Todd Herman shares how the concept of alter egos helps you become ideal you that a given situation calls for.
- Why you should revisit your childhood superheroes and alter egos
- Enclothed cognition and Halloween lessons for being awesome at our jobs
- How to improve your visualization through all your senses
Todd Herman is an award-winning author, performance advisor to athletes, leaders and public figures, and is a recipient of the Inc. 500 fastest growing company award. He’s been featured on the Today Show, Sky Business News, Inc Magazine and CBC National News. And lives in New York City with his young family.
Items Mentioned in this Show:
- Sponsored Message: The University of California, Irvine is a leader in Continuing Education
- Sponsored Message: Take your maintenance to the max with the MaintMax app
- Todd’s book: The Alter Ego Effect: The Power of Secret Identities to Transform Your Life
- Todd’s website: www.ToddHerman.me
- Todd’s LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/toddherman1/
- Todd’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/todd_herman
- Mr. Rogers Documentary: Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
- Research: Enclothed cognition
- Research: The amygdala and decision-making
- Book: Seeking Wisdom: From Darwin to Munger by Peter Bevelin
Todd, thanks so much for joining us here on the How to be Awesome at Your Job podcast.
Pistol Pete, it’s a pleasure.
I’m already getting an alter ego.
Well, Pete, I’m a farm kid, who has a family that nobody ever calls each other by their first name. Everyone has a nickname. So why not kick it off that way?
Well, I’m enjoying it. I’m enjoying it. I want to hear a little bit more about some of your youth, in particular you won the world’s largest Twister competition at age 16. Tell us all about this.
Well, I think that’s the thing that should highlight everyone’s resume, right? That’s the one you want at the very top.
Yeah, when I was in high school I played high school football, captain of the team. Then I was on student council as well. I grew up in a family that was involved in politics, so we hosted – my small city in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, we hosted this big student counsel conference for North America, in fact. Well, western United States and Canada.
During one of the events – Medicine Hat, one of its claim to fames is we have the world’s largest teepee. We are rich in Native American history there. They decided that they would host a huge Twister competition during this student counsel thing. I just showed up to this. I didn’t what it was really all about. In the end I won it all in process of elimination.
They had, I don’t know, 1,800 mats or no. It wasn’t even that many. It was maybe 1,500 mats. Then it all whittled down until we finally had a champion and I was it.
Wow, 1,500 mats. Is that four people or how many to a mat?
There were six.
Oh, that’s pretty full.
Yes. Yeah, six or seven people to a mat, something like that. Anyways, then they were like “The Guinness Book of World Records is here and you’ve now just broke the record.” I’m like “Fantastic. This is great.”
Okay, cool. You’re a Twister champion. We need to know what did you do differently. What was the secret to your victory in terms of how did you pull this off where others fell short?
I’m a highly competitive individual. Actually, when I think back to that, probably not knowing that it was some big competition, I thought we were just out there playing, so I was just engaged in the process. If I had thought that this was going to be like rounds of elimination, I probably would have maybe got a little bit too caught up in winning, but it was definitely focusing on the process.
I was already athletic. I was flexible so that helped. I think strategic thinking. You’ve got to be able to think ahead a few spots. You can’t put your hand on one area that’s going to cause you to have to twist in some sort of odd way to get your other hand in a circle that’s way off on the other side. Yeah, probably a combination of a bunch of those things.
Intriguing. So you were just engaged in the moment instead of fixated on the winning and that served you better?
Yeah, yeah. 100%.
There’s a lesson right there.
Yeah, and it served me well for 22 years now working with different pro-Olympic athletes, entrepreneurs, achievers, professionals on helping them to perform at their peak because as soon as you become outcome oriented, you’ve now pulled yourself out of the moment and the chances of you making mistakes go way up.
Right. Yeah. I also was curious about you’ve won the Global Leadership and Skill Development of the Year award twice. First of all, who issues that?
There’s an awards company called the Stevie’s. They’re the biggest awards company in the business space. They give out tons of awards in a lot of different categories.
I’ve had my performance system put together in its current form for about 15 years. Then the last few years we’ve won the Global Leadership award twice. Then we won for the Global Leadership Training Team of the Year as well with it. Yeah, the Stevie’s is a great place to find really, really amazing people and companies and stuff doing good things.
Well, that’s cool. Well, I’d love to hear what are some of the keys to your victory there. I have a feeling one of them might be related to your book, but we want to hear the others too.
Sure. Keys to victory, I don’t know because they have a judging panel that doesn’t really let you know that much. But we are pretty good at giving our case studies of our clients, highlighting them and then we do a discipline job of putting our stuff through a lot of rigor. We have third-party testing companies that come in and validate the result that we get with people.
