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Here is knowledge to enable you to become more successful, earn more money, feel good, enjoy great health (while cutting your health bills), and extend your life...

Cause and Effect



#40: Understand Cause and Effect - The Basil Fawlty Principle and Syndrome

#41: Get the "Law of Attraction" Working for You! *

#42: Temporarily Suspend any Unscientific Beliefs and Superstitions You Might Have about Cause and Effect

Million-Dollar Prize for Demonstrating Supernatural Phenomena or Events!

#43: Fix Your Brain!

#44: Make a Fundamental Decision!

#45: Organize Your Life to Create Structural Tension so the Path of Least Resistance Leads You Where You Want to Go!

Building Structures that by their very Nature Move to Create the Results that Matter

Structure Determines Behavior

Internalizing Structural Tension

#46: Learn Probability Thinking

#47: Multiple Fishbones - Apply Cause-and-Effect Diagrams and Similar Methods to Learn More about Causes and Effects

#48: Learn about Your Optical Blind Spots and the "Filling-In" Phenomenon


A useful way to think about the world is that "things that happen" (events and conditions) are preceded by "causes." If you get a cold, it may have been caused by a virus. The virus entered your body and caused the cold.

So, problems can be seen as having causes. To fix problems, you can identify the causes. Then you can fix the causes to resolve the problem.

If your car breaks down, you find an expert mechanic who diagnoses the cause. The mechanic fixes the cause, and your car runs again.

If your body gets sick ("breaks down"), you can go to a doctor, who can examine you, and hopefully diagnose the illness and its cause(s). The doctor can then hopefully prescribe a treatment that will cure the illness.

The better doctors understand cause and effect, the more effective and efficient their diagnoses and prescriptions will be. However, see Beware Medical Scams -- Take Control of Your Health.

The better you understand cause and effect, the more effective and efficient you are at running your own bussines, making money online, etc. You've identified the actions (causes) that result in money flowing to you, and you perform those actions. However, see Dumbed Down by "Education."

If people understand cause and effect, they can produce the results they desire. If they don't understand cause and effect, they fail to produce the results they desire.

Unfortunately, it's not always that simple. There may be causes you can't do anything about -- causes outside your control.

A further complication is that "connections" between causes and effects may be probabilistic. For example, if you do "X" a thousand times, there's a "Y" probability that result "Z" will be produced.

Yet a further complication is that there may be a long delay between a cause and its effect. Suppose that drinking alcohol destroys brain cells. If you drink a glass of wine, you don't get demented immediately. It might take many years for the effect to become manifest.

A most serious complication for many people is that they suffer from "Make-or-Break Issues" (MBIs) that may prevent them from understanding causes and effects, and/or may prevent them from taking actions to address causes.

Success Technique #40:
Understand Cause and Effect!

The Basil Fawlty Principle and Syndrome

Leading Scientist Richard Dawkins Announces His Discovery of the Basil Fawlty Principle and Syndrome
(18 min. 56 sec. from the beginning of the video)
(click to watch video)

John Cleese Shows His Understanding of Cause and Effect by Demonstrating the Basil Fawlty Syndrome

Please think about this for a moment. If you understood the cause of everything, what could prevent you from achieving any goal you set for yourself?

OK. Suppose you set some goal for yourself. Then you start taking steps to move forward toward your goal. If at any time you find that you're not progressing as quickly as you'd like toward your goal, then there must be something slowing you down. Right?

If you understood the cause of whatever might be slowing you down, you simply remedy the situation -- or overcome the obstacle -- and than you proceed to achieve your goal.

Another implication of understanding cause and effect is that it enables you to know -- or fairly quickly find -- the right and best steps to take to move forward toward your goal...

Can you see that understanding cause and effect could be a "master success principle?"

The "Basil Fawlty Syndrome" (BFS) has to do with sometimes not understanding cause and effect very well. It's based on a profound observation in the Dawkins video. (Though I suspect he himself may not realize just how significant his identification of BFS might be!) BFS is brilliantly demonstrated by the Cleese video.

A simplistic way of describing BFS: Use a stick or gun to get what you want! A major advantage of operating at this level is that it doesn't require much understanding or intellectual development! Bank robbers tend to operate at this level.

Demonstration of Basil Fawlty Syndrome at simplistic or crude level

Timothy Leary also described aspects of BFS in Neuropolitics:

"Guilt, innocence, punishment, forgiveness, law and order, rehabilitation -- all constitute the mythology that masks the simple reality of badly-wired robots bumping into one another..."

"Brainwashing is happening to all of us all the time. Knowledge of brain function is our only protection against it. The solutions to our predicament are neurological. We must assume responsibility for our nervous systems. Our robothood can remain static if we endlessly repeat the imprints of infancy to adolescence, or it can be drastically altered by brainwashers without our consent, or we can take control of our nervous systems. If we don't assume this personal responsibility, somebody else will..."

The Basil Fawlty Syndrome (BFS) is also related to a sense of what works and what doesn't. In any area where you understand cause and effect, you tend to have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn't.

Sometimes people deceive themselves and overestimate their understanding of cause and effect -- which is related to competence. The best way to measure how well you understand cause and effect in a particular area is from the results you produce in that area. However, you may want to check out Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. There's always the possibility of achieving some major success as a random occurrence, rather than being caused by your competence or your understanding of cause and effect. Sometimes you just get "lucky!"

If you Google +cause +effect +scientific +research, you'll find many references to scientific research being about discovering and demonstrating cause-effect relationships. In fact, you could even conclude that most of science is about discovering and demonstrating cause-effect relationships. Isaac Newton may have gotten some things right!

In his video, Richard Dawkins talks about the "middle world" to distinguish it from the "very small" and the "very large." We humans live in the middle world, the part of the universe which works as described by Newton's laws, the world of cause and effect.

In his video, John Cleese demonstrates his misunderstanding of cause and effect. Beating his car with a branch doesn't start the car, and leads to failure.

In his video, Richard Dawkins speaking as a scientist, said about his hypothetical child murderer: "This unit has a faulty component; it needs repairing." Then, speaking as a social human, he said: "Vile monster, no prison is too good for you!"

There's an additional important difference between the two statements: The first is spoken by someone who critically monitors what they think, say, and do in order to produce the results they want. The first statement invites the identification of the faulty component that caused the misbehavior, and repairing it. The "faulty component" could be one or more "faulty programs" in the brain. The first statement may lead to fixing the problem.

The second statement is spoken by someone in "typical human conformity mode." It's a make-wrong statement, a blame statement. It's said by someone who conforms to "subjective social agreement." It's the "socially acceptable" way of describing a child murderer. The chances that the second statement will lead to the faulty component being idenfied and repaired may not be very good!

