Really enjoyed your most recent blog post on quitting things that will kill you. I am curious about this section:
But with training (and not all that much training), I think it’s possible to get all of that without drinking. I do all kinds of idiot absurd shit, and then, as an added bonus, I’m sober in case I’ve got to fix the idiot shit I did. While dead sober, I say the things that most people need to get 5-6 drinks in them to say. And you know what? It’s alright, nothing irreparably bad happens.
What steps/training did you use to remove your inhibitions?
What a great question.
Before I answer, let's step back a little bit.
Why do people take themselves so seriously?
I think it's fundamentally hard-wired into us. The majority of neurotypical people (that means, someone who generally processes linguistic information and social cues in a way that'd be deemed "normal") don't want to look stupid, look embarrassed, get shown up, etc.
Why is that? Well, jeez, I don't know. Maybe, maybe it's one of those ancestral environment things. Y'know, where the first humans were coming up in was small, close-knit groups, and making a few large mistakes could be the end of you. Caution and playing it safe unless you're in charge was probably adaptive behavior.
Probably that. But whatever, the exact cause of the behavior doesn't matter - it seems to be there, so we've got to deal with it. Most people are deathly afraid of being embarrassed.
It's like the majority of people have invisible hard limits on the conduct that's possible to them. If they try to stray from their normal conduct into the limit, it becomes nerve wracking and scary and horrible and terrible. Most people don't try to do anything greatly outside their limits, unless they're brought into it by someone they trust and respect, or they're already in unfamiliar territory and haven't settled into a routine. (Even then, that's scary)
Similar to gravity, people aren't even aware that those limits are there. Now, if you stop and reflect on this - most people do think about gravity on a day to day basis. It's just there.
I'd say the invisible behavioral limits are like that - you don't think about them, but they're affecting you all the time. They're just there.
As soon as you try to step outside of the behavioral limits, it gets scary and nasty and ugly real fast.
For instance, did you know you can put on some nice clothing and walk into the office of any CEO and request a meeting?
It's true. If you do it right and you're persuasive and insistent enough, you'll probably get one of their associates at first. If you have something intelligent to say to the associate, you can get a meeting with the CEO (or GM, or director, or whoever).
I've done it.
But my goodness, I still want to throw up all over myself when I'm about to do it.
It takes some serious revving myself up to get going, and I get jittery and nervous and on edge.
Well, I'm pretty sure it's hard-wired into us.
Realistically speaking, if you go to meet a busy executive, you're either going to have it do well and connect, or you're going to be forgotten and be an unknown afterwards (which is what you are right now). You have literally nothing to lose, based on any sane risk/reward analysis. Well, some of your time - but how much time do you piss away each week in idle distraction anyways? Yeah, you pretty much have nothing to lose.
Yet, the feeling of wanting to throw up all over yourself and being nervous and scared before going to do it... well, that's real homie. That exists. It's stupid, it doesn't map well to the upside/downside calculations you ought to be making, but it's still there. Suck.
Why do people take themselves so seriously? Well, it's our default mode of behavior. To get past it, then, would be a mix of understanding the benefits of doing so intellectually, and then training/habituating to it.
The question you asked - "What steps/training did you use to remove your inhibitions?" - I think that's already like, half the battle. Most people don't even realize that they have severe inhibitions. It's like gravity, it's always there acting upon them, but they don't consider it.
Unlike gravity, this force can be changed and overcome.
Step 1 is to intellectually get your mind around it. It's a bit of a constant process. I think it was Hunter S. Thompson that said something like, "Nobody can tell you where the safe line is... everyone that found out is on the other side."
For me, I run downside/upside calculations a lot. Man, on paper a lot of stuff makes a lot of sense to do. Did you know Gandhi used to write 60 letters a day sometimes, to various people he found important and influential throughout India, the British Empire, and the rest of the world?
That's cool, that's worth emulating. Nothing to lose by doing so, paper and typewriter ink is cheap enough. But even Gandhi acknowledged that he was often anxious about doing it, sometimes even directly in the letters he was writing.
I reckon realizing that there's natural inhibitions, studying the nature and cause of them, and coming to the intellectual conclusion that you'd do better if you were taking more inhibited action... that in and of itself goes a long ways.
