," and so that's a little bit my short version. I think my long version tends to lend itself a little bit more toward the distinction that Karl makes between lateral and vertical, but I really loved the point that Bob made, by the way, that all true -- if we're going to use the "word" development, it's vertical. Right? I mean, that was that was the thing for him, and I'm glad to know -- I'm Googling up shrimp scampi as soon as this thing's over because I did not do that and I just never liked the way "shrimp scampi" sounded as a couple of words, and it grates on my ears and I thought that's what he meant, but now I'm going to dig in, so congrats for digging in.

Sara: Yeah, scampi is like a "shrimp" in Europe or something and here in America has made it to be how you're cooking it, so. You learned something new today. All right, any other thoughts on how these other guests describe vertical development, things that you liked, things that maybe you want to incorporate, or reactions that you had to what they said before we move on?

Keith: I'll say one thing. Karl, jump in if you want. Since my interview with Nancy, I have used "center of gravity" 15 times.

Sara: Yeah.

Keith: I mean, I'm not kidding. It is, like, to me that it made, especially in coaching relationships, I've reintroduced the concept of a center of gravity in this, in circumstances, relationships challenges, knocking us off our center of gravity, either forward because the circumstances are beautiful and generative and out there or backwards in terms of, like, "Why am I acting like this right now?" For me, that takeaway was really good. I mean, I feel like my definition -- Karl, I don't know if you feel like this -- but I feel like my definition was so much shaped over the course of my career in my life by Kegan's definition that I just felt like, "Yes, yes, yes, yes," right? I kind of get it, and the thing that excited me about Ryan, actually, is that, you know, I don't want to sound like an like an old guy, but he's a young guy, and I just loved it that he was trying to put vocabulary around this that he could own. I found that to be exciting, even though I might want to have a longer conversation with him about what he meant by everything, right? But props to Ryan. Love that you had him on.

Karl: I agree. I agree.

Sara: All right, so our guests also shared what drew them to this field of study and why they've stuck with it with their careers. So for Ryan, it was this desire to help people focus on the "being" side of leadership, not just the "doing" and specifically how that would help people here heal their minds, and Bob, it was, "To honor the miracle of being alive, of being an evolving creature whose destiny is to keep growing and developing to transform." Very poetic. And Nancy, it boiled down to it was, "A way to really express that every person's experience mattered." So, Keith, I'll start with you. What was it that initially drew this drew you to this study when you read Bob's book and you said it kind of changed the trajectory of your career?

Keith: Yeah. I mean, I've said this in some other environments before, but when I locked into what vertical development was about constructive development, right? This thing that we're talking about through this whole series. It explained for me in a complete way, in an integrated way, my own journey to that point, but also my understanding of what made the people around me, who I knew were great for me, it explained why they were great and so it allowed for so many individual differences. It allowed for different skill sets, it allowed for different trainings and intelligences in a way that explained why...So literally, literally when this was going on, I was adding a study onto the house that we were building. I was in the middle of graduate school. We had three kids now populating the house and it was crowded and I thought I got to have a place where I can work for 40 hours a week, right, and not -- but I wasn't -- I didn't have an office and we built a fireplace in that room, and there was a there was a 65-year-old brick mason with a sixth grade education that I thought was one of the coolest, wisest, most insightful people I had been around and here, no education, no understanding of developmental psychology, no great business experience, but watching the influence that he had on his crew as I got to know him in his community. It's like, "Of course. He's moving toward level five," and he went to school through sixth grade, right? Grew up, obviously in a very different era, grew up pre-civil rights, right, but it was so comprehensive in the diversity it allowed for, so I think I even spoke longer than I thought I would on what drew me to it, but that's, for me, that was it.

Sara: So let me ask a follow-up question then before us switch over to Karl, and I don't want to read too much into what I heard you saying, but I'm wondering if, as you were exposed to this model, you said it made you think of the people who were great. Was part of your draw to it then helped you create a framework for how you could continue to grow yourself to become like these people that you admired so much?

