The Technology of Results
This is the second article I am posting in this series “Inspired Success: Learning From the World’s Best” outlining the teachings of some of the world’s most seminal thought leaders. We have selected those I have personally interacted with, in many cases worked with, and delivered with.
Two madcap pioneers of the human psyche, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, cobbled together and co-created from multiple sources of inspiration (among them systems thinker Gregory Bateson, syntax innovator Noam Chomsky, the father of Gestalt Fritz Perls, family therapist Virginia Satir, hypnotherapist Milton Erickson, and others), a remarkable way of “modelling human thinking and processing” that came to be known as Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). In essence, it is a study of the ‘languages’ — verbal and non-verbal — that create strategic or recurring responses through the brain and central nervous system. In short, it is a study of “how” we tick and indirectly, “why” we tock.
Though Bandler and Grinder’s colorful lives did not always seem to do justice to the genius of what they created, one of the early researchers, who also served as a foil and a reciprocal therapeutic guide for the founders, was a man called Don Wolfe. Don had an intuitive insight into how to provoke, nudge, and entice change in the moment that, in my experience, surpassed even the “techniques” so brilliantly endowed by Bandler and Grinder. His ability to parlay Gestalt, and naturally wield Ericksonian hypnosis for example, playfully and poignantly, was profound.
Don in turn met a remarkable entrepreneur called Robert Allen, the man who in Real Estate terms, gave us the concept of Nothing Down, and who continues as an esteemed entrepreneurial guide, coach and mentor to this day.
Through a fascinating turn of events, they launched a week long “Wealth Building” experience, focusing on both inner and outer wealth, practical investment ideas from leading business coaches who literally exemplified what they taught, and inner “self-mastery” using NLP, but as a platform for enriching self-esteem and creating dramatic personal and interpersonal transformation.
I attended the session, was smitten and wowed in equal measure, and decided I had to contribute to it. I developed a deep relationship with Don, who became my initial mentor in this area. I learned avidly and in time, I helped them run these sessions, and then added to the insights to create what we introduced in Asia and around the world as Mastery of Self through Neuro-Linguistic Programming three decades ago. “Mastery” takes NLP and uses it in the spirit it was first created.
Start With a “Why”
What Bob and Don’s presentation superimposed upon the NLP edifice, was to leverage change by finding a big enough “why.” If the “why” is big enough, we can find the natural inner drive needed to get past obstacles, rebound from failure, generate or regenerate needed energy. This is because having a sense of “purpose” taps into our deep yearning for meaning and significance, and enriches and vitalizes us in a way that a “task” or a “goal” or an “outcome” just can’t.
So, first locate your purpose. How? Look for the intersection between your greatest gladness (what you love to do, what you have a talent for, what animates you) and the world’s greatest good (where you can sustain yourself, where you can tangibly contribute, where you can be most valuable).
Next state it, crystallize it at least to yourself, simply, succinctly, meaningfully.
The next step is to convert this into “bottom-lines” that extend out for several years in the areas of:
- Being (things that sustain and nourish our spirit)
- Body (the health, nurturing and strengthening of our physical vehicle)
- Brain (creating learning projects that build the mental sculpture for success)
- People (relationships that make me smarter and advance my causes)
- Time (where my highest priority time will go) and
- Money (the wealth I wish to build to enable my purpose).
We can consider these the “infrastructure” of purpose.
Then each month you create “deliverables” or “accountabilities” to advance “progress” against these bottom-lines, and each day distill Pareto-like “20’s” or locate “the essential few” that build your Purpose and expand its infrastructure. When we do only what we have to do, we are slaves. When we find prime energy and time to choose what we will do, more or less each day, we expand our freedom.
Constituents of a Winning Day
Blending practical entrepreneurial visioning and dedication with the insights of NLP, Bob and Don laid the foundation for our embarking on an exceptionally focused day, whereby each day builds on the last, and each succeeding day, is enhanced by its predecessor.
First, each day, we plug into ‘purpose’, and get our energy flowing to larger callings. Then, look at the “infrastructure projects” and see what you are aiming to advance that week and that day. Finally, look at daily commitments, professionally, personally and those that are explicitly purpose led (and if your purpose is not to some extent naturally infusing your profession or personal life, there’s an issue to address), and decide what the “big rocks” are for the day, the 20% that will give you 80% of the value. Pick “3” of these each day that you will absolutely commit to advancing. Everything else that day is a bonus.
Next, mentally rehearse, vividly experience yourself going through the day as you hope to, not in terms of “outcomes” you can’t control, but “processes,” emotional states, engagement, flow. And particularly experience yourself moving these key goalposts forward.
