Mastering Your Behavior The Ultimate Game Changer (w Tom Bilyeu) Pt. 1 Sept. '23 Ep 640

Summary Notes


In this insightful conversation, the speakers, Alex and his interlocutor, delve into the complexities of behavior, learning, and identity. Alex emphasizes that behavior is within our control, and by operationalizing concepts like confidence, patience, and learning, we can effectively change our lives. He discusses the efficacy of rewards over punishments in the long term and the importance of immediate reinforcement in shaping behavior. Alex also touches on the significance of extending one's ability to delay gratification, suggesting that experts find joy in the process itself, which fuels their continued success. The discussion also explores the role of identity as internal culture—a set of behavioral rules an individual follows—and how understanding and manipulating this can lead to personal growth and goal attainment.

Summary Notes

Control and Behavior

  • The ability to control one's behavior is the only true control one has.
  • Defining words in terms of actions can lead to control and life changes.
  • The podcast discusses customer acquisition, increasing customer value, and retention, as well as lessons from failures.

"The only thing we can control is our behavior. And so if we define the words in terms of what we do about it, then these all become things that we can control and can change our lives with."

This quote emphasizes the importance of focusing on behavior as a means of exerting control over one's life and making meaningful changes.

Writing Instruction Manuals for Making Money

  • Speaker A is praised for their ability to write effective guides on making money.
  • The discussion pivots to the idea that poor thinking or actions can hinder progress.
  • Speaker B asks for advice on avoiding time-wasters like porn, social media, or unproductive friend groups.

"You are ridiculously good at writing instruction manuals for how to make money, literally."

Speaker B compliments Speaker A's talent for creating clear and actionable guides for financial success.

B.F. Skinner's Influence on Behavior Control

  • B.F. Skinner's behaviorist approach is discussed as a method for controlling behavior by manipulating external variables.
  • Speaker A references Skinner's interpretation of the saying "you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."
  • The conversation explores how changing one's environment can starve negative behaviors and reinforce positive ones.

"It's my belief that if you can control every one of the variables externally to an organism, you can control its behavior."

Speaker A shares their belief in the behaviorist theory that controlling external factors can lead to controlled behavior, drawing from B.F. Skinner's work.

The Role of Environment in Overcoming Addiction

  • The Vietnam War heroin addiction example illustrates the power of environmental change in breaking habits.
  • Returning soldiers who used heroin in Vietnam often ceased usage upon returning to the U.S., contrasting with high relapse rates in domestic recovery programs.
  • The principle suggests that changing environments can disrupt behavioral cues and support habit change.

"And so going from Vietnam, where you're doing heroin, to the US, where you're not taking heroin, had a 90% success rate, whereas the inverse is true of recovery centers in the United States today."

This quote highlights the significant impact that a change in environment can have on breaking addictive behaviors, as evidenced by the experiences of Vietnam War veterans.

Perception of Judgment and Failure

  • Speaker A believes that people are often afraid of perceived judgment for failures that haven't occurred yet.
  • Constructing a mindset for success involves focusing on self-opinion and disregarding others' judgments.
  • The discussion touches on the difficulty of unlearning the social habit of seeking approval from others.

"I think it's their perceived judgment, their perception of other people's judgment, of their failures that haven't existed yet."

Speaker A suggests that the fear of potential judgment for failure is a significant barrier to success, even before any failure has occurred.

Stoic Virtues and Self-Opinion

  • Stoic virtues are discussed as key to building a successful mindset.
  • The importance of self-opinion and living for a future version of oneself is emphasized.
  • The need to unlearn seeking external approval and focus on internal judgment is highlighted.

"I'm a big believer in a lot of the stoic virtues, and a lot of that just comes down to having your opinion of yourself be all that is required."

Speaker A advocates for the stoic approach of valuing one's opinion above others as a core belief for personal success.

Identifying Personal Drivers and Overcoming Obstacles

  • Personal drivers, such as fear of disapproval or a strong personal desire, can be powerful motivators.
  • Understanding and leveraging personal drivers can help overcome obstacles and achieve goals.
  • The conversation acknowledges the challenge of finding or creating one's own personal driver.

