For over sixty years, psychologists have placed great emphasis on intelligence with the now well-known IQ score. A child with a high IQ is the goal of every parent. The hope being, intelligent children will become successful adults.
Unfortunately, we all know of very intelligent adults who grow up to be “underachievers.” The truth is that a high IQ is only a good indicator of an individual who should become a college professor. Recent research has shown that there are many forms of IQ, such as kinesthetic, musical or artistic intelligence. Gifted people in any of these areas, have the potential to excel.
In this book, Dr. Philip Copitch explores the secrets of Social IQ—the ability to understand and command the social environment. Unlike the other forms, Social IQ can be practiced and mastered. High Social IQ has the potential to opens doors in one's personal and professional life. Individuals with a high Social IQ are outgoing, confident and committed. They are comfortable expressing their feelings and learn quickly from their mistakes. A high Social IQ is the key to professional fulfillment, family harmony, and emotional security. People with a high social IQ adapt well to social pressure because they are happy and content knowing that their skills will serve them well.
Some serious warnings:
Why should you bother to read this book?
All things being equal, trust behavior
You can’t make me
People are creatures of habit
You are a people too
People do what works
You influence how others treat you
Law #1 and Law #2 in the real world
3. Life’s Law #3
You are 100% responsible for dealing with your life
Responsibility does not mean blame
You are 100% responsible for dealing with how others treat you
What do you present to the world?
4. Life’s Law #4
Control your own self-talk
It’s not by chance
Self-talk can be implanted
Self-talk is more believable
You must control your self-talk to control yourself
5. Life’s Law #5
Control your perceptions
Can you trust what you see?
Purify your filters
Stagnant beliefs hold you in the past
6. Life’s Law #6
Life rewards calculated risk
Your behavior is judged not by your intentions, but by your results
What is calculated risk?
How can I do it differently?
Life Rewards Action
Your morals are your compass
7. Life’s Law #7
Adapt or stagnate
Are you willing to do what it takes to get the outcome you desire?
We need to question ourselves
Adapt or stagnate
One choice at a time
Most people and water take the path of least resistance
8. Life’s Law #8
I hate not being free, a daily planner is controlling
My life is boring, I have nothing to plan
Planning doesn’t work for me, I already tried it once
Dr. Phil’s two sheet simple planner
9. Life’s Law #9
Invest in yourself
Add to your own skill level
Divest yourself of emotional baggage
Emotional pain lasts much longer than the initial event
Emotional pain influences your health
Forgiveness is about you
Forgiveness Behaviors that have worked for others
10. Life’s Law #10
Understand what you want
11. Lessons I didn’t learn in shrink school
12. In Closing
Be creative ... Go do well!
Most people, no matter their age, refuse to accept this rule. I hear it all the time, “I shouldn’t have to ...” or, “It’s not fair ...” To which I say, “Deal with it or lose!”
The fact is that life is a game. Like any game, life has rules. Unlike most games, the game of life has hidden rules. You need to get your head around this fact, or life will eat you alive.
What Law #1 teaches us is that every situation you encounter has rules. They happen with or without your knowledge. Without your approval. And either way, life’s rules influence you everyday.
When you walk into Mr. Monotone’s fifth period history class there are rules that you need to deal with. No one asked if you wanted to play by these rules, you’re just stuck with them. You are just expected to follow them. In addition, all situations have socially “known rules” and “secret rules” that must be figured out.
It is your responsibility to figure out the rules for any given situation and use this information to your best interest. That’s right. The reason you need to figure out the rules is so that you can get your needs met. Get what you want and avoid what you don’t want so you can win at this game called life!
I want you to notice that I am not embarrassed by this level of selfishness. In fact, I pity the dumb asses that don’t figure out what is going on and constantly bash their thick heads against life’s walls. It is your responsibility, to yourself, to learn how to deal with your world.
Socially known rules, such as the classroom rules in Mr. Monotone’s class, are usually easy to find. Mr. Monotone probably droned on and on the very first day, boring you to death about his “classroom rules.” My assumption is that by now you know the basic classroom rules and Mr. Monotone is as informative as the flight attendant who stands in the front of the cabin and instructs you on how to put on or take off a seat belt. What’s with that? I would think that 99.99% of the airline passengers drove to the airport. Didn’t they use their seat belts? I guess that the airlines believe that if you’re willing to pay hundreds of dollars to cram your ass into a narrow airline seat, you’re probably not smart enough to understand the mechanical physics of a common seat belt.
Law #1 is about the “secret rules” of dealing with Mr. Monotone. You need to know about these secret rules to navigate Mr. Monotone’s class. It is important that you figure out how to deal with Mr. Monotone and use this knowledge to get your needs met.
Let’s look at how this might work. During the first half hour of the first class you check out the lay of the land. You realize that even though Mr. Monotone said, “If you have any questions you must raise your hand.” He left out the secret rule that reads: “I’m really tired of you smart ass kids. After twenty-two years of teaching I have figured out what I need to teach, and if you simply pay attention I’ll tell you what I expect you to regurgitate on your test.” How the hell did you figure out this secret rule? You watched. When Betty Brownnose, sitting up front all perky like, asked a question, Mr. Monotone sarcastically let her know that he thought he clearly covered that already. He made it clear to all who were watching that his words said “ask questions” but he didn’t really want to be bothered with answering them.
Is this fair? Absolutely not. Is it something you need to deal with? Hell yeah! This teaching drone holds your grade in his left hand. If he squeezes, your voice changes. When the principal comes by, you wouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Monotone perked up and became Mr. Stereo. He knows the secret rules that he learned from watching principals. He probably learned to leave his classroom rules out so that the principal could “accidently” spy them. He learned it’s a good idea to have a clear rule that encourages one’s students to ask questions. He learned that as long as he gives lip service to the principal, the principal won’t care that Mr. Monotone is actually discouraging questions in the privacy of his classroom domain. Adults live in the same world teens live in. Smart adults know that Law #1 is powerful.
