Ep 101: Why Hacking Doesn’t Work (Or Confusing Doing With Being)

There is a big chasm between doing things like a leader and really being a leader. No amount of hacking will get you to cross that line, no matter how many leadership books you read or how many podcasts like this you listen to. Make no mistake, doing is important, but without the being underneath it, it will never amount to anything. Even if you imitate every single action taken by your model leader, you will always get stuck in an asymptotic relationship with that critical line unless you are willing to do the one thing that will get you through it. It’s going to be uncomfortable, even painful, but it’s the only way to become that great leader you have always envisioned. Listen in to this eye-opening episode as Adam Quiney bursts the bubble that many entrepreneurs and business are living in and awakens them to the harsh reality of creating that being beneath the doing.

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Why Hacking Doesn’t Work (Or Confusing Doing With Being)

I don’t have COVID yet, maybe you do, maybe this is providing some solace, maybe you want to know how to become a leader in the face of COVID. It’s a crazy time, isn’t it? I’m present to how one of the things that COVID is done in the leadership and the coaching space has been to shine a bright light on this distinction between real leadership and talking like leadership. I was talking to a woman and she described it as shining neon on those that are doing the work and those that are good at marketing. It’s quite a profound time. We’re seeing a lot of the leadership and coaching space get washed away or get quiet. You can keep trying to operate over the top of this and it’s not working.

In any event, wherever you find yourself, whatever you find yourself doing, however you find yourself being, thanks for being with us for this conversation. What we’re going to talk about is why hacking doesn’t work. You could also call this Confusing Doing with Being. To give you a quick summary, we’re going to describe why so many leaders in so many courses teaching leadership and many coaches fail in spite of doing their absolute best to mimic what they see. We’ll talk about the distinction between the doing and the being of leadership. What happens when you try to copy the doing, we could call that hacking, and how to be different from the pack and how to change this up.

It’s probably not news to hear me say this, hopefully, it’s not at this point. When we notice people in the world doing something well, we put almost 100% of our attention on what they’re doing. We see people creating results, we see them making magic happen in the world, we like the trappings of success that we see over there and we like the way they show up in their life. We go, “What is that person doing? What is it that they’re doing?” The reason we want to do this is because we can mimic it. We can take that on. We do this because our being is what we can observe. Someone’s being is pervasive. The way you are being underlies everything and how you express yourself, including the way you try to stop and not express yourself. Your being is present throughout. It would be trying to notice atoms or trying to notice the fabric of the universe. It’s everywhere.

We can see the fabric of the universe based on how planets orbit each other in gravity, but we can’t see it because it pervades everything. That’s a little bit trying to see someone’s being. It’s inherent. It’s present in everything. It’s hard for us to see anyone particular aspect of it. It’s hard to distinguish it. Instead, what we do is we put our attention on the symptom or the end expression of that way of being that someone’s bringing, which is to say the doing.

We get curious about, “That person over there is doing something. I’m going to mimic that.” If I do these things, that person made 100 cold calls and they got five clients. Got it. That should mean simple math. If I do 100 cold calls, I’ll get five clients, but underneath and present throughout all of those calls, how you show up to those calls and how the conversation goes is going to be your being. Your being will be determinative of the results that you generate.

What makes a leader powerful is not what they are doing, it's who they are being underneath. Click To Tweet

The punchline for this conversation is, what makes a leader powerful is not what they’re doing. It’s who they are being underneath that doing and what that informs them in doing. It’s not to suggest that the actions the leader is taking are not important, don’t have an impact, not relevant, or anything like that. It’s more that it’s the being of the leader that informs those actions rather than the other way around. We tend to simply look at the way they’re acting and try to mimic it.

For more on this idea of what is being called for from a leader, what is the way of being, or the qualities of the ways that the leader shows up, you can check out Episode 95, where we talk about the tools of the ontological leader. There we talk a little bit about some of the qualities of being that a leader brings to the table and how you can work with that and what you can take on. What about this is the challenge here? Why is this challenging?

The challenging part about all of this is that we mimic what we can distinguish and what we can distinguish in the world remains relegated to the realm of the doing. We see a leader being kind and compassionate to their staff and they’re doing well, we conclude that the thing to do is to bring kindness and compassion. As a rule, that’s the thing to do. I will do that as well or we see a leader do a poor job bringing rigor to someone and consequently making them wrong. We determine, “The answer is never ever to bring rigor and make someone wrong.”

In the one case, we’re trying to mimic and add in doing the behavior that we see and in the second case, we’re trying to eradicate the behavior that we see is wrong. Once we’ve eradicated it, we conclude, “I’m doing a good job of leadership. I’m not doing what that bad leader over there is doing, therefore, I am doing good.” Mimicking the doing of leadership without developing the being underneath is a lot like the cargo cults or the Pacific Islanders.