"I don't know what that snap point is for me. I just like my fear of disapproval from my dad was my big driver."

Speaker A reflects on their personal motivator, indicating that fear of disapproval was a significant driver for their behavior and actions.

Rewriting for Clarity and Impact

  • Speaker A rewrote their book numerous times to ensure clarity and impact.
  • A pivotal moment came when they were encouraged to write for a reader who would greatly value the book.
  • This anecdote highlights the importance of perseverance and the impact of a single reader's perspective.

"You said something in one of the interviews that you were doing leading up to your book launch that really hit me, and that was you rewrote the book something like 19 times."

Speaker B recalls Speaker A's dedication to rewriting their book to perfection, emphasizing the effort put into ensuring the content was accessible and valuable.

The Potential for Behavioral Change

  • Speaker A believes that barring biological limitations, anyone can be reached and trained.
  • Personality traits are seen as individual skills that can be trained and improved upon.
  • The conversation suggests that with the right approach, even complex behaviors can be broken down and taught.

"I think that barring biology, right? No, I don't think so. I think I'm a big behavioral person, which is like anything can be trained."

Speaker A expresses a strong belief in the potential for behavioral change, asserting that most aspects of personality and behavior can be trained with the right methods.

Inaction and Fear of Failure

  • Inaction is identified as a common destructive behavior.
  • The real enemy is not failure itself but the fear of other people's judgment about failure.
  • Speaker A emphasizes the importance of taking action and overcoming fear of judgment to achieve success.

"A lot of it is inaction. I'd love to say all these people are failing, and this is the thing that would fix it is, like most people, just don't take action to begin with."

Speaker A points out that the lack of action is a significant barrier for many people, suggesting that overcoming inaction is essential for success.

Building Self-Esteem Around Traits

  • Speaker A recommends building self-esteem around traits that can be evidenced by actions.
  • Traits like hard work can be controlled and therefore form a positive cycle of self-reinforcement.
  • The conversation explores the idea that self-esteem should be tied to controllable traits rather than outcomes.

"I think it would be around the traits, which can be evidenced by the things you do."

Speaker A advises that self-esteem should be based on traits that are demonstrated through actions, as this allows for control and positive reinforcement.

Delayed Gratification and Vision

  • Delaying gratification is a key trait for success.
  • Having a clear vision of one's goals is crucial for impactful work.
  • Drive, whether away from negative or towards positive, is important for maintaining motivation.

"I think the ability to delay gratification, and from a behavioral perspective, it's being able to continue to act on a longer extinguish curve."

Speaker A identifies the ability to delay gratification as a critical trait for success, likening it to the persistence required to achieve long-term goals.

Reframing Confidence and Evidence

  • Confidence without evidence is considered delusion.
  • Building confidence involves accumulating evidence of past successes.
  • Reframing past behaviors can provide evidence for traits one may not have recognized.

"I think confidence without evidence is delusion."

Speaker A clarifies that true confidence is based on evidence of one's ability to follow through on commitments, rather than unfounded self-belief.

Virtues as Trainable Behaviors

  • Virtues are viewed as behaviors that can be trained.
  • The discussion suggests that positive thinking alone is not enough for success; actions are key.
  • Speaker A emphasizes the importance of acting well to achieve success, regardless of one's thoughts.

"Virtues are behaviors that can be trained."

Speaker A asserts that virtues, commonly seen as inherent qualities, are actually behaviors that can be developed through training.

The Challenge of Holding Sophisticated Ideas

  • People often struggle to hold and act on sophisticated ideas.
  • Simplifying complex ideas is essential for understanding and application.
  • Speaker B discusses the difficulty of translating sophisticated concepts into actionable behaviors.

"But people really have just such a difficult time holding sophisticated ideas in their head."

Speaker B acknowledges the challenge many people face in grasping and applying complex ideas, highlighting the importance of simplification for effective action.

The Role of Dopamine in Product Design

  • The discussion touches on products designed to trigger dopamine release and their impact on behavior.
  • The potential negative effects of such products are acknowledged.
  • Techniques for developing effective habits in a world designed to exploit dopamine responses are considered essential.

