Naked ape see, naked ape do

Question asked on Quora today:  In spite of one’s best efforts to be different, do humans often wind up to be morally just like their parents?

Reply from Gus Griffin: There’s a particular mistake that I see parents making all of the time. They want their kids to have everything that they didn’t have, so they put even their children’s superficial wants ahead of their own existential needs. In other words, they defer their own path to self-actualization in preference to facilitating whatever they can for their children.

And what do they achieve by all this sacrifice? What they are really doing is role modelling for their children how not to get what you want out of life and never find your bliss because there are more important things in life than actually being happy. Yes, it’s that stupid.

And the gorgeous little darlings—attentive instinctive emulators all—then act out the same self-frustrating saga in their own adult lives. For we do as you do—Mummy and Daddy—not as you say.

Yes, there is some pendulum swing from one generation to the next, where as parents we go out of our way to not to do to our children the things our parents did to us, or to make a point of doing those things that our parents failed to do with us. But this only plays out at a conscious level—we try to redress the parenting that we consciously didn’t like or didn’t agree with.

Meanwhile, at the preconscious instinctive level, a much deeper molding is going on governed by the mechanism of role modelling. Most of these parental effects upon you are hidden to your conscious mind; you take these tendencies of yours completely for granted or it doesn’t occur to you that you picked them up from your parents. Thus habits are carried from one generation to the next at a subliminal level.

If you can’t see it in yourself, you can never escape that particular aspect of this cycle which carries on down through the ages. If Dad or Mum thought, felt or acted in a particular way, there’s at least half a chance that you might end up behaving that way too—without knowing it.

There’s a lot more detail to know about what causes this modeling mechanism to take effect when it does—and when it doesn’t—but the basic principles as stated above are accurate.

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Posted September 9, 2019 at 10:15 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

Tis nobler to focus than suffer

Question asked on Quora today:  Who is anxiousexual? How to overcome this?  

Reply from Gus Griffin: The human brain automatically, instinctively fears unfamiliar activities before it accepts them. Sometimes this phase is passed quickly and easily, but sometimes it takes real work to get beyond it.

Lots of younger kids experience fear of the ball when they are just getting started in Little League baseball – and for some this fear can persist, continuing to interfere with the player’s performance, for years. Some people experience anxiety and even fear when trying to learn how to drive a car – and continue to be timid, anxious drivers for a long time to come.

Anxiety associated with the various activities involved with physical mating—flirting, dating, kissing, caressing, petting, foreplay, lovemaking, etc—is no different. It’s all the same stuff.

The functional difference with sexual anxiety, however, is that it’s not as easy to work through your anxieties by continually repeating the activity that makes you anxious. It’s a lot easier to get someone to play catch with you than it is to get them to go to bed with you. Or is it?

Joking aside, you can work through quite a bit of anxiety with just role playing it out with a friend. (It may seem ridiculous at first, but if you persist past the giggles it will definitely help to reduce nervousness.) All deliberate imaginary practice helps to develop the pertinent brain circuitry past the early phobic phase of neural development.

What you mustn’t do is continue to avoid the activity – you must push yourself into doing whatever you can make yourself do until gradually it starts to get easier. Like Bill Murray in What About Bob?: baby steps.

Google “how to overcome nerves” and you should find various things you can to do to de-stress about it even before you find a willing sexual partner.

And you can always pay for a sex therapist to help you work through all of this.

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Posted September 8, 2019 at 11:54 am by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

True strength is also wholesome

Question asked on Quora today:  With the apparent absence of absolute good in reality, what should be valued? What has enough inherent value to the human person to make him or her better for loving it? Are personal inclinations and passions enough?

Reply from Gus Griffin: Short answer: yes, personal inclinations and passions are enough.

When you are in your bliss—dancing with your particular muse—flexing your forte—whatever you want to call being in your element (as Ken Robinson calls it), you are exercising your highest aptitudes. This also brings out your best attitudes. It also accelerates your ability to learn how to do even better. (It is when you are trying to improve your weaker aptitudes that you have difficulty learning how to do so, not when you are exercising your strengths.)

Finding and concentering your life upon applying your greatest powers is your escalator to true self-actualisation. This transcends even the desire to achieve good things for others.

When you are dancing with your muse for the sheer joy of it—right now, not for what it will bring in the future—that is when you are actually doing the rest of the world the most good, whether you are trying to or not.

If it brings healthy bliss, the means is its own justification, and automatically results in the most constructive ends.

It is the people who have got this ass-backwards—thinking the supposedly constructive ends they pursue justify whatever questionable means they employ to get there—these are the ones who are destroying our planet and undermining most of what is good in their benighted self-entitled monomania. Machiavelli has a lot to answer for.

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Posted September 7, 2019 at 5:25 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

You are better than you know

Question asked on Quora today:  Have you ever had an experience that made you realize that the human potential is far greater than we think?

