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How to hack the beliefs that are holding you back (swombat.com)
264 points by _hgt1 on July 20, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 122 comments

The author's commentary about money really struck home with me. I had the very same problem for most of my life, and never realized it until last year.

About a year ago, I wrote what I thought was a throwaway tweet, "I give up, I admit it—I suck at money."

Several people were kind enough to take my tweet seriously, and through several recommendations and some great advice, I chose to find out why that was. It turned out to be my mindset and self-image that was the problem. The bit about pushing money away because you subconsciously believe there's something wrong with having it was powerful and true for me. I learned about that mindset from the book "Secrets of the Millionaire Mind" by T. Harv Eker.

It's a corny title, and the book itself can make you feel kind of corny reading it. Unfortunately, most books about money tend to be that way. You just have to deal with it. Stick a fake cover on the book or read it on a tablet where no-one can see what you're reading. The thing is, that T. Harv Eker book made me really look at why I was bad with money, not how I was bad with it. I'd be interested to know if this is where the author found out about his own subconscious blocks.

Two other books that helped me were "The Automatic Millionaire" by David Bach, which taught me to put my savings on autopilot, and "I Will Teach You to be Rich" by Ramit Sethi. Ramit is an author and blogger in his twenties who I've found to have the best day-to-day info and motivation to keep me on track.

No matter how good you are at anything else in your life, if you have a bad relationship with money, you'll suffer for it. I'm just glad I finally (if sort of passively) asked for help.

I love how the Americans say they're "making money". That's exactly what you're doing. Money is the product of people who create something of value. Don't think of it as "the root of all evil" ;-)

This is where we should wheel out Francisco's money speech in Atlas Shrugged: http://capitalismmagazine.com/2002/08/franciscos-money-speec...

(I'm not an Ayn Rand fan and found lots of her ideas in Atlas Shrugged ridiculous, but thought that speech was rather good).

You got me curious. I don't have the fortitude to read through all of that but I dipped in here and there. What leapt out at me is how utterly Russian it is. The speech reads like an English translation of an ideological Russian novel, which I suppose in some sense it is. Rand comes across as a shrill and graphomanic anti-Dostoevsky. (Dostoevsky was a polar opposite kind of conservative to AR, if she can be called conservative, and boy would he have had a field day with this.)

Rand's desire to take her idea as far as it can possibly go, in classic can't-make-an-omelette-without-breaking-eggs style, is as Russian as vodka. Think Bazarov the nihilist in "Fathers and Sons". Or better, Chernyshevsky's "What is to be Done?" which is famous for two things: having inspired generations of Russian revolutionaries and being a bit of a literary embarrassment.

Here's an example. This is interesting and at least plausible:

  No other language or nation had ever used these words ["to make
  money"] before; men had always thought of wealth as a static
  quantity [...] Americans were the first to understand that wealth
  has to be created.
But she follows it with a non sequitur so stupid that one wonders whether it is parody:

  The words ‘to make money’ hold the essence of human morality.
This kind of totalism isn't particularly American; there are no checks and balances for miles. Rather, it's a foreign species that has flourished in certain American soils. It's easy to see why the greed-is-good financialization crowd would go in for someone who writes things like "Money is the product of virtue". Much more interesting is the question of its popular appeal. There I think you have to look at what Steinbeck famously pointed out, that America doesn't have poor, it has temporarily embarrassed millionaires.

There's an awesome novel to be written by someone with the ability to grasp all this at its root. Rand didn't write such a novel but she would make a great character in it.

> The speech reads like an English translation of an ideological Russian novel, which I suppose in some sense it is. Rand comes across as a shrill and graphomanic anti-Dostoevsky. (Dostoevsky was a polar opposite kind of conservative to AR, if she can be called conservative, and boy would he have had a field day with this.)

Rand was a fan of Dostoevsky (see The Romantic Manifesto http://www.amazon.com/dp/0451149165). (By comparison, she couldn't stand Tolstoy, and considered Anna Karenina one of the (morally) worst books ever written.)

Sciabarra's Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical http://www.amazon.com/dp/0271014415 considers her from a perspective that sounds similar to yours. (I haven't read it myself.)

Rand was a fan of Dostoevsky

That's emotionally unsurprising but ideologically weird, since for Dostoevsky money is anything but "the product of virtue" and wealth creation is the last thing his characters are interested in. They kill for money, gamble for it, burn it, tear it up and throw it away, but the one thing they never do is rationally invest it.

Dostoevsky lived on the edge financially until late in life and thought that a society based on "wealth creation" was vulgar and spiritually dead. He critiqued it hilariously in The Gambler.

a perspective that sounds similar to yours

Yes, what I'm saying is that Ayn Rand was probably a Russian radical who merely flipped the high-order ideological bit. In other words, she's closer to Stalin than to Adam Smith.

Rand also liked Victor Hugo and Mickey Spillane.

If you're at all interested in her aesthetic principles, give The Romantic Manifesto a try--it's an essay collection, and quite short (by her standards at least--about 200 pages).

My point is that she had at least as much cause to reject Dostoevsky on "moral" grounds as Tolstoy. I'd bet a fiver that she has to twist herself into quite some contortion to justify that one.

Ayn Rand is interesting, in my opinion, as a pathological case. In that respect she's very interesting - like, super weird. As I said, she and the social ripples around her would make a brilliant subject for a great comic novelist, if there were one around with the depth to get it right psychologically. But I'm not going to work on anything like that, so I have little reason to read her. Sorry if I'm offending you by being so dismissive. I do appreciate your comments.

Thanks for the rather punchy, refreshing literary and ideological analysis of Rand in this thread. It's a pity you're not going to contribute more words to a critique of her ideas, but I can certainly understand why.

In one brief excursion you've managed to survey the land of Rand and come away with the essence of what I found so absurd about Atlas Shrugged, the only book of hers I've read.

As a young pup I found it enjoyable, and her relentless romanticism did manage to cultivate within me an appreciation of capitalism, industry, and money at some emotional level (that was not unlike jaysonelliot's experience with more traditional financial self-help books).

However I left the novel amused by its absurdity and extremism and promptly discovered the world of Objectivists and the cult of Rand. At that point amusement turned to bemusement at the ideological adoration heaped on her by what seemed to be a whole intellectual movement. Eek.

As you mention, it's easy to see why the greed-is-good financialization crowd go in for Rand - she provides a satisfactorily-sized ideological fig-leaf for naked greed.

I'm off to read some Dostoevsky.

I'm off to read some Dostoevsky.

In that case I've done some good! If you want his critique of capitalism, The Gambler is pretty good. But if you want sheer entertainment, I think The Double is one of the best things Dostoevsky ever wrote. It was only his second novel, and before he was sent to Siberia. His first novel Poor Folk had made him a huge star (even though it's no longer thought to be very good). So he thought he'd top that and came out with The Double which was so weird and out-there that everybody immediately pronounced him a has-been. It's complete genius, though, and very funny.

