Social Impact Authors: How & Why Authors Lynda-Ross Vega and Gary Jordan of Vega Behavioral…

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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Authors Lynda-Ross Vega and Gary Jordan of Vega Behavioral Consulting Helping To Change Our World

Fixating on what you can’t do, your failures, or your limitations, isn’t helpful. It prevents you from recognizing the natural skills you do have. It’s not that you shouldn’t learn from your mistakes; it’s that you limit yourself by assuming you aren’t good enough or it’s all your fault.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lynda-Ross Vega and Gary M. Jordan, PhD, Vega Behavioral Consulting, ltd.

Lynda-Ross Vega has been fascinated with what makes people tick since she was a child. Her curiosity about human diversity and ways to bring out the best in people led her to a multifaceted 40+ year career in the c-suite, as an entrepreneur and business owner, and as a coach.

Gary Jordan, PhD, has over 45 years of experience in clinical psychology, behavioral assessment, individual development, and coaching. He earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology — Berkeley in 1980. His career includes private practice as a therapist, career coaching, and business coaching.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Gary: I was born and raised in Dallas, TX, the third child of two OB/GYN doctors, which made for very interesting dinner conversations, to say the least! My parents believed in the rewards of hard work, the value of education, and that life was a hard and very serious affair.

This view was at odds with my natural wit, sense of humor, bouncy energy, constant curiosity, and need to experience things directly, interactively, and intensely. Because of these differences in views, I was outwardly quiet, serious, studious, intellectual, reserved, and methodical, while on the inside, I held back my spontaneity and joyful, enthusiastic energy.

My home persona was at odds with my talkative and outgoing demeanor with friends. It wasn’t until college that I discovered I could be intellectual and fun.

I think it is fair to say that this fundamental conflict between what my parents expected from my behavior and how I feel best as me was responsible for my career as a psychologist. It was essentially a path discovered to reconcile these two conflicting aspects and heal myself.

Lynda-Ross: My dad was a Navy pilot, and my mom was a homemaker. By the time I was nine, we had lived in four cities that I remember, and I had attended three different grade schools.

I loved the fun of meeting new people and seeing new places. Then all that changed when my dad died suddenly at 38, three weeks before my 11th birthday.

My mom was left with three small children. She did an amazing job as a single parent. However, she battled depression throughout her adult life. As the oldest child, I “grew up” rather quickly because I was who she leaned on. That being said, she always told me I was smart and kind and could be anything I wanted to be. She instilled my self-confidence at an early age.

My main takeaway from my childhood was, “life is too short, and it’s not guaranteed.” It’s not what you dream; it’s what you do. It’s not something you can take for granted because it will slip through your fingers in a matter of seconds. So, it’s vital to live each day the best you can with the people who matter most to you.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

Gary: The book most responsible for inspiring me to action was I’m OK, You’re OK by Thomas Harris, MD. It was an early introduction to Transactional Analysis and my first introduction to psychology and therapy. I read it in my junior or senior year in high school, and it helped me to understand conceptually what I experienced emotionally — that I was not OK. Discovering why that was and what I could do to heal myself and help others who felt the same way has been my life’s work.

Lynda-Ross: This was a hard one for me to decide! I love to read and get something out of almost every book. One of my proudest possessions when I was 8, was my public library card. Before answering this question, I walked into my home library to peruse the shelves to help me decide on my answer. Transitions: Making the Most Out of Life’s Changes by William Bridges is one of my all-time favorites and has stood the test of time. I read it in the early days of my career, and it helped me understand the human impact of change. I still recommend this book often.

It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Gary: I am not so sure it was a mistake as much as just being wrong! It wasn’t funny at the time, but it makes me laugh now when I think back on it. I went from pre-school to PhD with no breaks, so I was pretty young (25) and very brash when I first entered private practice. My arrogance led me to believe I could change everyone. Private practice quickly challenged that belief, and the years since have led me to realize that I cannot change anyone.

