Benjamin Hardy (@BenjaminPHardy) has been the number one writer on Medium since 2015, is nearing the completion of his PhD in organizational psychology, and is the author of Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success.
“If you have to use willpower, it’s because you actually haven’t made a choice yet.” -Benjamin Hardy
What We Discuss with Benjamin Hardy:
- Your personality doesn’t shape your behavior; your behavior shapes your personality.
- If you can’t create and control your environment, your environment creates and controls you.
- What automaticity is and how it frees you up to be mindful of what matters.
- The four sources of willpower and why willpower doesn’t work.
- Your identity is not fixed: how changing your behavior changes how you evaluate yourself — and who you are.
- And much more…
Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!
Western culture downplays the role of environment in identity — who a person is in one situation is different from who they are in a different situation. Either your environment is pulling you forward or pushing against you, and if your environment is pushing against you, you might try to employ the use of willpower to push back. Sadly, this is more likely to result in disheartening failure than effective change.
Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success author Benjamin Hardy joins us for this episode to explain why willpower is ineffective, why having control over your environment is imperative for control over your own personal development, and what you can do to gain this control. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
Sign up for Six-Minute Networking — our free networking and relationship development mini course — at jordanharbinger.com/course!
More About This Show
According to Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success author Benjamin Hardy, our personality doesn’t shape our behavior; our behavior shapes our personality. But what shapes our behavior? Our environment.
The problem is, a lot of us are content enough existing in the overall environment where we find ourselves, trying to force positive changes through the use of sheer willpower within these environments. We might make a resolution to go to the gym every day, for instance, and actually start to go for a week or two. Then, over time, we lose our resolve and slip back into the habits that got us out of shape in the first place. Why? Because, as Benjamin tells us, willpower doesn’t work. Only by taking control of our environment can we take control of our personal development.
Mindfulness as Context
Mindfulness, as espoused by Harvard psychology professor Ellen J. Langer in her 1989 book on the topic (before it became a watered down buzzword), is having an awareness of context around us and how that context influences us. She said that who a person is is a product of their context.
“But then the question becomes: who creates the context?” wonders Benjamin. “Once a person realizes that they can control their environment or they can shape the context, then they actually can have the power or the ability to change.”
Benjamin relays an experiment done by Langer as described in her 2009 book, Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility that drives home just how powerful this context can be.
In 1979, she took a group of eight men in their seventies from a nursing home and transplanted them into an isolated environment that mimicked the world of 1959 — complete with magazines, music, television shows, and movies — but no mirrors. The men were instructed to converse and behave as if it were actually 1959 and they were 20 years younger.
After a week, Langer reported that the men showed improvement in “physical strength, manual dexterity, gait, posture, perception, memory, cognition, taste sensitivity, hearing, and vision.” Some of those who entered with the assistance of canes left no longer requiring them.
“From a psychological perspective, almost all of your behavior is shaped by your environment,” says Benjamin. “What we say is it’s outsourced by the environment.”
The Four Sources of Willpower
If we don’t shape enriched environments that outsource the type of behavior we want, we end up having to remain conscious about what we’re doing — we mistakenly use willpower to try and force ourselves to behave in a certain way, and this is exhausting.
Contrast this with automaticity — when we practice something so much that it becomes second nature and operates almost effortlessly from our subconscious.
“Willpower can’t happen on the subconscious level,” says Benjamin. “By nature, willpower is conscious control.”
He says willpower comes from four sources:
- You haven’t made a choice yet. As Michael Jordan said, “Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again.” He took willpower out of the equation entirely.
- You don’t have enough motivation. Your why (as we discussed at length recently with Simon Sinek) is not strong enough.
- Investment. Not having a point of no return because a commitment of some form — whether in money or time or some other resource — hasn’t been made.
- Environment. “Everything around you has to be in alignment with your decision,” says Benjamin. “If there’s a conflict between what you’re trying to do and the situation around you, then you’re going to have to use willpower.”
Listen to this episode in its entirety to learn more about the point of safe return, escalation of commitment, forcing functions, using the concept of sunk cost to leave us with no option other than action, how Benjamin and his wife have used this willpower research to raise three foster children from difficult backgrounds, and lots more.
THANKS, BENJAMIN HARDY!
If you enjoyed this session with Benjamin Hardy, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
Click here to thank Benjamin Hardy at Twitter!
Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success by Benjamin Hardy
- Benjamin Hardy’s Website
- Benjamin at Medium
- Benjamin Hardy at Facebook
- Benjamin Hardy at Twitter
- Mindfulness by Ellen J. Langer
- Counterclockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility by Ellen J. Langer
- A Radical Experiment Tried to Make Old People Young Again — and the Results Were Astonishing by Lauren F. Friedman, Business Insider
- Commit 100 Percent to Something and These 5 Outcomes Will Happen by Benjamin Hardy, HuffPost
- TJHS 6: Simon Sinek | What’s Your “Why” and Where Do You Find It?
- The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
- The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown
- Poke the Box: When Was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time? by Seth Godin
- Jon Morrow’s Smart Blogger
- So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport
- The Equality of Opportunity Project
- Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Mayo Clinic
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D.
- Can You Control Your Environment and Trigger Your Most Desired Behavior? by Marshall Goldsmith
- Man’s Search for Meaning
by Viktor E. Frankl
- The Power of the Pygmalion Effect by Ulrich Boser, Center for American Progress
- The Fundamental Attribution Error: It’s the Situation, Not the Person by Dan Heath, Fast Company
- Self-Signaling: How Our Actions Can Change Who We Are by Charles Chu, Medium
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
by Carol S. Dweck
- Facts: The Blobfish by Deep Marine Scenes
- The Prison of Your Mind by Sean Stephenson, TEDxIronwoodStatePrison
- The Founder
- The Laws of Lifetime Growth: Always Make Your Future Bigger Than Your Past by Dan Sullivan and Catherine Nomura
- Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
- The Importance of Detaching From Work by Steve M Jex Ph.D., Psychology Today
- Superstratum by John Burke
- The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko
- Dan Martell’s Blog
- Earth Breaker by John Burke
- Shaun White
Transcript for Benjamin Hardy | What to Do When Willpower Doesn't Work (Episode 21)
Benjamin Hardy: [00:00:00] Your personality and your identity are actually very fluid. And if you start changing your behaviors in dramatic ways, and especially if you start consciously shaping environments around that, you can change who you are. And I think anyone who seeks self-improvement and anyone who's actually made dramatic changes in their lives would say, "Oh, I agree."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:20] Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan harbinger. As always, I'm here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. On this episode, we're talking with Benjamin Hardy, author of the book Willpower Doesn't Work. This episode, one of my favorite topics is all about using your own psychology against yourself against bad habits against distractions. Today we'll discover that your personality doesn't shape your behavior, your behavior shapes your personality, which is of course shaped by the environment. We'll also learn how this is all about the environment and how to construct an environment that shapes your behavior in the way that you want it to because as we'll discover, it's impossible to change ourselves without changing our environment first. And we'll explore the idea that mindlessness, when it comes to our environment, means you're leaving your development up to chance. And that of course is dangerous. As usual, we have worksheets for today's episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways here from Ben Hardy.
[00:01:13] That link is in the show notes at JordanHarbinger.com/podcast. All right, here's Ben Hardy. Well, thanks for coming on the show, man. I appreciate that.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:01:14] Yeah man, I'm glad that it worked out.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:01:25] All right, so one of the key concepts in the book that I enjoyed quite a bit was that our personality doesn't shape our behavior, our behavior actually shapes our personality and of course our behavior is shaped by our environment. So I would love to hear you expound on this. In fact, I want to spend the bulk of the show talking about the environment, our environment or environments because I know a lot of people are trying for willpower. We always try to get up earlier or go to the gym, you know, every day or more than we already are, eat the right things. But we start by trying to force ourselves to do that. Or we try to set alarms or things like that. But really according to your research, these are all things that are shaped by our environment. And this show, in large part, is about using psychology against bad habits or distractions or to create behavior change. And it sounds like that's the concept that you're championing here is that the environment is really the best way to do that.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:02:26] Absolutely. I'll sketch out a couple of core concepts. So first off, I'll start with Ellen Langer's work. Ellen Langer is a Harvard psychologist. If anyone is truly interested in really high level, really good psychology study, there's two books of hers, one's Mindfulness and the other is Counterclockwise. Those books above all others I've found help the reader think like a psychologist. And she kind of was the queen of mindfulness. And really what mindfulness is, it's awareness of context. It's aware of the context around you and how that context is influencing you. And so that's really what mindfulness is. It's awareness, you know, but it's become a popularized topic and so it's kind of gotten watered down. Her work is incredible. A quote from Ellen Langer is this -- That social psychologists, you know, basically argue or that it's our perspective that at any one time who a person is as a product of their context.
