Invisible scripts: Beliefs holding me back

Why do so many Indian people dominate spelling bees — including me?

Here’s the politically correct answer: Oh, I was just fortunate to be blessed with spelling ability…I’m not good at a lot of stuff, but I lucked out on this one.

Here’s the actual truth: When I came home from 6th grade, I would grab a snack, then my mom and I would open up a spelling book — literally, a book with thousands of words — and we would start practicing. For about 2 hours a day.

Ramit Sethi

About 2 months ago I decided to sign up for an online class called Success Factors by Ramit Sethi. If you aren’t already familiar, Ramit is an American personal finance advisor, best-selling author, and entrepreneur. I originally heard about Ramit through the Tim Ferriss Podcast – if you haven’t noticed by now, the Tim Ferriss podcast is the source of the majority of books and influential people I refer to in this blog (I should note, I have no affiliation with Tim Ferriss and I choose to promote him based on the quality of the content he creates).

After being introduced to Ramit’s work through Tim Ferriss, I began to read more and more of his blog posts ranging from how to negotiate a higher salary, to nailing interviews, to mastering the basics of personal finance. Ramit provides an amazing amount of free content on his blog and I have leveraged many of his principles to help me really improve at work and in my personal finances.

Through his blog Ramit constantly refers the the difference between how top performers think about the world vs. how the average person does. An example of the difference between these two ways of thinking can be seen in Ramit’s famous “Briefcase Technique.” If you aren’t familiar with the briefcase technique check out a short video here. In short though, the briefcase technique simply states that a top performer who is trying to negotiate their salary or interview for a new position will have done homework on the position they are applying for or the business they are trying to work for beforehand. Then, this person will have written a brief analysis of an area that could be improved, justification on why an improvement might be beneficial, and possibly a few options the company can take to make that improvement. The main idea here is that a top performer goes above and beyond to stand out from what a normal person might do in any situation in life.

Anyhow, it was ideas like the briefcase method that really got me excited about the way Ramit thought about life. It shouldn’t be surprising to hear that when I later saw an online course by Ramit titled “Success Triggers” it didn’t take much for me to want to sign up for it.

In short, Success Triggers aims to provide “ready-to-Use Mental Frameworks for Increased Happiness, Confidence and Success.” I signed up for the course 2 months ago and completed 95% of the modules. However, I recently realized although I listened to each of the modules in the course, I did not take a lot of time to reflect on neither what I learned nor how the principles applied to the way I think about the world. Then, today, as I was rewatching one of the modules titled “Invisible scripts” I realized without reflecting on what I’m learning I most likely would not be internalizing it and, therefore, would not be growing (or at least I may not be growing as much as I would like to).

With that in mind, at the end of each module within the Success Triggers course there are a few exercises to be completed. As I will already be doing these exercises anyways, I figured I might as well make my responses public to share any lessons I learn along the way.

Invisible Scripts

In Ramit’s words, invisible scripts are theories that guide everyone’s lives but are so deeply imbedded in each and every one of us we don’t even think to question them. A few examples of invisible scripts include the following:

  • I should buy a house
  • I should get married by 20
  • I’m 27, I should have my own place by now

The list goes on. I should note, invisible scripts can be both positive AND negative. Positive scripts can include things like “education is one of the most important things for a child.”

invisible scripts are theories that guide everyone’s lives but are so deeply imbedded in each and every one of us we don’t even think to question them.

The exercise here is to try and dig out what positive and negative invisible scripts are guiding your life. As it can be hard to recognize what scripts are guiding your life, given the fact that you may not be aware these scripts are even there, Ramit provides a few guiding questions to try and extract these scripts. Namely:

  1. What is it I want to achieve in the next 18 months?
  2. Who are the types of people who have achieved these types of things?
  3. What is the difference between the people who have the things I want and me?

I’ll dig in to my personal thoughts on these questions below, lets see what happens.

1. What is it I want to achieve in the next 12 months?

I have mentioned this before, but my personal goals for 2019 are split into 4 different areas:

  1. Building a strong financial foundation as measured by:
    1. $0 high-interest debt by June 1st
    2. 12 month emergency fund in the bank by January 1st, 2020
  2. Improving my storytelling and copywriting ability as measured by:
    1. Writing 1 blog a week
    2. Growing my blog followers to 500 by July 1st
    3. Creating 5 videos (interviews or short stories) by January 1st, 2020
  3. Increasing my body mass and flexibility as measured by:
    1. Working out 4 times per week
    2. 2 yoga sessions per week
    3. Reaching 160 lbs by June 1st
  4. Developing skills to earn money outside of my day job as measured by:
    1. Making $50 from a course called Earn $1K by January 1st, 2020
    2. Getting 50 downloads from an e-book by January 1st, 2020

Who are the types of people who have achieved things like this?