Calling someone "vile" or "evil" is unlikely to lead to a solution. It involves a misunderstanding of cause and effect. It implies that being "vile" or "evil" caused the child murderer to kill. Calling someone "vile" or "evil" is an aspect of BFS (Basil Faulty Syndrome). Most likely, the cause was one or more "faulty programs" in the brain of the murderer.

"Socially acceptable" thinking is that people who are "vile" or "evil" should be punished. But what evidence is there that such punishment works? Has it solved the "crime problem?"

Timothy Leary again: "Guilt, innocence, punishment, forgiveness, law and order, rehabilitation -- all constitute the mythology that masks the simple reality of badly-wired robots bumping into one another..."

Nathaniel Branden, PhD (The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand - A Personal Statement) (emphasis added):

"I recall a story I once read by a psychiatrist, a story about a tribe that has a rather unusual way of dealing with moral wrongdoers or lawbreakers. Such a person, when his or her infraction is discovered, is not reproached or condemned but is brought into the center of the village square -- and the whole tribe gathers around. Everyone who has ever known this person since the day he or she was born steps forward, one by one, and talks about anything and everything good this person has ever been known to have done. The speakers aren't allowed to exaggerate or make mountains out of molehills; they have to be realistic, truthful, factual. And the person just sits there, listening, as one by one people talk about all the good things this person has done in the course of his or her life. Sometimes, the process takes several days. When it's over, the person is released and everyone goes home and there is no discussion of the offense -- and there is almost no repetition of offenses (Zunin, 1970).

In the objectivist frame of reference there is the assumption, made explicit in John Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged, and dramatized throughout the novel in any number of ways, that the most natural, reasonable, appropriate response to immoral or wrong behavior is contempt and moral condemnation. Psychologists know that that response tends to increase the probability that that kind of behavior will be repeated. This is an example of what I mean by the difference between a vision of desirable behavior and the development of an appropriate psychological technology that would inspire people to practice it."

Nathaniel Branden uderstands the Basil Faulty Principle by writing that condemning the child murderer as "vile" or "evil" doesn't lead to a solution: "...[C]ontempt and moral condemnation tends to increase the probability that that kind of behavior will be repeated."

Note that certain advanced thinkers -- including philosopher David Hume -- have questioned the very notions of "causality," "cause," and "effect." About 2,600 years ago, the Carvaka people in Asia rejected "cause and effect." They believed that when we perceive apparently related events as consecutive in time, we simply perceive events following one another (Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht).

Andrew Galambos was an astrophysicist who developed a libertarian philosophy. Google "Andrew Galambos" and +"Andrew Galambos" +causes. Galambos emphasized identifying the "causes of things."

Freedom activists may want to ask questions like:

Proponents of life extension and biological/physical immortality could ask similar questions related to their endeavors.

Success Technique #41:
Get the "Law of Attraction" Working for You! *

[* DTF's note: This section was intended to be a joke - not really a "success technique". The supposed "Law of Attraction" was a popular delusion at the time when this was written (and may still be) - "magical" thinking nonsense! One important point - or underlying actual "success technique" here - could be to not be gullible about "success secrets"!]

Secret secrets of THE SECRET revealed

Law of Attraction Demonstrated and Proven Beyond any Shadow of Doubt!

How I Became the Strongest Money Magnet in the World!

🧲 💰

Like so many other highly intelligent people, I decided to do some experiments to demonstrate and prove the Law of Attraction. I got myself an Australian tuning fork. I hit the tuning fork with a hammer and meditated with the tuning fork next to my ear, so my energy would vibrate at just the right frequency. Then I got a magnet and a paper clip. I gradually moved the paperclip closer to the magnet. Suddenly, the paperclip flew straight to the magnet and stuck to it.

I instructed my brain: "Brain, I want you to attract money, just like the magnet attracted the paperclip." I strew some bills and coins on my livingroom carpet. Then I crawled around. Every time I came within about 6 inches of a bill or coin, it suddenly flew to my head and stuck to it. 100% success! It worked every time!

Then I went to the supermarket for some more experiments. When customers took money out of their purses or pockets to pay, I surreptitiously moved closer to them. Every time, without fail, when I got within about 6 inches of people with money in their hands, the bills and coins just flew straight to my head and stuck to it. They called the police and I was arrested and locked up... I told the judge it was just a harmless magic trick and I didn't mean to steal anyone's money. He was kind enough to let me off with just a warning.

After that I made sure that my energy was vibrating at a different frequency so I wouldn't be accused of stealing people's money. But I wondered how I could apply the Law of Attraction without robbing people...

Suddenly, I got an inspiration: "I'll demonstrate the Law of Attraction at work to James Randi and claim his million-dollar prize!" Unfortunately, when I got my great inspiration, I was walking past an armored car loaded with money. The thought of getting Randi's prize triggered my energy to vibrate at exactly the right frequency. I literally flew head-first into the side of the armored car.

My head hit the armored car so hard that I was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital. I was in a coma for about a week. Fortunately, I woke up from the coma, but my whole head felt rather numb.

The doctor said he was very glad I had "come back from the dead." I asked the doc what had happened? He said there must have been something weird about me because I had apparently tried to dive into an armored car through its side!

I asked the doc if I was going to be OK. He said, "Well, I have good news and bad news; which do you want first?"

"Gimme the bad first," I mumbled.

Doc: "I'm afraid the bad news is that you've suffered permanent brain damage and you'll never again be able to think clearly about anything."

"And what's the good news?"

Doc: "You'll never again have to work for anything. Whatever you want, just think about it, and it will come to you automatically!"

Success Technique #42:
Temporarily Suspend any Unscientific Beliefs and Superstitions You Might Have about Cause and Effect

Slow-moving bus; victim may have survived

When you cross the street, you instinctively operate in accordance with scientific laws of cause and effect. If you step in front of a fast-moving bus, it will run you over and kill you. Please take our word for this. If you have any unscientific beliefs or superstitions to the contrary, please don't test them in the street. If you try, you may not survive!

The fact that you're still alive demonstrates that you don't have any unscientific beliefs or superstitions about cause and effect -- OR, you have the ability to suspend them, when crossing the street.

If you have any beliefs or superstitions about the universe, at least the "middle world" we live in (as described by Dawkins), not working as described by scientific laws, then we suggest you try an experiment: Suspend your beliefs and superstitions temporarily while you attempt to become more successful. Operate as if the science of physics is correct. Once you've achieved your desired level of success you can lift the suspension and reinstate any unscientific beliefs or superstitions you like. (But... be careful when crossing the street!)

