The Common Denominator of Success plus the Science of Forming Habits


Six hundred members of the California Assisted Living Association made their way into the main ball room at the Hyatt Regency in Orange County, California for lunch and my 45 minute keynote speech titled, “The 1.2% Factor-How One Small Change Leads to Large Results”.

I was a bit apprehensive because of the time frame. I usually present a 90 minute program so I was challenged as a professional to deliver value in half the time. It’s rare that I have a local program close to where I live since I present all over the USA. I invited Jeff Golan, Regional Managing Director for Principal Financial Group to come hear me. I wasn’t sure if he could make it.

The program went off very successfully! The audience raved about the talk and only I know what I had to leave out because of the time frame. Breakout sessions followed 15 minutes after my program so I went outside where I had some flyers on a table and visited with those who wanted to speak with me. One of those was Jeff.

After the crowd dispersed Jeff and I found a quite place to chat. We talked about what he was in the beginning stages of building at PFG and what some of his challenges were. He explained how he already had a solid structure and system for teaching the advisor the “what to do and the how to do it” logical information. What he liked about what I do is that it is directed towards the most important issue, the individuals’ ability to form habits and to consistently do what they need to do to generate results. He promised to send me an old white paper, “The Common Denominator of Success” by Albert Gray.

A couple of days later an email with an attachment from Jeff arrives. I opened it expecting it to be some outdated boring what you can believe you can achieve type of stuff.

I am happy to say that this paper caught my attention immediately with the first quote:

“The common denominator of success-the secret of success of every man who has ever been successful-lies in the fact that he formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”

Wow! This was written in 1940 and it is still a core underlying necessity today! Albert Gray delivered this at the NALU annual convention in 1940. Remember National Association of Life Underwriters?

What I plan to do with this paper is to add some of the scientific discoveries of the 2000’s on forming habits to the wisdom of Albert Gray. I’ll first reveal some of the most profound statements from Gray in his address.

“I had become convinced that hard work was not the real secret even though in most cases it might be one of the requirements.”

In one of my presentations I ask for a volunteer to come on stage. I ask them to state a goal that they have such as increase assets under management. Next I ask them what they need to do to reach this goal. For the sake of simplicity let’s say prospecting. Next I ask them to tell me three things that might stop them. One, busy with current clients, two, need to prepare for meetings with prospects, three, not enough time.

Now it gets interesting. I bring up three of the biggest guys in the audience. Each one of them represents one of the three obstacles just mentioned. Two guys stand in front of my goal setter and grab his wrist with their outside hand and hook their inside arm under the persons arm and the third obstacle stands behind the goal setter and puts their arm across the persons throat. I instruct them to resist and not to let him break through.

Here we go the competition. A person’s desires and commitment to action versus their obstacles. The person tries as hard as they can yet they will not break free. I yell “work harder” yet still no results, the 3 obstacles are just too strong. (You can watch this in action on my website, demo video).

This is a perfect example that hard work is not the key. I ask the audience, “Did he try? Did he try hard? Did you cheer him on? Did it matter?”

I do give a solution here. The solution is to accept that he does have limitations and obstacles and to negotiate. Even though he has to prepare for prospective clients, meet with current clients and has limited time, here is what he commits to do this week.

To highlight Albert Gray’s first point;

  1. Hard work is not the difference.

Gray also made this statement;

 “Success is something which is achieved by the minority of men, and is therefore unnatural and not to be achieved by following our natural likes and dislikes nor by being guided by our natural preferences. We don’t like to call on people who don’t want to see us and talk to them about something they don’t want to talk about. Any reluctance to follow a definite prospecting program, to used prepared sales talks, to organize time and effort are all caused by this one basic dislike.”

This is as simple as I have ever heard the core issue stated. We are going to avoid doing things that we view as being uncomfortable. It’s that simple!

There are a number of scientific experiments that clearly show this. Put a rat in a cage with a gate. Place food at the end of a corridor and open the gate. The rat runs up the corridor and starts to eat the food.

However, we don’t let the rat eat. Instead we place it back behind the gate. Next we place a metal grid on the floor separating the rat from the food. We also place a shock on this grid; it’s called a “shock grid”. We open the gate; the rat sees the food and starts to run over this grid. It gets a tremendous shock and instinctively retreats away from the grid.

Now we take the shock off of the grid but leave the grid. When we open the gate this time the reality is that there is nothing stopping the rat from reaching its goal. However, what will the rat focus on? Will it focus on the opportunity to get the food or the past painful experience with the metal grid? The rat will remember the shock and will never go over that grid again. This is called learned helplessness.

It doesn’t matter what the truth is. The only think that matters is what is the rat paying attention to? The rat has what is called a “cortical limbic loop”. This is a protective memory where the outer area of the brain associated with wants, needs and desires and is linked to the middle area of the brain, known as the limbic system, which is associated with emotion, fear, avoidance and threats to survival. Just the sight of the metal grid triggers the limbic area and the rat is in automatic avoidance.

We are genetically coded to avoid activities that we view as being threatening. Our instincts trump our intentions.

Gray goes on to state that the biggest producers also do not like to do this prospecting either. It’s just that they have a purpose and have formed habits.

“Successful men are influenced by the desire for pleasing results. Failures are influenced by the desire for pleasing methods. It is easier to adjust ourselves to the hardships of a poor living than it is to adjust ourselves to the hardships of making a better one. Just think of all of the things you are willing to go without in order to avoid doing the things you don’t like to do.”

I couldn’t believe what a profound insight that Albert Gray had in 1940 that is as true today as it was then.

Again, Gray says;

“Every single qualification for success is acquired through habit. Men form habits and habits form futures. If you do not deliberately form good habits, then unconsciously you will form bad ones. He success habits in life insurance selling (and all selling) are divided into four main groups. Prospecting habits, calling habits, selling habits, working habits.”

Now the question is how do you form habits? I have the answer. This was helped by another 21st century discovery, brain plasticity. Go ahead and “Google it”. Isn’t that amazing? Google is now a verb!

Brain plasticity is the brains’ ability to form new neurons and neurological networks. A neurological network is a habit. In its simplest form it’s no more complicated than stimulus response. The alarm rings in the morning and off to the gym you go. You plan at the end of the week you execute your plan in those four areas as identified in 1940 by Albert Gray, it really is that simple.

A habit is a neuron that has dentritic growth to the cortex and to a structure in the limbic system called the amygdale. The cortex is the thinking and planning area of the brain and the amygdale is the emotional area. A habit also has dentritic growth to the hippocampus are of the brain which is now the wiring for memory.

The rat is hungry. It looks at the food but it has a protective instinct, a memory involving the hippocampus that links the metal grid with the amygdale as dangerous and to be avoided.

Humans have another layer to add to this. We use language to rationalize our avoidance and believe that the truth is that we were just too busy to make those calls.

I’ll end this by giving you a quick method to rewire your brain and form a new habit. Use behavioral contracts. Make one commitment to one activity this week they you are capable of doing but also know you won’t do unless you are held accountable to complete. Tell one other person that if you don’t take this action you will give them $100. You will instantly create a cortical limbic loop where the cortex, amygdale and hippocampus will view this penalty as the highest level of pain and instinctively compel you to avoid this pain by doing what you said you would do.