Keith: Sara, I think for me, it was not so much about the personal impact that I had, although I recognize that that would be an ancillary benefit, right? It was really that it, for me, it's important to figure out the thinking and the rationale behind why something works and so I think the original draw was really more about the sense-making that it created for me as I had been begin diving into the study of leadership and saw all of the different ways that only partially explained why someone might be effective, whether it was a personality variable or talent variable in some way. But yeah, the personal part for me, I recognize that that would also be true, but I don't think it was the primary draw. Karl, how about you?

Karl: When I first got interested in this, I probably wasn't so much interested in myself growing. To be honest. But this was in college and at Penn State, they had a real hub in the faculty. There's a hub of just great developmental psychologists and I remember taking this class and getting exposed to Piaget and -- Jean Piaget, the great child psychologist that we still recognize as probably one of the greatest psychologists of the 20th century -- and, you know, once you -- I remember, I think I actually remember asking a question is like, "Wow, we have all this growth. We have all these stages of growth and development from, you know, infancy all the way to adolescence." I think I probably asked the question like, "Why do we stop? Why would we ever stop growing?" and it never -- I never really got a good answer to that because at that time, people were not really studying growth and development the way we do now into adulthood and this whole area of adult development really has taken off over the past twenty-five years or so, but it always seemed to me to be kind of ludicrous that we stopped growing and sort of the next phase of this was kind of graduate school and, again, it came back to me that, oh my gosh, you know, so much, so much of our of our leadership theory, so much of our study of leadership had to deal with static concepts, right, and that if you are if you had this trade as a young child, you likely had it as an adult and I see -- and then so what we're seeing over again over the past ten -- actually the past five years -- we're seeing all this this study in brain science about how the brain changes, how our brains have this plasticity to them and how learning changes our brains and so there's now becoming this, this convergence on this idea that we continue to grow and develop throughout adulthood and I've always seen it as, you know, as our role in this is to help others grow and develop on their own.

Sara: I'll just say for you, Karl, it sounds like it was this kind of shock and awareness of "why do people stop growing?" and so the more theoretical, how do we help, how do we change, how do we make sure that people keep growing at that grander level, right? Kind of the large-scale growth? Is that right? Okay.

Karl: Yes. Right. Yeah. Yeah, and again, I mean, ultimately, you know, in the pursuit of this and the study of this, you turn that lens on yourself, right? But one of the things about life is that we certainly -- we understand it looking backwards, but we've got to live it moving forward, and so, you know, looking -- and this is, again, this is one of the great things about, like, what we do for a living is that when you talk to -- at least when I talk to older adults and I talk about, you know, leader levels and the stuff that we've worked on for the past 25 years -- I can't tell you how many people come up to me, right? These are older people who come up to me and they'll grab me and they like to grab me. They'll grab me and they'll say, "Karl, this is my life," right? In a way we are we are actually showing them how they grew and developed over the course of their life and it's like a kind of an "A-ha!" for them, but they're so grateful for now having a framework for understanding how their life was lived, and this just happened recently. I mean, literally a couple of days ago, I had this guy did this to me and I was just, you know, first of all, I thanked him, but he was so grateful to share this model and to, in a way, help explain the changes that that he's seen throughout his life.

Sara: What a gift you could give them. So, Karl, you mentioned that eventually in the study of this field of adult development, you turned the model on yourself. So I'm just wondering if either of you have a story about how understanding the model, teaching the model, coaching the model, how that has impacted you and your life in some way?

Keith: It's like, how far do I want to go here, Karl and how far do you want to go? I mean, that's --

Karl: Exactly, I mean, like, "That's appropriate. That's not appropriate. That's too embarrassing." I'm going through this hierarchy in my own mind of what I can disclose here and what I don't want to disclose.

Sara: I want the embarrassing stories, for reference.