The fact that in the past you've been able to cross a street without being hit by a car, truck, or bus demonstrates that -- if you had any unscientific beliefs or superstitions about cause and effect -- you were able to suspend them while crossing the street. You can do the same during your quest to become more successful.

How well you understand cause and effect may have a major influence on how much success you enjoy.

Million-Dollar Prize for Demonstrating Supernatural Phenomena or Events!

The James Randi Educational Foundation offers "a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event." While we're open to the possibility of "ESP" and "spiritual/mystical phenomena," as far as we know, nobody has produced any credible evidence for any such phenomena. Maybe, some day, someone will produce credible evidence and claim Randi's one-million-dollar prize. Until such credible evidence is produced, it may be better to assume that beliefs in "spiritual/mystical phenomena" are misguided attempts to escape from "harsh reality."

Authors@Google: James Randi (click to watch video)

Paraphrasing Randi from the above video:

We put a bunch of dowsers through thorough tests - looking for water in pipes, and in the field - and got exactly the same results each time as what we would expect by chance alone.

Why do dowsers believe that they can really do this? Because of a thing known as the ideomotor reaction - meaning that they were actually moving the dowsing stick themselves and they're not aware of it.

After the tests, we asked them: "how many of you still believe that you have the power to dowse?" They all shot up their hands - because there is no dis-convincing the true believer, no matter what evidence is presented. They can fail any number of times consistently and they still believe they have the power no matter what.

Then I had an idea: using a very strong magnet laid on the desk, I gave a dowser one of the dowsing rods - his coat hanger wire - and I said "now take it - just pass it over the top of the magnet" - he did, and bang! - the magnet pulled it down.

I said "okay now you know that at that distance it'll pull it down". I pulled it off and I said "here take it and hold it sufficiently high up above here so you'll only feel the effect".

I said "wait a moment..." and I rearranged a few things, and I said "and it will work through a piece of cardboard too by the way", and I had a piece of cardboard there and I laid that over top of the magnet, and I said "that doesn't inhibit the result of course as you'll probably know", and I said "just pass the dowsing rod back and forth until you just feel it as it passes over the magnet", and he did this and he said "oh yes you can", I said "you can feel it tug?" he said "oh yes it very definitely, it tugs right at this position here" as he moved it back and forth.

Then I said "okay now move it away", and I just flicked the cardboard off - there was no magnet there! I surreptitiously - being a conjurer you see - I had scooted it over to the far side of the desk, and he looked as he passed the rod back again - this time he didn't feel the pulling power.

That's the ideomotor effect - it's really a positive psychological effect - you believe that you feel something like that when it's not there - and that's why the dowsers are so convinced that they have the power to dowse.

Randi's comments on acupuncture at the end of his presentation seem at odds with what he said about not being a "debunker" at the beginning. In our opinion, he would have been more credible if he had said that he was very skeptical about acupuncture, but hadn't organized any tests similar to those for homeopathy. Also, acupuncture doesn't require anything supernatural to work, so it may be outside the ambit of the James Randi Educational Foundation. Whether or not acupuncture works, using "anecdotal remarks from a few experts" to dismiss it seems silly. Scientific testing should be used to determine what forms of acupuncture work or don't work for specific ailments... before "rendering a verdict."

Michael Shermer Tests Acupuncture (click to watch video)

Michael Shermer is founder of The Skeptics Society, and editor of its magazine Skeptic.

See also Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT).

If you have any "magical" or supernatural abilities, such as being able to bend spoons with the power of your mind, then we suggest you demonstrate them as required by the James Randi Educational Foundation, and collect your million-dollar prize! (Just don't try a demonstration that involves stepping in front of a fast-moving bus!)

Particularly if you're unable to collect Randi's prize, we strongly recommend that you temporarily suspend any unscientific beliefs and superstitions you may have about cause and effect. Once you've achieved your desired level of success, you can always go back to them. (However... be careful when crossing the street!)

If you have any notions about the recently bandied-about "law of attraction" being scientific, we suggest you not test it by stepping in front of a fast-moving bus while thinking about what you want to "attract!"

Success Technique #43:
Fix Your Brain!

Suppose your computer doesn't work properly. You take it to a computer shop and they tell you there are both hardware and software problems. Which would you ask them to fix first?

The answer seems obvious. If there's a hardware problem, the computer is unlikely to work properly, no matter what software it has. So, you should fix the hardware first!

However, what if the human brain has an "Unconscious Decision Maker" (UDM) that can cause physical abnormalities in the brain?

Suppose someone, unaware of the UDM, fixes a physical abnormality in the brain, that was caused by the UDM. The UDM, in accordance with its "Symptom Imperative," may then simply cause another physical symptom.

Amen Clinics Part 1 of 3 (click to watch video)

Amen Clinics Part 2 of 3 (click to watch video)

Amen Clinics Part 3 of 3 (click to watch video)

"Indeed, the first step to being successful is to understand and optimize the working patterns of the brain. By enhancing the physical functioning of the brain I also enhance patients' potential for success in every area of their lives. First optimize the hardware and circuitry of the brain, then put in new programs."

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life: The Breakthrough Program For Conquering Anxiety, Depression, Obsessiveness, Anger, And Impulsiveness by Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

Table of Contents

Introduction to the Paperback Edition

  1. For Those Who Have Eyes, Let Them See
    Images Into the Mind
  2. Carving Knifes and Tooth Fairies
    A Prelude to the brain and behavior
  3. Looking Into Love and Depression
    The Deep Limbic System
  4. Enhancing Positive Thought Patterns and Strengthening Connections
    Deep Limbic System Prescriptions
  5. Looking Into Anxiety and Fear
    The Basal Ganglia
  6. Mastering Fear
    Basal Ganglia Prescriptions
  7. Looking Into Inattention and Impulsivity
    The Prefrontal Cortex
  8. Becoming Focused
    Prefrontal Cortex Prescriptions
  9. Looking Into Worry and Obsessiveness
    The Cingulate System
  10. Getting Unstuck
    Cingulate System Prescriptions
  11. Looking Into Memory and Temper
    The Temporal Lobes
  12. Enhancing Experience
    Temporal lobe Prescriptions
  13. The Dark Side
    Violence: A Combination of Problems
  14. Brain Pollution
    The Impact of Drugs and Alcohol on the Brain
  15. The Missing Links
    Drugs, Violence, and the Brain
  16. I Love You and I Hate You, Touch Me, No, Don't, Whatever
    Brain Patterns That Interfere With Intimacy
  17. Help!
    When and How to Seek Professional Care
  18. Who Is Andrew really?
    Questions: About the Essence of Our Humanity
  19. Brain Dos and Brain Don'ts
    A Summary of Ways to Optimize Brain Function and Break Bad Brain Habits

Appendix: Medication Notes

In general, it may be prudent to use natural foods and supplements, rather than prescription drugs -- see Raise Your Mood Level and Beware Medical Scams -- Take Control of Your Health.