[00:03:20] But then the question becomes who creates the context. Once a person realizes that they can control their environment or they can shape the context, then they actually can have the power or the ability to change. And she's done a lot of really interesting research, you know, in her book, Counterclockwise. Basically what she did is she took a bunch of people in. This study actually happened back in the '70s. So back in the '70s she took a group of eight men from, and they were all in their seventies and they created a context. They created an environment that matched the '50s so it matched 50 years earlier. They had magazines from the fifties there were a bunch of movies from the '50s and basically what these guys had to do, and a lot of them came in like on crutches and stuff. And they put them in the environment and told them to act as if they were themselves 20 years prior.
[00:04:10] Like they couldn't talk. They had to talk about their lives, their work, everything as though they were themselves 20 years younger. So as if they were like men in their fifties and they couldn't talk about anything that happened after the 1950s so they were talking about current events as if it was the '50s and stuff like that. The people who are running the study, the graduate students and stuff, were just treating them like they were men in their '50s not men in their seventies and basically what happened was, almost all of their biology, like their biochemical and stuff, it changed. They had a lot better eyesight. Some of the guys who came in walking in on like canes and stuff left with, you know, walking on their own two feet. Some of the graduate students and stuff had to like carry up their bags and stuff on the way in. Like these men had biological transformations.
[00:04:52] Their eyesight was better, their dexterity was higher. Since then, she's just done a ton of really cool research on how context really does shape the individual. And then, you know, since then there's all sorts of research on epigenetics and neuro, you know, brain plasticity and about all of these basically signs or things that are showing that your biology is a lot more fluid than fixed. And that the cells, you know, the genes that are expressed or are mostly based on the environments you're in. And you know, obviously as we'll go into from a psychological perspective, almost all of your behavior is shaped by your environment. What we say is it's outsourced by the environment. The easiest example for me is just an airplane. Like you're not going to smoke a cigarette on an airplane. Maybe back in the '70s you could have done that because that's kind of how the culture was back then.
[00:05:38] But at least the rules, you know, of culture and norms and how that stuff works today is you just don't do that. And so even if you are a smoker, chances are you won't even think about it because it's not an option. What they call that is actually, it's called automaticity. So like if you start learning how to drive a car, in the beginning your behavior's completely conscious, you have to think about the pedal, how soft or hard you're pushing it. You've got to think about every movement. And then once you get better and better at it, it becomes subconscious. And they call that automaticity. And that's kind of one of the core concepts of mastery is that once you get so good at something, you overlearn it, then you can do it subconsciously. And when you're at the subconscious level, you just operate more on instinct rather than governed behavior.
[00:06:20] So pulling willpower into all of this, willpower can't happen on the subconscious level. Like by natures, willpower is conscious control. Like you have to control it. You have to think about your behavior. That's why willpower is there, if something is subconscious, it doesn't require willpower. And so in the book, I talk about how willpower comes from four different sources. Either you haven't actually made a committed decision. So once you make like a firm choice, then you no longer have to debate inside your head if you're going to do it. So the Harvard business professor Clayton Christianson said 100% commitment is easier than 98% commitment because if you're 98% committed, then you have to decide what you're going to do in almost every situation. So if you're like, "I'm going to go, I'm going to eat healthy," but you're at a wedding and there just happened to be serving your favorite cake, you know, then like you have to make a decision.
[00:07:14] There's willpower. So Michael Jordan said, "Once I made a decision, I never thought about it again." So step one is, if you have to use willpower, it's because you actually haven't made a choice yet. You're still leaving it up to situations and generally situations that you don't want to be in. Number two reason why willpower doesn't exist, as you know, in this kind of links with the first is just that you don't have enough motivation. Like the 'why' is not strong enough for whatever you're trying to do. And so you're still trying to convince yourself one way or another.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:41] Right. Like I should be in shape, but I'm married so maybe I really don't care that much anymore. Hypothetically.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:07:48] Yeah. I mean if you don't have a firm 'why,' you know, if you're not heavily motivated to do something, of course it's going to take willpower to go to the gym.
[00:07:56] You know, if you don't have a compelling reason to get you there, and if you haven't made a committed decision to doing it, then of course it's going to take exerted effort and attention. You know, I know that obviously this is a pretty heavy psychological podcast, but just some basic definitions. Willpower -- they kind of basically sum it up in the research as like, it's a finite resource. It's a muscle. It's something that you can only use so much it, depletes with use. One of the different terms they use for it is decision fatigue. So kind of one of the things that I'm talking about right now is making decisions to cut off decisions. You know, you say you're going to do this, you're 100% committed. So you don't have to think about other things. There's a book called The Paradox of Choice and it's all about how you know, more options is not good.
[00:08:39] What you want to do is you want to make a committed decisions and then cut off alternatives so you don't even have to think about them. And so part, you know, number three reason is actually I think what influences the other two. And this is where we can start talking about how your behavior shapes your identity or it shapes your personality. And the third one is investment. So this is one of the ideas we go into in the book and it's the idea of throughout my doctoral research, I studied the differences between wannabe entrepreneurs, people who claimed that that's what they wanted to do with their career. I interviewed a bunch of those people and I interviewed a bunch of people who are already, you know, entrepreneurs who are running a company and who were doing it. I asked them all the same sets of questions and I really did it Brene Brown style.
[00:09:20] So it was qualitative research, just interviewed a bunch of people over and over asking the same questions. And one of the questions I asked was, "Have you ever had a point of no return?" And nearly all of the wannabe entrepreneurs said no. And almost all of the actual entrepreneurs said yes. And I've even asked Seth Goden that question and you know, the answer is yes multiple times for people who have, you know, ratcheted up or who have created higher levels of commitment. So in aviation, basically what happens is when you're flying, let's just say you're flying over the ocean and you only have so much gas, like at some point you pass what's called the point of safe return, where you actually don't have enough fuel to go back to the prior destination and you must go forward. So psychologically you cross this point where it's like, you know, you're no longer going back, you've crossed this threshold of decision.
[00:10:04] And for most of the people, what that was was that it was actually money. Once I started investing money in something, in this case, in their business, they started to become really committed to it. And there's an idea in economics called escalation of commitment. It's really tied to another concept called sunk cost bias. And basically what it is is just the more skin in the game you have in the more invested you've become in something, you start to really tie your identity around that thing. And so what most of the research looks at it is, is they look at it in a negative light. They always say, you know, "You say no, get out of that." You know like uncommit, like that's always been the focus is like you're probably committed to the wrong thing. You're tied to the wrong relationship. That's almost always how the Stefan escalation of commitment in sunk cost bias has been framed.