Karl: I believe -- Let me give you something that happened not long ago, right? And I'll just say this -- if it doesn't work, we can edit it out -- but you know, one of the things that has always captured me was this idea of growth certainly moving from, if we talk about level three to level four, this idea of taking more rather than less responsibility for events around you and it's so interesting to see how that plays out, if you actually think that that's true and you want to live into that idea, that if something happens and you see it, you're responsible. And this was a while ago, I don't know, maybe a few months ago actually, but I was kind of -- this is kind of the height, if you will, of the pandemic, and I was in my local grocery store and, you know, everyone is masked up, right? And there I was, I was, I don't know, I think I was looking in the olive oil section or something of the store and this guy with his buggy came up next to me and he didn't have his mask on. In fact, he had it, in a way that it was, like, behind his neck. It was, you know, kind of like this abusing, actually, the notion that we should be wearing a mask, right, and making a point. And I remember thinking to myself, "Right here, look. I see, so -- I'm responsible here because I know a lot of the I know a lot of the grocers and the people who wipe off my shopping carts. I know these people now as a result of going in there and talking to them and thanking them for what they're doing for us during the pandemic, and I actually saw that kind of I took an offense to this and so I said to the guy, I said, "Sir, there's a lot of people in the store that would really appreciate if you would put your mask on," and he looked at me and he says, "This is a country born on freedom," and I said to him and it was one of those moments, I knew, I said, "Well, look, this is also a country based on responsibility and responsibility to one another." Well, he came over to my cart, took my half gallon of orange juice and threw it down on the floor. The orange juice went everywhere and I'm thinking to myself, "OK. Count to 10, Karl. Count to 10." You know, I'm just doing whatever I can to try to, you know, not say anything else at this point but feeling like, "OK, I did, I did what I needed to do here," and the next thing I know, he kind of takes off with his cart and like, I'm not sure exactly what to do and eventually I go to the back of the store and I talked to one of the grocers and we come back and, you know, I try to actually help them clean it up.But it was it was one of those moments where I had to decide in an instant, and this is where this happens, right? This is where this, you know, this model is so important is that I knew if I wanted to -- I was going to I was going to regret, right, when I got in the car that I didn't say something. I knew I was going to regret it, because I was -- I basically thought to myself, "I'm letting myself down here if I don't say something," and, you know, and it was actually interesting because, you know, when I come home, I tell my wife the story and then she gets really mad at me for, you know, putting myself in potential danger here but what I wanted to -- just, the point I want to make here is that this model has a way, if you're willing to live into it, gives you insight into the world around you, but also insight into yourself.

Keith: Mm-hmm. Karl, fun story. I cannot believe you didn't tell me that during the pandemic, but that is a really fun story, and I just want to extend a little bit that by you being you, by you recognizing that you were going to be letting down yourself in some way if you decided not to say something, even though I bet you did not think that that was the reaction you were going to get from this guy, I got to believe that you created a developmental opportunity for him, even though you didn't get to see that play out while you were together in the store, but there is no way that you throw somebody else's orange juice down onto the floor and burst it open and then drive away and never think about that event again and who you were and -- I don't know, Sara, if this is what -- folks, listeners, one of Sara's biggest concern is that Karl and I are both sometimes hard to rein in, and so I'm doing exactly what your fear is right now.

Karl: But it's good, go.

Keith: But Karl, you did more than be true to yourself and create a developmental challenge for yourself. In being true to yourself and thinking about and then that way you created a developmental challenge for someone else, right? If you got to walk that guy's journey with him beyond that time, you probably would have seen it, but unless he was super level two and is still cursing your name today, that that event changed him as well.

Karl: Right.

Keith: THAT'S what I love about it, Sara.

Karl: Yeah. Well, let me let me also say that, you know, and again in the moment. Um, it was it was also about serving the people I knew and protecting them because I knew I was masked and vaccinated and all that. It wasn't really about me, but it was about me in the sense of I know what I needed to do. But this is, again, this is what this is what's so amazing about life is how these things just pop up, right? I mean, this is just, I mean, this is just a Saturday morning, just -- I'm just, you know, I'm not even sure like I could probably use another cup of coffee, but I needed to go out and get something, right? And that's how this stuff happens, right? It's in the moment and part of this is being able to think about this stuff for as long as we have thought about it and to talk about it and listen, right? We listen to people and the kind of level four, if you will, decisions that they make. The tough ones were made under the same kind of, you know, situations. It was like, this is the moment that you are going to decide whether you're going to do the right thing or you're going to do the wrong thing, or are you going to do what is in the best interest of your community or what's -- this stuff happens. You don't go through life without experiencing this regularly.