Swimming underwater, holding your breath, so as to increase the size of your carotid arteries that supply blood to your brain, may be a great way to improve your general brain function.

Success Technique #44:
Make a Fundamental Decision!

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now." -- Quote constructed from the words of William Hutchinson Murray and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

According to Robert Fritz, "a fundamental choice is a choice in which you commit yourself to a basic life-orientation or a basic state of being." We use "fundamental decision" in the same sense.

A Commitment can also be regarded as a Fundamental Decision... (except, perhaps, some marriage commitments!).

A "Decision to be Happy for the Rest of Your Life!" would be a Fundamental Decision.

You may or may not operate parts of your life at a level generally regarded as "average" -- also called mediocrity. Depending on your current level of success, there may be a fundamental decision for you to make. Decide whether you have or can develop the capacity to advance to well above "average" -- or decide to remain "average" for the rest of your life. It may be appropriate for you to do a relatively simple job where you're told what to do. "Average" people can survive reasonably well doing relatively simple jobs with bosses who tell them what to do.

In making your decision, you may want to consider the "Peter Principle" -- Google "peter principle" to find out more. If you attempt to escape from the ranks of the "average," you may be trying to "promote (or elevate) yourself to above your natural level of competence." Your inherent level of competence may be such that you're only suited for a relatively simple job with a boss who tells you what to do. If so, it may not be appropriate for you to expect to elevate yourself to "above your natural station."

If you decide to remain "average" for the rest of your life, then there's no need to watch any "inspirational videos"... or to read any further...

Can You Make the Fundamental Decision to be Happy for the Rest of Your Life?

THS 79. Happiness Decision by Lionel Ketchian - The Happiness Show - 27 min 53 sec - Sep 8, 2006 - (click to watch video)

Text accompanying above video:

"We all know that happiness rules!

Of what value is ANYTHING except for its utility in facilitating happiness? A careful reflection reveals that the ONLY reason we do anything in life is to maintain or enhance our happiness and/or the happiness of others. Freud, with his Pleasure Principle, and other psychologists with similar hedonic principles, explained our basic and strongest motivation in life as the drive to experience pleasure and to avoid pain. Of course, as Freud pointed out with his Reality Principle, we would be unwise to indiscriminately seek pleasure at the expense of reason and experience. Many temporal pleasures will ultimately bring individuals, and/or those around them, greater pain. However, at times, enduring [temporary short-term] pain is a wise or necessary way to ensure greater [long-term] pleasure and happiness.

Our over 130 episodes are available for free broadcast by anyone, anywhere, in the world. They can be downloaded in TV-quality MPEG format through our distribution website.

Visit our site for more information about the show, and for pages and pages of science-based happiness information and resources. To browse our episodes at Google Video, just keyword "The Happiness Show."

Are you up to making a Fundamental Decision to utilize your Imagination and Vision?

In her book Unstoppable: 45 Powerful Stories of Perseverance and Triumph from People Just Like You, Cynthia Kersey identifies "7 Characteristics of Unstoppable People":

  1. Devote themselves to their true purpose
  2. Follow their heart's passion
  3. Believe in themselves and their ideas
  4. Prepare for challenges
  5. Ask for help and build a support team
  6. Seek creative solutions
  7. Persevere, no matter what the challenges

(Her case for selecting these 7 characteristics from dozens of other "candidate characteristics" is extremely weak at best! Also, had she interviewed a wide-cross section of people, she may have found that for every one with the "7 characteristics" who succeeded, there were 99 with the same "7 characteristics" who failed. This is called the "survivorship bias.")

She wrote:

"The one common link among all unstoppable people is adversity -- they struggled, tripped and stumbled, and had setbacks and failures, but they pulled themselves up and kept on going. The dream demanded their all and they gave it. The challenges and hardships they faced seemed insurmountable and yet they surmounted them. With each trial, they emerged stronger, surer, and more deserving of the dream itself."

In the first half of the book we found 12 instances of the Unstoppable People having made Fundamental Decisions! If Kersey had specifically asked each of her Unstoppable People if they had made Fundamental Decisions, everyone may have said: "YES!" (Because of "survivorship bias" and not establishing a cause-effect relationship, this would have proved nothing! A distinct possibility is that by chance, irrespective of characteristics, a few people will enjoy a little success. This initial success could then cause Kersey's "7 characteristics" as well as the making of fundamental decisions! What if most of these Unstoppable People just got "lucky"?)

Adapted from Practice of Leadership.

Structure Determines Behavior

Organizational and individual change needs to be supported by the appropriate structure, Robert Fritz in his book Path of Least Resistance: Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life, describes the importance structure:

"Once structure exists energy moves through that structure by the path of least resistance. In other words, energy moves where it is easiest for it to go. The structure of anything refers to its fundamental parts and how those individual elements function in relation to each other and in relation to the whole... Every structure contains within it the inclination towards movement, that is, a tendency to change from one state into another state... Structure determines behavior. The way anything is structured determines the behavior within in that structure."

This understanding of the importance of structure leads to the following insights:

We can recognize the structures at play in our organizations and lives then change them so that we create what we really want to create.

Generally, Make-or-Break Issues (MBIs) can be regarded as structures. That's why they need to be handled first. Typically, the "self-help" industry doesn't address MBIs. That's a major reason why most of their products and services don't work for most people. You may want to look over these GRSS pages to determine which of the items, if you were to implement them, would be structural changes. Which of the following, if you were to implement them, would involve structural changes?:

  1. One-Small-Step Booster
  2. Why-Can-Do Booster
  3. Anything you do to Accelerate Your Learning
  4. Anything you do to Raise Your Mood Level
  5. Anything you do to Overcome Self-Interference

Structural Tensions

If we want to create change it's necessary to have a structure that creates a path of least resistance by creating the necessary structural tension that moves the organization or individual toward resolution. When creating a structure for change it requires two key components:

  1. A clear view of current reality you now have.
  2. A vision of the results you want to create.

As illustrated above, the discrepancy between what you now have and the results you want to create in the future creates a structural tension that seeks resolution. In creating the tension it's necessary to hold the vision and not lower your standards and face reality as it is, any biased view of reality makes the tension difficult to form or maintain.

