The big secret under your nose
You’re smart. You’re educated. You work hard. You have initiative. You have good ideas. You take risks.
Yet you cannot break out of being average.
You are stuck in an average job. You have great business ideas. But you never finalize any of them into something successful. So you remain in a job with ok money and some validation, but that is soul crushing.
You want to be strong and fit. You work out. You eat what people say is healthy. But you feel tired, weak and overweight.
You want extraordinary experiences. But you always wind up doing activities and visiting places that are trendy, but not really that special.
You want to learn and grow. You want to explore diverse hobbies and passions. But you spend your time binge watching Netflix, doom-scrolling social media and eating out with the same people over and over.
You have great aspirations about how your life should be, but the reality never lives up to them.
Why can you not succeed?
Because you don’t understand yourself or other people.
You read self-help, psychology and business books. You make an effort to understand what drives people and yourself. You know it’s essential to success.
Yet it does not work.
Because nobody revealed to you what is the big lie we all believe that makes us misunderstand ourselves.
I will tell you what is the lie. And the secret truth that the big lie hides.
You won’t want to accept it.
It took me years and years to believe it. And I still struggle to accept it at a deep level.
We are biologically programmed to believe this lie. That’s why it’s such an advantage to discover the truth behind it.
What is the big lie already?
The big lie: Humans control our own behaviour.
The truth: We don’t.
We have unconscious programming that determines our behaviour.
I call this programming the PaleoRobot because it’s a collection of algorithms evolved to maximize our chances of survival and reproduction in the Paleolithic. This ‘robot’ decides your behaviour, not your conscious intentions.
This is why for example we decide to stop eating sweets and then eat a piece of cake two days later. The PaleoRobot always wants sugar because it was a valuable and scarce resource until two hundred years ago.
It’s why you doom scroll Instagram, why you binge watch instead of learning, why you fear talking to that girl you like, why you remain in a job you hate, why you are always distracted, why you never commit to that startup you talk about, why you harm yourself.
It’s why you are unhappy.
It’s why you don’t get what you want.
What about the conscious?
Right now you are thinking: “Hmm, this guy has a point. But I’m no robot, no mere automaton. I’m conscious. I’m more than that.”
You are both right and wrong.
The PaleoRobot is no mere automaton. Its algorithms are complex and nuanced. They evolve. It learns and adapts. Science is only just beginning to understand the wisdom of apparently irrational human decisions.
The problem is that the PaleoRobot has inbuilt biases that prevent it from adapting to the modern world (yet). For example it ignores the future beyond today because survival in the Paleolithic was about dealing with immediate dangers. This leaves the Paleo Robot vulnerable to long-term risks. It’s why we have an epidemic of non-communicable diseases now. Things like heart disease, diabetes, which are the long-term result of repeated actions.
Right now you are thinking: “ Yeah, okay. But that’s why I have consciousness. I can consciously learn about long-term risks.’
Again, right and wrong.
Obviously we have a conscious part, separate from the Paleo Robot. The big lie is that this conscious part imposes its will over the unconscious. We established this is false. But if you want more proof, examine this observation of a regular shopping trip for yoghurt.
What does the conscious do then?
It narrates your life.
Imagine a football game. The PaleoRobot is the player(s), who actually play the game. The conscious is the commentator. He narrates the game. He describes each play and gives meaning to the action: “Johnson dropped the ball. He must be feeling uncertain after his last failed attempt. Or maybe his knee injury is acting up again.”
If an alien listened to a football game radio broadcast without knowing anything about humans, what might it think?
It might believe the commentator is deciding the players’ actions, rather than just describing them.
We are the alien. Because we consciously narrate our actions, we think we consciously decide them.
The narration is important however. It’s a way for us to make sense of the world at a high level. This allows us to make plans and develop complex theories about the world. It’s essential for culture, science, technology, the whole of our civilization.
The conscious interpretation affects the PaleoRobot. It adjusts the algorithms. For example we learn to avoid unprotected electricity cables having only abstract knowledge of their danger.
Unfortunately this conscious adjustment loses effect when it clashes with deep PaleoRobot biases. Smokers crave cigarettes’ despite conscious understanding of their harm. We all crave sugar despite data it’s bad for us.
This applies to a host of behaviours that together prevent us from achieving the life we want.
So what? How does this help me?
What good is all this theory and philosophy?
Knowing that an unconscious set of biases and rules governs your behaviour appears awful. In fact it is liberating.
Believing in conscious control is like playing chess against a very smart computer. You lose.
Accepting the PaleoRobot truth does not make the computer more stupid. But it allows you to discover its algorithms. When you understand them, you can anticipate the computer’s decisions and win.
Understanding the PaleoRobot is like finding out there is a guidebook for human behaviour.
Figure out the rules and you can predict people’s actions. With this, you can sell them anything.
Apply it to yourself and you understand which external elements to change so that your PaleoRobot does what you want.
The deep biases and algorithms in the PaleoRobot are a deep topic. I am not going to go into it here.
Even if you don’t, knowing the truth that there are algorithms governing human behaviour is a superpower. If you can accept it, then you can start figuring out what these algorithms for yourself. And then use this knowledge to get everything that you want.