Edit: if on the other hand you want the classics then Crime and Punishment is likely your best bet. It's all about what happens when someone takes an idea to its extreme conclusion and acts on it. And it's his easiest big novel from a story point of view.

Ayn Rand was one hell of a romantic...

Apropos citation. Would've been an even better one without the disclaimer.

The money speech contains the essence of the overriding philosophy in the novel at large; I'm curious what you found ridiculous in the rest of the book that isn't stated here (at least in its logical precepts).

The money speech helped me get over an irrational, subconscious distaste for money but at the same time I recognized it for the capitalist fairytale that it is. So I suppose it helped me in a way that "The Automatic Millionaire" and other books helped jaysonelliot.

Gruseom has apparently never read Rand, but manages a brief, wonderful analysis of Rand's flaws and absurdities above that captures the essence of what I found more absurd as the novel progresses to its conclusion.

However I still keep the concept of moochers and looters in my head, and think of them as we lurch from one global financial crisis to another.

"The money speech helped me get over an irrational, subconscious distaste for money but at the same time I recognized it for the capitalist fairytale that it is."

Funny, the best summary of Rand I've read (maybe on Samizdata - I can't find the exact quote though) is that her writing is a really good antidote to certain ideologies, but it shouldn't be mistaken for food.

EDIT: s/Samizata/Samizdata

exactly!!! It helped me too, to put money in its place, I had a problem with spending money.

It's not that money is the root of all evil, but rather "the love of money is the root of all evil"

1 Timothy 6:10. Never imagined myself quoting the bible.

I always thought love of religion was the root of all evil. 809 million deaths[1] from religious wars, for example.

[1] http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstatz.htm

Religion is a pretext. Greed is a cause. Wars that were driven by leaders' economic motivations used religion as a justification. As religion became less effective as a pretext in the 20th century, other pretexts came along ("progress", "economic justice", etc.) to justify expansionist greed.

I'll expand that a bit. In the same way that there is nothing inherently wrong with money, but there is with 'love of money', I would argue that there is nothing inherently wrong with religion, but that the 'love of religion' that could cause something like the crusades or jihad is definitely evil.

I don't think that's what you were going for, though.

Love of money is not the root of all evil.

The whole "the root of all evil" comes from bad translation in the King James. Modern translations usually translate it as "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil" (NIV) or "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils" (ESV).

Here's a parallel comparison of the NIV, ESV, KJV, and the NKJV[1]. Note that the New King James even updated the phrase to be more accurate, and it now mirrors the other translations.

[1] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Timothy%206:...

Since I can no longer edit: In fact, a better translation is probably "of all these evils", referring to those mentioned in the preceding context. The NASB notes that the literal is "the evils", and that's exactly how Young's Literal Translation translates it[1]. The Aramaic Bible in Plain English, which I've never heard of, has a great translation of this[2].

Here's Clarke's commentary[3] as well:

> The love of money is the root of all evil - Perhaps it would be better to translate παντων των κακων, of all these evils; i.e. the evils enumerated above...

Anyway, sorry for the diversion from "hacker news" territory but I think it's interesting to know that not only is this widely-quoted verse not as widely applicable as is usually quoted ("money (or love of money) is the root of all evil"), nor is it even a general statement about love of money ("love of money is a root of all kinds of evil"), but it seems to be specifically just about the evils mentioned in the immediate context ("love of money is the root of all these evils").

[1] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Timothy%206:...

[2] http://aramaic-plain-english.scripturetext.com/1_timothy/6.h...

[3] http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/clarke/ti1006.htm

Yes for the Aramaic plain english: those who desire to be rich fall into temptations and into traps, and into many foolish and harmful desires, and they sink the children of men into corruption and destruction. But the root of all these evils is the love of money, and there are some who have desired it and have erred from the faith and have brought themselves many miseries.

I don't think the quote is meant to be anti-money. I think a true "love of money" would be recognizes it for what it is: a vehicle.

The root of all evil is an obsessive/addictive love of money. Any addiction is classically considered evil, but love of money is the most dangerous because it is the most formless and abstract.

Workaholism is pretty abstract, but at least you need to appear to be doing something. In our times as in all others, it is possible to chase money by doing nothing of value at all.

Traditionally speaking (i.e. in the historical context of the Bible a la Dante et al) the only way for something to be bad is to take something good and twist it out of it's shape, or pull it from it's right place.

Money is not the root of all evil. The love of money is the root of all evil. This is something like being obsessed with money, or reifying the "symbol" of money.

Still needs a couple more words: "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil."

Well, the actual quote is "the love of money is the root of all evil."

And there are two ways to get money. One is to create value. The other is to make other people's money yours.

The latter is very popular among people who love money. (Hello, Wall Street!) Which is part of how it's the root of evil.

No, really. There's a press in the closet. It's kind of a pain to get the paper, but, heck, it beats work.

I'm a long time reader of Ramit and his blog which has been fantastic in shaping my thinking about finances.

Admittedly much of his advice boils down to: "Figure out a way to make more money rather than trying to cut your expenses drastically (within reason)".

But the repetition and different ways that is expressed over time have really let the message sink in.

I'd admire someone who would be reading 'Secrets of the Millionaire Mind' or similar titles. For some reason, if you are already a millionaire then a lot of people start admiring you and carefully taking note of everything you say and everything you do and your stories of reading all those books and hard work inspires people, but somehow if you are trying to be one, suddenly boo boo money.

Great article.

I think I can relate to his fear of sending out invoices. I had the same fear not with sending invoices but more precisely pricing proposal. I would fear that my prices would be too high, that perhaps I would lose the job because of that. That maybe (deep thoughts) that I wasn't worth the money I was asking for (Thankfully I'm not longer thinking this way).

And every time I would send that pricing proposal only after re-reading it 10 times to make sure I leave enough space so I can back down without looking like a total idiot, I would receive an email accepting the pricing proposal and thus re-enforcing that I wasn't charging too much and that everything was ok.

It's important to understand that through your pricing you are setting the perceived value of your services. If you price them too low, people won't bother taking you because their perception of your value will be low. If your price is too high you might be perceived as too greedy.

The last part of your blog post resonated really well with me as well, as an entrepreneur you need to build an entourage of good people who can support and help you overcome you inner fears but also challenge you when they think you're wrong. You need a winning team.

I'm shocked that in the last five minutes the two comments on this post so far are both from people, who, like myself, and the friend in the article, worry about sending invoices!

I thought it was just something I was struggling with. It's re-assuring (in a strange way), to know that these are fears that a lot of people have and not just myself. Fortunately my Mrs won't let me get away with not pressing that big nasty send button!

It's indeed re-assuring to find out that your fears are not unique and that many other people think the same way you do. I think basically that people fear anything that is related to money.