[00:10:49] You know what I was finding was kind of the reverse is also true is that you know when you start really investing big in something, you can reach that level of decision and you can then increase your 'why.' You can find that why and you can put yourself in conditions which is really what the book is all about, where you have to go forward. You create these conditions of necessity and then obviously the fourth one just ties it all around and that's like your environment. Everything around you has to be in alignment with your decision and if there's a conflict between what you're trying to do and the situation around you, then you're going to have to use willpower.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:24] I just wanted to do a quick overview of "Hey look, willpower is not where it's at. It doesn't really work. It either doesn't exist in certain forms or it just doesn't do the trick." And the investment thing though, I wanted to sort of dispense with this because yes it works in a way, but is it not a little dangerous because we see people kind of, I don't know if recommending is even strong enough a word saying that go all in. You've got to go all in, you've got to do this. But honestly, whenever I hear, I go to a lot of events where people pitch
[00:11:54] and stuff like that and I'm just thinking some of these ideas are genuinely terrible and so I don't want somebody who's 22 years old to quit college, start their terrible idea business because they think it's a really good idea. It might work for them as some sort of side hustle and they can ratchet it up to that if they need to. But I don't know if people need to invest these sort of make or break amounts of money. It works for some people. But is there not a sort of survivorship bias here in that, "Yeah. You know, when I committed and I went all in and it really worked and I followed my dreams and there's like 98 other people that went. 'Yeah. When all in and I worked at it, followed my dreams and I worked really hard. And then I ended up on my mom's couch. But I don't have a microphone or platform, so I only, you know, you can't tell that story'. Right? We only hear from like Mark Cuban and Daymond John. We don't hear from the other guys who are in their aunt's basement like, "Hey, this didn't work for me. Too bad. I spent all my money on Bitcoin miner."
Benjamin Hardy: [00:12:53] Yeah. No, no, no. I mean I think you're absolutely right. You can't just frivolously, you know, spend your money and expect that that's going to do anything. I think that the point of investment is very heavy into the ability to make big decisions. So I actually think it is a requirement, but I never actually said no amount of money. So, like for myself, I started blogging in 2015 and a lot of it had to do with the fact that I became a foster parent, but a lot of it also had to do with the fact that I actually started investing money in it. So I wanted to be a writer from 2010 to 2015 and I never did anything about it. I just didn't have any stake. I just assume that one day it would happen, but time kept ticking.
[00:13:34] And basically what happened was, is in January of 2000 it could have been January or February of 2015 I was like, okay, I really got to get going on this. And a lot of it was influenced by the fact that we had just become foster parents. And so I was getting this feeling like time's going to start moving fast. If I don't start moving on this now, I'm probably not going to. And so I asked her, my wife if we could spend the $800 to buy the domain name, BenjaminHardy.com and at the time graduate student I was making about $12,000 per year. That's kind of where I was at in 2015.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:07] Totally enough for you, your wife and four foster kids. Okay.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:14:10] Three. So you know, three. So we couldn't handle it but if we had four it would have been way, way too wait and not enough. So 800 bucks was like, you know, she had heard me talking about it because we got married in 2013. She had heard me saying I wanted to be a writer ever since she knew me and didn't really see me doing anything about it. And so she's like, "Are you sure? Like this seems like a fad." I definitely want this to be sure. So she let me do it, bought the domain name. And then a couple months later I bought the online course from John Morrow. He wrote a guest blogging course. It was $197. And in that course I only went to the first three modules. It taught me how to write headlines and it taught me how to structure my articles and it taught how to pitch articles.
[00:14:52] And one of the things that Cal Newport talks about in his book, So Good They Can't Ignore You, is the idea of developing skills and abilities. You know, rather than pursuing your passion, what you should do is be a craftsman where you're seeking to actually develop something that can be useful. And once you develop skills, then confidence comes. And once confidence comes and you start doing it, then like passion is a lot more healthy. And there's two types of passion in psychology. There's what's called harmonious passion. And then there's another form of passion that's more impulsive and that kind of wrecks your life. But harmonious passion as a passion where it resonates and it aligns with, and it supports the other areas of your life. It's not impulsive, it's congruent and it's intrinsic, not based on trying to seek approval. That's kind of what happened to me.
[00:15:36] Like I had been studying psychology, self-improvement, all sorts of things for years. But once I started to take this course and actually develop skills and abilities, then I actually had confidence. And that's part of this whole personality thing is that it's not confidence that creates success. It's actually successful behavior that then creates confidence. Confidence is a by-product. It's not the cause, it's an effect. And so once you start developing skills and abilities and you have to do that through action, then confidence comes. And then obviously that confidence can then, you know, be a healthy wave of producing further successes. But you know, if your behavior doesn't match what you're wanting to do, then you're incongruent, then you can't have confidence. So once I started pitching articles, basically what I did from about May and June of 2015 was I wrote about 50 or more articles and I was just applying what I was learning. I was pitching them all over the place. And then one of my articles went viral. And ever since then I've just been writing a lot. But it was just a few of those investments. You know, what I'm talking about is less than a thousand dollars right now. You know what I mean? I'm not talking that like I like sold my house. I didn't leave graduate school, but I was starting to invest money and then that's when I started to move forward.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:45] So this is classic self-help market or stuff, right? It's like, "Well, if you don't invest this, it means you don't care about yourself. You don't want it enough. And look, here's this thing. It's says you just got to buy this course and it's all about investing in yourself. That's why we can't do a discount on this particular thing." I mean, it's just classic marketing. So the concept may be correct and yet it's one of the most co-opted and abused in marketing, I think.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:17:09] Oh, it is for sure. I mean, I think that there's a lot of truth behind it, but it's something you can use to manipulate people who either aren't ready for the investment. I mean, the investment itself isn't enough. You've got obviously kind of be prepared. I kind of look at it as a continuum like there's this progression and I'm just thinking about it in terms of the people I interviewed like you know, someone who goes from just saying having the idea that they want to be an entrepreneur versus someone who's really been like thinking about it and starting to invest energy, thought into it. At some point obviously they need to start putting their money into it, right? Like at some point you, if there's going to actually become a real thing, you've got to start investing yourself in it. But I with you that it's a really good way as well too, to trick people.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:50] Yeah. It's always, this is kind of always the debate, right? Is this concept valid in this case or is it not? And whenever you're trying to get people to invest in something, even if it's themselves, you got to be a little bit careful. I want to start focusing on how our environment shapes us because in Willpower Doesn't Work, you discuss why goal setting doesn't work for more than a small subset of behaviors and how we can outsource our behaviors to our environment and how we can change ourselves without changing our environment. And I think these are fascinating concepts because obviously we're talking about habit change. We're talking about productivity, we're talking about achievement. I mean, these are near and dear topics to the Jordan Harbinger Show audience. And so if we can construct an environment that shapes our behavior and the way that we want it to, we can start to really take off without willpower, without motivation per se.
[00:18:50] This episode is sponsored in part by ZipRecruiter. If you're hiring, and of course you are, every business needs great people, but there's got to be a better way to find them. Rather than just posting yourself on a billion job sites or hiring some recruiter, paying and praying for the right people to hire or see your ad, ZipRecruiter comes to save the day. They learn what you're looking for, they identify the people with the right experience, and then invite them to apply for your job. In fact, 80% of employers who post on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate through the site in just one day and ZipRecruiter doesn't stop there. They spotlight the strongest applications you receive. You never miss a great match. They put it in a custom inbox. You don't have to have calls and all this stuff coming into your office. The right candidates are out there and ZipRecruiter is how you find them.
