Compiled and edited by Frederick Mann
Practically everybody wants to be successful. You want to live a successful life. You want to experience the benefits, satisfaction, and joys of success. You want to be successful at what you do. Or you want to find something to do you can be successful at.
Success and failure start in your mind. You think thoughts, you experience emotions, and you perform actions... or -- because of apathy, helplessness, psychological inertia -- you fail to perform the actions necessary for success.
Apathy can be described as a lack of motivation. Or a deficit in motivated thinking and/or behavior.
"Apathy is a mental state in which the sufferer lacks the desire, will or energy to engage in any activity, whether intellectual or physical. It is variously called indifference, boredom, lassitude, languor, listlessness, laziness, lethargy or inertia. It may be symptom of mental disorder. It is first alienation of the self from the world and then self-alienation. Finally it is withdrawal from all participation in the care of others and care of oneself. Collectively, apathy may be expressed in social, economic, political or ideological paralysis, with all the available energy for change locked up in the institutions, systems and structures of society." -- Union of International Associations.
When I feel that I should do something, I lie down until the feeling goes away!
I can't think about this any more -- my brain hurts!
"Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week." -- George Bernard Shaw
If I don't try I don't risk the embarrassment of failure!
"There is no comparison between what we may lose by not trying and by not succeeding; since by not trying we throw away the chance of an immense good; by not succeeding we only incur the loss of a little human labor." -- Sir Francis Bacon
Which is worse -- ignorance or apathy? I don't know and I don't care!
Use Subliminal Apathy and stop caring about everything!
"Maligned and persecuted, apathy -- in the social sense of the word -- is possibly the noblest of civic virtues. The ability to mind your own business, to let others do their thing, and to concentrate your efforts on your own life, are the discerning characteristics of a well-adjusted and competent human being." -- Thomas W. Hazlett (In Defense of Apathy)
Psychological Inertia (PI)
James Kowalick in his article Psychological Inertia defines Psychological Inertia (PI) as follows:
"The psychological meaning of the word "inertia" implies an indisposition to change - a certain "stuckness" due to human programming. It represents the inevitability of behaving in a certain way - the way that has been indelibly inscribed somewhere in the brain. It also represents the impossibility - as long as a person is guided by his habits - of ever behaving in a better way.
Psychological Inertia (PI) represents the many barriers to personal creativity and problem-solving ability, barriers that have as their roots "the way that I am used to doing it." In solving a problem, it is the inner, automatic voice of PI whispering "You are not allowed to do that!" Or, "Tradition demands that it be done this way!" Or even, "You have been given the information, and the information is true.""
He also writes that, "Psychological Inertia takes on different forms, many of which are quite invisible to personal observation." Then he lists and describes seven forms of PI:
"1. The Retarding Power (or Inertia) of a Word.
2. A Partial Restriction Becomes a Blanket Restriction.
3. Tradition Cannot be Broken.
4. Words and Their Assumed Properties or Characteristics.
5. Inadmissible Range of Data.
6. Association of Objects with Senses.
7. All Information Given is Valid."
Darrell Mann in his article Digging Your Way Out Of The Psychological Inertia Hole writes:
"Much of Edward de Bono's pioneering study on lateral thinking stemmed from the hole-digging analogy he developed in his very earliest work ("The Use of Lateral Thinking", 1967). In the analogy, we are trying to solve a problem, the solution to which is a seam of gold buried at some unknown location in a field.
If the problem we're trying to solve is "similar" to one we've already solved, we are likely to attempt to solve it using what de Bono described as "vertical" or "logical" thinking. In such a scenario, we have already started digging a hole, we've already found some gold in it, and we are expecting to find the solution to our new problem simply by digging - vertically, logically - deeper. Whole industries are built on this very principle. The next automobile to emerge on the market is almost guaranteed to emerge from a hole labeled "4-wheeled, internal combustion engine driven vehicle" for example. The next car tyre from a hole labeled "molded rubber, radial wound re-enforcement". The next driver protection system from one labeled "steering-wheel mounted, inflating bag". And so on, and so on, at each and every level - from the macro to the micro - of whatever problem it is we're looking at. Each of the products or solutions that emerges will generally have been obtained by digging an existing hole a little deeper...
