Guest Post — Inviting the Co-hosting of a Harmonic

with Conor Ritchie-Dunham, singer songwriter, composer, and lead guitar and vocals in The Contradictions

Many of you who follow this blog lead groups of people taking on deeper levels of collaboration, working through the challenges of experiencing a deeper harmonic while embracing ever-more challenging issues. We know that this harmonic reflects the behavior of a group, and who we are being as leaders. While we talk a lot about this harmonic in our community, I realized that I have direct access to a couple of people who know a lot about generating a harmonic, in music. Having the fortune to experience great amounts of music in my home, created most often by my daughter and son, I was talking with my son Conor this past week about the art and science of generating a harmonic in one’s own music, and what it takes to generate the enlivening experience of a harmonic in music with any audience. Conor shares his experience in inviting the co-hosting of a harmonic in the rest of this blogpost.

In preparation for a performance, it is the artist’s responsibility to generate a space for the harmonic. We cannot create a harmonic, just as we cannot make someone love us. But we can create the conditions in which that harmonic has ample opportunity to arise. In hosting a dinner party, for example, we cannot simply tell our guests to have a good time. We must learn from our past positive dinner-party experiences, replicate those conditions, pay close attention to how the experience goes, and learn from there. In seeking a good experience for our guests, we hope to generate an environment where they have ample opportunity to feel comfortable, satisfied, entertained and included in a sense of companionship.

As musicians we seek many of the same factors in preparing for a performance. We wish for our audience to be comfortable: In a comfortable venue that is suitable for the type of performance at hand, and which promotes the experience we wish the performance to give. (A large stadium for awe and wonder, or an intimate poetry café for trance-like introspection.)

We wish for our audience to be satisfied: Having a performance of appropriate length so that it is long enough that they feel the event was worth their money, yet short enough so as not to bore. Ordering the songs so that there is enough dynamic and emotional variance throughout the performance to keep it interesting. Proper attention paid to the sound equipment and acoustics of the space so that sound quality complements the performance.

We wish for our audience to be entertained: That the music itself is of quality, the performances are impressive, authentic, passionate and tell a story, and that any other factors of the performance such as light show, scenery or choreography do their part to aide the emotional effect of the performances.

We also wish for our audience to feel included in a sense of companionship. Concerts of certain styles are often self selecting in the type of person they attract, but it is the co-host and artist’s job to make them feel welcome. Personal, authentic interaction with the audience, which shows leadership and command, yet gratitude and humbleness is a must.

With experience, the performer, like the co-host, can learn to consistently generate and maintain an environment where a powerful harmonic can thrive, and where it can continue to live in the hearts of those who experienced it long after the final dish is served and the final note is played.

In order to co-host a harmonic, I have learned that I must first authentically feel that harmonic within myself. As a performer, I find it helpful to solidify a pre-show routine that will reliably foster that harmonic in me. After a full-body stretch and a vocal warm-up, I go to a dark corner, close my eyes, and meditate, focusing on releasing nervous energy and connecting to my emotional core. I know the performance begins the moment I step on stage. So these preparations allow me to set the atmosphere of the performance before I even begin the first song. When performing with others, I will extend this pre-show routine to include them. After I have fostered the harmonic in myself, I will bring it to them, perhaps by holding hands and saying a blessing, cheer, or singing a song. When we are connected and ready, we can step on stage and bring that harmonic to the audience.



How Is Light Energy? — Recommended Reading

Arcand, Kimberly, and Megan Watzke.  2015.  Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond. New York:  Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers.  

Butcher, Ginger. 2010. Tour of The Electromagnetic Spectrum. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Science Mission Directorate, Retrieved January 25, 2016, from Mission:Science website:

Working at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Arcand and Watzke specialize in communicating science to the public.  In their book Light: The Visible Spectrum and Beyond, Arcand and Watzke provide an enlightening story about what light is, way beyond the light we can see with our eyes, and how humanity has discovered and worked with light’s many properties.  Light illuminates this understanding with many beautiful pictures of the microscopic to the macroscopic.