[00:19:35] Right now, our listeners can try ZipRecruiter for free. Just go to ZipRecruiter.com/Jordan, that's ZipRecruiter.com/Jordan. ZipRecruiter is the smartest way to hire. This episode is also sponsored by Rhone. Love these clothes, it's like sporty stuff that doesn't look dad-like and doesn't look nineties-like, it's really good stuff, really comfortable and high quality. You should never have to question your gear, which is exactly why Rhone created this salient running short sleeve shirt. It's made with a seamless construction, strategic venting of course and something called the salient -- the first FDA determined fabric to promote blood flow, increase energy, endurance, performance. The shirt really does go the extra mile and they've added silver tech threads that reduced body odor by fighting bacteria. I always thought that was cool, that silver somehow fights bacteria. I really didn't know that silver naturally fights man or woman's stink for that matter, so they weave it directly into the shirt to keep you smelling fresh and don't forget about the Rhone commuter pants. Producer Jason, you swear by these things, right?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:37] I bought three extra pair. You know I used the discount obviously from our coupon. I bought three extra pair for myself because I love these things. They sent me one pair and I'm like, "You know what? These are my go-tos. I'm definitely getting a bunch of these and especially when you're traveling, if you have to go through TSA, you want some commuter pants, they're amazing.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:56] So go to rhone.com, that's R H O N E.com. Our listeners receive an exclusive offer of 15% off your first purchase with the use of the code Jordan. That's the promo code at checkout, J O R D A N. Remember that offer is only available to our listeners. So rhone.com promo code Jordan at checkout for 15% off. Let's dive into this a little bit. You explained initially that when you started fostering kids, you changed and curated their environment. Tell me a little bit about -- I mean this is personal, so if I cross the line, just let me know. But obviously who you are and what you do as a function of the people around you, what you consume. Tell me how your kids changed, because I assume foster kids didn't come to you because they were just really happy where they were and they decided for a change of pace was in order, right. Usually that there's some unusual circumstances that lead to this particular situation.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:21:49] Yeah, definitely. Well, actually truth be told, we adopted these kids about a month and a half ago, so I actually have a lot more leeway to talk about this than I did when I wrote the book. I'll give a little bit of background. So there's a really big study that's called the equality of opportunities. I forget fully what it's called. It's a big Harvard study on economics and basically what it did is it framed out a person's ability to improve their economic status in America. And they framed it based on whatever County you lived in. And the County that I grew up in is actually in the 91st percentile, which means that if you live in this County, your chances, even if you grew up poor, to improve your financial, I mean your economic situation is actually very high just because that's what's happening around you.
[00:22:37] Well where our kids grew up in South Carolina, where like the County adjacent to where I was getting my PhD, their County was in the ninth percentile, which means that if you're born poor in that County, your chances of changing your situation are almost zero and if you drove through it you would, you wouldn't be surprised. So are our three kids when we got them basically what their situation is they grew up in a very small trailer-type place, you know, and they were actually five kids because they had two half siblings, which we didn't end up getting, who all slept in one room, clothes piled high, you know, food all over the place. Their parents would, you know, they just sat in front of the TV all day. So I mean one of the reasons why they were in foster care is their parents were on drugs and they weren't neglected.
[00:23:27] So their parents would stick them in front of a TV for hours and they weren't going to school. And so the state kind of said, "Well what's going on with these five kids that they have missed 50 days of school in a row?" And their parents would give them cough syrup to put them to bed. Yeah. So you know, you're giving your kids to go to bed at night and then you just stick them in front of a TV and eventually they pass out. And so we get these kids who don't know how to go to sleep. And it takes us six months to actually train these human beings to go to sleep without asking for medicine. But, you know, the behavior was nuts, you know? And so I'm in my first year of grad school and my wife was doing a Master's as well and social work.
[00:24:05] And we've never had kids before. I've never read a book on parenting before.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:09] Way to start with the easy stuff.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:24:11] Yeah. Yeah. It's like, well, and one of the big things I talked about in the book, you know, and we'll go into this, is adaptability, you know, and about how quickly the human beings can adapt to change, especially when you're committed and invested. And it doesn't have to be financial. We kind of already hit that. But in this case, you know, the three year old boy and some of these details I couldn't write about in the book at the time because we were foster parents and you have to follow all these rules. But the three year old boy, every once in awhile he would just get these anxiety attacks where literally he would lose the ability to move his limbs.
[00:24:44] Like he would just start just shut down. He would just do it emotionally shut down. He would lay down on the ground and I'd say, you know, we'd be like, we're walking out to our car, you know, like Logan, come like walk to the car. And then he literally physically couldn't like, and it would happen all the time. He would shut down. The five year old girl who's now eight and she was very, you know, so much anger issues. We had to take her out of the public school because she had what is called oppositional defiance disorder. You know, all of our kids ended up having like five or more diagnoses. There's a really, really important book out now called The Body Keeps The Score and it's all about trauma. And really what it explains is that, you know, most of the disorders that these kids get diagnosed with are actually all tied just to trauma.
[00:25:27] And really it's more just PTSD. Anyways, you know, this girl would just throw the biggest anger, you know, and she was unreachable. It was just really intense. Like we would have to sit with them through their anger and a lot of times you lose your patience after sitting through it for a long time. I openly admit I lost my, you know, never obviously in a physical way, but like at some point, you know, you just, you lose it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:53] I have no patience. You don't have to justify yourself. I have no patience.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:25:57] Yeah, no, I mean it was, you know, at some point I'm telling you, when it becomes your life and it's just like there seems to be no joy, you know, unless you get them in front of the TV, like seriously or like get them a treat and like they get five minutes of dopamine.
[00:26:09] But so for the first six months, I avoided being home. I allowed myself to kind of just enjoy work and stuff. And over time I, I really had to invest myself in the kids and I have some serious victory stories now. But if you saw our family now, you would never imagine where we came from. We ended up having our, all three of our kids in a Montessori School public education system. The environment just was too structured for these three kids given where their background was. And Montessori School provides a ton of, you know, self-directed learning. They can go out and like do gardening. Our little girl was able to like go to like younger kids and kind of mentor them. She really loves nurturing until that situation was a god-send for these kids. And then obviously we've just spent countless hours one-on-one helping them with their schooling.
[00:27:02] They were all at least a year behind when we got them, got them into sports, you know, giving them healthy food. During 2017, we went sugar-free as a family like and really some of the core components of this environment are like having a stable and regular evening routine and morning routine. Like, you know, as basic as that is like we have dinner together and like they know what to expect. The stability and the consistency allowed them after months to put themselves to bed. And one thing we didn't know was that kids, you know, under the age of like nine or eight even need like almost 12 hours of sleep at night. We didn't know that, but our kids had been getting 12 hours of sleep ever since we've got them. Like our six year old, he's been going to bed at 6:00 PM every night since we've had him.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:43] Nice. That's -- lucky you.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:27:45] No, trust me, we do it for ourselves just as much. I mean even our 10 year old, he still goes to bed at seven. My wife and I have always had like two or three hours a night just to kick it and our kids wake up and they've had 12 hours of sleep
Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:58] Without cough syrup. Go figure. I mean you had to design all of this, right? You had to create all of this out of not just a blank slate, like a kid that you had that grew up around this, somebody or a set of people who were programmed by a chaotic, traumatic environment. And it must be pretty difficult to change that up because not only did you have one kid where you're like, "Okay, he's got to unlearn all this stuff." You have three. And so one might unlearn something, the other one doesn't. They're around each other. So that could be a negative influence or at least a contrary influence. So you really had to, they out-numbered you and they were programmed in a way that wasn't going to serve them, and you had to undo all of that with environment.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:28:44] Oh, 100% yeah. I mean, the core quote that comes from the book is from Marshall Goldsmith, you know, and it's -- If you do not create and control your environment, your environment creates and controls you.-- And some are kind of the just kind of fundamentals of the book is you know, there's a reactive, either you're being reactive about your environment or you're proactively creating an environment that you want to influence you. In the case of these kids, yeah, I mean we just, we knew, I mean I had been studying psychology for a long time I understood adaptability. I understood these things. But yeah, I mean it takes time. Like just an example, I met a woman once on an airplane who had 19 kids. Obviously they weren't all her own. She actually had eight kids her own and then they were asked by some people to mentor this sibling group of four kids, ended up adopting them and she talks about how whenever you take a system, because a lot of this has to do with systems thinking
[00:29:33] like when you change a part of any system you have to change the whole kind of thing. When they brought in these four kids, it kind of really shattered everything because actually it changed the sibling like the birth order. Because some of these siblings, like mixed in with some of her kids and so like the kid who was the youngest now has like a younger brother, you know what I mean? And so like it changes everything about the role you're in. And she talked about how it took that two and a half years for homeostasis to re-develop in their environment where they all kind of melded into their new roles. And then they ended up shattering the system again by taking on another sibling group. But they understood, they kind of understood a lot more how to control and set that up.