I think that these models are powerful tools for guiding how we create change in organizations and our lives. What are the structures and tensions in your life? Are they producing the positive results? Do you have a clear view of your current reality? Do you have a clear vision? Perhaps these are the reasons we're not creating the results we seek in our organzations and our lives...

Reproduced from WEBSITE MARKETING (emphases and comments added)

Internalizing Structural Tension

by Robert Fritz

I know that many of you already know the power of structural tension, and some of this month's article will be part quick review. However, there are other dimensions of structural tension that go far beyond the surface in enabling us to work on behalf of the lives we want to create on all levels.

Structural Tension is the most powerful dynamic of the creative process. The fundamental principle comes from the first axiom of structural dynamics: tension seeks resolution. The use of the word tension here describes a force in play. Of course, tension, in this context does not refer to stress, pressure, or a state of anxiety. Rather we are talking about the dynamic that is formed by the difference between two elements within the same structure: the desired outcome in relationship to the current condition.

The two data points -- desired state, actual state -- become the center of focus when we are creating. The tension generates energy that is used in the process of bringing the desired state -- the vision of the result you want to create -- into being. We create structural tension by deciding the end result we want to create, and then knowing where we are currently in relationship to that outcome.

Structural tension is resolved by action. We do what we need to do on behalf of the outcome we want to create. But the actions we take are well motivated and supported by the underlying structure we are in. Because of structural tension it is easier to do what we need to do. No need to attempt to manipulate ourselves into compliance, we can make strategic secondary choices in support of the vision.

Structural tension, once formed, has two very compelling effects. One is true innovation. Often when we consider our current reality, we find that the usual ways to achieve our goal are not available to us. Perhaps we don't have enough time or money. Perhaps the situation we are in does not lend itself to the accomplishment of our goal. Given that, and given that we are in a structure that is seeking resolution in favor of our vision, our minds become exceedingly creative. We get new ideas. We become inventive. We generate possibilities we haven't conceived of before. From this, new paths open to us, and what seemed impossible before, becomes probable.

The second effect that comes from establishing structural tension is that the universe seems suddenly to be cooperating with us. [Frederick Mann: This seems like a mistaken attribution. It's much more likely that structural tension engages the nonconscious brain (including the cerebellum), which can provide new insights and make us more attentive to opportunities we otherwise might have ignored.] The phone rings, and it's just the person who can help you in creating your goal. You read something that leads to new insights. You find new resources that you need. These types of experiences are common in the creative process, and add to the actions we are taking.

When you begin to use structural tension in your life, often the first stages are a technique that you adopt for specific creations. You hold a picture of the outcome you want, while simultaneously holding a picture of the current circumstances you have in relationship to your goal. This technique is powerful. Once you have experienced this in your own creative process, you can begin to deepen the power of structural tension by internalizing it. Rather than something you "take on," you assimilate it into your way of being.

[Frederick Mann's Comment: The following epitomizes the shift into an orientatation where YOU BECOME THE CREATIVE FORCE IN YOUR LIFE. It could be a major contributor to your "Personal Competence and Power Shift (PCAPS)"]:

Your overall orientation is focused on your overall desired state in relationship to the current manifestation of that state. Your life begins to experience a deeper and richer sense of direction. You are more able to appreciate the present moment. You are more centered, focused, and alive. Circumstances take on a new role. Rather than simply reacting or responding to them, they are now the basic building blocks for your deeper creative process. Your highest aspirations and deepest values become the organizing principle of your life as structural tension becomes internalized into your life spirit.

© Robert Fritz 2006

Success Technique #45:
Organize Your Life to Create Structural Tension so the Path of Least Resistance Leads You Where You Want to Go!

"People who achieve their dreams tend to be in a tiny minority... perhaps one in a million or even one in ten million." -- Steven K. Scott (Simple Steps to Impossible Dreams: The Fifteen Power Secrets of the World's Most Successful People)

Scott's book starts with the question: "IF YOU FOUND Aladdin's lamp and its genie offered to make all your dreams come true, what would you wish for?" If you have any kind of dream about achieving something important with your life, then you're at the right place!

The first thing is "Organize" in the title above -- "organize" how you utilize your time. To get "the path of least resistance" (TPLR) "working" for you, will require that you spend some time. You need to know how much "discretionary time" you have available. You may also have to reorganize some aspects of your life so you can make more discretionary time available. So we suggest you immediately go to Gary Halbert: Effective Time Utilization, do Halbert's recommended exercise, and then come back here. Not doing the Halbert exercise could be a Make-or-Break Issue (MBI) that prevents your success.

"You must begin to gain the attitude of one who has been given the greatest computer in the universe and committed to using it to achieve your dreams and to help others to achieve theirs." -- Steven K. Scott (Simple Steps to Impossible Dreams: The Fifteen Power Secrets of the World's Most Successful People)

The "greatest computer in the universe" is of course your brain. Upgrading your brain could could improve your life. See Fix Your Brain.

Better organizing how you use your time and your brain may be vital to enable you to get to the point where "the Path of Least Resistance Leads You Where You Want to Go!" (Just in case you haven't done Gary Halbert's recommended time exercise, here's the link again: Halbert: Effective Time Utilization.)

Adapted from STRUCTURAL TENSION - Idea contributed to the Fifth Discipline by Robert Fritz

Building Structures That By Their Very Nature Move To Create The Results That Matter

(Senge, Fieldboook, 195)

The central practice of Learning Organizations involves learning to keep both a personal (or shared) vision and a clear picture of reality (results) before us. Doing this will generate a force within ourselves called "structural tension." Tension by its nature, seeks resolution, and the most natural resolution of this tension is for our reality to move closer to what we want. It's as if we have set up a rubber band between the two poles of our vision and current reality.

Practicing the disciplines is like a conversation within ourselves. One voice within us dreams of what we want for the future... Still another casts an (often baleful) eye on the world around us... A third voice, often well hidden..., is willing to say, "I have chosen what I want and accepted that I will create it." In the skills of Learning Organization, we try to hear all these facets clearly..., knowing that the power which pulls us toward our vision emerges from the relationship between them.

For several years, Frederick Mann's opinion was: "The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz is by far the most valuable book in my personal library. I know of no book I can recommend more highly."

Although this book was highly recommended to him, and applying its principles produced spectacular results for him, it doesn't seem to have worked so well for many other people. (If it really worked for a high percentage of people, it would have "cornered the self-help market!")

Several people indicated to him that the book didn't work for them. One person said that he'd done a Robert Fritz course he found very useful, but the book was a waste of time. Frederick recommended the book to several thousand people but he doesn't recall anyone reporting back that it worked well for them.