“For many people, ‘light’ refers to what we as humans can detect with our eyes.  However, as we’ll discuss, this is merely one small slice of the whole range of light that exists.  That’s because light, including the human-detectable kind called visible light, is simply a form of energy.  The light we see with our eyes is a tiny fraction of the available light in the Universe…There are other types of light with less energy than visible light, and there are forms of light with much more energy” (Light, 10).  “All forms of light are energy, and the term scientists have come up with for this energy is ‘electromagnetic radiation’” (Light, 12).

“The terms light, electromagnetic waves, and radiation all refer to the same physical phenomenon: electromagnetic energy.  This energy can be described by frequency, wavelength, or energy. All three are related mathematically such that if you know one, you can calculate the other two” (Tour, 5).  “The electromagnetic waves that compose electromagnetic radiation can be imagined as a self-propagating transverse oscillating wave of electric and magnetic fields” (wiki).  In physics, “any simple vibration is described by three factors: its amplitude, or size; its frequency, or rate of oscillation; and the phase, or timing of the oscillations relative to some fixed time (see harmonic motion)” (

I open the possibility of a connection: when people describe their experience of an energizing group, they often describe the vibrancy of the group they experience, and the harmonic of the interactions.  They might be describing, consciously or unconsciously, their experience of the light they experience in the interactions with others.  I also offer the connection to the possibility that we humans are Homo lumens, beings of light, which I have discussed briefly in a previous blogpost.

Organizing Human Interactions at the Possibility-Light Level

I suggested in earlier posts that anything that you manifest, that you make real, has gone through a light-verb-noun process.  Like I did with resources and value, we now want to see if you get to a different understanding of what you have learned about organizing, if you start from the light versus starting from the noun.  As I showed before, if you start from the light, you start with abundance and choose for what is manifested here and how.  If you start from the noun, you end up walled into starting with an assumption of scarcity, which will not allow you to get very far.  Now I will develop that understanding step by step.

Starting with the possibility-light level of organizing, from the level of infinite abundance, the why question focuses on choosing the highest level of harmonic vibrancy available.  You saw in the earlier chapters that people seek greater harmonic vibrancy.  When it is greater around you, you feel better.  You feel greater abundance in all dimensions of your experience.  And, when there is less harmonic vibrancy around you, you feel worse.  You experience greater scarcity.  The data that I will share in Part 3 shows that many groups around the world are finding sustainable ways to live out of greater harmonic vibrancy.  The secret they are finding is to make the harmonic vibrancy the why of their work.  And they find that, along the way, they are able to experience greater abundance in all factors of their life.  They say that they listen for the harmonic vibrancy, and the how and the what become relatively straightforward.  This is the same experience musicians share.

The how of organizing at the light level makes explicit the potential available to the individuals and the group in their interactions, strengthening the harmonic vibrancy experienced in each relationship (self, other, group, nature, spirit).  You use a term for this in your daily life, collaboration.  Collaboration is working in relationship to a greater why.

The what of light-level organizing is a set of incentives and structures that simultaneously address the group and individual perspectives of outcome/motivation and function/task.  The “inspirited” organization focuses on the growth of the harmonic vibrancy common to the group, as people experience it in the different relationships.  This seemingly simple focus wallops a huge punch.  It builds in structures of growth, stability, and health for all five relationships (self, other, group, nature, spirit) with everyone that engages with the group.  These are critical processes defining the systems of political economy today that determine the organizing forms you use.[1]