There’s a company called the ROI Institute and they come in to companies all the time, typically large companies. We’re probably one of the smaller businesses that they’d be working with, but because a lot of my history is in corporate leadership development, I just took a look at the space that I was operating in, I’m like, well, this is an open hole where a lot of these kind of people that are making promises don’t actually have much validation, so let’s bring this in as a point of differentiation.
Yeah, so things like that. Judges, they like to see things like that.
You have my respect because I’m of like mind. if you don’t have an ROI, it’s hard to justify spending real time and money on the program even if it is a good time.
Well, part of our mission for our company as well is to elevate the critical thinking skills of humanity. That doesn’t sound super sexy to people, elevate the critical thinking skills, but when you think of the problems and most of the issues that people find themselves caught up in, it’s because they’re typically operating and responding to circumstances or issues emotionally.
You take a look at the current state of the world. Maybe some of the leaders that are out there that are leading it, they are not great purveyors of the idea of critical thinking. I want to model that in the way that we do our business.
I think that just even for the listeners, I think that we’re in a day and age now where there should be a lot more being demanded of the people who are there to help you get from Point A to Point B. This idea of anecdotal, “Hey, I did it and you can too,” is, in my opinion, of a bygone era because there is no systemization in that.
That’s one of my biggest issues with the personal development, self-help and leadership world is that there’s just a lot of false prophets standing on top of great marketing that if I can be a part of a movement that takes a big swinging chisel and axe to that, then I’m happy to knock that down because I don’t like to put myself out there as a personal brand or as someone who stands on top of – no, I’ve got a very specific skillset.
I’m very, very good at what it is that I do, but I stay in my lane, whereas a lot of people like to over promise that they can solve all of your issues. I can’t do that. I think it hurts more people and it leads them down and wastes time on a path that is truly not going to get them to where they need to go or want to go.
Todd, we are kindred spirits. I am inspired by your vision. Keep doing what you’re doing and maybe we should cofound a company together. Loving it.
In the future. In the future.
Loving it. All right, well, let’s talk about your book here, The Alter Ego Effect. I got such a kick out of checking this one out because I resonate on so many levels, but I’m going to give you the floor here. What’s the big idea behind The Alter Ego Effect?
Well, the big idea is that we all have used alter egos and we stepped into them when we were kids when we would play with superheroes or be our favorite hockey player or basketball player when we were kids or when we were pretending to be firemen or cowboys or astronauts. We played with this idea. We actually played with the idea of alter egos as children.
What we’re doing when we’re doing that is we’re tapping into really the great superpower that human beings have, which is our creative imagination. We’re the only ones on the planet that can create heavens from hell, hells from heaven, that we create narrative and amazing story in our minds.
Sometimes that narrative and story hurts more than it helps for many reasons. Trauma is one thing. Imposter syndrome is an insidious little force that the enemy likes to use to pull us into the, what I call in the book, the trapped self.
Really, the big idea for people is that this is actually something that allows you to pull the most really authentic version of who you are and what you can do out onto whatever chosen field of play you’re using it to activate on. It’s not strange. It’s not weird. It’s not being fake. It’s not inauthentic. In fact, phenomenal leaders both in sport, business, public figures have used it to accomplish amazing things and get out of their own way.
When you think about some of the biggest challenges, complaints that people have when they say, “Why aren’t you able to do the things that you want to do or you’re not getting the results that you want to get,” a large chunk of them are mental. It’s mental blocks. It’s resistance.
Alter ego, it’s what I’m known for within pro sports, Olympic sport is building alter egos for athletes. Then that expanded out into working with a lot more entrepreneurs and executives and people in professional environments to do the same thing to help them navigate that kind of internal resistance and move away from it. It’s an extremely elegant, graceful and perseverant way of battling what can be resistance that stops many people.
That’s really fun. I totally jive with what you’re saying with regard to as a kid I totally pretended to be a superhero. I still have a Superman costume made to my measurements. Fun fact.
I wear it on Halloween. I wish I had more opportunities to wear it in normal times, but they just don’t appear. There aren’t superhero themed parties, at least in my world. Maybe I should get some more Comic-Con type friends.
Pete, you need to dial that. That’s the one great benefit of living in New York City, every type of party is at our fingertips here.
You just brought up something really interesting. I think it’s important for the listeners too to talk about this concept is you brought up Halloween. When you think about Halloween, Halloween is my favorite night of the year.
I don’t know where people believe on the whole Myers Brigg thing. I think it’s a good sentiment. It’s not something that’s going to solve all your problems, but when I took the Myers Briggs, when the person came back in from doing the analysis, she’s like, “Well, I think we might need to revisit this test because you just broke the extroversion side of things. You’re about as far to that scale as you could possibly get.”
For me, Halloween was always like everyone else is finally invited to my party that I live every single day of the year. I’ve got zero qualms about approaching people and talking to people. My mind frame around that is I just fundamentally feel that everyone likes to have a new good friend. No one is out there saying, “I don’t need any good friends.”