I found that the hardest part is not about sending invoice tho, but the hardest part is to actually collect the money. I once dealt with a company I needed to collect money from for a job I did, it took me 364 days (yes, almost a year!) to get the money wired. Thing is it could have been dealt faster (it was part my fault as well), but I kept delaying talking to the people in charge of accounting because I really didn't like the though of begging for my hard earned money.

Part of that fear by the way is derived from the fact that you still want to retain some kind of good relationship with the company/individual and you wouldn't want to harm any potential future jobs. However if you're not getting paid instantly, would you really keep working for the same guy?

I have a rule in my company, we pay immediately after the job is done. We don't wait 1 week, 2 weeks or 60 days like some other companies. We pay immediately and I think so far it paid off since freelancers like to work for us.

"but I kept delaying talking to the people in charge of accounting because I really didn't like the though of <b>begging for my hard earned money</b>."

I think this is exactly the problem the article is talking about. The idea that asking someone to pay for something they purchased equates to "begging".

I've never had this problem (I've sent out invoices for $5, and if you're a day late, expect to hear from me the next day.. it took 2 invoices to collect that $5, btw).

I think it's helpful to put yourself in their shoes. Could you imagine calling one of your freelancers, having them do work for you, and then not paying them? When they call, would you think they were begging for their money or being greedy?

Of course not. If there's no dispute about the work, then you know you owe them money. You know you never paid for the product you purchased.

I don't think of Safeway as greedy when they ask me to pay for a loaf of bread. And I wouldn't expect a customer to think I'm begging when I remind them they haven't paid their bills.

Good post. I'd add another hack: While maintaining drive toward a big success, establish and reach small goals along the way. This keeps one from being held back by fears that can crop up around success; it safeguards against using unattainable goals as a type of irrational defense mechanism.

Strings of small successes also provide fertile, solid ground for successful pivots as more is learned. An endless set of reworked plans toward overly grandiose goals can be a barren pivot quagmire.

"establish and reach small goals along the way"

Agree. And even smaller. Reaching small goals give you a positive rush that allows you to take on a bigger challenge and not get depressed attempting it while sitting idly by and doing nothing.

Let's say you put off cleaning up your office. You've dreaded doing it for the longest time. One day you come in and you make serious progress on that. You feel great you're all pumped up (even though in a sense you haven't accomplished anything that anyone else would view as great (maybe your mother possibly but that's about it, right)). So you complete this really small "goal". And you are all jacked up and are ready to take on something else more serious that you have put off doing.

Another example might be to cure a programming block by writing some shell script that does something you want to do that automates something. It easily accomplish-able in one sitting and provides immediate benefit. You are then in the flow to go onto tackling something larger. It's like a warm up.

I like to intersperse my day (and am lucky to be able to do so) forking from one thing to another thing. Anything that I have put off doing I can generally get myself into the groove of doing by doing something that while I might not like to do I can "accomplish". (Well, most of the time.)

See, I've always had the opposite effect. Whenever I accomplish one of my small goals, I don't get all jacked up. I just feel like crap. I'll probably feel like crap for the rest of the day. Honestly, I probably prefer focusing on the big goals because then I know that I will feel at least decent for a while until it's done.

"I've always had the opposite effect."

Interesting. Thanks for that comment. I'd like to hear more of what others experience whether similar to what you feel or what I stated. I would consider myself a workaholic and prefer to do something rather than lounge around. To me doing nothing or relaxing generally feels negative with only a few exceptions or rationalizations.

Boom! This is so key and is a constant battle for me. Establishing and reaching these small goals is the key to success. Most of the time we only are made aware of big successes (like SpaceX docking with ISS), but don't see the 10 years of hard work and thousands of small successes along the way the provided fuel to continually push forward through setbacks.

I have tricked myself into achieving ambitious goals by breaking down the next few days' objectives into small, doable tasks. I will even go as granular as 'make cup of tea and fix typo while kettle boils'. I've found that if I can get into an automatic mode where I'm constantly checking off tasks, repriotising and refining what is still to be done then success creeps up on me. At some point during most days I realise I have made significant progress; at some point during the project it occurs to me that I am done.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getting_Things_Done calls these "next actions", things you can just do instead of having to decide (probably at the last moment) where to start on them. You may like more of Allen's ideas if you weren't already familiar.

Thinly slicing a software project is also the only way I can produce a schedule that is remotely plausible, since easy task (half day) + easy task (half day) != easy project (half day).

This is pop psychology. Most self-help authors, and even successful people like Oprah, make the mistake of confusing cause and effect. Feeling confident helps with acquiring success (and I agree it is better than the opposite), but it is a very, very small component of it. On the contrary, if you talk to many successful people they will tell you that they didn't have much confidence in themselves at the beginning.

The trick, however, is that you definitely feel confident once you're successful, so you believe (after the fact) that this might be the cause.

Becoming successful by mental affirmations is like saying that you can have a convertible car by just feeling the wind in your face. Owners of a convertible will tell you that this is the real feeling -- but it is not the cause for them having the car in the first place.

The link between mental affirmations and making money is even weaker: many times you don't even need to be successful to have a lot of it. Most fortunes are result of inheritance, marriage, blind luck (lottery winners), being in the right place at the right time (e.g., an early engineer at Google), and, don't forget about it, corruption.

You can't become successful with affirmations, and that's not at all what I've been talking about. What I proposed is that some beliefs are holding you back and you can neutralise them with affirmations and other similar tools.

Chanting "I'm going to be rich" in front of a mirror is not going to make you rich, but constantly, internally repeating to yourself "I'm not going to be rich" will most likely make you poor.

I agree that the negative thoughts may hold you back -- and this is an important self-awareness step -- but the affirmations don't do any good for you, either. You are wasting time that could be better spent doing something that may give you a better chance to become successful, like starting a company or learning to sell effectively.

This is an awfully bold statement. It's difficult to overstate the impact of an individual's psychology. Self-awareness is not a simple binary switch you flip and then you have perspective. Every moment of our experience in the world is created by our brains in fractal recursion. If it's 10000 layers of abstraction down to the neurons, we can only hope to be consciously aware of the top 4 or 5. I'm not sure why you would jump to the conclusion that affirmations can't do anything beneficial for anyone.

On the topic of Free Will, a new book that I would like to read:

> His absolutist position, I should add, because, as he puts it near the beginning of the book: "Free will is an illusion. Our wills are simply not of our own making. Thoughts and intentions emerge from background causes of which we are unaware and over which we exert no conscious control." We assume that we could have made other choices in the past, Harris continues, and we also assume that we consciously originate "our thoughts and actions in the present. . . . Both of these assumptions are false."


I take the Steiner view on this Free Will thing. Yes, if you're looking at other people, you can't know whether they have free will. But when you examine yourself, you do have some level of insight into your own thought processes. How much freedom you have does largely depend on how much insight you have, but the point is, the difference between a mechanical process happening without your awareness, and our will, is that in the latter case, we can observe it, think about it, and change it.

