What is the hardest concept to wrap your mind around?

I was asked the question above on Quora today.

My answer: 

Interesting question. My contribution is not the hardest, but it is definitely up there as one of the most influential concepts that almost everybody has difficulty wrapping their wits around from time to time.

Namely, that what is obvious to you is not obvious to the next guy.

It doesn’t take long before a toddler discovers that other people have some strange ways at looking at things … or not seeing things. So we should be used to the idea by the time we reach adulthood; but we seldom are.

Intellectually we do know that other people don’t think “like I think”, but that doesn’t stop us from routinely being amazed at their purblind obliviousness.

The funny part is that the very same people whose stupidity (which literally means dimmed perception) you are sputtering about are looking back at you and being utterly dumbfounded at your pig-headed obtuseness.

Why we all aren’t naturally drawn to see the advantage in each other’s differing awarenesses – so we can benefit from it – is a question for the ages. Such is the divine comedy.

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Posted October 4, 2016 at 5:05 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

If someone is upset with you …

Asked of me on Quora today: If you sense someone is angry and is going to hold a grudge instead of acknowledging it, what can you do to reconcile?

My Answer:

What’s needed is what I like to call: Deep Listening.

People get upset when they feel their communication is being impeded or prevented.

You may not specifically be making it hard for them to express themselves – it may be their own shyness or awareness of the social unacceptability of what they want to express to you that is making them feel that way. Nevertheless, the frustration of the situation will get projected onto you one way or the other.

Basically, to clear the upset, you have to get the “uncommunicated” communicated. Make it safe for them to express what they want you to know and the grudge will suddenly or gradually dispel.

You might say something disarming like: Help me out here, there’s obviously something I’m not getting. What do you feel I should know?

You don’t have to agree with it, but you do have to make it clear that you have truly understood their point of view. Then the upset will dissipate. And try not to do it while others are observing, which might make it more difficult for the person to speak up.

For a deeper understanding, check out this talk by Prof Needleman of SFU:

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Posted October 1, 2016 at 4:18 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

What study gives me the highest chance of becoming succesful in 10 – 20 years?

This question was asked of me on Quora today:

Of course, I understand that the most important things to become successful is working hard, working smart, trying and failing a lot, and having a creative mindset. But your study also plays an important role, but I just feel lost in the choice that allows me to build up success and fun.

My answer: I think this is an important question for all sorts of people, not just those who are still in school. So I’ve taken the time to read all 13 answers given so far before deciding that it would be useful to throw in my two bits worth as well.

And I do see a lot of good advice. I think the most insightful answer so far is that of Eric Worrall’s: ‘mastering skills sufficiently to become one of the best in your field requires obsession.’

Most answers given so far can be broadly classified into either: a) futureproofing or b) self-actualising. Ideally, your plan should take in both: a) preparing for a job that is sure to be in high demand in the future, which also b) calls upon you to “put your best foot forward.”

Science fiction writer and cyberpunk messiah, William Gibson, once said: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.” While it may be difficult for the would-be futureproofer to predict discontinuous, disruptive developments that haven’t arrived yet; it’s really not that hard to spot already existing pockets of change which are likely to keep on growing.

As Marshall Gass suggests, clearly nanotechnology is one, as is computer science suggested by Vijay Nabadur. It’s pretty easy to spot others. For instance, climate change is producing an exponentially increasing number of disasters around the world every year: so any job in emergency services is likely to be secure. And, as governments put more resources into providing those services, there will be less available to fund the normal protections we are used to: so the private security industry will almost certainly continue to grow for a long time to come.

Within 10 years, apparently only 20% of jobs will be considered permanent, so finding and negotiating employment contracts for people is definitely a growth industry. With a little bit of homework, you will find it easy to spot several more.

In my experience, most industries develop a distinctive vibe or ethos: so it might be a good idea to sample a number of likely growth industries by doing a bit of work experience in each one that interests you, until you find a truly sympatico work environment. Personally, I spent way too many years in the advertising industry, always feeling a trifle embarrassed to be grouped with so many bullshit artists. It was a great relief when I finally escaped into marketing management and eventually managing others’ performance.

On the self-actualising side of the equation, there is one piece of advice given here which is definitely plain wrong: please do not waste your time on training to improve in your weak areas. It’s boring, demotivating and seldom makes any difference to what you end up doing. If some uncongenial role is essential to advancing your career, pay someone who is good at it to do it for you.

If you want to be successful, you gotta stick to what you’re good at:

Aptitude is like colour: there’s a spectrum of human aptitudes.