Reply from Gus Griffin:  My life is filled with such experiences almost every day. With every Instinx coaching session, our clients actualise their potential more and more, never to fade back again.

I know, that sounds like a plug for my coaching, but all I can do is answer your question honestly rather than dishonestly play down what actually happens.

When I say “actualise their potential” I am not referring to internal improvements like confidence or self-esteem. Yes, those qualities inexorably improve with every session, but the real test of whether someone’s potential is being realized or not (made real in the real world) is in the tangible, measurable outcomes they achieve.

At the beginning of every coaching session we check what has changed or improved in the real world since the previous session—and generally we expect our clients to report results which exceed their expectations.

Within the bounds of neurophysiology and physics, the main thing which functionally limits what a person is achieving is their own ambition, not their ability. I always get excited when I come across someone whose great ambition is seriously testing their capabilities (and they are rare!), because then I know the gains I help them to develop will be full utilized out in the broad arena of life where they are most sorely needed.

What’s really wrong with the world is how little most people are actively trying to achieve, not how limited their ability actually is. The response to big problems that we all excuse ourselves with—Yes, but what can I do about it?—should be taken much more seriously. “What can I do about it?” is a question that can only be answered accurately in the attempt, not in the mere contemplation of action.

No-one knows what he or she is already capable of until they start attempting what appears impossible to them. And more often than not, they surprise themselves.

“If you want to change the world, who do you begin with? Yourself or others? I believe if we begin with ourselves and do the things we need to do and become the best person we can be, we have a much better chance of changing the world for the better.” — Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Sociologically speaking, probably the biggest favour you can ever do for yourself is to hang out more with people who are more ambitious than you. As some of that rubs off on you, you will begin to get more interested in finding out what you—yes, little old you—are also truly capable of. 

Get ready to be amazed.

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Posted September 1, 2019 at 2:57 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

The real solution to any bad habit

Question asked on Quora today:  What is the psychological phenomenon that prevents people from ridding themselves of bad habits?

Reply from Gus Griffin:  Excellent question. The basic thing which makes habits tenacious is compulsive avoidance.

It appears that we are “stuck in” repeating some behavior—that our fixation is on the behaviour being repeated—and certainly that is the obvious consequence of a bad habit. But the actual cause of the bad behaviour being repeated is that we are compulsively avoiding some other behaviour.

For instance, a person plagued by some phobia—let’s say a fear of flying—is really compulsively refusing to relax and accept the experience. Most people, when subjected to some activity that makes them nervous, but which they have to go through anyway, deliberately decide to let it happen. They choose to accept it and see how it goes. (And if nothing goes wrong, they get used to accepting it and eventually the nerves go away.)

But the phobic person continues to freak out because their mind continues to avoid accepting the situation—it jacks up and refuses to just “go with the flow”. That’s the real mechanism that is holding the habit in place.

So trying to “get rid” of a bad habit doesn’t work. You can work to sort of control it or cage it, but the pressure of the habit usually finds some way of being manifested, even if it is just in elevating your stress levels. Thus addicts following the 12 Steps have to keep on affirming that they are addicts to make sure they never let their “habit” (addiction) escape its bounds again.

In fact, there is nothing to “fix”, simply a better, more functional behaviour that needs to be embraced. Every bad habit is really the dark side of a dichotomy: find the related light side and embrace it (cease avoiding it) and the bad habit disappears—never to return. We do this every day for people with Instinx Performance Coaching.

Btw, 99% of the psychologists and psychiatrists I have come across have no inkling of this. They continue to try to drown mental disorders with drugs or a search for the “true source” (in the person’s past) of the negative symptoms. Sometimes they get lucky when their questioning causes the patient to look at something he or she has been avoiding looking at—thus reducing the intensity of the avoidance which is fueling the disorder—but mostly they only succeed in making people more introverted and dopey.

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Posted August 29, 2019 at 10:51 am by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

Mastering Your Fate

Question asked on Quora today:  How does society hinder us from living up to our fullest potential?

Reply from Gus Griffin:  There’s a thousand different ways that “society” operates to interfere or distract from our own self-actualisation, but to consider any of them as an explanation for why you haven’t done better so far is a big mistake. A REALLY BIG MISTAKE!

Forget about how the external world may be making things difficult for you. True or not, it is not helpful to focus on it. It’s much more important and productive of results to focus on how you personally could change to more fully live up to your potential.

How are you getting in your own way? Or better still, how could you be acting truer to yourself?

As Ken Robinson recommends: find your element and align your life to pursuing it—then the circumstances around you will sort themselves out.

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Posted August 23, 2019 at 3:37 am by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Optimum Interning

Question asked on Quora today:  What are some unexpected benefits from being “self-taught” in something?