Many years ago my oldest child, who was about three years old, was baking cookies with his mother, Geri. This may not sound all that remarkable, but it was. In the world of Norman Rockwell paintings moms bake cookies with their children. But, not in the Copitch household. Let me explain. Geri thinks I’m fat. She is very nice about it, she doesn’t tease me or make faces, but she believes that I am fat. I will go so far as to say that it is one of her missions in life to un-fat me. I’m pretty sure that she believes that sugar is the devil’s dandruff and that it is her job to keep sugar out of the house. Or, more specifically, out of me. So, making cookies at the Copitch household takes an act of Congress.
On this day, mom and son were baking cookies. Somehow, little Ethan had enough charm that Mom announced during the cookie making process, “Let’s make a really big cookie for Daddy.” Ethan was excited, while I was watching closely, trying to figure out how he had manipulated his mother so well for my benefit (I am not opposed to learning from a three year old if it gets me a big ass cookie).
A half hour later, when I entered the kitchen, Ethan was very happy to show me the cookie “he” had made me. Ethan also informed me, “You no want, Ethy’s cookie!” To which Mom interjected, “No Ethy, that’s Daddy’s cookie, it is not for you.” He seemed to take this in stride. I assumed he’d already had this conversation with his mother.
By chance, a little while later I walked out of the den into the living room. Ethan stopped short and quickly put something behind his back. He looked up at me with fear in his eyes. He had cookie crumbs all around his mouth and lots more on the chest of his footed, terry cloth, blue pajamas.
“Ethan” I asked, “Are you eating Daddy’s cookie?” I didn’t have to be much of a detective. The little fellow was so tiny that I could see “Daddy’s cookie” peeking from behind him on both sides.
“No ... I no eat Daddy cookie.” His eyes gave nothing away. He then looked at his own pale blue terry covered little feet. There were lots more crumbs there too. He tried to brush them off. First, with his right toes, then with his left toes. He took a quick look up at me. I assumed my face was red because I was trying not to bust a gut and laugh at him. This was one damn cute kid. He then proceeded to bend deeply to brush off the crumbs with his hand. His other hand was holding the “big” cookie behind his back, now in my full view. His little hand was covered with cookie crumbs, so no matter how hard he tried, he was adding more crumbs to his feet than he was brushing off.
In a firm but gentle voice I asked, “Ethan is there something you need to tell me?”
At this he stood up straight, handed me my cookie and calmly stated, “I brought you your cookie Daddy,” then scampered off upstairs. Thinking about it as I write this, I don’t think I ever busted him for stealing my cookie.
So, why did I tell you this story? To show you that behavior counts. Words are of limited importance.
In the real world—behavior counts. If your friend says that he is going to quit smoking for the hundredth time this year, you wouldn’t be too impressed. But, smoke-free for six days, that counts. If this same friend says, “At the end of this pack I’m quitting,” it’s hard to believe him. His behavior says, “I smoke.” His words sound like what they are—a lie. Harsh but true, deal with it.
Often the secret rules are first seen as behaviors. It is your job to figure out the unspoken rules so that others can’t use your lack of knowledge against you. If you are sure that Mr. Monotone is burned out and useless as a teacher, it doesn’t change the fact that he is giving you your grade. It is your job to figure out what you need to do so you can get him to give you the grade you want. Please note, I didn’t say the grade your mom wants you to get. I clearly stated “the grade you want.” So, if you want a D+ figure out what you need to do to get it. If you want an A+ figure out what you need to do to get it. Once you have figured it out, then you need to ask yourself if it’s worth it to you. If it is, go for it.
Most teens get pissed that their teachers are not acting honestly. The fact is, no one who counts, such as the principal, could give a rat’s ass about your opinion. That is, except for you. You count, but you don’t have any power in this situation. So, you need to figure out what the unspoken rules are and use them to your best advantage. This is cold but true, deal with it.
You need to keep focused on what you need from this class. Usually, it is to learn something and to get a good grade. So, stay focused on this, learn stuff, and get a good grade. Figure out the rules and use them to your benefit.
Some of you are probably thinking, “I don’t want to figure out the rules, it’s all bogus anyway, get off my ass!” To this I soundly say, “Bullshit!”
I don’t believe for one second that you are willing to miss an opportunity to get something you want. That’s counter intuitive. People don’t work like that . We all want. It’s built into our DNA. We are basically a bag of mostly water that wants stuff. We want food, water, to be liked, to have sex, own a car, and not to be bitched at. We all want.
People set up attitudes to deflect pain. “I’d rather wipe shit on others before they wipe shit on me.” That’s like banging your head on a brick wall so when you stop, it feels good. That’s completely stupid. The world is not impressed with your attitude. In fact, if your attitude is too hard to deal with, most adults will work against you just because they can. If your behavior’s so crappy or scary that others are afraid of you, our society will lock your ass up. In the year 2000, the Justice Department reported that 6.47 million adults were in jail, on parole, or on probation. That is to say, 1 in every 32 adults in America is being “parented” by the government. Adults tend to get pissed when I refer to jail as parenting. But it is. If you’re an adult who is such a screw-up that you can’t control yourself, society will send you to your room—Cell J, Tier 112, Attica State Prison. Jail is the adult version of room restrictions. And, probation or parole is the adult version of being grounded. Wow, what a kick in the head. 6.47 million adults can’t figure out this game called life either!
