I’ve had the privilege of knowing Dyana Valentine—oracle, emcee, and creator of SuperConditions™— for many years now, first as her long-term client and then as a friend. When she announced that the SuperConditions™ framework, chiefly available till now for one-on-one clients or lucky students, would be entering the world as a game, I thrilled at the possibility of helping to share her work with the world. (And no, I’m not an affiliate.)
My own experience with discerning, and then working with, SuperConditions™ began as I worked with Dyana as her client. Described by Dyana as “conditions that, once met, allow you to operate at your best,” a few of my own SuperConditions™ are “selective, but fierce LOYALTY” and “language is my BACKBONE”; after sussing out my conditions for greatness, I’ve since returned to them again and again to make better decisions, think about my choices, and root myself more deeply into who I am.
Dyana has recently released the SuperConditions™ Game. I’ve test-driven the Game, and can say with confidence that it’s a deceptively elegant adventure in figuring out how you work best. I recently invited, and then spoke to, Dyana about what SuperConditions™ are, how she developed her understanding of SuperConditions™, and why a SuperCondition™ isn’t necessarily the same thing as a “strength.”
Esmé: Before I start asking you more in-depth questions—first of all, how do you usually explain SuperConditions™ to people, when you’re first introducing the idea to them?
Dyana Valentine: SuperConditions™ is a decision-making instrument. It takes the “I’m confused” out of your day.
E: Is that how why you first started developing the idea of SuperConditions™—to help people become less confused about their decision-making processes? Or was there another origin to the instrument?
DV: The origin story for SuperConditions™ is that I was conducting a Woke Up Knowing Experience in the Hamptons, and one of my clients (picture it, 3:45 AM, wrapped in blankets, in the dark winter night, deer outside in the snow) had a “no, none of this is resonating” moment. You have to know, that is a very rare thing–that someone asks me a question, I dream on it, and then the symbols in the dream have no resonance with a person. So… there’s no resonance. No imagery, no messages, no meaning in the dream space are resonating with my client. I’m frustrated and confused and, I’ll say it straight, concerned that I may not be able to be helpful–and the artist/creator’s worst nightmare–the Fraud Theory might just be TRUE and I may have no idea what I’m doing.
SOOOOO. At the very moment I was about to give up trying to rephrase the messages and compel him to “resonate” (dammit), a kind of teleprompter floated up over his left shoulder. And it said SUPERCONDITIONS FOR GREATNESS. So, I read it aloud and said, “It’s kind of like you’re not resonating with your SuperConditions™.” He got very excited and leaned forward on the couch–what are those? What’s a SuperCondition™? I love that word. Tell me more.
And what appeared on the teleprompter was the original organization of SuperConditions™. Three parts–SuperConditions™, Circumstances, and Expressions for Greatness. There are now five parts, and each one has ways to cultivate and articulate Why and How we do what we do in the way we do it, Who we are when we are operating at our best, and What we create that resonates with us in ways that are sustainable and productive.
“I believe that all of my discernment and communication tools/games/instruments have come directly out of a shared need that both I am and my community had at that very moment.”
E: Oh my gosh. It’s like Athena sprung fully from the head of Zeus.
DV: And, to your question: I believe that all of my discernment and communication tools/games/instruments have come directly out of a shared need that both I and my community had at that very moment. It has been true of Pitch Perfect, Struggles+Strengths=Strategies, Woke Up Knowing, Give&Go Seek and SuperConditions™.
E: So once you had this “download” of sorts—this amazing experience of having SuperConditions™ emerge as something to investigate—what did you do next with it? And how have you approached developing it since? I know, for example, that you’ve been using it in a number of different environments, with different kinds of people.
DV: Well, SuperConditions™ drove the bus for a while. Small parts of it would “fill in” to the model every time I spoke to a client. And, please note, I worked with Client 0, Mike, for three more days on curating his SuperConditions™—with each part that we completed in our work together, another part of the model would sort of click into my mind’s eye.
I am always interested in testing new ideas. I try them out/exercise them in different ways. So, with SuperConditions™, I could see that it wanted to play in a few forms. Over the first six months, I used it with individuals in one-on-one sessions, phone lecturettes with 5-10 people, a business conference with an audience of approximately 600, and several 6-10-person all-day intensives. I do this with a lot of my games/instruments to find out where they are the most fun/functional to play with. I like it as a developmental method.
E: That’s amazing. It’s very much something that reminds me of scientific research in general—changing the variables, changing the population, seeing what comes up next. Can you talk a little bit about how personal a SuperCondition™ is to an individual? For example, could a SuperCondition™ for one person end up being a weakness for someone else, even if it was the exact same kinds of behaviors or preferences?
DV: Hmmmm, interesting framing. First–thank you. I’m not sure how scientists would look at my method–but yes, I do like the process. One key note is that I don’t really make any hypotheses. I don’t know if anything is going to work. I don’t assume it will. I have no idea of the outcomes and, actually, I couldn’t make them up, even if I was interested in the outcomes.
E: I’m impressed by the various ways in which you investigated, as opposed to assuming something about how it worked and then just going ahead with that.
DV: Ah, yes, I rarely “just go ahead” with anything. If query were a physical or biological system, I’d qualify for the Olympics.
I find it curious and titillating that you are framing a SuperCondition™ as a “strength”, in a way. It is important to note that a SuperCondition™ (and we each have many–I believe we were delivered here on Earth with many of them) is representative of a wide-ranging constellation of values. For example, my SuperCondition™ of Playing With Strangers is an integrated description of why I do things in the way I do them. So it comes with a Yay side–which serves me well (e.g., I generally meet everyone at a party, have a good ability to get to know people quickly, and flow easily from group to group or new client to new client–in fact, I thrive in the variegation), AND it gets in my way on the NAY side in the sense that I can get strung out and overstimulated easily, my business model is insane (basically, I work myself out of ongoing work as quickly as possible because I never work long-term), and I can lose track if I go too high on the active interactions I’m having in any one period of time.