I discovered that the healing process is not about changing people but rather helping them peel away the behavior, beliefs, and habits that prevent them from expressing who they are at the core. Perceptual Style Theory™, which Lynda-Ross and I developed, gives me an easy way to talk about what I mean by “who they are at the core” and to describe the overlay of acquired skills that get in the way of expressing it.

Lynda-Ross: In the early days of my coaching career, I was so enthusiastic about our theory and its potential to help people that I saw situations to use it everywhere. I was visiting with my mom, who was regaling me with a story about a conflict with her neighbor. I jumped in to help and gave her all sorts of info about communication disconnects and conflict based on perceptual differences. She smiled and nodded, and when I finally took a breath, she said, “That’s nice dear, but I just don’t like the woman.” We looked at each other and burst out laughing. I learned to temper my enthusiasm in general conversations. It was the beginning of my personal belief that timing is everything.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Lynda-Ross: Just as the pandemic isolated us physically and broke social connections, the different ways we perceive the world can isolate us psychologically.

It’s common to believe that everyone sees things pretty much the way you do. That belief actually keeps us isolated and disconnected when we repeatedly encounter viewpoints different from our own.

Perpetual Style Theory explains the distinct differences in the ways people see the world and that all ways are valid and equally valuable.

When you understand and celebrate how you see the world, you can tap into your natural strengths and feel grounded in who you are. Focusing on your strengths rather than chasing whatever you think may be missing is the key to self-fulfillment and personal success.

When you recognize and value your own strengths, it is much easier to see the differences in other people as valuable rather than oppositional. This insight opens the door to understanding, effective communication, and reduction of unnecessary conflict.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Gary: This is one of my personal favorites. When Brian came to his first seminar with us — a management development course — he was resistant and cynical. He had been to similar workshops before, and his experience was that they always told you to change who you are and to standardize your management approach. But his boss had asked him to attend, so he did.

Here’s how he described his initial experience with us:

“I clearly remember two “wow” moments in my experience with Perceptual Style that happened the day our assessment results were delivered.

All the managers who had participated were gathered in a large meeting room. Our results were given to each of us, and we were then grouped around the room by our Perceptual Styles. I remember noticing that the people in my group were the folks I got along with best. That was my first “wow.”

When Gary started talking about our group, his descriptions were hitting really too close to home for me to ignore. When he said, “You were the people who sat in classrooms throughout high school and thought you knew more than the teacher!” it was my second “wow” moment. I had never shared that thought with another living soul but had believed it through most of school. It was like Gary was reading my mind. Suddenly, I decided I better not discount this program. You had my attention.”

Brian focused on building and using his strengths. He became very successful by specializing in what he did best. He shared that Perceptual Style validated his own strengths and put his perceived weaknesses in perspective. He leaned into what he knew he naturally did well and found a new pride in his accomplishments. His attitude towards people who were different from him mellowed. Rather than seeing differences as threatening or frustrating (as he once had), he began to see them as interesting and enjoyed finding ways to work with those differences to mutual advantage.

Our first meeting with Brian was over 25 years ago. At that time, he was a mid-level manager in a large company. He went on to establish his own firm in the same industry and achieved great success personally and financially. One of the many strengths he is known for is his ability to recruit and retain talent for his company. He credits his understanding of Perceptual Style and looking for people’s strengths as his advantage.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

Gary: In the early years of our work on the theory, we believed that the differences we saw were based on a cognitive process that allowed people to make meaning of the world around them. We spent a lot of time and research defining that process. But something just didn’t fit.

With a cognitive process, the hypothesis was our brains performed multiple steps of thought to make meaning of the world. But the more we worked with it, the more limiting it seemed. Meaning comes from more than just thought; experience plays an important part.

Our Aha Moment came one day when we were struggling with detailed definitions of the process, and suddenly we realized it wasn’t cognitive at all. It was perceptual. Everything fell into place almost immediately.

Lynda-Ross: It truly was an Aha Moment — if I remember correctly, we both actually said “Aha”! What became crystal clear in that moment was the fullness of the perception process. We define that process as having three inputs. Our brains use the perception process to create meaning by contextualizing the input from our five senses, our innate biases (aka Perceptual Style), and our life experiences.