That’s why I have zero resistance to talking to anybody. I don’t put anyone up on pedestals. I don’t look down on anybody. I think everyone has a fascinating story to tell. All of those mindsets allow me to just operate in relationships very easily.
Then what happens on Halloween, people put on costumes and the moment that they do, they start stepping outside of their quote/unquote normal personality and they start to don the maybe behavior of whoever it is that they are wearing.
Now, this is an important part because this is actually something I talk about in the book. Halloween is a good example of a psychological phenomenon called enclothed cognition, which we were going to talk about at some point in time during our interview, but this is just kind of a good segue into it.
Enclothed cognition is this phenomenon that happens when human beings, we add meaning and story to the things that we wear and others wear. When we see someone with a police uniform on, we start to automatically assume some things about that person. Depending on whatever your personal experience is of that uniform. Some people it could be very negative. Sometimes it just adds an overall, overarching idea. Policemen, okay, it’s they’re disciplined or they’re stern or whatever it might be. We do that.
However, what I like to do is because I’m someone who is – one of my issues, again, with that self-help personal development stuff is that people put out a lot of ideas that sound like they’re going to work. They sound nice as well. They’re very palatable. It’s almost like I look at a lot of books that are out there and I’m like, it’s cotton candy, it’s popsicles, it’s rainbows. It looks nice, but it ain’t satisfying. It doesn’t do the job.
I’m a practitioner. I work with people one-on-one and have for over 20 years, over 16,000 hours now. When you’re working with someone one-on-one, Pete, and I give you a strategy to go and implement, what happens? You come right back around next week and you tell me what? Todd, that didn’t work.
How I know the people that have got the chops and don’t have the chops, if you have never worked with people one-on-one on this, you don’t have the chops. You don’t have the chops because you have not been put under the white hot light of performance. You haven’t been put under the white hot light of getting people results.
I am working with existing phenomena that naturally occur inside the brain. This is just one of them. I just want to find a way to leverage it. Alter ego helps to leverage this idea of enclothed cognition because what we do then – a study was done at the Kellogg School of Management. What they did was they brought a bunch of students into a room. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those word puzzles where you’ve got the word of a color, but then it’s colored differently than the word.
Right, so it says green, but it’s yellow. Then it’s the word red, but it’s done in orange. What you need to do is actually say the word, which is quite difficult because the brain processes color faster than it does the word. They time you to see how quickly you can go through this grid of different words. They bring in these students and they get them to do it. They’re testing their attention, their accuracy, their detail and how quickly they can get it done and the mistakes that they make.
Then those students finish and they move them out of the room and they bring in a new group of students. This time they hand them a white coat to put on. They tell them it’s a painter’s coat. They put on the painters coat and they do the exact same test. They leave and then they bring in another group of people. They hand them the exact same white coat, except this time they tell them that it’s a lab coat or a doctor’s coat. Then they do the test.
Well, the difference in results between the painter’s coat people and the people who were just in their plain clothes was nothing. But the difference between the people who had the lab coat and the doctor’s coat and everyone else was they did it in less than half the time, they showed higher degrees of focus and concentration and they made less than half the mistakes.
Well, why is it? Because when they put on the white lab coat or doctor’s coat, they enclothed themselves in the cognitive skill set of someone that is careful, methodical, detailed because that’s what we ascribe to those types of people.
Why didn’t it work for the people that had the painter’s coat on? Because when you put on a painter’s coat, you’re enclothing yourself in the meaning, the cognitive meaning, of someone who’s creative, who might be more expressive. That doesn’t help you with that specific task.
Then they flip the task and this time they give everybody a task of a creative task, a painting actually. Now the people with the lab coat/doctor’s coat did the exact same as the plainclothes people, but the people with the painter’s coat on, they’re more expressive. They finish the project and get higher marks than the other people.
This is a naturally occurring phenomenon. When I’m trying to help people make change happen, the silliest to do is to do what has been bandied about in the self-help personal world for the longest time as the number one way that we should defeat resistance and win, which is just do it. Willpower. Willpower they think is just this massively powerful force that human beings can use to win at life.
Here’s what I can tell you. On the field of play, of performance, willpower is like a mouse staring down at a herd of rumbling elephants coming towards it. It’s the conscious versus the unconscious. The conscious is that rumbling herd of elephants and that conscious thinking of willpower and toughing it out. All that is so much smaller in comparison.
But what is our superpower that we have to defeat resistance that’s bigger than that other force of rumbling elephants? Well, it’s our creative imagination. That’s what’s there. That psychological phenomenon of enclothed cognition is about tapping into that a little bit by using an alter ego.