You can put a nail into a wall with a rock. But, if you have a hammer only a moron keeps using the rock. Most of us would use the hammer because it works better. If you use life’s rules, life works better. However, if you’re that moron, stop reading this book. You know everything. You have it all figured out. Stop reading this book! Please donate it to your local public library.
This book is full of tools to make your life path easier. It’s your path, you get to do it your way. You can reinvent everything yourself as you travel, or you can pick up some insight from this little book and save yourself a shit load of heartache.
There are rules-—deal with it or lose.
Let’s look at Life’s Law #1 in the real world. The following story shows how some people screw with us just because they can.
For years I have gone to an all night poker game with friends the night before Super Bowl Sunday. The game tends to start at about eight. The biggest part of the whole ordeal is the bragging rights that go along with winning. If you win you are hated by your friends all through the Super Bowl game and party. The losers are relentless. “You ripped me a new one last night.” “You’re such a lucky bastard.” “We’re not inviting you next year, you dick!” It’s great when your oldest friends bitch at you because you kicked their sorry asses again!
Well, to say the least, I was all excited about getting to the card game. Due to things outside of my control we were held up for hours before we could leave. Nothing I could do about it. I was going to be late for the game. Maybe I could get there by 11 o’clock. What a bummer, all those hands that I was planning to win. When we finally got off the highway, the kids were asleep in the back seat. I told my wife that I was going to pop into the grocery store just down the street from the poker game. It was one of those really big grocery store chains that has everything but service. It was five ‘til eleven. They close at eleven.
I whizzed down the pet supply aisle and grabbed a five pound bag of dog food. Enough for one meal for my big dog who was traveling in the way back of the wagon. I figured I would get more supplies tomorrow. But I was already late for some serious card playing. I swooped up to the Express Register and plopped my bag on the counter. I handed the clerk a ten.
He put up his hand and said, “Ya have ta use your ATM card.”
Not understanding I asked, “What?”
“Ya have ta use your ATM card.”
“How come?” I asked as I tried to hand him a perfectly good ten dollar bill.
“Ya have ta use your ATM card cuz I Z-ed out my register.”
He gestured to the ATM box. I felt myself getting pissed.
“How come I can’t use cash. What grocery store doesn’t take cash?”
“Look mister, you can’t use cash. I Z-ed out my register already. We close in just a few minutes. Do ya want the dog food or not?”
By this time a small line was behind me.
I took a few seconds to gather information. I analyzed the scene, I compiled the secret rules and I gave myself permission to lie. “I’m sorry dude, but the guy on aisle 5 told me I had to pay for the mayonnaise I broke. All I have is cash.”
The cashier rolled his eyes and poked away at the keys of the machine. He turned a key and pressed in some more numbers. The bell went off and the cash drawer popped open. As he was closing the drawer he looked at me and asked, “What kind of mayo did you bust?”
Calmly I said, “I didn’t break any mayo. I just want the dog food.” I offered up the same ten again.
He snatched the bill from my hand, grunted a few times and pushed the change back into my hand.
I picked up the bag of dog food and headed for the exit. Standing at the exit was an older man with a white apron stained with blood. The butcher I guess. The butcher was starting to laugh, something about “...You got him” as I headed out the door. As I got to the car, my son Ethan, then about ten, was rubbing sleep out of his eyes.
“Daddy,” he said as I opened the car door. “There’s a fight.”
As I drove out of the parking lot, I saw the cashier and the butcher rolling around, arms flailing, in the doorway of the store. The automatic doors were trying, unsuccessfully, to close on them.
So what does this have to do with Life’s Law #1? I was just trying to buy dog food and the cashier was making it hard for me. I’m sure the owner of the Super Store wanted the cashier to take my cash. In fact, I’m sure that they want to take all my cash. But, the cashier had his own “secret rules.” My guess is that he wanted to get off as soon as the store closed. He probably had a hot date and was hoping to get lucky. So, he counted up the register just a little early. Figuring that he would “ask” the last few customers in the store to pay with their ATM.
Once I figured out that he was lying to me, I gave myself permission to lie to him. I needed to give him a reason to reopen his register. I needed to give him a want. As you will learn later on with Law #2, people won’t do shit unless they want to. So, I needed him to want to. I hadn’t been on aisle 5, but I figured if I had broken a jar of mayo there he would want me to pay for it. And, if I only had cash he would figure out how to accept my money. I learned from his behavior what I needed to get my needs met (as well as Jazz’s needs).
I’m pretty sure that if I had allowed myself to get all upset and throw a tantrum, I would have been acting like a jerk and he would have stuck to his lying words. If I had gotten pissed and stormed out of the store, he wouldn’t have cared. He probably would have turned to the next person in line, and acting all hurt said, “Some people are so rude ... Ya have ta use your ATM card.”
If you don’t analyze every situation to learn the “known” rules and the “secret” rules you will bash your head up against the game of life.
[ Just because it will “kill” my friends if you knew, the poker game that night was amazing. I kicked some righteous bootie.]
I’ve never done the survey, but I think that one out of every hundred teens that reads the above, says, “Screw you, you can’t make me. It’s stupid. Life sucks. You suck!” If you’re in the 99% group feel free to skip this section and move onto Law #2.
So, you’re the one. You’re that individual who believes that just because you’re you, you don’t have to deal with laws. However, you didn’t donate this book to the library as I suggested earlier. So, there is still hope for you. I hope you’re not reading this because you’re locked up and it’s better than staring at your cell mate as he passes gas. But, even if you are in jail, read on...
So, I ask myself, why are you continuing to read this stupid book. The answer is because you want better for yourself. Nothing fancy, you want. How human of you. Even if you don’t like it, you are stuck with the fact that there are things more powerful than yourself.