Sara: Karl, one thing that I love about your story in light of the last three episodes is it's a great picture of you owning the model and what it means for you in the growth that you have experienced and the person you want to be, but one thing that has struck me in all three of our previous guests is how they've talked about how it has shaped their view of others, right? So I heard your story in my first reaction was, "What an idiot, what is wrong with that guy that he would think throwing orange juice on the floor is an appropriate response?" but then I think back to the way Ryan talked about, "Everybody's doing the best that they can," right, and he talked about it in the context of seeing homeless people on the street, and we don't know what that man has been through, he's doing the best he can. Nancy talked about it in terms of that everybody's experience matters and how, for me, the quickness I am to judge people, but to say, "I wonder what this experience is like for him," and then Kegan talked about this mass challenge that the world is facing and for people who were not ready for growth, are being forced into challenging situations, this mass triggering, that he's feeling probably threatened all of the time by what the world is telling him to do. That led to that reaction and so, obviously I don't agree with his response, it is not what I would do. I would be disappointed if anybody I knew did that, but it challenges me to think now with a more compassionate lens, "I wonder what his story is that was the best thing he could think to do in the moment, so.

Keith: Yeah.

Karl: Well, thank you for -- that's great.

Keith: Brilliant. Brilliant.

Karl: I thought I had, you know, actually, this is, you know, this wasn't in the moment because, you know, my amygdala was really firing here and I wonder, you know, if I would have seen him again five or ten minutes later could I have had a conversation with him?

Sara: Hmm. It's a good thing to ponder.

Karl: Yeah, and by the way, what would I say? And I think and this is, you know, again, I thought Bob did a great job with this is -- and Sara, you're absolutely right. He may have been having a really bad day and we all have bad days and I understand that, but the real challenge for all of us today, by the way, and I think in our country and our democracy is figuring out how to have those kind of conversations with people we don't agree with. I better stop there.

Keith: So you don't just think you would have found something in his shopping cart and thrown it on the ground?

Karl: Well, let's put it this way. I'm pretty sure it would have crossed my mind, but I, you know, I absolutely sure it'll get you.

Keith: Exactly.

Sara: Your center of balance is good, but you could kind wobble back a little bit.

Karl: Hey, I was doing the weeble-wobble. I was doing weeble-wobbles, what I was doing. It was, yeah, I needed to do a rope-a-dope. I needed just to settle down and -- but I realized that, you know, in the moment that you know, again, this comes from maturity, is that in the moment I realized deciding to do something other different -- doing something other than standing there and watching him do this and having him walk away, that is probably the best thing I could have done at that time because I needed a time out.

Sara: That's great.

Keith: So good.

Sara: So Keith, what about you? How has knowing this model impacted you?

Keith: Well, I mean, it impacts me everyday. There are more landmark-y kinds of times that I can reflect back on and, you know, as I thought about this question, knowing you were going to ask us this, you know, I thought back to some pretty cool times where I've, like, intentionally known that the part of the growth journey that I was on would require me to go spend time with someone who saw and experienced the world very differently than me, but that sounds so self-aggrandizing in a way, because the byproduct was good. I think where the model intersects with my life is when Leigh and I are having tension around anything, but I don't want to tell those stories here. I was in a meeting this morning where in the 10 minutes between that meeting and the beginning of this podcast, I was already thinking, "How could I have been different? Why was that challenging for me? How must this other person in the meeting, where there was some conflict and tension, how must they be feeling and what gave voice to that?" and all of that bubbles up in a way because I understand the map. Not like I've got something that other people can't have, it's just Karl and I and now you and the other people have been guests in this episode, you could hear it in every conversation. When you when you integrate it into life in this way, the impact is almost daily and, you know, not wanting to shift a conversation too much but that's why we've always believed that helping people understand the map, it's why Karl and I wrote the book is so important because it makes them more effective -- it makes me more effective -- at integrating daily challenges, big and small, landmark challenges in a way that, I think, you know, we've used this analogy before, but it's like if you're working out on a regular basis and building strength and endurance, when you get in a situation that is exceptional and you need to leverage that strength and endurance, it's way different than not having trained at all up to that moment, right? And so, yeah. That's my answer.