Reply from Gus Griffin:  There are advantages and drawbacks to both learning approaches, whether: a) you are setting your own learning agenda, or b) someone else is deciding what you need to learn first, second, etc.

When your learning is self-selected you are more likely to be able to use what you learn because you will be following an instinctive learning agenda whether you are aware of it or not. If you trust your mind to learn what it needs when it needs it, you will find it easier to retrieve and use your learning later on when you need it. You will be more likely to “think with your subject” rather than follow “now I am supposed to” memories of what you were told.

On the other hand, the learner doesn’t know what they don’t know. When your learning is guided by someone with greater expertise, then it is likely to be more comprehensive and with less blank spots you don’t realise you are overlooking or lacking. Even when they don’t possess greater expertise, a good teacher will still seek to feed you knowhow in a layered sequence that should make it easier for you to smoothly progress through levels of competence, thus protecting you from biting off more than you can chew until you become well grounded in the basics.

The most important thing to know about truly adaptive human learning is that it is always fundamentally based upon emulation: seeking to be able to do what you see others can do (and then also seeking to surpass that if sufficiently motivated). Even 2nd-hand learning from books etc is still based on imagined emulation – if not, if it’s just facts remembered, then the so-called learning is non-adaptive and will be useless “busy-work”.

People learn most effectively when they have the freedom to try out different ways of copying what other people can do. This is a natural process of finding what works for you, what fits with your particular personality and concenters your best aptitudes upon the task. Leaving plenty of room for such personal adjusting of knowhow also breeds the most interesting and useful innovations.

So, as a manager and teambuilder for over 20 years, I found it most effective to pair up my new recruits to work under a hand-picked series of more experienced staff, one after the other. You can’t always tell who an apprentice or intern will find it easiest to emulate (learn from), so I would watch how each did with the role model assigned – and when his or her improvement seemed slow or leveled off, I would then re-pair them with the next role model I had in mind.

When I found a good match—where the newby was clearly making good progress gaining in competence—I might leave that pair together for six months or more. This informal method of apprenticing obtained the best from both worlds: allowing the learner to acquire knowhow at their own pace and in their own way, but through exposing them to different styles of expertise within their field.

I also required all my staff to let their assistants sit-in and observe any work they wished to (as long as they didn’t neglect their assigned duties), so they had access to everything the senior was doing as they wanted it. In practice, each assistant would then gradually take duties off their senior’s plate as they came to feel competent enough to do so … until they had ultimately learned the whole job at their own pace and in their own way and from a variety of role models, simply by following their own natural learning inclinations.

Painless apprenticing while maximizing integration of natural talents. Most so-called teaching clashes with a person’s instinctive learning processes far too much to obtain optimum results.

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Posted August 14, 2019 at 4:09 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

Overcoming their avoidance

Question asked on Quora today:  Why is everybody always complaining about the way the world is but so insistent they could never do anything to change it?

Reply from Gus Griffin:  The short answer is that very few people are capable of thinking for themselves.

They could certainly become more capable of thinking for themselves if it was expected of them, but the stronger people in their lives don’t want them to. So it continues to be easier to let others do their important thinking for them—their family, their religion, the norms of their peer group, their bosses, etc—and thus their ability to think for themselves becomes atrophied.

When he or she is confronted by someone who wants them to do something about what’s wrong—someone who does not resemble the people they normally “follow”—they are suddenly confronted by this whole other way of thinking that they have been avoiding. Especially if you are asking them to disagree with what they are currently being told to think.

It is actually easier (but not easy!) to get most people to switch who they follow than it is to get them to think for themselves. You are not just asking them to change their approach to a specific issue, you are actually asking them to swim against the general tide of how they conduct their life—which is much more confronting on the inside than it may appear to be on the outside.

Insisting (continuing to believe) they can’t do anything about it is their way of sticking to what works for them and thus staying inside their comfort zone.

In order to get people actually fixing what you think is wrong, you have to get them following you instead of the other guy—which is hard work and also an awful lot of responsibility–unless you are a control-freak and just love having a lot of people hanging on your every word.

Or you can get people actually acting on their own judgment and initiative: but to do that you have to overcome their habitual avoidance first. You have to keep on directing their attention to what actually needs attention (and what can be done about it) until slowly their aversion to looking straight at the problem is dispelled and they can see it for themselves. (This usually requires great patience and persistence.)

Once he or she can willingly look at it without cringing or feeling overwhelmed, only then can you get them to consider what to do about it. But then you will have an intelligent helper—a comrade—instead of a bumbling follower. You have liberated them from their cocoon.

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Posted August 13, 2019 at 1:29 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

Tapping Intelligence

Question asked on Quora today:  How can you immediately notice whether somebody is intelligent or not?

