written by
Major Tom

Recharging Yourself in the Reptilian Economy Needs a Radical Different Approach

8 min read
Meditation with Lovely Cat
Photographer: Omid Armin | Source: Unsplash

As I’ve written earlier, the Reptilian Economy brings a new level of stress and challenge to those fortunate enough to work in it.

I’m not being sarcastic or ironic when I say that those who do work in it are fortunate. Like it or not, the Reptilian Economy is the one most suited to grow and thrive. And the type of work is rewarding. And there are barriers to entry.

However, there are costs.

I thought of a few ways to combat it, and each way had limitations.

After working through it, I realized there needed to be a radically different approach.

The Problem

In order to combat the challenges of the Reptilian Economy, I proposed that high-potential/low-political folks need to both build up their political skills while increasing performance in their domain.

So I tried a couple of options.

Option 1: Reading More Books

With my trusty Kindle, I would dive into topics that revealed an entire set of skills.

However, these books are often difficult to plow through at times. And often only contains small nuggets here and there.

While there were one or two exceptions which became truly eye-opening to the scope of the problem, over all, the category itself is thin.

What would be more useful, however, was taking books not specifically about the problem and then finding relevant nuggets that could be applied.

However, the problem in both cases was often these books were not really something I wanted to read.

As a result, I found my interest and attention span flagging.

Option 2: Listen to Audible or Podcasts

This approach allowed me to be more passive. I encountered some of the same issues, since I wasn’t that interested in the topic.

But when I was commuting into the office, it gave me 20-30 minutes of some information.

The problem is that, with both audible and podcasts, the format is not really designed for short, focused, and value-packed bursts.

Especially with Audible, the strength of books becomes a weakness when converted to audio-format.

One of the strengths of non-fiction books is the ability to engage in a sustained argument that takes a more complex idea and builds upon it.

However, in an audio format, unless the book, itself, were written with a conversational and abbreviated format, it took extra attention and longer sittings for it to be effective. For example, if I were driving long distances, the audio book for a substantive non-fiction book could work.

What compounded the problem

But here’s what compounded the problem: because I was usually busy with work or wanting to relax in the evenings, I wasn’t listening to them.

So what did I try to do?

I would listen to Audible or podcasts while falling asleep.

This didn’t work for a number of reasons.

Fail #1: Too dry at night

Even though I’m tired and resting, it still took effort to listen to something dry.

And career advice, even about office politics, was pretty dry and hard to follow.

I struggled listening to most of them.

Maybe it’s just me, but I found myself listening — just listening — to episodes of Scandal, the Good Wife, or Suits to fall asleep with just enough entertainment.

Side note: why legal dramas? Because these, by natural, have to be expository, since they are explaining so much content that is off screen, I can follow the story without the visuals. Versus action, drama, and even comedy, where visuals matter. But anyway.

Most of the readers for these books, by the way, tended to be pretty dry, which just made it worse.

Fail #2: Lower and shorter attention span

I’m tired at the end of the day. So the effort to push through and follow something dry and needing to carry an argument was just plain difficult to do.

Maybe if something is interesting I’d be able to hold on (there were a couple that were, especially when read by the author). But for the most part, having about 20 minutes with my last gasp at the end of the day just made it hard to get much of value.

Fail #3: Limited Information, Negligible Transformation

So given the content and capacity constraints, very little transformation actually occurred.

The rapid-fire density of “stuff” coming out made it hard for me to apply and reflect on what I would do in my own situation.

Even if something resonated, it was usually along the lines of, “Ah, okay, that’s good to know.” But the application was limited

And because the application was limited, I derived little value and, eventually, just forgot about it altogether. Even if I were listening to the same book, that chapter was history, and the book expects you to remember it.

So the net result was very meh.

I then turned around and felt that, even if I had the energy to listen to the podcasts or audiobooks, the format, overall, was still limited.

Solution Space (or what I felt I needed)

I had to rethink, what I actually wanted.

Feature #1: Sleep Friendly

I knew that I needed something that was “sleep friendly.”

And that meant it was conducive to sleep. It needed to be able to “interact” with the content in a way that didn’t feel jarring when going to sleep.

Listening to a non-fiction book about work place politics or even ways to be more productive at work often felt like work. And I get a lot of work, already, at work!

My body wouldn’t feel comfortable. I wasn’t able to ease into it.

As I mentioned earlier, I much preferred listening to something entertaining like Scandal.

But what exactly was this?

It needed to be engaging enough so my mind didn’t have to work to focus and decipher.

But not stimulating so I had a hard time sleeping.

In fact, it needed to be conducive.

Listening to television shows had enough variety — the different voices and emotions — with enough light-weight content that I could follow.

But because it was still dialogue-heavy, versus explosions or other loud sounds — I could drift off. The writing kept me engaged enough without extra work.

Feature #2: Context Friendly

The density of most other content available on audio was dense.

Either it was because it was book, which is dense. It’s intended to be read, which has a high-bandwidth/throughput.

Or it’s a podcast which can still have high bandwidth in that it is often interactive, challenging, or fast paced.

But with so much information that I needed to digest, I didn’t have the space to apply my own personal situation.

These formats are intended to feed information fast; and the listener is a pure consumer.

But what was missing for me to gain the real value (improving my specific situation at work or my career), was the space to process my own situation.

Even webinars or courses purpose-built to assist with my career were just too overwhelming at night, right before I went to be. Those really are built to have a rapt and attentive student listening, jotting notes, and full-on absorbing content.

I needed a format that actually gave enough high-value content to shift my behavior or perspective, but gave me space mentally and emotionally to apply it within my complex context.

Feature #3: Concise and Relevant

This third feature would address some of the problems with audiobooks: I needed to be able to get value quickly in a short amount of time. I also needed to be able to go back to find material easily in case I fell asleep faster than expected or just forgot what to do.

How did I solve this?

I solved it by taking the same content, which is already fairly pithy and tightly scoped, from Cohort Alpha and condensed it further.

I used ambient music similar to that found in tools like Brain.fm (which I already was using to fall asleep) or Calm, the meditation app.

Unlike the meditation app which felt too “self” focused on just becoming calm (am I calm, am I getting calm enough, my mind is drifting because all we’re talking about is becoming calm), the content still used a guided visualization process, but on content that was valuable to me.

The slow pace with pauses for breathing was perfect for me to think and reflect on my own context based on what was shared.

By slowing key ideas down and asking visualization or reflective questions in a similar, meditative way, I could actually think about issues in a non-reactive way.

So here’s what it is:

  1. Soothing, ambient music to engage the mind without over-stimulation
  2. Guided, meditative content focused on your own context and mindset
  3. Short and relevant — focused on career growth and workplace politics (for Cohort Alpha)

Related to this was a fourth benefit which I didn’t really grasp until I began digging further into the content creation itself, as well as expanding the research into what would benefit me (and hopefully others).

To operate in the Reptilian Economy, we are in over-drive with either the executive functions — the logical, driven, results-oriented side — or the reptilian side of our brain — reacting to stress, worry, uncertainty, or even out-right attack at work.

What we miss, and that can be the competitive advantage for those who understand this value, is our intuition and our subconscious.

This approach taps into that lesser-used part of our brain.

Literally as you’re drifting off to sleep, you can begin to tap into more relaxed states, and let your subconscious — your dream state — do some of the heavy lifting for you.

The audios are available in a mobile app with titles associated with our deeper content available to Cohort Alpha members. But even if you haven’t yet joined Cohort Alpha, you can experience the benefits of Calm meets Executive Coaching.