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In The Evolving Self, Robert Kegan promotes a vision for human development that involves enhancing our recruitability, or our ability to be moved by others and drawn into their cause.

He says:

"We are drawn to a person in heroic struggle; we are drawn to a person vulnerably alone; we are drawn to a person who seems intensely alive; we are drawn to a person whose efforts make 'perfect sense' to us."

This being drawn to someone is being recruited by them. We take interest in them and give them our invested attention.

He continues:

"Who comes into a person's life may be the single greatest factor of influence to what that life becomes. Who comes into a person's life is part a matter of luck, in part a matter of one's power to recruit others, but in large part a matter of other people's ability to be recruited." (my emphasis)

The idea here is that we can contribute to creating a world in which people can flourish by learning to see others in ways that draw us closer to them.

Martin Luther King Jr. said "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." This may or may not be true, but the arc of a human life is long as well, and it can bend in many directions. What Kegan is suggesting is that the bend of a person's life arc is highly intertwined with the quality of invested attention they are able to recruit, and that a critical part of this is how "recruitable" the people in their lives are.

A way of understanding this is to think about two seeds planted in two different settings. One setting has an abundance of nutrients, the other doesn't have enough. Which seed will do better?

The invested attention of others is an essential life nutrient for human beings, and we can all create more "nutrients" in our relational surrounds by enhancing our recruitability.

The idea that life outcomes are linked to the support available to us rings true for me. The pivotal thresholds in my life, moments that have shaped the bend of my life arc, have been traversed with a peer or guide that has helped me gather the best of myself and carry it forward. Friends and elders who have said directly or indirectly, "I see you and I'm here to help".

A difficult truth is that human lives can dip irrevocably into despair. An encouraging truth is that we can be a "life rope" for one another, pulling those who are falling back up if the going gets too rough.

We can become a source of nurturance for others by learning to see them in ways that evoke our care and concern. Learning to see others as the central figure in an epic hero's journey, struggling day-in and day-out to expand, flourish, and contribute forth their best.

As Plato once said, "Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle."

At least we should try this close in, with those we already hold dear. How might learning to see others this way change our life?

In a way this is an unusual stance in our current cultural context of blame and victimization. We are often quicker to judge and discard a person than to see them as another person like us who is going through the same existential dilemmas as we are.

Many people are not recruitable at all. They are stingy with their approval and acknowledgement of others. They are too preoccupied with their own internal dramas to really notice and take in the struggles of another.

I believe we can do better than this.

Each one of you has at least one person in your life that you can better nurture. That you can be more moved by. A child, a friend, a colleague, a student, a spouse.

Kegan concludes his remarks on recruitability with the following: "It is our recruitability, as much as our knowledge of what to do once drawn, that makes us of value in our caring for another's development, whether the caring is the professional caring of teacher, therapist, pastor, or mental health worker, or the more spontaneous exercise of careful parenthood, friendship, and love."

If you are inclined to enhance your recruitability, you may spend a few moments reflecting on these questions:

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