It’s like the backdoor to performance we can actually gracefully move around that rumbling herd, let it go do its thing. We’re going to suspend our disbelief about what we think we can and cannot do for the moment and we are going to step in and use the power of someone or something else to actually activate the qualities that we want to go show up on that field for us.
Well, it’s so fascinating and so many things to chase after. I’m resonating from my own experience in terms of boy just pick the task. There’s sort of an outfit that goes with it and I’m raring to go, whether that’s “Hey, we’re going to go for a long run.”
I guess I’m thinking about doing jobs around the house with tools. It’s like I want to put on my John Deere hat and some dirty jeans and play some country music while I’m at. It’s like I’m a central Illinois, Midwestern boy who’s not afraid of some hard work and that’s just what’s going to happen here. Maybe buy a Ford truck while I’m at it. That kind of picture is what I adopt. I think it helps. It at least makes it more fun.
At the end of the day, Pete, if it did nothing else but make it more fun, then who cares, right? When we think about life and if the listener is being really honest about what life is like for the most part – there’s a lot of mundane stuff that we all have to do. Then there’s a lot of challenging things that when you’re an ambitious person or you’re striving or you’re trying to achieve things, there’s just natural obstacles that you come up against.
If there’s nothing else that people took away from this idea, which is, by the way, 100% proven out. Every single human being that is listening to this has 100% used this. Why? Because it’s a naturally occurring part of the human psyche. You just can’t escape it. We all have played with ideas in our head.
That wasn’t you being weird, strange, multiple personality disorder. Nothing. That’s literally built into our way to navigate the challenging parts of your life with more grace. But if you did nothing else and all of the sudden life was a little bit more playful, what a huge win. What a huge win that would give someone to be that way.
Whatever, if all the sudden you became Farmer Pete for that 90 minutes that you’re outside cutting the grass and you’ve got the straw in your mouth and you’ve got the John Deere hat on, by the way, that’s not a stereotype, looking down at people because, at the end of the day, I am a huge farm and ranch kid. I grew up on a 10,000 plus acre farm and ranch. I’ve got more affinity towards that world than I do of any other world.
But who cares if you go and you play that character. You’re not being weird and you’re not being un-Pete-like. You’re being the most Pete-like person you can be in that moment.
Certainly, yeah. Yeah. In Danville, Illinois there’s plenty of that. We’ve got some hard data from that Kellogg study. We’ve got some notions that it’s sort of intrinsic to the human psychological experience.
Could you maybe orient us to a pretty cool case study or transformation that illustrates this in practice, like we’ve got someone who’s performing not as well as they want to, they adopted an alter ego in this sort of a way and this sort of an alter ego, and then they kind of lived it out and experienced an enhanced result?
Yeah. I’ll go to probably the most fascinating one as an example of one that always catches people off guard. It leads off the book actually.
Oh Bo Jackson.
It’s with Bo Jackson. Bo Jackson for people who don’t know is one of the greatest athletes to ever walk the planet. He’s the only athlete in the history of major sports to be an All Star in two of them the same year. That’s Major League Baseball and the National Football League.
I was down in Georgia doing a talk. I was waiting in the green room ready to go out and into the green room walks Bo Jackson, this phenomenal physical specimen. In my head I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s the guy that I played on Nintendo when I was a kid.” He walked over to me right away. He said, “Hi, I’m Bo Jackson.” I said, “Yeah, I know who you are. You won me a lot of games on Tecmo Bowl when I was a kid.” He laughed.
He said, “You’re not the first one to say that. Are you speaking today?” I said, “Yeah, I’m going on stage next.” He said, “Oh, what are you going to be talking about?”
I said, “Well, I’m going to talk to them about mental game, but specifically I’m going to talk to the coaches and the players about using alter egos to help really unlock their performance and show up on the field and actually find the zone and flow state with it because you’re now getting out of your own way and you’re activating this imagination, which helps you perform.”
He just looked at me and he kind of got this weird look on his face like someone had just solved a mystery of life to him. He cocked his head to the side and he was like, “Bo Jackson never played a down of football his entire life.” I was like, “Interesting. Tell me more.”
He was like, “Yeah, when I was a youngster – people who know my backstory, I was a really angry kid. I would get myself into a lot of trouble. While it sounds like being angry would help you on the football field to dominate people, it would actually get me into bad penalties. I was a little bit uncoachable.
One night I was watching a movie and I saw this character come on the screen who was cold, calculating, methodical, unemotional, all of the things that I kind of wanted to be when I was out there. I thought to myself, ‘Wait a second. Why don’t I go out as that person instead of me?’”
It was Jason from Friday the XIII. His alter ego was actually Jason, which sounds crazy to some people because why would you want to activate, if you’re already angry, someone who’s a serial killer, but this is the power of this stuff is that it’s what your great takeaway was based on what maybe your issue might be or what you’re looking for.