Yes it does take about 30 days for these dentritic projections to remain solidified and permanent so use this consistently and wisely and you will rewire your brain forming the habits you need for success. Albert Gray was absolutely correct even without knowing the science of it all!

What Motivates You? What Are You Committed To?

What Motivates You? What are You Committed to?

 When I ask that question I get a variety of replies such as, my family, doing the right thing and world peace. For the commitment part I hear answers such as prosperity, health, to give to others, gratitude.

This may be the illusion that people are operating under but let me restate that it is an illusion, a lie. If you want to know what someone is committed to all you have to do is look at what they have.

If a person is miserable then they are committed to misery. If a person is in a struggling relationship then they are committed to being in a struggling relationship.

If a person lives in clutter and chaos then that’s what they are committed to. All the rest is a lie!

I’m having this conversation with you without judgment. This is not good or bad, it just is. It’s all about genetic coding and pattern recognition. We are genetically coded to recognize what can hurt us and to avoid. We are coded to save time in our response by recognizing patterns and responding well before we are conscious of the threat.

Our five plus million year’s evolution has us coded for survival, not prosperity. Any trait that favors survival, thus the passing of our genes is copied and passed on.

Consider these numbers. It has been estimated that we have 100 billion brain cells, each capable of tens of thousands of interactions with other neurons. We are bombarded with 100 billion bits of information per second. Of this we pay attention to only 2000 bits of which seven can make it into our short term memory and we can take action on only one input at a time.

Humans have a very limited perceptual capacity. We can see only certain wavelengths of light whereas other species can see frequencies that are beyond our abilities. Same with sound, hearing and all of our senses. Since we have such a limited capacity evolution has taken our small bandwidth of perceptual ability and dedicated it to seeing danger. We are predisposed to be negative and see what can hurt us, not opportunities.

I can put what motivates all of us into one phrase;

All human performance is the avoidance of pain or the seeking of comfort.

This is what dictates what makes it into our bandwidth of awareness. We are coded to see danger. Our brain is designed to recognize the highest level of perceived pain and then compel us to avoid.

So what does this mean to you on a daily basis?

It means that you will have a difficult time having your actions match your intentions. I’ll assume that you have a business plan for next year. You have your goals, objectives, and activities that you need to accomplish to reach those goals.

Now you plan for the next seven days. Before you can take an action your brain searches like a computer for any link of those actions to pain. When you find the link to pain, and you will, your brain compels you to avoid and then you justify the avoidance with rationalization and you never know that you are doing this. You think that the truth is you were just too busy!

Do dogs love bones?

No, they love MEAT but they settle for bones. We are all avoidance machines. We avoid making prospecting calls, calling on potential high net worth house holds, developing strategic alliances with attorneys and other financial experts all in the name of being too busy.

The reality is that we are settling for mediocrity because of human nature’s limitations. Make not mistake about it, we are all driven to avoid pain and seek comfort.

You can not fight this human genetic coding. All you can do is surrender to it and use it to your advantage. Here’s how.

Identify one activity that you give your word that you will do by the end of the week. This should be an activity that you are capable of doing. It must be realistic. It should also be an activity that you most likely would resist tacking action on and would not do without some special treatment.

Now let’s leverage human nature. Since we know that our genetic coding is to recognize the highest level of perceived pain and avoid it, let’s leverage this by placing a higher pain on the activity.

For example, imagine that your commitment is to call a wealthy individual who is on the board of the city hospital foundation along with you. This person knows who you are, what you do yet is not a client.

Your brain searches this activity and links it to being very dangerous. That’s right; being rejected or embarrassed is viewed as dangerous. You are therefore compelled to avoid this dangerous activity and then you justify with rationalization.

This is the way that it should be unless there is an intervention.

Let’s change your approach. Send someone an email that you will call this person by the end of the week and if you don’t you will pay them $100. Send it to me; I’ll hold you accountable for $100! (

Now your brain acts in this manner. The outer cortex is the executive thinking area and it contemplates making the call to this person. Immediately there is a connection to the hypothalamus (memory of past experiences) where you search for any past experiences of prospecting and danger. You find an example of great rejection and there is a shot of excitement in the limbic area of the brain referred to as the limbic system or more specifically a structure called the amygdale. This is the emotional area of the brain and it creates this tremendous non-conscious command to avoid. This is called a cortical limbic loop.

After you place a $100 consequence on this action, you will have a different cortical limbic loop. You will still be avoiding the highest level of perceived pain but this time the avoidance will be the avoidance of the fine by taking the action and you make the call.

Guess what, it was easy. The prospect tells you he is glad that you called.

Try this. It is called Behavioral Contracting. It works almost 100% of the time. Avoid your way to the top. Remember, I’m only an email away.

How to Avoid Overeating at Thanksgiving-Left brain thoughts won’t work!

The average Thanksgiving meal equals 3,000 grams of fat and the average person takes in a daily total caloric intake of 4,500 calories.

You can search anything on the internet these days so I Googled “How to Avoid Overeating on Thanksgiving”. There were lots of articles, comments, stories and tips including the following;

1. Eat throughout the day prior to the main meal.
2. Exercise before the main meal.
3. Drink two or three glasses of water before the main meal.
4. Stick to single portions and leave food on your plate.
5. Don’t have seconds.

All of these suggestions seemed very reasonable. Except for one thing. They won’t work! Being reasonable is the lowest level of human consciousness!

The above 5 suggestions are not likely to have an impact on your emotional mind. I like to emphasize three areas of the brain. Here is an analogy.

Make a fist with both hands and put your knuckles together so the heels of your hands are touching. Roll your hands so you are looking at the top of your knuckles. This represents the outer cortex of the brain. This is the area that is responsible for rational thought, executive decision making and analytical thinking.

Open your hands and the fingers represent the deep area of the brain called the limbic system. This is the oldest area of the brain that is often referred to as the reptilian brain. It is the brain of our ancestors. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for emotional responses, fear, avoidance, disgust and arousal.

The wrists represent the brain stem, the autonomic nervous system, breathing and heart rate.

The above suggestions about overeating only appeal to the outer cortex, the thinking area of the brain. This also refers to the left brain, or the conscious analytical mind. The conscious brain agrees that it is a good idea to limit caloric intake.

Remember the fingers in the brain analogy, the limbic system? The limbic system is genetically coded for feast or famine. The limbic system begins a hormonal cascade that signals the area of the brain called the appestat to delay its signals to the fat cells to release the hormone leptin. When leptin is in the blood stream you feel satisfied and stop eating. However, this primitive food scarcity mechanism of delay enables you to binge so you can survive the famine and it still operates as if your life was in danger. You can not be logical or reasonable around your eating at Thanksgiving. You have to do battle on the appropriate battle ground. You’ve got to address the emotional limbic area of the brain.

Here is how you can win this game called overeating at Thanksgiving.

1. Get MAD!
2. Declare the commitment. (Cortex)
3. Add accountability through the use of a behavioral contract. (Cortical limbic loop)

Let’s take these one at a time. First, get MAD. Make A Decision! You’ve got to understand your “why”. Why bother eating sensibly at one of maybe two times a year where you can allow yourself to overeat.