As you kick into gear that day, whatever you most fear or dread that day, do it first or at least do it early, to claim an early victory and gain some early momentum. This frees up a lovely reservoir of otherwise potentially trapped energy.
Take time to get some exercise, create some “time-outs” to get “time in” with some meditation or prayer or quiet, and ensure you provide yourself with nourishing, delicious energy through your meals.
Get those “top 3” commitments advanced, progressed, done.
Each day, reflect on what you’ve learned that day, what insight you’ve had, what edge you can bring from today to the next day(s) going forward.
And finally do a “replay” where you celebrate your victories, successes and steps forward, and where you learn from your fumbles, foibles and failures, and then “edit” the film so you can rehearse doing them as you would like to, next time. That way you finish the day emboldened and edified, not demoralized and frustrated.
And somewhere during that day, spend time with insights or people or ideas that make you smarter, more competent, more capable. And welcome them in and allow the insights or inspiration to fully integrate into the fabric of who you are.
The Communication Breakthrough
It is mind boggling to me that the rudiments of NLP’s remarkable insights about the nature of communication are not etched into our public consciousness and private psyches. The devastating waste inflicted in all manner of human interaction, from corporate communication, to national influencing and more, due to this ignorance, defies credulity.
Let’s start very simply. The primary insight is that the meaning of your communication is the result it produces in the person being communicated with — very simply, communication occurs at the end of the receiver, finally any way. Hence, perfecting and honing “delivery” without any awareness of how something is “landing” is asinine.
Therefore, the stunningly simple realization dawns on us that virtually all conflict and communication-based misunderstanding stems from a mismatch between my intent and the actual impact on the other person. So, if I intend to be noncommittal and come across as disdainful or indifferent; or intend to be passionate and come across as lewd and presumptuous; or seek to convey a wry sense of humor and it pierces someone to the quick, we have an issue. And what makes this worse is that I always give myself “credit” for my positive intent, no matter how badly I butcher the communication, or how destructively it is received. Yet, I will hold someone responsible to my dying day or theirs, whichever comes first in my experience, for the “impact” of what they said on me, irrespective of having the “intent” clarified.
A compounding issue is that we process the world differently. We use words to “stand for” events or experiences, and we often use them with differing meaning. And if someone happens to be more “visual” (and tends to paint things in pictures and images) and someone else is more “auditory” (and uses quite a few words, and prefers to be descriptive) and still someone else is more “kinesthetic” (flowing with touch or feelings or emotions), then we can be out of sync and out of sympathy and have no idea why someone is sensitive where we are not, or stimulated where we are unfazed and unmoved.
And so “decoding” the communication and emotional landscape of a person, communicating with them in a way that is effective for them, requires great “here and now” acuity, awareness, flexibility and spontaneity. You step into their world and then, and only once rapport is established, invite them into yours.
Changing States and Outcomes
We know the way we feel influences how we act. However, the opposite is as potently true. We feel the way we behave too. And so, if we “act” the way we wish to feel, and if we do so whole-heartedly, if we put our “body” into it, the feeling catches up with the behavior. I have never seen a person not warmed by a genuine smile and someone asking, “How are you?”, and actually stopping to listen to the answer. I have never seen a person dance to upbeat music and claim to be depressed while doing so.
A second way we change states is by “anchoring” peak states, especially those identified with compelling outcomes. So the next time you are naturally elated, notice how you are standing, see what you are seeing in your mind’s eye, notice if there’s any internal dialogue or soundtrack, perhaps apply a certain pressure on a certain part of your body, or pump a fist, or just smile expansively. All of these “anchor” or “link to” that elated state. And if every time you’re in that state, you go through the same sequence, or physical and mental “ritual” if you will, that gets “associated” or “hooked to” that elated state. Then, when seeking the state, when wishing to be in that state, you can “fire off” these various cues (stand that way, see what you see, hear what you heard, feel what you felt and repeat the touch or bodily sensation or facial expression). Perhaps you’ll also generate an inner affirmation like, “Yes!” or “God Bless!” or “I say YES to this” or even just “Welcome!” That can amplify and fortify the anchor.
You can also strengthen the anchor by going back through other similar peak experiences you’ve had in the past, and rekindle them through your physiology, visuals, words, feelings and touch, or other associations and intensify them. As you do, using the same physical and mental ritual earlier created, you “stack” the anchor, intensifying its capacity to have you naturally and radiantly enter that resourceful or high energy state.
