What if you were forced to figure things out?
You know that scene in the Pursuit of Happyness where Will Smith is sitting on the floor in the bathroom with his son after everything has come crashing down and he has no place to live and he’s hit rock bottom?
He’s put into a situation where he’s absolutely forced to figure things out.
You’ve heard so many rags to riches stories over the years because when you’re forced to figure things out, whatever it is, we usually do.
But how do you do that when you’re not at rock bottom and there’s no place to go but up? What if you have a reasonably good job and you’re making good money and you know you want something more but honestly it’s really difficult to make it happen?
Benjamin Hardy came on our podcast to talk about exactly why “Willpower doesn’t work in these situations” to make a successful change!
Take a listen to the episode to learn all exactly what you can do instead.
Sunk Costs Make us do Crazy Things
If you’ve ever heard about the sunk cost theory, you may know that the emotion you feel about something you’ve done in the past really often doesn’t have any logical impact on the future.
For example, if I spent $187 on pair of shoes that I actually don’t use anymore (and now despise) I still might be hesitant to get rid of them because I spent such an amount on those shoes.
I don’t even want the shoes but the simple fact that I believe I’ve put so much into those shoes, makes giving them away feel like a loss. Human beings are wired to avoid loss (and the perceived feeling of future loss) at all costs.
It makes us behave in a way that really doesn’t make sense at all.
How to use your sunk costs to your advantage
If we know that having a great cost to something will make us behave irrationally about it then why not use it so that we behave irrationally and do things that we want?
Ben Hardy suggests in his book “Willpower Doesn’t Work” that one way to strengthen your chance of having success in an area of your life is to invest heavily in yourself in that particular area.
In studying varying levels of success, he’s observed that one key difference between “wannabes” and those that achieve success in their respective areas, is the willingness to invest in yourself to the point where it feels like a stretch and makes you uncomfortable.
This, just like the $187 shoes, makes you feel like you have done something at a cost, which then in turn makes you feel and often behave irrationally toward accomplishing your goals.
Although it’s not a scientific study, we even observed that when we raised the price 18 months ago on our Career Change Bootcamp program, instantly the next cohort was gaining success and results faster (super interesting right)?
The lesson here is that this normally “undesirable bias” can be used to your advantage with a little bit of intention.
Learn even more ways to use psychology to your advantage?
In my interview with Ben we talk about 4 more ways to use psychology to attain success. Including the concept of layers of accountability and how to remove everything in conflict with your goal!
Download the transcript below OR take a listen to the episode.
Transcript from Episode
Scott Barlow: Just adopted? congratulations. I saw a little bit about that and read a little bit about that. But super curious not necessarily related to the interview but we have looked into adopting. We have three kids of our own, in the future we may adopt. How long a process was that for you?
Benjamin Hardy: For us it was heinous it was over three year. It was painful and expensive
Scott Barlow: Yes that is what I've heard from other people that have adopted in any capacity.
Benjamin Hardy: Yes it was rough but you know we're good. I mean we did it through the foster system. So that's kind of it. It was intense.
Scott Barlow: Intense sounds right. But I guess most things that are worth doing are intense to some degree.
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. Well I definitely recommend it. I have no regrets about it. Without question.
Scott Barlow: So everybody that I've talked to that has adopted says that but I'm curious why that is for you?
Benjamin Hardy: I mean you don't regret the things that are the most meaningful in your life. When you take a kid in your life and you start to invest huge in them and start to see yourself as their parent and you start to see them change and you start to watch yourself become more caring and loving and just become a better person you start to realize that a lot of the other stuff that you're pursuing doesn't matter that much. It's the most fundamental thing. I mean all this stuff is fun. I love being on the podcast. I love writing. I think I get a lot of meaning and I think a lot of people get a lot of use from my writing. But being a foster parent of these kids was a lot of what inspired me to do what I have done. I don't think I'd be where I'm at had I not done it. I would give up everything I've got to be these kids parents at this point so to me there's no regrets at all. It's more in line with my value system. I'm not thinking about all the things I could have done and the time spent I forget who said it, I think Peter Diamandis he didn't say either or but both you know and so I think you can have a successful career and you can have a great family and that's kind of the life I've chosen that I would choose the family over the career if I had to.