That's Free Will. The fact that there are subconscious influences is almost irrelevant. The important aspect is that it is self-reflective, able to understand and change itself.

Harris would argue that even that capacity for self-reflection is just part of a very long causal chain. Every thought you have emerges from somewhere, but it's very hard to find the cause of that thought. You might be able to pin down that "I was thinking X because I was reminded by Y," but that just begs the question, why were you reminded by Y? There are an infinite number of thoughts you could have been having at that moment, but for some inscrutable reason Y bubbled to the surface.

All that said, though I think free will is an illusion, in terms of day to day life it's more practical to act as if you have free will. I believe Sam Harris agrees. He is more concerned about the public policy implications, such as incarceration and rehabilitation.

I've often experienced what I like to call 'déjà-vous at scale'. Many times while re-watching a film or re-reading a book, I recognise that my mind, triggered by some apparently inconsequential detail, has spawned a series of thoughts identical to those I had first time around at that very point in the narrative. This has happened months, sometimes years apart. I'd be interested to know if this effect has been studied and what the conventional term for it is. Occam's razor would posit that I am simply experiencing déjà-vous from a moment ago, but the qualitive feeling is very different from the déjà-vous I am obviously familiar with.

Well this took a left turn, but I can't resist commenting any time I see a claim that free will is an illusion.

I'm not very enamored with the viewpoint, and especially in this quote the matter-of-factness with which it is presented. I believe it comes out of the hubris that a particular variety of rationalist has about the nature of knowledge. Some people only want truth to be the things which are tractable by science and are in a hurry to reduce the possibilities to materialism and determinism in pursuit of this goal. They trot out all manner of superficial evidence (such as this brain-activity-before-awareness study) that is nothing more than affirming the conclusion in the face of such overarching philosophical questions. When confronted with the possibilities borne of dualism or other philosophies they invoke Occam's razor and denounce such arguments as irrational appeals to the "supernatural".

In my opinion, these people are just bad philosophers. It's no different than a theologian coming in and trying to hamfistedly do science with a preexisting agenda. You can't do good philosophy if you worship at the altar of science—you need to be a bit more comfortable with the unknown and indeed unknowability.

For me personally, the reason I can't dismiss free will is simply because of consciousness itself. The fact that I am aware of my thoughts is to me more valid evidence of free will than all the logical machinations that someone can contrive to support the opposite. Even if the universe is deterministic and free will is an illusion, it doesn't mean we can predict anyone's actions, and if we can't do that then what does it mean to say free will isn't real? Maybe chaos and entropy also don't exist, but if we can't compute them then they are a perfectly secure "illusion".

Ugh, I'm sorry to waste my time and yours, but it really really bothers me when people demonstrate so much smug hubris about such a wonderfully large philosophical question.

Wow, I wish I could have posted that as concisely.

Since you seem to be interested in philosophy, Gotthard Günther gives a very profound criticism of materialist determinism and dualism. His works are somewhat hard to access, since he wrote both in german and english and developed his thoughts over the course of several books. I've only read a summary so far (in german: "Technologische Zivilisation und Transklassische Logik" by "Kurt Klagenfurt", a pseudonym for a collective of authors). His main angle seems to be that even reasoning about consciousness and the notion of "you" in dualistic terms leads to infinite regressions or paradoxes, as Hegel has demonstrated.

I'll readily agree that this whole subject is quite a bit beyond the scope of hacker news and popular "science reporting".

Your note is not a waste of time at all, but a concise summary of why materialist determinism (really, 17th century physics wannabes) needs challenging.

As someone wise once said, If free will is an illusion, to whom is it so?

Come on mate, identifying your pain points and spending a few minutes in front of the mirror reminding yourself isn't going to wear you out for the rest of the day!

It is not a matter of effort, but of creating false expectations. If you use affirmations, you are creating a positive statement of something that doesn't exist. For example, to combat the idea of "I am a loser", you create an affirmative statement "I am a winner".

The problem, however, is that neither of these statements are true. You are not a loser neither a winner a priori. All you can do is to improve your chances of being successful, since you cannot really control the results.

I like the example of Mother Theresa. Whatever you think of her work, she was tremendously devoted and dedicated to her religion. And yet, when her letters and diaries were published following her death, they revealed an immense uncertainty about her faith.

Confidence as a prerequisite to success is a chimera. Though persevering in the face of doubt may matter. False confidence is highly dangerous to yourself and others (and very common, particularly in management).


> I like the example of Mother Theresa. Whatever you think of her work, she was tremendously devoted and dedicated to her religion. And yet, when her letters and diaries were published following her death, they revealed an immense uncertainty about her faith.

This is a really bad example, as she believed that those in suffering should be denied access to medication, particularly pain relieving medication. It could be argued that she should have felt bad and uncertain in making active decisions to allow others to suffer.

As I said: regardless of your view of her work, and I've got similar issues to yours, she was tremendously religious. And yet, profoundly troubled by doubts about her faith. Which is to say, confidence in her faith had little to do with her ability to become a religious exemplar, directly contradicting a major tenet of the article. Anectdata and all that.

Not so far as I've read, troubled by her actions. If you've got any documentation that she was, that might be relevant.

A lot of pop psychology latches onto these ideas, but they are fairly closely related to the Seligman's concept of optimism, which is pretty well documented with controlled studies. Having an optimistic mindset definitely increases your chance of success in most business related things.

I don't think the author actually said self-affirmations will lead you to success. If anything, they'll help improve your self-image and confidence, and put you in a better position to seek out opportunities.

Your convertible analogy doesn't accurately represent the issue here. What I think is a convertible could very well be objectively not. Others can look at it and tell you that what you're driving is not a convertible. With feelings of failure, they are most of the time not reality, but rather gross misinterpretations of what we've experienced. And these misinterpretations, like I mentioned below, are a product of a behavior that we've developed to fit a self-narrative. Self-affirmations with real, objective analysis can help you unlearn those destructive behaviors. I don't think swombat is advocating you stand in front of the mirror every morning to tell yourself how amazing, special, and talented you are, but rather to keep yourself grounded in reality while staying optimistic. So instead of saying "I'm the best and I'll fail at nothing", you'd be better off saying "Today is a new day, let's make the most out of it and weather the obstacles."

You're saying people will fool themselves into believing they're better than they really are, but that's not the point here. The point is to bring people, who have fooled themselves into believing the complete opposite, back up to a normal and healthy level of confidence, which could very well improve their chances of finding success.

Affirmations alone are ineffective. But affirmations along with taking action can be affective. When you take action to do something you've never done before, self-doubt creeps in, usually in the form of negative self-talk. Instead of trying to "get rid" of that negative self-talk, affirmations can serve as a reminder that, yes, it is possible.