Unfortunately also, we all suffer from psychological inertia (PI). In the context of the hole-digging analogy, this is the thing that tells us to stay in the hole we've been digging. It is the thing that tells us that if we just keep on digging a bit deeper, we're bound to eventually come across the solution we're looking for. It is the thing that tells us "look how much time and energy we've expended digging this hole; how could we possibly let it go to waste?" It is the thing that gives us a quite potent image of industries digging deeper and deeper holes that they are progressively less likely to be able to get out of.
De Bono used the term "lateral thinking" to denote a different kind of thinking to the vertical/logical variant. Lateral thinking is the thinking that prompts us to set about looking somewhere else in the field in search of a better solution. Lateral thinking is the thing which got us out of a hole labeled "horse-drawn carriage" into our current "4-wheeled, internal combustion engine driven" one. It will also be the thing that gets us into the next hole, whatever that might turn out to be."
For more information on lateral thinking, see the official Edward de Bono website.
James Kowalick in his article Human Functions, Languages and Creativity demarcates four "basic human functions":
Each of these functions can be performed with a particular level of attention:
He uses the above to create a matrix. The "automatic intellectual function" (4.1) is how most people think most of the time. The "intentional intellectual function" (4.3) represents a much higher and more effective form of thinking. Psychological Inertia occurs in the "4.1 box."
In his references, Kowalick mentions P.D. Ouspensky who was a student of G.I. Gurdjieff. Kowalick also mentions Maurice Nicoll who, in addition to being a student of C.G. Jung, was also a student of G.I. Gurdjieff and of P.D. Ouspensky.
In his article, Kowalick refers to the "language of Substance-Fields" and the "language of Triads" as higher forms of symbolic language for problem solving. In 1969, G. Spencer Brown published his book 'The Laws of Form.'
Ellen Domb, Ph.D. in her article Psychological Inertia: Two kinds in one story tells a very important story about Big Rocks and how they relate to PI.
James Kowalick in his article Human Functions: The Source Of Psychological Inertia expands on the "4.1 box" as the "seat" of PI.
James Kowalick in his article Problem-Solving and Other Antidotes for Psychological Inertia writes:
"When there is a "difficult" problem to solve, the problem is difficult just because there is usually some barrier that prevents the problem-solver from moving towards the solution. Most barriers are psychological in their nature -- therefore Altshuller appropriately referred to the complete set of barriers to problem-solving as "psychological inertia."
There are different forms of psychological inertia. One or more of these forms may be present in a typical, complex problem situation. Some forms have been discussed in several TRIZ-Journal articles by the author -- others have been disclosed in a paper by Zlotin. To date the author has assembled a list of more than 44 separate forms of psychological inertia. And there are even more than 44! In certain earlier Russian books on psychology --prior to 1946 -- psychological inertia went under the name of "formatory thinking"...
Formatory thinking is "in-pattern" thinking -- thinking according to one's own habits and programming. Each person's programming and habits are different from those of other persons. That is why a particular type of problem (containing one particular form of psychological inertia) will appear to be easy to solve for one person, and yet more difficult to solve for another. Yet, some forms of psychological inertia may be cultural -- related to the type of society or to the nation one lives in, or grew up under.
Psychological inertia (formatory thinking) takes the form of unconscious thoughts that may or may not become verbalized. Faced with a problem, a problem-solver's internal, programmed response may be "Oh, but you can't do that, because that's not the way it's done!" This is just one form of psychological inertia: THE WAY THAT EVERYONE ELSE DOES IT, IS THE WAY THAT IT HAS TO BE DONE!"
For an explanation of TRIZ, see Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ) by Glenn Mazur.
The following text is mirrored from http://www.libertyhaven.com/noneoftheabove/personaldevelopmentorpsychology/secretrevealed.html:
The Secret Revealed:
Success is Not Easy
Harold S. Davis
SOME years ago, a researcher decided that he would try to find the secret of success. After months of study and countless interviews, he gave up. He said there was no clear answer, but many people seemed to believe success required hard work. He had found out more than he realized! Without question, work accomplishes more than wishful thinking. One must climb the ladder of success, it is not an escalator! Thomas Edison astonished those who thought his success was due to luck by stating "I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident." Success often begins at the point where most people would quit. We must believe, then achieve!