I’m sure you “believe” in gravity. It’s a physical law that no one has any say about. It is and we all have to deal with it. There are things that are outside of your control. There are rules in life that cannot be repealed; like the Law of Gravity. If Congress decided to repeal the Law of Gravity, put it to a vote and announced that the Law of Gravity was no more, what would happen? Any moron who believed that it was repealed would walk off a tall building and splat—one less moron. According to the strange folks at Darwin.com that kind of stuff occurs all the time. Morons bumping themselves off and cleaning up the human gene pool. (See Darwin.com for more information on how some fellow humans clean up the human gene pool.)
I once watched a relatively intelligent person look for a stapler. She wanted to staple a few pages together for me. She opened and closed her desk drawer five times looking for the stapler.
“It’s supposed to be right here,” she muttered; each time getting a little more frustrated.
Now, think about this for a second. If you checked the drawer once or twice and the stapler wasn’t there, why check it again? She checked because it was “supposed to be there.” It wasn’t, but she didn’t let new facts get in the way of her beliefs. This seems crazy to me. If you keep doing the same thing over and over and keep getting the results you don’t want, over and over again, that’s crazy behavior. Why do it? It seems that anything you do that is not the same old behavior (the one you had proof didn’t work) gives you a better chance of finding out what does work. If checking in the drawer has proven to be useless, then even standing on your head and reciting a poem would make more sense. Maybe you would notice the stapler under the couch. Since your way wasn’t working, anything else has a minute chance of working.
You have read all this crap for a reason. Maybe the reason is that you’re tired of the way you are running your life. Maybe you are tired of how you are allowing others to run your life. Maybe you are so fearful of running your life that you can’t even get started taking self control.
You’re not alone. Even if you’re one in a hundred, there are a lot of you. We have close to three hundred million people in this county. That’s three million people that feel similar to the way you feel. Don’t give up on yourself. Help is only pages away.
Through most of elementary and high school, I was a very poor student. Although I am perfectly capable of doing well in school, I saw the public education system as so incredibly flawed that it wasn’t worth my effort. “This is crap,” I told myself. I chose not to participate. Thinking somehow that the rules didn’t apply to me, I thought of myself as something equivalent to a conscientious objector. I rejected school on principle, and I quietly snickered at my peers who tried and succeeded.
I have always been adept at absorbing knowledge; in fact, I love to learn. Some of my teachers related to me the strange phenomena of this quiet, unassuming kid who rarely turned in a piece of homework, yet who aced nearly every test thrown his way. In fact, I was proud of this. My reasoning at the time was that I could prove the system wrong by learning all there was to learn and at the same flunking spectacularly. If this could be done, I thought, it would prove that the point of it all was not to learn, but to satisfy some half-wit, far-removed, state official’s idea of what an education should be. Perhaps I was right, but whom did I help? What did I change?
I realize now that however pointless the courses were, getting “A’s” in them would have helped me toward my goal of getting into a university. I was stuck in high school whether I liked it or not, (I didn’t) but it was my choice whether I wanted to use my time there as a stepping-stone for what I wanted. Junior college has been a wonderful second chance for me and I am finally enjoying school, (for the most part) but I wonder how much easier it would be for me right now if I hadn’t slept through the last 12 years.
What a way to learn a lesson. I ended up with a whole month of being grounded, and one week of suspension from school before I caught a glimpse of what this Life Law was all about.
I was a sophomore in high school and I decided to celebrate my Friday early by getting plastered in first period. Imagine this, a girl about 110 pounds; puking 100 proof Hot Damn all over a high school campus, totally shit-faced, people laughing at her, trying to get her to the toilet, the whole shebang. This was me at sixteen years old. My mom picked me up from the school, realized that I was drunk off my ass, and called the school to tell the “authorities” about my day of drunkenness. I, along with my friend, was totally busted. This is where this Life Law came into play.
I realized that it was not my place to go off and do whatever the hell I wanted to do. I figured out that there were rules only after I got pissed off, and threw my fit about being grounded and suspended. I knew that these were the rules; being under the influence, drinking or drugs would result in suspension. Drinking or drugs under the age of eighteen would result in being grounded for a month from everything but the bedroom. So, I dealt with it and learned from it.
This theory plays into a lot of different situations, work, school, home, family, driving, money, etc. In life there are rules, just as Dr. Phil says, and it is important to know those rules to get what you want out of life. Drinking at school got me nothing; no actually it got me negative nothing. So, I had to learn from this, and I did, though just like all teenagers it took me a couple of tries to figure out this Life Law, but I never did drink at school again.
I would hate to be “normal.” In fact, I take great offense at the fact that in so many ways I am normal. Don’t get me wrong. I’m perfectly okay with my skin producing normal cells. I definitely don’t want skin cancer. But when it comes to who I am, at my core, I think normal is boring.
Life Rule #2 is about normal; how people tend to act; how people usually behave. Normal behavior.
I have often said that I am very impressed with mankind, but that individual humans tend to be embarrassing. If advanced aliens show up one day to conquer earth, to enslave us like, say a cow, and incorporate us into their alien economy, that would really piss me off. Mankind is spectacular. We are creative beings at our infancy. I have great hope for us.
But, as individuals, even the brightest of us is petty. We tend to be selfish, narrow minded, and basically fearful beings. Even large groups can be selfish, narrow-minded, and basically fearful.
At the present time there are approximately 65 wars that are being waged on planet earth. Each of these wars is over something petty. “My god is better than your god.” “Three hundred years ago your ancestors stole that piece of land from my ancestors.” Or some such thing. I wonder what we would do if a giant interplanetary invasion force presented itself just off the moon, would we be warring amongst ourselves, or scared shitless? I think initially we would be overwhelmed, then we would organize and work together to protect ourselves.