You might decide that you can overeat on Thanksgiving and Christmas and then leave it at that. This would be a fine decision. Have as much as you want. You can get back on track next week. If this is your approach then you do not need to read this article. You are fine, no judgment, enjoy.

However, you might also think that Thanksgiving is not an excuse to get off of your plan and disrupt your healthy eating habits. If your decision is to stay within your plan then read on.

By the way, I congratulate you for either decision. It is a very weak position to be indecisive.

Step one: Make a decision.
Step two: Declare the commitment.

Specifically declare what you are committed to. Are you only going to have one plate, no seconds, whatever your decision is declare it specifically. Someone else needs to know exactly what you are committing to.

Next you will need to appeal to the emotional part of the brain, the limbic system. The limbic system is like a radar sensing environment. It is constantly monitoring the inputs coming in from the outer cortex and all of the senses for any threats to survival.

You have a lifetime of what are called cortical limbic loops where just the thinking of taking an action is linked by the hypothalamus to previous threatening and dangerous experiences of pain. This constant dance occurs on a subconscious level and is constantly showing up in your life as avoidance. Unfortunately there is also another step of rationalization where you justify the avoidance and never realize that you are doing so.

The brain is genetically coded to find and respond to the highest level of perceived pain, always, just like your life depended on it. That is because at one time during human evolution the ability to recognize pain and avoid it was necessary for survival.

After you have declared your commitment now you must engage the limbic system to compel you to abide by your commitment. The commitment is in the cortex now you must engage fear to drive you to avoid, but to avoid over eating. You do this in step three.

1. Get MAD!
2. Declare the commitment.
3. Add accountability through the use of a behavioral contract.

You must engage the avoidance power of the brain by having a high pain as a consequence for non performance. There must be a penalty if you don’t do what you said you would do. This penalty must be perceived as a higher pain than the pain of not allowing yourself to overeat. Your brain is designed to compel you to avoid the highest level of perceived pain. If you told another person that if you had seconds on Thanksgiving then you would pay them $100 I’ll bet that you would have only one serving on Thanksgiving!

This is a behavioral contract. Here are the dynamics;

Specific Declaration + Accountability = Elite Performance

Accountability has two parts. The first part is the check in. Someone outside of yourself checks in with you. Did you do what you said you would do?

The second part is the big one. There must be an enforceable consequence for non performance. This consequence must be the highest level of perceived pain. If it is then human nature will compel you to avoid overeating. It really is that simple.

Try it out and see what happens. Can’t find someone to hold you accountable? Use me. I’m only an email away, and $100 if you don’t do what you say you will do. ( I’ll bet you won’t find this recommendation anywhere else on the internet!

The Secret of Life Time Weight Control

The alarm rings at 3:50 am. You swing your hand over and press the snooze button without opening your eyes. Settling back into your warm and comfortable bed you notice how sweet it is to continue to sleep.

The alarm rings at 4:00 am and you repeat the process. This goes on until 5:30 am when you make the decision that this will be a non-workout day.

This is a worldwide problem. Why is that? I’m going to answer that question and give you a solution.

The problem is human nature. There exists an undeniable genetic code that translates into a compelling instinct:

All Human Performance is the Avoidance of Pain or the Seeking of Comfort.

This is the code of life. This is what motivates every human being. As a species we are very limited in our perceptual ability. We can see only certain frequencies of wavelengths of light, hear only a limited frequency distribution of sound, in fact, all of our senses have limitations. Since we have these limitations, evolution has genetically designed us to recognize the highest threats to our survival, the most potentially painful and dangerous experiences and to avoid them without thinking. This is called a cortical limbic loop.

We are predisposed to recognize our most dangerous and painful threats and then compelled to avoid them.

We don’t have an option here. This is an instinct that does not request our compliance, it compels it. We are avoidance machines!

We also have language. Humans are “meaning making machines”. We give meaning to everything that happens in our lives. It is rare that we accept things or events as just being. We are constantly flipping from the past to the future and having a dialogue about what we are experiencing.

Here’s how this works. You have a goal of weight loss. You intend to wake up at 3:50 am and exercise. You are motivated to do this. You’re committed. You set the alarm for 3:50 am and go to sleep with the greatest of intentions.

The alarm rings at 3:50 am. Your brain immediately goes through a search like a computer looking for any link to pain or any threat associated with the activity. Exercise is hard. You might be tired throughout the day unless you sleep in. It’s cold outside. You have found the links to pain.

Next, you are compelled to avoid. You can’t help it. The trigger has already occurred. Then language comes in and you have an internal dialogue that justifies your avoidance. You never consciously come into conflict. You rationalize and you don’t know that you’re doing it.

The purpose of rationalization is to protect you from feeling guilty for not doing what you said you would do. The method of rationalization is to justify your avoidance.

You start to think that you’re over training and an equally important part of physical fitness is rest. You pay attention to the pain you have in your back and you remember the last time you worked out through that type of pain your back went out and you lost several days of production. You count how many days you have already worked out this week and you justify that you can make it up tomorrow.

The solution lies in understanding how the brain works. This would involve an examination of the reticular activating system. The reticular formation as it is called is a bundle of densely packed nerve cells located in the central core of the brainstem. Roughly the size of a little finger, the reticular formation runs from the top of the spinal cord into the middle of the brain. This area of tightly packed nerve cells contains nearly 70% of the brain’s estimated 200 billion nerve cells-or a total of over 140 billion cells.

The reason for this tremendous concentration of brainpower is because the R.A.S. is your front line of defense and is an absolute protector of your survival. The R.A.S. instantly recognizes friend or foe and starts the necessary physiological and psychological response.

You already have a default program coding the R.A.S. That coding is the search and recognition of perceived danger and then the activation of what is referred to as the “survival mechanism” of avoidance and rationalization. This is an instinct, not an option. You will be compelled to avoid all that you perceive as painful, threatening or dangerous.

Reality is not an issue here. It doesn’t matter weather the threat is real or not. Your perception is your reality. Rejection from sales calls is not a real threat yet that perception keeps many sales people average as they avoid prospecting calls and then justify how busy they are. It’s the same process going on. Your brain does not differentiate between what is real or imagined. You are an avoidance machine, it’s an instinct.

There is good news. You can have an intervention. You can influence what the R.A.S. drives you to pay attention to. The solution lies in surrendering to avoidance. Surrender to the ways of human nature. Ride the horse the direction it is headed. The way that you do this is through Behavioral Contracting™.

Consider the following formula for excellence through a behavioral contract:

Specific Declarations + Accountability = Elite Performance

Specifically make a decision about what you want and why. Answer the question, “Why bother?” Next ask yourself, “What are the actions I need to take to reach this goal?” Follow that question with “What actions will I take over the next seven days?”

Now, you’re almost ready to influence the R.A.S. but there is another major part still missing. That would be accountability. Accountability has two parts. The first part is the check in, “Did you do what you said you would do?” This must come from another person outside of you.

The “check in” is not enough however. You must have the next part of accountability and this is the part that will influence what you pay attention to. The second part of accountability is an enforceable painful consequence for non-performance.