While human aptitudes can be applied to a kaleidoscope of different undertakings; they do arrange themselves into this spectrum of natural inclinations. By ‘value’ is meant an awareness and ability to produce/deliver something of value to others. By ‘connection’ is meant an awareness and ability to see where more or better connection between living entities would be helpful. By ‘number’ is meant an awareness and ability to quantify, track, measure and generally bring order to activity. *

You have the highest aptitude for the things you find it easiest to do; and the lowest aptitude for the things you find it most difficult to do. And this inclination comprises not just a special ability, but also a special awareness of where this ability could be applied to produce some improvement.

So, in the area of your highest aptitude, it is also most obvious to you what is needed – and you are regularly astonished that it is not obvious to others. In the area of your lowest aptitude, you are oblivious to what is really needed – and that blindness in you repeatedly astonishes other people.

So you exhibit the most intelligence where you have the highest aptitude; and the least intelligence where you have the lowest aptitude.

You find it easiest to concentrate when performing your highest aptitudes – and concentrate for longer; and your attention span is shortest where your aptitude is lowest.

Most importantly, you find it easiest to learn and improve your performance where your aptitude is highest; and most difficult to improve where your aptitude is lowest.

You memory works best with regard to your highest aptitude; and worst with regard to your lowest. And so on.

Somewhere on this spectrum lies your forté, your potential superpower: the thing you could possibly become better than anybody else in the whole world at doing.

If you’re interested, you can do this Talent Tuneup to get a better idea of what part of the spectrum to look in for your forte. (But it won’t pinpoint it exactly: discovering and developing your superpower is a much bigger job. See also this piece on responding to your perception of what is needed.)

(Currently the scoring process for the Tuneup is manual. If someone on Quora with some javascript skills would like to help make it automatic, then we could give an instant result without requiring contact details.)

The problem with Aptitude is that it doesn’t announce itself. It just makes things easier than other things. So, as a child, you don’t really notice what you’re “good at” until you see how really bad at it that other people are. (Unless you have a parent, grandparent or someone else giving you the necessary feedback and acknowledgement.)

And because it comes so easily, even when it’s clear to you what you’re best at, most people make the mistake of not valuing this enough. They don’t realise it’s their natural meal ticket, their door opener to the “top”.

A classic example of this is my own experience on the football field as a teenager. To use the latest NFL jargon, my “leg talent” (running) was superb. Nobody, but nobody, could get away from me (on defense) or stay with me (on offense). Because I could always get open, I was usually picked to play in the wide receiver position.

But my “hand talent” (catching) was pathetic. So my own quarterbacks learned to hate me: because I always tempted them by getting open, but almost never caught the passes they threw to me.

I knew I wasn’t any good at catching, but I didn’t want to give in to that reality, I kept on thinking that practise would make it better. Notice the bad judgement andslow learning where one’s aptitude is low.

No kid wants to play defense if they can get an offensive position, so I continued failing as a wide receiver. A little bit of mentoring would have seen me leading the league as a cornerback … but nobody noticed. Like Brando in ‘Waterfront’ – I coulda been a contenda! – if I knew just a little bit more about aptitude.

To finally answer your question, the best type of training to pursue is what I like to call aptitude-biased education. Humans are hugely adaptable, so it’s not necessary to rigidly pursue a particular vocational curriculum. Feel free to range as widely as you want in your learning explorations, it’s all grist to the mill for your forté. But do take note of when you find it easiest to sustain your concentration and when you don’t.

Your mind will find ways to harness the most unexpected bits of information in service to your forté as long as you continue to focus on becoming a connoisseur of what comes easily for you and what doesn’t.

(Please note: having your attention grabbed and held by something compulsively – like computer games or other activities designed to be moreish – is not the same as concentrating easily. The way to tell the difference between focus and obsession is by personal power of choice. If you can easily decide to do it or not do it as you please, you are on track.)

Hope this helps. There’s more bits and pieces about this in other Quora answers of mine and on my GREAT INSTINCTS blog.

* Just as there is more to colour than its hue (such as also its saturation and brightness), there is more than one parameter to human aptitude. So it’s really more accurate to say that aptitudes arrange themselves into a number of complementary spectra. For instance, one’s learning modality or style is another parameter of aptitude. Some people perceive more easily (and thus finely) through their sense of hearing, others through their visual sense and others through physical sensation. This also results in the person being more inclined to communicate through sound, through sight or through physical movement (including facial expression).

The Value/Connection/Number parameter shown above is the one most easily matched to jobs in the workplace, so I used it as the main example.

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Posted October 1, 2016 at 2:31 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

The problem boss is not the real problem

I was asked on Quora today: How can I work with my direct manager who hates me and believes I’m aggressive and need ‘discipline’ no matter what I do?