"And therefore for people to do what you're talking about, like if let's just embrace the frame for the rest of this conversation, and I hope the rest of my life that truly nobody is beyond this, barring a mental problem that makes it impossible for them to move forward, so that you really just have to find those behaviors."

Speaker B expresses hope that with the right behaviors, anyone can overcome the challenges posed by a world that often prioritizes dopamine-inducing experiences.

Binary Rules and Habits

  • Speaker B discusses the transformative power of having clear, binary rules.
  • The conversation explores the idea that identity and the ability to face failure are closely linked.
  • The challenge of finding the right traits to build one's identity around is addressed.

"Now, one thing that was absolutely transformative in my life was have rules to just an absolute binary."

Speaker B shares a personal insight about the effectiveness of having strict, binary rules for guiding behavior and decision-making.

Personal Rules and Behavioral Control

  • Discusses the use of personal rules to regulate behavior and ensure adherence to desired actions.
  • Speaker B talks about having a strict rule of not drinking more than twice a week.
  • Speaker B also mentions giving themselves 10 minutes to get out of bed as a personal rule.
  • The effectiveness of binary rules to prompt immediate corrective action upon violation is highlighted.

"I don't drink more than twice a week, period. So if you've taken a drink for the third time in the week, you've violated your rule. You know that you're out of bounds. You need to immediately correct course."

This quote emphasizes the clarity and decisiveness of having strict personal rules. It shows how such rules can serve as clear indicators of when one's behavior is deviating from their set standards, necessitating corrective action.

Resistance to Rules and Reliance on Past Rewards

  • Speaker A expresses a strong dislike for rules and prefers to base behaviors on past positive outcomes.
  • They focus on outcomes of actions, such as waking up early or working before meetings, to guide their behavior.
  • Speaker A challenges the notion that strict routines are necessary for success, suggesting that they can sometimes be counterproductive.

"I hate rules. All rules."

Speaker A's quote conveys a fundamental opposition to rules, which contrasts with the approach of using strict personal rules to govern behavior.

"I do the things that ever worded me in the past."

This quote reflects Speaker A's strategy of repeating behaviors that have previously led to successful outcomes, rather than adhering to specific rules.

Routine and Superstition in Entrepreneurship

  • The conversation shifts to the role of routine in entrepreneurial success.
  • Speaker A criticizes the excessive adherence to morning routines, suggesting they can be a form of superstition that wastes valuable time.
  • They argue that working consistently has been proven to be effective and that routines should not become a limiting factor.

"I remember there was a guy messaged me. He's like, dude, I'm doing my morning routine. And he's like, and I have a cold plunge, a red light sauna. I ground outside. And then I do my gratitude journal. And then he had this list. It was taking him like, 3 hours to get his routine done or whatever in the morning."

This quote illustrates Speaker A's view that overly elaborate morning routines can be unnecessarily time-consuming and may not contribute significantly to entrepreneurial success.

First Principles and Variability in Success

  • Speaker A discusses the importance of first principles in achieving success.
  • They note that successful people have varied routines, which suggests that specific routines are not crucial for success.
  • The core principle identified is the need to advertise or make people aware of one's business to succeed.

"If there were something that absolutely has to be done, then it has to go down to first principles of, okay, in order for people to find out about your stuff, you have to let them know."

This quote highlights the essential principle of making one's business known as a fundamental step towards success, regardless of other habits or routines.

The Physics of Success and Testing Hypotheses

  • Speaker B introduces the concept of "physics of progress," which involves testing hypotheses and adapting based on results.
  • They discuss the importance of understanding obstacles, creating informed strategies, and learning from outcomes.
  • Speaker B suggests that many people fail to progress due to lack of clarity on goals, obstacles, and inability to break out of unproductive cycles.

"So to make progress, one must have a hypothesis. Know where you are, know where you want to go, understand the obstacle between you and that, come up with a hypothesis about how to overcome that obstacle, run that test, look at the data very frankly, don't bs yourself, and then come up with a more informed hypothesis and try again over and over and over and over."