The consequence is the key. It must be more painful then the perceived pain embedded within the activity itself. For example, what is more painful, getting up early in the morning and exercising or paying $100.00 to another person if you don’t? As you’re lying in bed and the alarm rings at 3:50 am, your brain searches for the highest perceived level of pain. Instantly it notices your Seratonin level is high from sleeping throughout the night, it’s warm under the covers, exercise is hard, it would be so nice just to sleep in and roll over and hit the snooze button. However, the brain continues to search for the highest level of perceived pain and you make the association of how painful it would be to have to pay a fine of $100 for not getting up and you perceive that as the highest level of pain. Now, you are compelled to get up and do what you said you would do. You can’t help it. Human nature is making you avoid the highest level of pain. You are a perfect avoidance machine.

This is an undeniable intervention that will predispose you to find the opportunity to take the action that avoids the penalty. Use behavioral contracting and you will see immediate results. Apply this to one activity and watch yourself avoid your way to accomplishment. I’m only an e-mail away for accountability.

New Years Resolutions Don’t Work-Here’s how to make them stick for next year.

I love the phrase from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “what you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say!”

Almost half of American adults make one or more new years resolutions every year and fail. That’s probably the reason that the other half of the population doesn’t even bother.

If you keep reading I’ll show you why new years resolutions fail and I’ll give you a strategy to ensure that they stick!

The most common resolutions are about weight loss, exercise and smoking. I see this first hand in all of my speaking engagements. When I give the audience a chance to make commitments almost always the commitments that they make are for their health.

I can remember speaking at an elite top producer’s insurance conference. These were the top of the field for insurance sales. They had an opportunity to share commitments for actions that they needed to take to reach their goals. So I’m expecting to hear about putting on seminars, prospecting for strategic alliances, or meeting for financial reviews with their high net worth clients.

Instead what do I hear?

“I’m committed to losing weight.”

Now I have an opportunity to coach this person in front of the entire room. So I say, “What does that mean?” This allows me to introduce a concept that will dramatically impact your final outcome, “be specific”. I then teach the audience the concept of “precision probing”.

A big reason that commitments don’t turn into long-term habits and actions is because the commitment is not specific enough. The precision probing model will solve this. It’s simple, who, what, when, where and then add the word specifically.

So back to “I’m committed to losing weight?” I ask myself, what don’t I know about this statement and I ask the client in the format of blank specifically.

“How much specifically?”

The client says “I want to lose forty pounds”.

This is still a vague statement so I ask “by when specifically?” The client gives me an answer, let’s say by the end of the year.

This brings up another problem with new years resolutions. “It’s the starting that stops most people”. The end of the year is too far out. It’s got to be very short term and a small step. So I ask, “What does this mean for this week?”

The client replies that they would like to lose one pound. This seems reasonable so I ask “how are you going to do this?”

The client responds with another vague response, “I’ll eat less and exercise more.”

I say, what the heck does that mean? Any time you hear the words less or more, qualifiers, challenge them with the precision probing model of blank specifically. So I focus on one thing, exercise. “What specifically will you do for exercise this week?”

The client says, “I’ll work out five times this week.”

Now as a coach I could go several directions on this one. What don’t I know? What does the client mean by work out? Again, not being specific. However, to save time I go a different route. I check for reality. “How many times did you exercise last week?”

The most common response I get back is 0. “How about the week before that?” Again, another 0, and before that 0 etc.

This is a third major reason that new years resolutions fall flat on their faces, unrealistic commitments. I explain to the group that you can’t commit to workout five times when your history is 0 followed by 0 followed by 0! Then I ask “would it be good if you worked out four times this week?” Most of the time the client says “Yes!” Then I ask if working out three times would be good and again I hear yes!

This client is making an unrealistic commitment and has just about a zero chance of succeeding. You can almost guarantee that there will be circumstances, obstacles, unscheduled priorities, interruptions, that all get in the way preventing this person from doing what they said they would do.


Yes there is hope. So, let’s say that the client agrees to a minimum level commitment of working out two days this week. They’d like to work out four times but are only committing to and being held accountable to two. They can go ahead and reset their baseline by working out four or five times and then commit higher next week but they only have the behavioral credibility to commit to the lower level of two times.

Now this brings up another key component for successful new years resolutions, take small, realistic steps.

However, this too is doomed for failure unless……….

There needs to be an intervention to compensate for human nature. We are all genetically coded to avoid the highest level of perceived pain and seek comfort. We are genetically coded to see threats, to be negative. We are not coded to look in a meadow and appreciate the beauty. We are coded instead to look in a meadow and see the lion that is barely visible. We are coded for survival. We are coded to be fat, not thin because of the scarcity of food for caveman we are coded to binge, to eat well beyond our nutritional needs and to store the excess as fat.

Human evolution does this by delaying the appestat area of the brain from signaling the fat cells that we have had enough caloric intake and therefore suppress hunger. This delay favors survival enabling caveman to eat more because he may not have a protein source like this captured deer for another week.

This is not appropriate for us today but we still have the primate instinct. In fact, all of our evolutionary instincts are to recognize what can hurt us and to compel avoidance. This is not based on the truth, it’s simply based on this no long appropriate human survival instinct.

For example, the flight or fight mechanism will save your life if you see a bear. Your breathing will increase, you will get a shot of adrenalin, cortisol, your blood circulation rises, blood leaves the extremities for the major muscle groups so if you’re clawed you won’t bleed to death. Digestion stops, endorphins are released so you won’t feel pain. You are instinctively put into a state where you can run as fast as possible or stay and fight as strong as possible.

This automatic response even occurs precognitive. In other words, before you are even aware that you are looking at a dangerous and hungry bear you are already running away. This instinct favors survival so you live to pass it on.

However, the problem is that these protective instincts occur regardless of the truth and validity of the threat. For example, you are driving and someone cuts you off in traffic. You get the exact fight or flight response physiologically but it’s not a true threat. You are sitting in your car. Your life is not being threatened but you respond as if it was.

The key is to recognize what the real competitor is to your reaching your goals, human nature. You are genetically coded to recognize the highest level of pain and avoid it for comfort. You are an avoidance machine!

Once you recognize this you can work with it and stop fighting it. Here’s what this means for your commitment to exercise two times this week.

You make the commitment, exercise two times. (And you’re specific about what exercise means.)

So this meeting the first issue, it is specific. You also meet the second consideration, it’s a short term commitment, the next seven days, and it is a small step with specific actions.

You also pass the third test, it’s realistic.

So why won’t you do it consistently?

Because this is only half of a commitment. You haven’t acknowledged the failure reason number four, recognizing the true competition, human nature and having an intervention.

Human nature states that all human performance is the avoidance of pain or the seeking of comfort. Your brain is designed to search like a computer to find any links of your commitment to pain, and it will find it. Here are a few;

1. Exercise hurts.
2. You’re tired.
3. You have aches and pains.
4. You don’t have enough time.
5. It’s inconvenient.

Your brain instantly links your commitment to exercise to life threatening pain. This triggers the survival mechanism and you are compelled to avoid. This then impacts your perceptions. You don’t see opportunities to exercise, instead you focus how you have been genetically coded to focus on the perceived threat and you avoid it. The brain doesn’t say that you’re not really tired, it just holds it as if it is a life threatening event and compels you to avoid. When you avoid you will then justify the avoidance with rationalization and never think that you’re avoiding. Unless…..

You implement an intervention.

One more example before the intervention.