I tried so hard for months to prove to my manager that I was very friendly, very humble and did not take myself very seriously, but for some reason he is convinced I am very aggressive and a snob. He undermines me in front of the team and he’s done everything he could to mess with my self esteem.

My answer:

I really don’t understand why people are willing to take so much shit from their bosses. Back in 1986, at the age of 34, I finally figured out that as long as I continued as an employee I was never going to have control of my working conditions because my employer could change my boss on me anytime they wanted to. So that was my last year as an employee – ever since I have picked my own “bosses” (clients) and promptly dumped them if they didn’t show enough respect.

If the average person put a fraction of the effort they normally put into pleasing their boss, into learning how to jobhunt instead, or into finding the right agent who will find good jobs for you, they would be a lot happier and end up earning a lot more money as well.

The answer to your question is to improve your jobhunting skills to the point where you know you have power of choice over whether you keep your current job or not. When you know you have that freedom, your attitude to your current job will change, and if your boss is any good, he will sense it and start treating you with more respect.

If he’s not any good, then he will keep on pulling the same shit and you will quite happily tell him where to stick it. And if you feel like it, you can also go to his boss and say: Either he goes or I do!

‘Power of choice’ is an extremely important mental quality. You will always perform better and achieve better results at the jobs you choose to do, compared to the jobs you feel you have to do.

So wake up! You don’t need to be a better mindreader or bootlicker. You need to emancipate yourself.


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Posted September 28, 2016 at 10:37 am by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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Can intuition be taught or learned?

I was asked this question on Quora today: Can intuition be taught or learned?

My answer:

It’s easy to run into problems of semantics on this. When talking about intuition, what one person means when they use the word ‘taught’ or ‘learn’ is often quite different to what another person understands.

Intuition – which is basically a sense of what to do or believe based on instinctive, faster-than-conscious reactions – becomes more accurate and thus helpful as your familiarity with some aspect of life increases. What your instincts urge is based on progressively better information and so it will gradually become more appropriate to gaining what you want. But it is the information about the circumstances that is improving, not your innate intuitive faculty.

This is equivalent to pointing out the obvious that it is easier to appear intelligent about things you know about than things you don’t know about. It is also easier to be intuitive about things you know about than things you don’t know about.

This is what is actually improving when most people say that their intuition is getting better.

It is also obvious that one can make a study of their intuition and get a better sense of when to listen to it and when not. In exactly the same way that we all learn how well to trust our sense of balance or our aptitude for numbers. You learn when to rely on them and when not to. So this is another form of “learning” about intuition which results in better choices, but the innate intuitive faculty hasn’t improved any more than your sense of balance has improved unless you undergo special training designed to improve it.

Finally, yes, it is also possible to awaken dormant instincts so that the wisdom of your intuition steadily and permanently improves. However, most people don’t know how to do this – even if they claim that they do. They simply appear to be improving intuition in the ways described above.

For more information on actually improving the intuitive faculty itself, see my Great Instincts blog.

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Posted September 24, 2016 at 5:12 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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What to do when fear shuts you down

Question asked me on Quora: What can you do if all of your instincts are overshadowed by your fears so that you have no instincts to rely on?

Answer from Gus: There’s nothing mystical about instinctive reactions. Instincts are simply a rapid-response system of the mind. ‘Conscious decision-making’ is a slower more considered response system of the mind. Between the two of them, plus the autonomic system which is supposed to keep the body running smoothly in most environments, they have evolved to help us stay alive and propagate.

Some people tend to attribute some special rightness or knowing to an instinctive response. This is just silly. Not possessing the ability to accurately identify causes in life, they end up “believing” in things which may not have any validity at all.

An instinctive reaction, like any other mental function, may competently deal with whatever stimulus triggered it – or it may not. It may be helpful to achieving your purposes or it may be unhelpful. So instinctive reactions are either appropriate to deal with current circumstances – in which case they make things better – or they are inappropriate – in which case they will make things worse.

Fear is an instinctive response. Something (maybe many things) is triggering your fears. From what you write, it sounds like most of your fears are inappropriate reactions: they are shutting you down instead of simply preventing harm from actual threats (the real purpose of the fear instinct).

If you had less fear reactions, then you would be freer to respond to life in other ways: both instinctly and intentionally. So to answer your question specifically: reduce your fear reactions and the other instincts will emerge.

One way to do this is simply to practise taking over the direction of your attention whenever you find yourself feeling fearful. Simply deliberately focus on a physical point and hold your attention on that point as best you can until you no longer feel your attention is being grabbed by how things could go wrong. Practice doing this whenever you feel your mind racing or freaking out and gradually you will find yourself taking over the direction of your attention at any time of day.