Sara: That's awesome. Good answer. So I have some specific questions and thoughts on each of the episodes but before I do that, I just want to know for those -- for the two of you who have listened to all the episodes, what is kind of still rolling around in your mind that maybe you keep processing either because it was really meaningful to you or it was a different way to talk about something or maybe something you were trying to make sense of that you didn't agree with, but just kind of from Ryan, to Kegan, to Nancy's two episodes, what are the things that stuck out to you the most? Karl, why don't you start?

Keith: You want me to go?

Karl: All right. Yeah, sure. Well, there are a few things. Let me see if I can just narrow it down here. I think the most important thing, and it's also where I got the greatest chuckle, was when Bob talked about honoring our potential to grow and not to die, and -- which means that for him suffering a loss that feels unacceptable and this is something that, again, we've been talking about together and I've been bugging Keith, I think for at least the last year about this, is that most of our growth is a result of a loss for us, that means something that didn't work out well. A decision that we made didn't work out well. It could be getting fired from a job, or getting demoted, or it could be a loss of a dear friend to COVID or something. And so that loss is -- something about that loss that gives us the chance to kind of reassess who we are, what we're thinking about, and it's just so interesting for all of us. I mean, we do this, what we call the lifeline in our program and we have people, you know, tell us about landmark events that were in their lives and you know, again, we know we've done this all over the world, and you ask people in these landmark events, you have these positive landmark events and you have negative landmark events. Which of these has the greatest impact on your growth, and it's, like, it's universal, right? People say, "Oh, I learned the most, right, from the loss," or for that negative landmark event that usually is a loss of some sort. Defined broadly "loss" and so when Bob talks about, you know, the potential to grow and not die, is that we're always, we're always, we're always when we want to kind of stretch ourselves, we think we know that loss is there and it's just going to happen. All right, we know that loss is going to happen and what keeps us in place for most of us, what keeps us in place, is the fear of that loss.

Sara: Yeah.

Karl: And so it's that and I think, Bob, highlighting that is very important because when we talk about the journey, the growth journey, it's easy to kind of get caught up in the positive aspects of this. Right, and we don't really understand the consequences and it's those consequences where we don't talk about those consequences and I think we all have something that we're afraid of losing and if we hold on to that too long, it really impacts our growth and we know -- we've done enough of these growth gap tools, Keith, to know -- that there are people who have been kind of in place for the last 15, 20 years because they couldn't tolerate dying and their own thoughts about this. So that was huge for me and the other thing that, I'll just say this that we can, I'll just turn it over to Keith, but the other thing that was really great was Nancy, you know, sharing with us, Bob sharing with us, Ryan sharing with us, their own metaphors for growth and they are so good! You know? It's like, "Oh, wow, that's awesome," and I just loved them. I thought, by the way, I thought, I mean, I thought that weeble-wobble and the Cheerios bowl, I thought, they're brilliant and oh, by the way, I can't wait to use them in my classes because I think it really does a great job of talking about what it feels like and what it looks like to be going through a growth period.

Sara: Yeah, I think with as complex as this model is, the word pictures really do help communicate what it is that we're trying to express to people, so I love those metaphors as well. Keith, I know you did. Keith, what about you, what's been rolling around in your mind since these three, four podcasts?

Keith: A lot. I agree with a lot of what Karl said. As I was just listening to him now talk about growing and dying from the Kegan episode, I think the thing I've been thinking about since that interview is a little different from the thing that Karl was thinking about on the same topic in that I've been contemplating, "So what does it mean for me in the work that I do and the work that we do?" To have the same enthusiasm and embrace which I think expresses itself differently in compassion and empathy for people who are bumping up against the "not-to-die" part of their job, and, you know, his three stories. You know, which poker is the thing that sticks out for everybody, but really it was he was able to talk about politics, religion, and sex in kind of an acceptable way, but how do we honor and how do I honor and embrace the fear that someone's feeling, and how does that maybe change the way I've done it so much over the years where it was more "you just got to have courage, you've got to have this is going to be something you're going to have to push through," and it was more that kind of encouragement versus the I mean, this is a dumb picture, maybe, but it's like, how do I hug them differently? Give them a different kind of hug in what they're going through. I don't know if that if that makes sense and if it doesn't, we can pull that out of the episode. The other thing, I think, that I haven't been able to stop myself from thinking because I think I resisted it at first was in Ryan's podcast is I'm still processing what he means by "trauma", but I can tell he knows what he means by it, and I'm and it's made me want to think through where he's right in what he's thinking, like, how can that change me? Right, and so that's been that's been the other thing, but -- and I agree with all the other things, Karl said. Cheerios, especially,