If you want to learn more about this I would suggest reading books by Louise Hay. I don't know if OP got the idea from her, or if Louise is the first one to come up with this, but she writes and practises this extensively.

One of the key concepts from her books is that we are all victims of victims. Meaning that we got our bad thoughts from our parents who in turn got them from their parents and so on. And the most important part of solving of any problem you may have is to get to the root cause, which is usually some interaction that you had, as a child, with your parents.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louise_Hay http://www.louisehay.com/

I'm unfamiliar with that work, and I'm not much of an affirmations person. But the victims of victims thing makes a ton of sense to me now that I'm old enough to have watched kids grow up.

Kids are incredible sponges early in life. They soak up so much. In the store I see parents saying things to their kids and think, "Wow, that's an expensive therapy bill in the making."

Personally, I don't worry too much about remembering the particular interactions in my past. I treat it more as a reverse engineering problem. Given my behavior X, in what circumstances could that have been adaptive?

Exactly, wanted to post just that. The "trick" to say those affirmations to yourself in the mirror is her way of improving their effectiveness. I love her books, and her words go into the heart. A must read for people not loving their life as it is.

ADDED: I always had the feel that Swombat is into this kind of thing, cool that he finally writes about thought-hacking and affirmations.

One thing I am surprised by with these types of theories is the lack of awareness that some people have happy childhoods with parents who don't scar them in any way. It's like it's taken as a given that a legacy of sadness runs through every family.

> some people have happy childhoods with parents who don't scar them in any way

Actually, they don't. All families are dysfunctional; there is no perfect childhood. Everyone is scarred. This is, ironically, a wonderful thing! Anyone who truly did have a perfect childhood... would never grow up.

Although we are all scarred by our childhoods, we are, however, scarred to very different degrees. You might review your childhood in detail and find nothing worse than an offhand cruel comment one of your parents made one afternoon when they were a little drunk and something had gone sour in their life. But I assure you, if you will look honestly, you will find something.

You could ask me the same question in reverse, but why are you so sure that everyone bears scars from childhood? Is it that it's been the case with everyone you've met? It certainly has been the case with many people I've met.

> But I assure you, if you will look honestly, you will find something.

Following the same reasoning, my horoscope is true.

I'm not sure if I disagree with you entirely, but your argument is silly. If you look hard enough, you can find evidence for anything to some degree. It's a type of confirmation bias, in fact.

In my opinion it's most useful to look not at the degree of scarring, but the degree of how much childhood events affect a person later in life. Unfortunately, that makes the whole argument rather circular.

I prefer, instead of tricking myself into believing what I want to believe, to change things until I naturally believe the truth, or put processes in place to help me.

If I have trouble sending invoices, I make something send them for me. Isn't that what most accounting software does anyhow? You set up everything and it bills on the appropriate date?

If I have no confidence in my ability to find another job, I do things to help that confidence. Update my portfolio and resume, review my skillset, go to job interviews... There are plenty of things I can do to prove to myself I have the ability to find another job that don't involve just blindly telling myself that.

If I did blindly tell myself that, I'd have a new worry. I'd worry that I was one of those people who apply for jobs and don't have the skills, but think they have them. I've interviewed many of them and never understood why they thought they had the required skills. These techniques could be why.

No, despite all my insecurities and doubts, I'll stick to reality and actually improve my situation instead of brainwashing myself about it.

Depends on what you consider reality.

Anybody who can run a business can send invoices. It's not hard. So if you have trouble doing it, the question is why? If, like in the article, you have to get drunk to do it, then there's something going on inside. Sure, you can hire somebody to do it for you. But that just hides the problem. Brain tumor? Try aspirin!

I've never tried the affirmation thing, but I wouldn't knock it. Many, many good people lack confidence because they've been told over and over that they're bad, wrong, dumb, etc. It's not crazy to say that telling themselves something good and truthful might help.

Your proposed solutions would work on a reasonable person, but if we were always reasonable, the world wouldn't need psychiatrists and therapists.

I consider reality reality.

Some things are worth correcting the 'proper' way. Others can be fixed much more easily with a hack. I'll let the computer send the invoices for me and spend my time on things I love, instead. I'll likely never be completely free of the problem anyhow.

If I were to fix the invoice problem in me, it wouldn't be by brainwashing. Instead, I'd figure out why I felt that way and attack that, instead. Maybe it's a fear of rejection. Maybe it's a belief that money is bad. Maybe it's something else entirely. That other thing doesn't go away if I just attack one of the symptoms. In fact, it hides it, and makes other problems harder to diagnose.

Even reasonable people need shrinks sometimes. Not every problem can be fixed without help. I've never been to one, but I'm guessing they'd attack the actual problem, too, instead of just curing symptoms. At least, the good ones. The quacks will just prescribe the latest wonder-drug and collect their fee.

Everybody considers their version of reality reality.

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick#.22How_To_Build...)

Sure. And the sorts of emotional realities that therapists deal with are the kinds of things that exist whether you believe in them or not. Which is why I think people shouldn't ignore them just because they find them inconvenient or aesthetically incompatible with how they would like humans to work.

Nicely done. A (surprisingly) hacker-oriented process features in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies by Rhenna Branch and Rob Wilson.

The tl;dr version is that you can (and probably should) step back from your thoughts, observe, and experiment with them to tackle your own negative or limiting thoughts.

I think that CBT will probably appeal wildly to the autodidactic HN'ers than pop up here. Check it out, even if you decide on another book.

Seth Godin agrees about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:


Okay, as a non-entrepreneur, just a lowly programmer type, my great stumbling block is negotiating pay. I kind of suck at negotiation and don't really know what my skills are worth.

I don't want to be a millionaire, Donald Trump type character. I want to be able to do interesting things and have enough money coming in so I can live somewhere nice and build a life with a partner if I'm lucky enough to end up finding one. It certainly doesn't feel like I'm worth the sort of money people seem willing to pay me.

It's only made worse in situations where it's a less formal work environment: when it's a startup or a startup-like atmosphere, working for people you know socially rather than just professionally, where it feels like you are pushing for higher pay against them or whatever.

Some people seem to be full of confidence and/or bullshit to the point where they can walk in and put an eye-wateringly large consulting fee or salary on the table and not blink.

And the stupid thing is I realise I suck at this, and sort of excuse it on the basis that I'm here to churn you out Java or Ruby or whatever.

I did read that one of the things that holds women back in the workplace specifically is lack of negotiation skills over salaries and raises. Any geek-friendly tips on fixing a slightly fear or reluctance to negotiate frankly over this stuff? When I speak to others, they seem to grok how to do it just as easily as I grok reading a stack trace, say.

Dude, it's actually rather simple. Value is subjective. You are worth whatever people are willing to give you. If an employer or client is willing to pay you $80k to watch Youtube videos all day then you watching Youtube videos all day is worth that to him.

