In this Interview, Alex Jamieson and Bob Gower, talk about the fundamentals of radical alignment. Along with advice on reducing interpersonal friction, and interacting with those around you to help transform your business and life.
In this Blog:
- Alex and Bob’s inspirations
- The hidden benefits of growing up privileged
- Their views on why relationships don't work
- Overview of ‘Radical Alignment’
- The idea of Somatic Awareness
- Threefold path to Alignment
- Framework for having a Conversation
- Thoughts on being “Needy”
Let’s dive right in!
Alex and Bob's Inspirations
Bob’s mother was a school teacher and his father a ceramic engineer that eventually became a salesperson. What influenced him a lot was that his father was actually born quite poor, his first love was history and his second was crystallography, but he chose to go into ceramic engineering for it’s guaranteed placement.
The early part of his career was almost a rebellion against that, Bob only did what he loved. However, the latter part focused on earning a living WHILE doing what he loved.
Bob’s father did, however, start his own company in his 60s. And one of the things he repeatedly told Bob was that success was defined by oneself and not by society. This push is one of the many things that transformed Bob’s life because it showed him the path of being in control and achieving success on his own terms.
Alex comes from a family of educators and artists. Her father was a high school principal for 25 years, and her mother was a substitute teacher and an artist. Both encouraged Alex to follow her passions to wherever they may take her, and that the money will eventually follow.
Her grandfather was the Vice President of a huge corporation, so naturally, her father was groomed to an executive. But he chose to follow his passion, instead of attending a business school, he became a teacher.
Life lessons that influenced their careers
Alex remembers talking to her friends about being confused and she wished that somebody could tell her what had to be done. All her freedom only bought Alex a feeling of uncertainty. She fumbled along trying different things such as moving to different cities and trying different careers.
Currently, she is an author and a coach. For most of her career, she never got into anything close to her current path. She’s ever grateful to have the freedom to stumble onto her current life’s work.
Bob mentions that he received two kinds of life education from his parents. One that was passionate and one that was fearful.
As much as he loves his mother, Bob experienced some intergenerational trauma along the way. Like Alex, Bob wandered around trying to find his path, which didn't sit well with his mother. Especially during his years as a design specialist and a couple of years when he was unemployed. Bob was always on the lookout for new opportunities, all while trying to define himself on his confidence and path.
He refers to himself as a late bloomer because only in recent years, he has been able to stick to something that means everything to him. For this, he is thankful to Alex and their relationship. With his latest book, he feels like he is going into a period of reinvention all over again.
The Hidden Benefits of Growing Up Privileged
Both Alex and Bob’s family benefited from the G.I Bill. It allowed Alex’s grandfather to become a doctor in the Army, and by extension provided his family with a range of World War II benefits, a privilege that was only given to white people.
Alex’s parents were hippies whose parents were paying for their college and claimed that it was a certain kind of privilege as well. Alex paid for her most of her under graduation. However, her father helped her out by paying for the loans towards culinary school, which was a leap towards the second part of her educational career.
They are both extremely grateful for each other because their previous marriages did not turn out too well. One of the things Alex loves about Bob is his consistent ability and desire to reflect on continuous improvement. Not only on themselves as individuals but also as a couple
Bob mentions that both the World Wars benefited his family a great deal. His grandfather was born at a billion-dollar coalfield in Kentucky and grew up very poor in a coal camp, which he left at a very young age by enlisting in the Army during World War I. He became a dentist, and later on a landowner.
His father was in the Army during World War II. His privilege of growing up in a middle-class family was only possible because of his grandfather’s and father’s hard work.
The statement “Choosing who you marry is the most important decision you will make” is one Bob sees reflected in his relationship with Alex. He mentions that because it is one developed over years and not overnight, their relationship is one of ease. They agree that they have similar creative demons, hence, it is very easy for them to support each other.
Their Views on Why Relationships Don’t Work
People often assume they know the ins and outs of their partner: what they think and feel, rather than having a difficult conversation and being clear in their communication. It’s something Alex has noticed time and time again with other people and her own past relationships.
Bob mentions that it is important to be with someone you can grow with. One of his therapists explained that to have a long-term relationship it's important to not have one but multiple relationships. The relationship might have different agreements, different flavors, different goals, etc.
To incorporate that advice, one of the things that Bob and Alex have done, is to have an open mind to talk about ANY topic. He notices that many relationships have conversations with a standard outcome already laid out. This is where compromise comes to play.
Compromise can feel like both the partners are losing, or that one has the upper hand over the other. But in truth compromise is far from that reality, it should feel like both partners are winning, leading to a healthier and happier relationship.
Overview of Their Book Radical Alignment
Misunderstanding is a failure to communicate data. The idea is that one is misinterpreting what the other is trying to say.
Bob states that it's important to disagree sometimes. Everyone is driven by cognitive bias and errors. What this entails is that people often believe one can't make good decisions without first consulting other people.