People in this group include idols of mine like Tim Ferriss, Ramit Sethi, and Noah Kagan; friends of mine including my roommate, a good friend of mine from the Bay Area, and an old friend from my consulting job.

What is the difference between the people who have the things I want and me?

This is a tough one. I’m definitely going to have to take a hard look in the mirror and check my ego at the door.

Unnecessarily complicating things in the beginning

One of the first things that come to mind is something I am slowly getting better at; a need to do a lot of research and really understand as much as I can about something before I actually start to do it. Another way to state this is I tend to overcomplicate things rather than just keeping them simple.

Most people will quit after their first experience with things that don’t go so well, but if you are like my pop and I, then you KNOW that the first attempt is almost destined to fail and you will learn enough to get a better assessment of the whole picture and what it will really takes to attain a goal on your second attempt.

The Boron Letters, Gary Halbert

An example of this is in regard to an Etsy shop I launched about 3 months ago. I was putting a lot of thought in to the type of product I was going to sell, in to the design of my logo, in to the story of my shop, in to brand strategy, etc. Then, a good friend of mine told me something to the effect of “the reality is whatever business you end up creating will most likely take a long time to create and the final product probably won’t be similar to what you start with, so you might as well just get started and then pivot as necessary.”

Focus and consistency

Secondly, the word discipline comes to mind. Looking back, it is pretty crazy to see the effects a lack of discipline can have on a person’s life. Because I was pretty undisciplined for a large part of my life, I tended to have a lot of enthusiasm in new adventures in life – things like new hobbies or new subjects in school. However, due to my lack of discipline I tended to get bored with all of these things after a while and instead of putting in the work and effort required to get better, I would focus my attention on anything else.

I FINALLY started to recover from the 17+ years of damage this caused on my life when I entered community college. A fire was lit inside me after a few weeks of classes, I went from being a C and D student in math courses to tutoring younger students in Calculus. Then, after 2 years of hard work I transferred to, and later graduated from, the University of Texas at Austin’s Mechanical Engineering program. And this is all thanks to countless hours in the community college Math Lab where I would study, make mistakes, and then go to my professor’s office hours to work on my problems.

Now, I’m less worried about this area as having a long-term vision has helped me keep myself focused on my goals whenever distractions come up. I’m not perfectly disciplined now but I have definitely strengthened this “muscle” and and working hard on it every day.

Irrational fears of failure

As I have been writing down these reflections I really wonder how I made it this far in reminds me of John D. Rockefeller's quote:

"I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature."
I also want to add that forcing myself to actually write down my thoughts on these questions has been very eye-opening. Not that I didn't already "know" the answer to these questions, but I have never really taken the time to think about the answers and reflect on them. The beauty of this is I can see where my weaknesses are and I can attack these weaknesses (or at the very least, not let them blindside me), ESPECIALLY if they are irrational.

This last one definitely stems from childhood. Since probably 2nd grade up until the last few years I looked at mistakes as being “bad” and have always thought I should avoid them. With this in mind, I tend to question whether I am “qualified” to try new things like starting a blog, like creating an ecommerce shop, like being entrepreneurial.

Additionally, this fear is probably the reason I overcomplicate things in the beginning; I probably try and become as prepared as possible in an attempt to AVOID making any mistakes. Sadly, this has lead to much self-doubt as well as an avoidance at exploring the unknown in some areas of my life.

In conclusion

The first step towards improving yourself is acknowledging what your weaknesses are, in other words, being brutally honest with yourself.

Ramit Sethi, Success Triggers

When I started this post I wasn’t completely sure where it was going to take me, but now that I have written everything out it has been very eye-opening and almost refreshing to put my thoughts on paper.

I’m going to reflect on these thoughts for a bit and then I hope to follow up this post with another one talking about how I plan on managing these weaknesses.

I would love to hear from you on if you have gone down a similar path of introspection. And if so, what did you find? If not, I highly recommend it. Until next time!

One thought on “Invisible scripts: Beliefs holding me back

Add yours

  1. Hi Mr. FF, Now that you have identified what your negative invisible scripts are, which I understand are 1) beating the around bush rather than starting and figuring out as you go 2) a difficulty with focusing 3) fear and avoidance of failure, I would like to hear about what actions you are taking to work on these things. You are aware of them, now how will you address them in order to meet your goals for the next year?


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