What you need to do is not measure your worth in how hard you feel that you are working or how rare you feel that your knowledge is. You are probably a very poor judge of that anyway. You should try to measure it in terms of how much value you create for an employer. That's also hard to measure, but it's much closer to what you can legitimately ask for.

Look at it like this: If you write a program that saves a boss an hour of work every day, and that boss makes $250k a year, that program is worth about $31,250 a year, even if it only took you three minutes to write it. If that same program saves dozens of people an hour of work every day, it's worth even more. If you write a program that does the work of three accountants, you are worth, three accountants. As a programmer, you probably produce a lot more value than you think you do.

Just keep that in mind next time you're at the bargaining table.

The following is just an inexperienced guess, so feel free to ignore it and seek other counsel, but . . .

I think the most important thing is to realize that negotiating pay takes a totally different mindset from programming. When programming you're trying to be creative and cooperative.

When negotiating pay you should have a competitive mindset. Your employer is to some extent your opponent and you're playing poker with him. The thing is -- that's OK (or at least it should be). If a potential employer is making it feel like you're pushing against him personally when you ask for higher pay he's being the jerk, not you (this is of course situational -- things might be different if you've already committed to work for X amount of time).

I don't agree about a competitive mindset for negotiating salary, actually. It should also be collaborative.

Don't say "Why don't you give me a pay raise?" but say "What can I do to earn £Xk more?"

If the answer is "nothing" - find another job.

If the answer is "just keep doing what you're doing and wait 10 years until you get promoted to the level where that's the salary" - find another career.

If the answer is reasonable, and achievable within a reasonable period of time, do it and get your pay raise.

I really like your way of approaching salary.

Often though people will start providing more value without an agreement up front that it will earn a raise. In those cases a great boss might go ahead and give it to you spontaneously, but if that doesn't happen you need to know how to apply firm but friendly pressure.

Well, providing extra value without any kind of agreement as to what compensation you might get for it is, IMHO, a rookie mistake - and one you shouldn't make twice.

If you have confidence in your abilities, address the topic up front!

One problem I see with self-affirmations is that they only change your perception of what you can achieve, not what you actually can achieve. No amount of self-affirmation will help you become a painter unless you take the pain of learning how to paint. And failed expectations after some time build frustration. So you must be cautious of what you make yourself believe. There is a joke about a guy that was praying his whole life asking god to let him win a lottery. He never did, and after his death he asked god why. The god answered "What could I do? You never bought a lottery ticket".

Nobody said you shall spend your life before a mirror, saying affirmations instead of living your life. They are a way to rewire your brain for assumptions you want to get rid of, and break bad habits without needing a therapist. Acting is crucial. People who don't act are stuck and/or depressive, and they may use affirmations to pretend to feel better. But that's just a way of using a tool the wrong way.

Affirmations also should not create expectations in you. They change the way you perceive the world, and yourself. If someone creates expectations of feeling better after saying affirmations (and then is disappointed), then that's a problem of its own - it just means that you used it as a quick fix instead of trying to change your beliefs and assumptions.

I think that self-affirmation makes sense as a counter to whatever is being pushed upon you. It's easy to get caught up in the minutae of daily BS at your job, and end up in a rut, thinking that something is wrong with you.

I worked at a place where organizationally, we just failing. It's depressing working for a sinking ship, and as a crewman on the ship, you can feel like your bear some responsibility.

Self-affirmations certainly can't be a replacement for all work... BUT, it is well documented that those who have an optimistic mindset will persevere more in the work that they do and overall have better outcomes.

It isn't either/or.

I think it'd be appropriate here to mention Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Its purpose is to attempt to change the way we view ourselves by learning how to properly interpret events.

The "you're a failure" bit really hits hard with me as it's been something I've struggled with for a while. Through CBT, you learn that these self-evaluations are nothing more than behaviors that we can unlearn by stopping ourselves at each step in the pathway of interpreting events, the pathway being: events -> thoughts -> feelings -> behaviors.

I suspect many here suffer from the same beliefs, and if you do, I highly suggest you check out CBT. It's what swombat suggests as hacking your belief system but taken a step or two further. You can get started here: http://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome.

Reminds me of Annette Benning in American Beauty: "I will sell this house today. I will sell this house today."

Not starting on activities because you don't like them or you don't feel not comfortable will drag you down. You'll be thinking about it all day. I tell myself in the morning to the most unpleasant thing on my to do list first. Eat the hairy frog first! I learned from Randi Pausch. Worth watching every minute: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTugjssqOT0

-edit spelling

It works.

I wanted to get into software engineering & commerce double degree in University of Sydney. It required UAI of 95 (University Admission Index; a UAI of 97 means you're required to be in the top 3%, 95 -> top 5%).

One day a friend took me to the Career advisor office who gave me a UAI estimate of 75.

It shocked me to the core; At the time I was lazy, and told myself I was lazy; I was in a high school where being lazy was good enough to get by. "Apparently", being lazy was not good enough anymore.

I printed pages of full of the text "I will get 95 UAI." and posted it throughout my room and ceiling. I set the same text as my browser home page, desktop, desk and the study room. Every morning in the shower and on the bus, I repeated to myself "I am going to get 95 UAI", over and over again.

"Miraculously", this brainwashing led me to work harder than ever. It got me studying 8 hours a day for 4 months.

In 2007, the required UAI for the software engineering and commerce degree dropped to 94.45. I managed to score a UAI of 94.55, allowing me to study the degree.

I had scored really high marks in the university entrance exam, and would have gotten an even higher UAI had my school marks weren't 15% lower; The exam and school marks were worth 50% respectively.

i can relate to the fear of sending invoices as well. More precisely, of sending reminders if the invoices was not paid on time. My internal thought would be that perhaps the other person would see me as someone that is nagging for money too much.. how silly..

Not silly. It's supposed to be this way. And don't skip out on the angst.

A starting businessman should be apprehensive of sending out invoices and questioning himself. Yes, it does feel like "begging", but it makes sure you don't lose out because of hubris. Over time (if you're doing everything well) you will have more money and business acumen, and it will become easier, since you won't be needing the money on the short term. It will also allow you to better negotiate higher prices.

And when you've mastered it, you can hire a (part-time) secretary, who sends out the invoices. That's your reward. You faced your fear, learned how to handle it, and now you can let it go, because with someone else doing the billing, you can always fall back to it being a secretarial error.

There are whole industries based on making it seem you have enough cash and confidence so you feel you have a stronger position to negotiate, skipping out on what I feel is a basic business skill.

Or you can do it the hard way, without leased luxury and practicing the voodoo feelgood technique of the day. Building a business on hard work and gathering confidence in your own skills through your customers, without blaming your parents or the world or your mirror.

Dont' be an actor playing an entrepeneur; be an entrepeneur.

It is not supposed to be so hard that you have to get drunk before doing it.