This is one of the important things when it comes to company culture because it embraces disagreement. Especially when you are welcoming more diverse teams with a variety of perspectives.
Another direction would be to come to an agreement and decide to go forward together which becomes an emotional experience. This usually indicates how each of them trusts one another to go forward and learn.
Bob states that he adores people he can disagree with him. It’s those types of people that he listens to with more generosity, as it challenges and changes him.
The Idea of Somatic Awareness
Did anyone teach you how to feel when your body was responding to different emotions?
On behalf of the American women, Alex mentions that women were not taught to address but to suppress their feelings and dissolve any boundaries.
She mentions that the belly is your second brain, your intuitive brain. Your body is constantly telling you information to go into thought processes that most people do not learn. This was something she did not learn until her mid to late 20s.
The idea of White Fragility is something Alex often thinks about. She wonders how differently people would be if they were taught at an early age to feel comfortable in their uncomfortable feelings and to get more skill to feel discomfort. If everyone can practice this, it will be healthier and everyone would be less afraid to talk about tough experiences.
Bob mentions that he used to interpret discomfort as a danger, which made him stonewall, making him defensive to the emotion. This is something that Bob has gotten better at over the years, especially in his relationship. He can now talk about everything, including dangerous conversations.
A part of Alex’s strategy in life is to deal with anxiety, to constantly be in motion and not take any time to think. Being able to sit with the uncertainty and have an adult relationship with Bob, allows her to be comfortable with not having all the answers. It’s now about just having someone she can trust to help figure out her next steps.
Threefold path to Alignment
When is the best time to have a conversation with the right people?
During the development of the Threefold framework, both Bob and Alex kept the professional context in mind, due to Bob’s work with leadership teams.
The opportunity of having the right conversation with the right people often happens in a couple of different ways. For Bob, people often approach him with a project without having any authority to bring in his expertise.
It’s important to take notice of the people who approach you, it can be as simple as this – are you talking to the person that has the authority of what needs to be done?
Another aspect that many misses, especially in business organizations, is not having people who have the right perspective. Bob has frequently sat with leadership teams where they assume perspectives of the people in the front line, people whom they do not know.
The simple act of inviting somebody who has a different perspective can be a game-changer. This applies to personal conversations as well. Another aspect that is often overlooked but could help tremendously is timing. In Bob’s and Alex’s relationship they have two very important focus rules:
- Not to go bed angry
- Discussions should always take place after food
Framework for having a Conversation: Intentions, Concerns, Boundaries, and Dreams
One of the problems of communication is that you do not have a slightly bound topic to talk about.
With the four frameworks, Alex and Bob have worked to dig out those hidden topics. These refer to the “missing information” that stay hidden in a conversation, and the ones that drive the conversation i.e. intentions, concerns, boundaries, and dreams.
Intentions – Ask yourself: Why are you here? Or Why do you want to be a part of this?
Concerns are the quickest path to one’s embodiment of worry and worst-case scenarios, therefore it is not always the easiest of tasks, nor do people make space for it in conversation. However, speaking your problems aloud triggers your brain to calm down. Eventually, this will help you solve your problems better, with a calmer more rational mindset.
Boundaries – This is another thing that some people are not taught to have or define or stand up for. Ask yourself: What do I need to be my best in this situation? And What do I need to do to feel safe?
If you feel it is challenging, think of them as your starter boundaries, and you will get there.
Dreams – You might have conflicting opinions and boundaries, but when you share your dreams, you start realizing some oxytocin.
Alex and Bob recommend you start doing your dreams for yourself. Ask yourself this: What would be true if this were to go well for me (or for someone else, or your family)?
This is when you start thinking about everyone’s success and not just yourself.
Their thoughts on being “Needy”
On behalf of Alex and the women she works with, she claims that sounding needy is a huge fear.
Her colleagues and herself have been trained to have all the necessary answers to guide them down any uncertain paths, but if they put something out there and it gets rejected, she refers to it as “death!”
Bob has been somebody who has stuck around both in jobs and romantic relationships much longer than he should. Compared to his past self and who is today, seem like two entirely different people.
His only life regret is the years he spent trying to make something work that fundamentally shouldn't have. He believes it was partly because he was afraid of having those necessary conversations.
Alex’s and Bob’s thoughts on what makes someone an Unmistakable Creative
Alex says that someone who is unmistakably creative is one who brings all their unique experiences, strengths, and quirks ie., showing the fullest range of themselves.
As for Bob, he refers to a statement he often writes in his journal, “Where can I bring out my quirks and weirdness?” People that break barriers who have a technical skill, and can bring their weirdness to the front.
The Unmistakable Creative Podcast is hosted by Srinivas Rao, where you get a window into the stories and insights of the most innovative and creative minds who have started movements, built thriving businesses, written best-selling books, and created insanely interesting art.
Join our private social network for listeners of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. You can meet other listeners, discuss episodes, and engage with the creative community just by signing up!
Connect with Alex and Bob:
Their book – Radical Alignment