He was looking for being more unemotional, more calculating with himself when he was performing. That’s what he did. When he put on his football helmet when he walked out onto the field, when his foot hit that field, that’s where Jason lived and Jason would enter him.
He unconsciously did almost every single step of the process that I talk about in the book perfectly. He created a context because he wasn’t Jason off the field; he was Jason on the field. He took the qualities that he most wanted that were the reverse of his frustrations and that’s what he found in his inspiration, which was Jason.
He actually leveraged an existing story, which is when you were looking for maybe places of inspiration, it’s a lot easier to just use characters that have already been built, whether in movies or whether in comic books or whether in your favorite TV show or whether it’s your favorite fictional book or existing people from your own personal life.
If there is a quality of an alter ego that is most popular or a type, it’s actually grandmothers. Grandmothers for me is the most popular alter ego that people use for whatever reason. There’s just many grandmothers that are inspiring to many people that are out there. There are specific qualities about them that they’re trying to activate.
They’re own grandmother?
Yeah, they’re own grandmother.
Yeah, 100%. Yeah, 100%.
Not an archetype.
I’ve got a wealth manager here in New York worth just more money than people would need definitely and that’s what his is. He’s a hard charging person and could naturally fall into a bullying type, but when he started growing his company to be a lot larger and really having to adopt way more of a leadership role as opposed to a trading role in his business, it was just grating on the business and he was just turning over staff way more. That costs your business a lot.
When I started working with him and we started talking about leadership qualities, who he’s seen them in the past, he started talking about his grandmother. He wasn’t talking about his grandmother right off the bat. I just asked him a question and he started talking about her. It wasn’t really in the context of being a phenomenal leader. Then he started saying other people in business that he was maybe inspired by.
I said to him, “I don’t think so. I think 100% the most important leader that’s been around you is your grandmother.” We just unpacked that more. When he’s going into have performance meetings or he needs to have leadership conversations or challenging conversations with people, that’s who he stepped into was more his grandmother. Now he doesn’t need to use that alter ego anymore because he actually became that person that he more wanted to be.
That’s cool. That’s cool. Well, I’d love it if maybe we could take on an example. I imagine we’ll have to fast-track it because it probably takes a good while. That’s fine to push the fast forward button repeatedly.
Let’s say – this is semi-true for me right now – I find that I’m getting so many ideas, which is really fun and exciting and cool when I’m sitting down to work, that I’m digging it. I’m sort of chasing after them and exploring them. But then I look at what I had hoped to accomplish in a day and there’s quite a mismatch.
It’s like, oh, I chased a lot of cool, interesting ideas, which may very well have some huge potential, but now I’m in a little bit of an urgent hurry up mode because I didn’t do what actually needed to be done on that particular day. If I want to have more focused and – you said willpower’s tricky – but that notion of “Hey, here’s the list. I’m going to crank through it,” how can I use the alter ego effect to make that happen?
Yeah. I am the poster child of that when I started out. Yeah, absolutely. When I was starting out getting to kind of one of my uses of the alter ego, I was 21. I looked like I was 12. I was terribly insecure about how young I looked, who’s going to believe me when I go up on stage to talk about these ideas. I don’t have 19 degrees. I’m not 40 years old yet.
I had all these ideas of the age you need to be before you’re taken seriously, how many different years of you’ve been using this or consulting on it or coaching on it before you’re taken seriously. It was just stopping me from getting out there.
The reality was I was very, very good at working with young athletes. That’s where I was starting. I wasn’t trying to go work with pro-athletes off the bat. I was working with 11-, 12-, 13-year-olds, 14-year-olds, 15-year-olds, on it. I now was really good. I was good at developing rapport quickly, developing trust, then sharing all of the strategies that I had done to help me get a college scholarship, be nationally ranked badminton player.
My real skillset was my mental game, but I was getting in my own way. I wasn’t taking the action I needed to take.
I would. I would drift all over the place in my day. I would fundamentally just avoid doing the things that were going to make me money, which is in business or in sales, that’s when the white, hot light of performance is on you because now you’re on the field and it’s easy for people to see based on the results that you did ten phone calls today, but nothing was brought in revenue wise or something.
It’s easy for your self-esteem or your sense of self of concept to be beaten up in those moments. I wasn’t taking any action.
I was like, wait a second. I used this when I played football and when I went on the football field. I would go out as this composite kind of alter ego of Geronimo, Walter Payton and Ronnie Lott. The name I used was Geronimo for it. I was like but Geronimo is a little bit too aggressive. It’s not going to help me in business. Then I thought but I really want to step into this Superman version of myself in business.
That’s when it clicked in my head. I’m like wait a second, Superman puts on glasses to become the mild-mannered version of himself in Clark Kent, but I want to put on glasses and I want to become the Superman version of myself. That’s what I did.