We create meaning moment by moment with our perception process, and it all happens in the blink of an eye. Over time, this process begins a consistent view of our subjective reality of the world.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Lynda-Ross: I met Allison at a workshop several years ago, and we’ve been friends ever since. We also occasionally work together. Here’s a testimonial she shared with us earlier this year:

“Perceptual Style changed everything for me when I discovered it 12 years ago. We’ve got 4 styles in a 4-person family, and when we each began to glimpse how we were different and what that meant for our interactions, we stopped having that kind of massive disruption that comes from putting teenagers who feel misunderstood in the same room with parents who don’t understand how those kids ended up in this family.

And for my clients (Allison is a marketing coach) — OMG, it was the missing link that made it possible to adapt the entire process of attraction and enrollment to make it feel natural and easy for every single practitioner. It literally did change everything.”

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Gary: In a perfect world, people in leadership and power positions would demonstrate an awareness of the value of differences instead of labeling, dividing, and closing doors on people who see things differently than they do.

Human beings were created to live in community. We need each other because none of us can do it all alone. Different strengths are an advantage when we work together.

However, our experience is that change must happen from the bottom up as well as the top down. Leaders can establish and nurture cultural norms that encourage people to understand their own strengths, learn how to see the best in others, and develop the skills for dialogue, cooperation, and compromise. We each need to do the work.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Lynda-Ross: We define the essence of leadership as “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal.” Leadership combines art and science to attract followers, point out a direction, and guide and influence the followers to achieve objectives.

Leadership doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You can’t lead if you don’t have followers. The experience of the followers and the success in achieving common goals are what put the stamp of “great leader” or “inept leader” on your leadership résumé.

Leadership is not about being famous, nor is it a title or a role — it’s a state of being. Leadership is not a process of wearing different hats for different occasions — it is a process of being true to your natural strengths.

Some will tell you that effective leadership is a one-size-fits-all proposition. Or you can’t be an effective leader if you’re not naturally outgoing, authoritative, or visionary. It’s just not true. Real leadership success happens from the inside out — using your natural strengths to guide and inspire others to take action.

Everyone has the capacity to be an effective, even exceptional, leader. There’s not just one set of traits or behaviors that guarantee success. There is YOUR way to be a leader — building on your natural strengths.

In fact, you exercise some of your natural leadership skills in your everyday life. In social situations, when you decide where you and your friends will meet for dinner; in family situations, when you take on the role of negotiator to resolve conflicts; at work, when you step up to initiate change or take responsibility for task completion.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

1 . Everyone thinks they are the “main character.”

It makes total sense that we all believe our way of seeing the world is the right way. And until we learn differently, that’s how we approach life.

The problem is that learning there are different and valid ways of seeing the world can feel threatening to some. Honing our message about the value of perceptual differences took more effort and finesse than we initially thought.

Gary: One example comes to mind. It happened during a change leadership workshop we conducted for a group of managers. During the morning session, one guy stood out because he was so vocal. He loved his Perceptual Style description and declared he felt validated and understood for the first time. He was quieter in the afternoon session when we focused on understanding differences and refining messages to help all styles embrace change. He nodded periodically, but he seemed distracted. After the workshop, he returned to his office, copied his Perceptual Style description, and sent it to each of his team members, telling them they should all behave as he did, and then the group would be more successful. Sigh.

2 . The frustrations everyone feels at not being able to do something are real. The conclusions we draw about it are wrong.

Fixating on what you can’t do, your failures, or your limitations, isn’t helpful. It prevents you from recognizing the natural skills you do have. It’s not that you shouldn’t learn from your mistakes; it’s that you limit yourself by assuming you aren’t good enough or it’s all your fault.

That’s why we always start with identifying your strengths. That’s true whether we are discussing careers, relationships, or self-awareness. When you build your foundation around your strengths, you gain new perspective on your personal value and what you see as your limitations. When you are confident about your strengths, it is so much easier to see strengths in other people, not as challenges but as gifts.