There are significant costs to not organizing at the light level.  The lack of focus on harmonic vibrancy makes it harder to find those people most attracted to and able to contribute to the higher light in harmonic vibrancy.  This translates into the inability to attract high potential people to the group.  The best people attract the best relationships, so without them it is hard to attract high potential relationships.  Without the possibility-light-level of organizing, there is little time, energy, and space for emerging possibilities – people are too busy getting the work of today done.  This makes it difficult to find deeply inspiring innovations.  Even though the opportunities for constant and deep learning are always present, they are impossible to see without a focus on the light level.  Without high potential people, relationships, and innovations, it is hard to maintain immanence and thus sustainability becomes ever more difficult.  Another huge cost from not organizing at the light level is the misalignment of people’s motivations and the group’s organizing principle.  As I just suggested, the inspirited organization focuses on the growth of the harmonic vibrancy common to the group, as people experience it in the five primary relationships.  Without the possibility-light level of organizing, the inspirited organization becomes focused on specific processes and charters that cause many of the maladies you experience every day.  The next post, on the development-verb level of organizing, explores this.  These represent a very significant cost for most groups; costs which are easily avoidable and which many groups have figured out how to avoid.  They avoid these costs, not by working on minimizing them, rather by designing them out from the onset – the possibility-light level of organizing.

[1] Historian of economic thought Alessandro Roncaglia documents that, “Let us recall that ‘political economy’ is the term by which economic science was commonly designated, until Marshall shifted to the now dominant term ‘economics’; in contemporary economic literature, the term ‘political economy’ has been revived by those streams of research (such as the Marxists, the post-Keynesians, the Sraffians or neo-Ricardians) which lay stress on the social nature of economic activity” (Roncaglia, 2006, p. 53).  He is referring to Alfred Marshall (1842-1924), the very influential economics professor at University of Cambridge.

Big Questions about the Harmonic of Human Interactions

Assumptions about both the abundance of how much resource there is and the vibrancy in the value experienced set the frame within which humans interact.  How people interact is also an agreement, which I will explore in this series of posts.

Using the lens of “how do the relationships interact?” to look at the five primary relationships in the three levels of perceived reality highlights three very different organizing principles.  In the inner circle of harmonic vibrancy, I find the predominance of competition and the contract.  In the middle circle, I find cooperative-competition and the alliance.  In the outer circle, people tend to organize around collaboration and expanding invitations.  What do the three levels of perceived reality show about the dominant principles organizing human interaction in each circle?

Everything people do together, whether they are aware of it or not, is influenced by the way they organize that work together.  I will start with the basic questions of organization, the why, how, and what.  These questions take us down the path of why people come together in the first place, the agreements people make about how to work together, and the specifics around what they will each contribute.


Why we come together

There is something that you/we want to achieve.  You have a goal.  Whether it is to have some friends over, to create a community, to educate kids, or to offer a new product to the world, you have a reason for creating a new group.  This is the “reason for being” of a group, its organizing principle.  From the very simple, short-term project to the very complex, long-term project, you have aspirations for something you want to achieve for which it seems that you need others.  I suggest that you have this experience all of the time.  One way to see this is to realize that almost everything you do on a daily basis, you do by yourself.  You wake yourself up, you feed yourself, you move yourself through the day.  You do most things by yourself.  Some things you do not.  For some things you engage with others.  The starting point is to understand why – the reason for bringing people together.

The “goal” question of why people come together to do something is the question of effectiveness, where effectiveness is the ability to achieve a goal.  Based on what they want to achieve together, they can design how they want to do that.  This becomes the organizing criteria, and the arbiter used for deciding whether their combined efforts are being effective.  Goals can range from very short-term, such as having lunch together or carrying a heavy object a short distance, to very long-term, such as creating a family, a company, or a nation.


How we agree to work together

You need others to achieve this goal.  Most things you do alone.  Some things you do require working with other people to get it done.  You ask someone to help.  You do this all of the time, often unaware you are doing it.   You ask for help directly and indirectly, for small activities and for big activities.  Directly you ask people to help you in this moment, preparing a meal or designing an event together.  Indirectly you ask people to help you by providing you something.  You ask farmers to help you produce food when you buy produce at the grocery store.  You ask the truckers for help in getting the food from the farms to the store.  You do this asking for small things, like setting the dinner table.  You also do this for big things, such as running the government or a company, or deciding the energy future of the state.  You experience this asking for help from others all of the time.