This past week in my area of northern California there was a large forest fire that forced the evacuation of a mountain town some forty miles away. Homes were lost and lives were sent into upheaval. The local radio station announced that the local Red Cross needed money to help the fire victims. The next morning countless people drove by the Civic Center dropping off cash and canned food. In a few hours $25,000 and two and a half truck loads of food were donated. This happened the same week that the mill, ten miles south of here, announced that it was closing for good.
One of the families I worked with the day of the donation drive came into my office in great spirits. I was somewhat surprised because just the week before that same family was talking about how they had been fighting a lot at home ever since they found out that Dad was to be unemployed. Last week the stress in the family was eating them up from inside. This week the family was rejuvenated.
The oldest child, Adam, plopped on the couch and said, “We just dropped off $25 and a bag of groceries for the fire victims.”
We human beings sure can be wonderful.
Didn’t I just contradict myself? Are people petty or are people wondrous? Which one? Well, both. The same person can be wondrous in one situation and petty in another. Fair and even handed one moment and an irrational prick the next. This brings us to Rule #2, People do what they are going to do.
I don’t care who we are talking about, your mom, the Pope, or the wino on Fifth and Plastered—they do what they are going to do. They react, feel, and do what they tend to have done in similar situations in the past. Humans are creatures of habit. To that extent we are individually predictable.
Understanding this predictability is how we start to uncover the secret rules of our friends, parents and teachers. It is our window into their real thoughts.
If your friend is always standing you up, or seems comfortable about being late, his behavior tells you something. His words may say, “That sounds great, I’ll meet you at eight.” But his behavior says. “I’ll show up at eight, if nothing better shows up.”
If your stud muffin says, “I think that women should get equal pay for equal work,” he seems respectful of women. But if his hands say, “You’re a piece of my property and I like what I own.” You really know what he thinks of women.
All things being equal, believe the behavior.
This book was outlined months before I actually sat down to write it. The section above was written one week before the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Virginia. These horrific terrorist acts have changed our basic understanding of our world. The terrorists destroyed an icon in New York and damaged another in Virginia while murdering close to three thousand people. They gave themselves permission to murder. But this was only the ugly part of the story. Through all the initial shock, I noticed an amazing part of this unbelievable tragedy.
I watched CNN as the first building burned. The commentators explained that there was no information about what caused this accident. Then came the overwhelming sight of the second commercial airliner slamming into the second tower. At that moment the world knew the first building was not an accident. A short time later came the report of the Pentagon being hit. Next a plane crashed in Pennsylvania. The world was going crazy. It was unraveling in front of our collective eyes.
Then it happened. CNN showed people below the first building in New York. The video documented one man helping another man in an ash filled street. The video was shot from the relative safety of a mini-mart store front. It showed a third man at a glass door watching the two men out in the debris ridden street. The man at the door of the store was holding the door closed as the devastation outside stormed by. The man at the door was horrified. He was rigid with panic. Then he ran out into the horror and helped. Within moments, three men came out of the gray cloud of death. All three helping each other. All covered with ash.
This scene was very meaningful for me to witness. At the beginning of this video clip there were three ethnically different types of people. At the end, there was one skin color—ash. In a way, I saw the aliens attack and we became one. One person helping another for one good reason, it seemed like the right thing to do. People are amazing creatures.
Up to now I have been talking about others. How they act. But the same is true for you. You are also a creature of habit. You also have set reactions to particular situations. You too are predictable. You do what you are going to do.
If you say, “I want to go to college.” But your behavior says, “TV first, homework never!” Believe the behavior.
If your words say, “I’ll be back at nine, Mom.” When you know your ride clearly told you he wasn’t leaving this party until midnight or one. And then you show up at one thirty with that same old sorry ass story, “Joel refused to leave, what could I do, he was my ride!” Believe your behavior. You are comfortable lying to your mother.
All things being equal, you are going to do what you are going to do.
In 1911, E.L. Thorndike first explained the Law of Effect. Thorndike showed that when learning, responses may be altered by their effects on the environment. What this means in plain speak is that behaviors (responses) that lead to positive outcomes (as defined by you) are increased, and behaviors that lead to negative outcomes (as defined by you) are decreased. Simply, Thorndike noted what we all know. If something works for us, we do it again. If it doesn’t work for us, we stop doing it.
“People do what works,” is a little statement with a shit load of power for you to grab and use. What I am talking about is that everyone does what works for them. Not sometimes—every time.
At first many people throw this truth back at me and say things like:
“That seems a little harsh. You’re telling me that I’m fat because I want to be fat?
“You’re saying I’m flunking Algebra because I want to flunk Algebra?”
“You’re saying I want to be shy?”
“That sounds stupid. You mean I’m choosing to have my parents treat me like I’m a little kid?”
Yep! That’s what I’m saying. On purpose or by accident, you influence how others treat you and how you treat yourself. I know it is common nowadays to blame something or someone other than yourself. But that sounds like denial to me. I watched a doctor on TV explain that due to the pain in our inner child Americans are overweight. We are trying to nurture ourselves by being our own mothers breast. What psycho-babble. I heard a psychologist on the radio explain that because birthing is so hard on the newborn’s psyche we all need to be channeled and re-birthed. A lady on an infomercial told me that our wrinkled skin was not age related, it was due to toxins from poor nutrition and poor emotional energy. For only hundreds of dollars she would sell me a meditation tape and food supplements to fix me right up. To this I say: “bullshit!”
There is a billion dollar industry teaching Americans that it is not their fault that something bad happened to them. It is usually called the Self Empowerment Industry or the Supplement Industry. I call it: Lie To Them And Take Their Money Industry.