[00:30:13] But there's always going to be a shattering of the system when you do something like this. And then there's this new normal, you know, and even with finances. You win the lottery, eventually it becomes boring. Like there's just this idea that no matter where you are, you're going to adapt. No matter how successful you become, it eventually becomes normal. No matter, you know, even if you lose your leg, you know, like eventually you're going to get used to it. Even if it sucks. Like one of the big ideas that kind of really turned me onto that was actually Viktor Frankl. You know, in his book, Man's Search for Meaning, I was listening to it and he was talking about sleeping comfortably on the bed with next to nine other people, and that just really struck me. I was just like, this is so weird.
[00:30:49] And then he even says in the book, "Yes, a person can get used to anything. Just don't ask us how." And he said the most surprising thing about being in the concentration camp was how quickly, you know, you went from being horrified by watching someone get shot next to you, to just going to being apathetic about it because it's just the normal you just used to it. And so with that in mind, I think one of the big ideas in the book is that people could take on a lot more if they were willing to create situations that would force them to rise up. The historian Will Durant said that the ability of the average man could be doubled if their situation demanded it. And basically what psychologists call that as they call it, the Pygmalion effect. Either you rise up to or you fall to the expectations of your situation. You don't act according to your value system. You act according to the norms in your environment. So most people they believe and they have the value of being healthy. They want to be healthy, they want to be successful and happy, but their environment is really what determines what they do and what they do obviously determines who they'd be. Because your behavior shapes who you are.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:51] Essentially, the design of the environment then is at the core of who we choose to be and so we really have to be cognizant of the environment. Like this isn't, "Well, make sure your environment's set up so that you're productive or make sure that you don't have any distractions or make sure there's no junk food in the fridge." This is like the most important thing, not a piece of it. It's the piece of it because if you control your environment, you can control your emotional states because environments trigger emotional states. They allow us to do or not do certain things, based on availability of resources and things inside that environment. I'd love to talk about environmental design and I think you just mentioned this earlier, that if you don't control your environment, it controls you, but most of us are just mindless, right? In our environment, we sort of
[00:32:40] leave our development up to chance because we leave our environment up to chance. And you've got this story actually about Matt and Eric that kind of illustrates this really well. Would you mind going through that? You could take us through that.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:32:51] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Absolutely. Just one more caveat is the reason why we ignore the environment is actually because our culture conditions us to. We're very individualistic. We were very self-absorbed. We don't focus on what's around us. That's why willpower mindset, all of these individualistic traits are so popular is because that's what our environment values is individualism. And so it's just a product. It's funny, it's a product of our culture to ignore the culture around us. It's far as this story, Matt and Eric, I believe these are actually people who I did know and still know, but basically the story is this,
[00:33:24] I have a friend who was on an amazing path in life. He was working his way towards a career he loved, was in a happy marriage, had kids, et cetera, and would justify to himself spending a few nights a week, you know, playing video games with a friend who actually in a lot of ways I believe was subliminally training him to not love his wife. This other friend would talk, you know, garbage on this friend's wife. Here's what's really interesting is when you see something from a distance, you can see things that a person can't see in themselves because we are always changing day to day. A person is never the same person. You know, if you see a person and then you see them six months later, even though they seem the same, they are slightly different and especially if they're putting themselves in unusual or unique situations, you know, because output creates input.
[00:34:16] I mean, even the most popular self-improvement stuff in the world, if you really go into it, it says that. You know, they say it's all about mindset, but then they say, you know, garbage in, garbage out. That's why you got to listen to Zig Ziglar 50 times, you know? And so they say it's all about mindset, but then what they're saying is to be, you have to program yourself because what goes in actually is who you become. You know, if you go to the gym every day and you really start working out and stuff, you'll start to see changes over time. But if I am with you, and that I don't see you for a year, like I can see the changes that you might not see in yourself because for you the changes are so incremental and day by day, you're looking at yourself in the mirror all the time.
[00:34:52] And so sometimes, like you're saying, we can be mindless of the fact that we're being changed by our environment. It's unconscious to us because again, most behavior and identity, they become subconscious. It's called automaticity. Everything becomes automatic based on the situations you consistently put yourself in. So why I was so intrigued by this is because I would spend time with these guys maybe like every six months, I was really busy going to school and things like that and I'm very aware of the environments I placed myself in and I would just notice a lot of shifts in one of my friends, you know, he never used profanity and things like that before and all of a sudden it was just his common language, you know, and it was just like, it wasn't things that like totally threw me off.
[00:35:33] I was just like, "Oh, that's interesting." But the thing is I was able to predict, you know, I was like if this is kind of the pattern that he's moving towards, there's no way his marriage is going to last. And I just started to see shifts in his behavior because I was at a distance enough and I was seeing him at, you know, big enough spaces of time that I could actually sense the starkness of what was going on. Potentially what he couldn't see in himself. And there's a concept in psychology, it's called the fundamental attribution error. So if someone cuts you off on the road, chances are you're going to be upset at that person and think they're a bad person. But chances are there's some situational factor happening because that person probably doesn't drive like that all the time. Some people obviously, you know, do, and it's probably because they put themselves in bad situations.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:17] This episode is sponsored in part by HostGator. You know, it's never going to steal all your personal data and use it against you to sway a presidential election -- your own website. You've all heard the news about how the book of faces has been giving out all of your data and we need a shower after all that. But when you have your own website, you control the data, especially if you keep it up to date and secure and that's why we recommend HostGator's website builder. You can easily create a professional looking and feature-packed website. Best part, no coding. Well and you know, no data theft in theory. You can choose from over a hundred mobile friendly templates so the site is going to look good on your phone, on your tablet, on a desktop or other people's phones, desktop and tablets for that matter and HostGator gives you a ton of add-ons so you can do a lot of stuff to increase your search engine visibility without being an expert in SEO or you can integrate it with PayPal.
[00:37:05] You can allow customers to buy directly from your website. You also get a 99.9% uptime guarantee and their support team is there to help with any issues, 24/7 365 because if you're anything like me, you only have problems at 4:00 AM on Sunday that needs fixing urgently. HostGator has given you all up to 62% off all their packages for new users. So go to hostgator.com/jordan right now to sign up. That's hostgator.com/Jordan. This episode is also sponsored by Varidesk. These are the coolest things ever. This is one of those inventions where you're like, "How did this not exist before?" Everyone's buying standing desks and they're like all kinds of crazy hard to put together and they're hard to move.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:37:49] I don't know about you, Jordan, but when I was like, you know, trying to put my first standing desk together, it was literally cardboard boxes and a piece of plywood on top of my desk. I wish this would've been around when I was starting to get into the standing desk scene because it's so much cooler than everything that we had back then.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:05] I love that you described it as the standing desk scene, like there's this underground community of people that use standing desks. I guess it was kind of a nerdy health hipster thing.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:38:14] Totally underground. Yeah.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:16] Yeah. It was like a health hipster thing a couple years ago and now Varidesk among others is really just putting this in the forefront. They built these really nice workspace solutions that would sit on top of the desk, but now they have the Pro Desk 60 Electric standing desk, makes it really easy to create an active workspace. Sitting less, employee health goes up, energy productivity goes up. It's designed with these commercial-grade materials. So you get the durability, stability, you're not going to like accidentally bump into it or put too much on the left part. Nothing falls over like a lot of stuff in desks. The other thing is you can assemble this thing in under five minutes, which is literally you can.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:38:53] Four and a half of those minutes is opening the cardboard box and throwing it away and then putting it on top of your desk.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:58] Yeah, well there's that. Yeah, too. But even the Pro Desk is really easy to assemble and you can try Varidesk for 30 days with free shipping and free returns if you have poor taste or you don't like it or both. But learn more at varidesk.com/forbes, that's V A R I D E S K.com/forbes which is my stripper name, that's why we use that code - Forbes. I'm not sure why. I'm not sure how else to explain that. There's just like no other rationale that could possibly go behind why they chose that. So they must know my, they must know I'm a moonlighter.