I went out and I went to Lens Crafters in West Edmonton mall, where I was living at the time, and I bought a pair of non-prescription glasses so that I could activate this self that would be decisive, that would be articulate, and that would be confident, all the three things that I felt like I was lacking at the time in the way that I was showing up.
That was back when wearing glasses wasn’t cool or fashionable by any stretch of the imagination. The optometrist was like, “You don’t need glasses. You have 20/15 vision.” I’m like, “Please, just give me the glasses.” I bought them. That’s what I did.
I would literally sit and I would practice putting those on. Just like when he would take off those glasses as Superman, all of the sudden just the chest puffs out and he transforms, I was transforming into that other self. When I was in that state, I was very deliberate and intentional about being very decisive, being very confident, being very articulate with the way that I was describing what I could do for people.
The moment that I would start to fall out of it and become that other insecure self, I would take off those glasses immediately because the moment that you’re in that kind of state of being your alter ego, you don’t want to dishonor that idea by allowing that kind of other – whether it’s a weak or a mild-mannered or whatever self or scared or insecure or resistant self to show up – I’d take them off because I wanted to honor that idea.
It’s a very powerful mindset to be in when you’re doing that. I talk about that with my athletes and just even people that are on here right now. It’s very powerful to step into that mode. We have these phenomenal capabilities in our mind to do that.
Going then back to you, it’s that – some of what you’re talking about too could be just that there is a creative self that’s inside of you that sometimes you’re just hunting through and finding ideas to be inspired by to create the training programs that you want or to write the things you want to write. You shouldn’t beat yourself up with those things, but on those days when you did have certain activities that you needed to take care of, those need to be siloed.
Then there needs to be the most heroic version that you could bring to that to bring the best that you’ve got available into that moment so you can smash it and get the best result. Whether you think that’s you right now or you don’t think it’s you, what I do know is, that you is inside of you because the imagination has that power. Let’s find a way of unlocking it.
Well, yeah, that’s good.
What I was doing with those glasses was I was accidently – because I didn’t know what enclothed cognition back then – but I was enclothing those glasses in the cognitive state of being smart, articulate and decisive. I was leveraging the power of another story of using Superman to help make that happen too.
It’s funny, as you kind of deconstructing that a little bit, it seems that we started with what was already meaningful to you with the Geronimo, Superman, etcetera, so what was already sort of striking a chord and being resonant in the ways that you wanted to be as opposed to saying, “Well, technically, this literary figure embodied these qualities perfectly.” It’s like, “Well, I’ve never read that book, so that’s not helping me out here.”
The first thing that comes to mind for me in terms of if we’re talking about no nonsense, taking care of business, the first thing I think of is the Shark Tank intro because I get such a kick out of how they all do the same pose, where they fold their arms over each other. It’s like that’s, I guess, the no nonsense entrepreneur pose. You find it The Prophet and other business shows. I think we’ve adopted that. That’s what comes to mind.
But if that’s what resonates with you, then that should be your takeaway. Yet, I’ve seen other people who are not even close to being an arms-crossed-type individual that are very no nonsense here in New York City or even not just here, but that’s my context because I live here and I work with so many people that are here. But I know more people that are no nonsense and they sit back in a very relaxed look.
Actually even Mark Cuban, when you see him and his matters in …, he’s actually quite relaxed. He sits back and sort of – but then when he starts to get excited, he starts to lean forward, his eyebrows go up a lot. Just as a person who lives in the world of mental game stuff, I’m always looking at body language of people. But if that’s what it is for you, then hold onto that and that’s what you can step into.
When I go about doing this step into, what exactly am I doing? I’m going to cross my arms. I’m going to imagine being no nonsense. What are my steps?
Well, it’s what are the – all the steps are – because we’ve kind of unpacked a bunch of them. First place we start is context. We’re doing it for a field of play. Again, we’ve been talking about business and stuff, but this is 100% useful as a parent.
Kids use it all the time anyway, but as a parent sometimes you’re working all day long. You’ve been operating as a certain self throughout the day, then you go home and it’s hard to switch that off. Using this stuff, it crates great context for you.
For me when I go home, I don’t know want to be that articulate, decisive and confident version of myself that challenges people all day long because that’s what I need to do. That’s not what my children want. They want fun, playful, get-on-the-floor-and-play-with-them dad that’s gentle with them. I can be tough as well, but that’s so natural for me, I don’t need to magnify that up. That’s going to come out anyway.
I caught myself with, especially my middle daughter, Sophie, where she’s got this great emotional bandwidth, where she has these fantastic highs. Then she’s got these tantrums that can just go on for a very long time. I was meeting that force of her tantrum with my force of parent dad telling her to stop and all that and getting nowhere. I caught myself and I went wait a second. This isn’t how you perform at a high level.
Immediately I went to who I would be to get the best out of myself as a parent. It took me about a split second to go Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers undeniably is a phenomenal human being around young children. That’s who I stepped into.
