The key to transforming yourself -- Robert Greene at TEDxBrixtonMay 29, 2021
Transcriber: Marta Palacio Reviewer: Denise RQ After the publication of my first book "The 48 Laws of Power," I began receiving requests for advice from people in every imaginable profession and at every level of experience. Over the years I have now personally consulted with over 100 different people. In many cases, the following scenario would play out on its own. They would come to me with a specific problem, a boss from hell, a business relationship gone sour, a promotion that never came. Little by little it would divert their attention from the boss and the job, and instead make them look within themselves and try to find the emotional root of their discontent.
Often as we talked about it, they realized that deep down, they were deeply frustrated: their creativity wasn't being realized, their careers had somehow taken a wrong turn, what they really wanted was something bigger; a real and substantial change in their careers and in their lives. It would be at this point that I would tell you a story about myself, about my own peculiar path to change and transformation from a very unsuccessful writer, eking out a living in a small, one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica, to the best of my ability. - selling author apparently, overnight. I've never told this story publicly before, but for this special occasion, my first TEDx talk, I thought I'd share it with you because it's actually very relevant to the topic of change.
The story goes like this, I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a writer. I just couldn't understand what I wanted to write. Perhaps they were novels, essays, or plays. After college, I went into journalism, as a way to at least make a living writing. Then one day, after several years of working as a writer and editor, I was having lunch with a man who had just edited an article I had written for a magazine. After drinking his third martini, this editor, an older man, finally admitted to me why he had invited me to lunch: "You should seriously consider a different career," he told me. "You're not writer material.
Your work is too undisciplined, your style is too bizarre, your ideas just don't resonate with the average reader. Go to law school, Robert, go to business school, save
yourselfthe pain." . At first, these words were like a punch to the stomach, but in the months that followed, I realized something about myself. I had entered a career that didn't really suit me, mainly as a way to earn a living, and my work reflected this incompatibility. I had to get out of journalism. This realization started a wandering period in my life. I've traveled all over Europe, worked every job imaginable, done construction work in Greece, taught English in Barcelona, worked as a hotel receptionist in Paris, tour guide in Dublin, worked as a trainee for an English company, making documentaries about television. , living not far from here in Brixton.
During all this time, I wrote several novels that never exceeded 100 pages, dozens of essays that would tear up, and plays that were never produced. I returned to Los Angeles, California, where I was born and raised. I worked in a detective agency, among other odd jobs. I got into the movie business, working as an assistant to a director, as a researcher, story developer, and screenwriter. In these long years of wandering, he had added more than 50 different jobs. By the year 1995, my parents - God bless them! - they were starting to seriously worry about me. I was 36 years old and seemed lost and unable to accommodate myself to anything.
I also had moments of doubt, but I did not feel lost. He searched and explored, he was hungry for experiences and he wrote continuously. That same year, while in Italy for another job, I met a man named Joost Elffers, a book packer and producer. One day, as we were walking along the Venice docks, Joost asked me if he had any ideas for a book. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, an idea flashed through me. It was about power. I told Joost that I constantly read history books and that the stories he read about Julius Caesar, the Borgias, and Louis XIV were exactly the same stories that he had personally witnessed with my own eyes in all my different jobs. only less bloody. (Laughter) People want power and they want to disguise this desire for power to play.
They covertly manipulate and intrigue, while presenting a congenial, even holy front. I would expose these games. I gave him numerous examples of what I wanted to say, and he got more and more excited. He said he should write a treatment, and if he was good enough, he would pay me to live while I wrote half the book, enough to sell it to a publisher. Suddenly, while writing what would become "The 48 Laws of Power," everything in my disconnected past seemed to fall into place, like magic, like fate. All those various writing experiences - journalism, television, theater, film - had given me the skills to tell stories and organize my thoughts; all that reading of history had given me a vast store of ideas to draw on; and my work as a researcher had taught me to find the perfect anecdote.
Even those different seemingly random jobs had exposed me to all kinds of psychology and dark corners of the human psyche. Even the languages I learned while traveling taught me patience and discipline. All of these experiences added up to rich layers of knowledge and practice that changed me from the inside out. In my very strange and intuitive way, it had given me the perfect education to write "The 48 Laws of Power." The book came out in 1998, and it was a success. The course of my life was forever altered. The moral of this story, as I told people who would come to me for advice, and as I am telling you now, is this.
Humans tend to focus on what we can see with our eyes. It is the most animal part of our nature. When we look at the changes and transformations in other people's lives, we see how lucky someone was to meet a person like Joost, with all the right connections and funding. We see the book or project that brings the money and attention. In other words, we see the visible signs of opportunity and success. -- change in our own lives, but we are clinging to an illusion. What really enables such dramatic changes are things that go on inside a person and are completely invisible: the slow accumulation of knowledge and skills, incremental improvements in work habits, and the ability to resist criticism.
