Many people find this to be impossible, so they spend their entire lives-both public and private-fleeing the prospect. After all, it's much easier, friendlier, and more convenient to believe in the way things ought to be. Contrast, for example, the way people should ideally behave with how they actually are. We've all heard the Golden Rule, right? We know how the world should operate, according to fairytales and children's books...which reminds me of a bumper sticker I once saw that read, Reality is a crutch for people who can't handle fantasy.
That's pithy and amusing, but here's what I've discovered: operating under false assumptions in any aspect of your life puts you on the road to disaster. Suppose I believe everyone is honest and good; and because of this, I leave the door to my house unlocked all the time...even when I'm not there. Well, some enterprising burglar is going to discover this and rob me blind. Whoops! It's time for me to adjust my perception of reality.
My intent in emphasizing accurate thinking in this chapter, and throughout this book, is not to mass-produce cynics or try to disillusion you. My intention is to help you get better results in business and in life. In order for this lesson to be effective, here's something you have to learn from the outset, and keep in mind constantly: The map is not the territory. What do I mean by that? Simply this: the sum total of your thoughts, beliefs, ideas, values, and more, taken together, only represent your personal map of reality. This map comprises the unique lens you view life through; it may not have any similarity to reality, although ideally it should be more or less congruent with it. The better, more useful map of reality you have, the better you can navigate the territory.
Consider your personal beliefs. Well, any belief, whatever it may be, is nothing more than a feeling of certainty that you think over and over again. Beliefs can be changed to suit us. Some beliefs help us; others shackle us. You must pick and choose beliefs that suit you to get to the goals we seek, because again, the map is not the territory. A map represents the territory. By definition, it's an abstraction that doesn't contain all the details of reality; in other words, it's a model of reality. That's all.
Each human being has a model of reality in his or her head, operating at all times. It's never reality itself; it's just that each of us has such a strong lens, and we're so firmly tethered to looking at things through that lens, that we become convinced that it's the reality. The good news is that each of us can actually become a master builder, and construct our own mental models to suit and serve us. We can add in beliefs that empower us, and can demolish beliefs that disempower us. By doing this, we grease the wheels for us to naturally achieve our goals. But before we can do all this, we must confront and embrace things as they truly are.
And then, before we can change things, we must change our way of thinking. Thought must precede action. At one point, I was deathly afraid of public speaking; it actually made my knees quake in terror. Well, I made a sincere and successful effort to update my mental model. Nowadays, most crowds mean a chance to sell, to serve, and to rake in bushels of cash. Other crowds mean a chance to share my hard-won knowledge and a chance to motivate and inspire people (as, hopefully, I'm doing here). The more people in front of me, the more people I can serve. Bring it on! I've been in front of groups as large as 200 to give an hour-long sales pitch and have sold up to $45,000 from the stage in that hour. Not bad for an hour's work, huh?
It just so happens that I'm not alone in my initial fear of public speaking; it's actually the world's number one fear. Why is this? Well, I think it can be traced to a fear of being ostracized. It's the fear of standing out in a group. In Australia, they have a horrible phrase (to keep everyone trapped in sheep-like thinking): 'The nail that sticks out gets pounded down.' Yikes! How horrible.
But look at it this way: public speaking is public speaking. It's what it is. The reason why I love speaking in front of 200 people, while others may puke their guts out at the prospect of giving a talk in front of ten people, can be traced to differing mental models. As an individual, I'm no better or worse than anyone else; but there is a difference in my mental model in this circumstance. To me, whatever works is whatever works. Suppose I'm an actor, and my role requires me to hurl on demand. If that was the case, having the fearful mental model would serve me well. I could conjure up the image of speaking in front of ten people and...ACTION!
But back to beliefs, which are a type of mental model. Beliefs are fairly arbitrary anyway, so if we've got to have them, let's choose resourceful beliefs that serve us. Both learning and success are processes of updating your mental model and acting upon that model to get new results. That's why hanging out with people who are getting the results you desire is imperative; they'll coat you in their beliefs just by osmosis.
Let's say I'm trying to lose weight. If I hang around with fat people who bitch about how it's impossible to lose weight, who talk about the evils of exercise and then stalk off to an all-you-can-eat buffet, then how on Earth am I going to lose weight? It's been said that your friends are your friends because they validate your reality. This is true for everyone.