The very next time she had this huge tantrum, I got down on one knee, just like he would. I reached out. I grabbed her, brought her in for a hug, despite the fact that she didn’t want to be hugged. She melted in eight seconds. Melted. She was done. That’s all she wanted and needed and then she was off running around, doing her own thing.
Meanwhile, I was still on the inside angry, enraged because noise and that screaming just drives me into an emotional state, but in that moment though, I did act as my best self for her and the result transformed.
Going back to you. Context matters. Second thing in that story I unpacked my frustrations. What’s a way that you’re showing up on whatever field that you’ve just chosen that aren’t getting you the results you want or how are you not showing up or what are the things that you’re doing that is providing you this angst and this frustration.
Okay, then now that you’ve got that, now it’s easy to go to the third step, which is well, how do you … want to show up and/or who already shows up that way that you’re inspired by. It doesn’t have to be in your work. It could be someone completely outside of it that you look at it and you’re like, “Oh, I’d like to be more like that person. I want to show up more like Luke Skywalker,” or whoever it might be.
What is it about their qualities that you’re looking at that you like? Is it their demeanor? Is it how calm they are? Is it about how confident they are? Is it how charismatic that person is? Whatever it is.
Then it’s okay, now is there a totem, this fourth step is what’s this totem or artifact or talisman that you can use to help activate it so that we can leverage the power of enclothed cognition. Is it that you are going to put on some Superman socks or Wonder Woman bracelet?
That’s what one of my equestrian riders – she’s a world class dressage, which is to the layperson, it’s like horse dance, where they have to do very, very specific and calculating kind of moves in the arena. It’s very challenging.
She was someone who was kind of all over the place inside emotionally, which then gets reflected through a horse. You talk about a difficult sport from a mental game perspective. You’re sitting on top of an animal that can detect any sort of emotional ambiguity that you might have. That’s why horses are used in therapy because they just have this phenomenal emotional bandwidth to work with people.
When I asked her, “Well, who most resonates with you as to how you want to show up,” she didn’t hesitate for a second. It was Wonder Woman. Not the current version because this was actually years ago. It was the 1970s version of Wonder Woman. I encouraged her, “Okay, go out. Let’s get an artifact or a totem to use.” She went out and she actually made a custom bracelet. I told her, I said, “When you do, make sure that the clasp has a loud sound when you snap it shut.”
Because sound is a phenomenal trigger in the mind. When that snap happens, that’s when she clicks into her inner Wonder Woman to show up on that horse as her best self.
I like what you said about sound. That’s got me thinking about get all your senses involved. Maybe there’s a small. Maybe there’s a texture. Yeah.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I don’t know how many people that are listening or even yourself, Pete, people use the term visualization a lot. They say, “You’ve got to visualize your goals,” or “People with vision are the ones who win,” or all these different things. The reality is, as someone who’s been teaching visualization with people as a skill for a long time, it’s actually quite hard to do.
That’s why I get frustrated with the amateurs that are out there saying, “Well, you’ve just to visualize.” It’s like it’s not that easy. Just because we can do it and do do it every single day, doesn’t mean that we can deliberately create movies in our mind easily. It’s a learned skill.
However, sound and we want to be using as much of the senses as possible. When I’m really teaching people about using imagery and visualization, it’s about engaging all of the senses because sometimes there’s a good portion of the population that are driven auditorily. I am. I am one of those people where I can build movies in my mind way easier when I start with sound then when I start with pictures. There’s other people who are engaged with smell of something or the touch of something.
That’s why this whole process of using a totem or an artifact is so powerful because just to your point, when you’re touching something, when you’re feeling something, when you’re putting something on, when you’ve got something in your pocket, whatever the case is, it’s there as a great environmental reminder of the intention of who it is that you’re’ showing up as.
That’s not being fake. That’s not about doing it to deceive other people because that’s being fake. If you’re doing something to deceive others or trick others, your intention is completely wrong. This is about tapping into the internal power of you saying, “I am being very intentional about who and what I’m showing up as so that I can get the best result from me or for others.”
Just like me. It’s not me being fake just because I’m stepping into and leveraging Mr. Rogers in that moment. That’s actually stepping into a very genuine part of me. Gentleness of course is a quality of mine somewhere because it’s not like I learned all of that challenging self or I was born that way. I learned some of that stuff.
Well, Todd, I love the Mr. Rogers in particular because it should have occurred to me when I was looking through your book, but then in the last couple months, I noticed that in marriage/family life I sort of brought more of my creative brainstorming problem solving-ness into conversations with my wife. She was less interested in that and wanted more kind of emotional stuff.