T.F. Buxton said "I hold a doctrine ... that with ordinary talent and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable." This idea of setting a goal and then relentlessly pursuing it is a formula that has worked for centuries. Even the great dramatist and poet Shakespeare delineated essentially the same rules for success. He said "see first that the design is wise and just: that ascertained, pursue it resolutely; do not for one repulse forego the purpose that you resolved to effect." The wit, Ambrose Bierce, called perseverance "A lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success." Two thousand years ago, Virgil solemnly intoned "Labor conquers everything. "
Bill, a friend of mine, whom I had seen work his way up from stockboy to general manager in a midwestern firm, abandoned everything to accept a vice-presidency of a large company in New York City. The job was a real challenge because the firm's deficits had been growing annually. In less than three years, he helped to turn the financial picture from red to black only to face another crisis. The Board of Directors appointed a new President who brought in his own "management team." Bill resigned and began to reassess his career.
The past few years had provided a large measure of success and increased income. On the other hand, he had neglected family, friends, and personal investments. He had been so busy making business decisions for others that he had let his own financial affairs fall into disarray. He was even uncertain about how to obtain proper financial advice and came to the realization that many other executives were in the same boat. Bill found his search for information about investments so fascinating that he turned down a lucrative offer in the field of management in order to launch a new career. He had decided to enter the fields of financial planning and insurance.
Success often begins at the point where most people would quit. We must believe, then achieve!
After a family conference, Bill's wife and children agreed on a number of belt-tightening moves. A change of living style and the sale of their large home provided capital while Bill studied the fundamentals of his new profession and gained on-the-job experience. He followed this up quickly by opening his own agency. After his first year of independent operation, Bill became a member of the "Million Dollar Round Table" for insurance sales. Six consecutive years of outstanding sales gave him permanent membership in that prestigious organization and it wasn't a matter of luck. First he believed, then he achieved!
When misfortune first struck, Bill could have sat around wringing his hands. Instead of needlessly worrying about the future, he chose to shape it. As the poet Robert Frost once said "The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work." Rudyard Kipling phrased the same thoughts in allegorical terms: "Gardens are not made by singing 'Oh, how beautiful,' and sitting in the shade."
The Power of Planning
Most successful people have found that luck seems to be a byproduct of hard work. Genius is never discovered unless it is applied. Even the great Michelangelo pointed out "If people knew how hard I work to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem too wonderful after all." The internationally famous pianist Paderewski said "Before I was a genius I was a drudge." We all know that hard work does not insure success, but we can't expect success unless we work at it!
Every administrator recognizes "planning" as a fundamental of good management. Yet, it is amazing how few have put this principle to use in developing their own careers. Many drift from job to job with little thought about their own strengths, weaknesses, and desires. Executive placement firms do a thriving business in helping such persons pull themselves together. George Bernard Shaw claimed "Few people think more than two or three times a year. I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week." Facetious? Yes, but with a large grain of truth. When is the last time you sat down and asked: Where am I going? Why? What are my goals? Such questions must be answered if we are to be successful in personal relations.
We all know that hard work does not insure success, but we can't expect success unless we work at it!
Through self-understanding we learn more about others. As we understand more about others, we learn more about ourselves. Knowledge of our own strengths and weaknesses helps us establish realistic goals. In the words of William James: "In the dim background of our mind, we know what we ought to be doing ... but somehow we cannot start ... every moment we expect the spell to break ... but it continues, pulse after pulse, and we float with it." Procrastination is one of the greatest inhibitors of success. People set up their own roadblocks: "I don't have time," "It's too late to change," "I'm too old," "Maybe some day. " Some people have found that the greatest labor-saving device available today is tomorrow! In the words of Socrates: "Let him that would move the world, first move himself. "
The Principle of Momentum
We have all heard the statement that "Success breeds success." But, have we ever thought of that statement as a principle of momentum? There is a law of physics that states: It takes more energy to overcome inertia in getting started from a standstill than to continue the momentum of a moving body when it is once in motion. Applying this principle to achieving success, it becomes evident that it is easier to find a new job when you have one than to find one when you are unemployed. Similarly, it is easier to move up the ladder of success when you have a reputation for being a "go-getter" than when you have to overcome years of standing still! In other words, we can't afford to rest on our laurels. As Elbert Hubbard stated "Folks who never do any more than they get paid for, never get paid for any more than they do." While the successful few focus on objectives, the unsuccessful majority see nothing but obstacles. The passage of time records the accomplishments of the former, while oblivion is the penalty for the latter.
