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Coaching to a Las Vegas State of Mind

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This venture into Plato’s cave and our redesign of this cave provokes many coaching questions. These questions inevitably surface organizational and leadership challenges and deeply personal concerns regarding integrity, trust and honesty.  We will address these challenges shortly. However, it would be short-sighted of us not to also recognize the opportunities that this redesigned cave offers us. The multiplicity of Las Vegas can be a source of not just great excitement and entertainment, but also personal insight and inspiration.

Opportunities: Multiple Sources of Illumination

Robert Kegan (1994, p. 50) offers an optimistic perspective—or at least hope—with regard to the challenge of Las Vegas multiplicity. He presents this perspective through use of a lovely metaphor regarding sources of light:

If five lamps are lit in a large living room, how many sources of light are there? We might say that there are five sources of light. Perhaps the maker of each lamp, genuinely committed to bringing us into the light, will be partial to his own and bid us to come to that source.  Or at best, some generous spirit of eclectic relativism may obtain, and the lap-makers may concede that there is a benefit to our being exposed to each of the lamps, each separate source having little to do with the other except that, like the food groups of a well-balanced diet, each has a partial contribution to make to a well-rounded, beneficial whole. But quite a different answer to the question of how many sources of light there are in the room is possible—namely, that there is only one source. All five lamps work because they are plugged into sockets drawing power from the home’s electrical system. In this view, each lamp is neither a contender for the best source of light nor a mere part of a whole.  And if the lamp-maker’s mission is not first of all to bring us to the light of his particular lamp but to bring us to the light of this single source, then he can delight equally in the way his particular lamp makes use of this source and in the way other lamps he would never think to create do also. His relationship to the other lamp-makers is neither rivalrous nor laissez-faire, but co-conspiratorial: the lamp-makers breathe together.

This metaphor is particularly appropriate when applied to our analysis of the Las Vegas state of mind, given that Las Vegas is not only the city of light—with many sources of light setting this city ablaze—but also because there is one source for all this light: the Hoover Dam. Las Vegas exists in the middle of the desert because of its proximity to this great dam and power generating facility. In fact, the town of Las Vegas and the beginning of the gambling tradition in Las Vegas was established as the temporary residence of workers who were building the Hoover Dam during the Great Depression of the 1930s in the United States.

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