This quote encapsulates Speaker B's approach to success, which treats every action as a test with the potential for learning and improvement.

Leveraging Identity and Convenience for Behavior Change

  • Speaker A discusses how individuals can leverage their identities to facilitate desired behaviors.
  • They suggest making desired behaviors more convenient than undesirable ones to capitalize on traits like laziness.
  • The conversation touches on practical strategies for behavior change, such as modifying one's environment to encourage healthy eating.

"I think a lot of it is around how we choose to pick our identities. To your point earlier, someone might say, like, man, I'm lazy. I would say that's amazing. A lot of great ceos are lazy. That's fine. Let's use that. And so let's just make working more convenient than the other thing, and then your laziness will take over."

This quote discusses the concept of using one's self-identified traits, such as laziness, to create an environment where the path of least resistance aligns with productive behavior.

Overcoming Negative Emotions and Operationalizing Solutions

  • Speaker A and B discuss the role of emotions in hindering progress and the importance of operationalizing responses to emotions.
  • They explore the idea that emotions are not inherently bad and can be used to fuel productive behavior if properly managed.
  • Strategies for dealing with emotions, such as sadness and anxiety, are proposed, focusing on gaining knowledge and making decisions.

"Sadness comes from a lack of options, a perceived lack of options, which is why it feels like hopelessness. But if it comes from a perceived lack of options, then it means that you solve that with knowledge, because it's perceived lack of options, which is an ignorance problem, which means it's solvable."

This quote offers a perspective on sadness as a problem of perception that can be addressed through acquiring knowledge, thus converting a negative emotion into a catalyst for action.

The Role of Learning and Intelligence in Change

  • Speaker A defines intelligence as the rate of learning and adapting behaviors to new conditions.
  • They emphasize the empowerment that comes from being able to learn and apply knowledge quickly.
  • The discussion suggests that personal growth and intelligence are tied to one's ability to implement new behaviors in response to familiar situations.

"Intelligence is just a rate. It's a measurement of how quickly you change your behavior in the same condition."

This quote defines intelligence from an operational standpoint, focusing on the ability to adapt and learn as key indicators of intelligence.

Operationalizing Change

  • Operationalizing change involves breaking down actions into steps and creating a systematic approach to altering behaviors.
  • Speaker A and B discuss the need to have clear, actionable plans in response to different situations, especially emotional ones.
  • The conversation concludes with the idea that making changes is about having a strategic plan for each scenario.

"So, learning is same condition, new behavior. So, to the point, I felt sad last time I learned this new thing from this podcast on impact theory, which is okay, if I feel sad, then it means that I don't see an option, which means I need to get more education or knowledge on the subject so that I can figure out what to do."

This quote explains the process of operationalizing learning as a means to change behavior by applying new knowledge to familiar conditions.

Importance of Clarity in Communication

  • Clarity in communication is crucial for effective learning and understanding.
  • The speaker emphasizes the need for defining terms to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.
  • Definitions set a common ground for discussions, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
  • Without clear definitions, conversations can become meaningless, as participants may have different interpretations of the same words.

"The only way we do that is if you can rate and review and share this podcast. So the single thing that I ask you to do is you can just leave a review."

This quote is a request for listener engagement to help spread the podcast's reach, emphasizing the importance of audience support for content creators.

"I think that's why a lot of people don't learn, because they actually don't know what the words mean."

This quote highlights the barrier to learning that arises from a lack of understanding of terminology, which impedes the ability to grasp complex concepts.

Importance of Defining Terms

  • Defining terms is essential for both personal understanding and shared communication.
  • It aids in creating a shared lexicon, reducing confusion in discussions.
  • Definitions help people to operationalize concepts and apply them to their behaviors.
  • Understanding the meaning of words in a personal context can simplify life navigation.

"Just like, this is what an offer is, this is what a lead is, these are what this means, right?"

The speaker uses examples of business terms to illustrate the importance of defining concepts clearly at the start of any educational material.