It isn't sufficient just to be busy. Insects are busy! The real question is: What are you busy about? Effort should be concentrated on reaching the goals you have set. Charles Kettering said "My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there."
A Case in Point
"Let him that would move the world, first move himself." - Socrates
Henry, a long time acquaintance, was a manufacturer's agent selling steel tubing. Large firms were the primary clients. Henry discovered that orders from smaller firms were being turned down because they were short-term, small-quantity, or specialized non-stock items. He reasoned that a small plant with a flexible operation could handle such requests. He visualized the type of operation needed and figured that he could make a fair commission on referrals. Spending his spare time in looking for such a plant, he discovered that this highly specialized operation did not exist. Rethinking his original plan, he set a new goal. He would find a small vacant factory building, acquire the necessary machine tools, and equip it on a minimal scale.
After an intensive search, Henry found a suitable facility and then the work began. He spent his weekends cleaning and rebuilding second-hand machine tools with the help of a small crew in his rented factory. Once tooled up, word spread that his company could reliably fill small orders that larger manufacturers declined. Work flowed in and Henry expanded operations to meet the growing need. With an investment of time, money and energy, he made his dream come true. As Justice Brandeis once quipped "The way the inevitable comes to pass is through effort. "
Years ago, Calvin Coolidge stated: "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'Press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race."
The Secret Revealed
Certainly we can't do everything at once, but we can do something. And as the Chinese proverb states "Even a trip of 1000 miles begins with a single step." One of the greatest minds of all time, Sir Francis Bacon, said: "There is no comparison between what we may lose by not trying and by not succeeding; since by not trying we throw away the chance of an immense good; by not succeeding we only incur the loss of a little human labor. "
"My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there."
Is there really a secret of success, or has the secret been revealed? I believe studies of those who succeed vs. those who don't have unlocked the secret for all to behold. First, we must believe in ourselves. A positive self-image is a prerequisite to success. Next, we must set goals and plan how we will reach them. Finally, we must implement our plans! This takes persistent effort-what some call work! In my studies of leadership, I have found that there are three kinds of people in this world. Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wonder-what happened. To be a success, you must be the first type. In the words of Goethe:
Are you in earnest?
Seize this very minute;
What you can, or dream you
can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power
and magic in it;
Only engage and then the
mind grows heated;
Begin and then the work will
At the time of the original publication, Dr. Davis was a Professor of Education and Chairman of the Administration and Supervision Department at Southern Connecticut State College.
Reprinted with permission from The Freeman, a publication of The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., May, 1977, Vol. 27, No. 5.
How to Implement a Success Strategy
It's easy to read an article such as the above. It may not be quite so easy be inspired by it, to formulate a personall success strategy, and to follow through with it. There may be many psychological barriers in the way. A place to start overcoming those barriers may be #TL10B: Escape from Helplessness and Move up to Power.
You may also want to check out the Series Content Index. (The abbreviation "SEA" stands for "Self-Esteem Seeker's Anonymous.")
Also check out the alphabetical Topical Index.
Coping.org includes several self-assessment questionnaires you can use to pinpoint specifically what you need to work on.
One or more fixed ideas, such as "People are too stupid to respond to my marketing," may sabotage your efforts. See #TL03A: How to Discover and Release Fixed Ideas.
Implementing a success strategy and following through requires SELF-CONTROL. See Tools for Handling Control Issues: Developing Self-Control.
The Threshold Principle
Some people get very close to success, but don't take the final step. The "final step" is different for each person. There might be just one more money skill you need to master -- see Basic Money Skills and Advanced Money Skills.
The "Program X" people tell a story of two frogs to illustrate the Threshold Principle. Two frogs need to escape from a basement by jumping up a series of steps. Each step is 12" high. The one frog easily jumps 12" so he escapes with his life. The second frog can only jump 11". So he can't jump up the steps. He can't cross the 12" threshold. So he pays with his life.
The first point is that in some activities, in order to succeed, you need to cross a threshold. If you cross the threshold, you succeed. If you don't cross the threshold, you fail.
This is similar to the phenomenon of "the last straw that breaks the camel's back," but in reverse.
The second point is that the difference between failure and success is often very small. In the frog story it's - "A little can be a lot!" - can mean the difference between life and death!
So, you may have to learn just a few things more, just slightly improve a few more things. And, suddenly, you've crossed the threshold to success!
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