I understand why people are paying to be told that they are victims. It’s easier than taking self responsibility. But, I believe that we are really harming ourselves and our society. The truth is simple and boringly factual. People do what works. Period.
Would you do anything that didn’t work for you? We are creatures of reward and punishment. Reward increases behavior, punishment decreases behavior. It’s that simple. People work to reward themselves and work hard to avoid punishment. But, there are many levels of personal reward and punishment, read on.
Sally was a binge drinker. For the last four months she had been getting plastered almost every Friday and Saturday night. She told her group home house mother that she wanted to see me because her friend said, “He’s pretty funny!” When the house mother set up the appointment with me she told me that Sally was a little depressed but a nice kid. She also told me that Sally was removed from her single mothers home when her mom was jailed for methamphetamine sales.
When Sally came into my office she seemed like a great kid with a lot of social skills. She had friends, got good grades, and had future goals. She seemed like she was doing well considering her situation. About halfway through our first session I asked her, “Why are you really here.”
“I’m pregnant,” she snapped coldly.
Over the next fifteen minutes she told me about how she was spending Friday and Saturday nights drunk. Her mom had been out of jail for the last six months. And, for the last four months, she had been allowed by the county social worker to have home visits Friday after school to Sunday early evening. The social worker’s goal was for her to live with her mom by the end of the summer. Sally explained that during the first weekend of home visits her mom told her that she didn’t think it was fair. Mom was upset with Sally for interfering with her weekend fun. So, mom told Sally that as long as she didn’t tell anyone or get into trouble she could do what she wanted all weekend. “She told me,” Sally said, “As long as you’re doing good in school, your weekends are yours.”
Sally was spending the weekends drinking with the younger men in her mom’s apartment complex.
She said in a whisper, “I must have had sex when I was passed out.”
She wasn’t sure exactly when. She reported passing out at least one night most weekends. Sally was fifteen.
Over the next few weeks Sally kept blaming everyone for her problems. She was furious with the county social worker. She was upset with her group home. She hated men for using her. She was pissed with her mom’s boyfriend for letting her mom drink. When I explained that I thought that people do what works, I was elevated to the top of the list of people she hated because I kept suggesting that she was involved in her own life.
She initially refused to look at her involvement in her problems. Over time she taught me (and herself) that at first she was happy that her mother thought she was mature enough to take care of herself on weekends. Initially she really liked the freedom and the attention from the men in the apartment building. She truly liked getting over on the controlling county social worker and the nosey house mother. She loved the feeling of the alcohol and freedom from her thoughts that the alcohol gave her.
As time went on she worried that her mom didn’t really care about her and that mom only wanted to enjoy her weekends. Sally worried that if the county social worker found out what she was doing she would put her mother back in jail. She figured that booze was much better for her mom than meth.
Two sessions later she summed it all up:
“I knew I was being passed around and screwed by lots of men. But I kept telling myself that it was only fair. It made me feel nothing. It was my way of saying that my mom didn’t deserve me, and when I was dead she would know how terrible a mom she was. I hate her so much I hate me. I just didn’t have the guts to kill myself.”
Rewards are not always understood or a positive. Often when people do something that they really don’t want to do, the reward is hidden and painful. We have to reward undesirable behaviors or we wouldn’t do that to ourselves. We have to understand what works for us, and why it works for us, to get control over ourselves.
Sally’s reward system was so complicated that she needed therapy to sort out what she was doing to herself. I use her case as an example of how hard you might have to work to understand your personal system of rewards.
Let’s look at a few common “hidden” reward situations:
“That seems a little harsh. You’re telling me that I’m fat because I want to be fat?
It is very common for food to be used as an instant reward system in our society. Many people reward themselves with food whenever a sad thought crosses their mind.
“You’re saying I’m flunking Algebra because I want to flunk Algebra?”
Often girls earn bad grades in junior and senior high school because boys don’t like smart girls. People do a lot to be popular.
Regularly people earn poor grades in school because they do not have the self confidence to tell a teacher “I don’t get it.”
Recently a lineman for a high school football team told me that he didn’t get sixth grade math, so why bother with ninth grade math. He was planning to have a team of accountants that watched over his money when he turned pro. His future hope gave him permission not to look at his present reality—he needed help in math.
“Your saying I want to be shy?”
Shy must be working for you or you would be building your outgoing skills.
“That sounds stupid. You mean I’m choosing to have my parents treat me like I’m a little kid?”
Sure, you have a lot of influence on others, especially your parents. Read on!
I once did a weekend seminar for one of those big companies that can afford to advertise during the Olympics or the Super Bowl. The seminar was devoted to helping middle managers learn how to motivate their sales force. One Saturday morning I was surprised to find a room full of bright eyed, white-starched-shirt-wearing, power-tie-toting, middle aged men. I had just crawled out of bed, showered under a tiny water saver shower-head, and had not yet had any coffee. It was 8:30 AM and my day was only thirty minutes old. The men in the audience were awake. Happily awake. I was disgusted. To me, the only way I could be happy at 8 AM was if I was up to deliver my wife’s baby. Saturday mornings are for sleeping, everyone knows that (except during youth soccer season).
I talked to the group about my plan for the day and pointed out a few goals and objectives. I asked if there were any questions and waited for some. I have talked to hundreds of parent groups, teacher groups and therapist groups. Someone always has a question. This group looked fearful. It dawned on me that this group wasn’t expecting to participate. They thought they were there to listen and absorb information. Boy, were they in for a big surprise!