Behavioral Responses to Communication Cues

  • People often respond to communication cues such as "makes sense" with automatic agreement, regardless of actual comprehension.
  • This automatic behavior is a learned response, often to avoid the discomfort or punishment of admitting confusion.
  • Learning is about associating words with their meanings and responses, not just the words themselves.

"And most people say, 'makes sense,' which means, nod your head when I say this."

This quote explains how the phrase "makes sense" has become a cue for agreement rather than a genuine indicator of understanding.

Operationalizing Concepts

  • Operationalizing concepts involves defining them in measurable terms.
  • It is important to focus on the actionable aspects of concepts, rather than abstract definitions.
  • The speaker provides an example of defining "confidence" in terms of measurable likelihood.

"It's a percentage of likelihood that what I say will happen will happen. Period. That's what it is."

The speaker defines confidence in a concrete, measurable way, demonstrating how to operationalize a concept.

The Impact of Language Diversity on Meaning

  • Words from different languages can merge into one lexicon, leading to multiple words with similar meanings.
  • The speaker suggests focusing on the personal utility of words rather than their dictionary definitions.
  • Understanding the functional meaning of words can empower individuals to control their behaviors.

"And so getting away from words meaning what the dictionary tells us it means, and just say, what does it mean to me in terms of what I can do with it."

This quote advocates for a personal understanding of words based on their practical application in one's life.

Shared Lexicon in Relationships

  • In relationships, a shared lexicon can prevent misunderstandings and improve communication.
  • Defining simple words like "promise" or "important" can have significant impacts on interactions and expectations.
  • Speaker B shares personal experiences to illustrate the benefits of a shared lexicon in their marriage.

"And because what Lisa and I were realizing is, we're saying the same words, but we don't mean the same thing totally."

Speaker B emphasizes the importance of shared understanding in communication by sharing an example from their marriage.

Emotions as Subconscious Communication

  • Emotions are seen as a form of communication from the subconscious to the conscious mind.
  • Understanding and defining emotions can help people operationalize their responses to them.
  • The speaker discusses the importance of aligning emotional responses with goal attainment.

"So, when you think about, and this is me making things up, this is me connecting dots that behavioral science has made abundantly clear."

The speaker clarifies that their interpretation of emotions as subconscious communication is informed by behavioral science, although they are connecting the dots themselves.

Behavioral Science Perspective on Emotions and Actions

  • From a behavioral science perspective, emotions are less important than the stimulus-response relationship.
  • The speaker argues that focusing on feelings can be a distraction from taking action.
  • Understanding and modifying one's responses to stimuli is seen as more productive than analyzing emotions.

"What happens in the box inside of your head does not matter. If you respond a certain way, you have learned."

This quote summarizes the speaker's view that internal feelings are less relevant than the observable response to a stimulus in terms of learning and behavior change.

The Role of Past Experiences in Current Behavior

  • Past rewards and punishments shape current behaviors.
  • People continue behaviors that have been reinforced in the past.
  • Changing behavior involves creating new rewards for desired responses.

"And so all they're doing is continuing to do. They have learned works."

The speaker explains that continued behaviors are a result of past reinforcement, highlighting the importance of understanding reinforcement history when trying to change behavior.

Training and Reinforcement

  • Training involves pairing a stimulus with a response.
  • Immediate reinforcement is more effective than delayed reinforcement.
  • Understanding the timing and nature of reinforcements can improve training and behavior change efforts.

"And so if you think about a baby as stimulus, response. So they're alive, they make noise. Reward."

This quote uses the example of a baby learning to speak to illustrate the principles of stimulus and response in training and reinforcement.

Overcoming Victim Mentality and Achieving Goals

  • Some people remain in a victim mentality due to the rewards it provides, such as avoiding punishment.
  • To reach goals, it is important to understand both short-term and long-term rewards and punishments.
  • Experts find more ways to reward themselves, which contributes to their success.

"And so it's like if you are continually rewarded because there is a reason that you do what you do, which is that you have been trained to do it."

The speaker suggests that victim mentality persists because it has been trained through past rewards, emphasizing the need to retrain with new rewards for different behaviors.

