Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Powers of the Subconscious (ref: Malcolm Gladwell, Jesse Schell)

I discovered my subconscious's persona. Its true. He was swimming around in my head this whole time. He is an old man with a short white beard and disheveled white hair. He has thick black rimmed glasses with a round frame. He tends to wear a purple robe and has a cartoon appearance that falls somewhere between wizard and mad scientist. He is very agile for an old man and is a mischievous prankster. I'd say he is roughly half a foot tall, lives underwater, and keeps within a turtle shell for protection.

Still with me?

I've been doing some reading lately and have been very much inspired by Malcolm Gladwell's Blink as well as Jesse Schell's Art of Game Design. I highly recommend both.

Each book touches on a similar topic: the power of your subconscious.

Gladwell focuses more on how it solves complex problems in the blink of an eye as well as impacts your daily actions without you even realizing it. Would you believe me if I told you that you would score 10% lower on a Trivia game if you spent 15 minutes before the game thinking about being a Football Hooligan? I don't have the reference in front of me, but read Blink and it has hundreds of examples like this that will make you ponder what is really going on in your head.

Schell mentions the subconscious in a chapter on brainstorming. He explains how powerful it can be at solving problems and coming up with ideas, especially while you are focusing on other things. Ever wake up and suddenly have the answer to a problem you had been working on for weeks? That is the subconscious at work.

Personally, I had always been under the impression that the subconscious does what it wants and if it speaks up, hopefully you are listening. However, both authors disagree with my assumption and they describe how you can practice, train, and hone in on your subconscious. Gladwell makes an effort to teach you how to be aware of its impact and to try to pick and choose when to let it affect your actions. Schell describes ways of keeping in touch with it, focusing it on a direct problem, and listening for the answer to pop-up down the road.

One way Schell suggests using to get in touch with your subconscious is by giving it a persona. Try to understand how it acts and picture in your mind what that person/thing may look like so that every time you want to 'use' it you can think of that image.

I tried this the other night as finished reading the chapter and was about to fall asleep. The first thing that popped in my mind was the tiny old wizard in the turtle shell I described above. Completely random, I know. Somewhat crazy, sure I admit it. But it could have been worse, it could have been...


derek knox said...

Nice, Gladwell's books are great (though I didn't care much for What the Dog Saw). I've reviewed some books myself and I would recommend two things from my site. First is the book A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young ( Second is a little read on techniques I've practiced for brainstorming ( If you haven't read Gladwell's Outliers, I highly recommend it! Peace.

Ickydime said...

Very cool. Thanks for the links, will have to check them out tonight. And I loved Outliers... great read. What the Dog Saw is setting on my shelf, I haven't dived in yet. Need to finish the Art of Game Design first before I can come back to Gladwell.

Josh Polk said...

"Thomas Alva Edison very consciously harnessed this subconscious effect. Whenever he was stumped about an invention, he would sleep on it, literally. Sitting in his chair, Edison would loosely hold two large ball bearings in his hands. Metal pans were placed strategically beneath him. When he fell deeply enough asleep, his hands would relax their grip on the ball bearings. The balls, in their turn, would drop into the metal pans, causing such a clatter that Edison would snap to full wakefulness. The brief sojourn that this allowed him to take to the realm of dreams almost always yielded some crucial insight to the problem at hand." (I don't vouch for whatever else is on this site :)

Ruke said...

Hey I really liked your post. I have been studying the subconscious a lot lately too. So you have created a "character" to picture when you want to use your subconscious? That is interesting. Have you heard of Neuro-Linguistic Programming?


Ickydime said...

Love the quote. Gladwell mentions the same thing in his book. I want to try it...

I had not heard of Neuro-Linguistic Programming but from what I am reading online it sounds interesting. I get the idea of people pairing responses differently to various stimulants, but I wonder how they go about breaking these automatic responses and re-wiring them. I am sure it depends on the person and response...