Any change in people's fortunes is simply the visible manifestation of all that deep preparation over time. By essentially ignoring this inner, invisible aspect, we fail to change anything fundamental within ourselves. And so, in just a few short years, we reach our limits once again, getting frustrated, yearning for change, clinging to something quick and superficial, and remaining forever prisoners of these recurring patterns in our lives. The answer, the key to the ability to transform ourselves, is incredibly simple: reverse this perspective. Stop obsessing over what other people say and do; in money, connections, the outward appearance of things.
Instead, look inward, focusing on the smaller internal changes that set the stage for a much larger change in fortune. It's the difference between clinging to an illusion and immersing
yourselfin reality. Reality is what will set you free and transform you. Here's how this would work in your own life. Consider the fact that each and every one of you is fundamentally unique, one of a kind; your DNA, the particular configuration of your brain, your life experiences. In early childhood, this uniqueness manifested itself in the fact that you were particularly drawn to certain subjects and activities, what in my book I call "dominance," primary inclinations.
You cannot rationally explain why you were so drawn to words, music, particular questions about the world around you, or social dynamics. As you get older, you often lose touch with these inclinations. You listen to parents urging you to pursue a particular career path. You listen to alcoholic teachers and magazine editors tell you what you are good at and what you are bad at. You listen to your friends tell you what is right and what is not right. At a certain point, you can almost become a stranger to yourself and therefore enter careers that don't suit you emotionally and intellectually.
Your life's task, as I call it, is to return to those inclinations and uniqueness that marked each and every one of you at birth. Whatever age you are at, you should reflect on those early inclinations. You should look at those topics in the present that continued to arouse that intense childish curiosity in you. You should look at those issues and activities that you have been forced to do in recent years that repel you, that have no emotional resonance. Based on these reflections, he determines the direction he should take: writing, music, a specific branch of science, a form of business, or a public service.
You now have a loose overall framework that you can explore and find the angles and positions that work best for you. You listen carefully to yourself, to your internal radar. Some parts of that framework, for me. journalism and Hollywood - I don't feel well. So you keep going, slowly narrowing your path, while building up skills. Most people want simple, direct, straight-line paths to the perfect position and success, but instead welcome wrong turns and mistakes. They make you aware of your flaws, they broaden your experiences, they harden you. If you reach this process at a later age, you need to cultivate a new set of skills to suit this change in direction you'll be taking, and find a way to combine them with your old skills.
Nothing in this process is ever wasted. In any case, the gold you seek is learning and the acquisition of skills, not a fat salary. Look what happens to you, as you adopt this very different, internally driven mindset. Because you're headed in a direction that resonates with you emotionally and personally, the hours of practice and study don't seem so onerous. You can keep their attention and interest for much longer. What excites you is the learning process itself, overcoming obstacles, increasing your skill level. You are immersed in the present instead of constantly obsessing over the future, so you pay more attention to work on yourself and the people around you, developing patience and social intelligence.
Without forcing the issue, you reach a point where you are perfectly prepared from within. The slightest opportunity that comes your way, now you will take advantage of it. In fact, you will attract opportunities because people will notice how prepared you are, which is, I think, what happened to me with Joost. Some of this may sound a bit mystical, but the results of this process I'm talking about have been corroborated by recent scientific research. In particular, the 1995 study by Anders Ericsson that produced the very famous 10,000 hour rule. By tracking people who had dedicated years of their lives to learning chess or music, Ericsson discovered that somewhere near that magic 10,000-hour practice mark, the minds of these people suddenly became much more creative and fluid.
Their brain structures had been altered by all those hours of practice, and at that 10,000 hour mark, we could see a visible transformation in their performance and creativity. That is a level that you will reach naturally and organically if you follow this process long enough. Finally, what I'm proposing to you right now is actually, I think, quite radical, that is, the way to transform yourself is through your work. I know this goes against our prevailing cultural biases; the work is too ugly, too boring, too banal. We think that self-transformation comes through a spiritual journey, therapy, a guru telling us what to do, intense group experiences, social experiences, and drugs.
But most of these are ways to run away from ourselves and relieve our chronic boredom. They are not connected to the process, so the changes that occur do not last. Instead, through our work, we can connect with who we are, instead of running away. By getting into that slow, organic process, we can change ourselves from the inside out in a way that is very real and lasting. This process involves a journey of self-discovery which, if you like, can be seen as quite spiritual. At the end of this process, we bring something unique and meaningful to our culture through our work, which is not ugly, boring or banal.
Thank you so much. (Applause)
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