Scott Barlow: Well this is super fascinating to me. I'm curious what would you say is the hardest thing about adopting
Benjamin Hardy: It really wasn't the adoption component that was the hard part I mean we wanted to do adopt for a long time. For me, it was just becoming a foster parent in the first place. It was early in 2015, it was actually January of 2015, that we got the first two children. So there was a 3 year old and a 5 year old. They were siblings and they were rough. They came from a horrible environment. Their parents had totally neglected them. They didn't go to school, they just had horrible manners a long laundry list of psychological diagnoses. The young girl had anger issues she'd throw and break stuff and we just couldn't control these kids.
We found out that they had a 7 year old fully blood brother who was in a group home. We found out about him a couple of months later and we decided that we wanted to get him as well. And so for the first several months of being a foster parent I was in my first year of a Phd. program. So I was avoiding being home. Honestly it was just not fun and the kids didn't love me I didn't really love them. There was no mutual respect or connection. And you know the challenge with kids who come from this level of trauma because not only did they not have any foundation because of their home environment but then they got ripped out of their home environment no matter where you come from there's an enormous amount of confusion and loss. We had to overcome ourselves. You can't just get angry and upset at these kids.
I'm a huge fan of Dr. Gabor Maté’s work and he talks a lot about how you can't change a person through judgment and through criticism only through compassion. And he talks a lot about addiction specifically and he says you can't help someone through judging them. You have to have compassion for them. And Joe Polish a mentor and a friend of mine. He owns Genius Network which is a mastermind I’m a part of. He talks a lot about how you can't punish the pain out of people. He's specifically talking about addicts but I think that's true of all people, especially anyone with suppressed pain and trauma. You can't punish the pain out of them and a person is as sick as their secrets. So what happens is when a person goes through a traumatic experience they usually isolate themselves and they seek to withdraw whether an addict or anyone in pain.
If you think about all of us. So in the book The Body Keeps the Score which is one of the best books on trauma. He talks a lot about how we all have multiple personalities. Most people in Western psychology think that we have one fixed and permanent personality. The truth is we have multiple. There are certain areas of your life that are well developed and there's certain sides of you that are completely underdeveloped and that have been halted or frozen based on some pain or trauma. When that side of you is triggered then you start to cope in unhealthy ways, whether that's eating, technology, or some way to distract yourself from the pain or the thoughts or the emotions the feelings. Basically you know with being these kids foster parents for a while. You have to get to a point where you let go of your own frustrations with their horrible behavior and you've got to figure out how to love them and be patient with them and sit with them through their terribleness. And that took a lot of time.
Scott Barlow: I'm sure that was an understatement.
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah it was rough. I mean this is an example, these kids didn't know how to put themselves to bed because their parents gave them cough syrup to go to bed every night and just put them in front of a TV and they would just doze themselves off whenever they were fried. They didn't actually know how to just put themselves to bed in a healthy way and so we had to spend at least six months with each child laying with them helping them through the process of literally putting themselves to bed. And that was not easy and the kids naturally are a lot more inclined to my wife Lauren than they were to me. Probably just because she's a lot more nurturing, caring and loving as a person. I think they could sense that I didn't love them and I didn't for a long time and so they were very resistant toward me for a while. That made me even trying to help them more difficult. But over time you just get to the point where you know you start to love them more and more and we started to fight in court for the kids and try to adopt them in the court case is really complicated. But in the end we ended up having to fight in court for a long time and ultimately laws had to be changed in the state of South Carolina for us to be able to adopt them.
We have an amazing attorney. His name is Dale Dove and he's represented foster parents trying to adopt for years and he's taken a lot of cases to the Supreme Court in one of his cases finally finalized in January of this year. And it changed the laws in the state allowing foster parents the right to proactively seek adoption if the parent's rights had been terminated. After that happened the legal system saw us as having more rights than they saw us having before and so almost immediately after that happened we were granted adoption which happened actually very suddenly. The laws change we went to court and they just said alright you can have the three kids. Yeah it is really interesting.
So at this point we're still kind of getting used to it. The kids had to have their final visit with their parents which obviously was traumatic saying goodbye and then even though we’ve had them for three years we have to readjust to what it means to have this be a permanent family. So there's a lot. What I've told other people is that having kids especially like this in one of the concepts I talk about in Willpower Doesn't Work is that it's so much better to learn on the spot in a really demanding environment in a tough situation where you're forced to figure things out, forced to adapt, forced to learn, and that's so much better than kind of a non-consequential situation where you can learn in an apathetic or in a passive way like we had to learn in a very active way. And there were huge consequences for ourselves for these kids and just one story, like two weeks ago these kids still have problems and they're probably going to have challenges their whole life as a result of this. But the 10 year old boy and he was seven when we got him. His name is Caleb. He still has a lot of learned helplessness when it comes to learning. When we got him he was probably two years behind; He was in the fifth percentile. But a smart kid he just never was given attention and help he's actually advanced insanely.
Scott Barlow: Smart but not developed.
Benjamin Hardy: A product of a bad environment. Yeah absolutely. And so anyways he still sometimes hits these walls where I think he's got this fixed mindset where if an obstacle comes he just zones and he has learned helplessness. But we were trying to get him to write in his journal more because his teachers we have at the Montessori school, we've got all three of them at Montessori which is awesome for him but they're saying that his writing is still way behind. That's one thing he avoids. So we're trying to get him to start writing in his journal and we give him a topic a night. It is probably a week or two ago at this point two weeks he was sitting there trying to write in his journal and we gave him the topic of just writing about the seven months he was in the group home and he had only written about two or three sentences and then he just said I can't remember anything else. And I was kind of just sitting there in proximity to him, I was sitting next to him but I was kind of just zoned out whether on my phone or something just while he was writing and he kept just complaining saying I can't think of anything else and I'm sick. All right Caleb like you were there for seven months. What kind of food did you eat? Like who are the kids there? He's like I don't remember anyone that was there. I'm like what kind of stuff did you do? What did you like about it? What did you not like? What were some of the activities you did? He's just like I can't remember any of it. And he started crying and just coming up with any excuse to not do it. One of the challenges I think was kind of like a willpower approach to growth is like when a parent just says I just need to do and for me the opposite of willpower is connection just like the opposite of addiction is connection. So rather than trying to force this kid to do something and staying inside and withdrawn I needed to connect to him. I needed to help him have a breakthrough. So I put my phone down. I walked over to the table I pulled out my journal and I just sat with him for like 30 minutes and really tried to help him and he needed a little help getting through those first few sentences. I had to help him more than I wanted to get through a couple of sentences but eventually he started to kind of get a little confidence.
You know there's a lot of research that says it's not confidence that creates success but it's success that creates confidence. That's a little win moving forward and so like I helped him get a few little wins up and get a few senses and I was sitting there with them fully engaged and eventually start writing and he just started writing and 30 minutes later he had a full page done and he was so excited. And he did something he didn't think he could do he did something hard. And I was there to help them have that breakthrough. And ever since then he's been able to write easily a page a day. That's kind of what he needs to do to get better at writing. But that experience showed me a lot of things. One it showed me that I've spent a lot of time away lately trying to do this book launch trying to build my career. And I realized how many opportunities I've probably missed. The fact that that breakthrough probably should have happened six months ago. Where could he be? But also had I not been there that breakthrough still wouldn't have happened. He would still be blocked and so it just shows the power of environment and connection and people. And it made me really ultimately grateful that I have this situation around me that forces me. It's what I call a personal development hub. Being a parent of these kids every day my home environment challenges me to be more present. Figure out how to help these people. That was a really long way of kind of sharing what I've gotten out of this experience.
Scott Barlow: Well let me ask you a couple questions about that. First of all everything about it in some way is traumatic. So I'm curious as you're very much into personal development, very much into psychology what you feel the opportunities are here for yourself and for the kids to experience post-traumatic growth? And as you said the built in hub to some degree where you've got the forced discomfort forced development, what can seem on the surface undesirable situations. But I also think are continually forcing you and them to grow as human beings too. I'm curious from your perspective what do you really see as the overall opportunities to take these traumatic situations, potentially traumatic situations, very traumatic situations in some cases and experience that growth?
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah I mean one of my favorite quotes and it's actually a poem by Douglas Malick, and I actually have an engraving of this on the wall in my house but, “It's good timber does not grow with ease, the stronger wind the stronger trees, the further sky the greater length, the more the storm the more the strength, by sun and cold by rain and snow and trees, and men good timbers grow.” And so the idea that if you look at trees the ones that are really strong are strong because of the environment around them whether it's rough terrain and stuff they've got to shoot forth deep roots they've got to evolve to have intense bark whatever it is trees that are in easy conditions can easily be blown over. And so for me it's very desirable and there's a high level of meaning it's from a philosophical perspective it's the difference between what people call hedonistic perspective versus eudaimonistic hedonistic perspective is to avoid pain and to seek pleasure which is really what sadly most of psychology even positive psychology is rooted in. I talk about that a little bit in the book is just most people think that only positive emotions are what create positive outcomes. And from a eudaimonic perspective which is a lot more in line with things like religion or things like stoicism things like that. Usually it's the most challenging things that lead to the greatest growth which when you say it it seems so obvious but most people are buying into this hedonistic perspective which is to avoid pain and in my opinion that's what suppresses it. That's what keeps you stuck and frozen. And so for me it's not like well one of the things I've recently had a big epiphany on I recently reread The Alchemist and at the beginning of the book the boy in the book, I don't know if you've read it.
Scott Barlow: I haven't read The Alchemist I've had a number of people suggest it and I haven't moved it up far enough on my priority list to really get there.
Benjamin Hardy: It's such a short book. It's probably a two hour read if you listen to it on an audio book. But in the beginning of the book there's this boy who wants to be a shepherd and he wants to go out and travel the world. And his father is trying to convince him not to do it and ultimately kind of the point that his father actually had always wanted to travel the world as well but he ended up living his life struggling day to day just to stay where he was and kind of a big concept is whether you're pursuing your dreams or whether you're pursuing mediocrity it's actually just as challenging. It's not easy to not pursue your dreams. It's not easy to just live day to day like you still have to get up go to work. Struggle to make a living you struggle to grind through the day. It's never easy it's always a struggle whichever path you choose. But one path actually makes a difference between paying rent versus investing big. Either way you've got to pay rent or you either way you've got to pay for where you live. The difference between one is that you're continually advancing forward versus the other one where you're just kind of staying stuck.
Scott Barlow: So let me ask you about that really quick because I fully believe that to be true. And that's what I have experienced but I'm not sure that everybody really understands the difference between that in terms of they are different. Both are hard but what is the difference between hardness if you will, making up words here?
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah I mean I think obviously the hardness of not doing what you believe you should is primarily internal conflict and regret. I mean you've got this conflict this belief of what could have been what should have been. Whereas when you're advancing forward obviously there's lots of highs and lows you go through when you go through big failures. Even myself yesterday I wrote an article about failure and it's doing extremely well on media right now actually. But I invested almost everything. Like literally I overinvested myself in the book launch for Willpower Doesn't Work and it didn't end up hitting the New York Times list. None of the lists even though it had the numbers, because of a few of the mistakes I made, but I don't really regret having invested. I made a bunch of money and invested all of it into this launch which freaked my wife out and I look back and I learned a lot. I'm not going to make the same mistakes again or regret it. And I I've learned a ton in advance and a lot of ways in the process of going through this huge failure. A Lot of people would not consider it a failure but to me it was a huge failure and I think one of the beauties of failure is that it kind of wakes you up, especially if you fail in such a way. that I'm thinking about the movie The Pursuit of Happyness with Will Smith where he's sitting in the bathroom with his kid laying on the ground and he's crying and it's just like a rock bottom. I think that feeling where you have to figure things out or else there's big consequences for you and your loved ones and it's not how people talk about failure. I published 20 blogs and no one saw them. And I think the failure that I'm talking about is where you really put everything into it and if you don't figure something out you might be on the streets. Obviously most people they've got family and stuff to support. But I think feeling that pain and that you never want to feel what you feel again. And then just obviously the big wins and learning from other people so I think that the difference of pain is different when you're growing, but in my opinion you're happiest when you're growing and even when you're losing along the way you're being congruent with yourself and you're figuring things out and you're living in alignment.
So I think that that's kind of the big difference is either you're in alignment even if you don't necessarily know where you're going. It's kind of like when the why is strong enough you'll figure out how but the opposite is just the pain of never really being in your power because you're never fully aligned with yourself. And so all the relationships are kind of weak and you're kind of your unhealthy mentally, physically, spiritually, relationally like everything in your life is kind of not really that real even if life seems OK.
Scott Barlow: You know what I have done it both ways and that's how we ended up with this show and that's how we ended up with this company and everything else experiencing it on both sides. I think actually in some ways even though it's harder at least for me as a person. It's much harder it's more intense work it's harder in some ways. I feel much more at peace probably is the best way to put it,struggling for words a bit in order to describe it. But when you're putting everything into something and even if you're going through the rollercoaster of it being the success and less success or book launch failures or whatever it might be in anybody's world it still feels easier in some ways it still feels more. And I think it is that alignment that you're talking about.
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. No i'm with you.
Scott Barlow: Well let me ask you another question. Let's go back to the Will Smith situation for just a second here. So not everybody necessarily is forced to figure things out. Not everybody is in that situation where they absolutely have to or else. And I've become fascinated over the last few years with the idea of creating those stakes or creating those situations to essentially force you without having to hit rock bottom or without having to have that and reproduce that potential situation. So one of the things that you mentioned in the book is talking about how to proactively shape your environment for success. And you talk about the concept of creating layers of accountability. Curious if you can define that a little bit and how you think about that and also explain a little bit about how people can get started doing that.
Benjamin Hardy: So there's a quote I put in the beginning of the book and it's from William Durant, the historian, and he basically says that “genius is basically the product of rising up to a demanding situation and that the ability of the average person to be doubled if their situation demanded it.” And so there's an idea in psychology called the Pygmalion Effect where basically a person rises up or falls to the expectations of those around him and then it just dovetails into the quote from Jim Rohn that you're the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So basically this whole idea of creating situations that demand you to rise up.
In the book I call them enriched environments you either have an enriched environment of high stress and then you've got one of high recovery. And in order to be in an enriched environment you must be fully engaged fully absorbed in what you're doing not distracted and in order for that to happen in a high stress environment or high stakes environment there's got to be some form of accountability for what you do.
I actually quoted the book The Millionaire Next Door where the two researchers they did all this huge scale study and they found that the people who are most affluent and successful are the ones with the most courage and those with courage are the ones that get paid based on performance. It's incentive based. If they don't show up and don't produce results they don't get paid whether you're a CEO or an entrepreneur or just someone who gets paid based on the work you do. So in the book I also talk about commitment about what commitment is and in order to actually have true commitment. You're not relying on willpower you're not just relying on your own internal strength but you're actually true commitment involves creating external defense systems around your goal or around your commitment. You have to create conditions that make your goal happen.
So if we are really committed to something you're willing to do whatever it takes to make that thing happen. Part one would be removing everything in your environment that actually conflicts with that commitment. Part 2 would be embedding several layers of accountability around it to ensure that you're there. You want other people invested in you and in your results as well. You know whether that's hiring a personal trainer or whether that's being in competition with someone or whether that's investing in mentorships or other types of relationships. If you don't have someone that's counting on you to produce results and who is continually following up with you and checking in with you and who's calling you out when you're not showing up you don't have those types of people or situations in your environment then you're probably not moving forward as much as you can.
It's just an example like my book didn't do what I wanted it to do. And I was on the phone with my agent today talking about it and talking about what we need to do next. I'm very accountable to her. She's accountable to me. I'm accountable to my publisher. That's kind of just the situation I put myself in. I'm also accountable to my wife and kids and that I have 750 clients who are in a course of mine that if I don't show up and create stuff every week like literally lose everything. And so I think that it's just one of the things that they talk about that's a flow trigger is that you get feedback immediately on your performance and in the book I talk about context based learning which is more real world style learning where you get immediate feedback on your performance then you get coaching and you get help to kind of show you where you went wrong and how you can quickly course correct.
Scott Barlow: So hold on let me ask you about that for just a second because I mean I get that in the example that you provided in terms of we've created a lot of courses and a lot of programs over the years and things like that in those situations it's relatively easy to be able to be forced to show up and get feedback and get contacts and everything else. But what's a different example of that for somebody who is in a different situation that is not necessarily an entrepreneur or author or something else. What can somebody do in their everyday lives?
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah there's a few things. I mean it really depends on their goal. If you don't have these types of environments in your life like for example the work you do is probably a typical job.
Scott Barlow: Let me say I'm a director of product management. Yeah. Okay. Or run with your example of choice. Like I don't know what a product manager does.
Benjamin Hardy: I'm just thinking about any person you know whose job is not highly demanding and whose life isn't forcing them to kind of show up which I would say is most people actually most people don't have enriched environments. Their work isn't requiring them to show up every single day. They still have to come and they've got to do their job but it's ok if they spend half their time distracted either on their phone or on the internet like in their home. You know they're pretty distracted as well. They never actually fully rested or recover they don't prioritize like weeks off or focus days or just being home. But I think that the first thing that I talk about in the book of creating these things is to start investing in something you know like you have to proactively seek the changes you want. And one of the best ways to get increased commitment is to start investing actual money into whatever it is you're trying to develop.
You could still stay in your job but if on the side you know you're investing in advancing your education or skills or even if you're seeking greater responsibility or even if you have projects assigned to you and you're telling your manager whoever it is that you'll have them to them at a sooner date. You know you're getting shorter timelines to kind of create a little bit of external pressure or if you're asking how you can get paid on an incentive based way or one of the things that Greg McKeown talks about in a Essentialism is actually having conversations with your superiors about the types of projects you think you should be working on and trying to set up the conditions in your workspace where you're working in the way you want to where you're working and what you want to do in setting up the expectation that they can't throw stuff at you but they're going to actually give you stuff that's meaningful because you're expected to show up. I think some situations literally will never allow for it. You know like some jobs are just you just have to show up I mean you can try to like rise your way up the ladder. But the world is becoming more freelancer based and entrepreneurial. And so the sooner that more people recognize that fact and I think a lot of the people who are listening to the show probably already kind of have inclinations that they want to do more and more it doesn't mean they can't work for someone else.
But the best thing you can do is put yourself in a situation where you're trying things you've never done before where you're forced to adapt and learn things. And the truth is just a lot of jobs can't allow for that. Some jobs will if you start showing up more proactive you ask for more opportunities if you start actually producing a result faster and showing up and then asking for more responsibility. I don't really have a clear cut answer sadly. I just think thinking about your environment. That's what mindfulness actually is, just being aware of the context and being aware of how you're showing up in that environment. And if your job is not demanding a lot of you right now you know or if your life isn't, how can you make that so. I mean what can you remove? That's kind of keeping you stuck. And how can you take on greater responsibility with what you've currently got. Go have a conversation with your boss and tell them that you're not being challenged. Tell them you either want different or harder or more different whatever it is work or start pursuing something on the side. You know if you've got some side project that you want to do start investing in those skills and abilities start investing in whatever it is you quote unquote really want to be doing. Once you get invested you become committed. It's this idea of sunk cost bias where once you have ownership over something you start to wrap your identity around it and that can often be a negative thing but I also think it's a very positive thing if you're intentional about it.
Scott Barlow: Sunk cost bias. I want to go back to that for just a second because I think that is so fascinating by itself because in reality logically if you talk to an economist or somebody who is not looking at the emotional side of it at all then some costs really don't matter that much but it doesn't feel that way in any way whatsoever. So I love some of the things that you have talked about and I've leveraged this heavily over the last 10 years. When you have sunk costs you feel some kind of obligation. I don't know if that's the right word for it necessarily but you definitely feel something and you can leverage that to your advantage. And I'm super curious to know what you recommend for people, that are most of the people that are listening right now, are in the place where they want to make a change and a lot of times what is stopping them is the perception of time, the perception of what is actually going to take to be able to make the type of change that they desire change from one career to a completely different career one career to starting the side hustle. Lots of different things along those lines. But what would you recommend? How can they leverage that sunk cost bias?
