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  • James McPartland

How to Create Above the Line Experiences

What would happen if, in every engagement, we commit ourselves to learning more than to being right?” - James McPartland



Each of us is the creator of our own experiences. We are the ‘source.’


This one important point was emphasized in a recent meeting with an executive team we are working with. They have found themselves stuck in the engagements they are having with other members of their team, colleagues, and even a few customers.


If you’re familiar with the work we do, there’s a concept we frequently reference:

“Above the line, Below the line.”


When an individual is above the line in their approach to an event or engagement, that person is open, curious, and willing to learn. A person below the line is the opposite; closed off, with a fixed mindset, rigid, and committed to being right.


Two very different perspectives.


Commitment - When I talk to people about what's going on in their lives, we often discuss their commitments. A commitment is a statement of ‘What is?’


What do I mean by that?


If you look at everything that’s going on in your life, your commitments are revealed through your relationships. They will be evident in the quality of the environment that you’re operating in. It will be in black and white on your bank statements.


What we are committed to shows up in the results that we produce in life.


Feedback - When we give feedback let’s make sure we stay above the line. I’ve come to recognize that the feedback I give to others also reveals something about me. I would not have the ability to identify something in someone else that I have not in the past, or do not currently possess myself.


We cannot shift or change what we are not first willing to acknowledge. In every engagement, let us always ask ourselves: “What is the meaning that I'm giving this?” Remember, we are the source of our own experiences. Whenever you feel resistance, ask yourself: “Is there really anything to defend here? Can I consider that learning might be more important than being right in this engagement?”



Facts - Facts never cause suffering. It's the story we create about the facts that create angst, anxiety, stress, pain. It's the story that we tell ourselves.



Conflict - There is often conflict in our life, which stems from a battle of beliefs. Conflict tells me that underneath this battle, there is something I'm not comfortable with, I don't want to be with, or I don't want to face. Certainly, I'd like to put the blame on somebody else. Whenever I feel conflict, there is something going on inside of me that is reflected in the other person.


Complaining - I don’t know if you've ever tried to go 24 hours without complaining, but it’s no easy feat! Simply put, complaining is a need to be right and a refusal to listen. I’ll say nothing else here other than I think this is worth giving some thought...


Acceptance - a great dissolver. When we accept the way something is and the way something isn't, it reduces our levels of stress and opens us up to possibilities that we otherwise would not have considered. When in a state of acceptance, our minds are more open to creative solutions, because we are no longer fighting what is.


So remember friends, whether above the line or below it, you are the creator of your experiences. You get to be responsible for creating the feelings, the experiences, and the meanings you want to have in your life. If you want something different, come to recognize where your commitments are. What's going on in our lives right now is a reflection of what we are truly committed to.


The source of the experiences we're having, those meanings, feelings, and emotions that come up in life, stem from how we interpret things. If you want a different outcome, be willing to see it from another perspective, and go above the line. Be open, curious, and willing to learn.


Because there's always something to learn.