I agree that you should face your fears. But if you have fear to the point of paralysis, I think telling people just to man up is bad advice. It's like the dieting advice one gets from people who have never been fat: plausible on the surface, but ultimately it comes out of ignorance.

I also agree that one shouldn't blame one's parents or the world. But that's different than understanding how one's relationship with one's parents has shaped you.

A starting businessman should NOT be apprehensive about sending out invoices. There is no shame in asking for someone to pay for what they have purchased.

REMEMBER: you're doing them a favor by not forcing them to pay up front. A 30-day same as cash policy is worth {cost of capital}/12

If you think reminding the customer about their bill is "begging", "only a business necessity", or whatever, you are wrong.

Ask yourself: when was the last time you bought something and thought the store was begging by asking for payment. Safeway is not greedy, begging or anything of the sort when they ask me to pay for a loaf of bread. And you are not being greedy by asking for payment for your work.

>>There is no shame in asking for someone to pay for what they have purchased.

True, but what have they purchased ?

>>Safeway is not greedy, begging or anything of the sort when they ask me to pay for a loaf of bread.

No, but that's a loaf of bread, a physical thing with uniform properties and an established price. When you send out an invoice for your freelance work, there is the amount of hours and there's significant markup for it being freelance hours. It adds up, and before you know it you're sending out a bill for what is, at that moment in time, for you a huge amount of money.

It's not a bad thing to reflect on that. "Am I really worth this ?", "Did I actually earn this?", "Am I offending my customer by being out of the ballpark ?", and most importantly, "Can I justify this, not just to the customer, but to myself ?"

Over time you will appreciate how you fretted over that "huge bill", and maybe even adjusted it a little to feel comfortable about the value you feel you have provided.

It's not comparable to retail, where everything more or less has an agreed upfront price.

Your argument is completely rational. Isn't the point, though, that these feelings are irrational? I don't think telling yourself to stop being irrational is the best way to address the problem. Once you have debugged the cause of the irrational belief/behaviour then it might be easy to tell yourself you can now take the desired, rational step, no?

That's not silly at all - I think the root of that fear is that we don't want to be perceived as 'nagging' individuals anג perhaps harm any potential future projects. However think about it - would you like to work repeatedly for a person who doesn't pay you in time?

Would you stay at a job where your salary would be delayed by 10-20 days every time? The answer is most likely no, then why do we settle when we are freelancers?

The affirmations in the mirror thing sounds silly, but it's really a profound thing to do. It actually works best if you yell it at the top of your lungs, though doing so where others might hear you could cause them to be alarmed.

You might be surprised how doing this hits you if you affirm something that you are not sure you believe.

Actually a 2009 University of Waterloo study showed that affirmations might do more harm than good.


One thing strikes me that I think some of the critics in this discussion miss the point of the article. Or at least, the point that I got from it.

It's not so much about self-affirming what you wish to be true, or even worse, self-affirming "I can fly!!"--yeah that's not going to work.

The article is in fact pretty clear about this, first you go for some introspection and identify some of this "inner dialogue" that's keeping you down. Actual, recurring negative irrational thoughts in certain situations. We all agree those would be bad, right? Then, you counter the negative irrational one by formulating a positive and reasonable affirmation to counter that negative one. And nothing more and nothing less. The goal should be to get rid of the irrational negative recurring thought, not to start believing something unrealistically fantastical about yourself. Although it can help the process to exaggerate the positive one a little bit, but maybe not for everyone, and it's just supposed to expedite the replacing process.

Though actually, the people referring to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are probably most right on the mark. Because that's basically a scientifically proven version of this technique. Well it's slightly different, but the fundamental similarities are quite obvious IMHO, and you can use them to solve the same problems.

This was one of the most useful blog posts I read in the recent few days. I am an entrepreneur and I too have multiple beliefs that hold me back. In the end it is about recognizing conditioned habits that are holding you back and using positive affirmations or prayers (http://www.easwaran.org/saint-teresa-of-avila-let-nothing-up...) to come out of them. In my experience these techniques work very well in overcoming negative habits like anger, fear and greed. I practice Passage Meditation (easwaran.org) and its main punch line is, you become what you meditate on. I see resistance to follow these techniques from many people, yet many willingly fall prey to negative media. In essence you are eating/consuming through your senses all the time. By consciously choosing to fill your mind with positive messages you can overtime  become a much more productive and happier person.

"He who is unaware of the workings of his own mind is of necessity unhappy." -- Marcus Aurelius

Self Affirmation Hack: make a short affirmation one of the passwords you have to type in often. The practice of writing and remembering it helps solidify the affirmation and provide context for whatever you are logging in to do.

Ha! Wow, I was going to write exactly the same thing! :)

I recently did something like this for the unlock password of my laptop--I type that one fairly often, but if the passphrase isn't super secure (after all, how many bits of entropy in an affirmation? ;-) ) it doesn't matter that much since it's the physical security of the laptop that's most important anyway (I've been considering removing the whole password-to-unlock part, I did not because I like the background I picked for the login screen--now I have a better reason not to).

Currently it's a mantra from a meditation exercise that I particularly liked, but that was just the first thing that came to mind when I realized "hey, I type this multiple times each day, so why not have it be something uplifting, cool, self-affirming or just nice?". But I think I'll change it to something more targeted according to the pointers given in that article as soon as I come up with something good.

Reading Daniel's article made me think of this one: 15 Things to Give Up to Be Happy. I found it eye opening, simple to understand and effective at making me realize what I needed to change in my life. Although the 15 things it speaks of are common sense, I was surprised at how often I would not follow my own advise. So as a reminder, I printed it out and put the article on my wall. Anyway, if anyone's interested here it is:


I've always had a problem with these sort of suggestions, the idea that somebody without self confidence could gain it simply by repeating a mantra and brainwashing themselves would have me questioning the self-awareness of that person.

I have tried similiar things, and ended up laughing at myself over the ridiculousness of the entire exercise. I've found that self confidence is a little deeper than tricking one's mind and that any confidence gained by techniques like this would be superficial at best.

I haven't tried it. But if you've only tried it enough to laugh at it, how would you know whether or not it works?

Thinking back, I remember a friend in high school who was brilliant, but had no confidence. At her slightest mistake she'd say things like, "That was really stupid." If you tried to encourage her, she'd brush it off or disagree. It all made sense when I saw her with her dad, who at her slightest mistake would say, "That was really stupid."

If it works to remove confidence, I don't see why it couldn't work to create it. And indeed, my 6-year-old nephew has a lot of self-confidence when trying things new. I doubt it's unrelated that he gets a lot of encouragement for every step forward he makes.

I don't believe that somebody has to go through an entire process to question it's effects.

I agree that encouragement from a third party is beneficial to self confidence, but this article suggests that self-encouragement in the form of spoken word (rather than thought) would be helpful in gaining self confidence. Now if this works for some people I am happy for them, but I personally wouldn't put much trust in their self confidence.