I was sitting in a real estate office many years ago and this is what I saw. A new lender walks into the office carrying her rate sheets. She was trained to go into real estate offices and meet with the realtors who can give her their buyers. She was trained on how to approach them, what to say, and what to point out on the rate sheets, etc. She was trained on everything except on how to handle what came next.

The owner of the company saw her walk into the office. He came storming out of his office grabbed her business card, tore it up and threw it at her shouting this is how much I want to see you in my office, now get out! This poor woman left the office in tears.

Here is what happened mentally and physiologically for this lender. The activity of prospecting was linked to pain. The area of the brain that fires upon real physical pain, the anterior cingulate, also fires upon mental pain, in this case the tremendous rejection. Next the hypothalamus forms a memory and releases stress hormone between the outer cortex, the executive thinking part of the brain, the intentions area, and the amygdale, a part of the arousal, fear based limbic system buried deep in the brain. A cortical limbic loop is created and strengthens with the stress hormones. Now the next time this woman even thinks about calling on a real estate office this memory will be triggered and it will lead to the same physiological state that the woman was in when this first happened. This is called learned helplessness. This lender will not prospect again but will rationalize and justify why she is just too busy to call on this office.


Here it is, the intervention. It’s called behavioral contracting. Behavioral contracting is making a specific declaration (exercise two times, or call on this real estate office) plus accountability. Accountability has two parts. The first part is the check in. Someone outside of yourself checks in with you and verifies that you did what you said you would do. The second part is the consequence for non performance.

There must be a painful consequence if you don’t do what you said you would do. This consequence must be more painful than the pain of the activity. Now you are tapping into human natures’ genetic coding of avoiding the highest level of perceived pain for the comfort. If the highest level of pain is the consequence then you will be compelled to avoid. How do you avoid, by doing the activity you said you would do.

Try it yourself. If this realtor would put $1000 as a fine if she didn’t go into that office this week I promise you that the pain of losing the $1000 would far outweigh the perceived pain of the activity of going into the office. The bottom line, she will still be an avoidance machine, but she will be avoiding the penalty by doing the action.

Here is a summary of what stops new years resolutions from working. No, let me turn it around. Here is a summary of what ensures new years resolutions are kept:

1. Goals are specific.
2. Short term focus with small steps and specific activities.
3. Commitments are realistic and based on previously established behavior.
4. You recognize the true competitor, human nature and you have an intervention.
5. You use behavioral contracting-specific declaration plus accountability. Accountability equals the check in with an enforceable consequence (painful) for non performance.

Try this with just one new years resolution for one week at a time and you will be very happy with the result. Send me an email and I’ll hold you accountable, and $100 if you don’t perform.

Bob Davies Presentation to Million Dollar Round Table, 2011 on Performance Excellence

NOTE: My power point slides did not copy to this post. Please send an email to and I’ll send them to you. Three hour presentation.

Good morning. Good you’re excited, let’s begin.

Before I begin I have a few nuts and bolts to go over. I’ve got a bit less than three hours to be with you today. I know your industry very well. First, I’m a fan of the industry and a client. I also coach some of the top producers in the industry as well as a top asset protection and estate planning attorney so I get to see your industry from their perspective as well.

Even though I know the industry very well, I don’t know your individual set of circumstances. Despite that, what do you think the chances are that over the next two hours and 48 minutes that what you’re about to hear about behavioral will have a significant impact in your lives. What do you think the chances are, high or low?

…[audience shouts high]

Let me hear it again…

[audience shouts even louder…high]

Actually it’s very low. It’s very low that this program will go beyond entertainment into impact. Then you might be asking, “why bother?”

The “why bother” is because it’s possible. It is possible that what you’re going to experience in the next 2 hours and 46 minutes can stick, can help you to influence what you pay attention to, to influence your habits. Is it likely, NO. Is it possible? YES and that’s what we’re going for, that possibility.

With that in mind I have simplified. There is only one take away. This is a behavioral dynamic that you didn’t have when you walked into the room that you will have when you leave. It is this one dynamic that has a chance to be significant.

I’ll ask you to put blinders on and imagine that I’m talking just to you. Imagine that this program is designed just for you. That’s right, I’m your personal one on one coach for the next 2 plus hours.

I also want to make a suggestion to your listening to the program. Please listen without judgment. Here’s an example. If I were to say to you that there is a very high correlation between being a decamillionaire and being in a health and fitness program, two thirds of the decamillionaires exercised regularly,[1] and you are not in an exercise program, then to listen with judgment would be to say that you should be in an exercise program.

To listen without judgment would simply to observe that you are not doing something that highly successful people do, period. So no judgment.

Ok, let’s begin. I want to start off by telling you about my first flight in the clouds without an instructor. I was flying from John Wayne airport to a charity organization called Angel Flight in Santa Monica. I was bringing my marketing director. It was forecast to be a 1000 foot ceiling. What this means is that at 1000 feet 100% of the sky is covered with clouds. I was going to be in the clouds.

When I got to the airport it was cloudy. I did everything I needed to do to and then received clearance to hold short of the active runway. Finally the tower called my aircraft. I was hoping they were going to say we’re too busy for small aircraft on this cloudy day and to turn around and go back. They didn’t say that. They said, “cleared for takeoff!”

I rolled down the center line, reached lift off speed and up in the air I went. The higher I got the more clouds, 500 feet 800 feet finally 1000 feet and it was like someone put a blanket over my face at 1000 feet. Here’s what it looked like at 1000 feet.

Let’s take a closer look and here’s what I saw:

The problem with this is that when there is no visual reference you can’t tell what the aircraft is doing. That’s because we have very poor perceptual abilities. Let me show you how easy it is to deceive human perception.

Are these lines parallel or do they slope?                                                        It looks like they are slanting up and down but if you place a                                              ruler under each line you will see that they are absolutely                                         straight lines. You can’t trust human perception. Our

perceptions are limited. In reference to the black and white squares you can’t trust your beliefs. Here’s another;

Which line is longest? Again, it looks like to bottom line is                                       longer but if you take your ruler you’ll see that they are                                            exactly the same.

The human senses are limited and you don’t see the true picture until you change what you are in reference to. That is what this one behavioral dynamic that I mentioned to you will do. It will change your reference point.

I remember how nervous I was. I also remember saying to myself that I’ve been in this situation before with an instructor and that I’ve always flown the plane myself. Imagine that my passenger was a flight instructor. What kind of conversation would I be having? My flight instructor would be saying, stay on your system of instruments.

This is what will save my life:


I’ll talk about this one circled piece of equipment called the attitude indicator. Just by looking at this one instrument I can tell what the airplane is doing. If I see the miniature airplane in the blue and tilted to the right then I know I am in a climbing left turn. There is no other way that I can know that other than by staying on my system and following the instruments.

There is a reason that I mention this to you. Today I am giving you a system that if you follow it you will have predicable results just like myself as a pilot. I can’t be in reference to the clouds so I change my reference to my instruments. That’s what we are doing today-changing your behavioral reference to a system. This is a system of elite performance. This system will result in three words;

Peace of Mind.

What goes into having peace of mind? There are three parts of your life that must be fulfilled to have peace of mind. They are

  1. health
  2. business
  3. personal


If just one of those areas is not fulfilled you will not have peace of mind. So, let me ask you a question. How many of you are at least interested in improving your results in one of those areas? [audience raises their hands]

Who would you say your biggest competitor is to reaching your goals?


