Long ago in theatre school, I developed what I came to call my “bullshit filter.” I had four or five different teachers all teaching you their own method of acting Some of them were in direct conflict with one another. In such a situation it is necessary to pick and choose what works for you. I came to know it as the “bullshit filter” because one teacher in particular gave me advice that contradicted his own previous advice. I had to filter out what was being purported in sheer octogenarian passion, and recognise what came from real wisdom of the ages. It is still an invaluable tool. It allows me to listen to someone and understand their point, observe whether the point comes from ignorance or experience, and deal with it accordingly.
Sometimes, however, the bullshit filter is wrong. I dismiss something as rubbish that is really brilliant. Thankfully, I forget about it, and my subconscious is able to process it more thoroughly than my thinking brain can. I discussed this principle in my Primer on Metaphors. Your subconscious mind can work on a problem, and often solve it on its own, only if you’re not thinking about it consciously. Recently, I’ve begun calling this process “feeling about” things. Ideas may change your feelings. Even a minute change from the right idea can have huge implications when dealing with incoming information.
I recently read a book called The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth, by James Altucher. Altucher is a successful entrepreneur, author, and speaker. His books, The Power of No, and Choose Yourself, have changed thousands of lives. He gives great advice! He really does. Many times did I smile and nod while reading his words.
Which is why it struck me as so odd every time he repeated, “Don’t follow my advice.”
Wait – what? I shouldn’t follow your – but, it’s a self-help book! I’m in it for the advice!
Altucher’s advice tends to be completely “against the grain”. He tells you: never buy a house; never go to college; quit your job; write down ten bad ideas a day; never invest more than 30% of your capital (no more than 2% in any one thing); never do anything on a to-do list. Then he tells you not to follow any of it.
I used to be a very cognitive person. When faced with a choice, I would rarely go with my gut; instead, I would actively think, weigh the pros and cons, and choose the optimal side. Sometimes, I was right; it would feel good. Sometimes I was wrong. On some level, I always knew what my gut wanted me to do, but I would ignore that feeling. And that feeling is… let’s say, almost never wrong. You know that sinking feeling you have, when you leave home, that you’ve forgotten something? And how often was that feeling actually wrong? For me, it has always been correct (not to say that I always have that feeling when I forget something, I forget things places all the time, but never mind that). That’s intuition. Intuition speaks directly to our heart, from our spirit*. If we act “impulsively” or “intuitively” the brain doesn’t need to get involved. The brain obeys the heart. But the brain can get involved, and interpret the signals. This can be good, or bad. Everything in balance, yeah?
Now, I am more in tune with my feelings, my spirituality. I have learned that a “good feeling” about something is worth much more than a positive analysis. So when I get that feeling of “I forgot something”, I know I forgot something. I then make the decision (impulsively) whether to scour my apartment for the thing, or go on with the knowledge that I don’t have everything that I need, and the faith that it will work out anyway. I do what I feel I should do.
What Altucher is doing when he says to dismiss his own ideas, is tricking us into feeling about his advice, rather than thinking about it. He doesn’t know anything about your life. No advice is universal. And trying to shoehorn advice onto a life that doesn’t fit can hurt a lot. He recognises this. He must have gone through it himself, with his own self help books. So he gives our minds a shortcut to forgetting our advice, by dismissing it outright. The sediment of his wisdom is allowed to coalesce at the bottom of our mind-tanks, where the subconscious can chew on it and send its droppings back up to conscious thought.
The end result is we recognise his advice will not work for us out of the box. We, like he did, will have to come up with our own method of self-improvement. His real success is if we recognise that this one book was insufficient, and we need more ideas from more people to find what’s right for us, how to craft our own lifestyle to make us the best we can be.
Maybe buying a home is exactly what you need. He calls it a bad investment, but who knows? it might be perfect for you.
I now think about purchases in terms of: is that worth more than 2% of my total capital? If so I might not buy it. But I might also get a feeling like: this is going to be worth it, even though it’s worth 10% of my capital. This makes a lot more sense when you consider I only have currently about $1,200 to my name.
He talks about creating scarcity to drum up demand. Having forgotten about his advice, I was able to transfer that advice from being about a product or service, to being about me. I am the only product or service I have, basically, so in making myself scarce, I make myself more valuable.
“Don’t follow my advice” turns out to be his best advice. It just makes the whole book gentle. And that’s what we need, us reading these self-help books. You can’t strong-arm someone to self-improvement. You can bring a neurotic to the water of emotional balance, but you cannot have him drink it without dissolving a purifying tablet in a BPA-free bottle.
Thanks for reading. But don’t follow my advice! =]