You can find more detailed info on how to do this here.

And here’s another answer which tells you more about the nature of fear: How do you know if it is fear talking to you or your intuition warning you?

That was my answer on Quora. Of course, if you already have the Instinx technique under your belt, you can do so much more … for yourself and for others. Imagine a community, or even just a family, free from phobia. Free to amaze themselves with what they can do when fear isn’t holding them back.

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Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:30 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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How can I reduce pressure stemming from self doubt?

Question from Quora: How can I reduce pressure stemming from self doubt?

Response from Gus:

Self-doubt most often stems from over-focussing on what you want to achieve that you haven’t achieved yet. In other words, you’re concentrating on becoming something better so much that you lose sight of what’s already good about you or your situation.

This produces the recoil effect of also making you especially aware of what you currently lack: and it is this effect that generates feelings of self-doubt.

This is the psychological equivalent of the proverbial donkey with the carrot hanging from a stick a foot in front of his nose. No matter how hard he reaches for it, he remains stuck in a state of becoming: which gives him a churning in the guts, a perpetual sense of life as struggle and an enforced awareness of his own shortcomings.

The difference for a person with this orientation, when it’s habitual, is that even when they do achieve things it never feels like its enough. They are still the donkey chasing the carrot.

The solution is instead to count your blessings: focus first on what you’ve achieved already, what you are able to handle well, what is already pleasing about your current situation. From this self-reinforcing orientation you will then discover you have a greater ability to add to what is already good in your life. This is a much more effective way of approaching life.

It may sound here like I’m just playing with words, but working to re-orient your attitude towards self in this way does actually give you greater ability to achieve what you want. Try it! When you doubt yourself, remind yourself of what you do have going for you and hold your attention on that. Greater confidence will emerge.

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Posted May 31, 2016 at 2:19 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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What are the characteristics of a mentally strong person?

Question from Quora: What are the characteristics of a mentally strong person?

Response from Gus:

Abraham Maslow, famous modern philosopher in the field of psychology, identified the most psychologically healthy people in the world as self-actualising individuals.

Assuming that “psychologically healthy” equates with “mentally strong”, here is a list of the traits of such people. This is based on decades of research by one of the great geniuses of the psychological world:

  • keen sense of reality – aware of real situations – objective judgement, rather than subjective
  • see problems in terms of challenges and situations requiring solutions, rather than see problems as personal complaints or excuses
  • need for privacy and comfortable being alone
  • reliant on own experiences and judgement – independent – not reliant on culture and environment to form opinions and views
  • not susceptible to social pressures – non-conformist
  • democratic, fair and non-discriminating – embracing and enjoying all cultures, races and individual styles
  • socially compassionate – possessing humanity
  • accepting others as they are and not trying to change people
  • comfortable with oneself – despite any unconventional tendencies
  • a few close intimate friends rather than many surface relationships
  • sense of humour directed at oneself or the human condition, rather than at the expense of others
  • spontaneous and natural – true to oneself, rather than being how others want
  • excited and interested in everything, even ordinary things
  • creative, inventive and original
  • seek peak experiences that leave a lasting impression
  • Source: Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and diagrams of Maslow’s motivational theory

(Students of Instinx will notice how much these points also provide an accurate description of the Instinctive Enthusiast. I wasn’t familiar with Maslow when I started researching instinctive behaviour in 1989, but caught up with his work around 2004 and was greatly heartened to see how much we were both on the same track, albeit from very different starting points. The path to becoming a truly self-actualising individual is now fully surveyed and easy to travel.)

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Posted May 28, 2016 at 2:26 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
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The very best kind of salesmanship

I came across this Q & A on Quora today:

Question: What are the skills you learned as an FBI hostage negotiator that you use the most in business?

Answer from Chris Voss, Author of Never Split The Difference, CEO of The Black Swan Group:

Getting a “That’s right” out of a counterpart using the “summary” skill. It’s awesome! If you do a summary right, you get a “that’s right” out of whomever you’re negotiating with followed by a breakthrough of some sort. You don’t always know what that breakthrough will be so you have to remember “Never be so sure of what you want that you wouldn’t take something better”.

We used a ‘summary’ in a negotiation in the Philippines to take a ransom demand from the millions of dollars to $0 in one conversation. The terrorist had all sorts of ridiculous reasons for the multi-million dollar demand. And he didn’t call it ransom; he said it was “war damages”. 500 years of oppression from the Spanish to the Japanese to the Americans. Economic damages, violations of fishing rights. Injustice. You name it, he thought it up.