Reply from Gus Griffin:  A common misunderstanding about intelligence is that it is a general capability like health or physical strength. It is not. We are actually intelligent at some things and not at others.

I have been coaching high-performing individuals for over 30 years and I have never met anyone who was intelligent at everything they did. In fact, I have often been amazed at how stupid at some things otherwise highly-capable people can be.

So – intelligence is relative to aptitude. Intelligence is an indicator of high aptitude (talent). When a person appears intelligent to you, they are concentered on utilizing their strengths: their highest aptitudes. (‘Concentered’ is an old word which means bringing your powers to bear on the problem or situation.)

And when a person appears unintelligent or stupid to you it is because the situation they are in is not calling on their strengths but making them rely on weak areas instead. The people who appear most intelligent in life are the ones who have figured out how to put their best foot forward; who have arranged things so that they avoid situations where they are called upon to do what they aren’t good at and mainly stick with activities they are good at.

The more you concentrate on doing what you are good at, the more people will want you to keep on doing that, instead of wanting you to do what you are not good at. That’s the real secret to success in life – because you also learn fastest where your aptitude is high, and have the greatest difficulty learning and changing where your aptitude is low.

The easiest way to improve your personal performance is by continuing to develop your strengths: that is your high road to excellence.

These are important and practical things to know about utilizing intelligence, but they don’t fully answer your question of how to recognize it. For this, I refer you to Abraham Maslow, one of the most influential psychologists of the 20th Century. He labelled the most psychologically healthy human beings as self-actualising individuals.

Such people may not always score the highest on IQ tests, but definitely they are most intelligently going about living their life—which is, of course, much more important. Here is Maslow’s list of the traits of such people—based on decades of research by one of our greatest researchers into the human mind:

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Posted August 13, 2019 at 12:36 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

Dealing with Depression

Question asked on Quora today:  Is depression a sign of mental weakness?

Gus’s reply: The idea of one person being mentally weaker than another is an outdated expression, not because the words are invalid – everyone has mental strengths and mental weaknesses – but because the expression was once used to peg someone as being inferior to others.

As a performance coach, every day I work with the mental strengths and weaknesses of people. In that context, we think of a mental weakness as something that impairs a person ability to perform in life as he or she would like to, some mental trait that is making it difficult for them to get the outcomes from their actions they are hoping for. So the comparison here is not between people but between the performing reality of a person and the performance he or she desires – in this context people seldom find the use of the word “weakness” as offensive.

Manners and political correctness aside, there is such a thing as strong performers and weak performers in every field of human endeavour. In most cases, this is easy to measure and thus establish objectively. But to then extend this to calling a person mentally weak is generally considered offensive and is also factually incorrect.

Any person’s performing, measurable weakness or strength is always relative to the activity being engaged in. I admit that I am weak at thinking with numbers (accounting, algebra, etc), so I guess that means it is a “mental weakness” of mine – (though putting it in those terms would make most people wince these days). But I am mentally strong at other activities – like putting myself in other people’s shoes (empathy) – which makes me a good coach.

My older sister, Margaret, who sadly passed on some years ago, was born with a genetic condition called Fragile X Syndrome which resulted in her IQ being well below average. Throughout school, she was always put in the “slow learner” special needs class. Whereas my older brother and my younger sister were both assessed as having genius level IQs and were consistent straight-A students.

But it was Margaret who turned out to be the best money manager in my family. Somehow, she just had a knack with numbers which made her the best practical economist of us all. My so-called genius siblings often found themselves borrowing money off Margaret just to get along in life.

So who was the one with the real “mental weakness”??? I don’t care how “weak” a person may appear to you on the surface, if you go looking for them you will find plenty of strengths they could be encouraged to focus on more thoroughly.

In my job I have found that it’s much more beneficial to help people get a clearer idea of their strengths, rather than their weaknesses. It is easy to learn how to improve your performance at things you are already good at, whereas it is difficult to learn how to fix your weaknesses. So people who learn to rely on their strengths to help them along in life are always much more successful than people who fixate on fixing or “getting rid of” their weaknesses.

So what does all this have to do with depression? The more you can focus on what you’re good at, and keep on improving in those areas, the less depressed any person will feel. So the final answer to your question is a definitive No!

Depression is not a sign of mental weakness, it is a sign of fixating on your weaknesses. And believe me, we all have them to fixate on, just as we all have strengths we could be relying on more than we are.

If you are feeling depressed, I suggest you go and do my Talent Tuneup (for free!), which will give you a general idea of activities you could focus on to make you feel less depressed.

(If you can’t trust me enough to give us your phone number, which the Tuneup requires, then you can read all about the concepts embodied in the Tuneup and try to do it by yourself here.)

And if you want to know about your strengths in more detail than that, then I suggest you spend twenty bucks on Gallup’s online Strengthfinder.

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Posted August 9, 2019 at 2:06 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc