Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent were watching a cricket match. Ford suddenly leaped up and tore across the field.
“Someone else’s problem!” he shouted. “It’s hiding a space ship!”
Arthur knew his only hope to get off the planet was to stick close to Ford. He jumped up and started running after him.
This is one of my favorite scenes from the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy.
A practical cloaking device
According to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, space-ship cloaking devices such as the fictional ones we see on Star Trek are possible to build. However, the machinery is massive and consumes giga-joules more power than an average planet can produce. It wasn’t feasible for space ships. However,the scientists discovered a cheaper and 99% effective alternative.
They took advantage of a quirk of the human brain that makes us see what we expect to see and blocks everything else. The Someone Else’s Problem Field makes anything it surrounds invisible to most humans. Whatever it covers never clicks in our consciousness because it’s “someone else’s problem.”[clickToTweet tweet=”Someone Else’s Problem – makes that thing invisible to almost everyone.” quote=”Someone Else’s Problem makes an object invisible to almost everyone.”]
Fiction explains reality
Of course, the Someone Else’s Problem Field is fiction. But the quirk in our brain is not. We see what we expect to see. And we don’t see what we don’t expect to see.
Psychologists have a couple of terms to describe this blind spot: scotoma and confirmation bias. What happens to us is that we believe we know a truth about how the world works. We look for evidence that validates our belief. And we don’t see evidence that might prove us wrong.
You’ve heard the saying that bad things happen in threes, haven’t you? If you happen to believe this you’ll start looking for a third bad thing if you’ve had two bad things happen. And you’ll usually find it. If you’re a pessimist you might start looking for two more bad things after the first one hits.
Why am I talking telling sci-fi stories and going on about how your brain works?
You need to know about confirmation bias because it affects the stories you tell yourself.
Have you ever said words like these?
I always mess things up.
I’m such a klutz.
I don’t have any willpower.
I’m not good at ___________ .
I could never do that.
People always take advantage of me.
Bad things always happen to me.
These are all statements of confirmation bias.
You find evidence to support and excuse your failures. The thing is that your self image and self talk are a feedback loop that keeps you stuck where you are. Your self-talk is the story you tell yourself about who you are. Your self-talk and story come from what you “know” about yourself and your world.
The problem is . . .
What you “know” may not be true
61-year-old Cliff Young showed up in overalls and galoshes to run the 600km marathon between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. The world-class runners laughed at him. But they weren’t laughing when he beat them by a day and a half.
They all “knew” it took 5 days to complete the race. They ran 18 hours and slept 6. Cliff didn’t “know” this. He ran, slowly, for three and a half days straight.
Of course, he didn’t win the following year. Once everyone knew it was possible they all started doing it.
What you “know” might be a blind spot
Those dreams you have gathering dust in the back of your mind. The hopes you have to get out of your rut and start a business, travel, learn a new skill, etc. We douse our dreams and stuff our passion because we “know” we can’t have them. We make up a story and see all the evidence to confirm that our dreams and passions will have to wait.
Our mindset and confirmation bias mix with fear to keep us stuck in our same rut.
The reason I’ve been writing about mindset these last few months is because it’s perhaps the most difficult part about being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs must learn to think differently and see the world from a different perspective.
Of course, the same qualities apply to other life-changes you might want to make. So you can take what I’m saying and use it as you need.
Success at any level will require you to see things differently. I’ve discovered you can start to shift your mindset by telling yourself a different story.
You may have see the odd-shaped mirrors that buses and mail trucks have. They let the driver see into the “blind spots.” The bullet points below are a few ideas to help you see into your mental blind spots.
The bullet points
- Make a list of what you “know.”
Now, this could be a long list. So let’s limit it to the things you “know” that might be an excuse or limiting belief. Think about the dreams, ambitions, desires and passions you’ve set aside or buried. What’s the story you told yourself about why you can’t do ___________ ? (fill in the blank)
- Find and write down arguments against what you think you “know.”
This is the opposite of confirmation bias. You look for evidence that disproves what you “know.”
- Ask “what-if?” questions.
What if I turned my hobby into a business on the side?
What if I started writing 1000 words each day on the novel I want to create?
What if I could ____________?
- Create an alter ego.
Remember that friend you had who always got you into trouble? The one who said, “Why not?” to any wild idea or challenge? You need that friend now.
Think about the things you want to do that terrify you. Look at those dusty dreams and buried desires you carry around. What would that fearless person say to you?
Hear me on this: I don’t want you to become that person. The point of this exercise is to help you see your blind spots. Reckless risk won’t bring success. But your self-talk story filled with excuses won’t bring success either.
Start your marathon
Cliff Young wasn’t a marathon runner. He herded sheep. But he knew the value of running without stopping.
You probably won’t change your self-talk or the story you tell yourself overnight. It is possible to change quickly, but changing your mindset usually takes time. It takes effort and practice to your blind spots.
But take heart. You can learn to see what others can’t. The rewards are worth the time and effort. Who knows. You may even see a hidden space ship on the other side of a cricket field.
I mentioned the Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the first of this article. Read the original trilogy (the first three books) if you want help looking at life from a different perspective.
Note: There are 5 books in the series. The last two aren’t nearly as good. I think Douglas Adams was goaded into writing them because of the success of his original trilogy. I would un-read them if I could and preserve my memories of just the original trilogy.