“…even though the sides or linear nature or a slider or spectrum is tempting to use as positively or negatively weighted in some ways, be careful that you aren’t segregating parts of yourself and calling one bad or good.”
With that said, it’s not so much about strength or weakness, but the Yay or Nay aspects of our own SuperConditions™–which is a very natural range. The beauty and athleticism of high-capacity discernment comes when we are able to recognize where we are along those spectra, and actively work the slider to bring ourselves to a functional relationship with our selves. That, in turn, increases our confidence to repeat what we do well, avoid situations that we have no business investing in, and prevent misunderstandings with those we care about or work with. Does that make sense?
E: Yes. I think I tend to focus more on the so-called “strength,” or Yay, aspect when I think about my own SuperConditions™, but it’s true that they have Nay sides to them, too. (Such as changing my wallpaper a hundred times in the morning before I can start working, because of Aesthetic Infrastructure/Architecture and Ritual.) So have you ever met anyone who was displeased with his or her SuperConditions™? Are people always going to like their SuperConditions™?
DV: Well, it’s very important to hold the SuperCondition™ in its wholeness. And even though the sides or linear nature of a slider or spectrum is tempting to use as positively or negatively weighted in some ways, be careful that you aren’t segregating parts of yourself and calling one bad or good. That division is fully supported, culturally, and I believe a dangerous compartmentalization. And, YES, ALL KINDS OF ALWAYS, folks say, Oh, NOOOOOO, I HATE that about myself! around a given SuperCondition™.
Here’s the thing: that’s a great confirmation that you have a way you look at the world, or want the world to work, that is so much a part of you, that it raises eyebrows and flags—e.g., gets you into trouble or does not result in social, financial, or environmental rewards, but rather punishments, let’s say. You’re on the right track if your bucking at the leash of a possible SuperCondition™.
We won’t always enjoy our SuperConditions™ when they aren’t serving us or we aren’t serving them (which is the Nay side of life). However, those are terrific indicators of times when we need to slide it closer to Yay, or develop systems that help us be resilient. ALSO, remember, SuperConditions™ came with us, and are potent collaborators. If you’re feeling oogy about something, or something isn’t working well, your SuperConditions™ are going to make noise and let you know you’re in the wrong alley, or need to make an adjustment.
E: Ooo, that’s gorgeous.
DV: When you come to understand the whole extravaganza that SuperConditions™ represent, you’ll have the opportunity to take it in and play with it without as much judgment. Also, you know–these are ideas, yes, they’re part of you, but they really are just descriptions. And you’re in charge of how they are defined and exercised in real life. The only danger is that if you choose to not articulate them in your own words and play with them over time, they WILL continue operating at whatever kind of status quo they can find–which may hang out on the Nay side of the spectrum, if unattended.
E: How does the SuperConditions™ paradigm fit into your work as a whole, do you think?
DV: Well, I wondered about the essence of my work–and perhaps that’s just a part of the natural identity development cycle of an artist or instigator–over the years. I experimented with my work being organizational (developmental/systematic), psychological and/or educational (both from an interventionist standpoint), leadership-oriented, community-based (collaborative).
“I’m always going to be curiously aroused and tend more to, ‘Ohhhhhh, cooool, let’s see what happens! I Have No Idea What Will Happen, let’s try it!'”
So over time, I’ve thought about what I was doing and where it fit in, academically, professionally, personally. How could I explain my orientation or describe it to others, or make sense of it myself enough to allow it to support me? It was always a conundrum–until I went inside and inside and inside the question: who does my work serve? how can I do it better? what is the change I’m actually affecting (if any?), and how can I describe it?
The thing that really resonated was the realization that every single workshop I’d created, post I’d written, or call I’d made had, at its core, a single decision or series of decisions. Each time I could support a better decision, or a clearer question (wayyy more often this, by the way), the outcomes, emotional environment of the person or team, and the general air of Things Are Possible were ALL BETTER.
Once I got into the clarity that my work is really and truly about breaking the culture of Right and Wrong Questions and training folks–myself included–on how to define REAL questions, everything changed. And REAL questions are ones that calm our central nervous system once we ask them, because they are truly at the heart of the matter. Asking Real questions actually helps us out of the Right/Wrong bullshit swamp.
E: There’s a wonderful sense of an alternative to black-and-white thinking.
DV: I love grayscale. It’s so much more versatile, and no one is arguing over what’s true white or black in there. It’s sometimes more comforting to folks to have a yes/no, black/white, right/left kind of directional system. That preference is a natural selector for NOT working with me and SuperConditions™. If you aren’t interested in learning a full-spectrum navigational system that is customized By You, For You, then, yeah–I’ll give you a direction: THE DOOR. Seriously.
I’m never going to be someone who says: LEFT LEFT!!! (Unless I can see danger that you can’t; then I’ll weigh in.) I’m always going to be curiously aroused and tend more to, “Ohhhhhh, cooool, let’s see what happens! I Have No Idea What Will Happen, let’s try it!”
BIO: Dyana Valentine is not for the faint of heart. She’s spent 13+ years teaching leaders to listen to themselves and complete seemingly impossible projects—we’re talking major brand overhauls, six-figure product launches, full-fledged manuscripts. She serves up straight-from-the-hip advice in online magazines and columns all over the ‘net. In a past life, she was an idiot-savant microsurgery tech, worked for the Olympic Games organizing committee, and was personally approached by the FBI with a recruitment invitation—for classified reasons – on two separate occasions.