But it's not enough, that's only half the battle. Then, like anything else, there's training and habituation.
I was listening to Dan Andrews's podcast a couple weeks ago, and either he or his partner Ian mentioned something from the Four Hour Workweek - Ferriss recommended people go out in public and try lying down on the ground for a while.
I never tried that one, but it seems like a great example of something that:
1. Would absolutely terrify most people
2. Practically speaking, is not going to have adverse consequences
Nothing bad will happen, really. Don't do it at your job, I guess. Duh. But anywhere out in the world, nothing will really happen. Maybe you'll look a little stupid, but most likely no one will even notice.
That's the most shocking thing for me. Everyone's wrapped up in the idea that they're a big deal. In reality, nobody really cares what you do. You could crank your absurd-shit-you-do levels up about 5000% and nothing around you is going to change much.
I think, like anything, practice and habituation go a long ways towards being able to do stuff like this. But you don't want to just do zany stuff, ideally you want to be doing higher upside-ish stuff.
I mean, y'know, it's funny. I write all over the place, "Hey drop me a line if I can help with anything", somewhere in the neighborhood of 1100 people read this blog every day, and very few people drop a line.
And still, people don't. I don't know why. Couldn't tell you. I try to make it really, really, really, really easy. No downside. Probably some upside and dashing off a 30 second email to me with what you're working on and asking a question. (Like you did, incidentally, and I'm answering it)
But still, despite how easy I'm making it, the majority of people won't. They'll think about it, consider it, and not do it. I can't tell you why, fuck if I know. Maybe 60 seconds of their time is too precious to risk wasting writing an email... but no, that can't be the case if someone is spending 3-10 minutes a day reading the site.
Nah, I can't explain it. And y'know, opportunities don't last forever. Inevitably if the site keeps growing and my communication volume goes up, I won't be able to write all over the place to drop me a line and I'll become less accessible. That's just how things go. But any reader of the site could drop me a line right now and I'd reply. I make it pretty explicit. And still, most won't.
But I understand! I get it! I've been meaning to go to an American Consulate or Embassy and ask to speak to a consular officer, and say, "Hey there, I'm a fellow American, I think our country is totally fucking awesome, and what can I do to help with whatever foreign-servicing you're doing?"
(I probably wouldn't actually swear while I was there)
But I haven't done it. I don't know why, can't tell you, can't explain it. It'll never be urgent. Downside? Zero. Upside? Well, who knows? I have a lot of respect for the Foreign Service, it might be interesting to connect with some people doing foreign service. What's the practical worst case scenario, that I bring a book with me and waste a couple hours reading it waiting for an appointment?
Eh, but I'm working on it. I've got "Reach out" on my daily tracking, I try to drop a line to someone I don't know well every single day. I don't do it every day, but lots of days I do.
Beyond that? Well, it's just habituation like anything else. Clothing is a good place to start, most people dress generic-conservative. The nice thing about clothing is you could take it off, so y'know, feel free to push the limits a little there.
Say yes to everything you're invited to. Like, everything.
Whenever someone says they're doing something interesting, ask if you can tag along. Anything remotely interesting hobby. Everyone says yes.
For business stuff, ask people you admire if you can tag along to meetings, or especially to negotiations. Actually, if you're cool and tactful, this is something people say yes. You put on some nice clothing and be the person's assistant for a few hours, which makes them look good. Man, I've learned a lot from tagging along to negotiations with friends. It's funny, no one will ever suggest it, but people usually say yes if you're cool and tactful.
Ask for discounts on all sorts of stuff, or special terms.
Do some creative work under your real name, not anonymously. Bonus points if it goes against the mainstream view. (You will get criticized, sometimes in a really nasty way. And then the Sun will still rise in the east tomorrow, and nothing much will have changed.)
Reach out to people you don't know.
Make jokes that [censored] shouldn't be allowed to [censored].
Bonus points if you do it at an upscale party in polite company.
(Careful though, that'll get you in actual trouble pretty fast if you don't iron will.)
(If you do try this, don't apologize. They'll crucify you if you apologize.)