When you ask others to help us, you are asking them to work with you.  The how of working together uses the technology of agreements.  I have already spent a great amount of time exploring agreements in the relationships you have with your own self, the other, the group, nature, and spirit.  The technology of agreements allows you to describe how you agree to work together or cooperate.[1]

You experience different kinds of agreements in different groups.  Some groups focus only on the things-noun level.  These groups want you to do a specific job, asking for none of your deeper capacities or contributions.  In these groups, you know only what others are required to do and little to nothing about their other capacities.  The individuals contribute to the group what they are told to do.

Recently I went with my son to a large retail sporting goods store to buy shoes for baseball.  I was talking with the kid working in the socks section about what he knew about the socks he sold.  Remember that I have worked in the sock industry for a few years, so I was curious what he knew, and how he engaged the people who bought the socks.  As an employee, he knew very little.  He said that the store did nothing to educate him on the attributes of the different socks and how they worked differently with different shoes, based on the activity of the athlete.  While we could have ended the conversation there, I delved further.  He started to tell me about being an active athlete himself, specializing in snowboarding.  It turns out that he has many years of experience with high-end footwear and the importance of foot health for his ability to be a great snowboarder.  When I engaged that part of him, he started to bring forth his own experience in what sock attributes were important for my son’s experience.  He helped us find just what my son needed.  When I asked him about his work – the agreements in the workplace – he told me that he was supposed to stay in the shoe department and help people buy shoes.  They gave him no training in this.  Nobody ever asked him about his own experience with athletic footwear or his own athletic pursuits.  To them he was cheap labor.  He had no idea what other people in the store knew or what they did outside of the store.  He was clear that he was supposed to just stand there and do his job, in his area.  These are agreements focused purely on the inner circle of agreements in the relationship we have to our self, the other, and the group.  When I began to engage more of his own knowing, his deeper capacities and experience, he instantly brought more of his experience and relationship with the other, in this case my son, to help him find the best solution for his baseball footwear needs.  This is the development-verb level of agreements.


What supports our agreements

The why question defined the goal you want to achieve.  The how question described the agreements you make with others to achieve that goal.  The what question looks at the incentives and structures that support the agreements you make to achieve the goal.  The incentives and structures explore what you agree to do, what motivates you to do that, and how to coordinate the work together.  We need to understand the what from two different perspectives: the we and the I, or the group and the individual.  From the perspective of the group, the what question looks at the specific work to be done.  What outcomes are wanted from the individuals and what specific tasks are they to do?

From the perspective of the individual, the same what questions have a different flavor.  Outcomes from the group’s perspective are the goals that motivate the individual.  This repeats the next level of a whole system.  The individual is both a part of a larger group, making a contribution to the group’s why, and a whole onto herself.  As a system unto herself, the individual has her own why, how and what questions.  The why is the motivation, the value the individual perceives in being part of the group.  The how is the set of agreements of how the individual is in the five relationships with the group.  The what is the understanding of the specific tasks to be done.

Motivation is the value you experience when you engage in the world.  At the things-noun level, this might look like the specific needs met in the value exchange, often being expressed as money.  At the development-verb level, you experience the flow of value in your life, as you engage in it more deeply.  At the possibility-light level, you experience the light potential of what is possible, in me, you, and us.  These are very different levels of access to the harmonic vibrancy of light that motivates you.

To work with others, you need to know what specific activity to do, what your motivation is for doing that, and how to coordinate your work with others who are doing their part.  What to do is about how to direct your will – what you do with your will to act.  Your motivation is the moving force behind your will.  It is the catalyst for engaging the will.  You need to engage it towards something.  Coordination is about how to do this engaging of the will in concert with others who are engaging their wills.

[1] To co-operate is literally to work (operate) together (co).