Humans use conceits, biases and artificial environments to
reach higher levels of achievement. This achievement can range
from an artist composing a great symphony to a ten year old dramatically
improving her math scores.
Humans do not have the capacity to effectively focus on a
variety of tasks simultaneously. To reach higher levels of achievement
in an area, the human must put most to all of its focus on that
area. Humans must eliminate or stabilize (make a non factor)
areas that will distract from the needed focus.
This is comparable to a water kettle with four equal sized
holes in the top. When water is boiled inside, steam will rise
a height from the holes. If three of the holes are sealed, the
steam will rise much higher from the remaining hole.
* * * *
The following are everyday examples of manipulating one's
mental and physical environment to produce achievement:
* While background music or others' chitchat may be fine while
browsing a magazine, many of us will cover our ears in order
to comprehend a difficult passage or perform a math problem.
* To study for an exam a student often literally changes the
scene by going to a library. She may know that she won't study
well with her roommates around and the temptation of the television
set and personal computer.
* To expand one's mind by meditation someone will focus on
a repeated mundane and often arbitrary task, such as following
one's breath or the repetition of a word.
* To improve the team's horrid free throw percentage, the
junior high basketball coach may teach the players to focus on
the basket and their shooting motion and to ignore the crowd,
cheerleaders and other distractions. He will have them practice
by ignoring an imaginary crowd.
* Many with a fear of speaking will reduce their nervousness
during a speech by imagining that the audience is only wearing
their underwear. They will mentally create a false environment.
* * * *
The Rituals of Baseball
1940s-50s batting legend Ted Williams
Many consider hitting a baseball to be the most difficult
feat in sport. The batter swings a long stick to try and hit
a small ball. The thrown ball can reach speeds of over 100 miles
per hour. Early 1900s player Ty Cobb holds the record for the
highest career batting average in Major League history. His batting
average was .367, translating to an average of 3.67 hits per
every 10 turns at bat. Even the greatest hitters fail more than
they succeeded. Enough to give anyone a complex.
Baseball hitters, and baseball players in general, are notorious
for their strange conceits. Players often wear the same unwashed
undershirt and socks during a hitting streak. Most players don't
step on the white foul lines when entering and leaving the field.
Pitcher Turk Wendell waved to left field every time he entered
or left a game. When coming up to bat, Nomar Garciaparra goes
through a ritual of pulling at his shirt, opening and closing
the Velcro straps on his batting gloves and tapping the toes
of his shoes. Lucky charms, bracelets, necklaces, gum brands
abound. Five time batting champion Wade Boggs ate chicken before
every game. U.L Washington batted with a toothpick in his mouth.
After parents complained that kids might emulate the unsafe habit,
he switched to a q-tip. However after a slump, U.L. was back
to the toothpick
Though many of the rituals are comical, they can aid the player's
game performance. Hitting requires a calm and focused mind and
exceptional mind body coordination, all while the player is surrounded
by television cameras, tens of thousands of screaming fans and
the other pressures of being a professional athlete. If wearing
the lucky undershirt or repeating an odd ritual eases the batter's
mind and gives him confidence, it can increase the player's batting
average. U.L.'s reason for switching back to a toothpick was
because it made feel more comfortable when batting. While a toothpick
as aid may seem nonsensical, the desire to be comfortable is
* * * *
For a conceit to aid performance, the person has to have faith
in the conceit. At least faith that the conceit helps.
During a meditation session, one must accept that the thing
of mental focus is worthy of focus (breath, mantra, stone, other).
Whether the thing was carefully chosen by an instructor or picked
in a rush (a random pebbled grabbed from a yard), meditation
requires meditator to focus as much as is possible only on that
thing. If one is fretting about whether or not the mantra was
the best pick this very fretting will make the meditation session
The lucky blue undershirt will only help calm the baseball
player and give him confidence when he believes the blue shirt
lucky. If the blue undershirt is deemed lucky because he had
a great game the first time he wore it, this illustrates the
essential arbitrariness in conceits. If before that big game
he pulled his grey undershirt from the undershirt drawer, it
would be the grey undershirt that is considered lucky.
* * * *
Positive achievement is often based on false beliefs
There are regular cases where positve achievement is based
on a false belief. Believing the false is a technique we all
use to remove or stabilize distracting thoughts. The following
are two examples.
* A placebo helps when the patient falsely believes it is
medicine. When the patient knows what it is, a placebo won't
* A freshman at the University of Iowa, Jessica is entering
final exam week before winter break. Unknown to her, her beloved
17 year old cat Tiger just died back home in Georgia. The night
before her first test she has her weekly telephone conversation
with her parents back home. Jessica asks how Tiger is doing.
Her mother says Tiger is doing just fine, adding that the cat
is playing with a ball of yarn on the couch as she speaks. After
hanging up the phone, Jessica's mother feels bad about lying,
but thinks it best considering the exams. After a productive
exam week, Jessica flies home to Georgia where her parents break
the news about Tiger and explain why they delayed the news. Jessica
understands, agreeing that if they had told her about Tiger in
that phone conversation she would have had troubles focusing
on her studies.
In both these cases it was a clearly false belief rather than
knowledge of the truth that lead to the desired achievement.
In both cases, knowledge of the truth would have hindered the
This shows that postive achievement arrising from a belief
is not proof that the belief is correct.
Patients who get better after taking a placebo they falsely
believed was medicine will often swear the pill had to be medicine
as they got better after taking it. To them, getting better afterwords
is the proof that it was medicine. Even when the doctor informs
them it was a plecebo, some of the patients will continue to
beleive it was medicine because they got better afterwards.
A sincere faith involves an emotional and psychological attachment
to the belief. This psychological aspect is both what helped
the placebo-taking patient get better (Most doctors believe positive
'I am getting better' thinking is important to recovery from
an illness or injury) and what prevented him from accepting his
beleif as false even confronted with the facts. This psychological
attachment had both a positive and a negative result.
* * * *
For world class Olympic athletes, the general rule is that
one must believe one is going to win in order to win. Paraphrasing
a top speed skater interviewed the day before an Olympic race,
"You shouldn't just think you will win, you must know
you will win." In a track, swim or bike race, the difference
between first and fourth may be a fraction of a second, and the
psychology can mean the difference between a win and loss. Of
course most who are sure they will win not win, and those who
win do not win every time. Even when the belief turns out to
be wrong, it may better the athlete from, say, fifth to third
or third to second.
* * * *
This points to the fascinating relationships humans have with
facts. A human cannot function as it sees desirable without the
distortion and suppression of the information. Even a search
for the truth requires lies.
* * * *
Whether the idolized is a sports coach, historical leader
or artist, most worshipers of a human being worship an unreal
representation of the person. Much of the misrepresentation is
intentional, followers embellishing good qualities and suppressing
At first it's curious that groups would intentionally misrepresent
the person they claim to follow. However, similar to sweeping
absolute mentioned in the first chapter, the representations
aren't only about accuracy. They are also about things like gaining
and maintaining members' loyalty and spirit, group self importance
and gaining power versus other groups.
It should not surprise that during a political election supporters
put their candidate in the best light and their competitor in
the worst. Their representation of the candidates isn't about
accuracy, it's about winning the election. If you ask a campaign
manager why he doesn't include bad facts about his candidate
in the television ads and campaign literature, he'll look at
you as if you are crazy.
cycleback.com.................table of ontents
(c) david rudd cycleback, cyclback.com
all rights reserved