I just sort of forgot. It’s like, “Oh right, yeah, yeah.” It’s like, “I was just so interested in your problem and all of the potential options and solutions that I could offer.” I actually purchased a red zip-up Mr. Rogers sweater to wear as a reminder of – he’s got that song, It’s a Good Feeling, the feelings and to just slow down and listen and to talk about feelings. It’s like, “Well, how did you feel about that?” because that’s what she was wanting.
Yeah. Well, if you’ve watched his documentary it’s fascinating because literally about a third of it is dedicated to them talking about his alter ego. His wife talks about Daniel Tiger. There’s this great sequence in the documentary when she says that Daniel was the more real version of Mr. Rogers because that’s who he really was.
When you think about Daniel Tiger, he’s this hand puppet that he used to talk about feelings and other things. During that sequence, Mr. Rogers, Fred, says – he’s holding up the hand puppet now near his head and he’s saying, “The distance between-“ which is his mouth to the hand puppet, he’s like, “This doesn’t look like it’s very far, but I can tell you it was very self-efficacious for me.”
It’s the same for me. The distance between the six inches in your ears and your mouth by what you want to say, but then you don’t say it. Nothing beats a person up more than when they get to the end of their day, their head’s on the pillow and they’re unpacking their day and they’re like, “Why didn’t I say that? Why didn’t I raise my hand? Why didn’t I speak up? Why didn’t I ask for the sale?” or the action, “Why didn’t I take that final shot at the end of the buzzer?”
That distance between the six inches in your ears and the action that you want, the difference between thought and action is very, very short inside of our selves, but it can be a huge leap for many people to make. Well, what’s the bridge that runs over that gap? It’s emotion, proven by science again.
When you sever the ties inside of a human’s brain from their rational thinking brain and the emotional brain, which is the decision side of the brain, decision doesn’t happen then. It’s been shown in Alzheimer’s patients, where they can think that they want to have a sandwich, but they actually can’t get up and take action on it because there is no emotional grease that helps them make that decision.
Well, that emotional factor that helps you go from where you are now to where you want to be is the creative imagination to go by it and move around resistance. An alter ego is just a great tool to help make that happen. I talk about it enough in the book, all the different science of how to do it, the other people that have used it to actually get themselves out onto different fields of the play and do amazing things. Like we kind of talked about earlier, it’s a wonderfully playful way to help navigate life as well.
That is so excellent.
Awesome. Well, Todd, tell me, anything else you want to make sure to mention before we shift gears and hear about a couple of your favorite things?
We’ve just unpacked so much of it. I just strongly urge people to – I just know that a lot of people are just that mental part, that mindset side of things is the thing that can be a big challenge for them, whether it’s adopting new habits or changing behaviors. Stepping into and using these tools that they used, you’ve already used them in your past.
Pete, we had 19 publishers interested in my book, which if you know about publishing is an insane amount of publishers. Now, that’s not because of me actually. It’s not because I’m Michelle Obama or something like that. I don’t have a big platform like that. But it’s about the idea because people would walk into those meetings and they would say things like, “I feel like I’ve been doing this all my life.” I’m like, “I know you have because it’s a natural part of being a human being.”
There’s so many people who just saw so much relevance in the idea. I think that if people raced out and sunk their teeth into it, they would chew their way through the book very, very, very fast.
Well, now could you share with us a favorite book?
A favorite book of mine, I love From Darwin to Munger, which is all about mental models and how to think a lot more quickly without getting down into the weeds and details. They kind of unpack Charlie Munger and his brilliant thinking for the way that he has adopted different thinking models in the way that he navigates life. It’s an amazing book.
Is there a particular nugget that you share with your clients or audience listeners or readers that really seems to connect and resonate and gets them quoting it back to you?
In that book, I don’t share a specific thing other than the ability to what’s called chunk up, which is the ability to kind of start to see things at 30,000 foot views so that you can think a lot more strategically and see what’s actually happening down on the field, not get tied up so much in the details of stuff. Probably chunking up is one of the big things that people take away from it.
If folks want to learn more or get in touch, where would you point them?
I’d point them to my home base on the interwebs would be ToddHerman.me. All of my kind of social profiles are out there. I’m active on pretty much most of them. Then for the book, they can also go to AlterEgoEffect.com to see some videos and click on any one of the links to find the book in airport book stores and book stores all over the place.
Do you have a final challenge or call to action for folks seeking to be awesome at their jobs?
Yeah. This is the easiest one. Don’t make the mistake I did early on. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything on your own. I wanted to be one of those people that climbed to the top of the mountain, planted the flag by myself and said, “I did it.” It’s slow and it’s stupid.
You are going to get a lot father in life by bringing around and getting around fantastic allies and being great supporters of other people. I truly do think that business and life moves at the speed of relationships. Always be finding great relationships and developing them.
Awesome. Todd, this has been a treat. Thanks so much and keep on doing the good stuff you’re doing.
Thanks Pete. Appreciate you.