Is it the economy, the interest rate, the eroding forces on money, is tax issues, pending legislation, regulatory and compliance issues, your clients other advisors, the weather?

No, you are your biggest competitor. This program has two parts. The first part is to identify what does it mean to be my own biggest competitor and the second part is an intervention, a method of competing.

Let’s take a look at human nature. Here is the first aspect of human nature to examine.

The way that you THINK  effects how you FEEL and that effects what you DO.

You and I are going to resist activities that we don’t feel like doing. For example, if you don’t feel like getting up at 3:50 am and going to the gym you’re not going to do it. If you don’t feel like staying on a diet you’re not going to do it. If you don’t feel like reading or getting gas in your car you’re not going to do it.

If you don’t feel like…..


Basically my first point says that you and I are going to resist doing activities that we don’t feel like doing.

Many times there are trainers in the room. Trainers ome up to me all the time and tell me that they agree with my first point. I ask them what do they use to enhance the results of their training. The most common response I get back is goal setting.

Goal setting doesn’t work! Goal setting is going to be a part of my recommendations but not by itself. If all you did is set goals here is what you would find;


The top line has your goals, your intentions. This is what you want to accomplish, your business plan. There is another word that goes on that line and that word is “potential”. Your potential is not relevant. The only thing that matters is what you actually do-the bottom line!

I want to examine why this happens. You have goals, and you have activities that you want to accomplish. Your goals might include first year commissions, AUM, new house holds, new assets under management, referrals, product goals, qualification goals, carrier trips, MDRT, Top of the Table, etc.

You have activities that you intend to accomplish and implement. For example,


You say you are going to prospect, you intend to prospect but you just get too BUSY!

You are all set to prospect and then something happens;


You intend to market, to prospect, to set appointments to see clients and you were just Too Busy!

I know is so easy to believe that the truth is that you were just too busy. However, remember my point that you can’t trust human perception. Let me show you another example.

[magic trick-thumb tip for a brief video go to and click on 7 minute video]

I know that it looked like my hands were empty but as you now know they were not. It’s the same thing here. You can’t trust you own interpretation of your circumstances and your observations that you are just too busy. You will have to change your reference.

Since perception is the key, let’s see how perceptions are formed. What is this line, concave or convex?


It depends on which side you’re standing. If you’re on the A side this is a concave line. If you are on the b side it’s convex. What’s the truth? The truth is not relevant. The only thing that matters is “does what you’re paying attention to support you in taking the actions that you said you would take?”

I’m going to give you a technique that is so powerful that if all you took away from this presentation is this technique it would be worth your time and money to attend. It’s called the “STOP” technique. Here is what it means. When you thinking is not supporting you simply say STOP and Flip to an opposite point of view. Here is an example.

I say that health is my number one value. I intend to get up at 3:50 am to exercise. I set the alarm. Do I get up at 3:50 am? It depends on which side I’m on. I might be on the a side and say “I’m tired. I’ve worked out 18 of the last 21 days. I need to sleep in”. That might be absolutely true. However, the truth doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is does my thinking support my taking the actions? So when you catch yourself thinking negatively, stop, and flip to an opposite point of view.

Here is the problem. You won’t do this. It takes too much energy to do so. Our brain is designed to conserve energy. Consider the following; what do you see[2]:

In the first photo you probably see a dog. In the second a triangle. This is left over from evolutionary days. It favors survival to be able to see a pattern and recognize what it is and begin a response long before you have consciously figured out what it really is. This saves energy and favors survival.

Consider this problem:

The most common response that I get is C, can not be determined. Audiences want to know if Jodi is married or not. It doesn’t matter. The answer is Yes. This is an example of cognitive miser. It takes a lot of energy for the outer cortex, the area just above the bridge of the nose and between the ears, to work through this problem, so as soon as it thinks it has a solution, in this case, you need to know if Jodi is married, then it stops paying attention to the problem to save energy.

It takes too much energy to use the stop technique. However, good news, the one behavioral dynamic that I have for you will do the same thing as the stop technique, but automatically and using less energy.

I have a masters degree in psychology[3]. What this means is that I’ve spent a lot of time teaching rats to press down levers to get food.

I want to take you into the laboratory and look at a simple scientific experiment that will help me to explain why this one behavioral dynamic that I have for you will work so powerfully. Here is what we have[4].


We have a wooden behavioral box and we place a rat in the center. We open the gates and the rat sees the food to the right and runs to the right. Here’s the next thing that we do. We place a metal grid on the floor and put a shock on the metal grid. This is what the metal grid looks like and this is what the rat looks like. We also place a device on the skull of the rat so we can see in real time how its’ brain is firing when it gets shocked.

We open the gates this time and the rat doesn’t know that there is a shock on the metal grid so it doesn’t pay attention to it. Instead its attention is on the goal, the food. It starts up to reach its goal and gets a tremendous shock. Instinctively it runs over to the other side with the comfortable rags. There is a built in instinct in the nervous systems of all of life called the survival mechanism. This is the part of the brain that is wired to recognize danger and to create the avoidance of the pain for the comfort.

We also are able to see the actual brain scan of when the rat is shocked and how it gets electrical activity in the cortex and the limbic area when it avoids. This is called a cortical limbic loop.

The last thing that we do is remove the shock from the metal grid but leave the grid. We put the rat back, open the gates and what does it do? Here is the question;

W T F ?

That’s right, what’s the focus. The rat focuses on the obstacle, the previous shock and not on the opportunity, the food. We also see the exact same brain scan in anticipation of the shock even though the rat is never actually shocked.

The rat will die of starvation but will not go over the metal grid again. This is called learned helplessness. Where is the pain in sales? It’s the rejection. Why is it so difficult for people to lose weight? Because the activities that they need to do are linked to pain.

When you have an activity that you want to do linked to pain the survival mechanism kicks in and compels you to avoid what is viewed as life threatening pain.

You and I also have built in instincts that compel avoidance and are no longer appropriate. I call this evolutionary debris. Here is an example. Imagine you are out taking a hike in the woods and you see a bear. Immediately your heart rate increases, breathing increases, your blood will leave the extremities and go to your major muscle groups, digestion stops, adrenalin, cortisol are released, you get a shot of endorphins. You get this physiological cocktail where you are ready to fight as strong as you can or run away as fast as you possibly can. This is called the “flight or fight” response. It is absolutely proper for this to occur in the face of danger. But here’s the problem. It doesn’t only occur when your life is really in danger, it occurs anytime there is a perceived threat real or not.

Imagine your driving your car and someone else cuts you off and gives you an obscene gesture. Your heart rate increases, breathing increases, your blood will leave the extremities and go to your major muscle groups, digestion stops, adrenalin, cortisol are released, you get a shot of endorphins but you are sitting in your car. This is not a real threat but you respond as if it was.

Another example of an inappropriate instinctual response is the appestat area of the brain. This is the part of the brain that signals the fat cells to release a hormone called leptin. When leptin is in the body you feel satisfied and stop eating. However, because of evolutionary needs it favored survival to delay the onset of leptin allowing you to eat more because you never know when your next meal is going to happen. However today this is not appropriate because we don’t have feast or famine and there is no evolutionary advantage to delay the release of feeling full.