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah absolutely. I mean that's precisely what I have been studying throughout my doctoral dissertation on really my whole doctoral degree. I've studied the difference between want to be entrepreneurs versus actual entrepreneurs. But really I just define it as dreamers versus doers, doesn't have to be in the entrepreneurial sphere it could be with anything it's living a dream. They were really just doing we want to do versus always kind of wondering if you are going to do it never actually acting and it really does go back to this concept of once a person starts investing money into whatever it is they want to do whether it's their health or whether it's mentorship or whether it's a relationship once you start investing money in it then you start to get more invested and it goes back to this sunk cost idea. Another way of describing it is escalation of commitment.
But what's interesting is again in my reading of The Alchemists the young boy in the story he's trying to decide if he wants to go and live out his life purpose and he meets this African king. And so the boy already was told and he already had this impression that he needs to go to the pyramids in Egypt because that's where his quote unquote treasure is. He needs to go there and he meets this African king and the African King says I will tell you where your treasure is but it's going to cost you one tenth of your flock because this boy was a shepherd and he had 60 sheep and so the boy decided he would do it. So he gave the king six of his sheep which was one tenth and the king said all right. So you've paid me one tenth of your sheep. Now I'll tell you where your treasure is actually at the pyramids in Egypt he already knew that. However I had you pay me one tenth of your sheep so that you would make the decision.
And it's just this idea of there's something like really powerful in starting to invest and there's different angles whether it's donating to charity or whether it's just investing money in your own skills abilities or relationships that once you start putting money towards causes that you believe in are towards skills or towards goals you start to have this shift in identity you start to be less. I guess that word would be scarcity minded but you stop holding on so tightly to what you have. You start to have kind of a healthy level of detachment and you're willing to give up what you've got for what you want in on a subconscious or psychological level. There's a really good book called Letting Go from Dr David Hawkins to one of my favorite books and one of the things he says in that book is the unconscious will allow you to have only what you believe you deserve. And so if you look at a person's life generally it's a product of their subconscious belief systems, values, standards which are then conditioned over and over and over by their environment because almost all behaviors are conscious. And it's all outsourced or triggered by the environment. And so the environment holds a person together and in order to shatter your subconscious belief system about what you can have, what you can be, what you can do or what you believe you deserve. Once you start investing money in that thing and once you start reshaping the context or the environment or your brain starts to sync up with that which is around you I don't know the exact term but in neuroscience your brain is so plastic and basically what early research says is that your brain like syncs subconsciously with the brains of the other people around you. There's a really good book called Spontaneous Evolution all about the collective unconscious.
Scott Barlow: You're expanding my book list by the minute here. I love this.
Benjamin Hardy: I’m going so many directions and trying to pull all this together but I’m I'm zoning this back in. Once you start investing money in what you want to do you become committed and you start to reshape your identity around that thing and you also expand your perspective of this whole scarcity versus abundance mentality. So there's a quote from the One Minute Millionaire which is a good book. Basically the quote goes like this giving as you get acknowledges the universe as truly abundant, giving taps into the spiritual dimension that multiplies as our thinking and our results. There is an ocean of abundance and one can tap into it with a teaspoon a bucket or a tractor trailer. The ocean doesn't care.
And so I think what happens when you start being less stringent about what you have you're willing to give it. But also you are willing to invest it. You have the ability to expand and obviously you need to be wise and intelligent about this but from a very simple perspective it just allows you to get committed. This whole idea of sunk cost bias when you start investing you become committed and you start to reshape your identity around that and you start going from seeing yourself as I want to do this thing to seeing yourself as I am. Do you think this thing and there's an idea in psychology called self signaling which basically means that’s who you. How you define yourself is based on your behavior. So when you start changing your behavior you start changing how you perceive yourself which is really cool because basically what it means is that it's not your personality that guides your behavior but it's your behavior that creates and guide your personality. It's not your personality that determines who you are. It's what you do that determines what your personality is so you're very fluid.
You know that's one of the ideas I try to convey in the book is that Western culture has very limiting and fixed views of what people are because they ignore context and because you ignore context you isolate variables and you isolate people and you put them in a box and you say this is what you are you've got this personality type. This is what we love. Like we love that stuff and we ignore context we ignore environment. But once you actually recognize environment which is really the definition of mindfulness you realize that who you are in one situation is different from who you are in a different situation and that once you start to create the context of the environment that you can actually design yourself. And that's really what Darwin said all along.
