Mark McMillan | Founding Member, HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board

Please welcome Mark McMillan back as a returning contributor to the HRExaminer Editorial Advisory Board. Mark is co-founder of Talent Function, where he combines executive coaching expertise with ten years of recruitment software industry experience. He started his software career for the Oracle Corporation and later joined BrassRing as a Director of Strategy and Business Development. Full Bio…

The Avatars in Our Heads

by Mark McMillan

On October 6th, at around 5pm PST, I excitedly jumped to the Apple website to see if the latest version of the mobile operating system had been released.   When it comes to the release of new Apple products, I’m a bit like a kid on Christmas morning.   I don’t just drink the Apple Kool-aid — I bath in it.  The excitement drained from my face as soon as the Steve Job’s memorial page filled the screen.  His death wasn’t a surprise, but it was still a tragically sad moment.

Even though I never actually met Steve Jobs,  I had a relationship with him.  You see, I carry around my very own projected, Steve Jobs avatar.  He is a voice that I consult with in the privacy of my own mind.   These avatar relationships are fascinating, and worthy of examination.  For most of us, our own inner avatars can be more influential than the real people themselves.

Over the last decade, I’ve watched every Steve Job’s product announcement.   I was captivated by him.   In my mind’s eye, I have a composite image of Steve Jobs wearing his trademark blue jeans and black turtleneck.  I regularly summon by Steve Job’s avatar whenever I’m looking at a new software product.    What would Steve Job’s think about this?  And, I have to tell you, my inner Steve Job’s voice is pretty hard on enterprise software products.   “Where’s the soul?  Where’s the art?”   “You call this innovation?”   Where’s the innovation?   He motivates me to challenge the status quo.  He’s my friend.  He tells me to be inspired.   Me and my Steve avatar — we just get each other.

Beyond the famous avatars are the voices of important people in our lives — our   mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, bosses, and teachers are common voices.   These internalized voices can be permanent fixtures in our head, even after they are dead.   These voices reveal themselves all of the time.  Sometimes they are positive and sometimes they keep us from something that we want.  They can also be debilitating.

As a practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), I work with client’s to discover and re-program these voices.   NLP is the study of how humans make meaning out of the information that they experience through their five senses.   We humans have programs for creating memories and assigning meaning to events of our lives.   We store pictures, voices, and feelings in our minds that can have a profound influence on how we interact with the world around us.  We are compulsive, meaning-making machines.  Uncovering these old voices is a bit like an emotional archeological dig. A skilled NLP practitioner can read a person’s eye movements as a clue to when they are actually checking with one of their ancient avatars.

To illustrate my point, my Dad’s voice is one that I carry around with me all the time.   When I was about 14 years old, I overheard my Dad making a comment to my mom that “I was lazy and needed to be pushed.”  At the time I had enlisted my Mom’s help to get my Dad to back off our baseball training regime.   He would require me to get up before school, around 5:30am, to practice pitching.  I was tired of it and I asked my Mom to talk to him about it.   Now the truth of the matter is that I was many things, but lazy was never one of them.  But in that moment, I assigned meaning to that day – I decided that I was lazy.   Now, it’s still  a little emotional software bug that runs in the background when I’m afraid and I want to experience a familiar feeling.  The funny thing is that I have talked to my Dad about this incident and he never thought that I was a lazy person.  But  despite all of that observed adult reality, on bad days, I still run the  “Mark is lazy” program.   With the help of my NLP practitioner, I have chipped away at this one and it doesn’t run quite so often.

The avatars in our life are complex and powerful.  Their power often transcends intellectual knowledge.   They can be both constructive and destructive.   They are fascinating and they make us – us.    What does this have to do with human resources?”   Fortunately, my Steve Jobs avatar is on my shoulder with semi-frustrated expression.   It’s about HUMAN resources right?

What voices are you listening to?

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