Let me give you some notes about the survival mechanism. The survival mechanism overrides my desire to _______(reach my goals by taking action) and compels me to _________ (avoid).

However, we don’t notice that we are avoiding the actions that we need to be taking to be successful. Evolution strikes again. Let me ask you three confrontive questions;

  1. how many of you would agree that you know what to do that if you did it in your current set of circumstances that you would be more successful then you currently are?
  2. how many of you would agree that not only do you know what to do but you also are capable of doing it?
  3. how many of you would agree that not only do you know what to do, are capable of doing it but also that you are not doing everything that you could possibly be doing to be as successful as you could possibly be?


I appreciate your honesty. I can just feel the love in the room. However, it’s not likely that you are walking around in your lives feeling inadequate about your performances. If you were feeling inadequate how would your self image be, high or low?

That’s right, low. And what mood would you be in with a low self image? (audiences says depressed) Scientists have studied people who have been depressed and they find that there is a decrease in the white blood cell counts. What would happen to you if there is a decrease in your white blood cell count? (audience-get sick)

Our brain is designed for survival, not for prosperity. When you and I are avoiding uncomfortable activities we don’t see our avoidance. As humans we have very limited perception. Don’t worry about these numbers but we are bombarded by 100 million bits of information per second. To put it in perspective we have over 100 billion brain cells each capable of trillions of  interactions. There are over 30,000 brain cells on the head of a pin. However, as humans we have very limited perception. We can’t smell ordors that dogs can. We can’t see images that are visiable to other species. This chart shows how much light is actually visible to humans, the narrow band in the center.


We can’t see on the subatomic scale. Einstein would say that this wall is not solid. He would say that there is more space then there is matter but that it is vibrating at such a frequency that is so fast that with our limited human perception we see it as a solid.


The closest example I can give you is that of an airplane propeller that spins so fast it looks like a solid plane.

Let me illustrate how limited human perception really is. Have you ever put a pen or pencil in your mouth? Watch what reveals itself beyond the realm of human limits of perception when you increase the magnification of the head of a pin;


As you can see there is quite a world beyond human perception. Since our perception is so limited, evolution has taken this small bandwidth of perceptual ability and defaulted it to a very specific role, that of seeing through the clutter whatever threatens our survival. We are genetically wired to be negative and not to see opportunity, but to see our threats and what can hurt us.

How do you think you are at paying attention? Do you think you can take your limited bandwidth of perceptual ability and focus it? Let’s test it. I’m going to show you a 30 second video. I want you to count how many passes the white shirt team makes[5]. Here we go;

The answer is 15 but that’s not what’s important. How many                                               of you saw the gorilla walk into the center, beat its chest and                                               then walk off?

How many of you are saying, “what gorilla?” I’m glad that some of you did actually see the gorilla because you can verify that I’m playing the same video. Now let’s watch it again but this time don’t count any passes, just watch the video.

[those who didn’t see the gorilla will see it this time]

I’ll let you make your own application of what that means. To me it just shows that we get so bogged down by our daily priorities, interruptions, circumstances that we just don’t see the opportunities that are right in front of us.

When you and I are avoiding uncomfortable activities we are not going that take our narrow bandwidth of perception and see opportunities to take these actions that we hold as “painful”, instead we go into what’s called selective perception. We are going to see our circumstances, our obstacles, our priorities, our interruptions, our stories, our excuses and there’s a word for this process, would you write the word in the blank of # 2, the word is RATIONALIZATION.


Rationalization is what you mean when you say I am my biggest competitor. Rationalization is internal dialogue. How many of you have internal dialogue. I want to give you a metaphor about this internal self talk. Remember the movie Alien, the astronaut is on the spaceship and looks up and the alien creature grabs him by the face and pulls him in and kills him. That is my metaphor for rationalization (hand on face). This is fear based internal dialogue and it almost always ends in the phrase “you’re going to die”.

Here’s an example. I say I’m going to wake up at 3:50 am and go to the gym. I intend to do this, I set the alarm. The alarm rings at 3:50. The alien is asleep on the couch in my bedroom. It wakes up, looks at the clock, freaks out and jumps on my face and starts this conversation, “are you crazy, do you know what time it is, you can’t keep pushing yourself like this you’re going to depress your immune system, your going to die! Stay in bed, stay in bed.

We all have this internal dialogue. I want you to experience the limiting aspect of human natures fear based internal dialogue. All I need to do to have you experience this is to put you in a circumstance where you will associate an action with pain, or being uncomfortable, or embarrassing. Are you willing to compete?

Here is what I’m going to ask you to do. When I say “ready set go” I want you to scream as loud as you possibly can these four words, “fear is a lie”. Scream as loud as you can like your life depends on it.

How many of you are already thinking “I’m not going to do it!”

How many of you are thinking “I’ll do it loud enough that he doesn’t bother me but I’m not going to scream as loud as I can”

Go ahead and take your right hand and put it right on your face. That’s the alien. When I say pull it off take if off. It will make a popping sound and try to get right back on but keep it off. Ok, pull it off now! Feel it trying to get right back on? You might want to name it when you get home. Ok the words are fear is a lie and the cue is ready set go. Now before we do this, who is in control of the choices you make?

You think you are in control? What do you really control? The temperature in your car, the volume on the radio, whos’ in control.

What comes after this: “Who let the dogs out!” [audience woofs five times]

How do you know that? Why do you know that? Did you practice drill and rehearse to learn that? You learned this because you were exposed to it. Your permission and awareness were not necessary for you to know this, simply being exposed to it was all that was necessary. What are you exposed to on a daily basis? Negativity, complaining clients, uncertain market conditions, scandals from trusted leaders.

Ok here we go, ready set go! [audience shouts fear is a lie]

100% of the room held back. Why is that? Because the activity of shouting as loud as you can was linked to being embarrassed, or uncomfortable or bringing undue attention onto yourself and your brain linked that to a threat and compelled you to avoid by holding back.

Here is a tough love question for you. Where else in your life are you holding back? What price are you paying? The hold back is based on fear.

I’m going to play this song. It’s public property on the internet. The alien thinks that it must survive and if you pull it off it’s got to get right back on your face to protect you.

Here it is, the Alien Song[6].


Here are some notes for you. The purpose of rationalization is to _________ [protect me] it protects me from feeling guilty about not doing what I said I would do. How does it work? Rationalization is a ________________[justification of avoidance].

What I’m about to put on the screen is the answer to what controls you. This is so powerful it is considered to be a universal law.

This is what motivates all people.

The best way to describe this is to talk about my own personal circumstance. I have adhd and bulimia. The way that I control my adhd is with structure and routine. I wake up at 3:50 am and go to the gym. I have my stair master machine that I work out on and if someone is on my machine that upsets me. I have my locker that I use and the lane that I swim in and the area in the hot tub that I use. When I go to breakfast  I say it’s either going to be a great day or an ok day. What’s the criteria, if someone is sitting in my booth the best it can be is an ok day!


When I’m on the road I lose my routine. I was having a problem with the mini bar at the hotel. I’m going to tell this story as if it just happened but it happened about 27 years ago. I was traveling cross country from California to the east coast. I was starving. All I had to eat is what they serve you on the airplane. Can we talk about this? They gave me a bagel this big! They gave me a box of raisins this big. I thought that people would think that I was exaggerating so I kept them and took a picture.