I called on people. “What is your biggest problem with your work force?” “How do you motivate people to work?” “Tell me your biggest thorns-in-your-side and who put them there?” Finally, after some fifteen minutes, one older gentleman stood up and growled, “Well DOCTOR, I have to spend my weekend here, are you going to tell me how to find employees who will follow directions... I need winners! Where do I find them!?” Then he crossed his arms and plopped himself into his chair. The room became alive with murmuring. It seemed that this man had shared a common problem for the attendees. I was so excited. Anger. Pure and simple anger. An emotion I could work with. What a wonderful opportunity. So, I told a story (I’m a cognitive behavioral therapist—I always tell stories).
A couple of months ago I was at Sea World. I saw the dolphin show. This gray sleek mammal leaped out of the pool, did a forward flip over a bright red nylon rope, and dove back into the water. What a sight!
A small boy in front of me asked his grandfather, “How did they teach the dolphin to do that?” The grandfather said, “They go out into the ocean and scare the dolphins out of the water with their big boat engines. The ones that jump the highest they capture and bring here for the show.”
This was an intriguing theory, but not an accurate one. I postulated the boy’s question to my hostile audience: “How do you teach a dolphin to jump over a rope?” I ask you the same question, “How would you teach a dolphin to jump over a rope?”
The most common answer to the question was, “I’d hang a fish from a rope above the water.” The problem with this is how do you get the dolphin to look up at the fish? Dolphins don’t go around in their natural environment, looking up out of the water, expecting mackerel. Most fish don’t jump out of the ocean. And, even the motivated ones that do, would not be enough to fill the bellies of many a dolphin.
The way you teach a dolphin to jump is by using a process called shaping. Shaping is the process of rewarding a behavior each time it gets closer and closer to the desired behavior. You can’t go out into the ocean with a loud speaker attached to your boat yelling, “Jump! Jump! Come on Flipper, JUMP!” You won’t get a dolphin to jump out of the water, do a back flip, smile at the camera and come to the boat to be captured. If you did, you would have what corporate middle managers call a “WINNER!” It just doesn’t happen. At first, dolphins don’t know anything about show biz.
Dolphins are not fools. They are readily willing to investigate their world and find food. That is their job. At first you have to get the dolphin to recognize the importance of the rope. If you place the rope in the pool so the dolphin can swim above it and below it they will do just that. When the dolphin “accidently” swims above the rope you drop a fish in the pool. After a few chance encounters the dolphin says to itself, “Hmm... I think there is an interesting relationship here. Something is going on between that lifeless piece of seaweed and a fish falling from the heavens. I’ll call that new kind of plant, hmm... rope. Now let’s see, if I swim under the rope nothing happens. But, if I swim over the rope, lunch. This I can live with. In fact, I feel encouraged to keep swimming above the rope.”
Then the trainer raises the rope. Just a little each time. Not to be mean, but making it harder for our friend Flipper. It’s just not much of a show if the rope is in the water. Spectators would say, “Big deal, the dolphin can swim at the top of the pool.” You’re not going to get $14.50 a head for a dolphin fin poking out of the water playing shark! The trainer keeps raising the rope slowly, over time, until it is well above the water.
Your parents did the same thing to you. If your mom wanted to teach 18 month old you to politely say, “Excuse me mother, could I please have a piece of toast?” She couldn’t wait until you were completely verbalizing your needs. If mom waited that long, you would have ended up one skinny ass dead kid. That’s not good!
What Mom wanted to do was to shape your behavior. Mom said, “Do you want toast? Toast, toast, toast?” Then one day you said, “Ta Ta Ta” for toast and Mom got all excited. She may have called Dad. She may have even had him get off the couch. She probably made you say “Ta ta ta” all over again. Kind of like a really cheap home version of dolphins jumping out of the water. Mom got out the video camera. She called the grandparents. Your mom declared you to be a genius. But, if at age 16, you started saying, “Ta Ta Ta” for toast, she’d have your urine checked for street drugs.
Your mom rewarded as she caught you making progress. “Ta Ta Ta,” worked for a while. But, in no time, “Ta Ta peas” was needed. Then “toes peas” was changed to “toast please.”
This is shaping. Some psychologists call it successive approximation. Shaping behavior accounts for the vast majority of complex learned behaviors such as how people treat you and how you treat others.
Through shaping, you influence the world and the world influences you.
Conner had just turned sixteen. He knew about the birthday party that his mother and three sisters were planning for him. He didn’t want to participate. Three months prior, his parents had a huge argument in the living room. It went on for forty-five minutes. It was about money. It always was about money.
Conner had lain in bed with his pillow over his head trying to drown out the hate. The house got quiet. His bedroom door flung open knocking things off the dresser. His father looked crazed. He was red faced and breathing through enlarged nostrils. His father bellowed, “You’re the man of the family now! I can’t live with your devil possessed mother! We’re getting a divorce.” He slammed the door with so much force that the door frame splintered. As his father drove away with a screech, Conner went to console his weeping mother. He told her, “It’ll be okay in a day or two. Dad will calm down.”
Conner’s mother turned on him with all her rage. “Your father’s a bastard. Let him go live with that whore of a secretary.”
Weeks after this major blow up, Conner said to me, “They were arguing about money. They always argue about money. He’s an elder in our church. Everyone knows about my dad ... I’ve lost everything. I have nowhere to show my face.” Conner didn’t know about the affair. His world was shattered.
Conner used Law #1 and Law #2 to help deal with his family’s ongoing crisis. He knew that he had to get his mind around the fact that his parents were getting a divorce. He had no choice but to deal with the fact that his parents were out of control and he couldn’t hope this problem away. He had to deal with the changes around the house. His father was living in a hotel, refusing to talk with anyone. His mother was sitting on the couch, crying twenty-four hours a day. His sisters were constantly bickering with each other. He wanted it all to stop.