Jason DeFillippo: [00:39:34] Podcasting is hard. Girls got to do what she's got to do.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:36] That's right. That's V A R I D E S K.com/forbes. Now they're never going to forget that promo code.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:39:44] Basically what the fundamental attribution error says is that when you attribute the cause of something to the person rather than the situation around them, that's like the biggest mental mistake you can make. And you know, like it's the fundamental attribution error. Like it's there situational factors playing a role and if you're not going to pay attention to that as nutrition to say that's just who that person is, then that's probably one of the biggest mental mistakes you can make. And so I was watching this guy and I was watching the situations he was putting himself in. And this is why it was unconscious. Is it because if you had asked this guy five years ago, would you like to see yourself divorced and jobless? He would have absolutely said no, he would never have wanted that. But it's exactly what happened. It was because he was mindless about what was happening in the fact that he was being shaped subconsciously by an environment that opposed his goals and values and over time his goals and his values changed and then his marriage changed, you know, and then other things changed.
[00:40:39] And then you find yourself in this situation where like, "How the heck did I get here?" Little influences over time, change your identity. So I'll go into self-signaling now because this is a really cool idea. And basically what self-signaling is it's this idea that you don't necessarily know who you are. You know, we think we know who we are, but we don't really know ourselves as well as we think we do. We judge and evaluate ourselves and our identity and who we think we are. At the same way we evaluate other people. You know, we do it based on behavior actually. And we still, you know, we don't really realize that the behavior in a lot of ways is based on what's around us and who's around us. But once you start changing your behavior, you start to change how you evaluate yourself.
[00:41:19] So if you start listening to like podcasts or if you start reading books, you know, eventually you'll start to evaluate yourself as a reader or as someone who learns. And so the idea is just that your identity is not some fixed characteristic. Even if you have this belief system, this fixed mindset that it is, it's going to be harder to see yourself as fluid. But generally if you start running, you're going to start to see yourself as a runner, you know? And so you just evaluate yourself based on your behavior. And so your personality and your identity are actually very fluid. And if you start changing your behaviors in dramatic ways and especially if you start consciously shaping environments around that, you can change who you are. And I think anyone who seeks self-improvement and anyone who's actually made dramatic changes in their lives would say, "Oh, I agree."
Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:06] Yeah, I agree with this a hundred percent. Changing --when I used to live in Los Angeles, I would work out of my office and it was really depressing and negative and I didn't like it at all but I didn't really notice it because you know, boiling frog type thing, you know the changes you don't really see in yourself. And then I ended up meeting, who's now my wife and I moved out and moved into her condo that she was no longer using because she had already moved out of there as well. And so I started to change because I'd started to just be sort of in a different environment or at least the absence of negativity even though as I loan more was just a strong contrast. Then I moved up to San Francisco and eventually ended up separating from my company that I've used to have run this show and now even in a short period of time, I look at the team and myself not working with people even remotely and everyone's a lot happier, more productive.
[00:43:06] The quality of the show has gone up and it's kind of amazing because your environment isn't just the room you're sitting in, it's the people around you as well. And I think that's worth highlighting because when we think environment, we think, "Okay, well yeah, I've got to set up the lighting in here, ala [00:43:20][inaudible] really well and make sure that my desk is set up and my phone's off. That's all fine and good. But if you're getting pinged on Slack by people who are trying to bring you down or make you feel like crap or tell you your work isn't valuable or distract you, that's just as environmental because it's just more a psychological environment and unless you just... what do you think about that? Do you agree that the environment is partly psychological, not just the physical area where you are?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:43:44] Oh yeah. I mean, I don't go too deep into that in the book, but yeah, so I mean if you think about, for example, your relationship with your wife, you guys are defined by that relationship. You know how you guys see each other. It's the relationship between things. That's the context that actually determines who you are in that situation. So you, I mean, it's very psychological. I mean really what we're talking about here is how the external environment actually influences the psychology. You can't separate the two, you know, like who you're around shapes how you feel on the thoughts that you have. Your show is a lot different now that you're not around certain people and now that the situation's different, now the characteristics of your podcasts are different, you have different emotional experiences and you have different abilities to run the show how you want to, you know, it's not about your talent and ability. You're the same person technically-ish, that you were back when the show was different. But now that the situation's changed, you can be different. And so the environment outside of you, fundamentally as a part of what's going on inside of you, you get to a point where you think more holistically and you just realize that the two aren't separated.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:48] Yeah. Of course. And cutting negative people out of your life, something that you wrote about in Willpower Doesn't Work, requires detaching ourselves from comforts that we have now. You know, well the show's making this and we've got these products. You know, it's really hard to sort of break out of that. So sometimes changing our environment might involve a little bit of, I don't want to say pain, but maybe that's what it is. Maybe it is a little bit of pain.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:45:12] It always does. Yeah. I mean, think about even thinking about going from wanting to be entrepreneur to entrepreneur. You've got to give up what you've got for what you want. You know what I mean? And that's your environment literally holds you together. So there's a story that I didn't include in the book that my wife really wanted me to. So do you know what a blob fish is?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:32] No, sounds kind of gross though.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:45:33] So if you Google. Yeah, it's funny. So if you Google the world's ugliest animal, you're going to see a really ugly pink fish. And there's actually tee shirts and all sorts of hilarious things about blob fish because they're so ugly. But if you looked at a blob fish down at, you know, several thousand feet below sea level, it would actually look like a very normal fish because the water pressure down there literally holds the fish together.
[00:45:54] And then when you pull the blob fish up, you know, and the pressure shrinks eventually its mouth ejects out of its stomach and it becomes this hideous looking thing. And so the idea is that, you know, in certain situations you are a blob fish like around certain people, you're not going to be able to be who you need to be. And so one, one cool point is that the whole pressure component, and I talk about the need of pressure to move yourself forward, but the real idea is that your environment literally is holding your identity together. Who you are right now is based on all of the things outside of you holding it together -- your relationships, your commitments -- all of these things are what's holding yourself together. And so when you actually truly change anything, you actually have to change everything.
[00:46:40] Like if you actually make a fundamental change, it has to happen to everything around you. And interestingly, I was just re-reading The Alchemist and in the book it talks about how one something evolves, everything must evolve around it. And if you actually make a change and you actually want to do something different, of course you have to disrupt your environment. Like if you don't, then you're not going to actually be able to make that change and you're going to be living in internal conflict. And that's the whole willpower cycle all over again. But the biggest, hardest component of all of this is disrupting your relationships because their identities are also held together based on their relationship with you. I was recently talking to a guy named Sean Stevenson. He's a really cool speaker. He's a friend of mine. Yeah, Sean's amazing. So Sean was born with a.. I forget what they call it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:28] Yeah. Osteogenesis imperpecta, essentially what it is, his bones are like chalk. So he can bump his knee on something. He can't walk. He's in a wheelchair, but he could bump his knee or his arm on something and it could just shatter the whole thing.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:47:41] Yeah, exactly. And so like he's been in a wheelchair his whole life and then he goes through all this personal development. And one of the things he actually talks about interestingly is, is that when he was surrounded by other people with the disease, he was super depressed. And I think he actually got mentored by Tony Robbins and Tony said, "You can no longer surround yourself with those people because they're going to enable you and you're going to die sooner." He was supposed to die before age 18 and so he surrounded himself with a lot of mentors and you know, he's still alive 20 years longer than his then he was supposed to.
[00:48:12] But one of the crazy things that's happened to him recently, so he ends up going on to become this pretty famous public speaker and he speaks all over the world. He's got mastermind groups, he's a transformational hypnotherapist guy and he's actually really amazing, very brilliant guy. But the situation has been is that he has been in business, like his whole business has been set up so that his parents have managed it. However he does it, his parents are involved. And he had this epiphany. So he was out. He was out in Africa in some village sometime back in 2017, and one of the important concepts I talked about in the book is that a lot of the big ah-ha is you're going to get are not actually going to happen in your routine environment. They're going to happen while you're outside your environment while you're recovering, while you're not in kind of the hustle and bustle of everything going on, when you actually give yourself space.