Karl: If I just, let me extend this just one little bit here, which is, you know, and this came out of Nancy's and, of course, we've talked about this, you know, I mean, I guess this has been in our vocabulary for a long time, but somehow the way she said it, which is she talked about the holding environment -- maybe it's the bowl of Cheerios -- but maybe it was that, but it helped me to think about, you know, when you hear certain things, you know, and so when the guy throws my orange juice on the ground, you know, I don't -- I did not think about this at the time but after listening to Nancy, I thought to myself, "I wonder what his holding environment is?" Right?

Sara: Yeah. Karl: Where is he getting support for that?

Keith: Yeah.

Sara: Yeah and then, I mean, that goes back to the, like, what's -- when you're asking him to put his mask on, that is his version of some death that you are asking him to embrace -- the death of freedom, right? That loss of freedom to him feels like a death because his holding environment values and adheres to this preeminence of freedom, so.

Karl: Yeah. Can I -- This is what I love about this discussion is that we have -- if we are able to label it as kind of a "holding environment", we then don't demonize others. We don't increase the separation between us. That make sense?

Sara: Keep going with that.

Karl: No, no, no. It's just, you know, what happens is, you know, it's tempting to refer to this guy as an idiot or sociopath, I mean, throwing some sort of labels on them that demonize them when in fact what really is going on here is there is a constituency around him that supports that. What he did and might, I don't -- look I don't know this, he may even go back to that constituency and tell the story as a funny story, right? And so our job, one of our jobs, is to really understand better someone's holding environment, what's holding them in place, why are they doing what they're doing?

Sara: And both Bob and Nancy talked about that idea in terms of for them to grow, for Mr. Orange Juice, to grow, for him to put on the mask and respect you or act in a different way could put in danger his whole social construct of where he belongs and the people that he fits in with that it's like, I would lose that -- I could lose that thing. I could lose those associations. They could reject me if they found out I put my mask on in the grocery store and so that's that fear, you know, that to him, it made sense, you know?

Karl: Yes, well, that's the experience of not being the Cheerio in the bowl, but outside a bowl on the table and what does that feel like? Maybe kind of cold and damp? I don't know. But it's a different place and my guess is, and I don't know this, but it's probably going to take a great deal of care and a great -- it's going to take a different way of us being with each other than we are, it seems like today, to get a handle on each other's kind of holding environment.

Keith: Yeah. Yeah.

Karl: So we can make a change.

Sara: All right, I have one last question for both of you, and it's a big one, but it's the one that people have asked me to ask you. So on behalf of our listeners, the biggest question people always have is, "OK, but what do I do? What is it that I need to do to keep growing? How do I make sure that I'm not the person that's getting stuck, that's living more in the fear of dying versus the miracle of growth?" and so I know both of you, you know, all of us as a profession make it our job to help people grow, but if there's one or two kind of best practices, strategies, things that you would encourage people to do so that they can take the next step, what would that be?

Keith: Do you want to go, do you want me to go?

Karl: It doesn't matter. You can go. I've been going first.

