How to Sell to Yourself

It is extremely easy to say to oneself "smile more". We've all made new year resolutions. Adopting an actual decision is something entirely different. It is the journey from coming across an ad to actually buying and using a product. If the ad doesn't compel you, good luck paying for the product. Same for "smile more" - or "swear less" or "eat less red meat" or what have you. The challenge is to sell to oneself. Mere affirmation is not enough i.e. "I want to smile more", "I am a happy person". It's not 1990 anymore and neuroscience did some progress since then. To "download" a decision into the software of your mind, you need to build a neural lattice work on which it can sit. Charlie Munger asserts : "You can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ‘em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form."

So far so good. Now, how do we sell to ourselves :) When you think of salesmen, a man knocking on a door or smiling next to a car come to mind. Truth is, we're all in sales (see "To Sell is Human" by Dan Pink) and we're all facing objections we need to diffuse from potential buyers including ourselves. Now the big insight today comes courtesy of Peter Thiel, founder of Paypal and author of the amazing book "0 to 1": "Even university professors, who claim authority from scholarly achievement, are envious of the self-promoters who define their fields. Academic ideas about history or English don't just sell themselves on their intellectual merits. Even the agenda of fundamental physics and the future path of cancer research are results of persuasion."

Very often, we talk ourselves out of enacting a decision we took. We find a billion smart objections to "don't eat sweets" or "go for a run". I personally decided to "change the world" for instance. But I got a gazillion objection from my self along the lines of - "Why go through the pain? Life is meaningless. Why care?". And that's where Thiel's "Don't just sell themselves on their intellectual merits" comes in. "Life is meaningless", we are a beautiful blip in the universe. But that is precisely why our decisions are almighty, they are big bangs of sense in the non-sensical universe. They are exceptions to entropy, carving meaning out of nothingness. Is this then the guardrail to whenever you want to give up fellow Impossible-r ? Maybe. Stay tuned for next episode :)