This feedback helped lead Frederick to identify the "Make-or-Break Issue" (MBI) and to realize that some people suffer from "negatives" that override whatever positives they may try to implement. Frederick suspects that for a high percentage of people (maybe as high as 98%), trying to apply Fritz's principles will be a waste of time, until they handle their MBIs first.

For example, if you're predominantly "vigilance oriented", then you may need to switch to an eagerness orientation before you try to apply The Path of Least Resistance (TPLR). If you do try to apply TPLR and it doesn't work fairly quickly, then I suggest you identify the MBI that's holding you back and handle that first.

Central to TPLR is the contrast between Fritz's "reactive-responsive orientation" (similar to our "vigilance orientation") and Fritz's "creative orientation" (similar to our "eagerness orientation" ). However, TPLR falls short in providing sufficient means for most people to overcome the negatives that keep them stuck in the reactive-responsive orientation. Our "Why-Can-Do Booster" may broaden your understanding of Fritz's reactive-responsive orientation and creative orientation.

Theoretically it should be possible to apply TPLR to handle an MBI. We just don't know how many people have done it. Anyway, there are some "TPLR happy campers!"

On 12/10/07, there were 33 customer reviews of TPLR on, including the headlines:

TPLR can be summarized as: Orient and organize your life to create structural tension so the path of least resistance leads you toward the results you want.

The fundamental principles (with our own insights added) can be summarized:

Energy flows along the path of least resistance.

"... [T]here is a direct connection between what occurs in your consciousness and what occurs in your external life... if you initiate change internally a corresponding change will happen externally." [Just don't go astray on a "New-Age" path to nowhere, thinking that your thoughts alone will automatically make things happen. Most of the time, you have to work to make things happen!]

Humans are like rivers and tend to automatically follow the path of least resistance.

The path of least resistance is determined by fundamental underlying structures. These structures could be described as programs in the brain -- special programs with a pervasive influence. They also include paradigms or worldviews.

We can change the fundamental underlying structures of our lives. The ability we apply to do this is Power of Choice - the most powerful human ability.

Two radically different life-orientations can be distinguished:

  1. The reactive-responsive orientation, characterized by reacting and responding to events and external conditions -- could be called the "victim-orientation" (an extreme form of our vigilance orientation). Nevertheless, there are many situations where reacting/responding to circumstances is vital for survival.

  2. The creative orientation, characterized by you being the predominant creative power in your life -- could be called the "champion-orientation" (an extreme form of our eagerness orientation).

One of the essential differences is that in the creative orientation you initiate any desired change by changing the contents of your brain, while in the reactive-responsive orientation you attempt to change conditions outside yourself, without changing the contents of your brain.

One of the most important aspects of the reactive-responsive orientation can be called "overcoming resistance" or "changing the system." You attempt to apply a stronger force to overcome an opposing force. You attempt to launch into battle with a better system to overpower a weaker system. Imagine two opposing fists. If one fist pushes harder, the opposing fist tends to react by strengthening its own resisting push -- escalating opposing forces!

In the reactive-responsive orientation you experience yourself being at the effect (or mercy) of external circumstances, that is, more or less helpless. In the creative orientation you experience yourself at cause over (or in control of) external circumstances, that is, powerful.

In the reactive-responsive orientation your feelings and emotions may be the predominant factors that determine your actions. In the creative orientation your choices are the predominant power and you do what you choose, sometimes in spite of how you feel. Though you still regard your feelings as important messengers.

In the creative orientation you focus on the result; the process for achieving the result is secondary; "what" precedes "how."

The basic manner in which you reorient your life is to make fundamental choices. According to Fritz, "a fundamental choice is a choice in which you commit yourself to a basic life-orientation or a basic state of being." Here are some of the fundamental choices Frederick Mann personally made:

  1. I choose to be the predominant creative power in my life.
  2. I choose to create and enjoy an exceptional degree of freedom.
  3. I choose to increase my power and express it creatively and effectively.
  4. I choose to be healthy, fit, loving, and wealthy.
  5. I choose to be true to myself and to develop and achieve my full potential.
  6. I choose my positive, creative, and powerful frame of mind.
  7. I choose to create the abundant energy that empowers my actions.
  8. I choose the powerful actions that produce the results I want.
  9. I choose to devote my life to personal freedom and power, and the solution of world problems.
  10. I choose to link up with like-minded free, creative, and powerful individuals.

Interestingly, after reading The Path of Least Resistance, Frederick realized that in 1986, when in very poor health (including severe heart disease), he did actually make the fundamental choice to be healthy. He completely reoriented his life in respect of health and changed his diet and life-style drastically. Today Frederick is superhealthy and moderately fit. He has no heart problems. He has not spent any time being ill in bed for several decades.

At the time when he made the fundamental choice to be healthy, he also had to make certain primary choices concerning diet and life-style. At the time it seemed completely impossible to him that he could live up to these choices, so much so, that he often experienced despair. Nevertheless, he was able to remain true to his choices -- and produced results way beyond what he had thought possible. The choices he had made changed underlying structures so the path of least resistance automatically led him to do what was necessary to achieve superhealth and fitness.

This demonstrates one of Fritz's dictums: what you choose does not depend on what you think is possible.

In addition to fundamental choice, Fritz identifies two other kinds of choices: primary choice and secondary choice. A primary choice is a choice about a major result, an end in itself, for example, "I want to live in a $250,000 house." A secondary choice is one that supports a primary choice, for example, "I will save $25,000 for a down payment on my house."

The difference or gap between current reality and your choices establishes structural tension. Structural tension seeks resolution and generates creative energy...

The Pivotal Power Formula: Fritz describes a "pivotal technique" you can apply when circumstances are not to your liking. I have renamed it "the pivotal power formula":

  1. Describe current reality.
  2. Describe the results you want.
  3. Formally choose the results you want ("I choose ...").
  4. Move on; change the focus of your attention; shift gears; do something else. The structural tension generated by steps 1-3 will automatically lead you along the path of least resistance to processes that will enable you to generate the results you have chosen.

The Action Shift Power Formula: Frederick Mann has developed a formula you can apply at the action level. It will help you become more aware of when you sink into the reactive-responsive orientation. It may increase your power and creativity considerably:

  1. Write down an intended action.
  2. If practical, wait before taking the action.
  3. Ask, "Would this action be reactive-responsive or creative?"
  4. Ask, "What would be a more creative action?"
  5. Sleep on it.
  6. Formulate a more creative action (or list of actions) when you wake up.
  7. Ask, "Will the action(s) produce the results I want?"