Now I know that people's mileage vary with their personalities but I found that my biggest leap in self confidence was when I began to assess myself like I would any other. I look at whatever shortcomings I may have, such as motivation for example and try to look for a solution to the problem.

Otherwise I can imagine that it is much like curing the symptoms rather than the issue itself, people may use these techniques to gain self confidence but when somebody's self confidence outstrips their abilities I'd consider that to be just as bad.

Everyone's ridiculously different and I think we could all agree that no one approach would work for everybody. Before trying to convince myself that I can do something however, I'd be looking for the reasons why I think I can't and start working to rectify them.

I'm in favor of questioning. But you weren't just questioning the process. You said it didn't work, that you had found "that any confidence gained by techniques like this would be superficial at best".

In this reply, you explain that you actually just imagine that. Which is fine, but it's not as strong as what you first wrote.

I somewhat agree with what you're saying, merely tricking yourself won't increase your confidence or get you past fears or anxiety or whatnot. However, I disagree that outright dismissal of the technique, is the wrong answer.

For a lot of situational fear, a core component of the fear is ignorance of the outcome. So tricking yourself into walking into the situation, doing the thing, whatever, is a great way to change the ignorance. After you've been in the situation, you now have evidence and real outcomes to weigh against your fears. It isn't easy, and it requires some introspection, but real evidence is a great tool for combatting vague fears and what-ifs.

Take the invoice example, there are fears listed in the article and some other comments on this thread. A lot of them boil down to "will this make the customer reject my business" and "will the invoiced customer talk bad about me to other potential customers and hurt my business". These are real and valid fears. However, at the same time, everyone "knows" it's business, invoices are how money happens. So if you can trick yourself into sending some, you get some perspective to combat the fear in the future. You'll see that most people just pay, or quibble a bit, then pay. You probably will get some bad experiences, but usually this doesn't actually cause other people to stop using you. (Has anyone ever fired a business because "you billed my buddy's business per contract?".) When you have these actual experiences, ones you tricked yourself into having, you now have the evidence to combat the fears.

Note, the fears don't generally just go away, hence terms like combat, walk through, etc that are applied to them. Getting past fear-based blocks is an active participation event. But with proper tools, a large one of which is evidence, you can get through them. So I guess what it boils down to, is it is a chicken and egg game, you need to have one or the other, and a good way to break the loop is faking one to get the other, and change a negative cycle to a positive one.

I guess, I agree with the statement:

self confidence is a little deeper than tricking one's mind and that any confidence gained by techniques like this would be superficial at best

completely, I just disagree on how useful superficial confidence can be as a foothold to real confidence.

A cliche that applies here: Fake it 'til you make it.

I have beliefs that hold me back as well. The problem I have is that using the "hacks" in this article goes against one of these beliefs. I don't really believe in changing your beliefs by simply talking into a mirror. I do agree with the people around you affecting you and shaping your judgement. I always thought that these kind of methods were designed for weak people. Because of this I usually don't ever really try any of these methods. Anyone else feel the same?

I think you should try since there is no downside. If it doesnt work, no harm done.

Another great "hack", that I remember from some movie, is to write yourself a big check and hang it up somewhere, where you will see it everyday. I haven't tried it yet, but it seems like a boost, to "keep at it". Also, like others have mentioned, I would start with something more realistic and achievable at first, and once reached, you can set new and higher goals.

I can understand and appreciate these ideas in some ways, but as others have pointed out, what the author describes seems to be related to more serious emotional issues surrounding confidence and self esteem.

Nothing particularly wrong with the sentiment and logic involved, it just seems a bit too 'one-size-fits-all' for an issue that possibly runs a lot deeper than one might think.

I want to share one specific thing that's helped me, in the vein of affirmations. I chose one specific compliment and made it a rule for myself that whenever someone said that to me, I'd respond proudly and affirmatively. "Yes I am!" No waffling, no modesty, no deflection: instead, "Yes I am!"

It's definitely helped for me.

The brainwashing part is particularly true, but it's also really subtle, due to the time scale and slow progress. They say "you are what you eat", but the same is true for what you put into your mind.

This is really excellent. This should be taught in schools.

Reminds me of 'Think and Grow Rich' by Napoleon Hill.

Napoleon Hill emerged out of a spiritual movement around the turn of the 20th century known as New Thought. There were a lot of books published in that tradition. Their core idea was that mental activity determines eventual physical reality. I find it interesting that this is a quintessentially American movement. There are traces of it all over the place to this day.

One of the great intellectual antecedents to such stuff is Emerson's Essays, which formulated an original modern American spirituality. Emerson is striking in how he seems to emerge out of nowhere. (Since nobody really does, I'd like to know more about his sources.) Anyone curious should read his essay "Self Reliance". It's a classic of entrepreneurial literature, though it doesn't talk about business. I hesitate to say this for fear of overselling it, but it's one of those rare pieces of writing that can change one's life (it changed mine).

As a surprising aside, Emerson was one of the biggest influences on Nietzsche.

I hate that book, actually. I started reading it, and I got the impression that it made the point that all you need is a burning desire, and you will succeed.

That is really not what I'm saying. Having a burning desire, convincing yourself that you want to succeed, etc, is by no means a guarantee of success, and implying that people who didn't succeed failed because "they didn't want it hard enough" seems rude, wrong, despicable even.

My point is that negative beliefs will reduce your chances of success (perhaps even to zero), and that fixing those beliefs can give you a higher chance of success.

My income is your spending, my spending is your income. We should all spend as much as possible and everyone becomes better off.

You must pay yourself before you pay the shoe salesman.

You pay yourself when you save. If you live paycheck to paycheck, you never pay yourself.

I think the heading regarding people one might socialize with needs fleshing out. Firstly, something-something-something-etc about mirror neurons; less cheekily: we're all heavily impressionable people. -- I highly doubt the problem is as straight-forward as others directly, or perhaps persuasively?, claiming one is a failure. The problem likely is that the people one may socialize with are limited, first off, by the economic categories of industrial-capitalism: they whine about their day, their job, lost objects, their ex, that so-and-so died -- they fill one's mind with trivial, largely distinctly particular statements that cannot be used to develop a theory, in the most general sense. It is the "intuitive" level of socialization limited by the economic-social categories of industrial-capitalism.

They _reflect_ failure, express it, and as impressionable people we are always subject to thought-patterns which compel us to ruminate, rather than problem-solve.

1. Self-affirmations

"I can fly." "I can fly." "I can fly." "I can fly."

2. Brainwashing your self.

Theory of Flight, Richard von Mises. Dynamics of Atmospheric Flight, Bernard Etkin, et. al.

3. Who you hang out with.

Pigeons. Check.

4. Digging to the root.

Well, there was that one incident where I jumped off the balcony, aiming for the sofa, and broke my leg.

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