[00:49:02] So there's a lot of good science behind the idea of taking a sabbatical or mini retirement or taking an off day and fully and plugging. Usually that's where your biggest ah-has are actually going to happen. Only 16% of creative ideas are going to happen while you're sitting at work. Usually, you know, it's just like fitness, you're going to grow while you recover. You're going to get your best ideas while you're resting because your mind is actually allowed to wander when -- it can't do that when it's focused on one thing, but when it wanders, it can connect things and that's where ah-ha's come in. But anyways, he was in Africa and he was surrounded by all this poverty and he just had this idea that like he wanted to go to the next level in his business and there's no way he could do it if he stayed with his parents because they didn't want to move it forward.
[00:49:45] And to make matters even more interesting, he watched the movie, The Founder. Yes. So he was having all these ideas like, "Oh man, I want to go to the next level and I can't do it with my family." And then on the flight home from Africa, he watches The Founder on the airplane and he realized that his parents were like the two McDonald's brothers who didn't want to take the business any further. Like that's where their mindset was at. That's where they were at. And he would always be stuck there if he was with them. Anyways, he came to the conclusion that he had to do this and it ended up leading to this hideous, ugliest, legal battle and it destroyed the relationship between him and his parents. It was a really ugly battle, but he said that it was actually in going through this process that he feels like for the first time in his life, he feels like a man because he can actually do what he wants now.
[00:50:33] And he also believes that this actually is the best thing that could've ever happened for his relationship with his parents because his relationship at the time was not based on who he wanted to become, not based on moving forward. Like actually the relationship was enabling everyone to stay stuck, and so, you know, there's a lot of fear that people have in wanting to get to the next level or wanting to do something different and knowing that they're going to have to disrupt relationships. And the truth is, is that if you're wanting to keep things to stay the same because you don't want to ruin what you've got in the past, then you have an attachment that's based on the past and that's going to keep you stuck in the past. There's a really good quote from Dan Sullivan. He's the founder of Strategic Coach, and he says, "It's better to surround yourself with people who remind you more of your future than your past."
[00:51:16] Because if you surround yourself with people who remind you of your past, again, your attachment is not based on where you're going and who you want to be. It's attached on something from the past. And so that's where you live. And that creates patterns. And as you can see, the behavior keeps you, I mean, the environment keeps you stuck. But if you surround yourself with people who remind you of your future, people who are where you want to be or who are doing things that you want to be doing, then you don't need to use willpower to be who you want to be because the environment makes it organic. It makes it natural. Automaticity or just subconsciously being who you want to be so you don't have to consciously control your behavior becomes natural. And actually it can grow very fast, obviously. So you know, just to your point about the fact that yes, you absolutely have to change your relationships.
[00:51:59] Yes, it is going to be painful. There's a lot of pain involved in all of this and I think that's actually one of the components of the book is dealing with unhealthy emotions. One of the big problems with positive psychology is that it's based on a hedonistic worldview and basically what hedonism presents, it's a philosophical perspective that says that, you know, you should pursue pleasure and avoid pain, and basically the fundamental component of most of positive psychology is the idea that only positive emotions matter. That's why there's this huge emphasis on being happy, which obviously we all want. There's a different perspective of happiness in philosophy called eudaimonia and that's kind of more what Ryan Holiday and those kinds of people study that's more like pursuing meaning or virtue or doing hard things, you know, in the end, living a meaningful life in that approach to happiness,
[00:52:52] absolutely you're going to have to go through hard things. Absolutely, you're going to have to go through loss. Absolutely, you're going to have to and that you can actually get a lot of positive outcomes psychologically by going through hard things, by dealing with even negative emotions. Negative emotions can produce very positive things. And I think when you hear that, it's very obvious that I think that's one of the big things about this book that's different is that I'm not going to just tell you to have a positive mindset and things are going to work. Actually no, you have to change your life and it's going to be harsh, maybe painful but it's the only way to get to that place where you want to be because you and your environment are one. And if you want to change anything, you ultimately have to change everything.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:28] I love the environment shaping our behavior, shaping our personality concept. So I'd love to wrap with some nuts and bolts on how to create what you refer to as high pressure environments. And so first of all, what pressure? High pressure? I don't want a high pressure environment, do I? That sounds bad. What's going on here, right?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:53:45] Yeah. Okay. One of the concepts I go into and I'll jump into the nuts and bolts really fast, is this idea of enriched environments. And basically what an enriched environment is is when you're fully engaged in what you're doing. So most environments have not been set up for flow or for full engagement. And so, you know, if you think about most people's jobs, there's high distraction. There's not necessarily consequences for failure, there's not immediate feedback. All of these things that trigger flow and when people are at home there's distractions as well.
[00:54:12] You know, smart phones, just chilling when you're trying to be engaged with your kids, there's very few people fully unplugged and there's an idea in business psychology and it's called psychologically detaching from work. And basically what it means is that if you don't allow yourself to fully like let go of work -- physically, mentally, emotionally, like it's actually very hard to fully re-engage. So it's super healthy to let go, to unplug and get actual rest and recovery and very few people experience either of these types of environments. But the one we're talking about right now is a high stress.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:45] So there's high stress and there's high rest. So high rest is unplugged, relaxed, sabbatical. High stress is if constructed properly, actually good for us.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:54:56] Oh, 100% yeah. So it's the eustress, you know, it's the type of stress that leads to growth, not to distress and decay.
[00:55:02] You know, if you're going to the gym, a high pressure environment would be that you're working out with someone who's totally motivated, who expects a good workout. You may even be hiring a trainer. In any case, it's not on you to just do the workout by yourself. Like there's some external factors involved that your performance matters. So, yeah, the idea is is you want to be in a situation that's forcing you to succeed. And so in the book, I tell the story of a pianist named John Burke, he's actually really cool. He's from Atlanta. He's 29 years old. He's written I think seven or eight albums. And one of his recent albums got nominated for an Emmy and he told me his whole process for creating pressure, which pushes him forward to succeed. So basically when he comes up with an idea then he's like, "okay, I want to do an album."
[00:55:49] He doesn't actually know what the album is going to be at, but he wants to put all the factors or all the things in place that will ensure that it actually does get done. And so the first thing he does is he actually calls a sound engineer and he gets himself on the schedule like six months in advance, three, six months in advance, get some himself on the schedule so that he's actually on the guy's clock and he pays for that time. So he's financially invested and then he scheduled out his whole schedule so that he has creation time on the schedule. Because you know, if any creative who's listening to this knows, it's really easy to not write or not do whatever you're going to do. He puts it his schedule and if there's a gig or an opportunity that comes up during his creation time, he just says he's busy.
[00:56:28] He's got an appointment, that appointment is with himself. Then he tells all of his fans that he's working on a new album and he says when it's going to come out, you know, and one of the things he talked to me about is that he really, really cares that his fans trust him and that like they have this positive expectation. He loves creating an expectation. And it's similar, very similar to what Michael Jordan did. You know, like if you actually study Michael Jordan, he would always talk trash and they would say it wasn't for the other person, it was for him because once he talked trash, like then he really had to show up, you know, and he created pressure. And so like John Burke just like does all of these things, which then put them in a position where he feels like he has to go forward.
[00:57:09] But really just the idea is, is does your work matter? If you go to work, for example, and it doesn't really matter what you do, like it doesn't matter if you just took the day off or if you're just kicking it half the time, not like distracted. Like for example, like Jordan, like we're on a podcast right now. You kind of have to be engaged. You know, like you're totally listening to this right now because you've got to have something decent to say after I'm done. Like you are not distracted right now. I would say you might be, you know, I've been on podcasts where some people are distracted but I'm like, my guess is that when Jordan is actually doing his work, he's there when he's not doing his work, you know, he's not there. Like in this case, how his job is set up. Like he's in this moment and that's essentially what this means is just that you're in a situation where what you do actually matters. You get immediate feedback, that there's some form of external pressure that's moving you forward.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:03] Okay. So we're creating that though deliberately, and it's not just have your phone on airplane mode, right? You've got ways to create things like forcing functions and other concepts that punching above your weight was an example you gave for working out with a trainer or somebody who's highly motivated. What other ways can we create these forcing functions, decisions that eliminate other decisions like deleting Facebook from your phone to keep from having to decide whether to check Facebook every five minutes? I love the idea of forcing functions and I love the idea that if we're not shaping these enriched environments, that for lack of a better word, outsourced the type of behavior we want, we end up having to remain conscious about what we're doing, AKA use willpower, which is exhausting, limiting, and not a long-term solution.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:58:52] Yeah, no, I mean I love that the book conveyed the ideas because as you're talking to me, I'm like, "Okay, he gets this." Yeah, so basically forcing functions that were one of my favorite ideas to present in the book. And basically a forcing function in design thinking is what people do when they design software or even when they design stuff like microwaves. Think about a microwave. You can only might open a microwave one way. It's a forcing function. Like you can only open it one way. And the reason is is because they designed it to remove error. So on certain softwares for example, there's a lot of constraints. There's things you can't do so that you don't do something stupid. And so the idea is, is to engineer these type of forcing functions into your life or into your situation to remove your own humanness, to remove your errors.
