If you're familiar with the work of Byron Katie, you will know what a radical woman she is. I struggle with the simplicity of her work at times but it never leaves my mind. The most important question she asks is:

Is it true? 

Simple, I know, but revolutionary when put into practice. [Side note: it is also refreshing to hear Tristan Harris, the creator of the Social Dilemma mention her work in interviews as he talks about how we might move away from toxic social media.] But asking "is it true" might be the simple way we evolve into the 21st century and let go of business practices that no longer serve the greatest good.

For me, that starts with the concept of branding and management in the 21st century. What might both of those have in common? It's that they have both focused on the idea of persona as a competitive advantage and each takes us to a toxic expression of capitalism. The problem with a focus on the persona (or personality) is that it stems from a defensive posture which Dr. Gabor Maté explains beautifully in this podcast. Yes, we all have them, they are a survival mechanism born of fear, so it's interesting to think that we put the creation of them front and center in both marketing and management. 

I have written a bit about the history of branding here so will not repeat it. I don't believe that anyone sets out with an ill intention when branding and trying to best manage their companies. But what I think we've failed to do with these concepts in the present day is ask: Is it true? 


I am amazed at how often I see entrepreneurs fight for social justice or environmental activism and then turn around and want to discuss their position in the marketplace or how to optimize their talent pool when hiring. Both concepts: positioning and optimizing talent stems from the idea that to be successful in business, you need to compete because the market is limited. It perpetuates the myth that growth means dominance. Competition in business is different than competition in a sporting event. I am all about competition in the appropriate arena (at times too enthusiastic about it!).  But business is not a competition, no matter how much MBA programs want you to believe.

Competition, outside of the appropriate arena, is born of scarcity—fear masked as dominance.  It assumes that the market is limited, instead of understanding that we create the market for both our products and our teams. Scarcity shows up in business when we believe that we need a position to win or when we need to have employees with predictable behavior to grow.

To believe in competition outside of the appropriate arenas is fundamentally at odds with wanting to bring social justice and environmental integrity to the world. There is no "yes and" to competition and collaboration. They do not dance, they duel. And the defensive shield of competition in the market and management is the persona. 


In 2016, Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Gathering Moss and Braiding Sweetgrass, was interviewed On Being where she spent time discussing Moss and the intelligence of plants. She spoke about the fact that moss has survived for 350 million years mainly because it is not good at competition. That seems counterintuitive to our modern thinking, especially when it comes to modern business: something might have longevity precisely because it cannot compete. Moss, instead has had to learn to be adaptable, it has to give more than it takes (moss probably read a little Adam Grant), and it has evolved into nearly 22,000 species.

In her recent article in Emergence Magazine, RWK asks: What if scarcity is just a cultural construct? She then explains: Diversity in ways of being is the antidote to scarcity-induced competition. 


Diversity in ways of being. What might that mean for your brand persona or the personality assessment used to optimize your workforce?

In 2017, Ellen Langer, Professor of Mindfulness at Harvard, gave an interview On Being and said: Mindfulness is attunement to today’s demands to avoid tomorrow’s difficulties.  Businesses are typically applying yesterday’s solutions to today’s problems. Is that precisely what we're doing when we keep these antiquated business practices flowing through our businesses? 


In her book, Story Driven, Bernadette Jiwa warns us that by setting out to find the right story, we lose the real story - the truth about who we are. Carl Jung's work on the persona said the best case is that it represents the truth of the internal self, not the self-created to fit social constructs. Just today in the NY Times, there was an Opinion piece about the fact that our personalities are not set in stone, they are adaptable

"Scientists say that people can change their personalities well into adulthood. And what better time for transformation than now..."

 So it seems odd that we would base two of the most important aspects of running a business—marketing and management—on the concept of persona that we see fixed in a particular moment in time.  A fixed persona does not allow for what RWK refers to as diversity in ways of being. If we are truly going to shift capitalism in the 21st century, we have to let antiquated methods go even when we believe that knowing our brand position or a potential employee's persona would bring us a sense of safety and security. Safety only truly exists within ourselves and our capacity to be adaptable. 

For the following statements, ask yourself - Is it true? You can even go so far as to use Byron Katie's 4 Questions on each. By doing so, you might discover the truth about who you are.  (I really recommend using the 4 questions!)

  • I believe the market is a competition.
  • Having a fixed brand persona brings me the clarity I need to continually evolve my business.
  • I need to know my brand position in order to connect to the right consumer market and grow.
  • My position is what gives me a competitive advantage in the marketplace. 
  • My brand persona is something outside of my company culture. 
  • There is an established market for my product.


  • Knowing my team members' personalities will help me build a superior team.
  • Personality testing is accurate and not biased.
  • Knowing my personality type facilitates my growth as a leader. 
  • Personalities are fixed and therefore if I know mine and others' I will know how to navigate relationships.

INSPIRATION (There are many resources linked in this newsletter)

The Serviceberry by Robin Wall Kimmerer 
You Can Be a Different Person After the Pandemic.
Eileen Fisher on Visioning

Persona Documentary on HBO. It is heartbreaking.

WeWork Documentary - checked all of the boxes for the entrepreneurial fever: personality-driven, intoxicating environment, and focused on achievement over evolution. 


Our next book club will meet next on Tuesday, April 20th from 7pm-8:30pm via Zoom. We will be reading The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins.  This is a free event, please email me if you'd like to join. 


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