Band of Moes Theory, and a Definition of Empathy

Humans are social animals, and we want to connect. We learn our patterns through our parents first. Then, through a series of trial and error, we collect people we like who also like us.

Or we learn to like that which we attract, and we let our collection define us. We learn to follow as a default.

Empaths feel what others feel literally, physically, not just have an understanding.  If I prick you, I will bleed.

The word empathy is used (perhaps incorrectly) to describe recognising unmet needs in others.  Do not assume that, in fulfilling what you perceive to be someone's need, the person will reciprocate by taking care of  yours.  Easy to define intellectually; not so easy to recognise in one's self.  Sometimes what we recognise is a pattern that should be retired.

If I don't meet the parameters in certain relationship models -  business, friend, family - I may take lack of acceptance as rejection, which is a model I learned: don't be a let-down. You remember that one, yeah?  Don't be uppity.  Stay in your lane.  Just go make me a sandwich.

Incomplete calculation is what it is, regardless of how people try to use emotions to manipulate themselves or others.  I'm not picking up the other end of the shame stick for you.

I can't follow, nor lead.  I'm trying to build a heterarchy, a band of Moes.  In a Band of Moes, every member is a head stooge who's prepared give the lead to Larry, Curly, or Shemp.  The outcome of the process is more important than the responsibilities or status of any one stooge.  Delegation can come from any direction in a heterarchy, because the other Moes will see the value of the proposal, not just the directive.

However, a lot of Moe types are in leadership positions because they like telling stooges what to do.  Or maybe status is a more important goal than the outcome of the project.  Maybe they're afraid of being rejected again - it takes a great deal of trust to let someone else hold the reins.  They just aren't receptive to being recruited by another Moe.

So how do you build a heterarchy when everyone has grown comfortable with their own Modus Operandi?  How do you avoid slipping into one of your old connection templates?  How does answering the question help adults make friends?  Here's a short-list to get us started:
  1. Identify your ideal. Be honest and specific with yourself.  Do you want to spend time doing a certain thing you like with others?  Do you want to learn something new?  What are you bringing to the table, and what do you want others to bring?  This is the outline of your new friend-making process.
  2. Outline yourself: what are your current processes?  Which have garnered relative success, and which resulted in failure? How much are you willing to experiment with others' processes?
  3. Re-evaluate #2, because you won't find the right answers the first time.  Now, do it again.
  4. Be flexible.  NASA knows that not every launch is going to, well, launch.  Schedule in some trial-and-error space for your test runs.
  5. ALWAYS include an opt-out clause.  You can't tell other people how to feel.  They may like you but not be interested in the package you're offering.  It is an offer, after all.  You may have included in your package a deal-breaker for the other party.  It isn't your fault or theirs, if you've been forthright.
  6.  Practice walking away. The two sides of the sword are Feelings and Expectations. It's ludicrous to tell yourself you have no expectations; it's not possible and it isn't what you mean. What you mean is that you expect to be disappointed.  Adjust that a bit and be willing to be disappointed; better yet, realise that scrubbing the launch was one of the possible outcomes. Start working on the next rocket.

Further Reading:

SpaceX Blog  Kids, science is not dead.  Add this to your weekly reading list.

The Three Stooges
In case you are younger than a millennial and aren't sure what I mean by Stooge. 

Leg Exercise is Critical to Brain and Nervous System Health
So yeah, that's not what I meant in the post, but literally practice walking away.


  1. Expect to be surprised. Humans are dynamic, constantly changing -- loosely bound skin sacks with an operating system that races offline at the oddest times. As I get older I realize I have less control over my connections with others than I ever have, and less energy to deal with the emotions involved. "Feelings and expectations," the curse of humankind. Time's clock ticks on and while expectations are the minute hand, feelings measure the seconds. And the hours? Days? Months? Years? What other sort of organism remembers just what it wants to remember, bounces off others like a drunken sperm cell and then disappears into oblivion leaving random memory flashes of itself behind? "The sum of your life is the good that you tried to do, not the mistakes that you made." We tell ourselves this. It is in our DNA. We still want to matter; to have our existence marked by change incurred because we were here. Good or bad change. So we connect. Painfully, we keep trying. And painful it is.


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