Our Philosophy

We work with leaders and teams, but our mission extends to society as a whole. We offer this statement of our philosophy in the hope that it clarifies our values and inspires you to consider your personal development and team-building in a wider context. 

Inner and Outer Worlds

Public discourse on today's challenges pertains to the outer world — e.g. What monetary incentives can we give businesses to stop polluting? What laws can we pass to stop racism?

But the hidden question underneath all struggles for progress pertains to the inner world. How can people transcend their biases? How can we be kinder? How can we align values and actions?

Psychological drag at the individual level will slow progress in all things until we expand our awareness to include the inner world and integrate what we find — specifically, what prevents transformation and what enables it. 

To date, Western education has failed us in this regard, which has resulted in an outer world that is largely in conflict with our inner world. Workplaces shun messy feelings in the name of professionalism, schools focus more on standardized tests than on developing children's unique gifts, and courts and prisons cause more trauma than they heal. The list goes on. 

So what do we do?

Two Kinds of Development 

Generally speaking, the West conceives of self-development in terms of “self-improvement” — acquiring skills, accomplishing goals, and fulfilling your potential. This is important, but it’s not the whole picture. 

Developmental psychologists know a powerful truth: humans can grow through discrete stages of ego development, each with increasing flexibility of thinking, openness to experience, integration of one's inner world, and capacity for self-regulation.

Given this, we distinguish between two distinct, yet intertwined, forms of development.

Horizontal Development is about becoming more skillful. Think running a faster mile, shooting a cleaner free throw, drafting a better memo. It’s about improving technique, being more productive, and performing at your peak. “How do I do X better, faster, stronger?”

Vertical Development is about becoming wiser. Think meditation, shadow-work, and double loop processing (I.e., examining not just the problem, but how you see the problem.) It’s about exposing your assumptions, shifting paradigms, and expanding your sense of self. “What am I not seeing about myself and the world?”

Horizontal Development increases competencies in specific domains. Vertical Development increases competencies that transfer across all domains — e.g. the ability to listen, navigate complexity, and see the limits of one’s perspective. Because of this, as we advance through stages of Vertical Development, we gain access to more powerful “Archimedean points” — places to stand and levers to move the world with.

We believe that our species’ most existential problems — ecological crisis, mental health deterioration, political gridlock, isms (sexism, racism, etc.) — exist because we lack critical mass of vertically developed leaders to solve them. To see what we mean, ask yourself: Do you think we’ll solve political gridlock by building better spreadsheets, or by becoming better listeners?

Why Haven't I Heard Of Vertical Development Before?

Good question. The field of constructive ego development is relatively new (60s), and it has not made its way into the helping mainstream (including "helping" in professions like therapy, coaching, spiritual counseling, etc).

One consequence of this is that some of what we think of as garden variety anxiety is actually developmentally appropriate stress — natural growing pains as we stretch to later stages of maturity. But without a developmental model, therapists are prone to pathologizing this stress, and coaches are prone to respond to it with mismatched tools. 

Point being, the professions most responsible for facilitating development aren't hip yet, and our society at large remains "developmentally blind." 

Towards a Developmentally Informed Society

We think that human development is the hidden topic underneath all topics. We believe that it should be among individuals’ highest priorities to attend to their vertical development and among society’s highest priorities to facilitate it on a collective scale.

Partly, this means educating people about what vertical development is. And partly it means facilitating development itself. 

At Myelin Grove, we do both. We curate developmental tools and frameworks for self-study, and we offer coaching and team-building with a developmental lens. We believe that this approach can make you and your team radically more effective, and that it can produce positive ripples that move humanity developmentally forward.