Scott Barlow: In what way?
Benjamin Hardy: Well he said that there's two types of evolution. He said there's domesticated evolution and then there's natural evolution. A natural evolution is the type of evolution that occurs out in nature when the environment shifts the species within that environment respond to the shifts and so it's reactive an unplanned process whereas a domesticated style of evolution is where you specifically shape external can create external constraints or variables to seek a specific result. If you want to have small mushrooms for example you shape the type of soil and the lighting and stuff like that or if you want big mushroom you have to change those variables. If you want a fast horse to do X. It's just this idea of shaping traits and there's really good work. Another one called altered traits you know the science of how to reshape your biology into psychology. That's kind of where neuroscience and epigenetics are going. Then I'll just kind of give this last quote because probably this is a big mess of ideas. But Marshall Goldsmith said in Triggers, “You do not control your environment your environment creates and controls you.” So all of this is really just around the idea of when you start investing in yourself you change your identity change your psychology also change your environment.
Scott Barlow: But here's what I absolutely love about it. We went a lot of different places and I really very much enjoyed not just in the book but our discussion particularly about how you have control in a lot of places where people don't perceive that they have control or at least you have influence if you do not have control and your environment is one of the places that I see so often that people don't think they necessarily can influence it in the way that we're talking about here and everything that you've discussed is ways to be able to influence that. And I so appreciate that and let's see if we can spread that message far and wide.
Benjamin Hardy: Awesome. Well I appreciate you having me on the show. Yeah this came out of me differently today than you know it often does but it is a lot more kind of fluid. But if you just look at what's around you. You have to realize that that's what's shaping you what you put in your body. Food wise, the information you can see, what type of music you listen to, what kind of people you are around; all of those things are outside of you. Everything you are is in an environment as we speak wherever you are, whoever's listening to this like you're in your car or you're in a house like that is influencing your inner world you know. And so once you started to really think about that you start to think OK if I shape what's outside of me and then I shape what's inside of me that I shape who I am and who I become. And that's exactly what Winston Churchill said, he said “we build our house then our house builds us.”
Scott Barlow: I've never heard that quote I've heard a lot of Winston Churchill quotes I love that. That is fantastic yeah.
Benjamin Hardy: So in my opinion that's where freewill really comes in. It's not free will or determinism it's not choice or environment we all have the ability to make choices. But what you need to make the choice is which environment is going to shape you because the environment will shape you; you just need to make the choice. Who do I want to become in what environment will create that? That's kind of the essence of the book and how I've come to kind of portray it.
Scott Barlow: Well the book is Willpower Doesn't Work, Discover the hidden keys to success. I so appreciate you sharing the messages that you are. I think there are something that need to be spread far and wide because unfortunately they are not yet popular belief but that's why we have you on the show today and that is what I'm so appreciative for you making the time and taking the time to come on and share them with us and our audience.
Benjamin Hardy: Absolutely Scott. This has been fun man.
Scott Barlow: Where can people find out either about you or where can people get the book?
Benjamin Hardy: You can obviously get the book anywhere books are sold Amazon, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores. Depending on when you hear this you can engage in a competition right now just go to willpowerdoesntwork.com.
And right now we've kind of tried to gamify the opportunity people have to learn this book and basically what the competition is is you can sign up for free but then you've got to buy the book, read the book, and then change your life in one of four categories whether that's income, health, side project, or addiction. And then by June 6th of 2018 you submit just a small essay like a page long of how you've transformed your life and you've got to provide some evidence they've actually done that. The person who changes their life the most by June 6th will actually win a Tesla.
Scott Barlow:ou heard it here first. When a Tesla. And that's not the most exciting changes that are going to come from making them in your life are probably much more beneficial than any Tesla but there's Tesla too. So nothing wrong with that. Love it. Why not.
Benjamin Hardy: Why not? It's about an incentivizing plan. So there's that going on so just willpowerdoesntwork.com or if that's not interesting to you just go grab the book you know anywhere on Amazon or Barnes wherever.
Scott Barlow: Very cool. Well thank you again. I really appreciate it Ben.
Benjamin Hardy: Totally Scott have a great day.
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