Often you will be amazed by the difference between the quality of the action from step 1 and the quality of the action(s) generated during your sleep. The Power of the Path of Least Resistance at work!

Success Technique #46:
Learn Probability Thinking!

You could Google topics like "probability thinking", "cognitive bias", "risk management", etc.

We also recommend the following books (all also relevant to starting your own business or making money online):

#1: The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives by Leonard Mlodinow Review: "Chances are good you'll like this one" (May 18, 2008) by Julie Neal "The Complete Walt Disney World"

This smart book will make you think. Academic yet easy to read, it explores how random events shape the world and how human intuition fights that fact. I found this point fascinating. It never occurred to me that our brains naturally want to see patterns and order, and life doesn't necessarily work like that.

It's comforting to think of an orderly world, with everything in its place, running according to plan. It dovetails into our yearning for meaning and control, and the need to feel that we are important. The idea of randomness is frightening. If the world is shaped without conscious decision, it's a pretty chilly prospect.

Author Leonard Mlodinow examines the importance of randomness in diverse situations, including Las Vegas roulette tables, "Let's Make a Deal," the career of Bruce Willis, and the Warsaw ghetto after Hitler invaded Poland. The author does a good job explaining how chance and luck are vital factors in how things turn out.

The cover has a nice touch. On the dust jacket, several die-cut holes reveal letters on the hardback underneath. The letters are the R and D in "Drunkard's," the A in "Walk," the N in "Randomness," the O in "Our" and the M in Mlodinow. These letters are connected by a thin red line. They spell out "RANDOM."

Here's the chapter list:

  1. Peering through the Eyepiece of Randomness
  2. The Laws of Truths and Half-Truths
  3. Finding Your Way Through a Space of Possibilities
  4. Tracking the Pathways to Success
  5. The Dueling Laws of Large and Small Numbers
  6. False Positives and Positive Fallacies
  7. Measurement and the Law of Errors
  8. The Order in Chaos
  9. Illusions of Patterns and Patterns of Illusion
  10. The Drunkard's Walk.

#2: Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets by Nassim Nicholas Taleb Review: Slashdot Review (December 14, 2003) by A Customer

Summary: Debunking fallacies of observation, Taleb reminds us of the pervasive ineffables that complicate life at every turn.

Marc Tardiveau wrote:

I just finished Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Fooled by Randomness. It is an enjoyable book, written engagingly by an interesting character -- the kind of book that makes you think twice about certain things (for instance, the fact that you're not dead: is that really because you're so darn good, or does dumb luck play a part?) Although written all the way back in 2001, this book is more relevant than ever, since one of its major topics is the impact of unpredictable events on markets, insurance, and our perception of life in general. In fact, Taleb makes a living from unforeseen events; these days, that seems like a rather cunning niche.

The main topic of the book is the fact that all humans are simply terrible at judging probabilities. Taleb is a securities trader, so a lot of the book revolves around financial probabilities, but his argument is mainstream and requires absolutely no knowledge of the markets. The book details examples of people wildly misjudging risks and probabilities in many contexts. Often that misestimation is understandable in advance of certain events, but harder to excuse after they've occurred; Taleb hits pretty hard on what he calls "data snoopers," his term for people who back-fit theories to existing data.

One of the most notorious examples is the Bible code (which has been thoroughly debunked), but Taleb argues that analysts who spend their time trying to find patterns in historical market data are no different: if you try long enough and hard enough, you will unavoidably find apparent regularities, which can be extremely compelling when seen in isolation. In context, though, they dissolve into nothing but meaningless statistical anomalies. Taleb rightfully compares these searches for meaning to the famous monkeys and typewriters parable.

Taleb's best example of poor probability intuition is probably the infamous survivor bias, which is our tendency to be disproportionately impressed by success. We almost always ignore the fact that, for one success story, there are many failures. But we seldom hear about the failures (just like we never hear about the many theories that didn't fit the data). So it's all a game of numbers: out of 10,000 traders, a few are statistically bound to be successful, even if they are nothing more than lucky idiots. The fact that they succeeded does not mean anything. It doesn't mean that they are bad traders, but it doesn't mean that they are good traders either, because on average somebody had to succeed.

One of Taleb's hot buttons is that people tend to be too confident in what they know. He argues convincingly that we should take everything, including science, with a grain of salt. Writing about Karl Popper, he points out that there are only two kinds of scientific theories: those that are demonstrably false, and those that are not yet demonstrably false. An irksome (but sadly true) observation, yet most people behave as if what they know is eternal truth. One could of course argue that Popper's observation is but another kind of truth, but I tend to put a lot more trust in people who question what they know than in people who don't.

Another of Taleb's peeves is the human tendency to over-attribute every random event (the old "post hoc, ergo propter hoc"). For instance, a commentator saying that "the Dow went down ten points today on concerns about Iraq" is talking nonsense: there is no way anyone can tie such a small market move to any particular reason. I found this specific point (which in retrospect is blindingly obvious) especially enlightening, as I am embarrassed to admit that, until now, I just accepted those market comments at face value.

Taleb also has some fun at the expense of economists and analysts, especially those whose predictions turned out wrong, but who claim that the theories were in fact right, and that the facts simply weren't supposed to be that way. This is what he calls denial of history, and is common among investors and gamblers (the two being of course close cousins).

The style of the book is informal and funny, and often meandering. We hop from one topic to the next, which occasionally may detract from the book's continuity, but overall the author's points come through loud and clear. Ironically for a man who advocates self-doubt, Taleb is starkly self-confident, though not in an irritating way.

Taleb is an intriguing, multi-cultural, iconoclastic character that has been around Wall Street for a while, and now runs his own small firm. Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point, an absolute must-read for anyone who owns a brain) has written an excellent article that shows how Taleb's reasoning runs counter to just about every bit of conventional Wall Street wisdom. If you're interested in the markets, especially derivatives, and how Taleb trounces most of Wall Street's voodoo doctors, this moderately technical interview from 1996 is worth reading too.

Overall, a warmly recommended book.

#3: The Disciplined Trader: Developing Winning Attitudes by Mark Douglas Review: "A Complete Insight Into The Disciplined Trader" (March 27, 2003) by

The number one reason that I like The Disciplined Trader is that Mark Douglas has no formal training in psychology. Rather, Douglas was trained in the only classroom that matters - the battlefield of actual trading. Even though this book was published in 1990 and there have been a plethora of trading-psychology books published since then, Douglas' material stands out as an innovative classic. He just uses his own gift for seeing the mental shortcomings of the losing trader and spells out his own fresh insights on what we, as traders, need to do to experience real success in trading.

