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  • Darren Gold

The Most Fundamental Choice You Can Make

The first chapter of my book Master Your Code: The Art, Wisdom, and Science of Leading an Extraordinary Life focuses on the foundational capacity of awareness. I argue that you cannot change what you cannot see. And if you want to change any part of your life, you have to build awareness.

One of the most effective ways to create awareness is through distinctions – the intentional use of language to access the domain of "that which you don’t know that you don’t know." You see, there are three essential domains. The first is the I know domain. Everything you currently know is contained within this domain. The second is the I know that I don’t know domain. This is where most traditional learning and development occurs. The third is the most important and by far the largest – the domain of I don’t know that I don’t know. Distinctions create access to this domain. And it is here where transformational growth truly happens. 

One of the most humorous and effective illustrations of the power of distinctions to create awareness comes from the work of Ben Zander, co-author of The Art of Possibility (one of my favorite books). If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing Ben present to a large audience, you’ll remember something he always does at the beginning of the talk. After everyone is seated, he will make the following observation: no one is seated in the front row. I have seen Ben speak several times, and this is always the case. Indeed, whenever I speak in front of large groups, I observe the same phenomenon. Ben does something different than most speakers, though. He stops his presentation and asks (he really demands) that people from the back row move to the front. He uses it as an opportunity to bring energy into the room and have some fun. By the time he’s done, he has made an important point. Most of us walk into a lecture hall and subconsciously think of the presentation as an opportunity to passively receive information. And, as a result, we subconsciously avoid sitting in the front row. We’re not aware of doing it, it just happens.

Essentially, Ben provides the audience with a new distinction in the form of a question – namely, are you a front of the room person or not? Does life show up to you as an opportunity to make things happen or to simply participate and passively receive your experience? It’s a powerful distinction. Armed with it, I can longer go into a room without the awareness of where I will choose to sit. And I always choose to sit in the front row. Such are the power of distinctions to create awareness. Once you are aware, it’s impossible to be unaware. 

Where might you be subconsciously sitting in the back row of your life? What would it look like if you chose to sit in the front row? What would it look like to declare yourself right now as a front row person...a front row leader, parent, spouse, colleague, friend. If you want to master your code, you can only do so from the front row.

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