Faro Caudill family eating dinner in their dugout, 1942 Pie Town, NM (LOC) Photo by Russell Lee. Public Domain

In which I have dinner with a StrVII 41 year old

Forrest Christian Underachievers 3 Comments

I recently had the strangest set of conversations. A friend of a friend (yes, really) connected me with a guy whom he thought might be Stratum 7. At 41. He was passing through my neck of the woods (at least while working during the week — I work away from home): would I want to meet up with him closer to the airport? Sure, I said. This could be interesting.

He and I talked beforehand. I ran the usual interview process just to get my bearings. Wow. I mean, I can’t be sure, but I’m pretty sure. It seemed clearly to be a set of Stratum Five “named” big ideas that were strung together in a series, where this movement led to that movement which brought about this, which led to what we have now. So this is how it moved.

He’d been assessed before, he said, and it’s what led to his current employment situation abroad as a contractor in “a difficult country”. The company had him assessed and upon finding out what the consultant thought, had him promptly dismissed on this or that. But it was, according to him, more or less because they were smart enough to know that they were never going to be successful if they kept him around.

“You can try as hard as you want to to keep your head down and not be noticed,” he said, “but it sometimes they get a clue.”

I was intrigued enough to say, sure, let’s meet for dinner over at Giordano’s: I’ll pick you up at the motel.

I had a grand time and he seemed to enjoy himself. Not like the usual interviewees. He pretty much already knew what he was. But he found some of my conversation fun, I guess.

I told him about my metaphor for working below your level, that’s it’s like having to work in a crawlspace all day long. Just having to keep bent over and crouched is tiring, even if you don’t do anything. Working really far below your stratum (except at the very bottom of work) is like that forbidden needlepoint from China, where the stitching was so tiny that the girls would actually go blind from the strain. He laughed at that and added “Or mad!”

We talked about what it’s like to be him. At 41 and Stratum 7, he’s pretty much alone in the world. There aren’t that many stratum sevens, even by my counting which is more liberal than anyone else I know. And there are surely not oodles of mode 11s or whatever he is. Sure, there are more than Jaques thought but he’s still unlikely to meet another one.

We talked about the loneliness of his existence, about the psychic toll doing what he does to make a living has one him. We talked about options and ways out: I suggested an alcohol or drug dependency, he suggested suicide. So we talked about the non-option of suicide for awhile. It’s not that he’s all that religiously against it, he’s just married and has a kid and doesn’t want to have him grow up like that. Of course, he’s growing up with him being destroyed by his work. Soon, he thinks, he’ll go mad. It’s something that he’s looking forward to.

“It’s too bad that either work will kill me or the madness will,” he said. I think he regrets that he will miss out on his kid’s young adulthood. But he’s pretty sure that he won’t make it much longer.

We had a beer or two and chatted into the night about a variety of things, about the course of history and how to change it, about the nature of philosophies hither and yon, about why we are in the place that we are, about evolutionary biology and biological seeds to human behaviours, about God and Christ and grace and why.

I asked him what it was like, being so ahead of everyone else. “it’s like predicting the future,” he said. I told him that he should be able to parlay that into some money. But he disagreed, saying that being fifteen minutes ahead of everyone else means you’re rich; being two years ahead of the world makes you a pain in the ass. Which is true.

He said that he tries really hard to keep his mouth shut but that it doesn’t work all the time.

I think he enjoyed being able to be himself. I’m not in his league, but it was fun just to listen to him talk.

I told him as much, and said that if he doesn’t kill himself, we should get together again when next he’s back in the States. He said sure, but you never know. He seemed to lean more to an “accidental” death, like falling asleep at the wheel and veering off an unguarded mountain road incountry. Of course, there’s always the chance that he will be kidnapped, tortured and killed. He says that it would be an interesting way to die and he wonders at what point he will cave. Probably as early as possible but he doesn’t think that they will want that anyway.

I know: you think he’s already mad. Sure, but not in the way that you think. You get used to it. And he really has very little chance that anyone will ever “get” him, especially this late in life. Your life experience is completely different from his. He’s basically completely useless. He could foment a revolution but it would take a couple hundred years and by the time it happens someone else will get the credit for it and he will just be some dead crank, he says. I think he’s just tired. And he’s worried about his son and what he will think of him after he dies. So he’s likely to just try to bear through it and head into madness.