[00:59:39] And so some of the examples I gave, and again, you know, you'll see it throughout the book and I know that we've already talked about it, but one of the things of really good forcing function is, is financial investment. Once you, you know, and this doesn't have to be that you bought someone's product, I'm just saying if you've got skin in the game, you're going to be more you... there's more likely to be pressure. I mean, so in the book, The Millionaire Next Door, did they talk about how the most successful people are those who get paid based on incentive or based on performance. So if you're the owner or if you're someone who gets paid based on your performance, that's a key forcing function. If you just have some salary or if you're not getting paid based on what you do or if there's not really a big consequence for what you do, then chances are your environment is not enriched for high performance.
[01:00:32] Another example of a forcing function in this kind of just taps into Parkinson's law. Basically Parkinson's lives is just this idea that what work fills the space that you give it. So like a forcing function could be like, let's just say I have an assignment that I'm working on, a project I'm working on. If I told my research advisor that I would have it to them next week, if that actually mattered, like to their relationship, like I don't want to let her down, I better do it, you know, and I just created that constraint. Like she didn't put it upon me, I put it upon myself. It wasn't due next week, but I told her I would have it to her next week. So one of the things that Dan Martell does, and he's a very successful entrepreneur, I think he's started and sold like five companies. He really believes in this idea of forcing functions and he's actually written a few cool blog posts on it.
[01:01:15] But one of the things he does, he has two forcing functions that I wrote about in the book. One of them is, he purposefully create scenarios that force him to focus. So one of the things he does is he goes and works at offices or workspaces or libraries and he purposely leaves his power cable at home. And so he knows his laptops when they got two or three hours of battery. And so he knows when it dies, he's done and he's got to go home. And so he does that so that he doesn't trail off on the internet and stuff. Like he's got two hours, his battery's going todie. That's how much time he's got to work. And so those two hours are worth a lot more than someone who's distracted for five. Another thing he does is he told his wife that he would pick up his kids from school and so his work day ends at like 3:30 in the afternoon.
[01:01:59] So he says his afternoons are extremely productive because he knows they end early because then he's going to go pick up his kids and he's done for the day. Those are just a few simple things that he's done to create conditions that force him to be focused. Novelty can be a forcing function where you just doing something new. So that's actually one thing that John Burke, the pianist does a lot. He's always trying something new. He's always trying something he's never done before. And novelty is a flow trigger. When you're doing something new, then chances are you're not adapted to it. So you're not bored of it. On that album that actually got nominated for an Emmy, he wrote a song on it, and this is actually why I wanted to interview him in the first place. He wrote a song called Earth Breaker, and if you Google John Burke Earth Breaker and watch it on YouTube, it's pretty amazing what the heck that song is because it's played so fast and what do you want to do is you wanted to create the experience of an earthquake.
[01:02:54] But when he wrote that song and he wrote a bunch of music that was different, it had different influences than he'd ever integrated in, but he also created sheet music that was actually beyond his skill level. So that's kind of like punching beyond your weight. He wrote a song that he couldn't play. That's what really inspired me by him. And then he had to figure out how to play it. He had to increase his own skill level. So he created conditions for himself where he had to advance in his skills to actually do what he wanted to do for this album. But you want to have autonomy in what you're doing. You want to actually control it, you know, rather than being controlled by your environment. You want to control your environment. And so if you have the ability to put these things upon yourself, then you're going to enjoy it.
[01:03:40] You know, like John doesn't get mad at, he's not upset at the difficulty that he's facing because he's purposely engineered that difficulty into his own life. You want to have difficulty, but then you need rest and recovery. I mean Shawn White said something really, really cool at the Olympics. He was asked, "How have you been able to compete at this level for so long?" He said, "I spend a lot of time away from the sport." He's like, he's a skateboarder, he's in a rock band, he's like a businessman. And the cool part about winter sports is that like unless you're traveling all the time, like half the year, you can't do it anyways. And so you know, Sean is a freaking amazing example of this. He's totally recovering and resting from snowboarding when he's not doing it and when he's doing it, he's freaking competing in the Olympics.
[01:04:26] Like obviously there's a lot of pressure. He's got coaches, he's worried about his nutrition when he's training it matters like so he's an optimal example of someone who is in a high pressure environment and then a super relaxing recovery environment.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:40] I love all the anecdotes that you have in the book. There's so many practicals and takeaways about changing our environment, especially most environments are optimized for distraction instead of optimized for helping us punch above our weight, helping us get into that environment of or that state of eustress instead of distress. So I highly recommend the book if you are wanting to make sure that you are more productive, that you're more focused instead of just trying to shoehorn your behavior in or change your personality, you stay motivated. Willpower Doesn't Work. It's the literally the title of the book and it will show you how to organize your environment in very different ways.
And frankly, look, if this has worked for entrepreneurs and three foster kids that were raised in hellish environment, it can work for a distracted entrepreneur or a mom that wants to get something done on the side or career folks. There's all kinds of stuff in the book that apply to everyone, so I just want to make sure that people know it's not just for the entrepreneur that works from home. It's not just for the person who's an executive that wants to rearrange their office. The environment has to do with arranging ourselves in our lives such that it changes our behavior, which changes our personality and changes who we are at a fundamental level. So thank you very much for coming on the show and breaking all this down for us.
Benjamin Hardy: [01:05:57] Yeah, man. Thanks for facilitating it and keeping it focused.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:03] All right, Jason. I mean, we knew environment was important. We knew that we could use it to our advantage. I didn't really realize though that you could not really make significant changes without doing that. It seems like I didn't realize maybe that it was an absolute requirement. I just thought it was a nice to have or maybe this is for optimizers. I didn't realize that it was a freaking prerequisite to make any significant change.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:06:27] No, definitely. We've definitely had a change of environment recently, so it's a good thing though.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:32] Yes, could be the best thing that ever happened, right? Especially if you set it up correctly and deliberately regardless of what precipitated the change in the first place. Of course. Great big thank you to Benjamin Hardy. The book title is Willpower Doesn't Work and that'll be linked up in the show notes. Of course, if you enjoyed this, don't forget to thank Ben on Twitter.
[01:06:50] That will be linked up in the show notes for this episode as well. Always at JordanHarbinger.com/podcast and tweet at me your number one takeaway here from Benjamin Hardy. I'm @JordanHarbinger on Twitter and on Instagram, @JordanHarbinger as well. Don't forget we have worksheets for today's episode. If you want to make sure you can apply everything you heard today, go grab that worksheet. That link is in the show notes at JordanHarbinger.com/podcast. This episode was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo. Show notes are by Robert Fogarty, booking back-office and last minute miracles by Jen Harbinger. And I'm your host, Jordan Harbinger. Review us in iTunes. Share the show with friends. Look, subscribe, JordanHarbinger.com/subscribe if you want to figure out how to write a review or subscribe on, insert whatever app you use here, or your friend or your mom, you can now figure that out. We figured it out for you. JordanHarbinger.com/subscribe. Share the show with those you love and even those you don't. We've got lots more in the pipeline and we're excited to bring it to you. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show so you can live what you listen and we'll see you next time.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.