Lynda-Ross: In our work and families, we have a saying, “live the theory.” Our spouses, siblings, kids, and even grandkids are in on it. It pops up when we catch ourselves slogging through something that’s not our forte. Someone will say, “live the theory” as shorthand for “who does this best? “… “where can you find help? “…or “you don’t need to do it all.” It’s a great reminder.

3 . Happiness and success are not end destinations.

We hear a lot of comments like “life will be great when X happens,”… “If I only had X, I would be happy,”…and “if I just fix these flaws, I’ll be a success.”

The reality is happiness and success are experiences, not goals.

You can find happiness every day. It shouldn’t be delayed until everything falls into place.

Success is a state of mind. It’s not some grandiose award. Success is little accomplishments every day.

Gary: We’ve both experienced many ups and downs in our personal and work lives, and we know, without a doubt, that life is too short to wait until tomorrow to be happy or feel successful. Today is always the right day to start.

4 . Self-awareness isn’t easy.

It’s fun to learn about your strengths. It can be a little challenging to accept your limitations. But the result is so validating and freeing.

Then, with a bit of practice, it’s easy to see the strengths in others and appreciate them for who they are.

But self-awareness is not a “one and done” event. It’s a daily practice.

And just because you are self-aware doesn’t mean you’re right.

Lynda-Ross: I’m reminded of this every day with my husband. We have two different Perceptual Styles, and he understands the theory well. But we still have moments where we push each other’s buttons. That’s life. The advantage is we have the awareness of our perceptual differences that helps us prevent major disconnects and allows us to acknowledge each other’s perspective.

5 . There are some unresolvable disagreements.

The differences we describe with Perceptual Style are real. They don’t go away, but acknowledging their existence leads to acceptance and compromise.

Gary: A dear friend once told me, “I can’t see it the way you see it because I can’t see it the way you see it.” Sounds like an obvious statement, but it’s pretty profound. We think that if we just explain ourselves clearly and thoroughly, the other person will “get it.”

Intellectual understanding of the differences in our perception process doesn’t reconcile them. Over the years, my wife and I have uncovered a few things we just don’t see eye to eye about because our perception is different. Understanding that reality allows us to stop trying to convince each other and instead give each other permission to be ourselves. It’s hard, but it’s tremendously freeing at the same time.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Gary: “Further” — I started on a journey of self-discovery way back in my childhood and adolescence. Through various influences, I believed the journey had an endpoint I could achieve if I worked hard enough. It was an attitude of “I can solve life.” The intervening years have given me enough life experience and wisdom to know this journey has no end. If I think I have it all figured out, I am wrong. Today’s brilliant insight is tomorrow’s old news as the journey continues.

Lynda-Ross: “Even the smallest gestures of kindness make an incredible difference.”

Kindness, understanding, sharing, forgiveness, laughter, listening, helping, caring, guidance, friendship, love — these are gifts of ourselves that we give to each other.

Perhaps we value those things the most when we receive them because we know the effort it takes to give them. They are all conscious choices to step out of ourselves and do something for someone else.

I once worked with a man who was consistently cheerful. Paul could be stern at times or irritated, and he had endured many hardships in life. But he always bounced back to a generally cheerful state within minutes. I remember asking him one day what his secret was. Paul told me, “I try to make a positive difference for at least three people every day. That goal keeps me grounded and gives me perspective about my attitude.”

His words stuck with me. Every day is an opportunity to make a difference for someone else, however small it may be. And every day, there are small gifts to be received if we are open to them.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Gary: Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens. His perspective on the human condition pulled the rug from underneath my feet and opened my mind to thinking about human history and people in a new and different way.

His thoughts challenged what I thought I knew as fact and sparked an excitement about the possibilities of different conclusions. Just opening that door was so enjoyable that I would love a conversation with him about the life experiences that led him to write Sapiens. It might need to be a long lunch!

Lynda-Ross: I’d love to chat with Brené Brown. I’m fascinated by her research, her journey, and her extraordinary storytelling skills. It would be so much fun to have a conversation about meaningful connections, emotions, near enemies, belonging to yourself, language as a tool, ….my list goes on!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

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This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Authors Lynda-Ross Vega and Gary Jordan of Vega Behavioral… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.