Another way to shift states and outcomes is through a “Pattern Interrupt.” That means to discover the reflexive way we are causing a problem. Perhaps we automatically head for a beer and slump in a certain chair when despondent; perhaps we give a certain look to someone before launching into a scathing critique; perhaps we binge eat in front of the TV triggered by that; perhaps being cut off mid-sentence in work by a certain colleague turns us into a raging contrarian; perhaps an untidy child’s bedroom works us up into an nonconstructive and nit-picking lather. So, if we can “interrupt” the pattern, so the reflexive “stimulus — response” game can’t be loaded and we have to actually “look” at the situation, or “listen” to it, or “feel” what’s going on anew, then we are free, we can start with a fresh neurological slate.
It can be as simple as agreeing to empty the garbage and taking a shower before allowing yourself the beer; perhaps when we notice we’ve given that certain look that triggers a reaction, we can say “bingo!” Even if we realize too late, we can go fill out a bingo-like chart. Perhaps we eat at the table, and not in front of the TV, except on weekends. Perhaps you can agree a mutual signal between your colleague and yourself, it will alert you both to the diabolical dance being enacted. Perhaps the untidy child’s bedroom can lead to a duty to be done, and a clean bedroom to being able to nominate a special dish, or show to watch, or family activity to enjoy. You get the idea… break the autopilot.
One executive found that she started the day grumpy, so she rolled back and forth and crawled over her spouse to get out of bed, to initial annoyance, then giggles, and certainly a fresh overture to the day. So, change the automatic “doing” of the problem, by becoming an anthropologist, and studying what attends it. And then do anything else, or do it subtly or even drastically differently, and you will “interrupt” the pattern, and this will leave you free to “be” again.
And finally, there is the combination of “baby steps” and “the stretch.” So, the thousand-mile journey begins with a single step. The question is asked, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is given, “One bite at a time.”
So, whatever the aim, create some baby steps, something so simple you cannot possibly fail at it. But then hold yourself wholeheartedly accountable. So, two minutes of raising your heartbeat as a first exercise foundation. But then for those two minutes “stretch” yourself past rationalizations, explanations, excuses, and make it happen. Spend five minutes listening fully to a loved one. Too much? Start with two minutes, but then “stretch” your attention, your intention, your focus, your interest. And when it starts to feel good, do more, go farther, explore further.
Learn a new language. Commit, publicly commit, the no dinner if you don’t type of committing, to 10 minutes if that’s all you can manage, or five, or two, or one to immersing in that language app… eventually the bullshit meter will give up. And then really “stretch” to get all the value out of each selected moment, by stretching past inertia or doubt or inhibition.
You can build a business this way, save for a college fund, run a marathon, whatever… baby step and stretch your way past inertia towards momentum and then onto real capability and progress.
Anything once really “stretched” never quite snaps back to the original configuration, it stays a little bit “stretched.” So, you expand, your aptitude grows, your attitude and conviction flourish, and you also create real credibility with yourself…you start to believe your own commitments. And you therefore flourish vibrantly in congruence, experiencing ever more harmony as you go and grow.
The Essence of Mastery of Self
NLP by itself is a collection of tools, and we’ve shared a few here. What Robert Allen and Don Wolfe did was marshal NLP to make life bigger and richer and esteem more real, and to allow positivity to find real footing through exploring possibility first.
We have heard, “We become what we think about all day long.” Yes, but we also become “how” we think about it. And if we can think about it and experience it in the spirit of real curiosity about what works, with an insatiable commitment to experience all of our capabilities and to model success relentlessly, realizing that like failure, it leaves footprints in the sand, then we’ll find the real riches here.
The masters that Bandler and Grinder modeled with Don Wolfe at their side, were intuitively expressing genius. NLP modeled what they did, so we could learn it and emulate them meaningfully and mindfully. Mastery suggests we also model the spirit, the love, the passion and conviction with which they did it, lest we become the tools of our tools.
We all share the same neurology. If anyone in the world can produce a result, if we study their strategies, learn from their mental and emotional maps, build those habits, and fortify those rituals, summon those states, course correct based on what actually happens, then we can approximate their results. And if we further realize it is the human ecosystems that are the most flexible, the most adaptive, inspired by and driven towards a life purpose worth even failing in rather than succeeding in never seeking to advance, then we will almost inevitably find our own unique formula for success.
This is true of us as individuals, in concert as communities and companies, and even in aggregate, as nations and ultimately a world that will or won’t, ultimately, decide to finally learn how to learn from its own experience, so that successes instruct and failures fertilize. Because then, either way, life wins!