As a brief interlude, and possibly an apocryphal one, the distinction of cargo called sprang out, I believe, is originally from the world wars. What happened was that there’s a period of time where many of the Pacific Islands and the theater of conflict there were taken over by American troops and even before that Japanese troops. What these GIs did was they set up airstrips, and they would have a whole bunch of cargo dropped onto the island. The GIs would do things speaking to walkie talkies, move their arms to guide the airplanes, have cargo dropped off, and some of it, they would share with the Islanders.

GL 101 | Being A Leader

Being A Leader: When we focus our attention on the doing, it will feel like we’re getting closer and closer to becoming the leader we want to be without actually getting there.


Seeing this is the part that might be apocryphal. You can look this up on Wikipedia if you’re curious. Seeing this as the story goes, the islanders started to mimic these gestures in the hopes that they too would be able to call in airplanes and receive their own cargo. It’s like, “If I do that stuff, I will receive manna from heaven.” It makes sense to do this because we don’t understand or we don’t comprehend everything that is beneath those actions. We don’t have the cultural, societal and technological context for all of this. All we can see is the doing.

We try to repeat the doing in the hopes that it’ll give us the same results. It makes sense to do this, especially in the realm of leadership, because we can’t see all of the work that’s gone into the leader’s own development. It’s hard to see being, especially when we haven’t been deep in that work ourselves. A simple example would be, let’s take someone who has been raised with a story that money is scarce.

What they’ve done is they’ve learned growing up, “I know what I’ll do. I’m going to figure out how to make a ton of money then it won’t be scarce.” They’ve amassed all this money and on the surface, we would look at that and be like, “That person has amassed a lot of money. That’s amazing.” That person could go to someone else, who has a similar story about money, a similar relationship to it, probably give them the same directions, and that person could probably mimic that and create the same results money wise.

The trouble is that this person we’re talking about that is now telling people how to make money, has never done the work to get underneath all of the surplus of money they’ve now created. There is still a scarcity and lack of abundance. You’ve probably spent time around people like this, there’s never enough money. They’re constantly checking their stocks and fretting about money running out. They’ve still got scarcity, but they’re playing it at a bigger stake.

Even though on the surface it looks like you’ve solved all your problems with money, it’s never scarce now. It’s so abundant and their experience underneath that is still one of scarcity. Until someone can point that out to them, until they’re even open and willing to hear that, they can’t see in the world because they believe they resolve their experience of scarcity, “Let me check my stocks thirteen more times to make sure that I’ve resolved it. Yep, I have. I made more money. Good.”

You have to be willing to lead poorly to become a great leader. Play the game, step out, and be ready to fall on your face. Click To Tweet

This creates that funny disconnect that you’ve probably experienced with people where you won’t be able to see your stuff as it’s reflected but you’ll see other people’s where they’re telling you one thing, “I’m so happy and I never feel sad.” You’re like, “You occur so sad now. It’s crazy. You occurred desperately sad. All I feel when I’m with you is a deep desire to cry and yet you’re telling me how happy you are.” This is how being eludes us, we can’t see it. What we end up doing is mimicking that doing and thinking that we’ve got it.

It’s hard to find people that have gone deep enough themselves to be able to reflect this to us. Consequently, we’re left mired in books that purport to teach you the way to be a leader, how to develop leadership, the things to do, how to have challenging conversations, how to artfully usher people out of meetings or draw them in, or anything else like this. We have all these strategies, all these “right ways” to do things and it doesn’t work. At best, what you are left doing is running a beautiful simulation of leadership without ever having formulated the being underneath.

Why does this matter as a leader? With your teams, the biggest challenge of this tendency to keep our attention on the doing is we’ll feel we’re getting closer to being the leader we’re committed to without ever getting there. You can replicate, take on more leadership, read more books, figure out more techniques and more approaches and it gets you closer and closer, almost up to the edge of what you want, but you’ll never cross it. In math, we call this an asymptote.

An asymptote is you can imagine a graph like Y equals X squared, which is a parabola, a curved line. An asymptote is this diagonal line. It’s imaginary and you can raise X as high as you want, that line will never cross that diagonal asymptote. Like in your life, it requires greater and greater amounts of X to move further and further over to the right. That graph grows fast upwards, but not to the right so it’ll never get across that line. We’re all in this game of trying to cross an asymptote. You make an asymptote out of you and me. We’re trying to mimic more doing, read more books, “If I could get that one thing,” and we never will. In fact, you find yourself with diminishing returns.

The closer we get the more effort it requires us to keep moving forward. It also means that we’ve built up a set of stakes around the fact that all of this work we’re doing we’re invested in it heavily. The more work you do, the more hacking, the more trying to capture this you do, the more invested you are and insisting that this is the path, which then tragically makes it harder for you to let it go. We’re left insisting that we’re doing the work trying evermore hardly to create what seems to be missing and losing sight of the fact that all of our efforts are what keeps us stuck.

GL 101 | Being A Leader

Being A Leader: The only way to be able to distinguish the being under the actions of someone is to have that work done yourself.


On the personal level, you’ll be left with scads of leadership books and plenty of brilliant things to say about leadership without any of the underlying leadership. You’ll simply be lacking the being or to put it differently, you’ll be trying to use the concepts, tools, and ideas about leadership, rather than being used powerfully by the being of a leader. This is a Werner Earhart concept, which is when you have a powerful way of being about leadership, you don’t have to figure out, “What was that thing that book told me to do in this situation?”