Keith: Yeah, I'm going to change the answer that I pre-thought through actually on this in light of this conversation because I think the thing, assuming you haven't already done this right, that's what I'm assuming right now that you haven't already done this because for those that have already done it, they know that my answer might be, "Embrace the challenges you're facing in a way that can really lead to growth," but for people who may not have fully understood everything we talked about in these last four episodes, I would ask, "Do you ever feel like you're wandering through the wilderness of life without a map?" When, if you understood the map, not only would you be more maybe efficient in your journey, but it might take you to the most beautiful sights on that journey. It might take you to places that you didn't even know were places that you could see. I talked to a friend recently who was hiking in North Georgia, and they knew that this was a waterfall hike, and they hiked up to this waterfall and thought, "Oh my gosh, this is beautiful. This is beautiful," and they came back again and they did it, and they came back again and did it, and finally, they ran into somebody who said, "That's not the waterfall. The waterfall is two miles further down the road, down the trail," and when they saw the real waterfall, they were like, "I had no idea. I thought the waterfall that we saw was beautiful," and it was probably. Right, but it's like if you're listening to this and this whole vertical development series, I would say read more, dig in more, because when you understand the map of how we as people grow it's such an important step to make the most of the experiences you can't avoid anyway.

Sara: Yeah, that's great, and obviously, you guys wrote a book called The Map and we'll -- I want to put some resources on the website for people to go to, but what would be some of the other places? Ryan has a good WhitePaper that we'll link to that we had earlier. Which of Kegan's books do you think is a good starting point to understand this?

Keith: Wow, that's a hard question, because acknowledgedly by him, his books are harder to read but for me, In Over Our Heads: The Mental Demands of Modern Life is the greatest entry point in terms of getting a full view of the model. I think it's easier to read than The Evolving Self, but if you've read In Over Our Heads and you've taken it in, I think going back and reading that next one is really important. I think go take Ryan's assessment that 20,000 people whatever have taken right now. I was actually kind of impressed with what it yielded. It's -- but it's a way to just gain maybe a little bit of self-awareness or be challenged. I think if -- I'll stop there.

Sara: One thing I want to say before, just as a side note, because we didn't have time to talk about it, one thing that dawned on me while we were talking is Ryan's mindsets capture the fear of dying right, which is the opposite of looking good, being right, avoiding problems, getting ahead right. Those kind of less-developed mindsets are what we do to make sure we don't die versus the growth mindsets on the other side are the miracle of growth, and so I just thought that was a cool connection that I hadn't drawn the dots between Bob and Ryan until you said that, so it is a good assessment. Karl, what about you, like --

Keith: Sara, Sara. Real quick, I want to go back and just say, in case it's misunderstood, that when I was using the Map, that is what we call the book, I was not thinking "go buy The Map", although go buy The Map, right? I mean --I'll

Sara: I'll promote your book for you.

Keith: Listen, we're proud of it, and we do think it is a -- we tried to talk as plainly as we could in that book, but I was using "understanding the map" more generically than that, and I wanted to just clarify that in case it matters.

Sara: You were talking about the lower case map, and I am going to promote your book for you, the uppercase Map. You can -- we'll link to that too, so.

Keith: Perfect. Thank you. Thank you. Okay, Karl. Your turn.

Sara: Karl, what about you?

Karl: Well, I guess right now we're where I am on the kind of the specifics or tools and techniques for growth that I think we should really realize that the curriculum for our growth is all around us. I mean, it is all around us. I mean, we -- everyday we're out and we're doing things. We're -- we have within us the ability to actually change our minds and how we want to deal with this interaction, right, who are we going to be in this interaction? And I've always loved this quote from Max Dupree, who said, "We cannot become what we need to be by remaining who we are," and I find that to be so true is that I actually asked, I ask myself this quite often, is "Am I actually better today than I was yesterday? What have I done over the past day, or what have I done over the past week that makes me better, makes me stronger, in the midst of the chaos that's around us and our institutions? What am I doing?" and I think what we have to come back is, Keith kind of mentioned this, I have my own word for this, which is just being on autopilot, you know? Is getting our daily to-do list and going through that to-do list and not thinking about what it is we're doing and how we're doing it, and I think there's just a lot of growth potential just in dealing better with the world around this, whether it be, you know, our husbands, our wives, our friends, how can we serve better the people around us because there are people, you know, if you're in an organization, there are people asking things of you right now and the question is, are you are you answering those calls?

Sara: Yeah.

Keith: So great, Karl.

