Arthur Dent, from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, knows a lot about the neuroscience of leadership and motivation.
Sure, he’s lazy and not all that bright.
He kind of saves the world… in the movie version, at least… but mostly by going along with events. He rarely takes charge or asserts himself.
And yet there’s one thing he does that, if you’re struggling to take action and get stuff done, you’d be wise to mimic.
Recently, I read that the higher up a hierarchy someone is, the more likely they are to conform. It’s a strange thought. You don’t rise to the top of a corporation or the military by blending in, yet once you’re there, your personal life matches those around you.
Rich executives often drive the same car, live in the same sorts of homes and belong to the same clubs.
You might be able to think of counterexamples. So can I. It’s a trend, not a rule – and what a strange trend it is. Reaching the top requires boldness, drive and a strong sense of your own identity. You’d think the leaders of these organisations would be the least likely to conform to any group.
And it got me thinking…
I wonder how much of life involves resolving apparent paradoxes.
How suggestible are you? Just how prone to emotional manipulation, marketing and hypnosis are you? If you’re like most people, you probably think you aren’t.
Sure, you know marketing works – that’s why it costs so much to run ads. But it doesn’t work on you. You make all your decisions rationally.
That’s because you’re too strong-willed to be manipulated.
If you believe this, then listen up. There’s two things wrong with that:
Firstly, believing you’re not suggestible makes you more suggestible. If you think you make all your decisions, you never doubt your own thoughts. Someone who questions their own motives and logic will catch manipulation far more often.
If you think you’re an island fortress, you’ll never look for intruders.
Secondly, being suggestible makes you stronger.
Is it possible to think and act differently from successful people and still succeed? I won’t say it isn’t, but that sure sounds like the hard way. The effective strategy is to do what they do, tailored for your situation.
Whenever I hear about someone incredibly successful – the top of their field, no matter what it is – the sort of people who achieve amazing (even “impossible”) things – they always have one thing in common: they’re open to exploring their mind.
Most of them have some sort of meditation routine.
Those who don’t use something like mindful exercise, gardening or painting to enter a meditative state.
It’s like you can’t get ahead unless you can access your own thoughts.
That’s a strange claim – surely everyone can access them? Isn’t that what “thinking” is?
Some days, we’re geniuses – others, we put the laundry in the oven. You might be the smartest person in the world and still have off days. Learning is a great example of this. When you crack open a textbook or watch an online lecture, as you absorbing the info or deleting it?
You might be tired, hungry or distracted. Energy plays a role. Even so, you’ve probably felt unfocused while rested, yet focused while exhausted before.
Because there’s something you can to do double your brain power… or half it.
This “technique” (if you can call it that) applies to everything. I use it with writing, for example. This, I learned to embrace the hard way and not every writer does. I was recently talking with someone who didn’t use this and struggled.
She’d maybe put 100 words down, then stop.
Then end up rewriting it all (if not deleting it).
Slow, brutal progress.
When I explained this principle, her eyes lit up and she immediately saw how to multiply her output.
Does a language barrier stop communication? It doesn’t have to. When you learn to communicate without conscious understanding, you become much more connected.
Of all the weirdest things that have ever happened to me, this is somewhere in the top half. When you start exploring your unconscious mind, strange things happen.
Unusual physical and emotional reactions to things.
These are all common side effects when you go deep inside your own mind. Your arm changes shape as it gets stronger and so does your mind.
Sometimes, you wind up with a mind so powerful, it’s practically a superpower.
About a year ago, I attended some hypnosis training in the States. This was a gruelling, intense training program, unlike anything else I’ve done. I walked away from it a completely different person.
(That can happen with an hour of hypnosis, let alone over a week of it.)
Many smokers keep the habit because they don’t want to fail at quitting. If you smoke, you know people view you with contempt. They see people who fail to quit as weak, undisciplined and addicted.
Talk about a bind. If you’re damned either way, you might as well follow the easy path, right?
Which is why I say it’s too early for you to quit smoking. You shouldn’t until you know the best way how.
And the best way makes quitting the easy path. Yep – for some people, never touching a cigarette again is simple, natural and effortless.
And even easier than continuing to smoke.
Some of them even quit without any withdrawals.
Imagine the reaction people will give you when they learn you finally quit:
“Wasn’t it hard?” they ask.
Comfort makes your comfort zone shrink. Discomfort pushed your boundaries. You can learn to be at ease in situations that would break most people.
If you want to see how soft people are getting, have a look at how they respond to cold. I wrote this in London a few days ago. What was the weather like? I’m not going to pretend it was tropical – it was darn chilly. But based on how people dressed, you’d think they were in a blizzard.
Instead, it was a brisk five degrees Celsius (or 40 degrees Fahrenheit).
Let me tell you – I got the strangest looks riding the Underground in a T-shirt.
And I read somewhere the average London home in winter is six degrees warmer now than in the 1970s.
I don’t mean to be bagging on London. It’s a great city full of great people.
And I’m definitely not saying us Aussies are tougher with anything, let alone the cold.
My point is this:
I spend time in a lot of self-help forums. They’re busy places. Whether you call it that, personal development, self-improvement or whatever, you are not alone if you’re hungry to improve your life.
You’re also not alone if you make mistakes with it.
These are things that most self-help junkies do – myself included. I’ve learned the hard way how costly these blunders are.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about a quick online course or an expensive seminar. Get this wrong and you’ll fail when people will challenge you. As you beam with excitement over your latest learnings, your friends and family will smile and nod. Then they’ll ask how you’ve changed.
A reasonable question, given how important transformation is to you.
But if you approach it how most people do, you can’t answer them. You think about it and realise you haven’t changed at all. You gathered some impressive knowledge, sure, but knowledge is useless.
Skills, talents, perspectives – those are what you dreamt of building. Not a hoard of mental curiosities.
When this used to happen to me, I’d panic at first. I’d realise I’ve wasted my time. All that effort spend studying, with nothing to show for it.
So I’d focus on one aspect of the learning that sounds cool and mention that, while hoping no one realised I was full of it. “I learned to be more confident,” I’d say while trembling inside.
When most people say their latest self-help stint helped them, they’re lying to themselves. It’s either that or face the ridicule of lazy people who never even try to change.
What you pay attention to is what you get more of. If you fixate on your bad luck, you’ll notice more bad luck. If you train yourself to be grateful, you’ll find more things to be grateful about.
Part of this is filtering – you notice what you otherwise might ignore.
Part of it is your inner mind creating more of what you notice.
In hypnosis circles, we often describe this as, where attention goes, energy flows. Your mind focuses so you get more of what you choose to notice.
So you should ignore your discomforts, right? If you forget about those aches and twinges, you won’t experience them?
Well, not exactly. In fact, paying attention to them can make you healthier and more energetic than ever.
How does that work? Aren’t I contradicting myself?