I was starving. When I walked into the hotel room my brain did what it was genetically coded to do, ensure that I recognized the highest level of perceived pain and avoided it for the comfort. Remember, all human performance is the avoidance of pain or the seeking of comfort.

When I walked into the room my mind perceived the pain of the hunger. What makes it into my limited perceptual bandwidth, the solution to my hunger which was the mini bar. I walked over to the mini bar and the first thing I saw was a bag of M & M’s. There was so much love in that bag then I saw some candy bars and some cookies, and potato chips, nuts and I ate everything and I mean everything in the mini bar, then I had a diet Coke!


Then I realized that I just had an episode of bulimia. I thought I had overcome bulimia but I just binged over 5,000 calories. It was at this point in my life that something significant happened to me over 27 years ago. It was the way that I responded to this binge. It was the first time that I didn’t go victim and blame everyone else for my problems. I said it’s me. My whole life is avoiding pain and seeking comfort. I wasn’t successful in my health, my business or my personal life. I surrendered.

On my next trip something happened. I told 5 people that if I go into the mini bar on this trip I will give them each $250.00. Add it up that’s $1,200.00 if I go into the mini bar. I fly cross country. I am starving. What does my narrow bandwidth of perceptual ability lock onto, my hunger! What makes it into my awareness, the mini bar!

As I walk over to the mini bar something else happens. My brain continues to do what it has been wired to do for over 5 million years, make sure that I am noticing and avoiding the highest level of perceived pain. When I get to the mini bar my brain pays attention to the $1250 and I step away and it was easy!

I went from believing that the truth was that I just couldn’t control my weight to having it be a non issue. Here is a coaching commandment for you. Where in your life do you need to let go, to surrender? Here’s another one, what lies are you buying into?

I had a specific declaration, not going into the mini bar, plus accountability the fine of $1250 and that is a dynamic called behavioral contracting. That is the one take away that has a chance to take this from entertainment to impact.

Let’s look at this elite performance formula;


The take away is to use behavioral contracting. This means to make a specific declaration of an activity that you give your word you will do and then to pair it with a consequence for non performance. This taps into the human genetic wiring of avoiding pain and seeking comfort. Human nature will compel you to avoid the highest level of perceived pain which is the consequence. How do you avoid it? By doing what you said you would do!

Here is the application. You’re hearing this on Wednesday, June 8th. Let’s keep to a seven day time period which is from the moment you wake up on Monday until the time you go to sleep on Sunday. Since you’re here on Wednesday, this leaves 5 days for you to make a commitment and to execute it or honor the consequence. As long as the pain of the penalty is greater than the pain of the activity you will take the action of avoiding the highest level of perceived pain which will be the consequence for nonperformance.

This brings us up to our break (90 min.) the second part of the program I will give you some communication skills that will give you a near expert level as a coach. I will teach you how to bring this back to your organization for your teams and also for you. We will partner up and implement behavioral contracting plus the two new skills that you will learn after the break. Let’s take a short ten minute break.

Program II Implementation


Welcome back.

The first thing I want to do is to give you some communication skills that can dramatically improve your ability to have an influence on your own behavior and others.

It’s a simple communication skill called Precision Probing. It’s easy because you already know it. You already know who, what , when , where, forget the why and just add the word SPECIFICALLY.  This has an amazing impact in helping a person to get clarity around what they want and what they need to do to have what they want. When you are in a conversation with someone and they say for example that they are going to exercise. You don’t know what you’re holding them accountable to until you clarify, how much

specifically, when specifically, where, etc.

You can use your hand as a metaphor. In the palm of the hand are two very powerful pattern interruptions. When someone says “I can’t do something” interrupt with “what would happen if you could” or “what prevents you from doing this?” Just remember to ask blank specifically and use who, what, when, where.

The next skill is a communication coaching skill that I teach coaches to use with their clients. It puts the responsibility right where it should be with the client. You will need to fight through your tendency to solve the other person’s problems and let them come up with their own solutions. I’m going to give you three coaching phrases that will make a significant difference in your conversation with them. Here they are.


  1. Tell me more.
  2. What are your options?
  3. What will you do?


That’s it. Take the third one and put it into a behavioral contract with a specific commitment and consequence for non performance.

I would like to get into groups of 3, A B and C. Go ahead and arrange yourselves. Next I’d like for you to rate yourself in terms of your current results in your health, business and personal lives. Go ahead and just put a number on each line.


Now here is the coaching rotation. We will go for 5 minutes with A being the coach, B is the client, and C is the observer. Just follow what you see on the screen;


Ok, your objective is to have at least one behavioral contract. One activity that you will be held accountable to accomplish with a consequence if you don’t. You will have 5 minutes. I will tell you when you have two minutes left.

Let’s begin now. [stop at two minutes left and introduce two new concepts, why the stick versus the carrot and what stops behavioral contracting.


We are motivated to keep what we already have rather than to get something else. A dollar lost in the stock market will hurt more than that pleasure of a dollar gained. This is why the penalty will drive performance rather than the promise of a reward or the carrot.

There are three stops to behavioral contracting. The first one is that the person is satisfied. They are not motivated to improve. The second is that they are unrealistic with their commitments and the third is the non enforcement of the consequences.

Ok you’ve got two minutes left in this rotation. Let’s get this person’s behavioral contract in place with the consequence for non performance and how it’s going to be enforced.

[time 2 minutes]

Speaker goes at random from group to group asking who was the client, who was the coach, what are you being held accountable to do and what is the consequence for non performance and how will it be enforced. Discussion about the criteria for making commitments, realistic, specific, discussion of the consequences for about ten minutes then the beginning of the second rotation, repeat for three rotations.

Ok now let change the rotation ….

Now for some last comments. There was a study completed of the genetic coding of a chimpanzee and a human being. It was found that there was only a 1.2% difference or a 98.8% identical similarity between the dna of a chimp and a human. However of course there is a significant difference in the final outcome. 211 degrees is hot but one more degree boils water.

An average baseball player hits 250 which is 3 hits every 12 times at bat and makes about a million dollars. The superstar hits 333 which is only one more hit every 12 times at bat and makes about 24 million. The super star is a little bit better.

That’s my message to you, be a little bit better. Do one thing this week that you ordinarily would not have done. Then one more thing next week and so on. It’s the law of accumulative effect that will have something significant occur. I love this sign;


[read slide to audience]

Every month I host a free telephone conference coaching call and you are invited. The next call is Tuesday, June 14th. It is my way to give back to audiences who want to stay connected. The number is on the top of this slide.

Let me know how else I can be of service to you.

Remember to contact your partner at the end of the week regarding their commitment.

Bob Davies

[1] Dr. Stanley, “The Millionaire Mind”, pg. 51

[2] Optical Illusions, Gyles Brandreth, Michael DiSpezio, page 94

[3] M.Ed. Psychology, Springfield College, Springfield Ma. USA

[4] Psychology, 4th Edition, Robert Silverman page 129 photo of rat on grid.

[5] Daniel Simons, Christopher Chabris, 1999, as seen on

[6] Victor Navone, 1999 as seen on