Karl: So that's kind of a broad -- that's kind of a broad way of answering your question. I would say for me as kind of an ending point, and this is kind of a call, as much as I love the metaphors, I actually love when Nancy was kind of struggling with talking about Level Five, because that's been our experience, right? I mean, we love these metaphors, we love it when other people are struggling to try to explain Level Five and, you know, and it's occurred to me that I think the problem is the fact that we don't have a language for Level Five, that is we don't have a language for it, and I think it's it kind of, in some ways, it kind of dishonors growth if we can't do a better job of describing what it is what great leaders are able to do and, you know, as much we have, again, this great language that we've created around it, it's not real -- we're all using different language to describe it and I don't know if we need a new vocabulary, but we need something to be more consistent in the way we talk about these higher levels so people can embrace them and see the model as aspirational, which it's always been for me.

Sara: That's really good, and part of my hope in doing the series was building connections between people who are doing work in this space but, you know, you had you'd never met Nancy before, Karl, and neither of you have met Ryan and I'd, you know, read Kegan's work and shook his hand once but hadn't interacted with him and so, you know, how great would it be if we could have this community of people working in this space that could share experiences and language and figure out the best way to teach it, the best way to coach it? That'd be great.

Karl: I agree.

Sara: Right, any closing thoughts?

Keith: I agree as well.

Sara: Any closing thoughts from either of you as we wrap up this series on how it is that we continue to grow as grown-ups?

Keith: You know, I mean, I'm just struck. Karl opens the door to some new existential question every time I talk with him and that, you know, not only are we on a journey as people, I -- this whole constructive developmental theory's on a journey as well, and that the journey is not over, it's not like we've got some sort of "Hey, now you've listened to the four episodes. Glad you got the truth, capital T," right? It's like, no, we're all in the middle of this but there have been, I mean, hundreds, if not thousands, of researchers, philosophers, teachers, professors, practitioners around the world that have been recognizing the importance of this in terms of not only growing well, but also evolving in a way that we avoid death. Right? I mean, there's a lot to think about in that. I'm still processing the Kegan thing. I listened to it again this morning, that segment, right? I'll probably have to listen that segment a few more times or read the transcript or something because it's so, it's so dense but there is power and efficacy in this journey that we're on, and so my encouragement or closing thought would be don't go, "Well, that was weird," or "That was academic," or "That was -- " Figure out how it intersects with your life and begin to put it to use.

Sara: Beautiful.

Karl: Well, I will just play for what Keith just said, which is I hope people understand that, and I'll say this for all of us, I think we -- I think everybody who's working in this area realized that the stakes for more collective growth across this world is important. You know, democracy is fragile. Country's leadership is fragile, and we know that the world is going to require more level four, level five leaders, if we're going to be able to deal with these complex problems that we're facing. Again, not only in this country, but around the world and we're going to have to figure out ways of growing others and we're doing, you know, we're doing what we can do but it really needs -- we need a much broader audience to do the work that we think needs to be done.

Sara: The stakes are high for ourselves, for the people that matter to us, for our world, so I love that challenge.

Karl: Well, thank you. Thank you. I mean, both of you for the work you're doing and the podcasts have actually been really instructive for me and I hope it is for others. You're doing a great service. So thank you.

Sara: Thank you so much. It has been fun for me to get to interview, both of you. As I'm looking at my screen, I'm realizing the two of you have been my guides in learning this model and this theory and how to apply it and then I know, Keith, for you, Karl was kind of your introduction and guide early on in your journey too, so. I feel like it's a little bit of a family reunion legacy moment right here that I get to have this conversation with the two of you. So thank you for sharing your wisdom with me over the years, and I hope that we get to continue to work together and help people keep growing.

Keith: Just to build off of Sara's kind of generational thing, Grandpa, thanks for being with us.

Karl: Oh, there we go. There we go.

Sara: I love it.

Karl: Hey, I'm going to. Yeah, OK. All right. So, so now we become dysfunctional, right, again.

Keith: Exactly!

Sara: All right. This is where I got to -- Karl: I'm going to say goodbye the way my daughter says goodbye to me, which is, "Peace out."

Keith: Peace out, Karl. Thank you, Sara.

Karl: Thank you, Sara.

Sara: All right, everyone. I hope the rest of your 2021 is great and you start out this next year really learning and pushing into your own growth as we continue to try to make this world a better place. Happy Holidays.