He thinks that he probably shouldn’t have married. He married a nice woman, loves him and all, but she doesn’t understand him. But he didn’t know that because, I’d guess, no one ever understood him. He doesn’t know the experience of opening his mouth and being confident that someone in the room gets what he’s saying.

He made some playful predictions for me about what’s going to happen over the next century. It was amusing. But problem is that he’ll probably be right about it, at least in some ways. You can never predict anything in a chaotic system, but he seemed to be able to have a pretty good idea about where things will land. He talked about several contingencies, like the plague I always talk about. I guess I’ll never know, since I’ll be dead before the century is half over. (We don’t live long.)

I hope that I’ll see him again. I don’t know what the chances are. He has a dangerous job anyway. The world wants nothing that he offers. He’s a pleasant enough guy, really, polite to our wait staff and all. I wish I could tell you everything that he said, because it was all fascinating. But I came out of there tired and weary, like my head had been smashed with a large manure brick. He really did “blow my mind”.

The Requisite Organization people I know all talk like they really want these super high-mode people, that they are the salvation of humanity. Except for Glenn, who says “You know what we do with guys at this level? We kill ’em!” and then points out several high-moders whom we love as dead people. We don’t want them.

It’s too bad there’s not somewhere for a guy like him to go and just live out his life segregated from the rest of us. Somewhere he could be relaxed and just something that fits him. I suppose that anything that fits him ends up being a clear and present danger to the powers of this world.

Neat guy. Tough life. Puts my life into perspective.

Faro Caudill family eating dinner in their dugout, 1942 Pie Town, NM (LOC) Photo by Russell Lee. Public Domain

Comments 3

  1. That guy sounds very depressed. Underachiever, overachiever, smart, average – whatever, everyone needs to take care of their mental health.

    Next time you get in touch, you should reach out to him on this level if given the chance, because someone’s mental state is more important than work/career bullshit.

  2. Post

    He’s dead now so the issue is moot, but the point is that truly bad fitting work is paranoiagenic and can create debilitating depression. This is less true at the very lowest levels which is why forced labor camps concentrate on doing simple things. One must battle the evil when you have truly bad fitting roles, and personality is pretty much what determines this.

  3. Quite an experience!

    Tragic that he couldn’t find a path in time?

    In hindsight a few questions, now rhetorical, come to mind.

    What does he read?     Who are his heroes?   What does he value?  

    In which of Warren Kinston’s seven domains would be best fit?  Does he have compassion?  want to help others?

    Basic strengths / skilled knowledge?  Can he write, speak, have great interpersonal influence skills?  

    My sufi teacher had stories of Gurdjieff and other very bright spiritual teachers who did their real important work with their right hand and earned their family livelihood with their left hand…in that doing the work of the householder was so easy for truly high mode people. However, Gurdjieff also warned that the spiritual path was not suitable for those who were not already good householders.

    There are many stories of high mode people in stratum I work who put in their 8 hours – but make their great contributions in their home business, in their volunteer work….as social entrepreneurs (See Bill Drayton – Ashoka below)

    He could use his genius for social good if he values that.

    What would he think of reading Jaques’s Behaviour of Living Organisms?

    I’m just reading Stephen Jay Gould’s The Mismeasurement of Man – a spectacular high mode book – on human capability and our efforts to measure it…for various ideological purposes…all the while modelling in his thinking and writing the highest capability, skill and values.  I might recommend such a book as it explores human nature, the history of how the rich and powerful have always rationalized their own positions of power with pseudo science – background for the continuing inclusion of all in society.

    What would he think of reading Lester Brown’s Plan B 4.0?  – a high mode book about the future of human evolution on this planet…and how it could  / might work?

    Put him in touch with Bill Drayton at Ashoka http://www.ashoka.org/about/leadership  – finding very bright social entrepreneurs who can greatly help the world.

    Your post got me thinking. Thank you!

    Best wishes,


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