Self-Reward and Self-Punishment in Goal Attainment

  • Being aware of what is rewarding or punishing can help guide behavior towards goals.
  • Self-reward can be a powerful tool for reinforcing desired behaviors.
  • The speaker shares personal anecdotes to illustrate the power of immediate rewards in shaping behavior.

"And so it's like, we want to change our behavior. I think we have to define the terms of what behavior is to begin with and how we define learning, because that's all it is."

This quote underscores the need to understand and define behavior and learning in order to effectively change behavior and reach goals.

Rewards and Long-term Goals

  • Rewards can be small and naming them reduces their perceived power.
  • Small rewards can be used to steer behavior towards long-term goals.
  • Enjoying the process is key for mastery, as masters find the process rewarding.
  • Measuring progress in various ways allows for more opportunities for wins.
  • Positive reinforcement loops are started by measurable growth.

"Sometimes the rewards are minuscule, and then when you name them, they feel a little bit less powerful. But it also means that you can say, how can I make another minuscule reward in another direction that gets me moving towards my long term goal."

This quote emphasizes the importance of recognizing even small rewards and using them to motivate progress towards larger objectives.

"The more ways you measure, the more ways you can win, which is like one of our little monikers."

This quote suggests that by finding different metrics to measure progress, one can create more opportunities for success and positive reinforcement.

The Power of Punishment vs. Reward

  • Punishment is effective for short-term behavior change.
  • Rewards are more powerful for long-term behavior sustainability.
  • Creating a reward-based culture is preferable to a punishment-based one.
  • Punishment can lead to minimum effort to avoid negative consequences.
  • Reward can unlock discretionary effort, leading to better performance.

"Punishment is more effective to change behavior in the short term... Reward is more powerful over the long term."

This quote contrasts the short-term effectiveness of punishment with the long-term benefits of rewards in shaping behavior.

"If you put an animal in a cage and they can't escape, then they will revert to the law of least effort. So they will do as little as they can to not get punished."

This quote illustrates how punishment can lead to the bare minimum effort to avoid negative consequences, rather than inspiring better performance.

Self-Punishment and Accountability

  • Speaker B believes in the power of self-punishment.
  • Self-punishment is used to acknowledge failure to meet self-set expectations.
  • Speaker A views stating facts and behavior change as more important than self-punishment.
  • Speaker A suggests focusing on what changes can be made to improve future outcomes.
  • Speaker B uses self-punishment as a motivator to avoid repeating undesirable behaviors.

"I'm a big believer that you need to punish yourself... it's been incredibly powerful for me."

Speaker B expresses a personal belief in the effectiveness of self-punishment as a tool for self-improvement.

"I would call that stating the facts interesting."

Speaker A interprets Speaker B's concept of self-punishment as simply acknowledging the reality of a situation, rather than actual punishment.

Managing Performance in a Business Environment

  • Setting clear expectations and consequences is essential.
  • Identifying skill deficits helps address performance issues.
  • Investing time to teach missing skills can improve performance.
  • Deciding whether to invest in someone's development is a strategic choice.

"We state the facts and then we say what we're going to do about it."

Speaker A describes a straightforward approach to addressing performance issues by focusing on facts and solutions.

"If someone consistently cannot do, because at some level there's always a chunk down skill someone doesn't have."

This quote highlights the importance of identifying and addressing missing skills to improve an individual's performance.

Extending Time to Extinguish and Identity

  • Masters find ways to reward themselves throughout the process.
  • Identity can be seen as internal culture or a set of behavioral rules.
  • Knowing oneself or others is about predicting behavior based on past actions.
  • Changing behaviors is part of growth and learning.

"I think it's the master's thesis of those guys are masters at whatever the thing is. And so they find ways to reward themselves in the meantime."

Speaker A suggests that masters in any field have learned to find intrinsic rewards in the process, which sustains their efforts over time.

"Identity is really internal culture. So if you define culture as a set of rules of behavior within an organization, identity is just the rules of behavior within an individual."

This quote explains identity as a personal set of behavioral guidelines that govern how an individual acts, which can be used to predict future behavior.

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