Douglas starts the book out from a perspective that many traders can identify with - crushing defeat. Humbling himself to the higher power that the market is and analyzing the formula for defeat, Douglas shows how he was able to reverse-engineer it to find the formula for success that many of the book's readers over the years have found useful in exorcising their own psychological demons.

Central to Douglas' thesis is that the elements of character that produce success in most of life's endeavors are completely different from those that will make you successful as a trader. To thrive in business or some professional career, you have to work hard to develop the skills that will allow you to be in control of your environment. To build a business empire, you have to be a great leader of people. To become a heart surgeon, you have to learn how to control your scalpel. To be a good mother, you have to know how to discipline your children.

But successful trading, says Douglas, is the process of yielding to the market and being in control only of yourself and the way you respond to changing market conditions. When the idea of being in control of yourself sinks in, you realize that you as a trader get exactly what you deserve from the markets. If you consistently get poor results, you deserve this. If you consistently get great results, you deserve that. The market doesn't care, one way or the other.

As with any book filled with original and profound ideas, The Disciplined Trader isn't always an easy read, particularly as it slogs through the painful process of pummeling away at our self-destructive mechanisms. Fortunately, as with life, the journey provides a reward and Douglas spends the final chapters of the book explaining practical techniques that will help you to "get it together" as a trader.

Frederick Mann: When I read a book, I highlight parts and write comments. In terms of "highlights per page," no other book I've read comes close to The Disciplined Trader.

Success Technique #47:
Multiple Fishbones - Apply Cause-and-Effect Diagrams and Similar Methods to Learn More about Causes and Effects!

An argument can be made that understanding cause and effect is the ultimate success skill! Following are 14 candidates for consideration as master success skills:

  1. Maximize Your Time Usage
  2. Ability to Solve Problems
  3. Switch to a Path where Success becomes Possible
  4. Rise Above Your Success Threshold
  5. Identify and Overcome Personal Constraints
  6. Ability to Feel Good Practically All the Time
  7. Increase Personal Power (including marketing skills)
  8. Unleash the Power of Your Questions
  9. Learning and Personal Growth
  10. Identify Leverage Points and Focus on Them
  11. Use Systems to Increase Leverage
  12. Increase Your Intelligence and Improve Your Thinking Skills
  13. Understand Cause and Effect
  14. Identify, Develop, and Implement Winning Strategies - and Continue to Improve Them

On examining the above skills, can you find even one for which Understanding Cause and Effect is not an essential ingredient?

So how do you learn more about Cause and Effect? Answer: Study this Page as well as well as the other GRSS Pages. Simpleplogy 101 includes some exercises to improve your Understanding of Cause and Effect.

Check out some basics of the Science of Physics, particularly "Newton's laws!"

Apply the Scientific Method to solve problems.

  1. Google "Ishikawa Diagram", "fishbone diagram", "root cause analysis", "fault tree analysis", and "5-why's" to find out how to use the diagrams above and below.
  2. Use them to find major and minor causes for past successes.
  3. Find major and minor causes for past failures.
  4. Review all the GRSS Pages and use the information to identify the major and minor causes for your future success!
  5. Use the diagrams to identify MBIs and Leverage Points.
  6. Beware of false causes -- see Temporarily Suspend any Unscientific Beliefs and Superstitions You Might Have about Cause and Effect.
  7. Be very careful about assuming that something on these Pages doesn't apply to you, or that you don't need it -- Check Your Blind Spots!

An example of "yellow #1" (main effect or problem) could be: "Why have I failed to make money online?"

An example of "yellow #2" (major cause) could be: "I don't know how to market."

An example of "yellow #3" (minor cause) could be: "I don't know how to Learn to market."

For each major cause you can keep on asking "why" until you identify an "atomic root cause which is actionable." It must be something you can take action to remedy or fix.

Success Technique #48:
Learn about Your Optical Blind Spots and the "Filling-In" Phenomenon

Challenge: Some people can complete the exercises below in a few minutes and quickly understand their implications. For others it takes longer. If you're a person who prefers to start with small steps, then your challenge is to do one of the exercises below every day (or every week!) and get to the point where you appreciate their implications.

Did you know that your eyes have blind spots (and not just at the back of your head)? Each of your eyes contains an area that has no photo-receptors because it is occupied by the optic nerve. You may not have noticed these areas because they are on opposite sides of your visual field. However, this exercise is designed to isolate your optical blind spot and you may be amazed by the results.

Instructions: Close your left eye and fixate your right eye on the cross in the first diagram. If your eye is about 12 inches (30 cm) away from the screen, you should notice that the black round dot "disappears." This distance may vary according to your screen size and resolution.

You may be surprised to see that the dot is replaced, not by a black region, but rather blank white space. The brain simply "fills in the most probable thing or pattern" (in this case, a uniform white area) where in reality there is no white area, but a black dot.

The following examples demonstrate the "filling-in" phenomenon in greater detail. Apply the same instructions as given above and you should notice the red markings each time are replaced by "the most probable pattern or thing" your brain "thinks" should be in the blind spot you can't see.

It's very important that you realize what happened during the exercises. In the first exercise, when the black dot "disappeared" (in the area you couldn't see because of your optical blind spot), your brain "filled in" the missing area with a white space, because the surrounding area is white space.

In the second exercise, when the red cross "disappeared" (in the area you couldn't see because of your optical blind spot), your brain "filled in" the missing area with a solid black line, because the surrounding area contains two solid black lines. Because you can't see the area between the lines when it's in your optical blind spot, your brain simply "assumes" that it's all one black line and you "see" a solid black line where there's really a red cross in the middle!

In the third exercise, when the red cross "disappeared" (in the area you couldn't see because of your optical blind spot), your brain "filled in" the missing area with a yellow space, because the surrounding area is a yellow space.

I hope you now realize that your brain can deceive you. It can "fill in" something where there's really nothing or something else. Now consider the possibility that your most important Make-or-Break Issue (MBI) has been "occupying a cognitive blind spot" and you haven't been able to see it. Furthermore, your brain could have "filled in" what you couldn't see with "all the things I don't have to do."

Now consider this: If you're not already highly successful, it's very likely that there's at least one MBI (Make-or-Break Issue) you haven't handled. And why haven't you handled it? What if it's been "sitting in a cognitive blind spot" and your brain "covered it up?"

Introduction & Programs ~ Starting Out; Some Basics ~ Success Journeys ~ Accelerate Your Learning ~ Time: Your Most Valuable Asset ~ How to Feel Good All the Time ~ How to Overcome Self‑Interference ~ A Few Health Basics ~ Cause & Effect ~ Additional Articles

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