He also knew that he had no control about how others were going to deal with this crisis. But, he wanted to help, to do something. He decided to ask advice from his mothers best friend. She seemed to be an understanding woman. Conner and Mrs. Powell worked it out that the girls all got invited to friends’ houses for a few days. This way they could each get emotional support from their friends’ families.
He would stay home and watch over his mother. His aunt would stay with her when he was at school. He knew that he needed to get out of the house and at school he would be able to stop thinking about his problems for at least a few minutes every period.
Conner proved to be an amazing support system for his family. He also took care of himself, by taking care of his family.
Nicky, newly fifteen, had no friends at her very stuck up private school. She knew people, but she had no real friends, only acquaintances. When I asked her why she thought she had no friends she hemmed and hawed about the rest of the student body being stuck up or dumb, but in no time she got to the fact that, “I have a very morbid sense of humor. Others just don’t like my jokes.” As it turned out, Nicky pushed people away with her mouth. Her specific skill was associating others stories with her “gross” stories. Her family was all “fire people.” Six of the nine family members that she spent most of her time with were emergency personnel with the fire department. The rest were “married to the department.” She had spent her entire life hearing stories about death, destruction, and auto accidents. She was so used to it, she was never shocked at the family dinner table when someone talked about the latest victim he had scraped off the highway.
After a brief overview of Life’s Law #1 and #2 she suggested that she should only talk about what the kids at school talked about. I assured her that her fellow students had a short memory and she could probably find things to talk about that never made the front page of the paper. Three days later she met Sondra, a popular girl in second period English. They had a lot in common. They both liked school. They both liked their families. And they were both sure that boys were immature slugs with bad breath and active hands.
Two weeks later:
Nicky: I got invited to a party on a huge houseboat. It was great, Sondra’s family was so nice. It was almost heaven.
Dr. Phil: Almost heaven?
Nicky: Almost, her family talks a lot about money. Her dad is a stockbroker. Her mom sells real estate. They talk money non stop. Sondra’s so funny, she said, “Christmas is the worst. The uncles come over and fight about the new changes in the tax law.”
Dr. Phil: Have you talked to Sondra about the fire department stuff?
Nicky: Sure. After a couple of days. She loves the stories. She said I should write a book ... maybe write a movie. Her dad said I could be a millionaire. Her mom offered to find me a mansion to buy. See what I mean, her family likes me!
Dr. Phil: How about the other kids at school?
Nicky: Most are boring. Lots of makeup and clothes gab. The same stuff everyday. But I’m not talking about the dead stuff and people are treating me like I’m in the room.
Dr. Phil: You planning to run for class president?
Nicky: That’s not funny Dr. Phil. I want to survive at the zoo, I’m definitely not getting too close to the animals.
Nicky’s problem was painful for her, but it took less than a week to get it under her control. Once she used Life’s Law #1 and #2, she empowered herself to get her needs met.
This was a tough law for me to learn. I am one to give my advice on a dime, even if people don’t really want to hear it. I have learned so much throughout my life that I feel that what I have to say means something and should be heard.
My biological father moved to Alaska when I was 14 years old. We never really had a great relationship, though through the years he called me when things were good in his life, to tell me and make me think that he was finally on the right track. I always fell for his stories and thought that he had changed from when I had seen him last. We talked about every three months, and he would never call if there was a failing in his life. He would always have a new job, and was still trying to stop drinking. Things were always the same. I had hopes though because of the sound of his voice or the words he would say, the lies that he would tell me to make me think that he was an okay person, though he was still the same old man, drowning himself in his beer because life had wronged him in so many ways.
One night he called me, I could tell that he had been drinking because of the volume of his voice and the belligerent sentences that slurred out of his mouth. He was calling to tell me that he was thinking about committing suicide. He went on and on about how he had screwed up being a dad and was a lousy person just by sight. For about an hour he spilled his soul into my ear and I was astonished. I couldn’t believe that a father would call his 18-year-old daughter and tell her this. So, I tried to talk the old man through this, telling him that if he had really wanted to do it so badly he would have just done it and only left his body behind to be found, he would not have called me. I was being the devil’s advocate in a way and jabbing him with the words that he didn’t want to hear. I was not going to fall for this game. He wanted pity and that was all. He wanted to hear that I would be losing something if he did this, though in reality I wasn’t going to miss a thing. Like I said earlier, we never had a great relationship. We never had another conversation after this.
He didn’t take his own life, but about a year later I found out that he had taken the life of another. This was a selfish act, just as the last phone conversation was between us, and now he is where he deserves to be.
Dr. Phil states in this chapter, “Humans are creatures of habit. To that extent we are individually predictable.” Here I learned full force that people will do what they are going to do, no matter what kind of advice or time you give them. I waited 18 years for my father to change, and I now see that it was a waste of time because people will do what they are going to do. It was only a matter of time before he completely brought himself down, along with anyone else he could. He was trying to bring me down with him, but I knew better than to fall for his games.
The phrase “People are going to do what they’re going to do” rings especially true for me. I tend to be a particularly self-critical person and I have a number of personality traits and behaviors that I look upon as “bad.” After reading this chapter, I realized that if I’ve been lazy, it’s because lazy has usually worked for me. If my people skills are lacking, it’s because I haven’t really felt the need to be social. Up until now I’ve been able to get my needs met, to get my wants satisfied without ever needing to confront these deficits. I am at an age where I’m about to be thrust into the “real world,” whatever that means, properly equipped or not. It is only now that I realize how much I need to change in order to get what I want.
End of Excerpts
This book is rated “R” due to content matter and language. It is not intended for children or young / immature teens. Do not read this book if you are offended by obscenity, difficult life issues, or the sarcastic truth.
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