July 2, 2000

The Shape of Success

An age-old visualization technique still yields fr

Charles Darwin, the 19th-century English naturalist, once said that "it's not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, it's the ones that are most adaptable to change." Now more than ever before, there's a tremendous need to adapt to the changes taking place in the financial services industry. Like buggy whip manufacturers at the turn of the century, many organizations are being forced to reevaluate their roles. Advisors must be willing to adapt.

But paging through the history books, we see that human beings, as a group, are not very adaptable. Around the turn of the century, Andrew Carnegie built a huge steel manufacturing empire. The technology of steel manufacturing was changing quickly, and to stay ahead of the competition, he developed a policy called "scrap and rebuild." He would tear down older steel mills and build brand new ones with the latest technology on the same site. But he never hired back the previous steelworkers. He said it was just too difficult to retrain them. Thus, these highly trained workers found themselves unemployed.

An age-old visualization technique still yields fruit in the information age. Let it help you see into the future - a future that you create

How about you? Are you adaptable? Is your organization adaptable? Whether you're an individual advisor or a manager in a financial services company, you must consider how you will adapt in order to make change work for you instead of against you.

Ever since I was young, I've been interested in what makes people genuinely happy and successful. I'm fascinated by how people's beliefs impact their life experience. Over the last thirty years I've studied psychology, the human potential movement, different religions and cultures, human motivation, and success patterns. Recently I discovered a powerful technique for personal and organizational transformation which brought on a breakthrough for me personally. It's called shapeshifting.

Shapeshifting is a term used by shamans, who are indigenous healers in South America. Shamans are the visionaries and the healers in their societies. They are usually the most powerful and respected people in their tribal communities. The definition I like most for a shaman is a person who journeys to other worlds where he gets knowledge, energy, and power to effect change in this world. Western culture would define "other worlds" as imagination or the subconscious.

Before I explain how shapeshifting works, let's look at the three primary obstacles that get in the way of the change.

Comfort zones. All biological entities have built-in mechanisms for maintaining stability and equilibrium. At a biological level, your body chemistry, neurological system, and weight all have built-in mechanisms for keeping you exactly as you are.

On a psychological level, if you are used to making $100,000 a year and you make $50,000 a month, it's very possible that you will go into a slump or lose interest in your business for a while. To make too much money might put you outside of your comfort zone - as the reverse case scenario most definitely would.

Memes. As each one of us experiences life we develop our own mental map of reality. Scientists call these mental maps memes. Memes are the neurological pathways and connections in your brain and nervous system that determine how you think and ultimately how you behave. Once you develop these memes or neurological patterns, they are almost impossible to change.

These mental models become obstacles that blind us to new ways to solve problems. This is why it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks, and why entrenched management cannot solve problems that new management solves easily.

Financial obstacles. Once an individual or team builds a successful business, they usually institutionalize their success. Compensation, bonuses, business structure, and technology are all dependent on maintaining the existing business and financial model. Many management teams are henceforth reluctant to rock the boat because of legitimate concern that they might sink it.

These three obstacles form powerful barriers to meaningful change in individuals and organizations. But what if not changing guarantees your demise? The only obstacles that you have any real power over are your own mental models. This is also the easiest one to change.

You must create a vision of a better future for yourself and your business. Then you will have a mental lighthouse that inspires you to seek out new ideas. Without a positive vision of a better future, there is only resistance to change. With a positive vision, people actually embrace change. Shapeshifting allows you to create new and better mental maps on purpose, and journey to your subconscious to get knowledge, power, and energy to effect change in this world.

Western culture discounts subjective experiences and intuition. We as a society have not put much thought into using the intuitive, right side of our brain on purpose. But other cultures have spent thousands of years refining their ability to get in touch with their inner being and spirit. There are basically three ways to consciously tap into your imagination, inner spirit, or intuition.

Meditation. Eastern religions have long known the benefits of using mediation to relax and quiet your mind. They believe that all suffering comes from desire and from our mental connection with the material world. Buddhists believe that if you can clear your mind of all thoughts, you can experience oneness with the universe. They call this enlightenment.

But this type of meditation devalues the wonderful experiences available to us in the physical world. It's based on avoiding pain, not enhancing the pleasurable aspects of life.

Guided Visualization. Another mental process many people are familiar with is guided visualizations. A guided visualization involves either a speaker or audio cassette tape. You close your eyes and are led through the process of visualizing the experience described to you. Hypnosis is a form of guided visualization.

Because it is directed, however, guided visualization does not tap into your own inner guidance system, your spirit or intuition. It's fundamentally an external process, rather than an internal one.

Journeying. The last and most powerful technique is called journeying. This technique has been practiced in one form or another by shamans in non-technological societies for thousands of years. Recently, the medical community has been studying shamans intensely because of their amazing ability to heal people that Western medicine has given up on.

In a journey you guide your own visualization without any external direction. You simply use your imagination with a specific intention, such as visualizing your ideal future, your new successful business model, or the reorganization of your company. You give your mind a clear goal, intention, or question, then close you eyes and direct your inner journey to see what knowledge, power, and energy you find there. Then you apply the results of your journey to effect change in the physical world. Journeying is different from guided visualizations because all the direction comes from within.

Journeying is the first part of shapeshifting. There are actually three steps: visualize your ideal future, putting mental and emotional energy into the dream, and taking action to turn the vision into reality.

I know from personal experience that this process works. In 1984, when I was a rookie investment wholesaler, I was having trouble keeping up with my highly aggressive teammates. Then I learned how to set goals and do affirmations and visualizations. I wrote down my activity and production goals in detail on 3" x 5" cards and spent five to 10 minutes twice a day visualizing myself accomplishing them.

The results were phenomenal. I took my territory from last place (22nd) to third place in the country in eighteen months. The other, more experienced wholesalers were stunned. And I doubled my income.

But there was one small problem: I wasn't happy. The goals I set were not personally meaningful and satisfying to me. I had climbed the ladder of success only to find it was leaning against the wrong wall. So I vowed to search until I found the secret of total success.

I knew the missing element was the ability to define total success for myself. And that search led me to look for a simple way to help individuals define a personal vision of success that, once achieved, would satisfy both their financial and emotional needs - and create complete and genuine happiness.

Shamans have known the answer for thousands of years. Journeying to your subconscious imagination is a powerful technique to align your head and your heart. The answers you get to the questions you pose will always be true to the authentic you. And since journeying and shapeshifting are imagination techniques, not religious beliefs, they don't conflict with anyone's existing beliefs and faiths.

I suggest you "journey" to your ideal business and spend ten to thirty minutes exploring it every day. Set your intentions. Seek out the answers to any questions you have. Consciously explore your ideal office, teammates, business model, income, clients and everything else you want to clarify about your ideal business.

Corporate shapeshifting works just as well. Guided sessions of journeying help create a shared vision for a team. Then individual team members can journey to their own version of the ideal company vision.

To the shamans, the world is as you dream it. They believe your mind creates your life experience. If you want to be an agent for positive transformation and change in your life and in your organization, try these techniques.

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