Now, what if I'm trying to lose weight but I decide to hang out at the organics store? I pal around with lean, fit, energetic, happy people. They talk about nutrition. They talk about the joy of exercise. Through hanging out with them, I come to think like them-updating my mental model, acting upon it as if it were real, and getting results similar to theirs. This is important! Never underestimate the power of association. Think about the five people you hang out with most, and average out their incomes. Chances are, that's your income right there.
Life and success are both processes of constantly updating our mental models so that we can act on them and get the results we seek. There you have it. Let's embrace reality. Let's see how things really are. Let's update our mental maps to be like those of people who have the results we seek.
This is why I plug my ears when my customers try to give me marketing advice. If they were successful marketers, they wouldn't be seeking business opportunities, now would they? If they were real marketers, they'd already be off marketing and wouldn't need me anyway. Makes sense, right? By the same token, why do I hang on every word of a guy making $20 million a year or a guy who at one point made $50 million a year or a guy who's made over $100 million in 20 years? Because I want to update my mental model to adopt more of their successful beliefs, so I can navigate the business landscape in the same way and garner the same results.
Know this: modeling is very powerful. It's how kids naturally learn-they model their parents and other role models around them. Monkey see, monkey do. One of my specialties, Neurolinguistic Processing (NLP), has a precept that says if one person can do something, then another person can do it too if they model the first person closely. They may not get perfectly replicated results, but they will get the best results for their innate ability. You know, I can't be Michael Jordan the hoopster-but I could model his values, his competitive spirit, his beliefs on basketball, his strategy for coping with pressure and more, to be the best Kent Sayre basketball player possible. In other words, I could model success to become the best basketball player I could be.
This is powerful. This is what it's all about in business.
We must embrace reality. Too often, people shirk this necessity. In fact, I'd venture to say that most people build a life based upon escaping reality. Think about it, and you'll realize it's true. People pine away for Friday. They mourn the alarm clock chirping to indicate Monday. They work for the weekend. They want to escape into alcohol, drugs, TV, junk food, the Internet, novels, video games, movies, and more-the sort of stuff that anesthetizes you to real life and kills time. Which brings me to why I deplore reading fiction. If I step into a Harry Potter book and burn away a few irreplaceable hours of my life, then I've had some fleeting fun by buying up somebody's imagination they've written down on paper. I've escaped into an alternate world of Hogwarts, Dumbledore, Quidditch and more. Fine. I've escaped from my reality for a brief respite. And again, I state my own personal preference. If others enjoy it, more power to 'em. But the thing that gets me is that after I close the book, I'm the same Kent I was as when I started.
Now, on the other hand, if I read a non-fiction book and pick up a tip on how to manage my time better, I can implement that tip immediately and benefit from it for a lifetime. That's why dollar for dollar, for my money, nonfiction books are the best investment you can make. If I read a book that benefits my reality permanently, there's far greater upside potential than I'd get from a few hours of escapist entertainment. What-you mean that for $14.95, an expert who's devoted her lifetime to studying happiness and identifying how people are happy is willing to pour her soul out to me in the form of a book? I'm sold! I'll take it.
I'm not saying all escapism is bad, but I do think that it is detrimental if one's life is founded upon it. I think that if we accept our current reality, embrace it, and then work toward making it better, we truly can move mountains. And that brings me back to nonfiction. Think about a problem you have in life, something that's bothering you. Now, come closer... I want to share a secret with you. You're not the only one with this problem. This problem has probably occurred hundreds, if not thousands, of times throughout history. You're neither the first one with it, nor are you likely to be the last. And here's something more: the problem has been probably solved hundreds of times before. People have created answers to whatever is most pressing in your life. Some people may have spent a lifetime studying your problem and finding workable solutions. Some of these folks have condensed their findings into books. Think about that. Your number one problem is already solved; all it takes is for you to act upon it.
Thought precedes Action; before you can act on solving your problem, you must think differently. So how, pray tell, are you supposed to do that? Well, how about buying the thoughts of a genuine expert who has already discovered the answer for you, in the form of a $29.95 hardcover or a $14.95 paperback? Until you come along and liberate the thoughts contained in the book by hightailing it to a bookstore and reading, and then acting upon what you've learned, your number one problem remains your number one problem. After you act upon what you learn in the book, you can add it to your list of 'already solved problems.' Problem no more!
My top recommendation is to become a familiar face at the bookstore. Shucks, at Barnes & Noble you don't even have to plunk down the cash to buy a book; you can sit there, Starbucks in hand, and read away for free on plush armchairs.