But honestly man, I think the sky is still the limit, I'm nowhere near where I ought to be. I've toured a couple factories in my life, but really, I wish I'd drop a line to 5-10 businesses I admire, 5-10 factories/production-places I admire, 5-10 local government officials I admire, etc, etc, whenever I traveled somewhere. But I still don't. With practice though, I think I'll be able to. Same with you. Get your mind around it intellectually, and then gradually immerse yourself. The more you do, the more the invisible chains break. And the more you see it really isn't a big deal to go beyond your comfort - nothing bad happens, and plenty good things do.
Great article, especially the bit "don’t apologize. They’ll crucify you if you apologize". Made me chuckle as I've been there more than once. However, it can be applied to so many other situations as well: essentially you are on a team of one and a team always has to present a united front. Stay committed to your task and don't back down afterwards if the outcome isn't what you wanted/expected - you undo all the hard work that way.. You need to walk away thinking 'I did that, I didn't think I could. It actually went wrong, but never mind'.
wow, someone who might understand me :D
anyway, I learned about these behavioral / customary limitation after high-school.
So I've been trying to do the exact opposite of everybody else are doing (especially if it doesn't serve any real purpose) and it has been very satisfying.
Now I might tried lying on the floor in front of some store, just to mess with people's mind
Great writing, btw
So it's funny you use "How many people actually think about gravity on a regular basis" as your example. As someone who somewhat regularly finds themselves trying to figure out if I can make the jump I'm looking at (while out training Parkour), I have a healthy respect for gravity.
One of the great things about parkour is that you push the limits - physically and mentally - of what you're capable of. And after a time, you come to know you're true limits. I KNOW I can jump 9 feet 8 inches. I KNOW I can vault this far, or run up walls this tall. But you can only truly "know thyself" and your boundaries after running into them repeatedly. Now that I'm comfortable with my boundaries, I usually know what I can do and what I can't just by glancing at it.
I am not surprised if social interactions are similar. Some people naturally engage in social actions more readily than others. These people simply have more practice, have pushed themselves to their limit more often. They know the difference between what they are comfortable with and what they can do, and because they KNOW these limits they can adapt to them, push them, and extend them.
Sebastian - One thing that's become a bit of a common joke in my circle of parkour friends is this: Someone says something (I'm so hungry I could eat five hamburgers!) and someone else looks at them and says "Challenge." Other challenges could be squeezing through a really tiny space, asking waiters if you can do backflips to get free stuff, etc.
It's largely for fun, and there are no penalties if you don't, but there is a fair bit of social pressure when all your friends turn to you and yell CHALLENGE! It's quite a bit of fun and it helps push people past their comfort limits and do things they might normally not.
I thought of this when you said you've "been meaning to go to an American Consulate or Embassy and ask to speak to a consular officer [etc]."
So in response to that I say... Challenge. No more excuses!
Thanks for the article Sebastian, a good one for sure.
I'm leaving my current location (Australia) in 2 1/2 months and you just inspired me to find the coolest companies that I most admire here and reach out to them (in person??) while I still have the chance to meet them.
Any ideas of awesome people I should be sure to check out in Oz?
From a reader -
Just a thought - You probably get several requests for advice, inputs etc. Do you not get overwhelmed?
Indeed, my email/people contacting me volume has gone up massively a lot. Like, a whole lot.
Do I get overwhelmed? Well, I reckon there's two things people usually call "overwhelmed" -
1. A short term overwhelmed feeling, like when you've got to do 6 hours of things, but you've got a flight in 3 hours.
Ah, you there, my Type-A friend. I'm glad you came today. Come in. What would you like? We've got coffees, teas, or clear still water perhaps? No juices at the moment, I'm afraid, I'm not having carbohydrates and it'd be fiddling with the devil to buy juice and then attempt not to drink it. The coffee is good, though, yes?
One moment. I'd like to light the fireplace. Maybe it's technically Spring, but this "Spring" in West Germany is chilly and cold and damp and grey, right down into the bones. But pardon me, I'm near veering into complaint, which is the exact opposite of the place I want to go. I'd much rather pull up by the warm fire's glow with non-carbohydrate beverage-of-choice and muse a little about philosophy and psychology with you -- and maybe it'll even be productive for us?
Ah, the warmth is nice.