There’s no thinking to do, you will be used by the being of a leader. It will occur to you, you’ll take the action. Once you’ve learned to ride a bike, you don’t have to think, “I’m slightly falling to the left so I need to turn my handlebars a bit to the left. I need to get my balance back that way and I can turn to the right.” You know what to do. Riding a bicycle uses you. It’s in the marrow of your bones. This is what we avoid. This is what we step over when we hack. You can broaden this whole conversation out to the notion of hacking.

This is what people are craving, “If you could tell me the series of eye movements and the way I need to put my consciousness in a pack of sugar and use that as a totem so I don’t feel my fear, then I can do the thing I’m afraid of and I can have everything that I want.” No. It will not work. That is trying to bypass all of this stuff. It doesn’t work. I’m totally happy if you insist that it does and invite you to continue doing it. Be aware of the asymptote. What do we do about this? How do we stick out from the pack? What can we take on?

Here is the challenge and you’ve almost certainly heard me say this a whole bunch, which is the only way to be able to distinguish the being under the actions of someone is to have that work done yourself to take it on. That person who is insistent of, “No. I have money that’s abundant,” they need to get supported by someone who’s been through the eye of the needle. You can get through that eye of the needle sometimes by a crucible in life, a catastrophic moment that simultaneously actualized as a breakthrough. You’re much better off. The risk there is people will say, “I’ve had that and that’s why I can do that.” You’re much better off setting that story aside and listening to these words of wisdom from yours truly, which is to get into a relationship with a coach or a potent leader.

There’s no substitute for this and what that will provide you with someone that has been taken through that eye of the needle themselves and can point to what you’re doing. Once that person who’s insisting money is no longer scarce, finally confronts the truth of the scarcity that they are living from, they can see it everywhere in the world. They suddenly realize, “Donald Trump and all of these millionaires their money is so scarce for them. They’re living in a position of scarcity. No wonder they’re clutching and grabbing for all of this. It makes so much sense. I was doing that same thing.” Getting into that relationship with a coach or a powerful leader allows you to create that shift in your life and it sets you up to be able to lead others through that same place.

I could recommend books or even this podcast, but the trouble is that it’s all going to backfire because it’s all going to be listened to and received through your own blind spot. These conversations are designed to invite you further down that path to help you see something that you might not or see a blind spot a little bit. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that is sufficient. It’s the start of the journey, not the end. The other part of this is to practice and be willing to fail. Consuming information about leadership is often an attempt by ourselves to avoid leaning over the edge and taking the plunge off of that diving board.

Being is developed in practice. It’s not developed by reading about and figuring out the right answer. It’s developed by getting supported by someone, practicing, falling on your face and learning how to be with that. Including the embarrassment, and how crappy it feels, and learning how to recover and dust yourself off and get back and try it again and again. When I used to practice when I was a street dancer used to train to dance, popping, and locking, I still do. For the first decade of my work in that area, I kept training in front of a mirror. I was mastering the studio. I can teach technique, but I kept having this issue where there would be a competition or something.

I couldn’t get in that circle. I was too scared. I’d go back to the studio and go, “Maybe I practice my technique a little bit more.” There’s no amount of practicing my technique in the studio that’s going to prepare me for the fear of stepping into a circle. The only way to get good at stepping into a circle is to practice stepping into a circle and to be willing to be bad at it. You’ve got to be willing to be bad at leadership. Lead poorly, that is the way to become a great leader. If we’re unwilling to do it badly, we’ll never learn to do it artfully. Play the game, step out and be willing to fall on your face.

That’s all we got for you. Let me have a check here and see if there’s anything that I want to float by you. The thing that I’ll share is The Forge is now open for registration. That is our group program for coaches and leaders. We hold that leaders coach and coaches lead. There’s a distinction between those two but if you want to do one, you’re going to need to be able to do the other. We’ve expanded it. It’s a nine-month program with a one month gap in the middle. You get feedback on your ability to coach, lead and develop leadership in other people. We hone you, train you, and support you in deepening yourself by not learning concepts like this but putting them into practice in your being.

The fundamental promise of The Forge is you will not leave the way you came in. You will leave transformed and there’s a whole bunch of cool results that usually come from creating this shift, this transformation, and those will be your results to declare. You get to decide what you want to leave with but that is the work. It also includes a trip to somewhere awesome some once in a lifetime retreat. We always include that as part of it now after we did that in the first year and had an amazing time together.

In 2020, we were in Costa Rica. We’re not sure where we’ll be in 2021, but we do guarantee that retreat will be amazing. If that sounds something of interest to you, we’ve got a page up now which is at EverGrowthCoaching.com/the-forge. Check it out. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions, curious about that, or think that this might be something calling to you and your spirit. We’d love to talk. Coming up, we have Why Selling Expertise Won’t Work. That’s where we’re going to end off. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Bye for now.


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