None of it made sense and that still didn’t matter. We tried reason for months to get him out of it. No progress. Finally I had our negotiator summarize everything the terrorist said and how he felt about it in one conversation. Give him no room to say anything other than “that’s right”. My negotiator did a great summary and the key part is including how the other side feels about it. It almost sounds like you’re talking them into it! The terrorist said “that’s right” and never mentioned money again.

This same skill of “summary” to get a “that’s right” has triggered breakthrough in everything from a Korean negotiating with his Korean boss to support him for a promotion to an advertising executive in LA trying to hold her price for some work.

The advertising executive told me she was negotiating with a client and was about to give in and cut her price. Instead of cutting her price, she just repeated a full ‘summary’ of the situation and facts to the client and how the client felt about it. “You’re really looking for a good value here to boost your business. It’s really important to you and this seems expensive. You’re whole livelihood is on the line and you don’t want to waste money. You want to put a lot of trust in me and it’s really important to you this is effective.”

Client: “That’s right. We’ve got a deal.”

‘Summary’ is amazing. You’ve got to be willing to let the good deal come to you.

The real reason this summary technique that Chris describes works so well (when it does) is because the person is feeling heard at such a deep and complete level. Professor Jacob Needleman of the University of San Francisco has done some excellent work on listening in depth to someone in order to resolve conflicts and disagreements. These two answers of mine to earlier questions on Quora apply:

Quora Question: What is the best way to nurture a true relationship between a mother and her daughter?
Response from Gus: Listen.

In a disciplined, receptive, respectful, non-reactive manner – listen – no matter how much you might disagree with what you are hearing (or expecting to hear). The moment you react and thus begin to resist what your daughter wants to communicate to you is the exact moment your relationship begins to diminish – and in direct proportion to how much such resistance exists between you.
For a clear idea of how you can listen to things you don’t agree with, see this Youtube video :

I suggest you search out other material from Prof Needleman so you learn to do this well.
Question from Quora: Should answers on Quora be confined to literal direct answers to the question?

Response from Gus: I think the key word in this question is “confined”. When people feel that their communication is being constrained or impeded they begin to get shitty. This happens especially quickly with Americans because they’ve been propagandized (about free speech) since birth that no bastard is allowed to shut them up about anything. The rest of the world might take a little longer to get there, but everybody’s temperature eventually goes up in direct proportion to how much he or she feels their communication is being prevented.

So poor old forum moderators often unleash much more fury than they expect. And if he or she tries to be too efficient, they spoil the game – and we Users pack up our opinions and take them elsewhere.

So the critical factor is not how much the Moderator’s view of what is appropriate differs from the Answerer’s. Obviously, the higher the agreement the better – but people will put up with a helluva lot of things they disagree with as long as they feel heard.

For a happy forum it is vital that Users have someone to express their disagreements to – and that the “powers that be” receive and make clear that they have understood those disagreements, even if they choose not to do anything about them.

Professor Needleman’s work on deep listening provides more insight into how to strengthen relationship despite disagreement: (Same video shown above)

Back in the early days of Instinx research I developed a number of attitudinal first aid techniques. The best known one is Zoning-In (also known as the Concentration Muscle Exercise) described in the Attitude First Aid article available on the Library page of my blog: here
But another lesser known technique – I never did label it so let’s call it the Upset Dissolver now – specifically harnesses this insight about being heard. By identifying who is not hearing the person and what is not getting through, you can dispel virtually any upset, even very severe emotional reactions, very quickly indeed.
(I think the original writeup of this technique is buried somewhere in records stored in Canada, so I will write it up again and post it here as soon as I can.)
By the way, “being heard” is first cousin to “being seen”, the tremendous beneficial effects of which I’ve already mentioned here: Being Seen. If you learn to harness both of these human interaction dynamics (they are much more than mere techniques) well, you are sure to become a very “cooperated with” person indeed.
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Posted May 26, 2016 at 4:51 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc

Where “now” is

Question from Quora: I see connection in everything and live in “now”. How do I keep myself focused when writing answers without “jumping all over the place”?

Gus Griffin’s response:

You are not in the now, you are in your head. You are so far into your head that you can’t even tell that you are not in the now.

To improve natural control over your own attention you must focus on the physical world around you, not on your inner world of thought.

So you need to extrovert your attention at a deep sensory level, get your hands dirty and exert your body doing physical things. Do some gardening. If you can’t do that at home, better still, volunteer to do heavy-duty gardening in public parks or tree-planting or things like that.

Do that and you will find your endlessly fractaling thought patterns begin to relinquish their power over you.

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Posted May 21, 2016 at 5:39 pm by Gus Griffin · Permalink · Leave a comment
In: Misc